Leh | India
Leh | India
Leh | India
Leh | India
Leh | India
Leh | India
Leh | India
Leh | India
Leh | India
The Leh-Ladakh region in Kashmir is home to some of the most uncanny landscapes in India. Its snowy hills and sporadic vegetation have created a fine, pollution-free ecosystem that fuels the escapade of many young adventurers.
People worldwide flock here to experience the serene beauty of Buddhist culture and the child-like innocence of mountain people. The Himalayas, being one of the biggest mountain ranges in the world, is a paradise for new and experienced trekkers alike.
The Sham Valley trail is often referred to as the 'baby trek' because any moderately fit individual with no prior trekking experience can successfully attempt it. It involves no danger.
The primary attractions of the Sham Valley can be summed up in the following points:
Wild rivers and streams:
The powerful streams from the Indus River cut through mountain rocks and meander down the slope in majestic manners. The force they carry with them can easily wear away rubble and boulders from the mountain rocks, creating an empowering display of nature and its might.
In fact, the entire valley was carved by the rivers and their weathering actions. There are narrow wooden bridges constructed to cross those rivers, which are heart-pounding to walk over, like an adventure movie!
A little before the village of Nimmu is a famous place called the 'Sangam Point.' It's the place where the Indus River, originating from Tibet, and the Zanskar river originating from the Zanskar Valley, converge, forming a beautiful sight.
Sacred monasteries brimming with buddhist tradition:
The Leh-Ladakh region is a living specimen of Lord Buddha's preachings and Buddhist Tradition. Several monasteries are neighboring the trail, with scriptures, antique paintings, statues of Lord Buddha, and inscriptions quoting his teachings and the peaceful lives Buddhists follow.
The Alchi, Likir, Rizong, Lamayuru Monasteries were built in different medieval and ancient history periods. They're renowned for their strict rules and tranquil environments perfect for mediation. If you're willing to look inside yourself and reinvent your mind and body, then these monasteries are for you.
Affable villagers with their picturesque homeland:
There's a saying that mountain people are the purest humanity can ever be since they grow up in nature's lap and are raised by the elements. Well, the saying couldn't be any more accurate. They'd offer you homestay and their regional cuisine at low prices, and their stories of mystic adventures that are a normal part of their day-to-day life will keep you entertained.
Interestingly, the executioner, that is - time, hasn't been able to kill their culture and rituals, which remain as fresh as day 1. The villages of Likir, Yangthang, and Hemis Shukpachan are all a sight to behold with their beautiful houses, sparkling streams, willow, and barley fields that introduce greenery to the desolate mountain terrain. Set against the rich cedar forests, the villages soothe the eyes of the most restless of travelers.
The magnetic hill:
Further towards Kargil on Srinagar Highway, there is a magical magnetic mountain located 30 km away from Leh. It is tough to miss since a signboard has been put up in its place. This place is famous for a strange phenomenon that causes cars to ascend the slope even with their engine turned off.
In truth, this is an optical illusion caused by the structure of the surrounding hills, which makes the downhill slope appear uphill. Some may believe this phenomenon to be caused by the magnetic pull of rocks, but it's not.
Sham Valley is located near the Srinagar-Leh National Highway 1 in Ladakh. Ladakh has been declared a union territory, so reaching there might be a bit difficult with all the documentation required. The village of Likir is the base camp trekkers set out from, which is 58 km away from Leh. The actual trek takes about 3 days, excluding the time required to reach Likir and the way back.
The place is widely known as Apricot Valley due to the abundance of apricot trees. It's an integral part of Ladakhi culture, as the trees finely contrast the snow-capped mountains to create a mesmerizing view.
The place is relatively warmer than the rest of Ladakh. Likir is situated 200 meters above sea level, and it can reach up to 4500 meters before ending at a point that is over 3700 meters high. You won't run into any steep climb or difficult terrain on your way. The streams are easy to cross, while the passes ascend gently and won't require heavy physical exertion to climb.
The entire trip from Leh to Leh can cost from USD 135(INR 10000) to USD 187(INR 14000) for one individual. Although the Sham Valley Trek cost can vary depending on the equipment you decide to carry with, varied modes of travel, and money spent on food. It's also influenced by the travel packages you choose.
Cell phone connectivity:
Ladakh is a bit tricky regarding network connectivity. While the more populated areas can receive good 3G connections, you should be prepared for long periods of no connectivity in secluded places on the trail. Only postpaid Airtel and BSNL networks work there in spite of India having entered the 5G stage.
Local prepaid networks can work there, and you can easily obtain one from the local stores with identity and address proof. Foreign SIM cards don't work there, so you need to grab a local SIM card with your passport and visa(if you're a foreigner).
The Sham Valley Trek in Ladakh is widely regarded as a baby trek due to how easy it is. It is a hotspot for novice trekkers or more seasoned trekkers looking towards warming themselves up before moving on to more challenging treks.
Still, it is advised to maintain a good physique, fitness level, and cardiovascular health before embarking on this trek, as you may need to walk for 2-3 hours at a stretch, which can be very tiring. People with heart diseases or breathing problems may want to avoid this trek altogether or obtain a permit from their doctors before continuing.
You should also keep in mind that good mental health is necessary for any adventurous tour. Even though there is no risk involved in the Sham Valley Trek, the strenuous physical exertion coupled with the high altitude is not for the weak-willed.
The weather at Sham Valley is quite bearable throughout the year, even for people who aren't used to the cold climate. The temperature remains above 20°C in the daytime while only touching 9°C to 10°C at night.
