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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Khardung Kangri; Leh's highest day trek

If I'm to leave on Saturday, to attempt a 20K triple next week, I had no choice but to make it out of the bed today. And so I did. Went back to my favourite fake 'highest altitude' gas station and lucked out in about twenty minutes. A nice Western Bengali (other side of Himalayas) couple on their way to explore northern Ladakh. I told them about the marmots.

only planes are up at this hour

forward!

in between ridges

Quarter to seven, sun still behind the peaks, I'm dropped off in 13.600 feet. Only 5.500 feet to go, and then back.

There is no path, only endless slope filled with rock, sand and the occasional shrub. Scramble upwards is my favourite kind of movement and I get to it.

meeting the sun

Two hours later I emerge from shallows of shade in between two ridges reaching out like scarred, wrinkled fingers of an old person, into the sun. I've hit 16.000 feet for a breakfast and the rest of the climb, in clarity of a new day, seems easy enough. As a rule of a thumb, sticking to the ridge is the easiest way to go on gentle peaks such as this one, where you don't expect any major upsets in a form of cliffs or rock walls.

staring the peak down

last week's goal on the left

easy cruising on the ridge

It takes me three more hours, two more stops and a twenty minute nap below the final push, to negotiate my way to the top over rocks from which you could build the largest castle on Earth and you'd still have enough for a city to liven it up at its roots. I'm stood on the older brother of a peak I climbed last week, on the general ridge shooting away from Khardung La - hence the name I gave it for myself, as for locals it's too negligible a bump to bother naming it.

For me, the 19.000 feet mark is a final proof I wanted to consider myself ready for Ladakh's 20Ks.

Herr Peak and Herr Climber

open invitation - will you join me?

North - 23.000 ft border markers

Leh - access ridge - guardian angel

Three more hours on the way back, eventually connecting to the gorge I took last time. There's a massive rock river, underneath which a real river rushes to green up Leh. I'm not a huge fan, it's a dangerous terrain, but I love exploring new pathways even more. The mountain's marmots curiously eye my snacks as I sit down for one last refresher, but they scamper when I look at them, barely half the size of the Pangong's movie stars.

Must've gone through a good 3.000 calories, a lot more than on any other hike in India to date. That's a sign of respect for the mountain!

river of rocks

waiting for a ride

Khardung Kangri (r)

Half four and I'm squatting on a dusty turn on the highway, with the sun merrily beating down at me. It's eerily quiet and I'm wondering if I'll end up having to walk those 6 miles back to town.

But shortly after a whole parade of vehicles shoots by; half a dozen bikes interwoven with equal number of cars. The second to last stops me; Tashi, a kind man from Nubra, Valley on the other side of the pass, on his way to Leh. He speaks a little English, but is not at all impressed with my climbing prowess.

I've made it to the local starting line.

Raybo.

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