In my last ten years of traveling in the Himalayas, including all my Ladakh trips or Spiti Valley trips, I have followed one key principle of mine “Start Early & Sleep Early.” It has not only helped me have numerous memorable trips to these remotest of the places in trans-Himalayas, including Ladakh and Spiti Valley, but it has ensured I had safe and sound travel in all those years.
Today I will like to share the reasons why I chose to start my day early and why I sleep early whenever I am traveling in the Himalayas. I am sure as it has helped me on all my Ladakh trips or my Spiti Valley trips, these reasons will surely going to compel you too to follow it and are going to surely help you all too.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
5 Reasons to Start Early & Sleep Early
Here, I will share the five reasons I start early and sleep early in a day while on a Ladakh trip or Spiti valley trip. I hope it will help you guys too and make your trips as memorable as it has made for mine.
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1. Workers come on the roads for road constructions especially on Spiti Valley Trip
The late you start in the day, the more delays you should expect. The workers on the roads come for repair/construction works, and then there are scheduled road closures. Sometimes blasting of big rocks triggers more landslides, and hence, further delays get added to overall days. Overall it affects the time of travel in the day.
The road work is pretty common on the roads of Kinnaur Valley when you travel to Spiti. Similarly in the season time, you will see a lot of workers on Manali – Leh Highway as well.
2. Sun comes up, snow melts causing landslides and ferocious water streams/nallas
As the sun comes up, the snow melts fast. This melting of snow results in more landslides or snow slides later in the day. Also, the water level in the nallas or water crossings becomes high, causing issues, especially to small cars. Sometimes the high water levels in the water crossings or a massive snow slide or landslide force you to halt your entire journey or trip at least for the day.
Passes like Zojila on Srinagar Leh Highway are pretty famous for such landslides. Similarly, the roads in Spiti Valley, especially between Tabo to Sumdo, witness the same behavior in the hills.
3. Sun comes up, the winds pick the pace too causing shooting stones
Shooting stones are one of the most dangerous of all concerns you should have while you are on a Ladakh trip of a Spiti valley trip as they are unpredictable and hard to locate/spot. The small stones come at a speed of a bullet and crash the windshields or side windows and sometimes trigger massive landslides too.
Shooting stones are common as you travel to Spiti Valley from the Kinnaur side and when you travel to Nubra Valley from Leh. The later in the day you start, as the wind picks up speed the shooting stones become more common.
4. Adds contingency as you have more daylight, so more bargaining power too
If you start early in the day in the Himalayas, there is a high chance that you will reach with a good amount of daylight left in the day despite facing any unexpected delays too. In case there are major delays, you still have a contingency to reach your day’s place within safe time limits.
The early you reach your destination of the day in Ladakh or Spiti, the more stay options you will have for you to explore and hence, the better chance of getting a good, economic deal.
The hotel/stay guys do consider the fact that even if you DO NOT get a place to stay in one town, you have to option to travel further or explore more for better deals. Hence, mostly they do lend scope of bargaining as compared to someone who reaches the wee or odd late hours of a day.
5. Best colors to take pictures early in the morning, best colors in the evening when you settle down
The best part of following the principle of “Start Early & Sleep Early,” you wake up early, giving you a chance to capture early morning shots and the photo shots on the road in the early morning. And, when you reach your destination, you see the best of the colors again in the evening.
Most of us know that dusk and dawn are two most amazing time periods in a day to watch nature’s best colors painting themselves over vast landscapes of Ladakh or Spiti Valley or anywhere in the world. Hence, these are considered as the golden hours for photography too.
A Personal Account of Near-Death Experience
After reading his story, you will realize the importance of why you should always leave early and call off your day early for safety reasons. Always remember that mountains may be calling you, but they are the ones who will let you come back safely.
Here is what Rahul shares with us,
Entering the fear
So my first incident of “do or die” was on my bike ride to Spiti Valley. It was Day 2 for us as we started from Bhawa Nagar in Kinnaur Valley to Kaza. We were going slow and were only able to make it to Spello by 4 pm. The weather worsened, and the locals asked us not to go beyond Nako at any cost.
We thought we could do it. As we progressed towards Nako, we entered the area of falling stones. The winds were so fast that my bike was being pushed on the side of the cliff by its force. Halfway was done and this was the view.
