Stok Kangri Expedition 2018 – Day 2 – Alchi Monastery

Prayer wheels at Alchi Monastery
Prayer wheels at Alchi Monastery

We drove for hours across a dusty and barren landscape which makes up the Indus Valley. Our mini bus was headed for Alchi Monastery a few hours up river and deeper into the Ladakh countryside. The Monastery consists of a small collection of monastic temples dating from between 958 and 1055.

According to local tradition the complex was founded by the revered guru Rinchen Zangpo a famous translator of Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Tibetan. It is therefore both a very old and a very important monastery and we were headed there as part of our acclimatisation and cultural discovery programme in Ladakh.

Walking stick of Rinchen Zangpo
Walking stick of Rinchen Zangpo

According to ancient texts the tree outside the monastery is of a species not native to the land thereabouts and folklore dictates that it grew as a result of Rinchen Zangpo having an epiphany that he’d found the right spot to build a monastery and so he proceeded to plant his walking stick firmly and permanently in the ground to mark the spot from which the tree we see today grew. Great story, highly improbable but I’d buy into it in all probability had I been around in the 11th century.

Alchi Monastery
Alchi Monastery

The monastery today has three major shrines: the Dukhang (Assembly hall), the Sumtsek and the Temple of Manjushri, all dating from between the early 12th and early 13th centuries. Several small Chortens litter the complex but all appear to have seen much better days. 

Tara in Manjushri
Tara in Manjushri

For us the visit was an opportunity to get away from the confines of our hotel in Leh which was becoming way too claustrophobic and a chance to get out and see some of the countryside. The monastery although interesting was unfortunately easily seen within an hour so the subsequent thought of a return two and a half hour road trip back along the potholed and dusty roads of Ladakh was not too appealing.

Luckily though lunch had been arranged for us by the monastery and so we ate in the tranquil monastery gardens relaxing for a couple of hours before embarking on our weary journey back to Leh.

At the end of the day although tired from the long journey we were a day further into our acclimatisation process and a day nearer to the big climb itself so all was going to plan.

Follow along with the expedition updates being posted over the coming weeks.

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Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 1

I found myself sitting at a table overlooking the famous square of Djemaa El-Fna in Marrakech chatting to four people that I had just met a few seconds earlier while at the same time trying to wolf down a tasty chicken tagine that had promptly arrived in front of me! Continue reading “Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 1”

Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 2

The Route: Jebel Toubkal | Distance: 10.6km | Time: 7 Hours Height gain: 1866m | Max Altitude: 3207m | Start: Imlil Village | Finish: Neltner Refuge Map: Orientazion – Toubkal Hiking Map ISBN: 9788493560003 | Date: 07/06/2014

I arrived with my new best friends in the village of Imlil. Imlil is the gateway to the Atlas Mountains and the start point for our trek. From here on in there was only one way and it all led uphill! We all stocked up on water supplies from a small tea shop on the edge of the main street through the village while our newly acquired muleteer loaded up our mule for the journey. Our main holdalls would be carried by mule up to the Neltner Refuge, beyond that point the mule don’t go, so we would be carrying our daysacks from that point on. Continue reading “Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 2”

Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 3

The Route: Jebel Toubkal | Distance: 16.5km | Time: 12 Hours
Height gain: 967m | Max Altitude: 4167m | Start: Neltner Refuge | Finish: Imlil Village
Map: Orientazion – Toubkal Hiking Map ISBN: 9788493560003 | Date: 08/06/2014

There was no mistaking it there was definitely movement on a mass scale as people stumbled around in the dark gathering gear and buckling up! It was 4.00 a.m already and the last time I’d looked at my watch it read only 3.00 a.m. That hour or so earlier and in total darkness I’d crept up the stone stairwell in the refuge finally crawling into my sleeping bag having spent the previous precious hours cold and shivering downstairs on a hard bench. Continue reading “Jebel Toubkal Challenge – Day 3”