Kang Yatse 1 – Icy domes and dusty roads

Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India

There’s stasis on the face of it as one looks at the panorama from a mountaintop on a clear morning… all the snow-covered peaks and glaciers spewing out of their cold slopes brooding deep till the sun warms them up into frothing rivers down below… somewhere between the transition of ice into water, the elements decide to conjure up a curiosity, sending life forms into realms uninhabitable, kindling fires, cajoling curiosities…  

With most of the Western Himalaya battered by incessant rains, doling out retribution to infrastructure built on hubris, one had to make do with the Trans-Himalayan landscapes of Ladakh for the annual pilgrimage to the outdoors despite my usual aversion to their rather monotonous nature, both in terms of scenery and terrain… avoiding a trek for this reason, Kang Yatse 1 (KY1) peak was chosen to see if I could climb mountains as well as I could cross them…

Landing in Leh on a Saturday morning, a hot and bright afternoon had me scampering to procure a sunhat and sunscreen, accessories that I usually do without in the outdoors (due to some misplaced sense of machismo maybe). Coming on the back of a hectic work week, I slept a lot through the weekend to minimize any acclimatization issues, which seemed to work out decently. Sunday was spent submitting medical forms etcetera for permissions from IMF. We were a group of thirteen attempting KY1 and another half a dozen people had their eyes set on KY2, and there’d be many others seeking these summits, especially KY2 ever since Stok Kangri was closed for climbing.

Monday morning saw us drive up to Kaya village around seventy kilometres from Leh, passing the (now a tourist madhouse) confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers before leaving the highway off Chilling. A couple of kilometres of walk on a jeep road brought us to the campsite next to barley fields at Skiu, a village of about a dozen or so households. With a lot of daylight to kill, I headed out after lunch, there wasn’t much avifauna around so I started chasing butterflies and then a pair of agamas till sunset.

‘Twas a rather slow beginning as compared to my usual sojourns where we rush up to beat the treeline from the word go. But the auspices of bare rock and ice demand time, the wisdom goes, and thus one strolled slowly through the portals of patience.

We started gaining a bit of altitude the next day, destined to be following the contours of Markha river upstream for a few days ahead. The hike to Sara village constituted walking on the dusty jeep road again where vehicles plied frequently, bellowing out plumes of smoke and dust on a dry and hot day that was a sheer killjoy, irritating the living daylights out of me.

The mind, seeking comfort amidst the bare geology in these arid surrounds, wandered off to its Tethyan origins at times. Seashells at the roof of the world, and now a little bit of traffic too, the sands (of time?) floating hither and thither to find some sort of permanence, a rock to tuck inside safely maybe, but then they are all mostly buried beneath the sand anyway. Flaky, fragile mounds of mud, yet ever so resilient.

About ten odd kilometres later we finally left the jeep road and started walking close to the river, this trail looked like a road too until the waters had their say, but thankfully the vehicles and their ensuing dust was out of the way now. We reached the village of Sara around one in the afternoon, the mostly flat walk taking around four and a half hours. The campsite was again located twixt a thicket of poplar trees, offering enough shade.

With time to kill again after lunch, I took to the riverside, catching a couple of Eurasian hoopoes foraging and a few redstarts that I chased for photos mostly in futility… the harshness of the sun was a new experience for me and I wasn’t used to carrying the sun hat around all the time… five minutes without clouds and I was looking out for trees or shrubbery to take rest… Eurasian magpies were dime a dozen as expected, eking out meals in this desert with a careless aplomb, the intelligent corvids that they are…

Late afternoon was spent climbing a hill with the group as an acclimatization exercise, and then tiring the campsite owner’s little pup that had trailed us in its perpetual quest for games and was elated with frantic sprints to nowhere…

Next morning again saw us up and moving at eight thirty, the walk today even shorter than yesterday’s and a couple of hours saw us at the camp in the outskirts of the Markha village, the valley’s namesake and the largest settlement in the valley… the mules to ferry the luggage from here onwards were yet to arrive so we had to stay put… unlike the previous two days, the campsite here was in the open next to barley fields…

‘Twas getting rather tedious stopping so frequently, passing villages, poring over Mani stones big and small, prayers etched upon stones seeking benevolence from the elements… but snow-covered peaks were visible in the background today so there was a comfort that the higher grounds were near… we’d only gained about a couple of hundred metres in altitude from Leh to Markha village, so it was about time to be going up…

