Singi La

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

One of the greatest dangers in adventure is going too high too fast. This is not the walking up a short hill too fast, but the ascending to altitude too quickly. One of these can leave a person short of breath. The other will most certainly kill you. And, it can kill you in two ways. It is possible, if you ascend too quickly for your mind to leak. A leak, which has nowhere to drip, slowly the fluid then builds up in your skull. The pressure increases. A headache begins. Your feet fail to function. Your tongue looses it's will. The second form of this lurking altitude danger attacks the lungs. They leak, filling with fluid until there is no room for oxygen. Both forms lead certainly to death. Not a quick, ‘before you know it death', but an ‘Iamgoingtodiecananybodypleasehelpme' death. I have witnessed people die from cerebral edema and pulmonary edema.

One of India 's best provinces for adventure is Zanskar. The area generally south of Leh holds magnificent rivers and glistening mountains. The difficulty of entering the area is the great increase in altitude necessary to reach Leh from Delhi . To drive to Leh on the Manali highway is seasonal and tedious. Buses make the journey, yet the ride is long, dusty, and bumpy. One can fly to Leh from Delhi in a few short hours, but then there is the danger. To fly to Leh is to invite sickness and maybe even death. Even the bus ascends so swiftly that in a given season there are a number of passengers who die. Is there a safe way to reach Leh?

As they say, timing in life is everything. It is possible to walk to Leh using an ancient trade route. It is a very long trek and a participant would want to be in the best shape in order to walk six hours every day for three weeks! The track departs the Manali highway just north of the monastery of Keylong. A trekker would travel over eight passes before reaching Leh. The highest pass is Singi La at 5,060 meters. It is also the first pass to cross. A trekker passes through five high mountain valley's including the Tsarapchu and Markha. The portion between Taktak Gompa and the Markha valley is the most spectacular. Here you would pass near peaks over 6500 meters in height. Along the way are monasteries, high mountain villages, mani walls, pastures, fields, and friendly, smiling people. More than once the mountain walker is forced to wade icy rivers in order to continue. This route will take more days to get to Leh than the other two options. You will also be feeling quite fit, though tired, upon walking into Leh.

There are very few treks I would do more than once. The walking route to Leh is one of them. I hope each of you has the opportunity to try this trip. If you do take the time, well, take your time. Cheers.

( Photograph of Town in Leh by Thomas Chacko)

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