Sat 26 July Lingshed to Snertse over the Hanuma La   
We’re awake at 5.30 for an early start but it’s still turned 7.30 before we set off, in the sun, climbing the slopes leading towards the head of the valley above Lingshed, first to a ridge then to a stupa and a short rest. Solitary houses stand on the hillsides; sheep and goats are being let out of their night time ground floor barns. A circular mani wall stands by the stupa; Stenzin pays a fee for grazing rights to the boy who manned last night’s telephone shop. A cement coloured path descends then skirts round the smooth scree hillside, maintaining height. It’s a beautiful landscape: rounded hills soft green with scrubby plants, scattered with goats and sheep; any flat ground is terraced; numerous small paths; villagers collecting dung; a backdrop of rugged brown cliffs. As we move up the valley the path gets rockier; stone enclosures are well maintained. The hillside is dotted with springs fed from the snow patches trapped in the crevasses high above. The path starts to drop down to a stream by a long mani wall; ahead, Graham has crossed a stone bridge, well built and indicative of plenty of traffic. At this time of year there’s not much water and we hop boulders to cross the stream. The path rises and falls several times as it cross gullies and streams. A deep circular pit, stoned lined with an overhang, is a disused wolf trap, last in use maybe 30 years ago.

9am, last night’s camp has come back into view. Butterflies and fan tailed pigeons settle on the warm rocks. Bev rides the white horse. The head of the valley is at 4237m; we descend further to a tea tent, which has no tea. The horses are uninterested in Bev’s apple core. I thought all horses liked apples. Graham steams up the zig zag path that will keep us occupied for the next two or three hours. A false summit is decked with prayer flags; we pass the horses grazing on a small plateau. More horses come up the path, needing coaxing on the steeper inclines. After the false summit we gain momentum and finally make the top of the Hanuma La in good spirits, the toughest, though not the highest, pass on the trek. The narrow, rocky summit is splendid in the warm sun and we stay some time. We share biscuits with two local women who take a fancy to my sunglasses. They’re heading north to Lingshed gompa. 

We have a long descent to a gully for a very hot lunch spot. Unaccompanied dzos come wandering upstream. We ride the horses until the gully becomes a steep ravine and we drop further into a shady black rock chasm. Spectacular deep red and gold cliffs hang high above us. We cross to the left bank of the stream and drop steeply down narrow staircases cut into the cliffside. The view ahead opens out to spectacular views of green plateaux split by huge sheer rock faces of the widening gorge. Astonishing scenery that at first is quite hard to interpret. We walk beneath a massive black boulder crossed with lines of white quartz; boulders are perched so delicately that the pathways must change with every seasonal rain and rockfall. Strange noises are coming from the boulders and I suspect the guides are moving quickly here for good reason. In the distance are the black mountains of Zanskar, patches of snow on their north faces. We pick our way over the rocky path among iron red scree, roses past blooming, willows and a broad leafed plant with clusters of yellow flowers. We’re suddenly at camp; our tents are pitched on a small overhanging bluff. Dawa brings tea and pakoras to the parachute tent. We’re grateful for the rough seats and the chance to take off boots and rucksacs. The stars and Milky Way are brilliant; through the night we hear donkeys outside the tent. A magnificent day. 3746metres.

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Zanskar - Lingshed to Snertse over the Hanuma La