On the right trek

Gopesh Malhotra recounts the unforgettable journey to the Kibber gorge

The ascent to the Kibber gorge, braving high-velocity winds, is a test of endurance
The ascent to the Kibber gorge, braving high-velocity winds, is a test of endurance

The view from the Prangla pass, at a height of 18,400 ft, is magnificent
The view from the Prangla pass, at a height of 18,400 ft, is magnificent

IT was early June when the phone rang and our group leader from Solan informed me that we were heading for the Himalayas. My friends Rajiv and Manoj and I have been regular trekkers for the past six years.

The next morning, we set off for Kaza. The road was rough but the hospitality extended by the district administration at Kaza (3600 m) rejuvenated us. The next evening, we were at Kibber, the highest motorable village in Asia, saddled at 4436 metres amid an overcast sky. Here we were joined by our guides Tshering and Dorjee, who were our companions for the next seven days.

From here we took our rucksacks, and set off into the wilderness of the Kibber gorge. The steep descent and ascent on the first day made us realise that the trek would not be a cakewalk.

The weather was no help either it began to rain. Trudging through slush and bushes, we reached camp I Thaltak (4560 m) drenched and cold. Braving high velocity winds we pitched the tent. The weather was unrelenting till late that night but the next morning it was bright. A layer of fresh snow could be seen on the higher slopes.

The day started with another steep descent into the gorge followed by a 70 degree ascent that took us to Prangla base (5000 m) by late afternoon. Camp 2 was pitched amid rocks and boulders. Hot soup and noodles were invigorating.

By 10.15am, the next day we reached Prangla at 18,400 ft. Multicoloured prayer flags greeted us atop the pass. The view on the other side was magnificent with a vast expanse of snow. It took us two hours to reach Para Chu river. By the evening, we were at camp III (Kharsa Khoma 4800 m), where the broad river basin was surrounded by peaks.

A sun-washed cold desert awaited us the next morning. It was a long day along the U-shaped valley. We reached camp IV (Khapa Buzuai 4600 m) at 4.30 p.m.

Our next camp was Norbu Sumdo (4300 m) where the landscape changed from dry stretches to green marshes.

We left the camp at 8.30 the next morning and in about an hour and a half the Tso Moriri lake came into view. With snow-capped ranges overlooking its 65 km circumference, Tso Moriri looked magnificent. Some white pelicans were floating. The water was brackish so we could not drink it. However, an altogether different experience was awaiting us. A pack of wolves was basking in the sun.

Initially we mistook them for shepherd dogs till one of them, trotted towars us, stopping just 300 m away. However, we were lucky that it did not show more interest in us and went back to the pack. Full moon at night by the lakeside made us forget our perils. The lake remained with us throughout the final day’s trek. We met an army patrol and some Swiss trekkers en route Korzok (4959 m), the terminal point of the expedition. The lake ends here and so does the road from Leh from the other side.