Ladakh: Kanji to Hanupatta over the Yogma La
After lunch we say goodbye to the golden fields and harvesting villagers of Kanji. In 2012 we walked in the opposite direction and I anticipate an easy two hour stroll through a gorge and across pasture with meandering streams to an idyllic campsite among stone walls.
False memory! The walk takes several hours and a cold wind takes the pleasure; the walk seems long and uninteresting even though the landscape is getting more dramatic. A late afternoon river crossing adds some interest and is easier than it first appears. Nonetheless I'm pleased to reach camp, our long slog over the Timti La two days ago has caught up with me.
We wake to a cold morning with low cloud that lingers all day. The path is good and rises to a series of shoulders that take us to the 4700m Yogma La from where we can see ahead to the next pass the, Nigutse La.
One of the pony men writes a message on the prayer flags that we string across the pass. He's quite a devout man, often at camp we see him carving small pieces of stone or bone into amulets with images of the Buddha or the words Om Mani Padme Hum. He has a new pony which walks alongside it's mother, one of the two white horses he's brought with him
From the Yogma La we descend towards the head of the Shillakong River, the route takes around innumerable shoulders. The crew have gone ahead and set up camp on the far side of the valley at a place we camped near a shepherd's summer camp five years ago. This time we can see no sign of the shepherd's camp but there are good views down the Shillakong valley and across to the hills that are the backdrop to the accent of the Nigutse La.
Two young marmots have emerged from their burrows and are playing just below our boulder strewn camp above the Shillakong. Perfect entertainment at the end of a tiring day.
We awake to low cloud, even the crew put on waterproofs. Bev leads the way from camp. We skirt the hillsides and descend towards the next valley that will lead to the Nigutse La. The weather settles in with persistent rain, the cloud is getting lower as we ascend, occasional breaks reveal stunning views of the mountains and valleys.
The pass is lost in cloud and we decide to break the day early with an extra base camp and hope for better weather tomorrow. No sooner have we pitched camp than the sky clears revealing fresh snow on the pass.
Tomorrow: the Nigutse La and Hanupatta.