It was this moment when I realized that I and Nitish (my girlfriend’s brother) f**ked up. I had promised her that I am gonna keep her brother safe no matter what, as he was riding on such roads of Kinnaur and Spiti for the first time. But at that moment, I knew I am going to have to take nature’s wrath and stay strong so that he can stay calm. I acted like things are okay. It was already 5.50 PM.
Facing the fear
As we continued we reached the ever famous Khab bridge, the temperature just touched less than 5 degrees. And we took a small break there just to discuss our future course of action. And to message our loved ones that we are safe.
I was so scared that I had put my GoPro in the bag and to keep my focus only on him (Nitish) and his safety. This time I took the responsibility and kept him just behind me. We were elevating at a very high rate. Body shivering, fingers freezing, almost got frostbite, brain chocking.
We slowly made it to the top of that mountain of hairpin bends via Ka-zigs. And then snowfall started, and it was almost dark by now. No signs of human, no signages, no signals. I did not know if I would be alive after 2 hrs or not in those remote corners of Himachal.
This was it, that mountain looked more like a death mountain to me. And then we continued on the road. It all turned dark in a matter of minutes, and I could only hear mine and Nitish’s bike’s engine sound and sound of the river flowing at the side. There were no roads, a very narrow patch just beside a very high cliff.
Overcoming the fear
We continued and continued, and we reached a point where it was all fresh landslide, and it took me 15-min to cross. It was already 7.40. Then to our rescue, an angel came (definitely) he asked us about our route and told us that this route goes straight to Tibet you missed a turn 8 km back for Nako.
And then with no option left, we relied on him and continued. Nitish was disheartened to know, and so was I., But I made him feel that’s it’s okay to miss a turn, its not the end of the world. We will reach there soon. But trust me riding on narrow lanes in the pitch black condition really needed some balls. Even I was scared to death, even I thought of just staying there and leaving everything on the god’s mercy, but my promise kept me moving towards Nako.
Getting out of fear
We took the right turn this time and meanwhile the snowfall had intensified. It took us almost 1 hour to do that 20 km patch. It was so dark that even my headlights were useless. It was a high risk to ride in almost the absence of light. Whenever he tried to come at my level or to go ahead of me, I shouted on him to stay behind me.
I was keeping an eye in the rearview mirror and one on the road. Then we crossed the nallah, and I behaved like a cheerleader when he made it too. To keep him motivated. Because for all that period, a small amount of pee was ready to dispense out of me. (No joke, I was scared to bits).
But then slowly and steadily we made it to Nako and found a homestay. The weather was horrendous, and we were almost dead due to cold. We got into the room and informed everyone at home that we are both safe and sound. Then within the bed, I wiped the small number of tears in my eyes and told Nitish that “bhai meri h fati thi pure raste but bataya nahi” (I was scared to hell too, but I did not tell you). 😂
That day I learned that in the Himalayas, it is always important to leave early and reach early. As the sun goes down you should find a shelter for yourself. Because one might not like to see the wrath of nature on mountains the way we did.
15 months have passed now and that night still sends chills through my body. That near death adrenaline rush made me a better rider and a better person.
We woke up to this next morning 🙂
You should always carry your own water bottle and refill it as many times as you need water. It will not only keep you hydrated always, but you will also help in saving the Himalayas from plastic garbage. Remember, every tiny step counts and your step in this direction can help save the Himalayas too !! 🙂 🙂
I hope the above reasons will compel you enough to follow my principle of “Start Early & Sleep Early” so as to enjoy your Ladakh trip or Spiti Valley trip at the fullest and watch some fabulous colors all around the trans-Himalayan range each day of your trip.
Special thanks to Rahul bhai for sharing his personal account on what can go wrong if you try to ignore this basic yet very important principle when traveling in the Himalayas.
PS: These reasons are not just limited to a Ladakh trip or a Spiti Valley trip, rather I follow them at most places whenever I travel 😉
Do you have any other reason to “Start Early & Sleep Early” or have you experienced the same reasons while following such a principle? I would love to listen to them and learn from your stories. Of course, speaking out will help you help others fell travelers too. Feel free to share it with your friends too who are planning their next trip to Ladakh or Spiti Valley.