The Ladakh region on the northern borders of India, comprises of essentially three mountain ranges, namely Zanskar, Ladakh and Karakorams with deep river basins between these. When you land at Leh airport, this geographical situation gets aptly highlighted. If you enter Ladakh by road, you travel along the banks of rivers and also go to towns, which are all situated also in the river basins. When you look around from these places, you can only see tall mountain ranges on all sides. The really mighty and tallest peaks are all hidden behind these basin side mountains. To see these mighty peaks of Ladakh, you either need to travel by air or go to places, which are at substantial heights. For a non mountain climber like me, there are only two choices of such places. First is the Chang La pass in the Chang Chenmo region of Ladakh. Unfortunately, Chang La is situated at such a geographical location that a tall mountain completely blocks your east side view like a curtain. It becomes therefore impossible to see any mighty peaks from here.
The second option for a place with great height, is the Khardung La pass. Since this pass is at a height of 18380 feet, there are good chances of viewing tall ice clad peaks from here. Unfortunately, it mostly snows in Khardung La or there is a thick cloud cover towards the east. Usually this means that no view can be had from here. Luckily, while returning from Nubra valley back to Leh, I was fortunate enough to have brilliant and clear day with bright sunshine. Since the eastern sky also was clear, I was able to photograph the Eastern Karakoram mountain peaks quite clearly. here is a brief review of the Karakoram peaks that can be seen from Khardung La pass.
Starting from the left the first group of peaks is the Saser Kangri massif group . These four peaks are part of easternmost sub range of Karakorams, the Saser Muztagh. The tallest of these is on left and is known Saser Kangri I(7672 meters). The peaks on right is Saser Kangri III(7495 meters) and Saser Plateau Kangri (7287 meters). The Saser Kangri II(7513 meters) is on further right. Saser Kangri I was climbed by an ITBF expedition in 1973 for the first time. In 1987 it was climbed again by an Ind0-British expedition. Saser Kangri II has been climbed only last year whereas Saser plateau peak was climbed in 1984 by an Indo-Japanese expedition. Saser Kangri III has been climbed by ITBF in 1986. The notorious Saser La Pass on the old Silk Route coming from Xinjiang in China, lies north of Saser Kangri massif.
The peak on the right of Saser Kangri is known as Chushku Kangri( 6853 meters). This has not been climbed yet. The two completely snow clad paeks in the centre of picture frame, are Kataklik Kangri I (6880 meters) and Kataklik Kangri II ( 6820 meters). These two peaks are right on the line of actual control between India and China. Obviously no attempt has been made to climb these. The peak on right of these two, is the Arganglas peak. This looks quite big in the photo because it is much nearer. This was climbed by an Indo-British expedition of 2002 led by Harish Kapadiya. The last peak on the right, which can be seen from Khardung La is Kunchung Kangri(6751 meters). This has not been attempted as yet.
In the southward view from Khardung La pass, it should be really possible to see the Leh city proper. However a tall mountain here, hides the view completely.
View from the Eastern end of Chang La pass is totally blocked by a mountain
Most of the travellers going to Ladakh have no idea that it is possible to see these majestic peaks during regular excursions. Even the tourism department in Leh, were not able to tell me anything about the sightings. I consider myself lucky to be able to view the peaks.
10 January 2012