Too much time to kill again, so, birding… but the middle of a hot afternoon is not the preferred time of the day for the avifauna to be rambling about, and I had little to show for a good couple of hours’ work save for a fire-fronted serin that came into open view for a little while… went back to the camp tired by the heat and lounged about in a shady corner… people were entertaining themselves with games of cricket and frisbee… a guide pointed out some activity on a distant mountaintop that turned out to a herd of blue sheep, the only wild ungulates we’d see on the trip…

Skipping the group acclimatization walk in the evening, I went birding hoping for better luck and was duly rewarded by a pair of chukars feeding around the riverside shrubbery… I stalked them till twilight, feeling content as the night rolled in… a fellow hiker was an Astro photography aficionado and kindly taught me the basics of photographing the milky way as he went about his craft… we were tucking into beds at very civilized times around eight-nine pm so letting it reach ten tonight seemed like an extravagance… when the yellow star dominates perceptions of energy, space and time, habits tend to change…

The next day was business, for we had to climb and also cover up the distance cut short yesterday. Starting half an hour early at eight, we crossed Markha village, spanning around three kilometres in length. A stream crossing at the seven-kilometre mark refreshed the legs, and drenched the trousers too, although in this heat they were crisp and dry within no time… a little bit ahead came Umlung village, where one could relapse into civilizational comforts and revel in chips and Coke and Maggi… one could buy woollens and glue too, more sincere necessities… this was the point where some shops and houses started charging for clean drinking water asserting that the stream water was unsafe,  something I hold in disfavour, not against the local communities but myself in a way,  for why would one take so much pains to go into the backcountry if bottled water was to be partaken there anyway, a seeming pointlessness to the whole thing… we stopped for more than an hour here as the village economy boomed with the influx of almost fifty odd hikers… times when you have to reconcile with travelling in a big group, no getting away from the madding crowd…

We finally set off from Umlung a little after noon, the valley was now opening up and one could feel that we were approaching its head… another hour and a half saw us at the beginning of Hankar village… these green oases dotting the valley floor standing in defiance to the barren, brown schematic dominating the vista, thrusted out of obscurity by tectonic forces and sculpted by the elements over millennia…  

A couple of hours and a few small climbs from Hankar saw us ruminating at the meadows of Thochungtse, a scenic campsite next to the river. After sorting the tent arrangements, I headed to the riverside, chasing redstarts and rosefinches out on their evening sallies… was feeling a bit of pain in the lower back, wondered if ‘twas the backpack, although I wasn’t carrying too much load, but I was comforted by the guides that ‘twas most probably because of the cold than a chronic issue… first time I’d heard it, but ‘twas in my own interest to believe it and so I did…

Finally away from villages, although the fifty odd tents would make the camp a village in its own right… antithetical, one feels, seeking solace in dozens… it’d come eventually though, one sensed… for isolation grows as the air gets thinner, a numbing of thought, a sharpening of reflexes, drifting into worldviews but then brought back by the imposing mountain complexes… spent half an hour shooting stars again tonight… there was a bit of buzz around the camp as I went to asleep, a hiker had gone missing a few kilometres upstream… morning revealed she was eventually found late in the night…

A windy night gave way to another clear morning, saw more redstarts and a Tickell’s leaf warbler… like clockwork we were mobile by eight thirty… ‘twas all uphill today as we were to cross five thousand meters in altitude… half an hour of climbing gave us the first glimpse of Kang Yatse, white sentinels gazing over their domain… crossed a small lake which was dried out to place a Buddha statue in its middle and cement its place, literally and metaphorically, as a preferred abode of the pantheon…

It took us about four hours to reach the base camp from Thochungtse, with the mules yet to arrive, I put the rucksack down and went hunting for rodents, in a short span of time rewarded with the sighting of a timid Ladak Pika munching in its usual nervousness on flowers… a slight throbbing started in the head as I finished lunch, AMS finally having caught up after a week… it wasn’t threatening, but irritating, coming and going on some strange whim… I stopped wasting energy on stalking fauna as a precaution and rested… took a short acclimatization walk with the group in the evening, feeling weird without the camera… KY2 was a direct climb from here while KY1 would take a couple of more camps… felt too tired for any Milky Way photography and regretted it later as it turned out be the best frame, Milky Way emerging from behind the KY peaks as our in-house expert would document…

The night was bad, with little sleep and a throbbing head, the darkness compounding it by diligently watering the sprouting fears and insecurities… the best sleep I had was a half hour nap the next morning before breakfast… it was a rest day as a lot of other people had a mild headache too, and while I’d usually be loath to such an idea, circumstances made it a much welcomed proposition… after breakfast the technical gear was distributed followed by a short training session on using it… apart from climbing boots, I was out of depth here, having only used such equipment in a few training courses… but it seemed to be no rocket science as long as the weather was fine…