July to August, however, is ideal for visiting the place since the highways are open to private vehicles at that time. Furthermore, nature is at its finest during that time, with the sprawling green grasses fresh with life accompanying the blossom willow and barley fields.
Also, since the city of Leh is situated on the leeward side of the mountain, the weather is delightful during the monsoon.
While the region isn't very cold, light to medium cold garments, trekking shoes, essential pieces of equipment, and medicines are required for this trek.
Apparel and accessories:
Maintaining a balance between the body's outward and inward temperature in the cold is essential. 3-4 full-sleeved t-shirts, along with cotton-wool garments and fiber-filled padded jackets with hoods, will help stave off the moderate cold. Since the best time to visit this place is around the monsoon, quick-drying polyester garments are recommended. You should have some woolen sweaters with you as well, just in case you need it.
Always pack lightweight clothes to prevent your backpack from getting too heavy. Otherwise, it can slow you down and tire you very easily during the long stretch of walking. 2-3 pairs of sweatpants and track pants are enough for this trek. Always opt for food quality material as they will go a long way towards keeping you warm and lasting long enough.
Protecting the body extremities, namely the head and the foot, is also essential to block heat loss. Woolen caps, Beanies, or balaclava can be worn under the hood for added protection. Woolen Mufflers can be added as an extra layer under freezing situations during the Sham Valley Trek. Furthermore, wooden gloves and socks can protect you from frostbites. Synthetic sports socks work, too, as they can dry up very quickly during daytime treks.
Keeping in mind the snow cover on the Sham Valley Trek, good-quality shoes with mini-spikes would help traverse the snow with a good grip. So you should invest in a good one while keeping the budget in mind. The trekking shoes should be sturdy, with good water resistance and ankle support. Gaiters are useful as it prevents the lower half of the leg from getting cold and block the entrance of debris into the boots.
A pair of good quality UV sunglasses are advised since you'll be a lot closer to the sun and face the direct effects of the UV rays at such heights. A battery-operated or solar-powered torch or lamp would come handy during night treks.
Food and cutleries:
Although food is available in the villages, they are not close to each other, so it's recommended to carry your tiffin for the trek. Dry fruits and biscuits should help with quick nutrition between breaks since they're easy to pack and carry.
Even though food is readily available from the villages or from the trek groups you're accompanying, you should bring your cutleries for maintaining proper hygiene, especially at a time like this when a simple touch can transmit the deadly pandemic.
Stainless steel is considered the appropriate material for such trips because they're easy to wash and don't react actively with other materials.
Backpacks, waterproof covers, and sleeping bags:
A standard backpack of 60 liters is enough for most beginner and intermediate treks. You should have a waterproof cover for the backpack to protect your electronics and documents.
Good quality sleeping back with moderate thickness would be enough to pass the night. The cold isn't too harsh, and it stays above zero even at night.
Toiletries and hygiene products:
No matter where you go, a proper set of toiletries and hygiene products should always be a part of your regular belongings on a tour. Good hygiene goes a long way towards keeping you healthy and disease-free in the long run, and public toilets and their supplies can be pretty unreliable at times.
A toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap, moisturizer, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and deodorant are some of the most important things in your toiletry bag. For easy cleanup, napkins, tissue papers, and wet wipes should be carried.
Women should carry their sanitary pads and napkins as these trips can last for a few days. Sharing such things is a surefire way of catching infections.
Medical kit and first aid:
Paracetamols, antihistamines, anti-nausea medicines, antacids, and painkillers are some common medicines that would come in clutch in emergencies. A first-aid kit consisting of bandaids, crepe bandages, antiseptic liquid, ointment, gauze swabs, insect repellent cream, and a pain-relieving spray should also be carried. You may have some water-purifying tablets on you to drink the water from the streams if there is no other option.
A government-issued photo ID with two copies of it should be kept at reach all times. Proof of address is essential too. For foreigners, the passport and visa should be safely kept under close supervision, as those are the primary documents they'll need to verify their identity. Two passport-sized photographs also need to be carried.
You should use waterproof covers to prevent them from getting wet. All trekking permits, park and monastery entry fees should be kept ready. You may require a porter to carry the goods, but in a travel agency package, they'll make arrangements for that.
The Sham Valley Trek takes about 5 days if you count the to and fro journey. Trekkers usually spend the first day on Leh, the Capital of Ladakh, to adapt themselves to the cold climate. There are many things to see in Leh before you plan your journey to the Sham Valley. Here's the Sham Valley Trek Itinerary.
Even though the trek is one of the easiest in India, a moderate level of physical and mental fortitude is required for this trek, and any Sham Valley Package will mandate that.
The biggest hurdle in this trek is the continuous walking for long hours. So, such stamina can be achieved through regular jogging, squatting, swimming, cycling, and stretching exercises. Yoga can help build the flexibility and agility of your body.
Apart from that, any adventurous tour requires you to think lucidly, maintain strong willpower, take quick decisions that can even end in life or death, and be an anchor to your group if the worse comes to worst. Keeping a cool head under extreme circumstances is a feat not many can display. But to get there, regular meditation, pranayama, and yoga are the only few ways.
With the Sham Valley Trek, you can give yourself props for completing a beginner-friendly trek and being certified as a trek. You can now gradually move on to more demanding treks, taking in the euphoria of conquering mountains after mountains.
While you're at it, please follow all safety guidelines and rules to enjoy a healthy and risk-free journey.