Descending from the High Pass, Chomotang, Ladakh
7 September 2018
We break camp and climb to an unnamed pass. The views are obscured by low cloud and mist, occasional hail and freezing drizzle, but the climb is easy and prayer flags loom out of the cloud to reveal the rounded pass.
We add prayer flags and look for a descent. The pony man is confident although I can't see any sign of the valley where we're supposed to be heading. He heads off leading the horses and we drop steeply down to... a dead end. The hillside falls away vertiginously and after half an hour of looking for a path down we turn around and climb back up to the pass.
Stanzin knows the way and takes charge. We take a long sloping descent that weaves its way down the hillside to the Shillakong stream which we'll follow for the next two days.
Chomotang - Getting High in Ladakh
6 September 2018
OK - a corny title but this this was the highest altitude we’ve been to in our eight trips to Ladakh.
We climbed up from the stony river beds and had our first views of the snow capped hills leading south towards the Chomotang peaks. We camped for two nights on a small plateau at about 5500m. Freezing cold at night with cold air pouring down from the glaciers - I was wearing 8 layers.
In the morning we rode the horses to climb quickly out of camp before walking along a series of ridges for spectacular views of the Chomotangs.
Looking back there are endless ridges of mountains and our camp below.
Ahead of us are the higher snow covered mountains and glaciers of the Chomotangs. The Chomotangs are a cluster of glaciers and several permanently snow covered peaks around 6000m. The glaciers are retreating. Stanzin has been here several times, on our first trek near here in 2008 he'd just returned from climbing Chomotang 1 and he shows us where the glacier used to be. The scale of the retreat in just 10 years is alarming.
As the afternoon progressed, the weather to the north deteriorated with snow and rain swirling around, visibility dramatically changing second by second.
A beautiful white landscape and a small Buddha statue we brought to mark our high point at about 5700m. Going further would involve descending to the glacier and camping there before climbing higher. Time to to turn back. The skies darkened as we started our descent but the hail held off until the moment we reached camp. Our guides Stanzin and Tashi wait for us at the end of the ridge before the steeper drop down to camp.