Ladakh In Winter – Across Chang La to Picturesque Pangong Part-2

Driving through Ice age:


Our Team standing with Regzin (It required skill to go there and pose for photo)


Water bodies Frozen:


The Scorpio:


Lone Kiang:


Kingdom of snow:


First view of Pangong (Nature’s own Photoshop, where is the blue?)


Respect to BRO:


Road Ahead:


Regzin and his Scorpio,

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It’s everyone’s dream to stand on Frozen Pangong (Almost in middle of Lake):


The magic of frozen Pangong Tso:

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The Ice on Frozen Lake is so hard it can easily take a fully loaded Scorpio with 4 persons:


Returning through snow land:


Clouds approaching on Chang La:


Shakti in afternoon :


Colorful Shakti:



Previous: Ladakh In Winter – Across Chang La to Picturesque Pangong Part-1

Next: Ladakh In Winter – Exploring Dha Hanu Part-1

Ladakh In Winter – Across Chang La to Picturesque Pangong Part-1

Day 2:

With the permit in hand and a bright day forecasted, we were pretty confident to have a great day. Spoke Regzin last night and planned for a Pangong Day Trip. We neither had time nor had courage to stay the night in Pangong once Regzin shared the experience Alok, Jasdeep had and one of their friend was not well after that. Now day trip to Pangong means you have to start really early. In the winter, length of day is small as well, so we decided to start around 7.00 in morning, It was clear but sun had not come yet and outside was simply freezing. This was our first taste of harsh winter of Western Tibet, North of the Himalayas. On the way we were greeted by a brilliant sun rise and the red to orange to yellow to white transformation on the snow peaks couldn’t be expressed in words. We stopped beside Leh Manali Highway and tried to took couple of shots, I tried with my gloves off and could take hardly 2 snaps before I had to retreat. But then it was a scene you couldn’t afford to miss, so fight with nature was going on, gloves off, taking a quick snap, running back to car, put the hands on heater, gloves on and then again taking the courage to take another shot, these sequences were enacted for sometime, before we moved forward. At Karu, we had taken a tea break and that was really a break in that cold morning. We moved forward now towards Changla, but what it was, I couldn’t recognize the known places, those I visited couple of times, it looked like a journey on top of white carpet, sun ray was falling at the far on Wari La Top, making a serene experience. We moved forward, experienced a completely different view of Shakti from top, the famous Z in the road and the chill in the air was getting heavier as we proceeded towards Changla. We finally reached there and what a look!! Changla normally has snow always on top but this was an amazing view, the whole world was white out in front of us and barring a few army personnel and few dogs there was no living being in sight. Amazing it was!! The down slope towards Durbuk was changed as well, the whole stretch of sand zones were covered by snow, we faced black ice on the road and again it was Regzin whose experience made us through. He even keeps a shovel in car and dig some sands and dust and throw it on the bad sections to have a grip on the wheel, it was amazing to see how human being fights with nature to survive in harsh conditions. We reached Tangtse and ordered for our lunch and planned to take it on return, we had few cups of tea in the warm kitchen before we started for Pangong. No marmots, no sand stretch, it was all white, sometimes difficult to find the road other than tyre marks, we were keep going with that amazing experience and then reached the point of first view of Pangong, it usually a must stop for anyone visiting the lake, we couldn’t simply understand the point unless it was written in road side board. Really we couldn’t make out which was Pangong from there. The first view of the lake was unbelievable. Where the colorful lake gone? It was just frozen completely and covered with snow all around, we could identify the lake just by the plain lands in front of us on the backdrop of the mountains. Regzin asked us, if we wanted to go to lake or wanted to visit towards Spangmik, the unanimous choice was the lake and he drove straight into the lake, no Indian army was seen nearby, of course no boat to patrol and you could drive to China until you were caught by their army if you wish. Pangong experience couldn’t be written in words, see the snaps to feel it. It was a life time experience for all of us. We started our return and took a lunch break at Tangtse and the infamous wind started blowing since then, we thanked God that it was absolutely windless and sunny in Pangong. Once we were taking lunch we saw the clouds started coming and we knew it as IMD predicted a weak western disturbance on next day. So we hurriedly started for Leh, crossing Changla and came back to Leh by evening. A wonderful day came to an end, now weather was started getting gloomy, clouds were coming from all around and we went to sleep expecting a completely new experience on next day.

