Having missed to sync up (as earlier planned) with my co-trekker Palani (we split after Kanji La) at Nerak on Aug 9th I decided to fast forward back to Padum which was our agreed backup plan. It was going to be one of my longest days in which I would be crossing 4 passes and doing 3000+ meters of elevation gain.
I slept near a BRO camp nearby Yulchung. It had been raining that night. There was dance and music late into the night by the marriage party at Yulchung which had been going on for 2 days. The top of the mountains were still indulged in clouds. Ladakh/Zanskar look greener that I had ever seen it in the past two decades. Climate was changing, no doubt.
I climbed up a gradual trail to the Kyupka La pass and then dropped down steeply into the next valley to the hamlet of Stayangs whose green farmlands appeared like pieces of a puzzle in the surrounding desolate landscape.
I crossed the river and climbed up to the Netuke La passing by the neighbouring hamlet of Stumpatta located above a deep canyon flowing towards the Zanskar river valley. The highly eroded landscape bore a surreal appearance.
After crossing the pass the village Lingshed revealed itself spread across various gradual slopes in the valley at the base of steep vertical rock faces. I followed a wide contour around the valley from the monastery towards the base of the Hanuma La.
Along the way I catched up with a large party of horses carrying camping gears for a big group of French hikers who were also scaling the Hanuma La. From Lingshed it s a very steep and draining climb towards the pass.
From the top of the pass one gets a bird’s eye view on valley of Lingshed enclosed between the Barmai La and Netuke La. The entire landscape bears a surreal look of a desolate, mountainous planet through which glacial streams have cut deep canyon like valleys.
On the other side of the pass the trail gradually descends through a small valley which over time cuts deeper into the surrounding landscape as several side valleys / side streams join forces.
As the water gains force, the valley becomes more rugged and eventually drops down into a deep, vertical canyon. From here the trail contours right above the valley and hair pins down towards the Orna river joining from the a right side valley.
There are several shelters and flat spaces providing suitable campsites. On the way I pass various small groups of European hikers which are about to pitch up camp in the afternoon. I decide to push ahead and climb up my fourth pass of the day, the Parfi La.
On top of the pass I meet a friendly horseman waiting for a group of hikers expected from Leh. He tells me that at this time (mid August) several passes are still blocked due to high water currents. Based on his inputs I adjust my planned route.
After descending from the Parfi La it s another solid 1.5 hour along the Zanskar river before one reaches the first settlement of Hanumil. I reach post sunset but luckily the local shop is still open and I indulge in a sumptuous dinner. I finally settle down outside the home of the shop owner who promises to serve me breakfast by 5am for an early push to Padum where I hope to meet up with Palani after nearly 5 days.