Exploration of Reru Valley

An Unknown Valley in Zanskar

Kimikazu Sakamoto

Reru valley in Zanskar was an attractive open valley with many unknown and untrodden mountains around 6000 m. We had a wonderful exploration and found twenty-one virgin peaks in the Reru valley in our 2009 Kyoto Zanskar expedition organised between 6 August and 12 September 2009. We were a four member group, all seniors, with Akira Taniguchi (71), Kiyoaki Miyagawa (68), Mitsuhiko Okabe (68) and me, Kimikazu Sakamoto (69), as the leader.

I had looked into the Reru valley when we stayed at Reru campsite on our way to Shingo la in 2007 and recalled that the Reru was a wide and open valley with high rock mountains at Sumdo. We hoped that there may be many similar beautiful sharp rock mountains in the Reru valley area, same as in Kishtwar. This valley is situated south of Kang la and located on the east of Miyar glacier. After referring to several maps, it seemed that probably about 30 unknown virgin peaks with the altitude around 6000 m exist in this area.

Finally, we planned our 2009 Zanskar expedition, firstly to explore the Reru, expecting to find many untrodden mountains, and then to trek in the quiet Zanskar area, visiting remote villages and walking from Tantak gompa to Gian via Nialo Kontse la (4850 m) and Gotunta la (5100 m).

Flying from Osaka via Delhi we spent three days in Leh to acclimatise. We took three days to reach Padam, via Kargil and stayed two nights.

From 16 August, our exploration of the Reru began. From Padam we followed the old trail along left bank of Tsarap which was quiet with nice views, compared to the right side, which was dusty with much traffic. Just before Shila, we could see the rock mountain in Kapang Topko on right of the Tsarap. As we saw this mountain from the town of Padam, we presumed it should be Peak 6028 m, maybe unclimbed. After about an hour’s walk from Shila, another rock mountain could be seen on the other side of Kapang Tokpo. We judged that this mountain might be Peak 6431 m, also virgin, and named it ‘Zanskar Matterhorn’. After passing Bardan monastery, we crossed the bridge over the Tsarap and camped at the Bardan gompa.


P. 5825 m (R19-Center), P. 6111 m (R18-Right), P. 6110 m (R19-Left). (Kimikazu Sakamoto)


Sketch map of Reru valley

From the camp site, we saw an attractive rock mountain Peak 6071 m in the Reru area. This time, we decided to tentatively give these mountains names1 such as R1, R2, R35, in order to avoid any confusion in identifying these mountains as there are so many in the Reru area. Therefore, hereafter, we will refer to these mountains as P. 6071m (R1), P. 6148 m (R35) etc.

August 17 : As we left Bardan, an attractive rock mountain P. 6071 m (R1) was always with us on our way to Reru camp. We went to the turning point of the Reru valley which turns south about 1 km from the Reru camp and we could see P. 5862 m (R27) and P. 6158 m (R26) at Sumdo in Reru valley, from the same point as two years ago.

We arrived at the Reru camp, located at a beautiful spot with a small pond in the green willow trees and the wonderful backdrop of P. 6071 m (R1). But it was noisy, with many trekkers.

Our guide Tsewang and the horseman leader ‘Big Tenzing’ visited the chief of Reru Village for information. He told us, best to his knowledge, no climber or trekker had entered the Reru valley which was used by villagers only. Honouring his claim, our guide Tsewang agreed to pay Rs. 100/- per tent and per day as a fee to explore Reru valley.

In the evening, I accompanied Tsewang and Big Tenzing to the village and visited an old man in a small shop. He told us that the left branch of Reru valley is better with an easy trail from Sumdo but the right one was rocky and difficult for horses. Also, he gave us local names of mountains that could be seen from their village.

P. 6071 m (R1) - Skanglaya
P. 5825 m (R36) - Usuchan


Reru camp site and P. 6071 m (R1). (Kimikazu Sakamoto)


From left, P. 6128 m (R25-Left) P. 6088 m (R24-Right). (Kimikazu Sakamoto)


P. 6080 m (R4-Left), P. 6036 m (R3-Right). (Kimikazu Sakamoto)


P. 6148 m (R35). (Kimikazu Sakamoto)


P. 6431 m. (Kimikazu Sakamoto)

August 18 : We left Reru camp at 7.50 a.m. and reached the turning point of Reru Valley at 8.50 a.m. From this point, we walked for about one hour on the old jeep road on the right hand bank which ended at the rock. We could not understand why this jeep road had been constructed.

We had nice views of the peaks of Reru valley upto Sumdo where the attractive rock mountains P. 5862 m (R27) and P. 6158 m (R26) stand. The valley is surrounded with rocky mountains of around 6000 m, and this valley is wide with 100-150 m width. We could see the mountain P. 5947 m (R2) near the turning point of the river.

