Ladakh in Winter : January 2018 – Book Now

About Ladakh

Alot has been said and written about Ladakh, but it still remains unexplored at many sectors.
Every corner and turn will lure you to stop and click pics. Will invoke artistic and philosophical side of yours.
June is the perfect weather to explore Ladakh, with pleasant temperature during day time and manageably cold during night.
While Ladakh is a high altitude desert, you will find amazing variety of flora, fauna and wild life

Know about Ladakh

Spiti

What’s in it for you?

  • 1. Beautiful views and vistas
  • 2. Access to some unique and unseen places, based on the weather condition.
  • 3. An interesting plan specially designed by us after 10 years of travelling to Ladakh.
  • 4. Enjoying the local cuisine.
  • 5. Unlimited photography mentor-ship by YellowPeaks team.
  • 6. An overview session on Basics of Photography and Adobe Lightroom.
  • 7. Even if you are joining as solo traveller or rider, you will never feel alone.
  • 8. A fully managed trip, with no hassle of worrying about logistics, you just sit in Taxi, drive your vehicle or ride your bike

Itenarary

Coming soon

Inclusion

  • Local Transport in SUV/MUV for the whole trip from Manali to Manali for People joining in Taxi (Not for Self Drive cars)
  •  accommodations on twin/Triple sharing basis, in 3 star or equivalent hotels/Home Stays. We will share list of all accommodations after you complete the registration and confirm with payment.
  • All governments’ fees and taxes for normal journey within Ladakh and Manali.
  • All basic meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), morning and evening tea.
  • Daily need of drinking Water (To be filled in reusable bottles to avoid too much plastic)
  • A lunch at Local Ladakhi home.

 

Exclusion

  • Flight or travel expenses to reach India and Manali.
  • VISA expanse if any Travel or medical Insurance.
  • Vehicle, Fuel and Breakdown maintenance for Self drive vehicles.
  • Any fine or challan to be paid by the driver or participants in actual to authorities.
  • Any medical emergency or rescue cost.
  • Photography equipment of any kind.
  • Hotel and Other costs added to the trip, in addition to proposed plan, due to road blockage, Political unrest or landslide, has to be paid on actual basis, by participants.
  • Any tips and gratuities to staff. Extra meals, visits and activities not indicated.
  • Items of a personal nature, including alcoholic beverages, laundry and telephone calls.
  • Camel Rides at Hunder Anything else not mentioned in the inclusions
  • A refundable security deposit of INR 5000 for the Walki-Talkie, to be paid by one of the participants from each Self Drive car. In case of Loss or damage of handset, appropriate amount will be deducted from security.
  • On Rent at Leh Bicycle – good for local Leh adventure, Motor Bike, Jackets and other accessories


Terms & Conditions

  • All the participants should have a valid passport or a government ID
  • We will request for a scanned copy of the same during the registration process
  • Photography is restricted for some of the areas and objects like bridges, Army camps and office, some for the restricted zones Please ask before taking a picture of or with an Army personnel or local.
  • Final decision on the logistics, plan, options remains with the trip organizer. All need to abide with the proposed plan, unless there is need to change the plan under unavoidable conditions.
  • Ladakh in winter is highly unpredictable, and plans can change due to snowfall. We might have to change plans and locations while on trip, based on situation.
  • While Leh will have proper hotels with limited duration room heating, most of the stay arrangements in remote areas will be with guest houses and home stays. We will ensure it’s clean and hygienic, but room heating will be very limited.
  • We will need a copy of an ID proof issued by government organization for permits and other processes. You need to carry the same ID all the time during the trip.
  • You are responsible for keeping Ladakh clean and we would need your help to bring back all our garbage back to Leh where it can be disposed of properly.
  • Winter is tough time not just for humans but for local wild life. Do not disturb or provoke wildlife for the sake of a good picture.

 

Cancellation Policy

  • 75% Refund for cancelling the trip 8 weeks before the start date 50% Refund for cancelling the trip 4 weeks or less, before the start date
  • In case of the trips getting cancelled due to unavailable circumstances, we will refund the money after deducting the administrative changes

FAQs

Q: What will be the expected temperature and weather?
A : Day temperature will hover around -5 to -10 degree Celsius, while night temperature can go down to -20 and at some places to -30 degree.

Q: Roads remains open in winter?
A: Yes, most of the roads inside Ladakh region remains open, there could be a blockage due to snow fall, but gets cleared in a day or so.

Q: What is AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness)?
A: AMS is result of sudden exposure to reduced air pressure and lower oxygen level at high altitude. General symptoms are Headache, Fatigue, Nausea, and Loss of appetite, sleeplessness, heavy breathing. Descending down and inhaling oxygen can cure it faster. That is why we recommend to spend at least two days in Leh, so that you get some time to acclimatize.

Q: What are the precautions for photography gears?
A: You don’t need to worry much about the professional gears much, they are built to sustain such extreme weathers. For basic gears, just keep that battery at warm places like inner pocket and avoid sudden transition from cold to warm places. Battery tend to drain faster in colder conditions

Q: I had no time to prepare, can I buy warm cloths in Leh?

A: Yes you can, though I would prefer you buy it at home location and try it out couple of times

Q: Is there some trekking involved in this?
A: No

Q: I have medical history related to breathing, blood pressure or anything significant, Can I travel at such height and low temperature?
A: Please consult your doctor for the same.

Q: What about the phone connectivity
A: Only postpaid Airtel and BSNL works with no guarantee of tower working.

 

For more details

Download Brochure

Limited seats available

Book Now

Ladakh : 24 June-7 July 2017

About Ladakh

Alot has been said and written about Ladakh, but it still remains unexplored at many sectors.
Every corner and turn will lure you to stop and click pics. Will invoke artistic and philosophical side of yours.
June is the perfect weather to explore Ladakh, with pleasant temperature during day time and manageably cold during night.
While Ladakh is a high altitude desert, you will find amazing variety of flora, fauna and wild life

Know about Ladakh

Ladakh

What’s in it for you?

  • 1. Beautiful views and vistas
  • 2. Access to some unique and unseen places, based on the weather condition.
  • 3. An interesting plan specially designed by us after 10 years of travelling to Ladakh.
  • 4. Enjoying the local cuisine.
  • 5. Unlimited photography mentor-ship by YellowPeaks team.
  • 6. An overview session on Basics of Photography and Adobe Lightroom.
  • 7. Even if you are joining as solo traveller or rider, you will never feel alone.
  • 8. A fully managed trip, with no hassle of worrying about logistics, you just sit in Taxi, drive your vehicle or ride your bike

Itenarary

24-June Saturday D-Day

  • when we will start our drive from Delhi, all the way to Manali, with couple of stoppages in between

25-June Sunday

  • Will start early from Manali to cross Rohtang pass at the earliest and reach Jispa by afternoon.

26-June Monday

  • Long drive today, all the way Leh

27-June Tuesday

  • Time to acclimatize better, short drives around Leh

28-June Wednesday

  • A drive towards Lamayuru side, with ashort break at Indus-Zanskar confluence.

29-June Thursday

  • Drive to Nubra valley, via Khardungla Pass

30-June Friday

  • Enjoy Nubra valley, we may do a day drive to Turtuk if the group is feeling better.

01-July Saturday

  • A wonderful but challenging drive to Pangong Tso, via Agham-Shayok section.

02-July Sunday

  • A relax day at Pangong Tso – Spangmik. A short drive to Phobrang village

03-July Monday

  • Another adventurous drive, passing through Chusul and Razangla, with day ending at Chumathang.

04-July Tuesday

  • Chumathang to Karzok (Tso Moriri)

05-July Wednesday

  • Return Journey, from Karzok to Sarchu.

