Ladakh means "Land of the Passes" and it forms a cold desert in the Northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, divided into the mainly Muslim Kargil district and the primarily Buddhist Leh district. The people of Ladakh have a rich folklore, some of which has its roots in the animism that came from their close connection to nature.
Ladakh – Been There

Battling nature in the Himalayas

Photo by Timothy Allen

Ladakh – Been There Battling nature in the Himalayas

By the time we near the 5,600-meter Parang La Pass of Ladakh, my breath is coming in deep, drawn-out heaves and we are spread out over several kilometers, with mule and men finding their own pace.

Jeff Fuchs
Jeff Fuchs Explorer

We are all small figures on the ancient pathway and this smallness feels good, as though it is a sensation that belongs. Pace and consistency carry the day on these routes while adrenaline keeps clarity at razor sharp levels. Winds hit the body and face out of nowhere as I crest the last little bit of rust-colored rubble. Suddenly the mind forgets the lungs’ work and the sightline opens up to Parang La’s north-facing slope: an entire expanse of gaping white ice.

Wafts of snow blow into the sinus cavity and my molars feel the icy blasts that curl over the pass. Landscapes can temporarily paralyze thoughts at times, as though they have conspired with the senses to simply shut everything down with their impact.

Sadanand makes his way with the mules up to the summit. He finally dons a warm jacket over his hunched body and leans against the cairn of stones gathered by travellers for worship, a prayer of thanks to the gods for helping us this far. His feet are clad in woolen socks and an over-sized pair of Crocs. His lined features appear to have absorbed every ray of sun ever created.

Over this pass, mules, yak, and even sheep would struggle with their loads heading north as we do, or returning with their high mountain goods. Sheep were the favored transporter for hauling salt. “They are easy to feed, and a flock can haul huge loads,” says Sadanand. “And when the journey is done they could be eaten.”

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ladakh-zanskar-timothy-allen-010

The walk to boarding school in Leh during winter carries many hazards, such as this river crossings on a well-worn cable-car. This Chadar walk along the frozen Zanskar River is now popular with trekkers who come for the adventure, although recent warmer climate has reduced the season by two months and increased the risks of unstable ice and snow. Photo by Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen

Timothy Allen

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Aperture
ƒ/4.5
Exposure
1/3200
ISO
200
Focal
16 mm

The walk to boarding school in Leh during winter carries many hazards, such as this river crossings on a well-worn cable-car. This Chadar walk along the frozen Zanskar River is now popular with trekkers who come for the adventure, although recent warmer climate has reduced the season by two months and increased the risks of unstable ice and snow.

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