Golden Sunrise:

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The clouds are at their best:


Shakti with Wari La at background:


Shakti from Top:


Lovely Setting:


On the way to Changla:


Far away army camp:


Heavenly Changla:

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Previous: Ladakh in Winter – Journey towards Chilling

Next: Ladakh In Winter – Across Chang La to Picturesque Pangong Part-2

Ladakh in Winter – Journey towards Chilling

Day 1:

So many times we have read the advice and even advised others to make sure that he/she doesn’t land up in Leh on Sunday and Govt Holidays as permit won’t be available to travel. Somehow in such a hurry we missed that point, it was a long weekend and we understood DC office would be closed for next 3 days. Even Regzin was not hoping much on that situation, but suddenly I thought of opening the Leh website to see if I could get any contact. Landlines / Office no. won’t work as it was holiday, only hope was mobile, first few either gone unanswered or switched off. Finally got hold of PA to DC and explained her about our situation and in winter ladakh when you have a fixed date of departure, have even fewer days of good weather, loosing a day is significant and loosing 3 days mean loosing the whole trip almost. She was kind, listen to us and spoken to ADC on our behalf and even shared ADC’s personal mobile with us. We called and pleaded him for the permits, finally it was decided that though it was a holiday, we would submit our documents to Chowkidar of DC Office and ADC would come sometime on next day conveniently and got those signed and then Chowkidar would stamp those from office before handing over to us. We did exactly the same and as Sanjay mentioned luckily got the permits on time even without paying the wild life conservation fees (Which is significantly increased this year) as the office was actually closed. So the trip surely started with good luck.

We started our day by submitting our documents to the Chowkidar and started our journey towards Chilling where road ends and trek starts for Chadar. The beauty of Ladakh in winter is simply can not be expressed in words, better we stick to snaps.

Stok Kangri from Leh in a winter Morning:


Freezing yet flowing Indus:


Winter Ladakh, so fascinating:


Magnetic Hill on Leh – Kargil Road:


Road from Sangam towards Chilling (Zanskar is frozen in left):


Magical Zanskar frozen completely:


The Road Continues by the side of Zanskar:


Zanskar river magical water through a fish like opening from the Chadar:


Chadar is formed hard and strong:


Magical Zanskar River:


So clear the water, you can the stones in river bed even after it’s flowing so powerfully:


Standing on Chadar is always a dream:


Chadar was so thick here, we couldn’t even put a dent by throwing big stones from top:


Chadar is being formed here, see still the bluish water is visible below the ice layer:


Sangam from Zanskar side (Indus coming from Right)


We returned to Leh in afternoon and first thing we did was visiting the Chowkidar in DC Office and fortunately we got our signed permit ready. So now we are ready to explore some more interesting areas.

Previous: Ladakh In Winter – Few More Magic Moments

Next: Ladakh In Winter – Across Chang La to Picturesque Pangong Part-1

Ladakh In Winter – Few More Magic Moments

Spituk Monastery:


A look at India’s own grand canyon, on the way from Upashi to Chumathang:


The lovely scenery:


Indus water stream became so narrow, rest are frozen:


On the way to Mahe Bridge:


Mahe Bridge, note Indus is completely frozen now:


Sumdo Village:


Frozen Tso Kiagar:


Frozen Tso Moriri:


The amazing road with later afternoon sun:


Chumathang to Mahe Bridge beside Frozen Indus:


All white, can you differentiate the road, the river (Indus) and the big sandy stretches? (All who visited Ladakh can try guessing the location)


Where Diesel Frozen on the run:


Amazing Vista:


At Noyoma:


Ocean of Ice:


Ice Age Returns:



Removing dangerous black ice from road:


Mesmerizing Winter Ladakh:


Previous: Ladakh in Winter – Time Frozen in a perfect White Out – Introduction

Next: Ladakh in Winter – Journey towards Chilling

Ladakh in Winter – Time Frozen in a Perfect White Out – Introduction

What is the best time to visit Ladakh, the answer even 3 years back was July to September. But it kept changing with time, 2 years back it was May to October, a year back even between April to December. So we thought why shouldn’t we extend it little further, how the Pangong Tso ‘s perfect blue would be, how the remote Changthang would be, how the passes like Chang La would be, how mighty Indus would look like in winter. Only one thing could answer, a trip in winter but how is it possible to make a trip in winter that too in Ladakh? Day’s maximum and minimum temperature both would be in minus, very few hotels would be operational, the place is completely landlocked and depends on aerial connection for long 5/6 months. But then to get all the answers, we have to go there.

We thought of doing Chadar this year and booked air tickets for Jan end to Leh sometimes last year August. Then in December as usual we understood our other commitments won’t allow us to take off during that time and finally we cancelled the trek. But hoping on hope, that some miracles might happen, we didn’t cancel the flights. First time in my life miracle happened and 3 of us took a decision to go for a Ladakh trip in winter in almost 24 hours notice.