06-July Thursday

  • Sarchu to Manali

Inclusion

  • Local Transport in SUV/MUV for the whole trip from Manali to Manali for People joining in Taxi (Not for Self Drive cars)
  • 13 Nights (12 Nights for Taxi Team) accommodations on twin/Triple sharing basis, in 3 star or equivalent hotels/Home Stays. We will share list of all accommodations after you complete the registration and confirm with payment.
  • All governments’ fees and taxes for normal journey within Ladakh and Manali.
  • All basic meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner), morning and evening tea.
  • Daily need of drinking Water (To be filled in reusable bottles to avoid too much plastic)
  • Banners and Stickers
  • Walkie Talkies in each Self Drive vehicle, from Delhi – Ladakh – Manali
  • Toilet Tents for ladies.
  • Support Vehicle for the whole trip (upto Manali while returning.
  • A lunch at Local Ladakhi home.
  • Convoy Support for Self Drive Vehicles.
  • Complete Medical Kit (Basic medicines for Adults and Kids) with Oxygen Cylinders.
  • Support Team will keep track of facilities like Service Centers, Hospitals, Mechanics, Fuel Stations, Hotels if required, Food Stops, Toilet Stops. You can enjoy the drive without worrying about all the logistics hassle.

Minimum three people per vehicle is recommended on Self drive cars, if you are less than that on self drive vehicle, please talk to us.
No walkie talkies for people joining on bikes

Exclusion

  • Flight or travel expenses to reach India and Manali.
  • VISA expanse if any Travel or medical Insurance.
  • Vehicle, Fuel and Breakdown maintenance for Self drive vehicles.
  • Any fine or challan to be paid by the driver or participants in actual to authorities.
  • Any medical emergency or rescue cost.
  • Photography equipment of any kind.
  • Hotel and Other costs added to the trip, in addition to proposed plan, due to road blockage, Political unrest or landslide, has to be paid on actual basis, by participants.
  • Any tips and gratuities to staff. Extra meals, visits and activities not indicated.
  • Items of a personal nature, including alcoholic beverages, laundry and telephone calls.
  • Camel Rides at Hunder Anything else not mentioned in the inclusions
  • A refundable security deposit of INR 5000 for the Walki-Talkie, to be paid by one of the participants from each Self Drive car. In case of Loss or damage of handset, appropriate amount will be deducted from security.
  • On Rent at Leh Bicycle – good for local Leh adventure, Motor Bike, Jackets and other accessories


Terms & Conditions

  • All the participants should have a valid passport or a government ID
  • We will request for a scanned copy of the same during the registration process
  • Photography is restricted for some of the areas and objects like bridges, Army camps and office, some for the restricted zones Please ask before taking a picture of or with an Army personnel or local.
  • Final decision on the logistics, plan, options remains with the trip organizer. All need to abide with the proposed plan, unless there is need to change the plan under unavoidable conditions.

 

Cancellation Policy

  • 75% Refund for cancelling the trip 8 weeks before the start date 50% Refund for cancelling the trip 4 weeks or less, before the start date
  • In case of the trips getting cancelled due to unavailable circumstances, we will refund the money after deducting the administrative changes

FAQs

Q: I am solo, can join the trip?

A: Absolutely, that is one the key reason we have a taxi as part of the convoy.

Q: What will be the expected temperature and weather?

A : Day temperature will hover around 20-25 degree Celsius, while night temperature can go down to 4-5 degree.

Q: Roads remains open in Ladakh?

A: Yes, Summer is the best time to get on to the road journey for Ladakh.

Q: What are the precautions for photography gears?

A: You don’t need to worry about the professional gears much, they are built to sustain such extreme weathers. For basic gears, just keep that battery at warm places like inner pocket and avoid sudden transition from cold to warm places. Battery tend to drain faster in colder conditions

Q: I had no time to prepare, can I buy warm clothes in Ladakh?

A: Not recommended, though not much warmer cloths are required as such in summer. We will share a separate packing list with the final participants.

Q: Is there some trekking involved in this?

A: No, only casual walks through the places for photography

Q: I have medical history related to breathing, blood pressure or anything significant, Can I travel at such height and low temperature?

A: Please consult your doctor for the same.

Q: What about the phone connectivity?

A: Only Postpaid BSNL/Airtel works in Ladakh region, details will shared later.

Q: What kind vehicles will be used for the trip, will they have snow chains if required?

A: We have the trusted Utility vehicles lined for this trip. Drivers are experts in driving under tough conditions.

 

 

For more details

Download Brochure

Limited seats available

Contact us for Pricing and booking

Chadar Trek – Layer of White in Zanskar valley

Lets start with a bit of history on Chadar trek without getting too deep into it. Chadar trek is an old trade trek used by Zanskaris to travel from Zanskar regions to other part of Ladakh in winter. Perhaps its the only way to connect to the world, and that’s when the part of Zanskar river freezes and makes a surface to walk on. At an altitude of around 11K feet and winter temperature of around -25 degree Celsius, this trek offers a sense of challenge to many of the trekkers and photographers.

Inception

During so many of my winter trips to Ladakh, I see hundreds of excited souls, busy in preparing for Chadar trek, in hotels, Leh market, Except me just roaming around with 10 Kg of camera and lenses. May I am just too lazy for all that mess or and I have gone into a comfort zone.

 

But winter in Ladakh is not a comfort zone itself, so where is the gap. May be I never cared about marrying trekking and photography seriously. And then I searched all pics and videos on Chadar trek to kill the curiosity, which only ended up in much more stronger curiosity.

 

The only way to calm down that urge and curiosity, was to do it myself. Considering I am not a trekking guy, to the extent that I never did serious trekking ever in my life, except some day walks, this was a serious challenge for a first timer.

 

Side Note : After doing the last Chadar trek, I think I am addicted to this one, so you can expect more pics and videos coming up in 2017 😀

Preparation

DSC_0436-Edit

For me there were three major categories of preparation for the trip:

  1. Preparing myself – getting into the required fitness level.
  2. Preparing for myself – all the gears, cloths etc, the most easy one, as I had all I needed except few things
  3. Myself – Photography, planning cameras, batteries, shooting plan etc, the critical one for me.

 

Fitness was my most weakest point in the whole chain, since I started thinking about Chadar trek and few other treks. It was more so important for me as I was planning to carry heavy photography gears on my back, and I did carried almost 13-14 kg on back for the trek.

My schedule for the exercise was pretty simple,

  • 3.5 km in 30 minutes (walk, run, sprint), 4 days in a week,
  • Stretching exercise for back, shoulder and neck.
  • Yoga, this was new for me, I regularly did Kapal Bharti, Anulom Vilom and Surya Namaskar for last 60 days before the trek.

The other thing I did daily was an hour walk (in evening as it gets dark, to avoid the embarrassment 😀  ) on my roof lawn with 14 Kg of backpack on my back. I know by now my neighbors have started considering me crazy, but it helped me in the trek.

 

Gears was the most easiest problem I had to solve. Considering that I had been to Ladakh in winter for multiple times, I had to buy only very few things, very specific to the trek. I will try to post the full list of things in another post, but you can see few scrolls down of what all I carried

 

Photography preparation was another tough task, what to pack and what to leave. Eventually I carried my widest best lens and my best tele lens with two bodies. And then many other photography stuff you can see in the video. Practically if given the task of carrying just one body and lens, I would go with any of my bodies and my widest lens.

https://youtu.be/sThIxfMRYzo

Route

Leh –> Chilling –> Tilak Sumdo –> Shigra Koma –> Chumo –> Tibb –> Nyerak Pullu –> Lingshed –> Pishu –> Zangla –> Padum

There are many version of the trek, the shorter version is upto Nyerak and back which takes around 7-8 days. The full chadar trek all the way to Padum and back takes around 22-24 days.

Note : I haven’t done the full trek yet, did it till Chumo only as the river was not frozen enough for us to walk over it.

 

Photography on Chadar

In Chadar trek and I guess most of the other serious treks, the one thing that gets compromised the most, is the camera and gears and which is fair. If you are on a trek, you do not want to drag yourself with heavy backpack and then getting yourself hurt, clicking no good pics. So rather people carry simplest gears to just click memories.

 

The problem for me is, I am not a trekker. I don’t do treks because I want to tick a trek in my list. Photography is the top most priority for me in a drive trip or treks and that is the major reason I explore places.

 

With that clear in my mind, it was obvious that I was carrying more than the recommended gears, and I did a lot of practice for the same.

 

Because I was carrying almost 7 Kgs of photography gears, bag and case itself for 2 kg, water for 1 Kg, other misc stuff of 2-3 Kg, I offloaded some of my extra cloths, tripod, bigger medicine pouch, and some other things to the porter in a separate bag (on paid basis).

