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bedellympian

[TR] Indian Himalayas (Thailand too) - multiple 07/15/2019

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Trip: Indian Himalayas (Thailand too) - multiple

Trip Date: 07/15/2019

Trip Report:

 

My wife and I spent 2 months in Asia (1 mo India, 1 mo Thailand and Cambodia) this summer. Most of the trip was non-climbing, but we did get to do some cragging and got into the Zanskar region of the Hiumalaya for what I termed a "mini-exped." We learned quite a lot about logistics and have some insights for how to do this sort of thing on the cheap (not the rep of the Himalaya I know) which I thought I'd share here for others interested in getting out/up.

 

Transport is the biggest logistical difficulty I'll mention here. Getting you and your gear to a "trailhead" or basecamp is the most difficult. If you want this part of the trip organized for you, figure out where you want to go and then contact Rimo Expeditions, these guys are by far the most experienced and dialed exped support company for Indian side of the Karakorum, Ladakh, and just about anything in the Indian Himalayas (Zanskar, Kishtwar, etc.). This will be expensive but still relatively cheap compared to the US for what actually needs to happen in terms of vehicles and people doing what you want on really f**ked up roads. If you want to avoid this, you can still go full dirt bag but it will require some discomfort on your part, a minimal kit, and lots of patience. There are several forms of transport in this area, all work, some are way better than others for your given objective.

If you are truly light-weight you can rent/buy a Royal Enfield motorcycle and load up (you could even go KD-in-Kyrgyzstan style and ride a bicycle). This requires that you are very comfortable driving in some seriously narrow, rough roads with traffic.  If you think that crappy dirt roads in the western US conditioned you for this... think again (its truly next level in terms of rugged, poo-yer-pants driving).

The next level is to rent a "taxi" (jeep). This will be expensive but very convenient as you can have the guy drop you where you want. Expect about $100 per day which will get you sometimes as little as 100 miles of road travel.

You can also get a shared jeep where you pay for your seat but this will only get you to near the area you are trying to go and your bags have to fit in the roof rack and share space with other travelers. We did this on the way out to our objective, got dropped at a tent-stay place by a village, then organized a private jeep (very beat up) with a local to get us and our two porters to the actual start of hiking. The problem with this and having a flexible itinerary was arranging pickup (sat phones are banned by India in this region due to fear of terrorist organization.

Buses are quite cheap, bags are an issue if you are going heavy. They are also slower than taxis and can be rare to non-existent in remote areas.

Hitch-hiking is possible, but most people will expect you to pay them something. My wife and I were able to hitch-hike on Tata trucks (India's semi-trucks) driven by some friendly Kashmiris to get back to the town of Kargil. This was a an extremely LONG but enjoyable and interesting way to travel (no issues with the amount of bags if you don't mind them getting very dusty/muddy/wet.

The next issue is food. There are grocery stores (not what you're used to) in major towns (Leh, Kargil, Manali). Finding dry goods is hard. We went with quite a bit of canned goods knowing that our approach from road to basecamp was short (3-4 miles) and we would have a porter or two to help us carry stuff. You can easily buy lots of ramen packets and also poha (rolled potato flakes that can be cooked like instant rice). You can get some bars, instant oat meal. Peanut butter can be found but is expensive and will taste more like thai peanut sauce than PB we have here. Dried fruit, nuts and candy bars are easy to get.

Bringing gear from the US is tough with the standard array of airport "security" (read bureaucracy) BS you will encounter. Groups like Rimo can provide you with high quality camping stuff (pads, tents, cook stoves, etc.). If you are renting it can be good in both price and quality, just make sure to reserve early in the year for a company like Rimo and check the items carefully before taking them out in the field. I would plan to bring your own climbing gear, sleeping bag, and light tent or bivy sacks if you are planning to sleep on route. All other camping equipment you can get in Leh, probably Manali, Kargil you'll probably be out.

Here's our itinerary, then I'll tell you what I would change if I went back with a climbing focus...

Flew to Delhi, train to Chandigarh, private taxi to Manali (6500')

5 days in Manali with day hikes to 8000' and 11k'

Two day Himachal Tourism bus to Leh (day 1 go over 13500' pass, sleep at 10k', go over multiple passes 3x 15k' 1x 17k', arrive in Leh 12.5k')

Spend 6 days in Leh with easy walks, buy food, get rental gear, research and finalize objectives.

