2011 Ladakh (2/2): Mountaineering in the Himalayas

Places Southeast Ladakh, India. Tsomoriri Lake
Time & length July 2011, 14 days
Partners Christian Bock, my sister Stefanie Gersch
Second part of my journey through the Indian Himalayas in July 2011. After we returned from our hike in West Ladakh we continued our way to the high-altitude Tsomoriri Lake and climbed Chamser Kangri (6600 m).

This video shows all four weeks of my time in Ladakh.

Look here for the first part of this journey.

In the morning of a day in mid-July I sat down at a table in one of Leh’s restaurants and waited for the breakfast together with my friend Christian and my sister Stefanie. We had just returned from a great hike in West Ladakh which really made us look forward to the next step. Our plan was to climb a mountain which was at least 6000 meters high – Ladakh has a few of those. The most famous ones are Kang Yatse and Stok Kangri: they are located close to Leh and not hard to climb. But we were looking for something more remote; a place where we probably wouldn’t see any other climbers on the way to the same summit.
After studying our maps and asking some locals we decided to go on another long bus ride to the area around Tsomoriri Lake. Many peaks tower over the Lake and our goal was to climb one of them: Chamser Kangri, 6600 meters. So far the highest mountain I had ever climbed was Mt. Kazbek (5035 m) in Georgia, so this would be a great leap forward.

Two days later at 5 o’clock in the morning we arrived at the bus station and this time we even got a seat. The way to a place called Mahe took seven hours; from there we had to hitchhike. Fortunately somebody needed to drive up the gravel road to Tsomoriri Lake and gave us a ride. An hour later we stopped at a nomads’ camp close to a small Lake because the driver wanted to buy some of the wool they produced up there, finally we reached the wide Tsomoriri Lake late in the day. The area up there was absolutely stunning!

Three days later we set our high camp at 6000 meters after hiking alongside the shore and then uphill towards Chamser Kangri. For me the high altitude was quite noticeable: usually I can easily gain 300 meters in height with a heavy backpack, now this cost me much more time and efforts. Nevertheless we were all in good condition and the unbelievable panorama always forced us to continue.
At 6000 meters we had snow and took a day off. Then Christian and I attempted to reach the summit for the first time: we started shortly before sunrise but later in the morning the weather didn’t let us continue. The peak was covered in clouds and it was much colder than expected. It was just 200 more meters of elevation gain but we decided to wait for a better day. So we turned around and actually relocated our high camp to a different place further down on another side of the mountain.

Then Christian and I tried again to conquer this mountain. My sister wasn’t really interested in climbing, by the way, she didn’t even bring crampons. So she stayed in the tent while we followed the glacier uphill towards the summit. It was quite steep and the last 200 meters were incredibly hard for me, mountaineering in this altitude isn’t easy at all. I wondered how all the great alpinists can climb these 8000 meters peaks in short periods of time – maybe I couldn’t do it.

Anyway, after some hours of climbing and pausing, climbing and pausing, climbing and pausing… we finally made it to the summit at 6600 meters: what a great feeling – and what an amazing view!

30 minutes later we started going back by following our tracks downhill and reached the tent shortly after sundown. We were all very happy about the successful climb as you can imagine. That night everybody had quite a good sleep.

Three days later we found ourselves back at the gravel road close to the lake. Along the way we found some interesting spots: tombs, abandoned settlements and other things – obviously we took our time to explore everything since we weren’t in a hurry.
Then we passed a nomads’ camp and hiked over to the other side of the lake to a village called Korzok where we spent two nights in a guesthouse. In the end we took a bus back to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, to relax for a few more days. Then I said goodbye to both of my partners: while I needed to catch a flight to Delhi, Christian and my sister Stefanie were staying in Ladakh for a few more weeks. So we took our farewells.

In Delhi I had just three days to explore the city. It was quite interesting I have to say – so different from the European and American cities I’d seen before. I visited a few sights, walked through crowded streets and met interesting people. Of course I got there during the monsoon, so Delhi was an unbelievably hot and humid place at that time. Another new experience for me. I must have eaten something wrong there because just a few days later, when I arrived in Alaska to continue my summer journey with some wilderness trekking in the very north, I got very sick. I guess that’s normal if you spend some time in a major city in India.

Anyway, while I’m writing this I’m getting a bit nostalgic actually – I had such a great time in Ladakh with Stefanie and Christian; two of the closest people for me. Hiking and climbing was good, everything worked our perfectly and the Himalayas have to offer some stunning landscapes indeed! I like the fact that hiking there is relatively easy: no thick brush, nice temperatures, great weather in the season… but then again it’s not that “wild” like the Alaskan backcountry for example. It’s good to see a bit of everything. With that in mind I headed towards the airport in order to get back to Germany and further to Anchorage on the very next day.

Click here to continue with the first part of my 10-weeks long Alaska trip.