 

In terms of photography opportunities, its just plenty at every 20 meters. I carried one one of my camera out all the time with my 14-24 lens, and one camera with 70-200 mm lens in the bag. Its only when I had to climb mountains where Chadar is not frozen, I packed all the cameras inside my bag to focus more on the safe crossing of the mountain.

 

Night photography was super fun, with temperature not dipping down much during night. Though it was not the best time to shoot Milk-way but I could still shoot the tail of it. Stars were visible in plenty anyways.

 

Do’s and Don’t

5 Do’s:

  • Do carry best of your warm cloths, but ensure you are comfortable in it.
  • Acclimatize for a day or so at Leh, before heading out for the trek.
  • Carry the best of your photography gears, every day on chadar trek is a different and unique day.
  • Exercise and Yoga, at-least couple of months before the trek.
  • Just enjoy and expose yourself to cold a bit.

5 Dont’s

  • Over exert on first few days in Ladakh. As they say, “Don’t try to be a Gama in the land of Lama”
  • Stop eating even if you start loosing appetite.
  • Venture out on your own, without following the guide, Chadar can be lethal if you do not hear to your guide.
  • Consume alcohol or smoke for first few days (avoid completely if possible)
  • Destroy the beauty of nature or pollute the place. Bring back your garbage where you can dispose it properly.

 

5 Best things

  • The views are just amazing of-course.
  • It challenges your mental fitness more than the physical fitness.
  • You make some great friends, under the toughest weather conditions.
  • Its a heaven for photographers.
  • Best hospitality by Ladakhis

 

5 Bad things

  • Global warming is impacting the Chadar, its not freezing properly.
  • Trek is becoming too common, specifically few fancy short version of the trek.
  • Many people visiting for the trek have no respect for the place and they litter everywhere.
  • If you are going for photography, joining a big 2o people group will be a bad experience.
  • Trek operators are not prepared for rescue and medical emergencies.

 

Myths and Realities

Myth : Zanskar river freezes completely and you can walk over it anywhere

Reality : no way, during the most of the trek only the edges of the river freezes, in the center its always gushing water,at places it doesn’t even freeze at all, and at places where Zanskar is narrow, it freezes completely on the top

 

Myth : Temperature gets down to -40 degree Celsius

Reality : Not anymore, I haven’t seen temperature going down lower than -20 degree Celsius

 

Myth : Trek is simple, you just have to walk over the frozen river

Reality : Na da, you wade through bone chilling water, you climb through “death guaranteed if slip” mountains, I think only 50% of the trek in simple walk, 50% is just unpredictable.

 

NOTE : I am not a Chadar Trek expert or any trek expert, these are my views based on my recent trek to Chadar.

Enjoy few Pictures

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (33)

Colors unlimited

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (32)

Amazing patterns of Frozen Zanskar river

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (30)

Some hidden caves

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (28)

Yours truly, taking a short breather

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (26)

Home for the porters and local during the trek

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (22)

Marching on

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (21)

Isn’t it a dream couch

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (20)

The warriors of the trek – Porters

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (18)

Frozen water falls on the way

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (16)

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (7)

This is how your tents, sleeping bags, and food are carried all the way

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (8)

Home sweet home

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (12)

Spend some time with porters, you will get to hear amazing stories 🙂

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (13)

And the amazing sunset views

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (14)

Billion star hotel

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (6)

Water is a luxury, even if you are walking on frozen form of it

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (2)

And the gang, I made some great friends during the trek

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (1)

First step on Chadar

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (50)

Chadar can make you fall in love with mountains

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (49)

I can just watch it, words fall short to appreciate and explain this place

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (39)

And don’t be too serious, you need to have some fun

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (42)

yellowpeaks.com mug on the frozen zanskar river

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (34)

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (45)

The mast gang

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (46)

Chadar dance, Bruce Lee style

 

 

Chadar Trek and Ladakh - 2016 (38)

Glass Walk

 

Copyright © 2016 Yellow Peaks. All Rights Reserved. All images are copyright of Rajiv Kumar and Yellow Peaks, and can not be reproduced in any form

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh

During my so many trips to Ladakh, there are few trips where I don’t drive myself, rather have no choice to drive my self. And mostly these are the winter trips to Ladakh. As somebody said long time back, “Journey is much important than Destination”, flight journey to Ladakh is always short and sweet.

 

But more than short and sweet, flight to Leh can throw some amazing views to you, importance of some of them I realized recently through the Himalayan gurus. Views of Nun and Kun peaks was always a charm. And just recently I experienced the magical views of Nanda Devi peak.

 

What’s more thrilling was to see Kinnar Kailash peak from top. I spent many hours sitting at Kalpa, clicking sunrise and sunset on Kinner Kailash, but realized that I saw Kinner Kailash from air as well.

 

I am still out of luck on K2 and Nanga Parbhat, but I am sure mountain god will shower the blessing for the same as well, soon.

 

Imagine watching Sangam (Indus and Zanskar river confluence) from air and while you must have watched the confluence from road, few days before, standing right in front of the confluence.

 

Leh city, Zanskar ranges, Nanga Parbat, Moore plains and so many other places looks so beautiful from air.

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (4)

You can see Pang camps and the start of Moore plains

 

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (5)

Moore plains and the lovely road crossing through it

 

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (6)

Sangam and Nimmu village

 

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (7)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (8)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (9)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (10)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (11)

Flight view of Leh city, lets see how many prominent places you can find

 

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (12)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (13)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (14)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (15)

Indus and Zanskar river confluence, as see in February 2016

 

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (16)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (17)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (18)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (19)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (20)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (21)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (22)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (23)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (24)

Lovely Glaciers

 

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (25)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (26)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (27)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (28)

Kamet peak in the center top

 

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (29)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (1)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (2)

 

Landscape shots from flight to Leh (3)

 

 

Ladakh in Winter – Planning and Preparing

While travelling to Ladakh in winter is an amazing experience, which is next to none, it needs lots of planning and preparation, specially for those travelling to such cold places for the first time. Its always good to have few tips handy when you are planning this trip. I have penned down some of experiences from my winter trips to Ladakh.

 

Cloths

Keeping yourself warm is the most important thing while travelling to Ladakh or any other mountain region in winter, rest everything else comes next.

 

Warm inner is absolute must, but not the cotton one, get a pair of synthetic warm inner, 2nd layer of thick fleece, out layer of warm waterproof jacket, I personally prefer a down jacket.

 

For legs, I use a warm inner, with a thick foam filled pant over it. Just in case if it gets really cold I wear a middle layer of fleece pant, though it becomes very uncomfortable with three layers on, makes the movement of limbs really tough.

 

A balaclava as first layer to cover your head, ear and part of face. Remember that ugly cap that your Mom used to force on you when you were kid and how much you disliked it?, that’s exactly what you need now :D.  I use a second layer of normal woolen cap

 

Gloves: I use a double layer of gloves, inner layer of fleece gloves and outer layer or water proof thick skiing gloves. Every time I need to click a picture, I just remove the out thick layer and can manage photography with fleece layer on. That way its little less painful during photography.

 

Shoes and socks: no matter what you wear, your feet will always be cold. It’s a matter of adjusting to it.

 

But as basics, I recommend a good quality shoes, ankle high is better. And double layer of socks, with inner nylon and outer thick woolen.

 

Just in case if you miss buying gloves, caps or socks, you can get some good stuff in Leh market. You can even get it cheaper there, worth giving it a shot.

 

Food
While struggling with cold and high altitude, the first thing that you start loosing is proper diet. And with altitude hitting the body, the overall food appetite goes down drastically, and limited options of food makes things more complicated. The quick solution is to have plenty of soup with garlic, and have some Ladakhi bread with it. I find it absolutely boring and tough eating rice and lentil in this situation. Thukpa somehow still goes in well, may be because of it soup form.

 

Chocolates or nutrition bars also works well in case of lost appetite.

