Trans Himalaya 2019 – Kanji La, Aug 5

The alarm rang at 6am but no response from the hikers tukked inside their warm sleeping bags. Ganapathy wore two jackets, sleeping bag and I had zipped him inside my bivy. Still he was unable to sleep through the cold night and woke up twice to make a fire.We had a 900m climb ahead to the Kanji La at 5240m so we decided on a solid breakfast: oats with jagery. We had lots of dry branches, yak and horse poop around the basecamp to lit up a cooking fire. The food was delicious, I m gonna miss Ganapathy after he leaves in two weeks.From the basecamp it’s another 500 meter upstream where the trail hair pins up steeply on the left side to cross over the ridge into the next valley. As luck would have it there was a big snowbridge at the same place so we could easily switch sides of the stream.It’s a steep 200m ascent in rock scree up the ridge after which the trail gradually ascends to the pass in the next valley. While climbing up the eyes get treated on colorful red-green-brown shades of the surrounding landscape below the snow peaks separating Ladakh and Zanskar.It’s like Vincent Van Gogh has swiped across these mountains with his impressionist brush. From the top of the ridge we get a first glimpse of the pass which is 700m up and 4.5km away. Kanji La appears free of snow except in the immediate valley below.After the ridge a clear / used trail continues through morraines along the valley slope gradually rising up towards the pass. Looking behind erattic spiky rock formations are piercing into the azure blue sky.As we gain altitude you can feel the temperature dropping even tough the sun is shining bright. A large glacier hanging from the ridge left of the pass is slowly melting and giving birth to the lush green farmlands around Kanji 20km down the valley.Some 500m from the pass we step onto the snow covered glacier. At 5200m the trail hair pins right up towards the pass across steep, loose moraines. One can hear the meltwater flowing below to rocks.First week of August there is still a big wall of frozen snow hanging below the pass at 5240m altitude. The trail however climbs up from the right side to the top of the Kanji La.Colourful Buddhist prayer flag decorate the pass with beautiful view on the snow covered glacier hanging from ridge above. On the other side one can see the snow covered high ranges of Zanskar.A nice hair pin trail gradually descends into Zanskar through slopy, rocky moraines partly still covered by snow. The view on the interior ranges of Zanskar is mesmerizing. Very few hikers seem to go this way looking at the absence of horse dump and footsteps.It’s a good 900m descend through endless moraines or rock slopes to reach the main valley and stream at 4300m. The right turn takes you to Rangdum. Left goes towards the Pidong La and the hamlet of Dibling along the Orna river.The final stretch before joining the main valley goes through a narrow gorge. Unable to cross the stream due to dangerous currents we decide to set up camp near the intersection of both streams.Ganapathy did not sleep properly the previous two nights so he badly needs some good sleep tonight. He quickly cooks some oats for dinner and we settle down on a small flat platform above the streams.