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Sandwiched between the vast ranges of the Karakoram and the Himalaya in the far north of India, Ladakh is the highest, most remote and the least populated region in the whole country. The name is derived from Ladags which means “the Land of High Passes”. Its corrugated arid landscape is often described as a mountain desert which does not do justice to the in- herent beauty of its chaotic ridges, twisted and exposed geological strata, snow shrouded peaks, dark gorges and wide valleys. The eye is relieved from this relentless desolation by the vibrant green oasis of the villages. Where the resourceful inhabitant makes up for the almost nonexistent rain by challenging glacial meltwater across miles of precipitous mountain side to irrigate their barley fields and willow grove. It is a land of climatic extremes; fiercely hot days are followed by freezing nights just as the brief summer is followed by a long ice bound winter. Which complete isolates much of the region from the rest of the world for seven to eight months every year.
Until recently, western visitors to Ladakh were rare. Its inaccessibility and hostile landscape initially kept them away and then just when Ladakh’s communications were improving, the Indian government imposed a ban on foreign tourist because of Ladakh’s strategic position near the border with Pakistan and china. Since this ban was raised in the 1970’s Ladakh has become a popular destination for aficionados of wild mountain scenery and those interested in a unique culture, as much of the region is accessible only on foot trekking is the ideal way to explore this fascinating land.
At various times in the past, Ladakh has been politically part of western Tibet and this influence is still prominent today throughout most of the region, indeed it is said that Ladakh is a more accurate representation of Tibet before the Chinese invasion than Tibet itself. The Ladakhi people are principally of Tibetan Origin and Tibetan Buddhism is still practiced here. As it has been for hundreds of years alongside a significant population of Muslims. Gompa or monasteries overlook the valleys from their solitary position on top or craggy hills and these religious institutions still play an active role in all Ladakhi life. Even deep in the mountains you are reminded that this is mainly a Buddhist culture as you walk past Mani walls and chortens at the entrance of every village, or over high passes where tattered prayer flags flutter from the summit cairns.
Trekking in Ladakh is very different from hiking in the west as the trails are the life line between villages. It’s not unusual to find yourself sharing the trails with a monk on his way to a remote gompa or a shepherd making his way up to a high pasture and it is this close interaction with the local people that makes it such an enriching experience. However, you need to be totally self-sufficient. Villages are often several days apart and these subsistence communities grow enough food only to feed themselves, the best way to carry your camping equipment’s and food is to trek with a local who will bring along few horses and will be happy to act as your guide and companion. All arrangements can be made by Snowbird Himalaya Adventures before you set for a trek.
A trek is a rejuvenating experience. Day by day, mile by mile, you become leaner and fitter, slowly peeling away the constraints of modern life. Time for once is on your side and you have the privilege opportunity to immerse yourself in the naked mountains and the blessed sunshine and the merry rosy people. Snowbird Himalaya adventure is an experienced trekking agency, each trekker must accept his or her individual’s responsibility for ensuring that the magic of what the Barrett’s called these “high quiet places “is never lost.