In 2014, while on a backpacking trip to Bhutan, I happened to meet a group of trekkers. After this encounter, the idea of trekking struck me and since then there was no looking back. I went on various high altitude treks , completed my BMC couse from HMI and also did a wilderness course from NOLS. In 2016, while I was working as an freelancer for an adventure company, the idea of hiking from Manali to Leh struck me.
Due to my job and other busy schedules, my Manali to Leh hiking bucket list didn’t happen for almost one year. Last May, I quit the job and was at home. At that time, I got a call from my friend Shiben Roy, with a proposal – a Ladakh hiking; a walk from Manali to Leh! I agreed to it at once since it was already on my bucket list.
The 1st day is always difficult. We reached the Manali – Leh highway at 10.30 am by a car, and started the walk from there. We reached Gulaba from Manali by evening after covering almost 22 Kms.
On the 2nd day, since it was raining heavily, we hitchhiked till Marhi. From Marhi, as the rain subsided, we went all the way to Koksar via Rohtang pass. It was a long tiring day as we covered 50km. But i was happy as we successfully crossed our first high altitude pass on the journey.
Keylong, 35 kilometers away, was the destination of the third day. We started early and took a break for refreshments at Sissu. We reached Keylong by 6pm, passing Gondla and Tandi.
Visiting Shashur monastery
The fourth day was the rest day. I visited Shashur monastery which was nearby. It is the most famous monastery in Keylong and was 45 minutes inclined hike from the market.
We started a little late the next day as the destination, Jispa was only 25km away. We reached there by 2.30pm and then they visited the beautiful river nearby.
On the sixth day, we started early. We reached Patseo via Darcha. From there, we hiked and reached Upper Zing-Zing Bar by 4.30pm. We spent the night in a Dhaba as it was too windy.
6 Hours to Hike Just 12 Kilometers!
From ZZ Bar, Baralachala (their 2nd highest altitude pass) was 12km away. The hike was tough. It took 6 hours to cover that 12km. After waiting there for 40 minutes, we left to Bharatpur and reached in 2 hours.
Sarchu was the destination for the 8th day. The road was bad and we reached Sarchu at 4.30pm, covering 27km. As we were resting in the tent, a group of bikers reached there. I helped them in cooking. We all spent the day together.
We took rest on the 9th day.
On the 10th day, since the route was deserted, and we had to undergo more troubles, we decided to hitchhike to cover the next 88km. We got on a truck and reached Pang by 3.30pm, by covering Nakeela and Lachungla, the other two high altitude passes on the highway. We pitched the tent near a Dhaba and spent the day.
The Beautiful More Plains
The journey started a bit early on the 11thday. We passed Moore plains, which was one of the most beautiful places we saw on the journey. We reached Debring by 5.30pm, covering almost 42km.
The Toughest Challenge
On the 12th day, we were crossing the world’s second-highest motorable pass and the highest in this Manali-Leh highway that day – Tanglangla.
“I knew that this stretch would prove to be the toughest. Mentally I was preparing myself but physically I was on the verge of giving up. After a certain point of time, it became a complete mind game.”
The physical condition and weather were pulling me down. At one point in time, the destination seemed impossible for me. But somehow, I made it to Tanglangla by 4pm. Then we somehow pitched the tent and slept.
Since it was snowing heavily, we decided to rest in the tent itself the next day and roamed around a little bit during the day time.
The 14th day’s destination was Rumptse which was 30km away. Since the road was all downhill, we reached there at 2.30pm. We spent the day at a homestay.
We reached Karu on the 15th day, at 6.30pm via Upsi. Since the road was flat, without much up-downhills, the hiking was not that tiring. We booked a hotel room and celebrated as the next day was the Last leg of our journey.
The Final Leg
On the 16th day, we started early. I was desperate to finish the journey and we reached our final destination, Leh, at 4.30pm via Shey. We felt ultimate happiness and emotions. We celebrated the victory and slept.
As Stok Kangri Called, Unexpectedly!
One of my mentor, Arnab da picked me and Shiben on the 17th day and took us to his guest house. He told me that a team left for Stok Kangri that day and forgot their kitchen tent and oxygen cylinder. Finding that as a golden opportunity to summit Stok Kangri, I and Shiben readily agreed to deliver the things.
Next day, as agreed, we reached Stok Village by around 7am and started the trek right away. By the time we reached Mankorma at 1pm via Changama, i was exhausted due to the heavy luggage. From there, we hired a porter who took the kitchen tent, and we reached the Base Camp by 4.30pm.
Day 19 was our Summit Day. I took rest the whole day and prepared for the climb. The expedition team gave the basic tips to the trekkers and thus, they started the push at 11.30 pm. There were 5 members in the team, and the weather was clear. The climb was progressing gradually. The unavailability of oxygen and the tiredness from earlier hike was affecting me badly. By 4.30am, the situation becomes too bad and i decided to descend back when they were only 600m away from the top.
The remaining team finished the summit though.
“It is the journey that matters, not the destination!”
After breakfast, I descended from the Base Camp on the 20th day. I reached Leh by the noon and stayed in a guest house.
I took rest and explored the market on the 21st day. And, on the 22nd day (July 23) we returned, and thus the journey came to an end!
“I got to meet new people and culture. The journey made me more strong and confident. It also taught me that ‘happiness’ matters more than anything else in the world!”