Pangong Tso is one of India’s most beautiful places. It looks picturesque in the summer, which is the peak tourist season, but I wanted to see how it looks in the extremely cold winter months. And that’s how I landed here during my winter backpacking trip to Ladakh.
Pangong Tso is a high altitude (14,270 feet) lake located in the western Himalayas of Ladakh. 40% of this lake comes under India while the remaining 60% comes under the purview of China occupied Tibet. Since this lake area falls under the sensitive India-China border, one needs an inner line permit to visit this Himalayan lake.
Completed surrounded by the mighty Himalayas, the lake colour varies from a emerald blue to a turquoise green. While I was here, the temperatures were about minus 15 degrees celsius, but the wind chill factor would have been 5 degrees lower. In spite of such low temperatures, the lake was frozen only at the edges. It is said that the lake freezes only for a couple of weeks or so every winter. The best part is that it freezes real quick and unfreezes with great speed too.
When the lake completely freezes over, the ice gets so thick that one can actually drive a jeep over it. The Indian army is known to organize skating games over it during such times. But, in all this, I sometimes wonder, how does a saline lake, such as the Pangong Tso really freeze. I tried tasting its water and found it be more saline than sea water.
But, on the other hand, during the summer months, the atmosphere at the lake is more bearable, though the lack of oxygen can still be felt, though not as bad as winter. But, the colours get prettier in summer as the clouds stay away during the warm months. What one gets to see in the ‘3 Idiots’ movie is the summer view. What you get to see here are the winter views.
If you wish to be one with nature, then winter is the time. The spectacular sights of the lake, its surrounding hills, the rarified temperature, the complete lack of living beings, the bone-chilling weather and the absolute peace is a perfect concoction for a heady paradise mix.