Ladakh in Winter – Chumathang , Loma and Back to Leh Part-2

Snowy Niyoma:


That’s the bridge forking out from main road towards Kyun Tso, wonderfully Indus appeared with water here:


This is a dream to drive such a road:


Road continues:


The special colors of Ladakh are peeping through snow covers:

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Where this road can lead to:


Dangerous Black Ice Section to Drive:


Mountains, snow, blue sky and lovely clouds – Big 4 to make Ladakh the most unique:


See the dangerous curve and what a deadly turn it is with black ice and slopes, you loose control slightly, on left Indus is waiting for you:


Approaching Mahe:


North Bound Journey started since we left Mahe and only small car we faced in whole journey, surely some locals were driving:


See the difference of colors in the mountains:


Indus water started coming up again as we approaches Chumathang:


Chumathang – Where we spent our coldest night of life, morning 9, temperature was –35 degree C


Small villages enroute:


The road goes through Canyon land:


As every good thing comes to end, we are bidding goodbye to our shadows leaving our soul there, promising we would return again:


What an amazing place, looks so beautiful even from sky


The mighty Himalayan from top:


Previous: Ladakh in Winter – Chumathang , Loma and Back to Leh Part-1

The End

Ladakh in Winter – Chumathang , Loma and Back to Leh Part-1

Day 5:

Last day was the best day and we could hardly write, describe, show you what we have seen and experienced and felt. It’s not just diesel, it’s time and part of lives frozen for ever in those mind blowing moments.

We got up early and saw the obscure windows completely layered with ice, Sanjay got all his courage to get out of the room to find the guys, we at least need some water to fresh us up but what we left in the bucket was transformed to ice, so good that once the power gone, inside temp was gone subzero and we were supposed to be acclimatized with the temperature at least. Sanjay somehow found Regzin who was also frantically trying to wake up hotel guys, we need some maggy at least before we can start, After yesterdays experience Som initially retired and declared he won’t be out for Loma drive and rather we would pick him up from Chumathang on our return trip. Probably later in the night good sense prevailed and he understood coming so far but not completing the journey when weather and luck both are favoring us would be a big mistake, also realized he won’t be anyway comfortable in the sub zero temp inside the room alone for long. By that time Regzin came with maggy, really never saw a more efficient person than him even in my professional life. In our corporate world every day we speak about customer satisfaction, client need, looking into bigger picture and make client understand what he really wants but if I ever understood and felt that how business could be done following those golden rules of management, it’s Regzin who taught me this. I don’t know how many of you could imagine that a driver would wake up at morning 5.30, then clear the ice from car, heat up the diesel, tried to wake up hotel guys, finally when he couldn’t he managed the keys of kitchen from them, supplied bucket of hot water (you are reading right, it was hot water) and then prepared maggy for us and did everything when outside temp was certainly below -20 degree C outside and literally prepared us for the trip well within time, 7.30 in morning. Without him this trip was never be possible and if by any means readers consider this report to be one of better reports of 2013, please note, the whole credit goes to that veteran ex Ladakh scout guy, who showed us (and you through this report) a completely unknown world to many of us, made me feel how diverse this country is, last year same time, I remember after spending 2 hours in Gokarn beach in Karnataka, I had to take rest for 2 hours in AC where as this year we had to boil ice to drink water.

Journey started and the Indus valley looking amazing with frozen Indus in the morning light. The Scorpio heater couldn’t start as the motor failed to start in that temperature. We reached Mahe Bridge soon and ourselves opened the barrier, Regzin himself gone inside the empty office room to enter the car details, (Thinking if really permit can be checked in odd hours of the day), Few road workers started coming into the region and waiting for the BRO pickup trucks and they said next 10km is a horrible stretch ahead and quite a few accident happened in that stretch in last one week. We realized soon, it was completely a stretch of black ice and only Regzin knew how he could drive in such a situation. The moment we took the left turn from Mahe Bridge the Loma the magic began, it was all white, a cliché to use here but believe me I am short of words what I have seen there in that stretch between Mahe bridge to Loma, it was not black and white, rather blue and white every where you can see.

