North India

Roof of the World

A 4-week Summer Abroad Program

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Duration
30 Days
Description

Trek over snow-capped passes in the Himalayas, live with yak herders, and discuss the impacts of globalization on isolated mountain communities.

Dates

Jun 28 - Jul 28, 2017


Suggested Ages

16-18

Number of Participants

12


Availability

closed

Begins In

5 Weeks

Land Cost

$7,265


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,070

Delhi

Manali

Leh

Program Overview

Wake up to a panorama of snow-capped peaks.


North India: Roof of the World is a trekking-intensive journey to the far edge of the Trans-Himalaya and an intellectual exploration into the complexities of Tibetan diaspora.

We arrive in Delhi, the bustling capital of India, and spend a day exploring the boundless history and culture of the Mughal Empire and colonial period, before flying to Leh. Descending into the breathtaking mountains of the Trans-Himalayan region where India, Pakistan and Tibet converge, students are transported to a jaw-dropping mountain kingdom. In Ladakh, we leave urbanity behind and find ourselves trekking on ancient footpaths connecting far-flung communities of nomadic herders, seasonal farmers and devoted practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism.

Ladakh is among the wildest regions within the Himalaya, clinging to the far western flank of the Tibetan plateau — a land where bharal and snow…

North India: Roof of the World is a trekking-intensive journey to the far edge of the Trans-Himalaya and an intellectual exploration into the complexities of Tibetan diaspora.

We arrive in Delhi, the bustling capital of India, and spend a day exploring the boundless history and culture of the Mughal Empire and colonial period, before flying to Leh. Descending into the breathtaking mountains of the Trans-Himalayan region where India, Pakistan and Tibet converge, students are transported to a jaw-dropping mountain kingdom. In Ladakh, we leave urbanity behind and find ourselves trekking on ancient footpaths connecting far-flung communities of nomadic herders, seasonal farmers and devoted practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism.

Ladakh is among the wildest regions within the Himalaya, clinging to the far western flank of the Tibetan plateau — a land where bharal and snow leopards scan the valleys from cliff sides, and jagged peaks and inhospitable windswept expanses buttress the Ladakhi people from the economic boom and raging development throughout Indian cities. After settling into Saboo on then outskirts of Leh, we spend serval days learning the basics of Ladakhi language, exploring the pastoral communities and acclimating to the harsh 11,500ft elevation.

During our first week, we focus on building cultural awareness and preparing our minds and bodies for the Himalayan expedition that awaits. We meet with local leaders at NGOs throughout the valley and learn firsthand the challenges that families and local representatives are facing as they attempt to preserve traditional Ladakhi heritage while undertaking steps to modernize and improve the standard of living throughout the far-flung region. Students will meet with representatives of the Snow Leopard Conservancy, LEDeG (Ladakh Ecological Development Group) and SECMOL (Students’ Educational and Cultural Movement of Ladakh).

Our first weeklong trek takes us deep into the glaciated valleys of the Ladakh Range, passing through stark landscapes, dry river basins and tiny hamlets as we follow weather-beaten trails from Wanla to Sumdah Do. At night we settle into Ladakhi family home-stays, eating traditional food and gaining a more intimate perspective of life in a beautiful and harsh environment.  At times we stay with Ladakhi families along the way, eating traditional food and gaining a more intimate perspective of the realties of life amid such a remote and unforgiving environment. Other nights we pitch our tents on the banks of stark, rocky river valleys.

Throughout the course, students will learn basic expedition behavior, Leave no Trace ethics and high-altitude camping techniques — honing the hard skills of basics backcountry guide craft. On a cultural level, students examine how local communities sustain themselves — despite limited farm land and access to water resources — through yak and sheep husbandry, trade, and the patronage of monasteries. Due to their isolation, the remote villages of the Trans-Himalaya that we visit on trek have experienced a cultural barrier of sorts, preserving their traditional culture and Buddhist heritage like a snow-hushed secret.

After returning to Leh to rest and begin work on independent study projects, students head to Stok,  a monastic village set at gateway to Hemis National Park, a protected region known for its fragile snow leopard population. In Stok, we visit the 14th century monastery by Gelugpa (Yellow-Hat sect) followers, before ascending into the exposed wilderness of the high Himalayan terrain. During the days we may summit peaks or traverse 15,000 foot-high passes, and at night we cook food under the stars and nestle into our tents and zero degree sleeping bags. Upon descending from the mountain heights to the banks of the Indus River in one long full prostration, we end the trek in the spectacular shadow of Hemis monastery and return to Leh the following day. Here students center themselves for one last monastic stay and present independent study findings to the group before the journey comes full circle.

The North India course is designed to teach students the basics of expedition planning and the ecology of the Himalayas, while exploring the cultural and spiritual traditions of the Tibetan diaspora community. In addition to a Ladakhi village-stay students take part in collaborative social development projects in the capital of Leh focused on environmental conservation, gender rights and political agency.

Read More Read Less Sample Itinerary

Program Components

3/5
Comparative Religion

Introduction to Buddhist philosophy and visits to monasteries across Ladakh.

3/5
Development Studies

Examine issues of resource management, innovative responses to climate change, tourism, health, and globalization.

3/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Extend your knowledge of Ladakh's political and cultural history, expedition planning, high-altitude physiology, and the ecology of the Himalayas.

2/5
Home Stay

3-5 days of home-stays in a Ladakhi village.

1/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Option for study of mountain medicine and Tibetan arts.

1/5
Language Study

Introduction to both the Tibetan and Ladakhi languages.

2/5
Learning Service

Opportunities to volunteer with and learn from local NGO’s in Leh.

5/5
Rugged Travel

Travel by bus, truck, and by foot over rough high-altitude terrain.

5/5
Trekking

Two weeklong high-altitude trek over rough terrain, high passes, and possible peak ascents (trekking peaks: non-technical).

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