What happened next would be best described by snaps, let’s roll it on:

Aerial View:


Semi Frozen Indus:


Indus and Zanskar meets at Nimmu:


Chadar formed on Zanskar River:


Golden Sunrise:


On the way to Chang La:


Near Chang La Top:


Frozen Water body towards Tangtse:


Completely Frozen Pangong Tso – A Dream Comes True:


See the strength of frozen ice, you can easily drive your Scorpio on the Lake:


Shakti in evening:


Painting on a white Canvas – A Cloudy day in Leh:


Nimmu during snowfall:


Scorpio on Kargil – Leh Road : Almost zero visibility but whatever you see is White except the Car:


Magical Indus managing its flow even in harshest winter:


The breath taking views:


Near Khaltse:


Snow scape:


Entering Dha:


Locals of Dha:


Next: Ladakh In Winter – Few More Magic Moments

Ladakh – Journey Ends at Leh and Flight Back Home

7th and 8th October:

Full rest at Kidar, a GH run by Mr. Angchuk who works for All India Radio and his wife and son Jigme who works for Jet Airways. The GH is highly recommended for stay with nice garden and clean and spacious rooms within 800 mtrs from market. Not a busy place and you can enjoy the unhindered view of Stok Kangri from the terrace. The family is very good host and they are expanding a new block which is yet to be ready completely. Jigme helped me to block right hand windows for my return Leh-Del flight in Jet which was otherwise not possible as Jet doesn’t allow web check in for PNRs with kids.

The garden at Kidar GH:


The Apple tree at Kidar GH:


Regzin and his machine, without him the trip was not possible:


9th October:

Took a brilliant flight back to Delhi and got some nice shots of Padum Valley and Nan Kun peak and few glacier shots from top. After a 3 hours break, boarded a flight for Kolkata and landed at my city just short of 4.00pm, outside temperature was 31 and relative humidity was 90 plus, that’s the back to reality from otherwise a dream.

Leaving a dream called “Ladakh”:


Below the Indus Valley:


Rewinding the memories from the Aircraft, far away, Nun-Kun Massifs:


The awesome Zanskar Valley landlocked completely with clear 3 forks, the one to the farthest side go towards Kargil, Note the Nun-Kun at far end, the two forks at near end, left one going towards Darcha and right one towards Leh via Zangla:


Flying over the Great Himalayan Range, perpetual snowline:


One unnamed glacier on the Great Himalayan Range:


Previous: Ladakh – Tsomoriri, Tso Kar, Tanglang La, Leh

The End

Ladakh – Tsomoriri, Tso Kar, Tanglang La, Leh

6th October:

We started the day little lazily around 9.15, the maximum late start we had in whole trip. Took a stop closer to lake but again it was odd for photography, in morning sun was at eastern sky and we were at western end. Crossed Tso Kiagar soon and reached Sumdo by 11.00am. At Tsokar had some tea and first time during our trip got some clouds in the sky. We knew weather would deteriorate from 7th onwards and had a detour of few km towards More Plane and then finally took a U turn and head towards Leh. Leh – Manali highway in this side was just ok but we found lots of road works being done in every 200 mtrs and that caused significant delays in taking detours. We hit Tanglangla by 2.45pm but again stopped for 30 mins for road work. Finally reached Leh by 6.00pm and straight away head to Kidar GH again. Thanked God for completing an ambitious trip and it was blissful 2 days of rest at Leh that was badly due.

Kid was super excited in the tent:


Korzok Village:


Tsomoriri – at Korzok:

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Tso Kiagar:


Sumdo Village:


Road towards Tso Kar:

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Tso kar:

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Tso Kar Village:


Nomads at Tso Kar Village:

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More Planes:


Tanglang la Top:


Tanglangla Descent towards Leh:


Road towards Leh:

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Previous: Ladakh – Kyun Tso, Salsal La, Chumur to Tsomoriri

Next: Ladakh – Journey Ends at Leh and Flight Back Home

Ladakh – Merak, Chusul, Hanle, Koyul and Demchok, the last point on LAC between India and China

03rd October:

