India (July-August 2019): A meandrous 24-day trek in the Kargil and Kishtwar districts of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir

Leg 2: From Rangdum to Pishu (Part 2/3)

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Views of the itinerary in Google Earth:

[Reminder: Click here (kmz file) and open the downloaded file in Google Earth to access the GPS waypoints that I recorded during the trek: red pins for starts and finishes, green for camps, brown for passes, and yellow for other waypoints. Orange markers have been added by hand; they are not GPS waypoints.]


Left: View of the entire second leg, with only a subset of GPS waypoints. Right: View of the second part of the second leg, with all waypoints.


Brief description:

We reached the remote village of Dibling in a couple or hours. Dibling is one of the very few remaining villages in Ladakh and Zanskar that is not yet reachable by car. I had visited it in 2013, and little had changed between my two visits. Our initial plan had then been to cross three successive passes southeast of Dibling (Marpo La, Kyerse La, and Barmi La) in a single day, but that was over-optimistic. To stay on schedule, we skipped those passes and instead followed a more direct route along the Oma Chu (river) south of Dibling (the same itinerary that I had already followed in 2013). But trekking in the steep and deep canyon of the Oma Chu requires crossing some very exposed slopes and is a difficult walk, both for people and horses. We had hoped that we could avoid some of the most exposed sections by occasionally fording the Oma Chu, but even in the morning hours the river was too high and swift to be crossed safely. In fact, for that same reason, we later dropped my original plan to cross Ralakhung La, as reaching this pass required fording the Oma Chu. So, we eventually followed the Oma Chu down to Zingchan, near its confluence with the even bigger Zanskar river. Unfortunately, the mandatory Zingchan campsite (WP #067) is an awful campsite (windy, dusty, dirty, and noisy) on the main trans-Ladakh-Zanskar trekking route. It was the only place where I saw other trekkers in my entire 24-day trek.


Day 11:

Landscapes between our WP #052 camp and Dibling.



Village of Dibling. It remains mostly free of any modern structures.


















After leaving Dibling we followed a very good path along the Oma Chu, but this was not going to last.


The valley of the Oma Chu got quickly deeper and narrower (but also more spectacular)...



...and of course the trail got thinner and more exposed on some sections. Below is a portion of the trail sitting on tree logs seen from below (left) and from the trail itself (center and right).


At some point we reached a newly-built bridge. Dibling villagers had told us that crossing this bridge (to switch from the left to the right bank of the Oma Chu) would allow us to skip one of the most exposed sections of the trail on the left bank, provided that would could ford back the river a couple of kilometers further down (as there was no other bridge there). So, we crossed the river and install our camp at WP #060 hoping that the river would be fordable on the next morning.


Impressive cliffs lit by the evening sun, on the opposite side of the river at WP #060.


Days 12 & 13: From the camp at WP #060 to the Zingchan camp (WP #067).

Unfortunately, the Oma Chu was still very high in the morning. Only the horses could (barely) ford it. The rest of us (including Dorje Tundup) returned to the bridge, where we crossed back the river. However, the overall choreography was a bit more complicated: Tundup went first to the opposite side of the river while Dorje Tundup waited with the horses. Only then the two of them (one on each side) were able to make the horses do the crossing. I took the following picture from the right bank before returning to the bridge.


Left: View of the bridge from the left bank of the Oma Chu. Right: Trail above the left bank.




Continuation of the trail.


Portion of the trail down to the place where the horses had already forded the Oma Chu, with Nurbo ahead of me.


View over the canyon of the Oma Chu further south. We remained on the left side of the canyon until the Zingchan camp.


Views showing how steep it looked from the trail.




Our horses on one of the slopes.


But the surrounding mountains were gorgeous.


Views over the very narrow side-canyon leading to Ralakhung La on the opposite side of the Oma Chu canyon. Not being able to cross the Oma Chu and reach this side-canyon was my second biggest disappointment during the trek, after our earlier failure to cross Lasar La and reach Rangdum on foot.


Swirling patterns and colorful rocks.



Reaching the small Zingchan settlement (green area at the bottom of the valley). The Zingchan campsite is less than 2 kilometers further than this sttlement.


At some point during the descent toward Zingchan the trail was too narrow for the horses to pass safely with the bags. Using an ice axe Dorje Tundup cut the soft rock to make space of the bags.


Left: Our horses resting at the friendly Zingchan settlement, where we were offered tasty yoghourt and tea. Right: The final piece of gorge before reaching the campsite at WP #067.


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