Spituk - Stok
For our first trek at high altitude we decided to test ourselves with a brief three day hike in the Hemis National Park. This was a good way to see how difficult the route would be to navigate without a guide and to trial what would be necessary to carry in our backpacks.
Start date - 19.07.16
Day 1 - We stated walking from Spituk village along the dirt road until we reached a large bridge decorated in prayer flags to cross the Indus river. Soon after the plains opened up to reveal the commanding view of the Spituk mountain range surrounded by desolate terrain. The road ran alongside the Indus river and ended just passed Zinchan. It took us roughly 4 hours to cover 10 miles (16km) to reach a place to stay in Zinchan.
The homestay we found was peacefully tucked away on the side of a hill near a stream. It cost ₹1,000 per person per night including an evening meal, breakfast and a packed lunch. On arriving we were presented with copious amounts of a local mountain tea which must have had cinnamon in it as it tasted incredible! We were really well looked after as the family refilled our water bottles with filtered water and provided us with simple bedding to keep warm at night. Everything was very basic with an outdoor traditional Ladakhi toilet. This was simply a dirt hole that beneath it collects the waste which is combined with straw and soil thrown over the top of it, eventually to be used as fertiliser. A very eco-friendly composting toilet that adds to the charm of trekking!
Day 2 - We followed the trail to the small village of Rumbak which intersected with the Markah Valley trail towards Yurste. Arriving early before midday we found a great homestay and decided to explore the village a little before admiring the most spectacular sunset from our rooftop. Our host family was lovely, allowing us to share their living area for our evening meal and poured us several cups of arrack to drink with the grandfather.
Day 3 - We rose early at Rumbak and followed the gradual accent up towards Stok La pass (4,900m). For the most part it was steady until we reached a very steep incline that snaked along the mountain edge. We tackled this head on for two hours, taking many breaks as we encountered herds of honkeys (not quite horse not quite donkey) shuffling down the mountain towards us which was rather terrifying as they kicked one another from behind, as there was very little room for everyone to maneuver. Finally, having reached the top of the pass we were welcomed by prayer flags and a large plateau to rest and eat our lunch.
After a short break we headed down from the pass quite quickly, which was slightly troublesome as we experienced headaches and Damian suffered from a nose bleed. It was obviously something we had never experienced before so we slowed right down and took a break for our bodies to adjust to the change in altitude. Everything was fine after time passed and we were lucky to catch a glimpse of some local bharal (blue sheep) that were very well camouflaged to the jagged terrain as they are known to thrive on the steep ledges of the gorge.
Our overall decent was roughly 1,300m to Stok which took us a good 8 hours to complete from Rumback. At Stok we fortunately met another couple who we shared a taxi back with to Leh.
The trek was a great way to test our abilities at high altitude and navigation of the area. It left us feeling confident to tackle the Markah valley trail alone without a guide.