Today we have plan to reach Hanle through Chusul, another big day ahead and we still have awesome weather with us with no sign of any cloud anywhere in the sky. Hanle, most of us are aware having 3rd highest observatory in world situated at close to 15K ft height, Hanle was chosen for the telescope site among 6 candidate sites across India because of its clear weather after a rigorous weather analysis was done on cloud cover, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, solar radiation, rain/snow fall. The observatory having a 2m optical infrared telescope and 7 Gamma Ray telescopes (known as Hagar Telescope) was inaugurated in 2001, remotely controlled from Bangalore through Satellite Link. They usually open the telescope dome between 5.30pm to 6.30pm (of course changed seasonally with length of day and night)and cool the 2m telescope CCD with liquid nitrogen around 5.30pm. So if you want to catch those actions, you have to reach observatory by 5.00pm. We planned accordingly and started quite early around 8.00am. Two more families were there with us at Spangmik on that night, both were hit hard by cold and altitude left early for Leh and from this point onward we became the sole car to proceed ahead. The journey beside the lake was amazing and first village you would be crossing is Man and then Merak, where IIA is seriously considering to come up with another observatory soon. Both the villages are extremely scenic and picturesque. Few homestays are available too and one can seriously consider staying a few nights here as Spangmik now a days become quite commercial. My kid was so upset once she understands that the brilliant lake actually gone into China after a few km from Merak, she promised not to touch any Chinese toys for next few days This is the place where the terrain started becoming flat and you would certainly realize you are very close to plateau where you would find vast flat lands at an height of 4000+ mtrs with not any high mountains around. We were actually at Tibetan Plateau here. We met the first group of Kiangs (Tibetan Wild Ass) there and without wasting time took couple of snaps. The road or the trail approaches to the next big place enroute that is Chusul where your permits would be checked. After crossing Chusul, the road approaches to a 14500 ft pass Tsaga la with China in your left side and you would find lots of army outposts at your left on top of mountains, Regzin being an ex army was showing us many army installations at left which in a civilian’s eye you might have missed out. He was posted on many of these OP for months and explaining the hardship and difficulties in sustaining there for even few days. We started observing how the colors around the mountains started changing from here onwards. You can see so many various shades of colors on the mountains that’s probably unique in this part of India. First village crossing the pass would be Tsaga, it’s quite a big village but surprisingly you won’t find any shop here, not sure why though. Again Regzin comes very handy, he straight away approached one home there with few packets of Maggie and requested to prepare those for us. The people there or rather in remote of part of Ladakhs are amazing, always smiling and surely would greet you with a smiling Juley. They prepared Maggie for us and before that welcomed us with tea and biscuits in those typical ladakhi style dining rooms. Amazing experience it was. We requested a lot to accept some money but they politely refused to take any, even Regzin couldn’t manage them to take that, we were touched by Ladakhi hospitality. After Tsaga, you would start finding more green and reason is nothing but you are approaching Loma bend and there you are meeting mighty Indus again. Loma is another place where permits would be checked and this is where they asked us while going to Koyul from Hanle if we take the direct route or route through Loma, these words got registered and I realized there was a direct route possible from Hanle to Koyul. Just before Loma bridge, a diversion of road goes towards Nyoma/Mahe/Chumathang/Sumdo and just after crossing the bridge, road again diverts, one fork goes towards Hanle and other towards Demchok via Koyul. Our first destination was Hanle and the observatory, so we took first fork and it’s now completely paved road of 50km till Hanle from Loma Bend. That’s a welcome break from unpaved road that started from Lukung onwards and continued till Tasaga. The valley goes through Rongho and the vivid colors of the mountains, Kiangs running across the vast emptiness and the complete desolate ambience would surely touch you. We reached Hanle well in time and checked into the observatory guest house. Hanle has very few accommodation options including the observatory GH which is undoubtedly not only the best in Hanle but probably best in whole Changthang with 24 hours power backup, Water heaters and room heaters available. Getting accommodations in observatory GH is not easy, You won’t get any room on spot even if its vacant, you can’t even secure it from IIA, Leh Office. It’s possible only by establishing communication with IIA, Bangalore office, would be helpful if you know someone in IIA, ISRO, TIFR etc. The other alternatives there are PWD GH and few private home stay. We had a cup of tea at GH before we proceeded to observatory. The CCD cooling with liquid nitrogen from so close distance is an experience. The views of Hanle Monastery from top of the Mt. Saraswati was amazing. The moment sun goes down, watching the night sky is simply an awesome experience from here. I can’t remember watching so many stars in my life and the milky way was so clearly visible across 180 degree over your head. From observatory GH, you can’t make a call but you have a V Sat internet over there which was again a lifeline and I checked the weather from here, decided not to take Manali route with the Western Disturbance hitting the region from 7th October onwards. So I have a few extra days and you know my permit bears the name of Koyul, so all was set for next day, only question remains if there is a straight road to Koyul from Hanle or we need to go through Loma. Regzin couldn’t throw much lights but locals confirmed there were 2 roads to Demchok from here, one was extremely long but open through out the year but goes beside the border most of the times. We don’t have much hope on that as we have to come back on same day to Hanle for night stay, also being a border roads we were sure to be stopped without the names of the places properly mentioned in permits. The second road we heard was a new road just being built across the mountains and it should go towards Koyul but locals can only confirm the road is through till top from Hanle end, no one have any idea how the road is on other end.

At Spangmik:

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Amazing Fall Colors:


Curious Kiangs:


Approaching Chusul:


Rezangla War Memorial:


Tsaga La:


If you by chance go left of this road, you may easily land up in China, going close through the disputed LAC from Chusul to Loma:


Hanle Village from Mt. Saraswati where the observatory is located:


Hagar Telescopes at Hanle, straight from a Sci-fi movie:


Hanle Observatory:


