From 27 june to 8 july 2011


This family trip on the high plateau of Ladakh is a way to discover two paradoxical aspects of India: the new middle class bottling in passes above Manali to access the ski resorts and the families living away from all common consumer goods, in a world still preserved from asphalt and mechanical noise. At three, often united in effort, it is a challenge: go through two passes of 5000 and 5200 m with the food and the roof on the back … Thus freed, we will plunge into sometimes minerals, sometimes heavenly universes and always in the pure and stunning beauty.

Location :

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A few kilometers south of Leh, Jammu and Kashmir.

Some objectives:

performing a first partial autonomy trek requiring food and sleeping, being in the original atmosphere of a mountain valley. Testing organisms at high altitude and if possible beat the record (5545m;-). See the possibility of an ascent of Mount Hemis (5650m) from records of levels on Google Earth.


For hardware: bags loaded 14, 12 and 8kg. Old Jamet tent  for Alexia and Sylvie, a tent canvas helding with two walking sticks for me. Sleeping Bags deemed to held at -19 ° C … Dried fruits, cappuccinos, sausages, soups, noodles and paté for 4 days of autonomy.

The route  is saved without too much difficulty from Google Earth to the Garmin GPS. Exchanges on Lonely Planet Forum to find out the stops with and without refueling. The journey before and after the Kongmaru la at Nimaling seems to be a problem. In fact, it will not happen. Nimaling offers lodging and covered, at least this season.

Some practical points:

2011 data and values

To reach Leh, passing through Delhi is practically inevitable. Flying is the most simple and fastest way. This solution provides the possibility to access well before the opening of the passes, a bit random,on around June 20. The bus or better, a mixed train + bus allows full contact with the population, acclimatization and through spectacular scenery. The road passes over 5000m and is the second highest road in the world. This is a challenge for many. A big headache can be at the menu.

It is possible to trek solo without special equipment, in 7-8 days. A permit is not required. Admission to the park has to be paid at the entrance for an estimated number of days: 20Rs/j. person.

Using a GPS is a luxury because the path is well marked, even on the passes. There may be some hesitation at the junction of one or two valleys but just follow the main course of the stream and the largest trail.

Particular attention has to be made to the water for the passage of the Kongmaru la. It takes 2 hours walk downhill to find the first point of water (see agenda Camp Col)

Three possibilities:

1 – Fully supported with horses, porters, tents, guide, food. The choice can be made in Leh. There is there a strength competition. Count 55 € / j.personne for two 50 € / j.person for three for example (values ​​2011)

2 – Independent in homestays with stops along the way. Be sure to check their openings at strategic points (especially Nimaling) out of tourist season. The tourist office in Leh is very competent. If the Nimaling camp is closed , this is a big step between  Hankar and Chogdo and a very big step to Sumdo. In homestays, the welcome is warm most of the time. Costs are normalized: 400Rs/personne for dinner, a bed, a decent breakfast and a picnic lunch honest. Attention, it may be difficult having lunch in the villages without the picnic. Hygiene is limited: the only running water is outside is often the torrent!

3 – Independent with tent and food for plain freedoom and for stopping from time to time in great places while enjoying homestays for socializing. (quite a few people speak  English). Count 100RS for one tent.

Warning: few people, trekkers and villagers, is on the roads.

agenda, records steps and route map

Altitudes are those of Google Earth.

arrived at km j km cum alt
27-juin Jingchang  34° 6’5.85″N  77°24’39.22″E 14,62 14,62 3378
28-juin Yurutse  34° 2’37.19″N  77°24’24.39″E 9,05 23,67 4091
29-juin cb Ganda la  34° 2’45.99″N  77°22’35.42″E 3,03 26,7 4530
30-juin Shingo  34° 1’29.79″N  77°17’55.74″E 8,30 35 4055
01-juil Skiu  33°58’45.16″N  77°15’45.26″E 7,10 42,1 3346
02-juil Sara  33°55’40.35″N  77°21’16.15″E 11,64 53,74 3571
03-juil Markha  33°53’7.80″N  77°25’25.16″E 9,05 62,79 3767
04-juil Hankar  33°50’19.48″N  77°30’2.81″E 10,00 72,79 3976
05-juil camp du lac  33°48’24.23″N  77°33’33.95″E 7,87 80,66 4662
06-juil camp du col  33°48’26.10″N  77°37’45.63″E 9,95 90,61 4864
07-juil Sumdo  33°51’14.77″N  77°42’29.32″E 10,51 101,12 3672

 carte parcours


On 27 Jun Spitok – Jingchang 3378m


The road to reach the entrance in Spitok village bypasses the airport. We took a taxi which dropped us at the bridge. At this point we payed taxes for entering to the park. We declare a 7 days stay. The cab offers to take us to Jingchang because a good track is now open until this hamlet. His rates are prohibitive and no comparison with those applied in the region. We prefer to start on our own rather than getting ripped: we have time and we remain in line with our project.

