Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leh (3500m) to Khardung La (5359m) - bike race

I am Polish, and last years I was living in Dresden. In both of those places the floods happened. More over all my knees doctors were saying that biking is the best sport for me. I guess those two reason convince me to participate in the FIRST ever bike race from Leh to the highest motorable pass - Khardung La. The way is 39 km and constantly is ascending for almost 2000m. The race was organize in order to help the flood victims.

So I decided to joined.

Start line.
My own aim was to get to the pass on the bike, no matter how long this would take. The day before I manage to find big enough bike for me - which I named Khar (from the place that we were suppose to go together). It was not spectacular bike, but the lower gears worked properly, and it had working V-breaks. On Sunday 7-o'clock in the morning 32 participants gather (both locals and tourists). Apparently I was the only participant from Poland. There was quite a bit of media coverage of our race, there were three different film craws.

Before 8 o'clock we started. The first 20 km were surprisingly easy. I was going with my own speed and did not have to stop for the breathing breaks. There was not many cars on the road, but soon I realize that i do not really see anyone in front of me or behind me.

On my way up.
Every 10 km there were people standing and were providing some basic refreshment. It was really organize like a race!!! Than the tiredness kicked in a bit and after 25th km the quality of the road decreased, there was no more asphalt, but predominantly sand and stones, more over the road got a bit more steeper. But the most tiring were the last 10 km. The road got really bad, I was getting really tired and the concentration of the oxygen in the air dropped a lot. The closest to the end, the most often I had to make some breathing breaks. And finally there was the end, together with my Khar we manage to climb to Khardung La.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Stok Kangri (elevation 6137m)

, For two days I was searching for people to join the amateur Stok Kangri expedition. And the second day indeed I managed to find in the internet cafe Marcin and Wojtek who were also considering to climb Stok Kangri. Together we gathered the necessary equipment (tent, food, water purification tablets, crampons, ice axes) and information. It was supposed to be an relatively easy summit, but due to heavy recent rain/snowfalls it could have been more challenging than usual.

We departure to the village Stok, we got the permit for this peak, and started to climb slowly to the base-camp. Most of the other tourist rent donkeys or horses, but we decided to be tough and to do it in Polish way and we carried all the gear in our rucksacks. We reached the base-camp (at 5000m) and we still decided to spend two more days for acclimatization. During this time I got the most sever diarrhea in India till now.

Half past midnight at 22nd of August (still with diarrhea) we decided that the weather was good enough to get to the summit and we started our trip.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to the mounties

The weather condition in Ladakh is much better now, so we decided to go back to the mountains. In guess I will be back in 5-7 days back in Leh.

Unfortunately my mobile decided to take different traveling route than I, so we kind of split. It is a bit of pity, but on the other hand there was no network coverage for my mobile network in North India.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Floods in Ladakh

In the night of 5th-6th August heavy floods and mood avalanches hit Leh and neighborhood villages cousins the death of around 400 local people and several tourists. One part of the city was completely washed away.

That night there were very heavy rainfalls. It usually does not rain in this region, that night the monsoon manage to get over High Himalayas and withing one hour there was more rain.... than the half YEARLY rainfall in this region. The soil is not used to absorb those amounts of water, so there were massive land slides and mood-stone avalanches in the region. Whole province was disconnected from the world. The huge mood-stone avalanche destroyed the airport and nine bridges were broken off on the only two roads leading from the region (in direction of Kashmir and in direction of Manali). It took five days for army to clean up the airport and then most of the tourist flew away as fast as possible. It took around two weeks to repair the first road connection to Kashmir and the road to Manali is still not repaired.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Under the bridge

Beginning of the trek.

For our trek in Ladakh we have chosen to go to Markha Valley. We were four (me, Wojtek, Olga and Asia) and decided to rent a tent for three people which was big enough for four people and was also very light. It was a low quality tent, but the price was also very low and in Ladakh it never rains, so it should have been fine. We also organized some food.

Unfortunately after the first one and a half day of trek Asia got sick (stomach problems) and we decided to split for few next days. Wojtek and Asia chosen to do shorter track with home-stays on the way, and me and Olga wanted to complete Markha Valley trek for which we needed the tent.

The second night of the trek, on the 4000 meters altitude.... it started to rain and of course our tent started to leak. We managed to survive it till the sunrise without getting our feather sleeping bags wet.

GandaLa (4950m) my first high pass.
In the morning we departure for our first ever high pass GandaLa (4950 meters). The weather cleared out. The last 500 meters before the pass were very difficult. I needed many breathing breaks on the way, but we reached it and enjoyed beautiful views. Then we went down through beautiful valley crossing one river at least twelve times. We reached Skiu for the night, set up our tent hoping that it would not rain that night. Unfortunately that night it was raining even more than the last one.

Crossing the river after
In the morning we started walking
to Markha but on the way few people discouraged us from this idea. There was a need to cross the Markha river without the bridge, but the level of the water raised so much that it was currently impossible. We did not wanted to wait for unknown number of days for the water level to drop, so we retracted and we decided to go back other way to Chiling. On the way to Chiling we needed to cross much bigger river - Zanskar river, but there was a toll bridge there. I did not really now before what is a toll bridge.

Toll Bridge over Zanskar.
Basically there is a metal rope connecting two sides of the river and below there is a small wooden basket in which one have to go. In order to get to the other side you have to pull the rope, or alternatively the rope is pulled by someone on the other side of the river. Sounds easy... but it is not so easy, at least not in the windy and a bit stormy conditions that we experienced. We were on the side of the river where there was no one. After few minutes of waiting and waiving we were spotted and two men released the wooden basket from the other side. I helped Olga to get to the basket together with her rucksack and she safely arrived to the other side. Now it was my turn.

Furious Zanskar.
The wind was getting stronger and I had to get to the basket. There was no one to help me on this side of the river, I was holding basket with one hand and the metal wire with the other, but I did not know how to jump to this basket without risking falling to the river. It took me quite a few extremely long minutes to find out a way, and finally I managed to get inside getting only one small injury to my fingernail (i did not manage to remove my hand on time from the metal wire). But I was safely in the basket which was going on to the other side, and suddenly it STOPPED!!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Leh - deep in Indian Himalayas

For the last three days we are already in Leh (Ladakh) adapting to high altitude (3500 m). Today we visited few breathtaking Buddhists monasteries. In one of them four monks were working on beautiful Mandala for three days already. When they complete it, they will destroy it.