Sham Trek – Likir to Temisgang

Also known as the baby trek, this is an easy hike through the heavenly Sham valley.

Usually completed in three days, I tackled it in two due to time restraints. This would have been manageable if I didn’t make a wrong turn at the start of the first day and ended up taking a 4 hour diversion over a steep mountain pass.

Despite the escapade of the first day, this was a throughly enjoyable hike. Although the scenery wasn’t as breathtaking as the Jingchen to Stok trek I’d previously done, it was still majestic – is anywhere in the Himalayas not?

I tackled the Sham trek alone, as I didn’t want to pay for a guide and I couldn’t find anyone else going. The peace and quiet was actually quite nice, and it was definitely needed after the madness of north India.

Getting there

Buses run daily from Leh to Likir at 4pm. It was extremely budget friendly, as it only cost 80 rupees (Ā£1)! Although the ride was exceptionally hot and long due to several stops, including a 20 minute food stop.

Taxis are also available but they cost around 1800 rupees.

Day one – Likir to Hemis Shukpachan

After a great sleep at Chuma homestay, which cost 300 rupees (Ā£3.60) a night including food, I started off at 6am full of energy, excitement and chapati.

I’d asked the way from a local the previous day, so I started confidently in that direction. The path I was on abruptly stopped, so I had to slide down a rocky hillside to another path below. Frustratingly this happened two more times, leaving me dumbfounded over where the correct path was. Despite having on my phone and numerous screenshots of guides to the trek, I couldn’t find the correct route for almost an hour, so I ended up just walking along the road towards Yangthang. As I knew I was now heading in the right direction (just not the right path), I started to enjoy the spectacular views.

Unfortunately, I met a French guide along the way who was taking a client on the same trek. Instead of following the road, I took his advice to go on a dusty track and “follow the blue arrows”, which were painted on rocks every 30 meters. All was going well until the blue arrows stopped and I was soon climbing steeply upwards. There were several blind corners, so I kept on telling myself that the path would shortly begin to descend. I rounded corner after corner and after every one the path went continuously up. It eventually got so steep and the ground so loose that I had to scramble up on all fours. The altitude also didn’t help, as I had to stop every 10 to 20 seconds to catch my breath.

Being alone in this situation was immensely scary and I continuously looked for the guide, considering if to turn back. I definitely would have if the route down looked any easier.

Somehow I managed to reach the top and I was filled with pure exhilaration and relief. Looking down, I felt extremely lucky to have only slightly injured my leg and have a few thorns in my hands. The views were also phenomenal and I felt privileged to have this landscape entirely to myself.

What had taken me over three hours to climb, only took me one hour to decent. Huge boulders were in my way, but I was jumping from one to another like a mountain goat. On the way down, a local Shepard invited me over to drink some fresh cows milk. He was astonished I’d managed to tackle the pass on my own with no equipment, making me even more thankful to have made it unscathed.

As I reached the village of Saspotse and saw a well-paved road, my spirits lifted. This was helped further by a elderly woman inviting me into her home for tea and chapati. Although a language barrier, we spoke at each other and laughed and smiled for no reason at all. She also loved having her photo taken and couldn’t stop laughing and pulling faces.

From Saspotse to Yangthang, I followed a clear route down a tarmac road, which wasn’t as interesting to walk on, but I did manage to make up for lost time.

Passing straight through Yangthang, I headed towards the next village, Hemis Shukpachan. This was reached by a short steep climb over Sharmachan La pass (3,750m), which felt like Everest on my tired legs. Reaching the summit, I could see my resting place for the night. The descent into the village was utterly enchanting, as the late afternoon sun cast long shadows into the valley.

I thought I was dreaming when a woman offered me a room with a hot shower and a large double bed. After the greatest shower I’ve ever had, I was give three generous helpings of vegetable noodle soup. Shortly afterwards, I fell into bed as I was shattered after 15 miles (24.4km) of walking.

Day two – Hemis Shukpachan to Temisgang

The next day was a lot easier and certainly less daunting, as there was a clear path to follow the entire way. It was also mostly downhill expect two sharp inclines. Despite it being a much shorter day, I still ended up walking a total of 10.5 miles (16.9 km).

Leaving Hemis Shukpachan, I took a path past cedar and juniper trees up a short ascent to the top of a hillside (3,710m). The path then steeply descended and ascended again to the top of Lago La pass (3,750m), which offered exquisite views.

From this point on, it was all downhill which my weary legs were thankful for. I passed through the small village of Ang and began the descent into Temisgan. The path was lined with trees and the walls with apricots drying in the sun. Everyone I saw greated me with a smile and a friendly “Julley” (meaning hello).

I didn’t manage to make it back in time for the bus from Temisgang, so I walked to the main road by Nur La village to hitch hike. The path was again all downhill and I just followed the thunderous roar of the river into the valley.

I was amazed that the first car I saw gave me a free lift all the way back to Leh, which was two hours away! The family spoke to me the entirety of the way and were so friendly, making it a great end to what had been a challenging two days.

Top tips

  • On the first day, ask a few different locals for the path to take so your 100% sure
  • Buy a map, as or Google Maps doesn’t show the route
  • Shop around for home stays – some of them are very cheap and you don’t need somewhere luxurious for just a few hours sleep
  • Pack warm as the nights get very cold.

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