Suddenly we felt a jerk, Scorpio jumped a little but anyway it was managed, we understood we hit somewhere where the ice was little loose and that was the reason of the bump, anyway we keep continuing, saw someone coming into a scooter, we slowed down and checked if it was Masterji again there but no it was not him (But I wont be surprised to meet him there too and finding a solo scooter trilogy in BCMTS soon ). When we almost reached Loma, could see the famous bridge (which they don’t even allow to photograph) Regzin complained about lack of traction in Scorpio. We also got surprised, the car which served us for last one week in all odds, what happened to him in Changthang, soon we realized it was not take any pickup and slowly stopped. Regzin and all of us gone out of the car in that ocean of ice to investigate and to our surprise Regzin diagnosed that the diesel was frozen completely. What?? Diesel frozen? in a running car?? Regzin was shots with lots of questions and we started telling him the car has started showing ages especially the odo touching 300 thousand km. Then Regzin explained us, it was that jerk we felt on the way because of loose ice, caught some ice into the transmission and tank and it slowly took its toll, freezing the whole system of the running car!!! I couldn’t believe but then he was Regzin, brought out a stove, lying on the fresh ice for some 45 mins under the car with that stove to make it workable. Only he could!! We couldn’t light up a cig, it was so windy with extreme chill and this guy was simply heating up the car lying on snow for 45 mins. Outside temp was -35 at least and our body temp gone close to 10 even when we were inside the Jeep.

Anyway we tried our best to take as many photos as we could take and once Regzin started the Scorpio again, we started our return journey, we were hardly a km away from Loma and thought it’s better to start return journey as we had to go to Leh with a lunch break at Chumathang. The return journey was equally fascinating and we finally reached Leh around 6.30 in evening. We had planned for Nubra valley on next day but then we knew a big WD was approaching, next day would be sunny but from evening the weather started turning bad. The next day was Thursday one of those 3 days you can go from Leh to Nubra on winter (It’s not open all days like summer months), so there was no possibility of day trip, also we thought simply a journey to Khardungla won’t match with what we have seen in Changthang and now after visiting Ladakh so many times, I think, nothing can match that region, it’s simply fabulous. Still I wanted to see the dunes of Nubra which are attractive too but obviously being a part of Taklamakan desert and being sandwiched between Kunlun, Karakoram and Ladakh range, it hardly receives any moisture and so there won’t be much snow in the valley. Also the extreme uncertainties of flight during that time (Alok’s case was fresh in mind) we decided finally to call of the rest of the trip. Rest means we were supposed to go to Nubra on Thursday, come back to Leh on Friday, kept a day in Leh on Saturday for Shanti Stupa and all, and our flight was booked on Sunday. Now when we saw back to back strong WD coming from Friday, we had no choice but to take a chance with Thursday flight. We made final call at 8.30 to catch a morning flight next day. Informed Regzin that we are going to give a try to leave tomorrow else we can foresee a week’s disruption at least. One more problem was by Sunday a lot of Chadar trekkers would be back and getting a ticket would be more difficult. Now at 9.00 in night we had all sorts of problems of extreme slow net connection, weak phone signal, no electricity what not!! But we knew we had to give our best, my office didn’t know anything on this adventure they still knew I was out of country. Som and Sanjay were pressed for time as well. Along with this we had several other problems, I booked my ticket from airlines website, one got it from Yatra, one brought it through net banking where as without credit cards you can’t change it over phone. Anyway let’s not get into details, with 3 long hours, with packets of cigs burnt, when we finished the job it was already Thursday, post midnight. Then we had to do some kind of adjustment in our luggage after all Leh is a high security airport. We finally gone to sleep after 1.00, what a day it was, starting from morning till end it was all filled with surprise and uncertainties.