4th October

We decided to go for Koyul already and we knew the roads are not known, so thought of leaving as early as we could. Observatory GH serves breakfast at 8.00am earliest which would be too late for us, so we packed some leftover sabji of last night and the caretaker prepared few rotis for us in the morning and it’s 7.30am in morning on 4th we hit the road. Our first destination was BRO Camp near Hanle Monastery to get more information on road. We found a road sign near monastery showing Photi La at 28km and Photile at 55km in the opposite direction of Loma/Rango. Spoken to BRO Camp and they said Hanle division is responsible for building up roads till Top of the mountain which is Photi La and the descent on other end is being built by Koyul division and they have no idea on road in other side. Only thing we confirmed from locals was this side of the mountain was more rocky and on the other side soil content was more and ascent would be difficult from other end. So we made up our mind and decided to ascent from Hanle end and in case we don’t find the route we would have to turn back. The road was paved and the best part was out of 28 km to top, 18 km is tarred as we were informed. The ascent was completely desolate as expected and extremely steep, it was steeper than Wari La ascent. When we reached 18km, the tar road ends and found a BRO Camp there, spoken to the people there, they confirmed road was blasted till top and we could go till that. That’s another 10 km, completely of loose stones and boulders and a very steep climb, we realized we have gone up significantly in those few km, the Hanle observatory was clearly visible at a distance much lower height. Few more switch backs and we reached the top, Photi la is the top and the height shown as staggering 18124 ft. We were very happy to be on the top, taken few snaps, the Hanle valley can be seen from top but you can’t see anything on other side as it was obstructed by mountain range, amazing scenery. After so many days in the region we still have some breathlessness at the top, it was a great height, no two words about it. After sometime at the top, thoughts of descent started coming into our mind, now the problem starts, we were looking at the descent and it’s just blasted the mountain and nothing else have been done, now going back all through to Hanle was risky with so much loose rocks and sharp boulders for first 10km with steep descent and that means we won’t be having any time for Koyul / Demchok. Now we are in a precarious position, we understood we had to take a risk whichever way we take, going back to Hanle means known road but missing Demchok, going forward means unknown road but may be reaching Demchok is a possibility and from top we could see the blasting itself was not completed after some turns, but as Hanle division of BRO said they are not building the road, logically we concluded that definitely some road exists till bottom else roads can’t be blasted at the top in this end. With just that hope we started our downward journey towards Koyul Valley. It was a bone chilling experience, after a few turn we understood we are moving just in momentum as it was no road practically and as usual the photography completely gone out of my mind. All of us were tensed and we were literally removing stones from road in every 10/20 mtrs to avoid underbody damage of the car and making our roads. Time seems to be too long and absolutely no other lives could be seen anywhere. We were extremely lucky as the weather remained dry for almost 2 weeks then else the muddy stretch we faced in between was impossible to cross had it been raining in last 2/3 days. We saw lots of dozers around and that’s only hope as if someone is working there. After almost 2 hours we could find a BRO truck at a much lower height coming slowly, the first encouragement in almost 2 hours of downhill drive. We knew Photile was just 27km from top but didn’t understand what it was as none in Hanle had any idea on that location. We found another road diverting from main road towards down adding more confusion but gradient of the road was even more and we decided to be on the earlier road and tried our luck. We met the truck after almost another 45 mins of arduous descent. The BRO people assured us we are on right track but surprised why we took this road as it’s not open for cars and even locals don’t take this route for its killer gradient. Its there we knew the other road towards down was old road used during 1962 Indo China war and now abandoned. This road is part of the new roads being built along the borders of changthang and ladakh. Photile is point where this road touches the road from Loma – Koyul and it’s southern extension. I am not sure where the road towards south was going but BRO mentioned there is an ITBP check post towards right at Tee Joint at Photile. One can read the BRO procurement document below to understand few new roads from Photile – Demchok (Distance shown just 24km means it would be across another pass straight crossing the mountains), Photila – Chisumla – Zursar (a 80km stretch most likely the one towards southwards) are being built in these regions. I spoken to couple of BRO personnel and other locals who works for Indian Intelligence. What I understand India is planning a road network, though little late to follow what China has already done on the other side of LAC. Tsomoriri – Chumur – Salsal la – Hanle – Photile – Demchok – Koyul – Loma – Tsaga – Spangmik – Tangtse – Durbuk – Shyok – DBO – Saserla – Sasoma – Nubra is one of the possible link across the LAC.

BRO Procurement Document mentioning the new Roads

Article on Ladakh by Romesh Bhattacharji

The map in Wikimapia showing the roads quite correctly between Hanle – Photile – Koyul – Demchok.

