Kang La Pass: A trek that connects Lahaul to Ladakh

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In earlier times, Kang La pass was used by the locals of Lahaul to go to Ladakh. When this route was discovered by travellers, it started attracting a lot of adventure junkies. This trek is not for everyone as it is considered to be very difficult. Some even categorise this as an expedition.

You have to reach Khanjar and pass through Miyar Valley, before you start climbing glaciers. This trek is so remote, that you hardly find anyone the whole time.

How to reach Khanjar

In order to reach Khanjar you have to take a HRTC(Himachal Roadways Transport Corporation) bus to Shukto from Keylong. Once at Shukto you have to walk 30 minutes to finally reach Khanjar. You can get to Keylong from Manali, there are regular buses running between the two places. You must stay at Shukto, as there are plenty of options available there.

Difficulty level

Kang La trek is considered a difficult one. Initially, you tread on grasslands and then move toward moraines, glaciers and dangerous crevasses. The pass itself is located at 19,470ft. As it is pretty difficult to cover, right guidance and proper training is required even for experienced trekkers.

Cost

This trek is not to be done solo. Few organisers like Bikat, White Magic Adventures and Himalaya Destination do this trek around ₹35,000, Manali to Srinagar, inclusive of all the equipment, guide, camping and meals.

Trek route

Shukto - Khanjar - Thanpattan - Gumba - Zardung - Kesar Yon Chhap - Phalpu - Miyar Glacier - Camp 1 - Kang La Base - Kang La Pass - Temasa Valley - Padam

When to do it

The ideal season for this trek is from July end to mid October. For the rest of the months it is impossible to access the pass because of snow.

Before commencing on this trek it is very important to check the weather since things can change drastically at such high altitude.

Brief Itinerary

Day 1

Shukto - Gumba

You can actually the see the first pit stop of the day, Khanjar, from Shukto. The real trek begins only after Khanjar. You cross a stream and reach the vast grasslands of Dhoksar, from there you head towards a small tributary called Dhoksar Nala.

The trek mostly involves walking on level ground and crossing multiple nalas. You will see a Stupa some time into the trek, this would mean you have done half of the trek for this day. You will pass several homes and beautiful farms to reach Thanpattan, another small settlement. You have to walk another 20 minutes to reach Gumba, its a beautiful meadow with tiny streams flowing everywhere and small stone structures.

Gumba - Zardung

Day 2

From your campsite in Gumba you can see Castle Peak. The terrain will change from green to all dry on this day. You will feel like you are in the Zanskar region of Ladakh. You can see griffons flying over yaks, wild horses and dzo all along the trail. The total distance is around 10km and you can do it in 3-4 hours of trekking.

Day 3

Zardung - Phalpu

From Zardung you now trek to the site of 7 glacial lakes; the terrain will get a little difficult you tread on moraine and cross stream till you finally see the lakes formed by these streams. You can either camp at these lakes or trek to Phalpu and pitch your tents there. The trek can be completed in around 3 hours, if you want you can trek to the snout of the glacier. It will take another 2 hours but you will get the most spectacular views of snow-clad peaks.

Day 4

Phalpu - Camp 1

On this day you will reach the snout of the glacier, go through difficult moraine and enormous snowfields. The trek on glacial ice is going to be very difficult compared to previous days. You will have to pitch a tent just below the base camp for the pass.

Day 5

Camp 1 - Kang La Base

You will have to start early on this day, as walking on ice is easier during the morning time. You will also have to cross open crevasses before finally reaching the campsite.

Day 6

Kang La Base - Kang La Pass - Temasa Valley

The day begins with a gentle trek until you reach a point where it becomes so steep that you will have to use ropes to go towards the summit. From the pass you get views of towering snow-clad peak and glaciers all around you. Once you start descending you will be in the middle of the valley within few hours, you camp here on this day right next to the river.

Day 7

Temasa Valley - Padam

The trek becomes comparatively easier to previous days and more pleasant. You trek right next to the Tema River in the meadows until Bardan Gompa. From there you have to follow a jeep track, at this point you will get vehicles till Padam.

You will have to keep some reserve days to rest yourself and tackle bad weather situations.

What to pack

Trek Shoes: Carrying good quality anti-skid and waterproof trekking shoes is a must as the terrain is going to be tough. Also crampons are required for this trek.

Backpack: A 50-60 litre backpack is required to carry all your essentials for the trek.

Clothing: Multiple layers of clothing with heavy jackets, woolen socks and gloves are required. Thermals are a must as the temperature remains low.

Accessories: Sunglasses, cap, sunscreen with high SPF, moisturiser and toiletries.

Safety gears like harness, ropes, crampons and ice axes are required for this trek. Please ask your organisers about all the safety gear they are providing.

You can read in detail about things to carry on a Himalayan trek here

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