Regzin was sad but being a Ladakhi he understands better than us what bad weather means, he arranged everything for our dinner on Friday but anyway there is always a next time. Starting from reaching there on 3 consecutive holidays and still getting the permit, visiting starting point of Chadar Trek, Dah Hanu Village, a drive on frozen pangong, a frozen tsomoriri with lone Kiyang and then finally the ice age at Loma, we got all what we wanted in extremely good weather. Ladakh never returned me without a good weather, I love this place so much and really don’t know how many more times I have to go there and keep you guys bored with all little things.

Next day flight departed a little late as from morning the day started cloudy and windy, as we could see in IMD.. but anyway we took off around 11.00 am saw clouds everywhere from top unlike what we saw the day we came. Reached Leh, spent some pathetic 5/6 hours in T3 after such an ambience in Leh and got the connecting flight to Kolkata and safely reached and after this adventurous trip, first victim was my driver when in Jan end he had to switch on the full AC once I stepped into Kolkata. I was born and brought up here and in 4 decades I never felt Kolkata so hot in January

PS: I kept watching the Jet website for the flight status between Leh-Delhi and we took Thursday’s flight, and next flight departed Leh after exactly one week on next Thursday, such was the impact of 2 back to back strong WD. So all well if it ends well as it happened every time with me in Ladakh!!

Let’s not talk more, share the last few snaps of this great trip and I think you won’t be disappointed.

Morning in Chumathang:


Way to Mahe Bridge:


The Ocean of snow:

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Work Horse, The Scorpio, note the side glasses are still completely frozen after 1 hour of heating and direct sunlight from outside:


Diesel Frozen, Regzin working it out:


Ice Age (Far away Loma Bridge):


A Dream Land, isn’t it?


Regzin posing:


Kingdom of Ice:

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See someone tried offroading even here:


Nyoma Air Base:


What a road to drive:


Lone Truck:


Frozen Indus on the left:


See the stylish Ladakhi cloud:


Nice 100 mtr black Top, looks so nice in the white background:


Approaching Niyoma:


That’s Nyoma, frozen and sleeping in January:


Previous: Ladakh In Winter – Chumathang, Tsomoriri

Next: Ladakh in Winter – Chumathang , Loma and Back to Leh Part-2

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 – 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:


Previous: Ladakh – Journey to Pangong crossing Wari La & Chang La

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

Ladakh – Exploring Zanskar, Ladakh and Remote Changthang – Introduction

Managing Zanskar and Ladakh in one go for 18 days with kid, possible? The question was looming large but then planning to Demchok and Chumur adds more uncertainty and seems to be an insane idea. Now while going to Demchok from Hanle, crossing Photila and trying Tsomoriri directly from Hanle, won’t it be crazy? Yes we started a well planned trip with lots of input from this forum but honestly it gone beyond sanity to try with just wife and kid. We enjoyed thoroughly and in God’s grace got excellent weather. This is the time to share our experience.

I have been to Ladakh earlier and knew the challenges, challenge of acclimatizing your body with that height of 11K+ almost through out the trip, desolate and remoteness of the Zanskar Valley and Changthang Plateau, choosing the right window for travel considering the early and late seasons are full of uncertainties and actual small 2 month’s window of July and August are terribly crowded. For me it was more challenging as I was going to take this trip with just my wife and kid of 6.5 yrs. Getting a car with reasonable price and knowledgeable drivers who have some ideas beyond Nubra/Pangong/Tsomoriri were a must to make this trip a success. Number of Taxi Unions and their self proclaimed rules in their own areas were another mess you need to handle if you want to take up this trip. Kargil Cars can take you to Zanskar but can’t take you back without paying a premium to Zanskar Union, for Zanskar sight seeing you have to take Zanskar Cabs, Kargil Cabs can take you to Leh but can’t do sightseeing in Lamayuru etc. enroute. I was again lucky to get introduced to ex.Taxi Union President of Kargil Mr. Rehman, a nice gentleman who helped me to get Kazim, a middle aged person with a Scorpio and Xylo and it’s because of him I was able to complete my Zanskar trip. Ladakh part was never be possible without Regzin, who was simply outstanding and being an ex. army of Ladakh Scouts and posted in all corners of Ladakh including Siachen, DBO, Chumur, Demchok for 18 years, he knew how to follow the tyre track and common sense for hundreds of km before coming across the first vehicle for opposite side without any direction or maps.

