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 – 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 – Journey to Pangong crossing Wari La & Chang La

01st October:

Our luck with weather was still continuing as we were in our tenth day of the trip and weather would play a crucial role for this day as we were to take Wari la – Changla route to reach Pangong from Nubra. Deskit – Khalsar was in normal route from where route towards Agham diverts and we gone through a completely desolate 31km drive where we were the only car. Excellent fun journey with Shyok river and lots of photo stops we reached Agham and here again two roads diverts, one through Wari La – Changla – Durbuk (total 134 km with 2 high passes) and other through Agham – Shyok – Durbuk route which doesn’t cross any pass and distance is only 66km. We enquired and a local portrayed a horrible picture of Agham – Shyok route and told the road was absolutely cut off in multiple places and we couldn’t reach there. We spoken to a BRO camp nearby and they said it’s under 93 RCC who owns that stretch and their HQ was at Shyok and they don’t have much idea on that part of the road but mentioned their supplies which earlier used to come through that road now stopped and currently brought through Wari La. Indication was clear that road was not through. We started our journey to Tangyar, the last village before the steep ascent of Wari La starts. This road was really desolate and the steepness would be hard to ignore, the lonely Scorpio was trying hard with snows around the road, the water source and nallas were semi frozen and a few yaks around are the only thing you could see apart from tall mountains around. We reached the top after almost a 40 km drive from Agham. The road was tarred all through and descent to Shakti was in even better condition. We were overjoyed after crossing Wari La and took a tea break in Shakti, a nice valley looks so beautiful with fall colors. Soon we started our ascent to Changla and reached the top without much difficulties and roads are superb from Shakti towards Changla and same remains good till Lukung where you reach the Pangong lake. At Durbuk, Regzin got diesels as we had a long route to take without any option of fuel. Here we spoke to 93 RCC on Agham – Shyok route and they told us categorically that road was not through but considering October water level, Scorpio could manage that road but then it was too late to utilize this great piece of information. Tangtse was very close in another 9km and we have enough time to approach the Pangong but we decided to take a break at Tangtse as it was 1000 ft lower than Spangmik and would help us to acclimatize at Changthang though we were already well acclimatized by then. But later we found our decision was good as we had light headache and suddenly feeling quite cold in that night, it’s highly recommended to stay a night at Tangtse specially if someone comes from lower height of Nubra directly. The best place to stay was Dothguling and luckily we got it completely vacant though people didn’t get any place to stay here for next few days, courtesy Puja Rush. Again Regzin managed the nice double room for Rs. 500/- here, offseason and Regzin’s bargaining skill was a lethal combo.

Khalsar to Agham with Shyok following us:


Tanjiyar Village, last village before ascent to Warila:


Approaching Wari La, Rivers started freezing down at that height:

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At Wari La Top:


Descent to Shakti:


Amazing Fall Colors at Shakti Valley:


Shakti Valley from Top, straight one towards Warila and right one towards Changla:


Towards Chang La:


At Chang La Top:


Tangtse Valley from Top:


02nd October:

We were little skeptic on the accommodation options at Spangmik and wanted to reach early there to evaluate the options and avail the best possible option what we could get. We already were informed most of the GH at Spangmik were closed for the season. Started around 8.00 in the morning from Tangtse and enroute took some time to spend with the marmots who are quite habituated in human interaction unlike the population we found in Zanskar. Some quick photo breaks and we are at Lukung where the famous Pangong Lake starts. With lots of snaps available across web and some Bollywood movies are shot, Pangong is quite a common name to all of us now but I felt a drastic change since I first time saw this heavenly lake in 2003. I remember we were only car in Sep begin for the 6 hours we spent in Lukung that time but this time at 10.00 am we found shops, tents, so many people around and lots of cars and that too in October. Hope the lake would survive along its fragile ecosystem under this tremendous onslaught of mass tourism. The famous 3-Idiots shooting actually started in Tsomoriri around middle of Sep 2008 and after a day shoot started, the whole region snowed out completely and that year the Sep snow was so heavy that thousands of people got stuck across Leh-Manali highway for 4/5 days. The crew cancelled the shooting and they came back next year (2009) July in Pangong as administration didn’t permit them to shoot at Tsomoriri during July as it was breeding time for migratory birds. That’s the way Pangong came into fame. The crew stayed at Dothguling GH in Tangtse for few days and they took snaps of all the actors/actresses at their GH, having lunch / dinner at their dining room and now have kept those snaps all across the GH.I was told by them that Aamir Khan was happy in this postponing of the shoot as in new schedule he got an opportunity to shoot the last scene at the fag end of shooting which was not possible if it would have been done as per original schedule in the beginning. Nothing surprising from a perfectionist like him though. We spent some time at Lukung though it was absolutely crowded and then moved towards Spangmik crossing few more shooting spots all of them are famous with the movie. At Spangmik the JKTDC GH which is now leased to locals were empty but they said they were winding up. After some requests they agreed to let us in and we got the nice double room just beside lake with attached toilets at 2500/- including all meals. Not really cheap but definitely cheaper than its actual price of 4500/- I was not really keen to bargain here as almost all the GH were closed down and we felt the chill last night at Tangtse itself which was 1000 ft lower. Checked in there, had hot tea and gone to lake side soon after. Here there was no crowd and you can enjoy the lake of your own. Great feelings to see the various shades of blue in the backdrop of brown and red mountains. Enjoyed the lake till evening but we started feeling the chilling wind across the lake as the time progresses and got an idea what to face in the night. The night was really cold and probably coldest in our whole trip and we found in morning the waters in buckets and pipes were frozen.

Friendly Marmots on the way to Lukung:


Magical Pangong Tso:

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At Spangmik, lake was belong to us, very few tourist and the blue with magical fall colors:

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JKSRTC Bus at Spangmik, frequency once in a week:


The lovely kid at Spangmik:


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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:

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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