Three days on a 10-day trek across Karnak

Well, this was maybe my worst trek ever! I was planning to go on a quite tough and remote trek across the Karnak region to the south of Ladakh. Most of the 8 – 10 days of the trek are (well) over 4000 meters, so acclimatization could be the main problem – but I was already well acclimatised from Spiti, so I thought it should be fine. As long as there is not too much water (then some rivers would be hard to cross) or too little (then I wouldn’t have anything to drink).

I got off the Keylong – Leh bus on Friday the 25th near Pang where the trek begins. Of course the sign at which I should start wasn’t there, but I got off the bus somewhere reasonable, looked around for a while and decided to try to go a little further along the road, just to be sure. I hitched a ride very quickly and after some 5 kilometers saw a horsemen who told me that I was indeed originally at the right place for Pongmaru La, and so I caught another ride back, this time in the driver’s cabin of an army truck together with 5 Indian soldiers. It may sound surprising at first, but especially here in the mountains the soldiers are very friendly and helpful (and have no motivation whatsoever to try to cheat you).

So I walked on the wide, dry plains past the nomad settlement Narbu (now empty, but full of discarded shoes!) and then had to decide which pass exactly to take. Anwyay, as I was starting to climb, it went extremely badly, probably due to the combination of high altitude (~ 4300 m) and my heavy backpack. With all the food for 10 days and several liters of water, it had well over 20 kilos. That mostly decided the question of which pass to take, I went for one of the lower ones, traversing as much as possible so that I wouldn’t lose much elevation. Well, it was a lot longer, but eventually I ended up in some valley, which looked more or less right (but had no water), went down it until it finally joined the correct valley and finally found water and some other trekkers in the deserted Pogmar village.

The night (and my new tent and stove together with the illegally bought kerosene) was fine, although I had some weird dreams and sore throat (probably from the dry air). And so on Saturday I continued, first down the valley to Sangtha, another empty village with lots of mani walls and chortens. Crossing the river there was easy with water just till my knees. But after there the real fun started!

It was crossing of a very dry, almost desert landscape, some 4 hours walking slightly uphill. The sun was nicely shining, so it was very, very hot, and again walking uphill was a big pain. Plus again the dry air and since this is quite far in the south, the sun was shining almost perpendicularly, creating no shadow in which to rest. I had enough water to drink (but which was also adding to my heavy backpack, of course), but still it was extremely tiring and in the second half I had quite a trouble breathing. Well, at 4500 meters there is just a little over 50% of the oxygen that there should be, and I was breathing maybe at 50% of my capacity, which together was quite some problem.

And the region is not so remote anymore – they have already built a jeep road through some of it, and now it seems they are going to even pave it! And all that in a huge area where only the nomads live with their animals – they certainly have no use for roads like this! But at least I found some rest in a shade under a small road bridge.

Finally, before 4 in the afternoon I reached the village of Lungmoche (again empty in the summer), found water, built my tent and cooked some pasta. But I was very tired and thinking what to do next, whether to try to rest for a day, or to go back immediately, etc.

This got also decided for me: around 7 I heard some noise and saw a gasoline truck of the road builders, going down the road. I stopped them and managed to convince them to help me quickly pack and take me with them. So around 8 I built my tent again a little lower in Zara, where they were working on the road, just – as they told me – some 5 kilometers away from the big Manali – Leh road.

And so on Sunday I packed again (while a Nepali road builder curiously watched me), walked the 12 kilometers to the road, luckily avoided all the rain and thunder going around, and after some waiting caught a ride to Leh, the big center of Ladakh. So my whole famous trek was just 3 days, but still I walked some 40 kilometers at around 4500 m with a 20+ kilo backpack, which is maybe not so bad :)

Now I’ll just stay here for at least 5 days, rest and get well – and then maybe go on some easier hike with homestays, so that I don’t have to carry so much. But Leh is really super touristy, I even already met a bunch of Czechs. At least I found quite a nice guesthouse (Lardak) with a local family, which is not too over-priced (I’m paying 250 rupees per night, around 6 USD).

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One response to “Three days on a 10-day trek across Karnak

  1. Pingback: Photos from hikes | Víťův Blog

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