Once at Photile we took the left (Northwards) towards Koyul and in another half an hour we reached Koyul village and as we approached from south side, we escaped both Dungti and Fukche check post on our way. We found no shops in Koyul open and finally again Regzin was saviour to get some tea managed from a local house. This is the place where we had to take a call, should we go for army permit from Fukche, we knew we had to answer a lot of questions for not coming through normal route via Loma and also it would be time taking and we may be declined for permit to Demchok. But ideally you need to arrange an army permit from Fukche airbase for visiting Demchok. We discussed a bit and then took a daring yet risky decision to move towards Demchok without any army permit. Regzin was confident and he just told us to mention as his guest. Demchok is a village that got partitioned during 1962 war and a part of it is now in China and rest in India. What I understood later, people from other villages do visit Demchoks to their relatives and army normally doesn’t interfere to the cars going straight to village. Regzin mentioned we can’t stop for any photography as everyone watching our cars from OP and a slightest doubt could prove costly, so all photographs had to be taken from moving cars, so be it, only prayer was we should be able to reach Demchok. We took almost a sharp right turn before the Fukche base towards Demchok and my goodness the colors of mountains were absolutely brilliant, looks some kids have used their crayons to color them, you can see patches of all possible colors in those ranges. Both sides army OP were present and we were driving through Indus basin which is otherwise a desert with bad lands like Rann of Kutch. The feelings hard to describe in words, it’s terribly dusty with a tremendous hot sun all through. There was an amazing flat land of 5km which seems as if you are driving through a runway, simply magical and Regzin mentioned in army the stretch is known as “Chandigarh Airport”. We reached Demchok and there is a post there, we were scared now but luck was with us, it was unmanned for then, here one road goes up towards army camp and other runs in same height towards village. Regzin straight away drove to village and as a veteran of 1 year there, he knew many villagers, we again had nice rounds of milk and butter tea and Maggie there. The Rotis and Sabji we were carrying from Hanle was there too for a nice lunch. It was a great lunch sitting at the Village and in between there is a Nulla of 50 ft and on other side we could see Chinese army watching our every move. We gone to the dead end of the road in Indian side to the hot spring and spoken to our army too. They didn’t ask much apart from why we were wasting time there during Dussera. They were very nice persons, offered us tea, biscuits and my kid was offered an energy drink as well. Regzin introduced us as his guests and himself as an ex army of Ladakh Scouts. The road in Chinese side was much wider and better and gone beyond we could see into those mountains where as our road ends at this hot spring. It was finally done and in a much better way than reporting to army camp and submitting your camera there and then escorted by army to visit these same places though not at all a recommended way. Thanks to Regzin for his army background and of course our luck, it was possible. We started our return journey soon around 2.30 in afternoon knowing we would be extremely late to reach Hanle. Return was all through the magical mountains and Indus following you all through. We were not stopped at Fukche Post and we straight away leave Koyul and decided to back through normal route as Ascending Fotula from Koyul end was simply not possible without a 4X4. We reached Dhungti and Regzin somehow managed the check post guy, obviously he asked how we gone into without entering into the post. Regzin managed that and we started from Dhungti around 5.30 and after crossing Loma at 6.00pm we got the tarred road again which we left 10km before Photula Top. We reached Hanle at 7.10 finally with extreme tiredness but with a big satisfaction.

The Car Odo reading was as follows:

Hanle – 569
Fotula- 591 (28km but we took couple of short cuts)
Fotule 618
Karle (a small village) – 626
Koyul – 634
Demchok (Hot Spring) – 677
Koyul – 720
Dhungti – 764
Loma – 780
Hanle Observatory GH – 837

Hanle Valley and Road to Top from Photila:


The height may show its lower than Khardung La but this is most certainly most difficult pass I have ever encountered in India, the approach is very steep and almost no road and no soul around with very less oxygen, this is pass that would beat your heart faster for sure.

Photi La Top:


The Road to South towards the border, an ITBP Post is there:


Truck Approaches on the dusty Road:


Koyul Village:


Towards Demchok with colorful Mountains and nice Meadows:

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Note the Chinese Roads at the other side of Indus clearly visible:


Demchok Village and at the backdrop Chinese Watch Tower:


JK State Transport Bus coming to Koyul once in 15 days :


Amazing Colors of Mountains in setting sun:


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Ladakh – Crossing Pensi La to Zanskar Valley

24th September:

Got up early to catch magnificent glimpse of first sunrays on Nun-Kun Peak from Purtikchey. Nice serene ambience but later we understood it’s only the Nun peak that is visible from Purtikchey and Kun is towards left, out of vision, as the Suru river takes a U turn after Panikkhar towards Parkachik and Kun can be seen from Parkachik or Shafat Nalla areas. We started our long journey by 7.00 in the morning and after 13 km from Purtikchey just before entering Panikhar, we crossed the river and entered Namsuru Village to get a tarred bypass to avoid 15/20 odd km of unpaved road that goes through Panikhar. The paved road condition is nothing great but it gives you a brilliant view of Panikkhar village and Suru valley that widens here and presents a nice photo opportunity specially during morning time. From other side of the river, we could identify Tongol which is another 5 km from Panikhar on other side of river and the Nun base camp trek starts from here. JK Tourism has an alpine bungalow there too but not in a good shape. The road takes a turn along with Suru River and approaches to Parkachik which is around 10000 ft height and even had a high school apart from middle and primary school. The only college of the valley is at Sankhoo. Around Parkachik you would surely find students asking for lifts while going to school or coming back as public transport is almost non-existent in the region. Parkachik was famous for the glacier which you can approach sufficiently close if you don’t mind walking for some time at that height just after crossing the village. After Parkachik due to building up of an irrigational canal, you would find some blasting work in progress which would slow you down sufficiently and the worst stretch of road starts between this place and Rangdum which is the highest inhabited place in this route at 12500 ft and even in end Sep, Rangdum was only place in this route where water was turning ice at night, later we had this experience in Changthang but that was much higher and we were in October by that time but Rangdum is surely a place with extreme isolation in the middle of high mountains and one panoramic monastery. The whole valley turns extremely scenic between Parkachik and Rangdum and the special red/yellow/green/brown grass of September and the isolated horses roaming and Zanskari people in the picturesque valley would certainly keep a lasting memory. Rangdum Monastery can be approached by a short cut from the deluxe camps ground, one of the many deluxe camps of the Zanskar/Ladakh region that was still operational because Himalayan Car Rally participants are supposed to stay a night here here during their run. The monastery is in awesome location with an excellent valley view and a must visit for anyone crossing Rangdum. It carries the awful experience of terror strike in early 2000 when few terrorists crossed over the valley from Kishtwar side and hijacked a truck with German tourists and gunned down many monks in Rangdum monastery and finally abandoned the truck by killing the driver and abducting the Germans and fled through Shafat Nalla. You would still find an army camp beside the monastery which is quite uncommon for any monastery starting from Ladakh to Bhutan. Rangdum is the last place where you find something for your stomach before you hit Padum which was still 100+ km ahead. We got some last few eateries open and had a lunch with roti – Omlette. The ascent of Pensila starts just few km after Rangdum and you would find you start loosing Suru River beside you that started even a few km ahead of Kargil. That clearly indicates you are approaching Watershed region and that indicates the topmost point of the terrain around you is approaching. In all probability you would find a new river from other side flowing with you. The twin lakes before the pass, the pass itself around 14000 ft being highest point on Kargil-Padum road and of course the Drang Drung Glacier just when you start descent from pass would surely be the places to spend time and get few photo opportunities. The glacier is specially amazing and probably only one so close to a motorable road, it looks like as if a river is frozen there for good. After the glacier, you would enter the Zanskar Valley as Suru Valley ends before Pensila. Amidst of colorful mountains, you would find small village starts appearing in Zanskar Valley, Skyagam, Ating, Tungri are few big villages those appear before one reaches Padum. We found JKTDC GH has only one VIP room that is quite good but they didn’t want to give that room(rest don’t even have hot water), Gay Skit as recommended by Harsh was full, Kailash Chamling, recommended by Bijoy was also very busy with all stuff involved in arranging some local function in the hotel, we continued our search and finally zeroed in Marq GH, that finally turned up a brilliant hotel with big and spacious rooms and running hot water for 24 hours. The hotel which offered me 3000 in All meal plan per person per day over phone/ email was finally managed for 1000 for 2 adults and a kid with separate food, bliss of off season

First Ray of Sun on Nun Kun Peak:

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Panikhar Village from Namsuru, opposite side of Suru River:


Parkachik Glacier:


Parkachik Glacier Up Close, see the Nun Massif in the backdrop:


Unnamed Glacial Peak:


Suru river flows through valley bed:


The Road Ahead:


Colorful Suru Valley near Parkachik


Road goes towards Rangdum


Amazing colors of Suru:


Kun Massif from Shafat:


Closer to Rangdum:



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Drang Drung Glacier at Pensi La:

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Entering Zanskar Valley crossing Pensila:


First Village at Zanskar Valley:


Previous: Ladakh – Srinagar, Sonmarg, Jojila, Kargil and entering Suru and Zanskar Valley

Next: Ladakh – Exploring Padum, Karsha, Strongde and Bardan Monastery and Back to Sankoo

Ladakh – Srinagar, Sonmarg, Jojila, Kargil and entering Suru and Zanskar Valley

22nd September:

The previous night, when I was almost ready with all packing done, my kid suddenly started showing uneasiness and we found she had fever, a trip which was not expected to start in that way. We were little nervous but thought of moving ahead with the medicines we had. It was a 9.05 KF flight from Kol-Del and subsequently a 12.45 Del-Srinagar flight that took us to Srinagar by 2.15pm. We decided not to waste any time in a height of 5000+ ft at Srinagar and straight away proceeded to Sonamarg which was around 8700ft height. The checkout /baggage claims took hardly half an hour and were greeted by Kazim with his nice Xylo outside the airport. We did some last minute shopping of mineral waters, dry foods etc. from Srinagar, got some quick photo session near Dal lake and were on our way towards Sonmarg by 4.00pm. The NH1D to Sonmarg via Gandarbal, Kangan, Gund is around 3 hrs journey across amazing Kashmir Valley, road was superb. We were greeted by an awesome rainbow enroute may bring all lucks for our coming days. There are few options in Sonmarg regarding accommodations, Glacier view is nice private one but quite pricey with 2000+ room rent even in off season. We chose JKTDC with close proximity to market, nice ambience with running hot waters at 1000 for 2 adults and a kid. It was a bargain as 1300 is the official off season price if you try to book it through JKTDC web interface. The dinner was awesome there and fortunately the kid started showing improvement in her health but we felt the chilling nights even with all the blankets on.

