Once one is acclimatized to the altitude, the stiff early
morning hike up to Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, the monastery perched precariously
on the shaly crag behind
palace, is a great way to start the day.
Two trails lead up to "the Peak of Victory", whose twin peaks are connected by giant strings of multicoloured prayer flags; the first and most popular path zigzags across it south side from the palace road, while a second scales the more gentle northern slope via the village of Chubi, which is also the route followed by the Lama from Sankar Gompa who tends to the shrine each morning and evening. Alternatively, one can drive there along the dirt track that turns left off the main Khardung-la highway, 2-km north of the bus stand.
Approaching the Gompa from the south, the first building one comes to is the red-painted Maitreya temple. Thought to date from the 14th century, the shrine houses a giant Buddha statue flanked by Bodhisattvas. However, its wall paintings are modern and of less interest than those in the "Gon Khang", or the temple of protector deities, up the hill.
Most famous of these, on the left of the door as one enters, is the honorary portrait of Tashi Namgyal, the temple's founder and prolific builder. In the gloomy interior, one can just make out murals of "Shakyamuni" (the historical Buddha) and Tsongkha-pa, founder of the Gelug-pa sect. The veiled central deity itself sports a shiny phallus, believed to cure infertility in women.