Life above the Zanskar - with Maithili & Shital

Photo of Life above the Zanskar - with Maithili & Shital 1/6 by maitlis

Vast, magnificent and inarguably breathtaking, the Zanskar Canyon is easily the most distinguishable “adventure” landmark – and a natural wonder that you simply have to see to believe.

Stretching 105 kms from end to end, steep rocky walls standing majestically descend into the canyon’s frozen floors and just about a km deep the Chadar invites you with open arms, with the sun sparkling across the frozen river, with the delicate curls of the hidden Zanskar and with the warmth of the porters and the locals.

The Chadar has been the ‘easier’ way out of the region for the people of Zanskar. Locals wait for months for the river to freeze so that they can leave their villages swiftly, because although the journey across the Chadar takes between 3-5 days, the alternate route through the high mountain pass is even more herculean.

Photo of Life above the Zanskar - with Maithili & Shital 2/6 by maitlis

Shital and I decided to set out once again and chose the god gifted perfect window of the second week of Jan 2017 to make the dreamiest of all our plans a reality.

As we got into Leh we decided to stay put for the 24 hours to allow our body to acclimatize.

Mountaineering stories all talk about the sense of glory achieved as one gains altitude , but most forget to note that the basics that we take for granted become difficult, breathing becomes tiring, eating ceases to be enjoyable and sleeping is an effort,but once we had accepted and welcomed our decision of choosing to spend the next few days in a natural freezer, it was time to meet our partners in crime.

Meeting your group and co-trekkers, the people who will over the next few days become family is like ‘blind dating’. You are a hiker, strong and adventurous but aloof and independent, always looking for new projects but take failure pretty hard and you hope the person who walks in through the door into the cold, chilly, frozen yet ‘hospitable’ lobby of the trekking Inn is more like you or just learns to like you for the way you are.

We were super lucky to have found this incredible mix to share our time with them. Trekking with people you learn to trust can be really motivating, they know how to push you to work harder and make it fun in the process.

Photo of Life above the Zanskar - with Maithili & Shital 3/6 by maitlis

“Don’t turn, don’t stop and keep moving” said young Dorje as I struggle to gather all my limbs and get up from my umpteenth fall on the hard ice.

Just as I think I have mastered my glide through the glassy terrain, the whole topography changes to shards of ice that crackle and crumble at your feet.

With confident co-trekkers walking by ,I stop and share a smile but even that momentary distraction from the rhythm makes me lose, not only my concentration but once again my grip .

Our days are very organized; we set out after a hearty breakfast , stop only for lunch and aim to reach the next Base Camp before sundown.

Each day we set out to walk at least 12-15 km and hope that the river has chosen to be kind to us.

Photo of Life above the Zanskar - with Maithili & Shital 4/6 by maitlis

Every single day on the Zanskar is a mystery,until you get to the next turn you have no idea what you will find.

You could be welcomed by a perfect Chadar, a dreamy snowy kingdom , the risen waves, the shardy ice or even icebergs that have chosen to block the path

Photo of Life above the Zanskar - with Maithili & Shital 5/6 by maitlis

The long crystal tubes creating an illusion of a chandelier lit from within. Towering at about 60 feet the Neerak trophy is crisp, colorful, and forms a perfect winter backdrop

I stood quietly for a moment as our team erupted with cheers at the view combined with gasps and a few tears. As I glanced into my teammates faces, I saw my own. I saw my dreams, my experiences, my emotions.

Photo of Life above the Zanskar - with Maithili & Shital 6/6 by maitlis

We have often wondered how people get through days of meditation and imagine the feeling of de-stress at the end of it, I am today confident after my days on the Zanskar we have found that feeling.

I have also realised that through multiple high altitude, extreme temperature and long treks, I have found something for myself that allows me to be confident and accountable for my own decisions and allows me to enjoy time with myself something that I wasn’t very good at but have realised now, is essential to my happiness and is like a definite anchor in the real world …

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