Highlights of Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek
Ladakh is widely known for its jewels like Pangong Tso and Khardung La for tourists and Stok Kangri or Chadar Trek for avid trekkers. However, even though these are worth your time, there is one particular region of Ladakh that overshadows all these aforementioned places and that is the marvelous Changthang Valley, connecting the village of Rumtse to the ever so desired Tso Moriri Lake.
Why haven’t I heard of this before? You may ask.
Well, it is because it does not fall in the radar of popular touristic attractions. The only way to access this remote valley if on foot.
How do we do that? Is it that easy?
Haha! If it were that easy then everyone would be there.
Just like all other regions of Ladakh, the Changthang Valley, in particular, is tucked between high passes and harsh terrain.
So, we made it easy for you.
We have made it accessible for you but the trek is nothing close to easy.
Rumtse Village, the starting point of the Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek
Located on the Leh-Manali highway, Rumtse is a small village home to 20 families. The Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek starts from this hamlet which itself is at a height of 4166 M and takes you to the remote freshwater lake of Ladakh, Tso Moriri but, only after crossing 105 km with 6 astonishing high altitude mountain passes over 5000M.
Thousands of people ride on the Leh-Manali highway and hundreds visit the blue Tso Moriri Lake.
But, what about everything that lies in the middle of this?
The sheer beauty, raw nature, and remoteness of the Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek are simply put, overwhelming. Too much to grasp during the entire duration of the trek.
How much can your brain register? Can you even process everything that you see in this trek? Such a feeling is inevitable in this trek with you.
No wonder, this trek is legendary and quite possibly the king of all treks in Ladakh.
We recently had the outright delight to explore the Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake trek and honestly, we cannot wait to share the highlights of this trek.
1. Rainbow Mountains – It’s Raining Colors
“Can you see the pass yet? Do you see the prayer flags?”, I shouted while my friend was standing way ahead of me.
“No, not yet. But, wait till you see this”, he shouted back.
I pushed myself uphill while wondering what’s lying ahead of me and then “boom”, the visuals hit us hard.
What did we see?
A burst of colors illuminating the landscape
The entire landscape is painted with different shades of green, red, maroon, grey and brown. A cascade of colors in different patterns making the terrain look like a rainbow mountain.
For all those travelers out there, you must be aware of the peculiar rainbow mountains of Peru and China.
But how many of you knew that such scenery is present in our very own country, in Ladakh?
Walking on this extraterrestrial terrain is the ultimate experience
With the entire region of Ladakh being submerged under the sea ages ago along with the sedimentation of rocks and terrain over the years, the landscape gets a wide array of unique colors some darker than the other to make it look like an artwork.
Nature is indeed the best artist there is
Such a colorful setting is present only in the Changthang Valley. Miles and miles of such pigmentation give the landscape a very unique appearance and a certain charm that cannot be justified in words.
2. High Altitude Passes – And They Keep On Coming
Majority of the treks that are out there in states like Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and most treks in Ladakh itself usually have one pass crossing or in some cases two.
Here is where the Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek steals the show with not one or two or even three but “six” passes.
Let me repeat it.
SIX passes – Kyamar La (5090 M), Mandalchan La (5175 M), Shibuk La (5257 M), Kyamayuri La (5400 M), Kartse La (5370 M), and Yalung Nyau La (5414 M).
Kyamar La (5090 M) - 1st pass of the trek
Each of these passes is more than 5000M that are arranged in regular intervals separating many such enchanting valleys that seem to have appeared from heaven. With insanely wide landscapes, the Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek is an ocean of passes.
Kartse La (5370 M) - 5th Pass of the trek
Marked with Buddhist prayer flags the passes give panoramic views of the charming Changthang Valley and the Rupshu Plateau with luscious landscapes, serpentine rivers, green valleys, snowcapped peaks and the vastness of them all.
View of Tso Moriri Lake from Yalung Nyau La (5414 M) - 6th and final pass of the trek
Six passes may sound extremely difficult and tiring, but these passes have no technical climb involved. But due to the constant increase in altitude one has to be extremely fit and it’s imperative to acclimatize properly.
3. Campsites – A World In Itself
Campsites are what make or break a trek, at least up to a certain extent they do. Imagine a cramped up campsite with not much to offer other than some views of the surrounding trees and mountains. There is nothing wrong with such a campsite since it has its own unique charm.
But in the Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek, you are venturing into the unknown per se with over 100km trek across draining passes, so it is understandable that your expectations must be high at every turn and stop since this trek has already set unbelievably high standards.
Campsites tucked between two passes are a norm in this trek. The campsite of Tisaling with Shibuk La in the foreground.
The campsites of this trek are not at all disappointing, with every campsite being better than the one before. They are so vast and humongous that your phone or camera can never fully capture the full length or breadth of it. Tucked between high passes and snowcapped mountains, you get to camp beside a winding river over a green pasture with wild asses, marmots and blue sheep running around the campsite keeping you company.