 

For emergency, I keep some cup noodles handy, just pour in some boiling water and you have something to keep the stomach happy. This happened with us in January 2015, when we took a chance and got the access to Dumchok region by luck, but we found nothing for stay or food in Koyule or Fukche. Eventually we had to drive back to Chumathang, which we reached by 10 pm driving over the snow. We were without food since morning but luckily I had boiling water in thermos and few cup noodles in my bag. It saved the day for me and the pilot, can’t forget the day eating noodles over the frozen Nyoma section in dark.

 

Water

Another very important thing to maintain during this trip in winter is keeping yourself hydrated.  I keep two 1 ltr steel thermos with during any winter trip. Fill one with super boiling water and other with lukewarm drinking water. Those thermos from milton or few other brands are really good and keep water super warm up to 12 hours and sometime even more.

 

Besides these two bottles, I keep another 2-4 litter of water in stock, but keep it wrapped in some blanket or else it will freeze and will be useless.

 

Taxi

Taxi is not cheap during winter, rates remains the same throughout the year, but most of the taxi owners will provide some good discounts. I always prefer to hire my trusted ones even if they cost me more because of following:

 

1. They know every corner of Ladakh.

2. I don’t have to worry about stay, they arrange it for all places.

3. Their cars are in best shape, they love their cars like a family members.

4. They are always winter ready with things like shovel, snow chains etc.

5. They know the tricks of surviving in winter and keep the cars running in night as well.

 

Discuss your plan with your driver in advance as they can recommend if its possible or not. Make sure you check the car for the trip properly, it should have good tires (all five), should have shovel, tow rope and snow chains.

 

Flight

Flight is the only way to reach Leh in winter, all passes from Kashmir and Manali shuts down with heavy snow by the end of November or early December and opens only in May/June next year.

 

If you are lucky, you can get away with some cheap flight tickets during winter. I have got it as low as 5000 INR in past, last I got was for 7500 INR. There are chances of flight getting cancelled due to bad weather or snow on the runway, be mentally prepared for delays and flight cancellations.

 

Hotels/Guest Houses/Home Stay

Most of the hotel in Leh city close for winter but for few owned by locals. I had experience staying in hotels like Shanti Guest House, Oriental, Panorama (all on Changspa road). Majority of the hotels have centralized heating now with time controlled heating in morning and evening. few years back, the only way of room heating was gas heaters, which were painful oxygen suckers. Booking in advance is better considering the low supply of rooms in winter.

 

Beyond Leh, staying options are quite limited to guest houses and home stays. Like for Pangong Tso, you best option to stay is at Tangste, with few home stays remain open during winter. For Nubra, Hunder village have few guest houses which remain open. For Chumathang, the best is Padma Lodge with heating from sulphur spring. In Hanle I have always stayed with Sonam Dorjey (Padma Guest House) in Hanle village.

 

Your best source of information on where to stay is your taxi driver, just setup a friendly chord with him and you will be surprised at the kind of information and places he can share with you.

 

Permits/Permissions

All the rules and regulations remains the same in winter as in summer. Perhaps the authorities are little more liberal in terms of giving permits to the restricted areas during winter. You will still need to fill in the self declaration form at the defined check posts.

 

Photography

I am sure its a silly question to ask but, “What can I capture in Ladakh during winter?” And the list is long, very very long

To summarize few,

  • Frozen Landscape : That’s the reason you go to Ladakh in winter. A majestic mix of River, Snow, Sand, Mountains and Ice, all in one frame.
  • Ice Hockey : Not many people know that India have a world class Ice Hockey team from Ladakh, you can see live matches during winter.
  • Wildlife : In plenty, you just need that eye, people spend their life time in Ladakh to capture Snow Leopard.
  • Frozen Lakes and Rivers : Frozen Pangong Tso is one rare sight in itself, and add to that are frozen Indus, Hanle and Zanskar rivers.
  • Festivals : Spituk Festival, Hemis Festival, Dosmochey, Mathe Festival. You have to struggle to find a nice spot amongst the excited set of locals.
  • Monasteries : While you can click monasteries in Ladakh any time of the year, you get the best colors either in late summer or winter.
  • Culture : Its a bonus for street photographer, as life goes on in Ladakh even at -25 degree celcius.

 

Alot of people have asked me about any special care required for the photography gears during winter in Ladakh. the answer is nothing special, most of the professional gears and even amateur gears now a days are quite tough and weather proof. Just carry few extra batteries and keep them warm inside your jacket.

Most importantly keep yourself warm during all that enthusiasm of photography.


Sample Plan: You can try different combinations

Day 1 : Arrive at Leh, check-in to hotel, acclimatize and roam around in Leh city, without pushing too much today. May be you can arrange your permits today

Day 2 : Explore around Leh, Alchi, Lamayuru etc, night stay back at Leh

Day 3 : Leh – Chumathang, night stay at Chumathang

Day 4 : Chumathang – Tso Moriri – Nyoma – Hanle, with night stay at Hanle, this will be a long day and access to lake depends on the amount of snow on the road, worst case you can still go to Puga and visit ice cone at sulphur springs.

Day 5 : Hanle – Loma – Chagga – Chagga La – Chusul – Spangmik – Tangste. Again this route is purely dependent on snow. I had to turn back from chagga village due to heavy snow.

Day 6 : Tangste – Pangong Tso – Tangste – Chang La – Leh, night stay at Leh

Day 7 : Leh – Khardung La – Diskit – Hunder (night stay at either Diskit or Hunder)

Day 8 : Hunder – Leh

Day 9 : Fly out of Leh

 

Random Tips

  • Along with high SPF sun cream, keep a good amount of pure mustard oil handy, as your skin will get dry and rough and not cream will work at such harsh and dry weather. You can buy mustard oil from Leh market.
  • If you have a tendency of hands and feet getting cold, you can buy few chemical warmers available at trekking stores.
  • Use your spare cap or socks to store batteries and electronic items. Batteries will keep the charge much longer when warm.
  • Keep plenty of toilet paper rolls handy, you will only get dry toilets at many places, and using cold water will be painful 😀 .

 

Places in winter

Pangong Tso : If you seen this lake in summers, you are up for a wonderful surprise to see it frozen completely.

Ladakh in Winter_58_Day 6

 

DSC_8610-Edit

 

Spangmik : My favorite place for stay overnight when I visit Pangong Tso lake

Ladakh in Winter_57_Day 6

 

Chusul/Tsaga La

DSC_8559

 

Hanle : The view gets better and better in winter, and you can see the frozen tributaries of Hanle rivers passing through the valley. Do visit Hanle monastery, as you get so see the vast Hanle valley from top of it.

Ladakh in Winter_25_Day 4

 

Chumathang : Its a beautiful halt point on the way to Hanle or Tso Moriri, famous for its hot sulphur springs and you do get boiling water out of the springs in winter.

Ladakh in Winter_11_Day 3

 

Leh : While its becoming another tourist city in India, it is still beautiful and amazing. Views from Shanti Stupa during sunset and sunrise are priceless.

DSC_8178

 

Lamayuru : A day drive to Lamayuru is fun, and watching the Indus-Zanskas confluence is different experience in winter.

Ladakh (20)

 

Winter Treks in Ladakh

The most famous one is Chadar Trek, where you walk over the frozen Zanskar river for days. Some other treks you can explore are Markha Valley trek, Stok Kangri and Snow Leopard trek in Hemis National Park. There are few more, but doing these treks in winters makes it much more difficult and treacherous.

 

You can read one of my travel story for winter in Ladakh here.[custom_button style=”btn_large btn_type10″ icon=”icon-location-arrow” target=”_self” href=”http://yellowpeaks.com/travelling-to-ladakh-in-winter”]Travelogues – Ladakh in winter[/custom_button] Checkout my article on Photography in Winter[custom_button style=”btn_large btn_type7″ icon=”icon-camera” target=”_self” href=”http://yellowpeaks.com/photography-in-extreme-winter”]Photography in Winter[/custom_button]

Ladakh in winter

8 Am in the morning, flight took a right turn, pilot announced that we will be landing in 10 minutes, cabin crew to be seated. I was holding my seat tight, not for the fear of another landing, I have flown all across the world, had no fear of take off and landing.

 

But this is something different, no, not because this is Leh, this is heaven in winter. My eyes were glued to window and I didn’t blinked for a second. Peaks after peaks were passing through my window, so close as if I can jump and touch one of those.