Which, incidentally, started turning… the sky now overcast with a cloudy pall swirling around the surrounding summits… it snowed for a short fifteen minute period but thankfully that was all the precipitation we’d get… the headache, while it kept coming and going, had subsided a notch, and by now one’d reconciled to the fact that it might keep company till the summit… took a long afternoon siesta and just lounged around the grounds for the rest of the day, gazing at the glacial run offs, moraines and their progenitors above… hit the sack feeling much better than the previous night and had an excellent sleep as well, allaying some fears…

There was a familiarity about the camp now that was unsettling in a way, for uncertainties start clouding the mind the more one waits, the sky was still overcast but precipitation was negligible, comforting and discomforting at the same time, the former with the present state of affairs and the latter wondering if the heavens would open as we were winding our way up…

Next day was load ferry… not much load though to be honest, just the climbing boots, harness et al, ‘twas more like another acclimatization walk… a boulder patch followed the BC which then gave way to a steep scree section… about two hours saw us at the ABC, a congested ridge with decently safe platforms for about half a dozen tents… the glaciers were finally visible now as we looked down… mud and rocks hitching a ride on the ice train that seldom seemed to be moving but never stopped in reality… dumping our load, we raced back to the base for another day of rest as a mild headache started simmering… quite paranoid about AMS now, I hadn’t touched the camera or gone birding for a full two days now to avoid any undue exertion, hoping to do so once back from the summit…

Moving day, then, as we woke up to clear skies… bumped into an old classmate going to attempt KY2 solo later that night (turned out she did KY2 and Dzo Jongo too, another major mountain massif in the valley)… all we had to do was wait at ABC today, hence we sauntered up the leisurely, spending more time taking breaks than walking… I complied for a while, testing out the theory that maybe walking too fast and gaining altitude quickly was the cause of these headaches,  but then couldn’t bear resting after every fifteen minutes of walking so just made a beeline for ABC…

The tents were all pitched and people settled in by around three in the afternoon as we made plans to bide time… naps, conversations, naps… melted ice for water and dehydrated meals for subsistence… ‘twas quite windy so one couldn’t stand outside for too long… a steep ice wall on the right started shooting stones down into the valley below for a bit before dusk, sprinkled with a few minor avalanches here and there… seems like the glaciers are like generational wealth that is now being squandered away with little replenishment courtesy climate change… climb ‘em while you can, for without their snowy tops, these mountains will lose their elan… dozed off at around eight wondering how even ten twelve hours of sleep felt just about par at altitude…

There wasn’t supposed to be a summit camp as per the original plan but was plugged in to accommodate the pace of a large group… we started around nine thirty in the morning, adorned in all the climbing paraphernalia… a hundred metres or so above the camp the crampons were put on and we hitched on to the fixed line, to be jumaring our way up now for till the summit… the first few kicks revealed a lot of ice beneath a thin layer of powder snow, but ‘twas manageable, and we focused on getting a rhythm going… as we climbed the first hundred odd meters onto a ledge, to our surprise there were all rocks on the other side… the Sherpa, probably in a mood to test our mixed climbing skills, asked us to keep the crampons on… hiding my disdain for the sound of metal scraping on rocks, I marched on, getting a feel of the jumar now… it wasn’t a big or a long climb though, and three and a half hours from the ABC saw us at snowy abodes of the summit camp…

The rest of the group trickled in as we set up the camp and food was prepared, the ready to eat variety threatening to upset the stomach which had till now held up rather splendidly… there wasn’t much appetite anyway, and one looked rather enviously at the chughs partaking the offering of dry fruits by the summiteers… wanted to go off to sleep immediately after having a bit of food and hot brew but stayed awake for the briefing… the headache was returning again, so ‘to sleep or not to sleep’ was a bit of a quandary… wake up was scheduled for midnight with the summit push at one… the massif that looked manageable from below was now unfolding in full… crevasses and their abyss, mischievous snow and unrelenting ice, meandering glaciers and murderous rocks… a whole gamut of emotions funnelled into a singular pursuit, a piece of rock etched into the conscious and the subconscious…

Twisted and turned inside the tent for a bit of sleep, but with the cold floor and winds, broken stupors were all that could be managed… woke up to a clear and still night, and after the rigmarole of getting into the harness and the boots, started off at one fifteen, tagging in behind the guides to avoid the crowd…