Another funny part was the plans and backups I kept, I had to cancel 5 sets of tickets for different sectors those were planned as my backup in different stages. My idea was to visit through Srinagar but had to keep Del-Leh flight open in case situation in Srinagar Valley turns volatile, similarly I kept my return plan open so that I can travel to Leh – Manali or can fly out from Leh directly which I did eventually. I even had to cancel a Del-Kolkata Rajdhani ticket while my Del-Kol flight was taxied to runway which I kept in case Leh-Del flight gets cancelled and subsequently my Kolkata connection would have missed.

Weather in this region was a big ask, you never know when that could change dramatically but with God’s grace and good wishes of many other friends, I got probably the best weather possible, first time I saw cloud in the sky on my last day of the trip, it was absolutely cloudless and blue sky with fall colors all around.

The Trip Schedule is like this:

Day 1 – Fly from Kolkata to Srinagar via Delhi and on same day proceed to Sonmarg and stay

Day 2 – Sonmarg – Jojila – Drass – Kargil – Purtikchey

Day 3 – Purtikchey – Panikhar – Parkachik – Rangdum – Pensi La – Padum

Day 4 – Padum Stay and visit Strongde Monastery, Zangla Palace, Bardan Monastery and Karsha Monastery

Day 5 – Padum – Sankhoo

Day 6 – Sankhoo – Kharse Khar Village for Maiterya Buddha – Kargil – Leh

Day 7- Leh Permits and Local Sight Seeing

Day 8 – Leh – Khardung La – Nubra Valley – Hunder

Day 9 – Hunder – Turtuk – Deskit

Day 10 – Deskit – Wari La – Chang La – Tangtse

Day 1 1 – Tangtse – Spangmik

Day 12 – Spangmik – Man – Merak – Chusul – Tsga La – Loma – Hanle

Day 13 – Hanle – Photi La – Photile – Koyul – Demchok  Back to Hanle

Day 14 – Hanle – Kyun Tso – Salsal La – Chumur – Charchagan La – Tsomoriri

Day 15 – Tsomoriri – Tso Kar – Tanglang La – Leh

Day 16 – Spare Day at Leh

Day 17 – Spare Day at Leh

Day 18 – Flying from Leh to Kolkata via Delhi

The map Harsh and Aarti had prepared is simply invaluable and to my knowledge the best map that is available for anyone wants to visit this area. Please refer to the map below to understand the route plan properly. Thanks Harsh and Aarti again for this wonderful effort and you were the inspiration of our trip.

Harsh_Ladakh_Zanskar Map

Few Highlights before we start the detail of the trip:

Dal Lake, Srinagar:


The Rainbow:


Entering the Suru Valley, Zanskar


First Ray of Sun on Mt. Nun


Zanskar River takes Horse Shoe Bend near Padum


Amazing Drang Drung Glacier:


Typical Zanskar Grassland :




Shanti Stupa, Leh


Shyok (The River of Death) near Nubra:


Hundar – Reflections


Beautiful Fall Colors near Shakti


Magic Lake, Pangong Tso, no introduction needed:

DSC_20280 DSC_20282

Hanle Observatory of Indian Institute of Astro Physics:


Unbelievable colors of Mountains near Demchok – The mountains you see are Line of Actual Control with China (Other side Ngari, Tibet)


Tsomoriri :


Dramatic Sky at Sumdo:


Wild Horses running in the backdrop of Tso Kar:


Return Flight from Leh to Delhi was a Trans Himalayan Flight, the vista below is beyond any word:


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