This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes

Tripoto

In 1949, Xinjiang became a part of the People's Republic of China, shutting down trade and any sort of movement in the Karakoram Pass. The pass sits at the height of 18,176 ft and was one of the most important auxiliary axis' of the ancient Silk Route.

The pass had seen no movement until a group of mountaineers took permission from the Indian and Chinese government in 2007 and trekked to the 'death trail'.

You might think that a place so fascinating and of high relevance would have intrigued a lot of people, but even Google doesn't have the answer to my questions. I dug around as deep and far as I could.

This is what I found out.

1. The Karakoram Pass was at the heart of Silk Route, which Chinese merchants used to transport silk to Rome. The route went via Karakoram from the Leh-Nubra valley into Hunza and then further.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 1/12 by Sreshti Verma
The sand dunes of Nubra Valley.

2. It falls on the border of a territory controlled by India (Jammu and Kashmir region) and China (Xinjiang Autonomous Region).

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 2/12 by Sreshti Verma
The politically fragile position of Karakoram Pass.

3. The conflicted area of Siachen Glacier lies at the immediate west of Karakoram Pass, putting it at a highly tense and important role in the geographical politics between India and Pakistan.

4. It was the trade through Karakoram Pass that influenced the food, dress and dance forms of Ladakh.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 3/12 by Sreshti Verma

5. The high number of Indian traders moving to and fro went on to name towns in Xinjiang as “Chini Bagh” at Kashgarh, “Gurdial Sarai” and “Kashmiri Kucha” (street) at Yarkand.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 4/12 by Sreshti Verma
Lake Karakul in Xinjiang (Pangong, eh?)

6. In fact the very famous Bactrian (double-humped) camel of Nubra Valley is a species which came to Ladakh from Xinjiang.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 5/12 by Sreshti Verma
Bactrian camels in Nubra.

7. After remaining closed for 58 years, a group of Indian trekkers pulled every possible string and made it to the Karakoram Pass. Their epic adventure can be read here.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 6/12 by Sreshti Verma
The trekkers crossing Shyok River. Credits: Himalayan Camping

8. This is the only documented account of a trek to Karakoram Pass. The only other mentioned is found in Harish Kapadia's book 'Into the Untravelled Himalaya: Travels, Treks, and Climbs'.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 7/12 by Sreshti Verma
You can buy the book here.

9. The trail starts from Nubra Valley and goes through some of highest passes, the Saser La (5395 m), Depsang La (5415 m) and finally the Great Karakoram pass (5569 m).

10. The pass appears to be cradling death between two mountains. At the height of 18,176 ft, no vegetation has made its way here. Even snow cannot reach the Karakoram Pass due to the high winds and the only sight is a trail of animal and human bones.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 8/12 by Sreshti Verma
The trail leading to Karakoram Pass. Credits: Himalayan Camping

Why Should The Karakoram Pass Be Opened

11. The gradual ascend from both sides of Karakoram Pass is tough but not impossible. Making it a exciting challenge for any and every hardcore trekker.

12. The exchange and enabling of adventure tourism between India and China might ease out the deadly tensions between the countries.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 9/12 by Sreshti Verma
The pass marked by animal skulls. Credits: Himalayan Camping

13. Historians and old school mountaineers who do know about the Karakoram Pass have dreamed of visiting this iconic part of Silk Route for decades. Deprived of any opportunity, the community has even stopped talking about it.

14. The Karakoram Pass has been central to Ladakhi culture and is a living, breathing piece of history, which remains locked inside a bunch of treaties. The complete loss of accessibility will soon turn it into a forgotten wonder.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 10/12 by Sreshti Verma
The view of Stok Kangri en route to Karakoram Pass. Credits: Himalayan Camping

15. In Xinjiang lie the Kumtura Thousand Buddha Caves, which date back to the 5th and 11th centuries. The Kumtura Caves has always been a holy pilgrimage for Buddhists, who since many years now, have no other way to visit the site.

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 11/12 by Sreshti Verma
The Kumtura Grottoes have over 112 surviving cave temples.

16. Opening the mighty Karakoram Pass will not just boost the economy of Ladakh but also revive ancient cultural ties between India and China, which existed way before modern conflicts.

Mountaineers can visit and pay homage to the memorial of climbers who died trying to make their way (in 1935).

Photo of This Is The Story Of The Toughest Indian Trek Lost Behind High Himalayan Passes 12/12 by Sreshti Verma
The memorial of climbers at Polu. Credits: Himalayan Camping

The Karakoram Pass should not be faded into decade old articles and a single documented trek. It deserves our attention. If anything, it at least deserves our fascination.

4 Comment(s)
Sort by:
amazing
Sat 10 27 18, 21:27 · Reply · Report
DBO and Karakoram pass have been on top of my dreams to trek to or visit. Unfortunately I could also find only one blog which you had linked here that talks about it. Any more info on this place?
Thu 03 30 17, 11:58 · Reply · Report
The map depicted above is in clear violations of the Indian Government's Geospatial Information Regulation Bill, 2016. Would suggest you to replace it asap.
Wed 07 06 16, 21:45 · Reply (2) · Report
Its a bill, not an act. Nobody gives a shit about stupid bills.
Sun 12 11 16, 06:43 · Report
and what about the international and global map labelings of JnK found in wikipedia . en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jammu_and_Kashmir what are your views on those ?
Thu 07 07 16, 16:14 · Report
Whatever else it might do, but be assured it will definitely not ease out the deadly tension between the two countries as you have claimed. The tensions are too complicated and deadly, even than the silk route itself.
Wed 07 06 16, 11:42 · Reply · Report