At Onkar, the big branch entered the right side towards Kang la (5498 m). There is the beautiful flat camp site at Onkar with clean water and green grass. After walking on the right bank for a while, we saw the rock mountains of P. 5677 m (R14) and P. 5815 m (R13) on the right side. P. 5862 m (R27) and P. 6158 m (R26) from Sumdo looked very close but it took a long time to reach there. We reached Sumdo at 3.00 p.m. As twelve days had passed since we left Japan, we were tired and took a rest day here.

August 19 : It was cloudy and drizzled in the afternoon. We sent our guide Tsewang and our horsemen to reconnaissance the right branch to find a suitable advance camp. They reported that we could establish an advance camp on a flat green bank with pure spring water, just before the rock hill over which our horses would not be able to cross. Big Tenzing advised us that we had better cross the right branch river near the advance camp with shallow water, so that we may move to the left branch easily without crossing the rapid and deep water at Sumdo, after we had finished our explorations of the right branch.

We could see the remarkable pinnacle peak of P. 5825 m (R19) on the glacier tongue. We called this mountain ‘Zanskar Yarigatake’, because it looks like Yarigatake in the Japanese Alps. We came back to Sumdo camp around 12.00 p.m.

August 20 : After establishing Advance camp, we left for the glacier tongue reaching there in about an hour and quarter. On the centre of the glacier tongue, stood the pinnacle peak of P. 5825 m (R19). On the right side of this peak we could see the highest mountain of the area P. 6111 m (R18) at the head of glacier, to its right bank. On the left bank was P. 6110 m (R20), a sharp snow mountain, next to P. 5825 m (R19). It took long time for us to move on the rough glacier above the tongue as it had many crevasses. We reached the spot where we could see four mountains on the head glacier. The extreme left mountain seems to be P. 6128 m (R25) and then P. 6088 m (R24). Front two mountains on the right side seem to be R23 and R22 which have no altitude on the map. We judged R21 was hidden by P. 5825 m (R19). After taking several photographs of P. 6128 m (R25), P. 6088 m (R24), R23 and R22 from the different points, we decided to turn back to the advance camp, as it was already 2.40 p.m.

August 21 : We left the advance camp to go to the right branch at 8.00 a.m. crossing the river immediately on horse, just in front of our camp site. We walked on the other side bank of right branch which was full of switchbacks on stony slopes. At 10.35 a.m. we reached the other side of Sumdo at the base of P. 5862 m (R27). It was large natural pasture with green grass, willow trees and several small ponds. We climbed up the hill to the left branch of Reru valley which was also very wide. After an hour’s walk on the right branch, we crossed the river on foot to the left bank.

Finally we reached camp 1 on the left branch at 2.30 p.m. From this camp site, we had nice views of a challenging rocky mountain P. 6148 m (R35).

August 22 : We left camp at 7.50 a.m. Four of us and our guide Tsewang went ahead and had a wonderful view of the very attractive P. 6148 m (R35). After walking for about an hour and a half, we found a good camping spot where there was water and enough grass for horses. We decided to establish camp 2 there together with horsemen and kitchen staff.

We walked up to the glacier tongue reaching at 10.30 a.m. There was a small glacier lake in front of the glacier tongue. We climbed up the left side hill and peeped into the bottom of glacier and could see the white snow mountains P. 5944 m (R28) and P. 5817 m (R29). There were many more mountains: P. 6148 m (R35), P. 6007 m (R34), P. 5962 m (R31). We had a nice comfortable lunch at this glacier tongue, enjoying the beautiful surrounding mountains. We had done enough research on the left branch glacier though we could not see all the surrounding mountains so started towards our new camp site. August 23 : Today was the final day in the Reru valley. We left camp at 7.40 a.m. reaching the camp site on the left side bank of the Reru, on the opposite side of Onkar at 2.30 p.m. This trail was in a good condition because many yaks moved up and down. We looked back to the mountains which we had been familiar with in these several days.

The challenging rocky mountains of P. 6036 m (R3) and P. 6080 m (R4) may be very difficult to climb.

When we looked back to P. 5862 m (R27), we were surprised to find that there was the figure ‘27’ on the central gully of this mountain with white snow.

We were happy with our exploration in the beautiful Reru valley where we had found many unknown and untrodden mountains and had photographed 21 virgin peaks. There maybe some mistakes in our identification, as this was our first visit to this area and because there were so many mountains in this complicated massif. If anybody visits this area again, we will be pleased to know about their identification of these mountains.

After this exploration in the unknown Reru valley, we had an exciting trek in the Zanskar and returned to Japan on 12 September 2009.

Summary : Exploring the Reru valley in southern Zanskar in August 2009.