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The beginning is difficult because the track is dusty and totally exposed to the sun. We are doubled by a dynamic team before to engage in the first valley.

The rest of the day is also tiring because we have to get used to the new rhythm. The altitude is already higher than most treks to their beginnings. We had time to acclimate to Leh and we do not suffer, at least in appearance.

While I’m sitting, waiting for the two girls a little behind, an old lady come up to me and I understand that we can accompany her on the other side of the river to Jinchang. We must recognize that we would not have found our Jingchang halt without her. It’s a beautiful Ladakhi building  to regain strength. Dinner is hearty, the sleeping room is correct. The toilets are dry. There is no water inside the house. The torrent is needed to bath in the evening! The kitchen and living room are wonderful with gleaming brass battery. We will find this model of lodge all along the way.


Le 28 juin Jingchang – Yurutse 4091m


Our host let us on the road after breakfast (eggs toast, tea with milk and sugar). The weight of our bags requires a slow progression. The ascent will be tough today. The gorge in which we penetrate today offers more shade than yesterday.


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We have lunch at Rumbak (34 ° 3’32 .83 « N, 77 ° 25’21 .35 » E) in a small restaurant located under a parachute! These shelters are also standardized like the prices. White circular tasks on GE satellite photos are no longer a mystery now! The lunches will be mostly light in these shelters: small  packets of Chinese pasta and  milktchai or coca. There are also cookies and chocolate for Alexia!

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The climb continues  in the afternoon and we stopped on a bench beside the road 1 km from Yurutse to test the camping equipment. Conditions are spartan, this is the price of freedom.

June 29  Yurutse – second Base Camp to Ganda la 4530m

Small step today to acclimatize slowly to the altitude. The rarefaction of the air begins to be felt.

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Yurutse consists of a large house converted into a homestay (34 ° 2’35 .59 « N, 77 ° 24’5 .96 » E). Small fields in terraces give it an almost fluorescent green setting. This is an unexpected paradise nestled in the arid mountains. We supplement with breakfast with chapatis and tea.

We find the first snow-capped peaks in the clouds and our first marmots.  We lunch at the first base camp (34 ° 2’47 .29 « N, 77 ° 23’16 .02 » E?). It is possible to sleep there apparently.

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The weather is gray today and a few drops of rain are coming to cool us from time to time in the afternoon. The almost continuous rise goes on until the second base camp.

June 30  Ganda la Base Camp – Shingo 4055m

The climb never seems to end. The weather is mostly gray and we feel the cold as soon as we stop. View discovers on dry and  sawtooth peaks .

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We do not stay long on the pass (34 ° 2’29 .29 « N, 77 ° 21’44 .71 » E, 4975m) as the wind ice. Weather gets up in the descent. Shingo is the first village after the pass and we will settle there for the night. We camp again  although homestay could open its doors.

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 July 1st Shingo – Skiu 3346m

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The valley narrows to open on the Markha valley. At the intersection is Skiu. We feel that a road will come soon from Chilling on the right. An excavator was landed by helicopter surely? these big machines are still a mystery  in the middle of nowhere. The uncertain electricity is already there to open up the valley.

The physical condition of the troops is not very bright and girls would consider good to turn right, precisely to prevent future climbs. I must make them believe that the steepest climbs are still on this side and result in a cul de sac so they change their minds. A white lie to restore their some courage …

We stay in a homestay at the entrance of Skiu where we receive a very warm welcome for lunch. The brightness is special here with alternating gray clouds and white sun. We walk in the surrounding gardens.

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July 2 Skiu – Sara 3571m

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This is yet another small step to avoid causing the two girls quickly inclined to grumble.

The Markha valley is very wide. The road become less steep and we enjoy warmer weather from Skiu. Valley offers spectacular scenery between green fields and gray rocks composing the mountain slopes. People here live simply, with basic comfort that does not affect their happiness to live, at least in appearance. It is true that we are in summer.

