Winter in Ladakh - The Call Of The Mountains

Sunrise in Leh Town, Jammu and Kashmir

Since time immemorial, the mountains have promised the perfect retreat for those seeking spiritual enlightenment. They have been the abode of the wise, a sanctuary of peace and serenity, in stark contrast to the ruggedness of the harsh terrain. As one moves higher, the cares of the world drop away and a world of breathtaking beauty unfolds – a gift from the Gods

Emerging from a toasty +21° C room into a bone chilling -15° C early morning environment is not a task for the faint-hearted. But braving the elements, perched atop a hotel rooftop, has unparalleled rewards. High up in the mountains, with no pollution to disperse the light, sunrise colours are often muted. But, on this day, the twilight colours of the sunrise were spectacular, the vibrant hues dispelling the bitter cold. The orange light is visible only towards the left of the mountains, leaving the right side in deep shadows, creating a 3D illusion. That’s the magic of winter in Ladakh!

First Rats of Sun on Leh Palace,Leh Town, Jammu and Kashmir

When the sun rises in Leh Valley, its very first rays transform the dun-colouredLeh Palace into a mansion of gold, while the rest of the valley remains bathed in darkness. The architects of yore were masters of their craft and positioned this architectural icon very strategically, hundreds of years ago. The terrace of the nine-storey place offers panoramic views of the surrounding areas – to the south is the mountain of Stok Kangri in Zanskar mountain range, across the Indus valley, while the Ladakh mountain range is visible to the north behind the palace.

Colours of winter grass in Leh

Asymmetrical ribbons of rock and snow make for an arresting backdrop, framing the unique sun dappled colours of the dry grass in the foreground. The River Indus flows just beyond the tall grasses, close to the snowy mountains, not far from the Thikse Monastery.  

Thikse MonasteryLeh , Jammu and Kashmir

Silhouetted against a deep blue sky, dotted with fluffy cottony clouds, the Thikse Monasterysitson top of a hill in Thikse village, at an altitude of 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) in the Indus Valley. Located 19 kilometres to the east of Leh it is a popular and much photographed tourist destination. The largest gompa (monastery) in central Ladakh, it is known for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The twelve-storey complex houses Buddhist stupas, statues, thangkas, wall paintings and swords, aswell as a separate set of residential buildings for women ascetics. 

Statue of Maitreya,Leh, Jammu and Kashmir

The gorgeous 15 metres (49 ft) high statue of Maitreya, the largest statue in Ladakh, rises up to two stories of the building. The temple of Maitreya or ‘future Buddha’ was erected to commemorate the visit of the 14th Dalai Lama here in 1970. The statue is made of clay, gold paint and copper and took four years to build.The photograph was taken from the first floor.

Frozen Streams in Hialayas,Leh, Jammu and Kashmir

Far from civilisation, in a region without any electricity, flows this mountain stream, seen here in various stages of ice formation — the inner, slate grey watery spirals and the frosty white edges bordering the dry brown grass. For a photographer, light is everything. On a cloudy winter afternoon, the temperature was -15° Cand the bleak landscape looked flat and lifeless. After a patient wait of several hours, the clouds parted, allowing some light to seep on to a part of the snowy mountains, giving the photograph depth. 

Icy Formations at Lake Tso Moriri

Up in the Himalayas, lies the highest lake in India, Lake Tso Moriri. In -20° C temperatures, the gentle waters push the ice sheets to the shore, creating stunning ice sculptures, as the sun shines in an azure sky. The lake can be reached from Changthang, a part of the 16,000 km Tibetan Plateau. At an altitude of 4,522 m (14,836 ft), this is the largest high altitude lake entirely within India and wholly within Ladakh in this Trans-Himalayan biogeographic region. The lake is 26 km in length and 3-5 km wide. 

Frozen Tso Moriri

The moods of the lake are myriad. Captured on a warmer day, Lake Tso Moriri or "Mountain Lake" reflects the changing seasons as clear ice sheets begin to form on its surface. Yet it is still fragile, and the cracks create a shattered mirror effect. 

Frozen Pangong Tso Lake,Ladakh,Jammu and Kashmir

At -25° C, water and ice, along with deep ochre shades of sunrise in an overcast sky create anunforgettable frozen panorama at Pangong Tso Lake.  The bitter cold numbs all exposed extremities in a second. The panoramic image was created by stitching together a series of photographs.

Pangong Tso is a salt water lake in the Himalayas, situated at a height of 4,350 meters (14,270 ft). Thewinter temperatures range from -10° to - 30° C. It is the second highest lake in India.