a good night’s sleep and ready to tackle the pass


19th July 2014

Today we expect to go over Umassi la. It has been a great trip and I hope I am up to it. This is to be a momentous day for me.

From our rock shelter you can see a waterfall entering a depression. We head towards it. There are two ways over the waterfall which we must cross. Sheep generally go over it by climbing the moraine on our right side and following it up to the top. The other way is the frontal assault. We go that way. Not too bad but I am puffing already and I know there are more difficult times ahead.

Umassi La is somewhere in the Distance. but first the Glacier

Now I can see the moraines ahead with what looks like two moraines meeting.

not the best dressed climber but it will have to do. Just at the base of our first moraine. Not easy going and difficult to find the right path.

Up we go

Lots of debris , boulders and hard blue ice underneath. We climb and soon are walking on top of the glacier. Rocks sitting on ice pedestals – a moonscape then clean ice. Time for my sunglasses. I had thankfully found mine but the arms had been broken in my rucksack. Never mine they still work.

We are now on our first glacier. Lots of moraine rocks perched on ice stumps and ice is easy to walk on as there is plenty of grit.

Where was the Umassi La? The hard ice  on top of this glacier was easy to travel except where soft snow lay. I am lagging behind now and sort of confused as we walked up the valley. My memory of my simple map doesn’t really explain which way we should be going. Massive show covered peaks on all sides and morainal scree slopes on the left.

amazing views. We are entering God’s country. Fortunately the weather is still good.

Ahead of us was a choice of valleys all with the fronts of glaciers staring down at us. Some of them looked like they might collapse.  Avalache country and every now and then we could hear the thunder as pieces fell away and crashed onto the valley floor.

Can’t imagine where we go now. Thank goodness I decided a guide would be good. No evidence of trails on the Glacier. Well what did I expect!

I can’t keep up. Lack of oxygen and condition I guess. My guides are way ahead. I just wonder which is the right pass. And do I have the stamina to get over it.

My guides are waiting for me. The next hurdle I discover is the ridge next to the ice wall. At the base is a possible camping ground. Thank goodness we didn’t stay here as it is terribly exposed to the weather and much colder t

at the head of two glaciers. This is a camping site too. But very exposed and glad we didn’t make this our destination.

Rurah is the name of this place. Our guides at one time suggested we might camp here. Not very inviting-just a couple of exposed campsites on to of that dividing moraine. Rurah is spot where we climb to the next higher up hanging glacier. It is a very step scree slope which we have to climb. The first part is particularly horrible. Sometimes a small pile of rocks can be seen as a marker but this is not much of a track with lots of loose rock and man it is steep. (or is this the lack of oxygen that is hurting me)

the boys are moving ahead. I am going very slowly now. Lack of oxygen and soft snow doesn’t help

Finally we are above the avalache areas that you could see in previous photos and a brand new glacier seems to extend in front of me. It is dazzling white and no dirty rocks at all. The surface is also soft and walking is very hard.

unbelievable beauty.

I still have no idea where the pass is. I struggle on with my guides somewhere in the distance and seemingly getting further away. I know longer worry about that but just try to keep going.

is that the pass?

I will huff and puff and maybe like the Steam engine I will make it.

I was left behind. Just following footsteps. 10 or at most 15 steps then I have to stop to breathe. Check that my heart is still working and then satisfied that I am still alive repeat the exercise. My feet are very cold with moisture getting inside. Now having fantasies as to why I was feeling so week. What would I like to eat? I am sick of noodles, biscuits or worse.

the valley was long and then veered to the left. That niche ahead I reckon is the pass but it is still many rest stops ahead.

I am thinking if this is where it is to end then that would be a bummer. But something inside me keeps burning- there are still lots of things that I want to do. But meanwhile I keep wishing that the hardships would end.

The boys always get ahead. But then they stop and often pull out a sleeping matt for me to sit on when I finally catch up. The broken sunglasses are keeping my eyes safe but I am becoming burnt on the face. Now I understand why the boys wear scarves wrapped around their heads.

this is it. Looking back on the agony I turn then and go into Laddakh. The pass has been beaten.

We sat in the lee of the rocks. A cold wind howled around us. It was unbelievably cold. A few tattered Buddhist flags mark the pass. Dorjey makes a donation to the Gods and we start our descent into Zanskar.

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