 

Day 1 – 24 Jan 2015  : Delhi to Leh

8:15 Am, I was out on the runway, pilot already informed us about the outside temperature, which was -15 degree Celsius. It felt more than that as I was waiting for the airport shuttle to arrive. While everybody was busy searching for caps and gloves, I wanted to feel the cold, It was like coming back home.

 

Luggage collection area was buzzing with people, happy faces of local, happiness of coming back home, no matter how cold it is. Exciting travellers and trekkers. It was a happy feeling all around. I never felt that kind of happiness at Vienna, Washington DC, Narita, Jackson, Heathrow, Schipol, Changi, Dallas, Munich and many more I have passed through.

 

Collected my very visual and weird bag strapped with colorful belts and walked out of the airport. Called Rigzin and he said he is on his way and will take 5-10 mins with a sorry, while I said no problem, let me soak in. I wanted to just gel in to the cold and white. It was much less snow this time, while it was all covered with snow last time in 2012.

 

Out side of the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport was filled with alot of army personnel movement, Jawans eager to leave for their homes, watching me in surprise. I guess they were amused at me standing in cold while everybody was looking for cover.

 

Rigzin arrived in sharp 10 mins, my luggage loaded at back, while I was hugging to my camera bag like a child not letting go her teddy. We had to ferry few other travellers, clients of Rigzin.

During our drive towards hotel, it was all silent inside the car, nobody was speaking anything. My heart beat was little fast, I guess it was happiness and excitement. Right then Rigzin broke the silence,

“RKBHARAT sir, what is the plan this time”.

Before I could even answer his question, somebody from back had a question.

“Are you RKBHARAT?”

“Yes sir, I am”

And the silence was kicked out of the car, with loud cheers and discussions taking over. World is so small, and it gets smaller when you are in Leh, and it further gets tiny in winter.

 

Checked-in to Panorama hotel at Changspa Road, I was much more eager to leave Leh and explore the unseen and cold Ladakh. But it was important to acclimatise well and get friendly with cold. Had couple of rounds of hot tea and rested for some time in hotel room. Hotel owner payed a visit to my room to say hello and we had a long conversation on many different things.

 

While “who will drive” for rest of next 8 days was still a mystery, Rigzin came back to hotel with a proposal. He proposed Sonam as the pilot for trip.

 

Now let me tell you, Rigzin knows me very well on how painful I can be when it comes to photography. I will ask to stop at any places no matter how bad it is, and can take even an hour or more at same place. Hence he did a lot of thinking and suggested Sonam. I was little worried and unsure, only to be delighted in next 8 days and having another great friend in the form of Sonam in Ladakh.

 

Though Day 1 was a rest day, I deiced to call Sonam to meet him in person and see the vehicle my self. I wanted the vehicle to be in the best condition, with new tyres and snow chains.

 

For the next 2 hours I sat outside lawn, had a wonderful breakfast and played with cute puppies inside the hotel. It was a sunny day, a good sign for me for next few days, but that’s not a guarantee for good wather in coming days.

 

Sonam arrived at hotel around 3 Pm, we deiced to have a cup of tea togather and I tried to talk with him on different topics. In my first 10 mins of dicussion, I knew I have the right guy for the tough trip ahead, specially when I am all alone.

 

We drove straight to market, which was still in shamble and under construction. My favorite point in Leh market is Neha sweets, and their Cholle Bhaturas are awesome. My order for the day was, Cholle Bhature, Smosa and Jalabi, along with a Lassi.

 

I think I caused a shock wave amongst few travellers already sitting their, they all looked at me and I just blinked at them. They looked back at thali they ordered, and few minute later I heared an order from that group “ Bhaia, doo plate smose and doo plate jalabi bhee” (Two plates of samosa and two plates of Jalabi (Jalabi : A little twisted, dripping, sugar-filled, hot, indian delicacy)) .

 

After that light, soft to stomach meal, I decided to take a walk across the market, forcing myself to find something interesting, but I failed myself. Back at hotel, we decided to drive to Thiksey and a local village near Leh tomorrow. But not before a must have evening visit to Shanti Stupa where I spent an hour before coming back to Panaroma for dinner and sleep.

Night was cold, very cold. I could not sleep for very long, hence I started writing for my blog and don’t even remember what time I slept.

 

Ladakh in Winter_1_Day 1

Lovely view from flight to Leh

 

Ladakh in Winter_3_Day 1

That line in the center is road going through moore plains

 

Ladakh in Winter_2_Day 1

Lovely view from flight to Leh, Can you find the Pang Camp area in this picture?

 

Ladakh in Winter_6_Day 1

Leh city in cold evening of winter

 

Ladakh in Winter_5_Day 1

Majestic Shanti Stupa

 

Ladakh in Winter_4_Day 1

View from my room


Day 2 : Around Leh

Woke up lazily, with a little heavy head which was quite normal. I knew it will taken care of with a hot black tea. I was feeling hungry so I ordered some light breakfast of Aaloo Parantha with a layer of butter followed by scrambled eggs, with 3 cups of hot tea. I guessed that should be light enough of the morning 😀 .

 

We started for Thiskey monastery little late at around 12 pm, with plan to come back by 5 pm. While we just crossed Choglamsar and were around Shey, we received a call from Rigzin, inquiring about how are we planning to get the permits. I said tomorrow morning before we leave for Chumathang.

 

Right then he dropped the Atom bomb, tomorrow was Sunday and day after was 26-Jan. So we had no choice but to get the permit today, that too before 3 PM, as they close permit process early on Saturday.

 

We took a U-turn and drove straight to DC office, only to find ADC left for the day. It was a panic situation for me. If we do not get the permit today, I will have to wait for two days in Leh which was absolutely unacceptable to me. And all places I was planning to cover needed permits.

 

I requested the staff there to do something and they started thinking on a solution. A lady at reception suggsted me to talk to ADC over phone, which I did immediately did, 60 second post our telephonic discussion, I heard those sweet words from her.

“Stay there at office, I am sending somebody with authority to sign on my behalf”

Yipee. I wanted to jump in joy, but kept my happiness for later. Thanking ADC multiple times, I disconnected the call and waited at the reception.

 

15 minutes later, A young chap entered the reception and I could see everybody in attention and active seeing him. I could feel he is somebody important. As he walked in, he asked “ Who is Rajiv?” Though I was the only non-ladakhi in the room.

 

I raised my hand like a school kid raising hand for the roll call. We shook hands and he quickly started the permit process. While he was working on the documents we discussed about many new things DC office is working on and he diligently explained on why is he charging 20 Rs per day for environment. The moment I told him that I am in this office for the 8th time today, he was amused and got interested. We exchange our phone numbers and decided to meet at the end of my trip to discuss more things.

 

Relaxed with permit process, Sonam got the photocopies done for the permit and the self declaration form.

 

It was already 5 Pm, by the time we were done with this whole circus. Sun was down and cold was up. It must be around -10 degree at 6pm. Time to get inside the hotel and have some food.

 

Food was tasteless and boring, but hotel was full with people. Poor trekkers who came all the way from different part of India and World for the Chadar trek, which was cancelled due to an artificial lake built by a landslide. People were busy discussing al alternate plan.

 

Ladakh in Winter_7_Day 2

What a lovely morning

 

Ladakh in Winter_8_Day 2

What a lovely morning

 

Ladakh in Winter_9_Day 2

What a lovely morning

 

 

Day 3 : Leh – Upshi – Chumathang

Start of the trip, finally I will be moving out of Leh and exploring something I came here for. We started quite early around 8 Am and drove to petrol pump for fuel. Leh now has 4 petrol pumps , compared to two it had few years back.

 

It was a pretty straight drive upto Upshi and a left to Chumathang. But wait,  last time when I was at Upshi, we took a 15 minute break for tea and that was enough to freeze the fuel filters and fuel line. It took us 2 hours and few fires to melt all that unwanted frozen fuel.

 

Ladakh in winter is not about good or bad roads, its also not about high and low altitude, Its all about cold and very cold.

 

While thought of having a hot spring water gives a very comforting feel, sleeping in the night, far from from world was still bugging my mind.

