After my initial foray into the high passes of the Himalayas last year (covering 40 passes in 75 days) I had set a new challenge for 2019: spending the entire summer in the high mountains exploring as many new passes as possible. Eventually I traversed 120 passes in 4 months (or roughly 1 per day) across 3000+ km and 175 thousand meters elevation gain, experiencing unseen hospitality while passing through 341 remote hamlets. The journey was unique: it was about exploration – most passes were new and undocumented, used only by shepherds and mountain tribes. Secondly, it was done in pure alpine style – self-planned and self-guided with no support, mostly solo. Thirdly, it was done in ultra-running style: minimalist and fast paced, carrying minimum gears (5kg) and doing 12 hours / 30-40km long days with no rest in between.
The journey started early summer in May covering the entire breadth of Uttarakhand through 30 sub-4000m passes staying below the snow line. Following ancient paths through mesmerizing virgin forests connecting remote hamlets experiencing true hospitality. Early June I moved on to 4000m high passes in the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), a wildlife sanctuary and protected biosphere in Kullu, Himachal exploring the virgin valleys of the Tirthan, Sainj and Jiwa Nala rivers.
Mid June I moved on to the beautiful Dhauladhar range rising up steeply from the Kangra plains in Himachal and dropping down into the Chamba valley. Here I had to break out my ice axe cutting my way through many steep frozen snow gullies opening several of the 4500m passes due to unprecedented snowfall last winter. End June I traced the footsteps of the shepherds migrating from Chamba across the high passes of the Pir Panjal range into the alpine meadows of Lahaul and Pangi. Crossing these 5000m high passes alongside thousand+ sheep was a life changing experience.
By the onset of the Northwest monsoon in July I moved on to the high altitude desert of Zanskar and Ladakh focusing on remote, lesser known high passes around the beautiful Hemis National Park between the Indus and Zanskar rivers. Here you enter an entirely different world, a highly eroded desolate landscape with glacial streams cutting deep gorges and canyons through unearthly rock formations of unusual gradients and textures. Due to unprecedented rainfall and dangerous stream currents in mid August I was forced in to come back down to the lower Himalayas to finish the remaining passes till mid September.
It was a journey of mesmerizing natural beauty discovering unseen humanity in the remotest corners of the Indian Himalayas. The entire journey is documented through photos, videos, daily blog posts and maps on ultrajourneys.org.