Fifteen minutes or so later, found myself in a dark place, partly blaming the soft yet sinister sound of falling rime as one cut steps on the steep, unrelenting slope… what was I doing here, a hiker who’s always sceptical about the promises of deliverance on the summit, loathes midnight departures, went the train of thought, slipping on the ice failing to cut steps deep enough, the heaving up on the jumar and repeating the process again and again and again… Walk while ye have the night for morn, lightbreakfastbringer… this was no less than Joyce’s incomprehensible dream-forms, one thought, clipping carabiners from one line to the next, Shem the right foot and Shaun the left, both abreast of the task at hand yet proving to be quite inadept…

The slope never relented… I had it in the mind that there would be a couple of steep sections and the rest would be an easier trail, but this was seventy degrees throughout… one thought that the worst was over, reaching a rock patch, but in a rather sadistic fashion, it got up to eighty degrees… but as was usually the case with a major part of this trek, the distances were never huge, so with a little bit o’ grit, one could pull through… around four hours later, as the first light dawned, the end seemed nigh, and ‘twas, the last ten fifteen odd meters offering that promised flat walk to the top… there was the summit, and there was the human, twixt the two there was that cold professional acknowledgement… a beautiful alpenglow laced the horizon as a few other people rolled in, and after a few customary photos, the thoughts of the descent were translated into prompt action, for the base camp was the destination today…

First time for me abseiling on a big wall, and for the first part, I aced it, gloating in my talents as I sailed down… but then things started going ‘downhill’, and the ego was punctured as soon as it was inflated… had a tough time loading the descender with a tight rope, and just couldn’t find the feet to kick steps out in the hard ice… slipped and fell a lot, waited haplessly for help a lot, took a dipstick tour of a couple of crevasses, thankfully when no one was looking… got so used to rappelling that walking down felt tougher… reached the summit camp back at nine thirty safe and unscathed despite all the (mis)adventures… five out the group of thirteen had summitted and some did not leave the base camp so half the camp was broken and people had descended by the time we returned… after a hot brew and an hour of rest, packed the rucksack as the guides broke the rest of the camp and down we went… the initial rock patch was negotiated with relative ease but with the crampons off now, I was again making a fool of myself on the ice, the guide wanting me to walk down with the safety on and I adamant on using the descender, which was tough to load given all the weight on the rope now and forced me to entreat a Sherpa for help who relented with a reproach on forsaking the crampons…

Back at the ABC just as the clock struck one, and life was different now with the climbing boots and the harness off… started down after packing the bag again which was now two loads packed into one, the weight didn’t bother at first as one jogged down the steep section, but then it started taking a lot of time on the way back, each step laboured and a lot of ballet practise on the boulders… the descent which had taken forty five minutes during the load ferry took almost two and a half hours, a part of which was spent complicating a stream crossing by refusing to skip stones and wading through two of them instead…

Reached the base camp as the clock wound three, grateful to put the rucksack down… went about unpacking and repacking immediately with a slow and tired gait before total exhaustion set in, which surprisingly didn’t come as expected, and I was about to hold off sleep till dinner… looking back at the summit, there was more contentment than elation, a closure of sorts…

Following morning was a long hike down that had to be done to make it in time for the flight out the next day… started from camp at seven thirty and half a kilometre away, finally saw a marmot, had been hearing a few of them the past few days at the BC but hadn’t sighted one till now… with the base camp now out of sight, it was just the meadows and the peak, as if the kaleidoscope of tents that was the base camp was a graffiti that’d been wiped off… an hour of mostly level walk found us at the Nimaling, a scenic, picture postcard campsite with green meadows overlooking smoky summits and a river cutting through the middle…

From there till Kongmaru La was another gentle climb of about a couple of hours, the pass perched at around five thousand metres laying claim to cellphone network and the associated cacophony that comes with it… soaking in the back to civilization vibe for half an hour, we started on our way down and ran straight into a traffic jam that one initially tried to be patient with, but soon enough it got on the nerves and taking a couple of shortcuts, we scampered down to leave the crowds as far behind as possible…

‘Twas the base of a narrow gorge that we ended up in, following a stream as it rolled down the valley… for someone apprehensive of stream crossings, I hoped that the first few would be the last of it, but they kept coming thick and fast, and after about an hour, one resigned to them, and surprisingly, never once did I slip… the trail was pretty straightforward… would be tough for people climbing up to approach the peaks from this side, one pondered, sauntering down and arriving at Chogdo village three hours from the pass…