 

Unfortunately due to road widening process, road condition was bad all the way to Chumathang, and at few places it was completely snowed out. I felt the need of snow chain on those sections, but Sonam was confident about doing it without snow chains.

 

Reached Chumathang around 3 Pm, after multiple stop and click sessions, we checked in straight to Padma Guest House, run by ofcourse Padma ji. A very hard working lady who works non stop for the guest house.

 

Padma guest house have three decent rooms, with hot water straight from sulphur springs.

 

It was just late afternoon and evening was still far. I decided to do a walk and explore the area on foot. It was cold, very cold. Indus around chumathang was completely frozen and I could see just a trickle of water at few places. I kept walking passing through couple of villages and clicking the beautiful views around me.

 

At one one point I saw few young guys, looked more like travellers, walking behind me. They were walking towards their hotel near monastery. Within few minutes of discussion, I had the same question.

“Are you RKBHARAT?”

“Yes sir, I am”

That was followed by long discussion on their plans, my plans and few past trips. I walked with them upto their hotel where they were camping. Had a cup of tea with them. It was 8 pm, completely dark and extreme cold,  by the time I was about to leave. I thought it’s a bad idea to walk 2 km back, checked my phone and it had signals, I called Sonam to check if he hasn’t packed the car for night and if he can come to ferry me back. With a loud YES and 15 minutes later, he was there to ferry me back to guest house.

 

Fortunately my headache was gone and my appetite was still intact. I felt hungry so we ordered couple different stuff to eat. I ate thukpa, momos and finally noodles, followed by a big mug of tea.

 

It very important to eat and drink as much as you can during winter, as your body needs more energy to keep it warm.

 

I met one of the local contractor who was working on road widening project and we talked about tourism, some hidden treks and economy of Ladakh till 10 Pm. Discussion was so intense , to the extent that we could have drafted the financial budget for J&K that night.

 

Padama Guest house has central room heating using the natural heat from the hot sulphur spring water, which runs till 11 PM, good enough to keep it warm for next hour or so. By that time either you are fast asleep or walking in the room with heavy head.

 

Ladakh in Winter_10_Day 3

Yalks surviving on very limited supply of food in winter

 

Ladakh in Winter_11_Day 3

My favorite spot in Chumathang region, I was standing in front of it for the 5th times

 

 

P-DSC_3088

This is how the above spot looked in winter, this was taken in the month of June

 

Ladakh in Winter_12_Day 3

Our steed for the trip

 

Ladakh in Winter_13_Day 3

Boiling water of Chumathang sulphur springs

 

Ladakh in Winter_14_Day 3

Not a hint of water in Indus river, its frozen solid

 

Ladakh in Winter_15_Day 3

Not a hint of water in Indus river, its frozen solid

 

 

Day 4: 26 Jan 2015 : Chumathang – Mahe – Nyoma – Loma – Rhongo – Hanle

A very important day for India, our Republic Day, I was at Hanle on this day during 2012 and we hosted India’s flag at the observatory. I missed it by a day this time.

 

But at least lets have a hot bath and new cloths for this important day. With hot water running all around, you don’t want to miss the bathing opportunity. Specially knowing that you are not going to get bath for next few days, 5 days to be exact.

 

With wishes and vows to come back, we left Chumathang around 10:30 AM as the target was pretty easy, Hanle. Though how wrong I was on the EASY part. While drive to Hanle can be a piece of cake in summers, winter turned out to be a different game. It snowed two days back in Chumathang region and roads were all covered with thick snow, all the way up to Nyoma. The only good part was the clear sunny days, that means better roads but lower temperature. This is for the first time I was watching Chumathang region all covered in snow.

 

Post Nyoma, snow disappeared from the roads and all I could see was black tar, no human around, few Kiangs laughing at us and couple of Yalks least bothered about us. Every now and then we met few bunch of sheep, all watching straight at us in surprise.

 

Reached Loma check-post in jiffy and crossed Rhongo quickly, Hanle river was all frozen, nothing liquid on surface. There might be some underground, but on the top it was all solid ice, with yalks walking over it for shortcuts.

 

Drove straight to Padma Guest house at Hanle, yet another Padma, but owned by Sonam Dorje, a cheerful and ever helping man. We were meeting for the third time, last two times we met at Observatory as that was the only place to stay. But now there are couple of other options to stay besides the property owned by Sonam.

 

BTW names like Sonam, Padma, Dorjee, Tsering etc reminds me of names like Lucky, Goldy, Platy, Happy etc from Punjab. People are so similar on naming conventions 😀

 

Sonam gave me a three bedded room all for me, with a cow/sheep dung bokhari. Trust me, these bokharis are super fast heaters for room. Within few seconds of burning the bokhari, you can feel the whole room as comfortable as a normal summer day in Ladakh. Another benefit of these bokharis over kerosene one is that it does create much nauseating fumes.

 

After a quick round of tea and some food, I headed out to explore Hanle Monastery which I missed in my last two visits to Hanle. View from the roof of the monastery was amazing and I was wondering how did I missed it  during my previous trips. With sun playing hide and seek through the clouds, tributaries from hanle river were shining like silver jewelry of mother nature.

 

I spent almost an hour on the roof, before heading back to the guest house as it was getting windy and cold.

 

Food was served in the kitchen of guest house, which was super warm typical Ladakhi kitchen and a functional TV. Though I had to settle with cartoons watched by Sonam’s son.

 

I tried taking some star trails during night but it was just too cold to stand outside, I guess it was around -20 degree that night and almost full moon. I gave up to both these factors and cuddled inside my warmed up room. For a change I slept quite peacefully in this night of my stay at Hanle. For the record, all my night stays during my previous trips to Hanle were painful and restless and last one was horrible.

 

Guess I was getting better and ready for more extreme stuff on this trip, not knowing that I am about to get exactly the same.

Ladakh in Winter_16_Day 4

What lovely roads to drive

 

Ladakh in Winter_17_Day 4

Master of Roads

 

Ladakh in Winter_18_Day 4

Those Kiangs, Laughing at us

 

Ladakh in Winter_19_Day 4

Almost at Nyoma

 

Ladakh in Winter_20_Day 4

Victim of Nature’s fury

 

Ladakh in Winter_21_Day 4

Snow almost disappear beyond Nyoma

 

Ladakh in Winter_22_Day 4

Frozen Indus, and Yalks walking over it, a very rare view

 

Ladakh in Winter_23_Day 4

Giggling sheeps

 

Ladakh in Winter_24_Day 4

Coming out of no where

 

Ladakh in Winter_25_Day 4

Lovely Hanle Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_26_Day 4

Lovely Hanle Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_27_Day 4

View from Hanle Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_28_Day 4

Hanle Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_29_Day 4

View from Hanle Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_30_Day 4

Inside Hanle Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_31_Day 4

Inside Hanle Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_32_Day 4

Parting shot of Hanle Monastery

 

 

 Day 5 : 27 Jan 2015 : Hanle – Loma – Chagga village – Loma – Dungti – Fukche – Koyule – Dumchok – Dungti – Loma – Nyoma – Chumathang

A very long and adventurous day

It was almost 150 km of drive for today, but through some tough and uncertain terrains. There were multiple reasons for us getting stuck, delayed or grounded. But then its not the first time I will be going through it, and we have to do it. Sonam was little worried as he didn’t met any driver who came from Chusul side yesterday or today, that could eventually mean the road is blocked. But we will worry about it when we will get it, for now it was a beautiful and cold morning.

 

Morning photography was absolutely impossible due to super cold weather. My hands were freezing despite the double layer of gloves. In the morning I met a photographer couple also staying with Sonam. We had an early morning quick conversation where I got to know that he is from Mumbai, a very well know wild life photographer Kedar Bhide, and later we met again on our return journey at Chumathang.

 

After a quick breakfast and an emotional hug from Sonam, we left for our journey which turned out to be a life time experience for me. Rhongo and Loma passed by quickly, took right towards Chaga La and our first  break post Loma . Indus was completely frozen, though not as interesting as it was during Jan 2012. But a frozen Indus itself is a prized view that you don’t get to see very often. It was so beautiful that I just jumped out with my cameras, right in the middle of strong wind. Sonam followed me with my jacket and suggested to wear it as it was around -20 degree celcius and very windy, not a very friendly weather for poor Delhi people.