Dal Lake Srinagar:

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On the way to Sonmarg:

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23rd September:

We knew about the restrictions of crossing Sonmarg towards Jojila between 6.00pm in evening and 11.00am in morning but we were told it could be managed if we start before 6.00am as no one would be there in the check post to stop us. Unfortunately that’s not the case and we were stopped even before 6.00am just outside the JKTDC GH at Sonamarg near the check post. No amount of pleading was sufficient to make them understand we had to start early as our today’s stop was even further to Kargil at Purtikchey. They just asked us to come after 11.00am which means loosing a day on the very start of the trip. Kazim came handy here, his brother was the driver of DIG, Kashmir and few phone calls there after, the same security guard came out and himself found out our car and made our roads with a smile and murmuring softly why we didn’t tell him that we were the guests of DIG. Unexpected but we were through by 6.15am. In India, connection is the key The best thing is we were the only car going in opposite direction and we had ample time to take snaps with no cars behind. The road to Jojila was one way and full of dusts and definitely in a bad shape specially the ascent from Sonmarg. The road towards Baltal to Amarnath diverts from in between and after some delay with lots of truck traffic we were on Jojila top by two and half hours. Jojila to Drass was nice with mix of good and bad roads. Just before Drass you would find the diversion to Mushko Valley which was in headlines during 1999 Kargil War. The same road now is through to Tulail and Gurez and one can go to Srinagar via Bandipore by making a loop. The road was recently inaugurated by BRO in 2010 and yet to be opened for civilians. Drass, the second coldest inhabited place in earth as the JK Tourism board displays was a small and nice town with heavy army presence. We tasted first Namkeen Chay (Salt/Butter Tea) of our trip here and we got addicted to it, it was really nice. Drass could be a good pit stop for lunch before Kargil and road from here onwards crosses War Memorial, a must see enroute and colourful mountains and valley and the valley starts narrowing down after this and you would find you are following almost the LOC and Kazim was showing us the signs of shelling from other side of LOC on the road side poles, trees, mountains all through this section during 1999 Kargil War. Tiger Hill, Tololing and other commonly uttered names during Kargil Wars can be seen across the mountain ridge and the sacrifice of our army would surely touch your deepest. Just before Kargil, you would find Drass and Suru river meets and though non descriptive, you would find Kargil as largest town between Srinagar and Leh in this route. Road towards Zanskar via Suru Valley and towards Leh bifurcates here. Our destination was Zanskar and we first met Mr. Golam Rosul, Tourist Officer, JKTDC Kargil who was in charge of reservation for all the alpine bungalows across Suru and Zanskar Valley. Surprisingly he greeted us in Bengali and later we knew he was posted first 2 years of his service at JKTDC, Kolkata and quite familiar with Kolkata. A very nice gentleman with good sense of humour he advised us to choose between Sankhoo, Purtikchey and Panikhar situated in 8500, 9500 and 10000 ft height respectively. Height of night stay was important as we were trying our best to acclimatize as quickly as possible. Sankhoo and Panikhar were closer to shops and had a better chance to get foods arranged in off season while Purtichey is more scenic with perfect frames of Nun Kun you could see from Bungalow. We chose Purtikchey but Mr. Rosul gave us papers for staying either in Purtikchey or in Panikhar in case Purtikchey was closed. The tar road ends near Sankhoo around 40km from Kargil but the road is very scenic and you could see fall colors all the way in this road. After Sankhoo, the unpaved road starts for rest of the 234 km towards Padum but locals expect next year paved roads would reach till Panikkhar. 13km from Sankhoo on unpaved road we reached Purtikchey and luckily found the caretaker of the GH nearby. No guest stayed there in whole month of September and he was surprised with this sudden arrival of tourist but somehow agreed to Rice/Dal/Sabji kind of dinner from the winter stock he had. We caught the last rays of evening sun on Nun-Kun and after dinner quickly move to bed but it was one of the coldest nights in our trip. There are only 2 rooms in the nicely located GH but most likely you would get them unless you hit the region in July/August peak season.

Sonmarg in the morning:


See the trail below towards Amarnath Shrine via Baltal:


Sonmarg JKTDC, an excellent value for money option to stay:


Jojila Top

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Towards Drass:

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Drass War Memorial:

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Just before Kargil, Drass and Suru river Meets, we will catch Suru from here and it would be with us till Pensila:


Entering Suru Valley:


JK Tourism’s Alpine Bungalow at Purtikchey:


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