Waited a couple of hours for other hikers and mules, packed off in a bus, reached Leh around seven in the evening, had the much-awaited bath, rearranged the bags for the flight, had some ale and non-veg, and then shut eye… the standard back to the city and its associated rush stuff…

All in all, turned out to be a rather reasonable outing… one knew Ladakh would be a dust bowl, but once in a while it’s probably good to taste some… climbing mountains is more Que, sera, sera than Carpe diem I feel, and despite all the grit and persistence it takes, one cannot deny the fact that there is a bit of nihilism in these quests, seeking mountaintops that seem to be doing just fine without any company… yet the human spirit, driven by its own contoured curiosities, can neither resist or desist,  hoping to eke out meanings, in part metaphysical …

Kang Yatse 1 peak expedition, Ladakh, India
Monastery at Skiu village; the first half of the trek was acclimatizing to the dust as much as the altitude


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Dark clouded yellow, I’d been writing about the butterfly a couple of weeks before the trek, and if felt like deja vu spotting it again


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Himalayan rock agama; I spent about half an hour keeping a couple of them on their toes as they fidgeted around the riverside


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
‘Twas either scraping linearly on the dusty road or zig zagging next to the river, no prizes for guessing which was the preferred option


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
A string of chortens is what the trail feels like till the cairns take over


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Eurasian magpie, ubiquitous around these parts, considered one of the most intelligent animals


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Found a pair of Eurasian hoopoes by the river in Sara village, stalking them and black redstarts in the afternoon sun baked me to the core though


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
As we entered Markha village, it felt like all of this was an exercise in triangles of varying shapes and forms


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Fancy finding Groot here, one thought bemusedly


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
The camp at Markha was next to barley fields, more scenic than poplar canopies but offered little reprieve from the sun


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Went out birding with too much time to kill, but the sun was unrelenting, and the birds hard to come by


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
A fire fronted serin was the only reward for the afternoon toils


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Snow on the horizon, and clouds on the way to dump some more


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Evening was rewarding, as I found a pair of Chukars foraging a short distance away from the camp


Milky Way from Martha valley, Ladakh, India
Tried photographing the Milky Way, succeeded partially


Markha village, Ladakh, India
Markha the village was amply locked in time, save for the homestay signboards


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
We walked along the valley floor for a major part of the trek, seldom leaving the river


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Hankar was perhaps the most scenic village on the trail, calling dibs on the glacial outflow


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
The multitude of colours that characterize dry mountains


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
With Hankar, we were finally off villages and village campsites


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
These green oases that I think would grow greener, grow bigger, invite more clouds and then this won’t be a cold desert anymore


Streaked rosefinch, Ladakh, India
Streaked rosefinch – i went straight to work after reaching the campsite at Thochungtse


Milky Way from Markha valley, Ladakh, India
Another night trying to get the Milky Way, miles (or light years?) to go before I get favourable results


Black redstart (female), Ladakh, India
Black redstart (female) flaunting the catch before flying off to feed its offspring


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
A half hour hike up from Thochungtse and we got the first proper glimpse of Kang Yatse, KY 1 summit on the left


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
For some reason these corrugations had me fascinated, eons etched within these grooves


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
There be those meadows, and there be those cattle


Rufous-breasted accentor, Ladakh, India
Rufous-breasted accentor


Horned lark, Ladakh, India
Finally a horned lark after almost a week of being in Ladakh, was surprised not finding any thus far


Ladak pika, Markha valley, Ladakh, India
Ladak pika, those ever so demure eyes, luckily enough found one just after reaching the base camp before mild AMS took over then and had to put the camera away to avoid any undue exertion


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Base camp, a melee of colours, hopes and fears


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Moving towards advanced base camp, the criss-crossing streams seemingly running amok after finally escaping the hold of the glacier


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
The ablation zone of glaciers hanging from KY1 started a couple of hundred metres below the ABC as one started climbing a steep scree slope


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
The glacier between Kang Yatse and Dzo Jongo massifs looked quite nice, and a minefield if one were to traverse it


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Advanced base camp was on a narrow but rather decent ledge just before the snowline


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Technical climbing started a hundred or so metres above ABC, the ice harder than expected but with a clear sky, not too much of a travail


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
‘Twas only three odd hours from ABC to the summit camp, the last bit of flattish land before the final climb began


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
The summit ridge looked much more formidable than it had from the base camp, but still not as steep as it’d finally turn out to be when we hitched on to it at midnight


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
It’d been a challenging 3-4 hours negotiating the night, and the first light broke through just as we reached the summit