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In Sara, we set the tent on the property of a homestay. The owners took the opportunity to get rid of them very curious and rambunctious kid. He joins us to pull up the stakes of the tent. We curl diplomatic incident with parents. Cool.

Complete toilet in the Markha torrent.

July 3 Sara- Markha 3767m

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The path continues to climb slowly towards the largest village in the valley (it has given its name to the river). We conduct our first fords. Nothing but happiness for your feet.

Since we took our rhythm, our steps are almost half of the steps in the guides. We take full time to be with people or simply admire the sceneries. Definitely clear weather  puts us in a good mood.

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We go through the first two homestays at the edge of the village to seek the center of the village. But there is none. We find no more at the output. We are obliged to retrace our steps. We plant the tents again.

We make a rare meeting with trekkers. They are Swiss, Austrian and Australian and we are happy to talk with them and spend a very nice evening.

July 4 Markha – Hankar 3976m

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We start with an overcast weather but it clears in the day. Damage for photos in Markha. We spend twice fords. Mountain slopes meet increasingly the torrent. We are in front of a  majestic 6000 cone . We arrive to Hankar for lunch (rice and vegetables for 60Rs).

Laundry and toilet in the Markha afternoon. We leave the valley tomorrow. This will be the last night in a tent in a comfortable temperature.


July 5 Hankar – Camp du lac 4662m


We left late this morning at 9: 30 because I realized that my diary had disappeared .We search for it in the garden. I finally found hidden under a grove by the kid (5 years!) … We must definitely watch these brats that looks so nice at first glance.

The mood changes today with the slope of the path increasing. No more  quiet walks. We must address the foothills that will lead us to the Kongmaru. The real test begins …

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We stop for lunch along the torrent. A Gorals herd tumbles of the mountain. We count fifty heads. I badly located Nimaling in GE and my hypothetical point proves false. Whenever we meet a shepherd, we ask if we are still far away. They respond consistently « at 2 to 3 hours ». But time passes and we exhaust ourselves in the climb. At 16: 30, we realize it will be very difficult to achieve this last stop before the pass.

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We find a great place to spend the night at the edge of a small lake, protected from the wind by the walls of a shepherd hut, probably. There is enough wood to cook and warm up a bit. I found a source upstream of the lake. We are witnessing the sunset on the Yang Yatse 6401m. It seems very close to us.

It was not possible to find a better location to spend the night. We operate all of our equipment without really premeditation. The effort of kilos carried up to here was not vain. It is a double pleasure.

Great dinner of pasta soup and pâté.

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July 6 Camp du lac – Camps du col 4864m

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We were still far from Nimaling (33 ° 47’11 .45 « N, 77 ° 35’38 .80 » E is obvious when you went!). This large area of ​​grassland is nice to relax before the big climb in zigzag leading to the Kangmaru la. It is possible to have a lunch there and to sleep under tents, at least for the summer. The shepherds seem to be installed by a large part of the year.

You must be patient in the climb, avoid looking further than your feet to avoid depressing. Breathing is difficult. A slow rhythm must be necessarily found not to get out of breath. The two girls become grumbling turtles. They stop more frequently. Time remains beautiful but I fear that clouds come to spoil the view at the top. I go back to unload Alexia from her backpack.

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The victory is not small when we finally pass prayer flags. Alexia pitched a big headache which disappears in the descent.

We descend rapidly on the other side because the wind pierces. You have to go a long time before finding to camp with some water. This is another great place to spend the evening and night. Firewood is not missing.We are not the first ones to stop there. It is unfortunate that the entrance fees to the park are not used for a spring cleaning even soft. The quantity of garbage, here as somewhere else, is not very important, but apparently there for a long time!


July 7 Camp du Col – Sumdo 3672m

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The weather is always correct. The two girls consider already arrived at the end of the trip. They are excited to sleep between four walls tonight, on a mattress. Tired, Sylvie slides on a stone across a ford, pulled by her backpack. Her shoulder is hurt.

After Chodgo, it is not possible to go on the left  and attempt the ascent of Mount Hemis. We have no food and we are too tired. Such a venture could be conceived independently of A long preliminary walk.

The walls of the mountain are sometimes cut in toothed tongues forming multiple parallel saws. We unnecessarily cross the village of Chodgo . It does not seem to have homestay or tea stall to have a lunch.

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In Sumdo, we come back to the mechanical civilization after 10 days of a benefit withdrawal. A bus takes us next day at 9:00. Towards Leh, almost non-stop.

