After a peaceful night below the stars outside a home stay in Hankar I rise early for the planned crossing of the Zalung Karpo La at 5170m into the next valley towards the nomad village of Dad.
The host serves freshly made chapattis with jam and butter and hot chai. I request to pack up 15 chapattis for the next 2 days into no man’s land. I pay the host for dinner, breakfast and packed food and am on my way by 7am.
Hankar is the last village in the Markha valley, a lush green oasis in the barren rock desert of Ladakh with clear views on the snow covered Kang Yatse II at 6185m. Most hikers proceed straight towards Nimaling and across the Kong Mary La towards Chogdo in the next valley from where they head back to Leh.
I turn into a right side valley which leads towards the Zalung Karpo La pass. A clear trail gradually ascends along the right and left side of a small stream which also appears frequented by hikers looking at fresh hoof steps and horse droplings.
Buddhist prayer flags mark the pass which at 5170m offers beautiful views on the snow covered peaks of the Hemis national park. An equally gradual sloped valley descends North from the pass. The valley has green meadows dotted with many coloured alpine flowers.
At the base of the pass I meet up with two French alpine style hikers which are heading towards Tso Miori. They are navigating with the Swiss Olyzane maps and compass. One of them is an ultra runner who lives in Reunion Island. One major difference with self however is the weight of their backpacks: 18kg. They are impressed by my 5kg bag and minimalist approach to hiking.
I move on at my usual ultra pace and soon the two French guys are out of sight pulling their 60L bags. The open valley now turns right into a more narrow canyon. One crosses the (deserted) nomadic hamlet of Sora before the turn.
A bit further we join the valley through which the stream flows down from Dad village into the Hemis national park and will eventually join the Tsarap river. We take a left here and proceed upstream towards Dad, another Nomadic settlement.
The valley is filled with trees and many colourful flowers. Bees and birds are roaming about in this hidden green paradise. Crystal clear water flows through the stream. Once used to drinking this natural water it s hard to go back to liveless bottled water in the cities.
After an initial traverse through an overwhelming canyon with steep vertical rockfaces on both sides, the valley widens out filled with green grassy bushes through which the stream snakes it’s way.
By dusk I reach Khurna, the road head and last village in the valley. The nomadic hamlet appears deserted. A few kilometres further I finally reach Dad where several hiking groups have pitched up in the green meadows around the stream.
I settle down nearby and soon Tenzing, a young boy, comes out to chat up. He explains about his dad and grandfather who have been organising hikes for foreign groups since the seventies. He is impressed to learn about my long alpine style journey and copies many of my photos.
He kindly offers me tea and dinner as he explains his wish to become a navy merchant to travel the world. His dad will pick him up tomorrow in the next village of Lungmoche as he drops fresh food supplies from Leh for the group who is heading towards Tso Miori.
I settle down in my sleeping bag below the cosmic clouds of the Milky way which I m able to capture with a slow shutter on my OnePlus phone. Later in the night dew wettens my sleeping bag and I squeeze into my bivy.
Looking at the trail summary in OSMAnd, the mobile app I use for offline navigation, I am surprised to see I covered a solid 45K today. The planned two day traverse from Hankar to Dad was wrapped up in a single 12 hour day.