When: September 2018
A 1200km altitude journey through Ladakh and Zanskar regions. Starting in Leh (3500m), the regional tour included several of the world’s highest passes, as well as exploring the environs around Pangong and Moriri lakes.
This most northerly region in India is often called ‘Little Tibet’; it is Buddhist and has the summer residence for the Dalai Lama. It is also a militarily sensitive region, where the borders of India, Pakistan and China meet. The region is often called the ‘Third Pole’ because, like with the Arctic and Antarctic, it is twice as sensitive to climate change as other parts of the world. Yet traditional Ladakhi culture is one of the world’s most sustainable.
For the humanitarian mission, Kate partnered with local organisation, Global Himalayan Expedition, to participate in a project to electrify the 1100 year old village of Ralakung, the most remote village in Zanskar, using solar power to provide light, education and a means of income generation. Receiving more sunlight than anywhere else in the world (more than 300 days annually), the Ladakh and Zanskar regions are ideally suited for generating solar power. In winter, the reflection of light off the surrounding snow-covered mountains ensures at least six hours of intense solar energy production. This expedition involved 60km of trekking; taking two days each way to traverse two passes, the highest being the Phey-Ralakung Pass at 5226m.
Here is a beautiful video made by expedition filmmaker, Stanzin Jigmet, about the electrification of Ralakung village:
Prior to this, the expeditioners set up innovation (education) centres in the villages of Phey and Skiagam. The Raspberry Pi computer systems to be installed are extremely energy-efficient. With no internet access, the computer systems are linked to special hard drives called RACHEL devices that create a WiFi hotspot to access a library of learning resources that it contains for the students – a virtual internet (not connected to the worldwide web), that is the next best solution. More information about the GHE expedition can be found HERE.
During the cycle journey from Leh to Phey, Kate stopped off at villages that have already benefitted from receiving an innovation centre – Khalsi, Wanla and Photoksar – to meet the community and present to the students.
Here is the route: Stage 1 being from Leh to Phe and Padum (to take part in the GHE projects and speak at the villages along the way); and Stage 2 being the regional tour from Leh to Taglang La Pass, Tso Moriri, Chang La Pass, Tso Pangong, Shyok, Khalsar and Khardung La Pass back to Leh. (Note: due to snow conditions, Tagang La was closed and so Kate cycled in the opposite direction to what was planned (Leh, Chumathang, Tso Moriri). Kate also visited the Nubra region (Hunder, Diskit) from Khalsar, before tackling Khardung La.
Kate has made a 50-minute film about the expedition, The Lights of Ladakh, to be premiered on Adventure Plus from 23rd September and streaming on the platform from then on.
Here is the trailer: