Ladakh Expedition 2015

For the 2015 adventure we went back to good old fashion expeditioning; a very remote valley with an attempt to summit not one but two peaks at around 6000m. Solihull School have been to Ladakh before but never to the region north of Leh (the area capital) as it has been a closed area. We arrived in Leh (having flown via Delhi) and were surprised by the way it felt like a mini Tibet and not India. You have to spend a couple of days in the town to acclimatise to the altitude before moving on upwards. For us, that meant travelling over the 18380ft Khardungla Pass, the highest road in the world. To get to that height the road went around forty switchbacks. The views of the Himalayas were spectacular. This put us into the remote Nubra Valley, a high altitude desert full of sand dunes and camels, with the occasional green oasis containing a village. One of these was Hundar, our starting point for the trek. 

To make sure everyone would be acclimatised for the ascent of the peaks we took a week to trek up the Hundar Valley, only walking for about three to four hours per day. Resting is such an important part of the process as the consequences of altitude sickness can be devastating to the group. We used the time to also practise using ice axes, wearing plastic boots and crampons whilst walking, roped up, in groups of four with a high altitude guide leading each rope. Nothing was going to be left to chance!

Our first peak was Samygal II, an alpine looking mountain covered in snow and ice, which needed to be attempted early in the morning before the snow became soft. This meant leaving our base camp (5200m) at 4am using head torches to light the way. Moving through snow at this altitude is slow going especially when the group is thirty five strong. Also fitness is only half of the battle as you have to be mentally strong to overcome the fatigue that builds up in every part of your body. By 9am the first of our roped groups arrived at the summit at an altitude of 5910m.  The feeling of conquering a peak like this is overwhelming and none of us wanted to make the long journey back down. In all, twenty nine of the group reached the summit.

We spent the rest of the day and most of the next day sleeping before sixteen left at 1am to climb Dawa Peak (5960m). This had a more challenging route along a moraine ridge, then a glacier before ascending the final steep snow field. All sixteen made it, a first for the school as we have never climbed two peaks on one expedition.  

After a day’s rest, we started on the south bound trek out of the valley which involved another five days walking, going over the Lasermo La Pass at 5400m. So far this summer, no group had made it over the pass due to the late snow fall. We all kept our fingers crossed as otherwise it would have meant a 50km walk out the way we had come. It was a great feeling to be the first group to make it over.

Everyone enjoyed the next day in Leh, eating all the foods they had been craving whilst on the 14 day adventure and relishing having a bed to sleep in. Our final phase of the trip involved a fifteen and eight hour drive out over the Himalayas to reach Manali, a backpacker’s paradise. The road was mainly a dirt track and went over the second and third highest drivable passes in the world; I think the whole group were pleased not to be walking over them!

A trip to India cannot be complete without spending time seeing the highlights of Delhi such as the Red Fort, and catching the train to Agra where many photos were taken of the Taj Mahal - a fitting way to finish our four week adventure.