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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Tour de north of Ladakh d3

I shamelessly skip the sunrise.

It's cold outside and I get my fill in basecamps, where we head out well before the sun. Sometimes, a sacrifice is necessary. Raza and Bay manage to be up on time, and I think they've enjoyed it. Sun and the mountains go naturally together and being part of the grandeur never fails to amaze.

The morning we spend by the lake, which I'm quite happy about. In-n-out is good for KFC, not so much for taking in a mountain scenery. The shore is crowded, everyone carries at least one camera and a phone. I take my few obligatory pictures and go nap, listening to the crash of waves. Lake's empty - only the military is allowed on. A solitary boat speeds by and everyone excitedly points their lenses at it. So much for military secrects.

Back in the car I'm filling up on sleep again. Siddharth, the crazy mountain runner, offered me to join him for another weekend ultramarathon and I'm behind on writing, as there's been no wifi by the lake. Plus I might have to extend my Indian visa to squeeze in more peaks - the minute you slip off the grid a ton of pressing matters arises. I still have to find a volunteering position somewhere out of Leh to fill in the few weeks until the actual climbing expedition...

Chong La is the pass that brings us back into the main valley. It sits in comfortable 17.5K feet, but the wear of the road hangs headaches on my friends as if they were necklaces of praying beads. As all other places, even the pass is busy with bikers, buses, fuel trucks, military trucks and cargo trucks. It's a madhouse.

No snowing this time; clear sky affords vast views, especially towards the Leh side, where the road follows a steep drop on a landslide fields. It's easily the best road in all of the mountains; a well laid two-lane, but in this terrain it lives on a borrowed time.

Late lunch again, which I skip again. The all you can eat breakfasts are a good deal and fill me up for a whole day. Since I don't need to walk, stuffing my face and snoozing in the car is a legit survival strategy. If this trip and other time spent with Indians taught me anything it's to never ever as much as mention food in front of an Indian. They debate it passionately, endlessly and are judgmental so much that it hurts. Imagine an Italian who overdosed on coffee and entered an American eatery. A gunmen would be more merciful.

The other thing you have to be careful with around Indians, by the way, is money. Not only will they haggle you down to a last penny, they also keep accounts to the last penny. Literally. Owed - owes, no getting away. (Shoutout to all my friends who don't follow this stereotype.)

Another major monastery as our final step few miles ahead of Leh. It's been built to resemble Lhasa and it's beautiful, inside out. Photos allowed, local monks are the most progressive religious thinkers across the globe. Or maybe they simply gave up, in the face of thousands of phone - wielding visitors.

From the rooftop it's possible to see few more monasteries and / or castles. Got me thinking, how much has Buddhism actually lost through occupation of Tibet - if these are the religious outskirts, how busy the motherland must be? You couldn't sleep on a ground there for all the monks around, is what I'm thinking.

Back in Leh by the evening, as the sun indulges in its nightly dip. Our driver sets off to distribute everyone to their respective hostels, as we pay him off. I jump out first, in the main market, meeting Siddhart.

The weekend plan has undergone several transformations.

I'll be climbing a smaller peak with an all-Indian team.

The evening is a nightmare spent debating over what we'll eat. More energy goes into the planning, than the climb itself will require. Everyone has very specific ideas about their ideal climb and for some reason, it must be this one.

Siddhart wants to go light, long and fast, Arjun, the first timer, is well - confused and scared, as you'd expect, and the other Siddhart, who stitched this plan on Friday afternoon, is trying to pack for a whole army regimen.

An ocean of time is wasted on debates and going around shops, but eventually it seems that everything is set in place.

The kicker? We're going to 18.000 feet - a good deal less than what I did for a day warm-up run earlier this week.

But everyone is friendly and taking me in as an old friend and so I go with the flow, let the guys talk it out and accept whatever decisions they make.

Sometimes travel is about the team spirit and all other details are of no consequence.

There won't be any connection, where we're headed, so I'll get back to you in few days.

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