Nezer Stupa and Storm Clouds, Leh | Photos Ladakh
A photo of the Nezer stupa and gathering storm clouds in the Leh valley before the cloudburst in 2010, Ladakh.
In 2010 we spent the first days in Leh acclimatising to the altitude (3500metres) and walked up the picturesque Leh valley to the the Nezer Stupa at the head of the valley. The mountains to the north – our intended trekking route – were the scene of unusually dramatic and turbulent weather and the sky grew blacker.
The mountains to the south of Ladakh used to act as a bulwark against the monsoon but in recent years the rains have crept over bringing more unstable weather.
Fascinated, we didn’t want to leave but the temperature plummeted and pressure started to roll down the hills towards us, followed by heavy drops of rain. We ran back towards town, everyone was on the move. Lower down the valley is a hill with a Japanese Shanti Stupa and people and cars were heading there for the high ground.
We made it back to the lane near our hotel in Changspa where people were building flood defences. The Changspa stream was a torrent of trees and boulders and we didn’t know if the bridge would hold. It did, but downstream there were mudslides above downtown Leh and Choglomsar, the Tibetan colony.
The mountains of Ladakh are a mix of hard rock and dried mud with embedded rocks. When the dried mud becomes saturated with water it turns to liquid and rolls down the hillside with all the loosened boulders. Which is what happened after the cloudburst - mud poured down the hillsides and through doors and windows filling buildings to over a metre.
We spent the first week digging mud out of schools, houses and hospitals. After a few days the water seeps away and the mud and rock solidify again – inside your house – and can’t be moved.
Leh was cut off for a few days - bridges, communications. The Indus river runs through Leh valley, further downstream over 20 million people in Pakistan bore the full force of the 2010 monsoon.
A guide to approx sizes
A3: paper size 42x29.7cm, image size 40x28cm
A2: paper size 59.4x42cm, image size 57x40cm
70x50cm paper size, image size 68x48cm
Photo by Silk Road Gallery director Peter Bennion, 2012.