At the beginning of February, Nomoly, a student, leaves her family who live in Padum, in the heart of the Zanskar valley, to join the Leh airport to catch a flight to Jammu where she is studying (it is soon the start of the school year). But in winter the only road to Leh via the PensiLa pass (over 4,000 metres above sea level) is snow-covered and therefore closed, as is the case for more than 7 months of the year. The only route to Leh is via the Zanskar River. A walk of more than 3 days that follows the winding valley of the river, on steep footpaths or simply walking on the surface of the water, caught in ice at this time of year. The days are freezing cold at the bottom of this canyon whose walls tower several hundred meters above and at night one takes shelter in natural caves as the temperature can plunge down to -35°C.
Nomoly will never make it to her university in Jammu. On February 8, 2018, as she crossed the river to switch banks, the ice gave way under her weight and Nomoly disappeared into the waters of Zanskar.
This dramatic story in the Indian press (CrossTown News) is not the first of its kind. But it could be the last if the road linking Leh directly to Padum could finally be completed. This project, approved by the central government in 2000, has been dragging on. While part of the route is completed at either end, there is still a section of several tens of kilometres to finish. And for the moment, the opening date has been postponed to 2021.
Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Zanskar will have to continue in isolation from the rest of the world for more than 7 months a year and students will take risks every year to go to their universities in Jammu or Delhi.