(ADVENTURE SPORTS) Ladakh offers great scope for undertaking adventure activities amidst landscapes of breathtaking, rugged beauty. The most popular and best established among these are trekking , mountaineering and river-rafting .
Trekking possibilities include short, daylong walks up and
down mountain slopes to visit isolated villages or monastic settlements,
or across a ridge to enjoy the sheer beauty of the lunar mountainscape. Or
long, trans-mountain treks involving weeks of walking and camping in the
wilderness. For example, the trek from Lamayuru in the Indus valley to
Darcha in Lahaul across Zanskar takes nearly three weeks. Most of the
established routes traverse the Zanskar range, which separates the Indus
valley from separates the Indus valley from Zanskar.
The 10 day Lamayuru-Padum traverse and the Stok-Khangri round trek are the more popular ones among the numerous options available in this convoluted mountain mass. In recent years, parts of the Ladakh range between the Indus and Shayok valleys have also become available for trekking.
The Trekking Season
The traditional trekking seasons extends from early June to mid-October. But localised treks within the Indus Valley can be undertaken even in May. On the other hand, some routes are suitable only for late autumn, as during the summer, the bed of narrow valleys through which the tracks lied become turbulent streams, as in the case of the 13-day Hemis-Markha-Padum trek. The winter access to the Zanskar valley is actually along the frozen surface of the Zanskar River. This route, known as "Chaddar", calls for elaborate arrangements, but it is perhaps the most exciting trek in the world.
Depending on the time and budget one can afford, ask the Tourist Offices at Leh, Kargil or Padum to design a trekking program.
The easiest way to go on a trekking is through a travel agency, which will take care of all arrangement s including capming gear, provisions, porterage, staff, etc. But if one intends to make one's own arrangements, it is advisable to carry as much provisions and fuel from Leh or Kargil as possible. Please remember that Ladakh is a harsh land where most villagers cannot part with their foodstock. In some villages along the trek, fresh yoghurt and some Tsampa can be procured, but these sources cannot be relied upon. Kerosene or gas for cooking stoves must be carried in sufficient quantity to last the duration of the trek as fuel is unlikely to be available along most of the route.
Keeping The Environment Clean
The Ladakh environment is ecologically fragile as the survival of the inhabitants depends upon the land, despite its apparent starkness. As such, it is absolutely important that trekkers keep the routes and campsites clean and avoid disturbing the region's delicate environment. Before striking camp, trekkers and travel agents should ensure that no garbage is left undisposed at the campsites. Plastic containers and polythene wrappers must be incinerated, while other types of garbage should be properly buried.
Requirements About Trekking In Ladakh
For trekking in Ladakh to be a rewarding experience, it is not enough to be physically fit; intending trekkers must also be prepared to face the rigourous to back country travel. There are considerable fluctuations in day and night temperatures even during the height of summer. While the days are pretty warm, even hot, due to the desert effect of the barren landscape, evenings can become chilly, requiring additional clothing.
It is, therefore, advisable to keep a pullover and/ or an anorak handy. A sturdy pair of walking shoes with strong rubber or synthetic soles for grip, thick cotton socks (woolen for autumn trek or glacier walks) and a good sleeping bag together with an insulated ground pad are essential gear for going on a trek even if you may be passing through inhabited areas with the possibility of accommodation in village homes or monasteries. In case of extended treks across mountain passes or trans-mountain traverses, a water-proof tent will have to be carried besides provisions and cooking gear, all backpacked in a good quality ruchsack.
Additional requirements could include a Balclava, woolen undergarments, wind Parkas, etc. Toiletries and first-aid kits should include Lipsalve, moisturisers and suncream, water purifying tablets, medicines for high altitude sickness, etc. A good quality water canteen is must to carry the drinking water so essential during high altitude trekking in arid conditions. Do not forget to carry a flashlight with sufficient spare batteries, a sun-hat and a pair of good quality sunglasses with sufficient filter-factor to check the sun's brightness and ultraviolet rays.
Shopping For Trekking Equipments
The J&K Tourism Department maintains trekking equipment hire shops in its Srinagar, Leh and Kargil Offices. Imported items like tow-man tents, insulated ground sheets, sleeping bags, insulated jackets, trekking shoes and rucksacks are available at these shops at reasonable charges fixed by the Government. Some private establishments and, trekking agencies in Leh also provide similar trekking gear on hire.
A range of rafting options is available on the Indus and its
major tributaries. The best stretch for professionally guided runs in
white water is on the Indus between Spituk and Saspol. Beyond Saspol, the
river becomes difficult and funning it requires technically skilled
participants and careful organisation. Upward of Spituk, the Indus has the
easiest stretch up to Karu, ideal for basic training and for day-return "scenic
floating" for amateurs.
In recent years, running the Indus has become an attractive alternative to trekking and features on the itinerary of most visitors. Several agencies in Leh offer attractive rafting packages. Ask for details at the Tourist Office at Leh. They will also be able to provide some rafts on hire.
River Running In Zanskar Region
The most difficult but exciting option for river running is on the Zanskar along its spectacular course through the gorge in the Zanskar mountins, between Padum and Nimo. This is suitable only for well-organized white-water expedition, prepared for several days of river running and camping in absolute wilderness.
Participants are required to be trained rafters themselves while the arrangements should be assigned to a dependable professional agency. Adequate arrangements for rescue coverage are an essential pre-requisite for embarking upon a white -water expedition on river like the Zanskar.
The area most frequented by foreign climbers is the Nun-Kun
Massif in the Great Himalayan Range. Its easy accessibility from the
Kargil-Pudum road and the shortest possible approach march to the base
camps makes this massif the most attractive climbing destination in the
Great Himalayas, necessitating advance booking years ahead. Among its six
known peaks accessible from the Suru Valley, Nun (7,135m) and Kun (7,077m)
are the highest summits.
The area nearest to Leh is Stok-khangri Massif in the Zanskar mountains, south of Leh. The base camp for the various peaks of this massif is about two days trek from the village of Stok. Among its known peaks, Stok-khangri (6,150 m) is the highest; it offers a spectacular perspective to the central expanse of the Indus valley, which it dominates.
Other Mountaineering Options
Other peaks in the Ladakh area include Gulap Khangri (5,900 m), Matho West (5,950m) and Kantak (5,275 m). The much higher Konglacha peak (6,700m) lies southwest of Leh and is reached via Rubak on the first leg of the Markha Valley trek from Stok. Many un-named peaks in the altitude range of 5,500 metres and 6,400 metres are also available for climbing in the same region. This entire area falls well outside the Inner Line, or restricted area.
North of Leh, across the Ladakh Range and the Nubra Valley, lies the Karokoram range. It soars to a number of known peaks which are, however, within the restricted area and so not freely accessible to foreign climbers except with special permission from the Government of India. The most prominent summits in this range which are accessible from various parts of the Nubra Valley include, Saser-I (7,415 m), Saser -II (7,513m) and Saser III (7,495 m).
Best Time To Climb
The climbing season extends from mid - May to mid -October, the ideal period being from June to September because during this time only Ladakh remains unaffected by the monsoon, which holds sway over most of the Himalayas. Foreign climbing expeditions are required to obtain permission from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation for climbing all listed peaks. A booking fee, based on the height and popularity of the allotted peak, is charged and a Liasion Officer is assigned to every climbing team. The minimum period required for processing applications is six months. Every authorized expedition is provided with adequate rescue coverage in the events of accidents and illness.