"…that this was pleasingly beautiful, while the other was sublimely grand" -Meriwether Lewis, June 14, 1805
Trekking from Rumtse to Tso Moriri along the arid Zanskar Range
I met a Dutch man in Leh who’s eyes lit up when he learned I was going on the Rumstre to Tso Moriri trek in a few days. Pulling brightly worded examples from his dutch language trekking guide that included elevation charts and descriptions, he’d clearly have come along but for 6 passes more than 17,000 feet high. Recovery would be limited over the eight days, the lowest elevations more than 14,000 feet. He was worried he’d die out there. But what a place to die, he offered. I suggested that he ride a pony. He demurred. We shared a good laugh that I should be on the watch
for a particular duck and a particular goose as well as the yaks and nomads. I asked the outfitter about a pony the next day; Of course, he can ride the pony up the passes. But he opted not to anyway.
Day 1: Rumtse->Kyamar 4-5 hours. After clearing passport checks at Upshi, we reach Rumtse after a long, kerosene addled ride with the windows helplessly down.
Day 2: Kyamar -> Tzaling 6-7 hours, camping at 4,800 meters. First pass, Kumur La (5150) then giving up elevation down to 4,900 before second pass, Mandalchan La (5250) before making high altitude camp less than 500 meters lower.
Day 3: Tzaling -> Pangunagu/Tsokar 4.5-5.5 hours, first climbing then descending Shinbuk La (5300) for Tso Kar, a high altitude lake at 4500 meters and home to barred geese.
Day 4: Tsokar/Panguago -> Nuru-chan +-4 hours. A long flat walk around Tso Kar while the lake never seems to fall from a backward glance until the last of the day. Camp along a river in lush green grass.
Day 5: Nuru-chan -> Rachung Karu 3-4 hours. Another flat day to Rachung Karu, a nomad seasonal home with several round earth dug yurts, the smoke of burning yak dung billowing from a center pipe. I accept some dried yak cheese offered from the pockets of two curious women, and share a eucalyptus cough drop in return.
Day 6: Rachung Karu -> Gyama Barma (or Gyama Loma) 5-6 hours. Kyamayuri La (5425) and Kostse La (5400), descending only to 5150 to make camp. Snowy ice falls around dinner time just as we were playing, stomping through and across a wide boggy stream. Very cold for a three season tent, we slept in much of our clothes (Bags may have lost some utility in storage, or older down, or simply not rated for such a late season trek.
Day 7: Gyama Barma (or Gyama Loma) -> Tsomoriri 5-6 hours. Brilliant view of the snow capped far shore of Tso Moriri cresting Yalung Nyau La (5450). The run out to the lake is a haul!