Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Changtang Silence - June 2017

Changtang Peaks notes. 
There is something beyond what I have seen. I am in Delhi now after completing the 2017 Changtang Peaks Exploratory. It was a well rounded trip complete with cultural interaction with the Changpa nomads, a 6000 meter remote summit climb, an introduction to multi-pitch rock climbing (for those that were interested), and a downhill mountain bike trip from the 5300 meter Khardung pass.
Phuntsok, Kunsang, and Gomba trekking to base camp. We have worked together as a team continuously for four years now.

Approaching base camp with thunderstorm skies one afternoon.

Making Italian bruschetta with freshly made bread, yak cheese, olive oil, tomatoes, and sauteed garlic.

Peak objectives that still await for future seasons.

A snowy morning at base camp.

Pema and Gyatso. It is our second season working with them and their team of twelve horses. Sometimes we work with Ram Lal and Sanjay from Kullu.

The team celebrating with a glass of wine at the end of the expedition in our simple dining tent.

The horsemen stay in their own parachute tent. Here they are getting ready to walk towards the start of our next trek in the Stok range.

Beautiful mountains to the East of Lake Tsomoriri, with Changpa nomads camping with their flocks in the foreground. This is Peldo, one of our camps while on the Changtang Peaks Exploratory.

Loading up camp to head back to Leh. Here you can see our gear truck, the green tents that each trekker gets on our summer lightweight trips in Ladakh, and views of Lake Tsomoriri in the background.

Chris Trafford making friends with shepherds.

An introductory rock climbing day during one of the trip days.

Mountain biking from the Khardung La (5300m)

Our interim camp on the way to base camp.

I saw the following species during the trip:

Tibetan Sand Grouse
Citrine Wagtail
Common Tern
Common Raven
Ladakh Pika
Horned Lark
Plain-backed Snow finch
Black-headed Gull
Ruddy Shelduck
Bar headed Goose
Rock Pigeon
Wooly Hare
White crowned redstart
Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass)

Peldo, Tsomoriri, Ladakh | 4544m | 6:36PM |

The wind is kicking this afternoon. Yesterday, the Tibetan Buddhist monks that passed through our camp said the wind would persist for another ten days. I recall over the years in this same spot how the wind persisted in October. Most people visit Tsomoriri and the Changtang in July and August. We are early. There is more snow in the mountains, yet not too much. It is giving definition to the ridgelines, showing off the true climbing around this massive high altitude lake. I'm enjoying seeing Tsomoriri with such snows in this cold desert, this perhaps my tenth visit to the region.
       Today is purposeful. Acclimatization. My guests arrived three days ago to Leh, Ladakh at 3477 meters. They spent two nights there, trekking with Gomba Sherpa on their second day over a nearby pass to acclimatize. Next we drove here, a massive jump to 4544 meters. Everyone in the team feels fine, and this is the fourth trip we've run this way, always taking the textbook rest day after such a large gain in altitude. Today we spotted 8 bird species, including the rare Tibetan sand grouse and the Plain-backed snow finch. Being a climber and skier, I've learned to enjoy Himalayan expeditions because of their variety.
One day I'm viewing rare bird species, the next we're boulder hopping up a perennial stream to base camp, and then we're climbing unclimbed faces, seeking out new experiences, yet everyday just high quality in a pristine environment.
Tomorrow we'll walk into the Lublung river valley, closer to climbing objectives and have higher ground. :/:

Lublung Nala Camp, Tsomoriri, Ladakh | 5272m | 4:33pm

Underpromise, Overdeliver. Chris Trafford says today. Storm clouds pass by overhead, some threatening to drop rain and snow on us, yet it remains dry here in camp. The Lublung creek we are next to was dry until about half a kilometer below us. If you haven't been here before, it gets you thinking. 14kms from our lake camp in Peldo to here. Locals pronounce Peldo (Beldo). It's early summer here, there are many nomad camps around, white canvas with blue trim and the classic brown yak hair tents stretched between poplar poles worn smooth from the years of movement, of storms, of the hands of work.
     The winter snows are starting to melt during the warming days, yet it still isn't full summer here on the high plateau. Two days prior I noticed the monsoon has arrived to Rishikesh, an Instagram photo posted by a friend.

15 kilometers
4 hours 26 minutes of walking
6 hours of travel 

Lublung Nala Base Camp, Tsomoriri, Ladakh | 5592m | 5:41pm

The snow showers come and go, in pulses throughout an otherwise mild day. Yesterday, we acclimatized at a lower camp, and shifted up here today, 1046 feet higher. The weather continues to appear unstable, yet tomorrow morning we will start at 4 am, for a nearby 6000 meter summit. Everyone feels healthy, and some of us will climb to 6000 meters for the first time in their life tomorrow. That's exciting.

Lublung Nala Base Camp, Tsomoriri, Ladakh | 5592m | 6:03pm

We all reached a 6200m Himalayan summit this morning.  Guests say it was fulfilling. Gomba, Chris, and Chuck climbed together on a large ridge. Will wasn't feeling well last night so we planned a rest day today. He woke up feeling strong and we went for a walk into a nearby cirque to scout new climbing routes. Halfway up the valley, with clouds covering the peaks we'd planned to scout, I asked him, "what do you want to do today Will?" There was a clear route straight to the summit of the peak the others were already climbing. I gave that option, and he was up for it. We began climbing, reaching the group an hour later. We all summited together in brilliant sunshine, descending to camp for lunch. Evening, we'll shift our base camp tomorrow, and climb another 6000 meter peak in the coming days. Snow showers and marginal weather continue.

There is something heavily comforting to all in the room. No one had much to eat for  dinner tonight, and silence is our moniker. Yet I can tell that something is in the air. And everyone seems ready for sleep.

We are down from the high mountains. A monk came by, asking for the fee to sleep on his monasteries land. We paid it politely, opening a bottle of South Australian Cabernet to share amongst ourselves. We are nine, two horsemen, Phuntsok, Gomba, and Kunsang.

Back to Leh, we have gone multi-pitch rock climbing and downhill mountain biking the past two days. A great trip. We will return to this region in 2018.