Bus to Kargil (11k'), spend night, shared taxi to Rangdum (14k'), spend the night, private jeep and hike to foot of glacier at 15k'.

5 nights sleeping at foot of glacier (15k')

day 1 navigate toe of glacier and dial in approach route, day 2 go up ridge next to glacier to 17k' (shut down by knife edge of stacked blocks), day 3 rest (boulder around camp), day 4 go up different ridge to 19k' (shut down by overhanging rock band), day 5 hike out

If my goal was to climb in the same area, or other areas North of the Himalaya crest in summer I would change it up and do the following...

Acclimatize before hand on mountains in the US and fly straight to Leh at 12k' plus (book Delhi to Leh separately with a discount airline as it will be way cheaper). Gear up and buy food in Leh.

If it were me, I'd go pretty light and ideally have 4+ people who I was going climbing with. This way you can hire a taxi/jeep at a reasonable cost per person to get you and your stuff to your area (jeeps can fit 7 passengers with limited room for bags in the back and a roof rack).

If you need a couple porters you can probably just find them the week of if in Zanskar and most other areas of Ladakh, but be specific about what you want (lots of people speak just enough English that you think they understand) and use lots of pictures (most villages will hav no electricity or internet so be prepared). If in the Karakorum the proximity of the border means that the army will over pay porters and it will be difficult to find people, pack animals may be the way to go for getting to the glacial travel part. If in doubt I'd hire Rimo for logistics.

Other thoughts...

-snow can be really soft and slushy, look for hard freezes and plan to travel during those times

-sunny aspects can actually be more consolidated on steep slopes

-everything is bigger and takes more time than you think, especially figuring out approaches through glaciers, rivers, scree, etc.

Feel free to message me with Qs.

 

Here are some sweet pictures for your viewing pleasure (apologies for the crap iphone pics)...

"trail head"

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approach to BC

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bouldering at BC

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views from a ridge

IMG_6255.thumb.jpg.0d4f0f5036f2b8b5a66181776f4d719f.jpg

IMG_6254.thumb.jpg.6e26a672218119969679480b4732a868.jpg

less ideal views from another ridge

IMG_6270.thumb.jpg.3e0641340abe081bbfba455c09aebca8.jpg

IMG_6278.thumb.jpg.ec74343367d2b80d18ebc616448662cf.jpg

bailure time

IMG_6285.thumb.jpg.bc8d05be02d4c6a980dbe0de20298cad.jpg

make-shift gaiters

IMG_6297.thumb.jpg.cf090573572a94eac689aae1f4763c70.jpg

hitch hiking w/ our homies #freekashmir #modiisafascist

IMG_6388.thumb.jpg.1f17a036863da5048fac26fd3ca3b06f.jpg

luxury hotels

IMG_6402.thumb.jpg.eb264838809896bc179076b584b0eb15.jpg

(slobber slobber) and NO, I won't tell you where this is

IMG_3090.thumb.jpeg.63a0c3b62f92a4c421b12b7812e47d08.jpeg

Summary: It's cheap, the peeps are nice, place is easier to deal w/ than you probably think... go get it!

P.S. Thailand is fun too...

 

5d6965bd71c4c_IMG_76572.thumb.jpg.f63e517fbd4a029acbebfedbf754de1b.jpgIMG_7780.thumb.jpg.2f698a99151eaa3939901ce977ce2c43.jpg

Gear Notes:
rented tent/pads/sleeping bags/stove bought with: light axe and pons

Approach Notes:
fly, train, bus, taxi, jeep, walk

 

 

 

Edited by bedellympian
  • Rawk on! 1

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Looks like a trip you'll savor for a long time. And you timed it just about perfect, given the recent developments (although, Leh should not see much of the turmoil). Thanks much for sharing! Brought back memories from more than a decade ago...

Second the advice to fly in to Leh (but take enough time to acclimatize there before going any higher). IIRC, flights from Delhi are available year round. Tons of big, steep, and many not so steep, hills to keep one busy for many years!

 

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On 9/3/2019 at 10:31 AM, pup_on_the_mountain said:

Looks like a trip you'll savor for a long time. And you timed it just about perfect, given the recent developments (although, Leh should not see much of the turmoil)

 

Hey Pup I live here in N India and I agree that Leh should not see much if any disruption. There is so much climbing in there and so little red tape. For truly budget option one can take a bus 10 hrs from Manali and walk into the Zanskar from Darcha, no questions asked.

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