Wild asses and marmots will be your companions throughout the trek
The campsites are very windy with the last two campsites being over 5000M in altitude which makes it one of the best highlights of this trek. Camping at such high altitudes with a distinctive topography is the ultimate reward one can ask for.
Picture perfect campsites have it all - A complete package of supreme visuals
Take all the best camping spots in this world and fit them in the campsites of the Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek. A world that has all.
4. Lakes – Celestial Waterbodies Flanked By Mountains
The Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek packs 3 stellar lakes namely Tso Kar, Startsapuk Tso and Tso Moriri Lake.
Tso Kar is a saltwater lake also known as “White Lake” due to its high salt content and salt deposits on its shore. This fluctuating lake is situated in the Rupshu plateau at an elevation of 4530 M. Tso Kar is also the smallest of the three high altitude alpine lakes of Ladakh when compared to its counterparts Pangong Tso and Tso Moriri.
Tso Kar - The White Lake
Connected by an inlet stream with Tso Kar, the smaller lake of Startsapuk Tso lying to the south-west forms a 9km2 More Plains pool which is dominated by two peaks, Thugje (6050 M) and Gursan (6370M).
In ancient times the Changthang or Changpa Nomads used to export salt to Tibet, thus the Tso Kar and Startsapuk Tso Lakes were an important source of salt.
The final pass of the trek, Yalung Nyau La gives the first glimpse of the captivating Tso Moriri Lake at a distance. Almost like an aerial view, the Tso Moriri Lake glistens radiating blue color with towering snowcapped mountains encompassing the lake from all sides.
Tso Moriri Lake - The Mountain Lake
Being a freshwater alpine lake at an astounding altitude of 4520 M, the Tso Moriri Lake or the “Mountain Lake” is a sanctuary for several Himalayan birds and animals. Being sacred to the Ladakhis especially for the people of Changthang Valley, Tso Moriri Lake is a twin to the Pangong Lake and undeniably more beautiful.
The thought of reaching these 3 exquisite lakes in one trek is simply awe-inspiring and exciting, to say the least. The effort taken to reach these lakes and witness it from a unique perspective is simply magical and worthy every sweat.
5. Changpa Nomads – A Community Residing On The Roof Of The World
The Changpa are the nomadic settlement of shepherds in the Changthang Valley that have inhabited this region of Ladakh since ages. In ancient times, they would trade salt with the Tibetans.
The Changpa Nomads of Changthang with their horses
The Changthang Valley is where telephone wires are unheard of, roads are literally non-existent, electricity is a dull flicker from a bulb powered by tiny solar panels, the lives of the Changpa nomads is harsh and difficult. Moving between rivers and meadows fed by glacial melt across high passes and difficult terrain, the Changpa nomads move their herds of Pashmina goats, yaks, sheep and horses season after season with the unfortunate reality of losing their animals to predators like snow leopards and Tibetan wolves.
The Changpa mostly live in canvas tents in the harshest of conditions
Their accommodation is nothing but stone-walled structures and canvas tents. These people have flourished rearing their livestock for consuming and selling their products such as milk, meat and hair with bare minimum resources for over a millennium.
Semi-permanent settlements made from stone and mud
With a completely self-sustained lifestyle, the Changpa nomads continue to live in these severe conditions even during winters when the temperatures plummet down to -30 deg Celsius.
The Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek lets you interact closely with these Changpa or Changthang nomads, learn and understand their culture and way of life. A once in a lifetime opportunity to get close to nature and the people that call it home.
6. Landscape – A Four Season Pictorial
What comes to your mind when we say “A Four Seasons Trek”?
Is it the fact that a trek can be done all throughout the year?
The answer to this is, NO.
What we mean by a Four Seasons trek is a spectacular opportunity to witness all Four Seasons in one trek.
Does it still sound vague to you?
Let me explain.
Look at this...
The alluring landscape of the trek will melt your heart
Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek gives you green pastures (Summer), snaky rivers (Monsoon), brown and barren landscapes (Autumn) and snowcapped mountains (Winter), all in one sight.
The combination of these characters uplifts the scenery to a different level altogether. Nowhere else do you get to witness a trek of such grandeur and magnitude.
The landscape painted bright with nature's might
A chance to camp in the midst of snowclad mountains and a gushing river cutting through the valley with green meadows on one side and a desolate terrain on the other is alluring making it an unforgettable experience.
The landscape is bronzed and arid yet endearing in silence and solitude.
With all the information on the Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek being dropped on your lap, the point we are trying to make is simple.
Do this trek for its beauty, for its offbeat nature, for its passes, for its lakes, for the people that rule this region, for the never-before-seen views, for its massive length and for its breathtaking visuals.
The achievement of crossing over one entire region of South-West Ladakh in no small feat. You can discover one entire civilization in the process, end up rediscovering yourself and test your endurance by overtaking 6 passes, 3 lakes and 100 km of pure unadulterated beauty.
Make your Ladakh experience unlike anything else in your life. Take on the challenge and conquer the Roof of the World.
For all those people who say “Got Leh’d” have no idea what they are talking about. Wait till you do Rumtse to Tso Moriri Lake Trek.
The king of all treks indeed.