 

By the time we reached Chagga Village check-post, winds converted into a snow storm. At the check-post, we were told that we can not cross chagga La as its all covered under tons of snow. Infact even the ITBP supplies for 26th January celebrations couldn’t reach because of that. Though we were free to go ahead and check it out our-self, which we agreed for.

 

Just 10 mins of drive post the checkpoint, and we were surrounded by a heavy snow storm, and just as we passed through the chagga village, roads disappeared and it was all white. Sonam took a walk ahead to check the possibility of driving with snow chains, while I was very very unsure. Together we took the call of returning back and plan something else. I was little sad inside but never reflected the same to Sonam as he did more than what he could and we turned back only to return some other time again. We never wanted to be part of that terrain forever, buried under snow.

 

While we were returning back, I saw few local vehicles on the other side of the Indus, which Sonam confirmed was the road towards Dungti, Fukche and then for Dumchok. My eyes were all open with immediate effect and my mind was in absolute crazy state. I was turned down for Dumchok twice at Dungti, despite having a permit, and today I don’t even have the permit, I am alone and its peak winter. It was absolutely crazy to even think about Dumchok right now.

 

But you know, YAE DIL HAE KEE MANTA NAHI (this heart doesn’t just settle down) , With absolutely no hope, I asked Sonam.

Me : “Can we do it?”

Sonam : “ Why not”

Me (with eye balls all out) : “Are you sure, I don’t have permits”

Sonam : “ Lets try at checkpost”

 

OK, I was puzzled and excited at the same time, I had no idea what am I going to say at check-post.

 

At Loma checkpost, we asked for Dumchok, they said they can let us go for Hanle as we had permits but they have no control on Dumchok, Dungti check-post will return us back in all probability.

 

Hmm, I looked at Sonam, and his eyes said lets go sir, we will try at Dungti. With in split seconds me and Sonam hopped into Xylo and didn’t even cared to say bye, not to risk the change in mind with the check-post guy.

 

Though I waved at him with a smile and he was literally laughing at what we were about to attempt. No worries, we will laugh, at our return journey when we meet again.

 

With my heart pumping at full speed, we reached Dungti check-post quickly, only to be stopped and asked to park the vehicle at side. Sonam told the guy that I wanted to visit Dumchok and he was confused on why would I do that.

 

I tried to talk to him that we lost the opportunity to cross Chagga La hence I was little sad and thought of doing Dumchok. This guy offered tea to us while he was thinking over it, asking me multiple questions, and checking my identity, walking back to his cabin, may be talking to his superiors. Then he came to me and asked:

 

Checkpost Guy : “Where will you stay?”

Me : “May be at Koyule, or will try my luck at Fukche ITBP unit”

Checkpost Guy : “very difficult to find anything at those place”

Me : “ then we will come back and stay with you”

Checkpost Guy with a big smile : “Ok sir, be careful and have a good trip, enjoy”

 

WHAT? Did he just allowed us to go to Dumchok, while I was trying to get into the reality, Sonam had started the vehicle and was already moving. Both me and Sonam looked at each other and smiled. Meanwhile we gave lift to a local guy who was shepherd and was going to his base, he gave us some wonderful inputs on the place, history etc.

 

There is absolutely no road post Dungti, not even a track, its multiple rough tracks going in same direction, you just take any one of them. But fortunately this whole drive is through valley and no big drops on sides.

 

We reached Fukche in an hour and took right towards Koyule to check for any stay options. We tried many doors but unfortunately could not find anything worth staying. Most of locals leave Koyule in winter and move to Leh or better places.

 

We were loosing precious time and our chances or visiting Dumchok was fading away. Right then we took the call of doing something for which we took all this risk. Lets visit Dumchok first and worry about stay later.

 

We again came back to Fukche and took an off-road right towards Dumchok which was another 30 km and 3 hour return drive passing through some amazing views, wide valley and frozen Indus. As we reached Dumchok, I was really hyper and excited. We drove all the way upto Dumchok village which was completely abandoned due to the tussle between the two neighbors. I could clearly see Chinese check-post stone throw away from me. After having couple of minutes of break, we decided its wise to move back as it a very sensitive area and might upset both sides. While returning I unlocked my phone to check the time and I was shocked to see full Airtel signals. That must a bug or mistake, Airtel signals here?, impossible.

 

But it was true, I called Priyanka(my wife) in joy and I was talking and talking non stop. Then I called couple of other friends in excitement.

 

But now we had to handle the biggest problem of night stay. Sonam confirmed that we have no choice but to go all the way back up to Loma. I asked him multiple times if he is confident of doing it and I am with him if he is. At 6:30 Pm we were at Fuckhe and decided to drive up-to Nyoma and find something to stay there. We stopped at Dungti checkpost again as I wanted to give a big hug to the guy who finally allowed us to see the heaven, but he was gone with his shift over.

 

We reached Nyoma around 8:30 Pm and it was time to take another call, Sonam was of the opinion to drive further and reach Chumathang, that way we will have a much comfortable night stay, and tomorrow we can start little late for Tangste and Pangong Tso. I agreed though I was little scared as the road from Nyoma to Chumathang was the toughest and all covered with snow.

 

We were hungry, very hungry as we had no proper food since morning, luckily I was carrying few cup noodles with me and we packed boiling water in one of the thermal bottles I always carry during winter. It was one of the best cup noodles I ever had under billion stars, at lovely Nyoma, with -20 degree temperature.

 

That 15 minute breaks was a very rejuvenating one for us, with tummy full, we were confident to reach Chumathang in time and we did. Reached Chumathang by 10:00 Pm and luckily found the room available as well. Warm room, fresh food and tea, what else do you need after such an amazing experience of life.

 

All night I was dreaming about me wandering and camping around Fukche and Koyule, I guess I left piece of my heart there. Will definitely go back to collect it.

 

Ladakh in Winter_33_Day 5

Owner of Padma Guest House at Hanle, absolutely fantastic guy

 

Ladakh in Winter_34_Day 5

Frozen Indus at Loma

 

Ladakh in Winter_35_Day 5

Frozen Indus at Loma and yours truly

 

Ladakh in Winter_36_Day 5

Heading straight to a snow storm at Chagga Village

 

Ladakh in Winter_37_Day 5

This is where we turned back, abondoning our attempt to cross Chaga La and reach Chusul

 

Ladakh in Winter_38_Day 5

Sonam walking ahead to check the road

 

Ladakh in Winter_39_Day 5

Turned back at right time as we could a heavy storm at our back

 

Ladakh in Winter_40_Day 5

And as we headed towards Dungti

 

Ladakh in Winter_41_Day 5

And as we headed towards Dungti

 

Ladakh in Winter_42_Day 5

Lovely unseen views of Fuckhe region

 

Ladakh in Winter_43_Day 5

Lovely unseen views of Fuckhe region

 

Ladakh in Winter_44_Day 5

Lovely unseen views of Fuckhe region

 

Ladakh in Winter_45_Day 5

Super solid Indus

 

Ladakh in Winter_46_Day 5

And they call it Chandigarh Highway

 

Ladakh in Winter_47_Day 5

If you have seen Moore plains, this is 4 times the size of moore plains

 

Day 6: Chumathang – Karu – Chang La – Pangong Tso – Spangmik – Tangste

Another lovely morning at Chumathang, warm water for quick bath and tummy full of breakfast. A wonderful start of the day, with morning temperature recorded as -15 degrees celcius.

 

Plan was to go straight to Pangong Tso without touching Leh, but I had a pressing office issue to take care of, for which I was carrying my office laptop. We took a longer break at Karu where I could get a better signal for that pressing issue, which was taken care of in 30 mins.

 

It was time to head straight to the mighty Chang la, my 8th time, 3rd time in winter and 3rd time in last six months (we were here in June 2014). Chang La was snowed out as usual, there was a need of snow chains in some sections but Sonam was confident driving over it without chains. Pass was snowed out as expected and there was absolutely no body except us and Chang La baba and few army guys.