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
First light and its first joys


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
There was the summit, and there was its visual harvest


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
One just gazes at the pastels, forgetting about the descent just for a moment


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
There was one last violent burst of colour, and then we headed down, wary of being caught in this cold, beautiful trap


Himalayan marmot, Ladakh, India
Himalayan marmot, finally saw one on the way back from base camp after having heard its calls around base camp for a while


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Sans the kaleidoscope of base camp, the mountain once again looked quite sombre


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
The campsite at Nimaling would be one of the most picturesque on this trek, pity we didn’t camp here


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
From Nimaling to Kongmaru La was a gentle climb, the icy peaks slowly giving up their hold upon the landscape as the brown mountains took over again


Indian tortoiseshell butterfly, Ladakh, India
I always tend to find tortoiseshells on treks, and this one was no exception


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Kongmaru La had cellphone network, it was amusing seeing everyone revelling in the fact, and the efforts of the guides to coax their clients down


Expedition to Kang Yatse 1 peak, Ladakh, India
Descending from Kongmaru La, we got into a narrow gorge and simply followed the river down



Day 1: Arrival and acclimatization in Leh (~3,500 meters)

Day 2: Acclimatization in Leh (~3,500 meters)

Day 3: Leh (~3,500 meters) – Kaya village (~3,300 meters) – Skiu village (~3,400 meters) – 70 km drive (3 hrs), 2 km hike (1 hr)

Day 4: Skiu village (~3,400 meters) – Sara village (~3,570 metres), 13 kms, 4.5 hrs

Day 5: Sara village (~3,570 metres) – Camp at the outskirts of Markha village (~3,700 metres) – 6.5 kms, 2 hrs

Day 6: Camp at the outskirts of Markha village (~3,700 metres) – Umlung village – Lower Hankar village – Upper Hankar village – Thochungtse (~4,230 metres) – 20 kms, 7.5 hrs

Day 7: Thochungtse (~4,230 metres) – Kang Yatse 1/2 Base Camp (~5,050 metres) – 7 kms, 4 hrs

Day 8: Rest at Base Camp (~5,050 metres)

Day 9: Kang Yatse 1/2 Base Camp (~5,050 metres) – Kang Yatse 1 ABC (~5,620 metres) – Kang Yatse 1/2 Base Camp (~5,050 metres) – 6 kms, 5 hrs

Day 10: Kang Yatse 1/2 Base Camp (~5,050 metres) – Kang Yatse 1 ABC (~5,620 metres) – 3 kms, 3.5 hrs

Day 11: Kang Yatse 1 ABC (~5,620 metres) – Kang Yatse 1 Summit Camp (~5,940 metres) – 2 kms, 3 hrs

Day 12: Kang Yatse 1 Summit Camp (~5,940 metres) – Kang Yatse 1 Summit (~6,400 metres) – Kang Yatse 1 Summit Camp (~5,940 metres) – Kang Yatse 1 ABC (~5,620 metres) – Kang Yatse 1/2 Base Camp (~5,050 metres) – 10 kms, 13 hrs

Day 13: Kang Yatse 1/2 Base Camp (~5,050 metres) – Nimaling – Kongmaru La – Chogdo Village (~3,970 metres) – 15 kms, 7.5 hrs, drive back to Leh (40 kms, 2 hrs)


Fauna observed:

Birds: Tickell’s leaf warbler, Eurasian hoopoe, Red-fronted serin, Black redstart, Rufous-breasted accentor, Streaked rosefinch, Chukar partridge, Alpine chugh, Eurasian magpie, Snow pigeon, Horned lark

Butterflies: Large cabbage white, Dark clouded yellow, India tortoiseshell

Reptiles: Himalayan rock agama

Mammals: Himalayan blue sheep, Ladak pika, Himalayan marmot


Kang Yatse 1 peak expedition (~6,400 metres), Markha valley, Ladakh, August 2023

Author: Parth Joshi

Mountain lover ⛰️ | Hiker 🥾| Runner 🏃‍♂️ | Cyclist 🚴 | Photographer 📷... allured by the outdoors, the author is a quintessential lost soul craving nature while suffering in a desk job...


  1. Hello Parth Joshi, fellow traveler!

    Our wordpresses pingbacked a few months ago, on acct of our mutual love of Joyce’s “dream-forms”; I am glad I kept the email alert, so I could catch site of this rapturous adventure of yours.

    May all be well with you! And the mountains!!

    Kindly, from Texas,

    Iván Brave

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