Annexes  Traveller’s memories

Going Out of Town.

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Delhi – In the early morning, docks are already crowded. We step over bodies maybe sleepy. Really sleepy? We seek our way in this imbroglio and we are slowed by our bags. Nothing is displayed and people do not really understand what we ask them. They tell us numbers with non existing platforms .

One dock seems more likely than others. Here are pestilential odors because people defecate on the tracks. This is the Call of the Earth: Everyone at the same time, without shame. I’ve seen these rituals during a previous trip but people were out in their slums tumbling onto the tracks.

We invite us into this world curious about our presence. It is not possible to put our bags down because the mud would mess them inexorably. We look at the crowd. The day is now well risen. A train pulls into the station slowly and people congregate against cars still running. They are trying to go through the windows when they have no bars. When they can not get in, they put their affairs on seats to reserve their places.

Our bags are our enemies. They prevent us from being quite fluid in the human alternately refluantes tides . Finally, a door opens, where all those who have not gone through the windows rush. This is because some have mercy on us that we find finally a place to sit down.

And then things and people settle in an appearance of order, calmly, resignedly. Everything seems immovable, as in a precarious and tense balance. The life has become again almost livable, not that the stench has disappeared, nor moreover than this wet heat which sticks clothes and skins on the skin.

The train moves on. This jolt gives a sense to our efforts. We are finally going to go out of the city.


Mac Leod Ganj’s imposture

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We had dreamed about it to the point that it was not possible to organize our entry in the Himalaya without passing there: Dharamsala alias Mac Leod Ganj, the city refuge of Tibetans, cella of the Buddhism, center of the world of the wisdom, harbour of the peace of mind …

By way of imposture, everything began when our bus stuck in an inextricable traffic jam of cars rising, downward and parked at the approach of Dharamsala. Only horns were working, as if they were going to be able to, to them only, arrange the situation. At the end, our driver found an original  solution  by making us all come down to make half tour. We finished our road by foot, excellent training for the future treks after all. Welcome to Dharamsala!

But it is only a beginning, a front taste of our stay in this imaginary paradise. In the bustle and the metallic messes, we move forward to a guest house. The rain meanwhile enters itself in the party. The hotel is also full as the street. It remains a last bedroom giving onto the street. It is clean, the staff friendly , the menu tempting. (this is one place where we will eat the best of the trip). We decide to stay and go to lunch.

It is entering the bedroom for a well-deserved nap that we understand our misfortune: street  is decongested : a cacophony in major Tut  awaits us until very late night.

The Middle Class in India


At the moment, when we speak in France about India , it is often under a purely economic angle. India frightens! « It is about one of these famous emerging countries which could soon have say in our international authorities ». « They steal us our jobs ». « They work for one wrist of rice » . « And Tata with his new 2000USD car  which dared to acquire our beautiful Jaguar ». « And Mittal, the Big Miserable Boss without humanity which plays with our beautiful factories as the Monopoly. We are going to fire him from France, right? » And so on.

When we try to join Manali, at the foot of the true mountains of Himalaya, we are in confrontation with the economic emergence of India by much more prosaic aspects. 300 million Indians have quickly entered the middle class. Meaning that these people do not work any more only to eat, find accommodation and get dressed, survive in a word! They accumulate enough money to reach the leisure activities and the not vital needs more generally. To begin with the holidays and with the automobile. They make as us from now on. They make as us fifty years ago and as we even today. But on one hand they are much more than us and on the other hand infrastructures did not evolve at the same speed.

Thus they go out of megalopoles in their own cars and make enormous rows to go to holidays. It looks like they all were made an appointment in Manali. It is clear that the air is there much cooler than in the Big Plain. Imagine the snow in Delhi! Imagine one large field of asparaguses on Mars! …To see the snow, slide on the snow for the first time!

Waiting for it, the rows stand still on numerous tens of kilometers, in both directions. Indeed, the road is too narrow to cross and there is always someone to try to double and pass at all costs. It is not specially Indian. Indians are on the other hand more fatalists than the Westerners. The Hinduism wants it. We can thus see a continuous row and segments of rows just as much blocked, in against direction. People remain always smiling. They will drive on empty highways in their next karma… In the meantime, they photograph us with their babies to constitute their albums. New hobby.

It is in this way that we beat our record of slowness by bus to reach(affect) Ladakh: 115 km in 12 hours, up, the 9.58km / hour.

The plane? It is just 100 times as fast!