 

As we crossed Tso Tak roads started getting better with no snow but the hills were all snowed out. We stopped at Durbuk for fuel and headed straight to Pangong Tso lake. Once again absolutely nobody on the road except us as we headed towards “Lake the Grande”.

 

On the way we took a diversion to Tangste to ensure our stay for the night at Chang La guest house, which was confirmed quickly. This was the second time I was staying here, so it felt so familiar.

 

I was praying hard for the frozen lake without snow over it, something that we saw in 2012. And my prayers went straight to weather god. Lake was completely frozen at Lukung, so much so that we drove over it for few rounds and took some exciting pics. But still it was not something I was looking for.

 

We drove further towards Spangmik and found it completely abandoned, not a single soul there. We took a break at the shore and I took a long walk over the frozen lake, quite inside when I found what I was exactly looking for, those lovely formations under the frozen layer of lakes. I showed it to Sonam and he was also surprised to see it, infact he was watching it for the first time. It was beautiful bubble formation trying to come out of the frozen layers.

 

I was once again jumping like a small kid, running all over it, lying and rolling over it, we waited there till sunset and then temperature started falling very fast, I could record -21 degree celcius before we decided to head back to Tangste, with a promise to come back again soon.

 

Tomorrow morning 5 AM to be exact 😀

 

Aunty at guest house cooked a wonderful meal for us, and most importantly roti after 5 days. I was fed up eating rice everyday.

 

Post dinner I explained my plans to Sonam and he was confused, nobody goes to lake in winter at 5AM, absolutely nobody, even Sonam had never been to Pangong Tso at 5AM in winter. But true to his spirits, he was all game for it and assured that he will be ready in morning with 2 beautiful tea cups and tea.

 

Ladakh in Winter_48_Day 6

While returning back from Chumathang, towards Upshi

 

Ladakh in Winter_49_Day 6

Cute kids walking without a hint of cold fear

 

Ladakh in Winter_50_Day 6

Chemery Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_51_Day 6

And the famous Zingral Z, completely snowed, we drove over that road

 

Ladakh in Winter_52_Day 6

White Changla

 

Ladakh in Winter_53_Day 6

Sonam, my pilot for the trip

 

Ladakh in Winter_54_Day 6

All dried up, see below on how the same spot looked in summer

 

 

DSCF2946-Edit

Above spot in June 2014

 

Ladakh in Winter_55_Day 6

Thoda Yoga

 

Ladakh in Winter_56_Day 6

yeah, lets celebrate

 

Ladakh in Winter_57_Day 6

Frozen Pangong tso at Lukung

 

Ladakh in Winter_58_Day 6

Nirvana at Spangmik

 

 

Ladakh in Winter_59_Day 6

Nirvana at Spangmik

 

Ladakh in Winter_60_Day 6

ek profile foto ho jaaye

 

Ladakh in Winter_61_Day 6

Lines you should follow

 

 

Day 7 : Tangste – Pangong Tso – Spangmik – Chang La – Leh

 

Plan was to visit Pangong Tso in morning, come back to guest house, breakfast and then head back to Leh. Sounds so straight in simple, but didn’t I told you that there is nothing simple and straight in Ladakh during winter. Anyways first it was time to complete the tough part, or atleast we thought it was the toughest task of the day, I packed cameras, batteries, tripods and left everything else at hotel. Sonam carried two mugs and tea, assuming it was for us to enjoy at lake, ofcourse it was, but not before we do something else with it.

 

As we reached the same spot I found at Spangmik yesterday evening, I started offloading cameras and my hands froze with in seconds of me getting out. My eye lashes were getting stiff and it was getting difficult to keep eyes open. It was 5:30 Am in the morning and sun was yet under the horizon. I positioned my tripods and cameras and clicked few random exposures, but the cold was getting unbearable and wind was adding to our pain. My Casio pro-trek recorded -25 degree Celsius and it crashed. Right then I asked Sonam to bring the tea and mugs as I wanted to click some pics of the tea mug over frozen lake. I am sure he was confused and amused but I didn’t took much time to click pics before we could enjoy the hot tea on frozen lake, an experience very rare to get.

 

By 7 Am we headed back to Tangste as it was impossible to stand there in that cold any more. Moreover car had started missing despite of keeping it running all that time and feared of frozen fuel lines.

 

Overall it was semi clear day with some patches of clouds passing through. On return we visited beautiful Tangste monastery which was recently re-innovated.

 

By 9:30 AM we were ready to roll back to Leh, crossed Durbuk quickly, as we reach Tso Tak, it started snowing and some heavy snow. Everything was ultra white and covered with snow. Sonam managed to complete some of the U bends towards Changla, but at one pin bend Xylo just refused to climb even after multiple tries. There was too much snow and it was getting accumulating with every minute of delay.

 

This time I insisted that we should use chains which Sonam agreed quickly, together we applied chains on both the rear tires, each of us doing it on one side. We were ready with chains in flat 15 minutes, while Sonam did the final tightening of the chains and we starting rolling up without any slips from thereon. We didn’t stopped at Changla only to be stopped few meters ahead because of an army convoy struggling to climb the heavy snow. One of the bus had no chains while rest all army vehicles had chains.

 

As we reached Zingral, roads started getting better with no snow, hence we removed chains and headed straight to Leh.

 

This time I decided to go straight to Shanti Guest house, my well tested guest house, where I had stayed in all my past trips. Dolkar recognized me quickly and offered me a wonderful deal for two nights. I checked in and rested for some time before I headed out for a walk with my camera.

 

Ladakh in Winter_62_Day 7

Extreme Weather Photography

 

Ladakh in Winter_63_Day 7

DP

 

Ladakh in Winter_64_Day 7

Solid gears, absolute must for such extreme weather

 

Ladakh in Winter_65_Day 7

Aiming for the right shot

 

Ladakh in Winter_66_Day 7

Tangste Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_67_Day 7

Tangste villahe as ween from Tangste Monastery

 

Ladakh in Winter_68_Day 7

While Returning, Tso Tak was all white

 

 

DSCF2921

And this is how it looked in June 2014

 

Ladakh in Winter_70_Day 7

Chain time

 

Ladakh in Winter_69_Day 7

Tightening the chain, while waiting for world’s highest traffic jam to clear

 

 

Day 8 : Leh – Nimmu – Lamayuru – Leh

It was a backup day for the trip, to be planned if not used. And I used it for a quick visit to Lamayuru. We started around 11 Pm, passing through Gurudwara Pathar sahib ji, Magnetic hill point and then to a frozen water fall. Took a quick visit around Lamayuru Monastery instead of going inside, and then returned back to Leh.

 

I offered Sonam a dinner together at some good restaurant in Leh market and we recalled good times together during the trip over the dinner table. I settled my bills with Sonam and suggested him to drop me at airport tomorrow morning at 7 Am.

 

Ladakh in Winter_71_Day 8

Ice formations near Lamayuru

 

Ladakh in Winter_72_Day 8

Frozen waterfall right on the road

 

Ladakh in Winter_73_Day 8

Moonscapes waali shadow selfie

 

 

Ladakh in Winter_76_Day 8

Natural formations

 

Ladakh in Winter_74_Day 8

This naughty gang at one of the house near Lamayuru was quite excited to see me human with some big large black stuff in hand

 

Ladakh in Winter_75_Day 8

Lamayuru Monastery

 

 

Day 9 : Fly back to Delhi

With a very sad heart, I packed all my stuff back and was ready to leave by 6:30 Am. Didn’t felt like eating anything but had a cup of tea at Shanti, while Sonam arrived sharp at 7 AM.

 

Post a quick drive to airport I thanked Sonam for his wonderful support and all the hard work he did for me. Check-in was smooth and the flight was on time. Landed at Delhi and I realized I left something at Leh, I am sure you can very well guess what?

 

Will be heading back soon to collect it, or rather leave more of it there. More on that soon, keep watching.

 

For now I am Rajiv Kumar, signing off from this wonderful journey, hoping you liked the travelogue.

 

Ladakh in Winter_77_Day 9

Final shot

 


Check out the updated album

 

Ladakh in Winter – in 3 minutes

Copyright © 2015 Yellow Peaks. All Rights Reserved. All images are copyright of Rajiv Kumar & Yellow Peaks, and can not be reproduced in any form