By Rigzin Chodon, Stawa 02-20
Ice Climbing Festival in Leh, Ladakh
A short drive uphill from Leh leads to Gangles village. The village gets its water from a local stream. The hill above the stream is covered with ice. This was the site for the first Ice Climbing Festival of Ladakh, which was held from 1 to 3 February.
The location was brimming with activity for the three days of the festival. There were trained instructors keeping an eye and guiding people who were trying their hand at ice climbing. There was excitement in the air as nearly 300 people tried their hand over three days at ice climbing for the first time in their lives under the watchful eyes of instructors and volunteers. Each climber had to use spiked climbing boots, helmets and harness, which ensured that people enjoyed the thrill of climbing while reducing the risk of injury.
This festival was organised by Ladakh Mountains Guides' Association (LMGA) with support from Himalayan Institute of Alternative Learning, Department of Wildlife Protection, LAHDC, Leh, All Ladakh Tour Operators Association, Rimo Expeditions and Venture Ladakh. LMGA was founded in 2017 for the welfare of mountaineering and trekking guides and to alleviate the hardships of communities across Ladakh especially youth. They work to empower youth in Ladakh to become self-reliant by imparting skills related to leadership and climbing skills to gain meaningful employment and live healthy lifestyles. LMGA organised the ice festival to introduce winter sports to Ladakhi youth and develop alternatives to Chadar trek to boost winter tourism.
I tried my hand at ice climbing too and it was hard work. I was able to climb halfway under the patient guidance of my instructor from LMGA, Stanzin from Shara. His simple instructions ensured that I was able to master some basic techniques to climb and descend. It was an exhausting but exhilarating experience.