Rajun Karu–Gyama Olma


We start at the normal time of 8 (actually 8:45), heading for the Kyamayuri La. It's the smallest valley of four that meet at roughly right angles at Rajun Karu. We watch the Swiss cyclists attempting the pass: only one manages to cycle most of the way, taking large zigzags up the valley. The others all walk their bikes up the path. This valley is grey, and stonier than the last pass: the rocks have changed from red shale to grey slate, and the only greenery to speak of is the occasional clump of moss. The sky is overcast, and the atmosphere is akin to a Welsh or Scottish mountain.

This pass has the steepest section of any so far, involving a couple of decent steps, but it's by no means difficult. The mountains here are sleeping elephants rather than jagged peaks, and the paths can always find a steady gradient. Soon we are at the top. A couple of snowflakes fall. Beyond the pass is another sideways valley, wider and higher than the last, flat-bottomed, grass-covered, with clouds covering the higher parts of the valley sides. This valley could easily be in the northern Highlands. It's called Gyama Barma, Barma meaning 'between'. Gyama (and probably Kyama as in Kyamayuri) is generally applied to this whole area of Rupshu between the Tso Kar and Tso Moriri basins. There is plenty of grazing in these valleys, but we see no sign of any animal life apart from our own horses, who have stopped in the valley for a bite to eat.

Further down the valley the path begins to climb, heading for a low point (hardly a pass) on the other side, the Kostse La. We fall into the usual rhythm as the path contours upwards, leaving behind a couple of nomad tents and one child shouting, perhaps at us, perhaps just into the air. More snow flurries and I put my camera safely in the pack. The sun appears briefly at the top of the pass, but we can see more storms ahead.

The path gently drops down into the valley on the other side, and we reach the grassy campsite of Gyama Olma through alternating sunshine and snow showers. At the junction of two streams we spot a pair of eagles - or at least some kind of large bird of prey - yellow and black.

This campsite is at 5100 m, the highest we will sleep. The mountain blocking the outlet of the valley is over 6300 m but still doesn't have a name. At sunset herds of goats trickle down from the heights into the valley and on to their designated enclosures. They seem to know the way without needing any encouragement from shepherds or dogs.