If ever the idea of venturing into an unfamiliar zone, visually enchanting and associated with folklores without any testimony wasn’t exciting enough, a pinch of mysticism would leave you asking for more! Mt Shivalay (18,350 ft), a unique and mystical feature sprawling mid-way on Leh-Manali axis near a small billet named Sarchu provided such fodder to a handful of inquisitive, ethical and nature loving cohorts, to whom this narration is dedicated.


A Zoomed View Of Mount Shivalay

Mt Shivalay is evidently the highest point located near the village of Sarchu, a confluence of Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh and Zanskar region. The peak did not hold any formal name or summit record, even among the locals, till a group of us inquisitive nature lovers decided to explore it and formalise their reverence by this name. The peak, resembling a Shivling, can be distinctly identified on the North Eastern ridge from the small market of Sarchu, located next to the Tsarap River, which christens this hamlet.


On The Banks Of Tsarap River


View Of Mighty Tsrap And The Funneled Valley

Explored by the team in the month of September, the peak holds an amazing potential of winter-trekking and just the kind one would indulge in for a hearty acclimatisation before venturing out to the ranges this location opens up to.

Located equidistant from Leh and Manali on the inter-state boundary, Sarchu (13,850 ft) happens to be an untapped reserve of nature to fill your souls with the joy of trekking, camping, bird watching, star gazing and spending undisturbed plentiful hours on the banks of Tsarap river in the network devoid blissfulness, than being just a night halt on Rohtang Axis. It’s this very place that opens your doors to the mystic and unique excursion to Mt Shivalaya, just the beginning towards creating a memory of a lifetime.

The eastern approach to the summit offers a great climb which despite not being quintessentially technical, offers a fair degree of gradient bringing you on your knees, quite literally. The trail starts adjacent to singular road bend, North of Sarchu market, which also happens to give a fair glimpse of the Sarchu village across the Tsarap river.

negotiating the scree gradient

Negotiating The Steep Scree Gradient

The climb from the very first step offers a formidable gradient with the major portion being scree laden, adding to the difficulty level. Plentiful animal carcasses and fossils are a common sight for the initial thousand and a half feet of height gain beyond which the terrain turns firmer, yet retaining adequate scree owing to weathering and a steep gradient.

Despite being majorly a slide prone climb, the climbers get to see majestic views during the height gain that include the Sarchu hamlet and the funnelled valley opening towards towards Himachal Pradesh. Height gain also brings to fore a few beautiful natural springs in the mountain, a visual treat apart from offering the purest of the water. The serenity and silence of the area is unmatched and needs to be enjoyed by taking short halts en-route, apart from catching the much-needed breath.


Nature’s Ode To Lord Ganesha

Almost a quarter of the climb, one would witness a peculiar natural feature. A mound with a rocky offshoot and two prominent depressions giving it a look of an elephant’s head reminding one distinctly of Lord Ganesha, reverberating the mystical nature of this peak and reaffirming our idea of calling the peak as Mt Shivalay, if it allowed us to summit itself successfully.

Also in the vicinity of this flat patch on the mountain one would find some patches of beautiful green flora, the only other form of life that came to the notice of team during the summit. Though we couldn’t get its actual name but what the closest Google Lens search got us to was Illareta, known to grow at altitudes between 10,500 ft to 17,220 ft.

fellow living beings enroute

Fellow Living Beings En-Route

The climb would further mesmerise one by two distinct natural creations, not observed otherwise from the lower reaches and the hamlet. A giant hollow rock that needs to be passed through for the next step to summit, which the team fondly named ‘Gateway to Heaven’ and a lone mountainous feature visible only from the final ridge to summit that has seems to be intricately crafted by nature resembling a classical fortress (mysticism didn’t seem to end soon).

gateway to heaven

Gateway To Heaven

natures fortress

The Lone Fortress By Nature

The walk on summit ridge, mesmerises one with the majestic giant rock, standing tall in its own right, leaving us awestruck and spellbound. It would certainly take one a few minutes to stop gazing at this beautiful creation of nature and see the panoramic view, standing at the feet of this feature that resembled Shivling from the lower reaches.


A closer View Of The Summit Of Mount Shivalay

The adrenaline would rushed to its maximum once the climbers finish the summit as the peak presents a 360 degree view of the ranges of Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Zanskar. The bird’s-eye-view of the barren, inhabited and serenading trek routes, the high passes, tarns and valleys around, amidst the pin drop silence with the clear sound of breeze on the summit, takes one to a spiritual level. Even a lifetime at the top wouldn’t leave one satiated enough despite basking the a plentiful serenity.

the ladakh ranges

The Ladakh Ranges

PS   We as a team of six climbers summited this peak on 06 September 2018. Despite our interaction with a number of locals and other climbers, we couldn’t find out any summit history of this peak. Our team tried to trace tell-tale signs and clues to confirm any previous attempt but could not find that as well.

hoisting the tricolour

Hoisting The Tricolour



Summit Coordinates

An Audio-Visual Overview From The Top Of Mt. Shivalay 

Considering this to be the first successful attempt, we named this Virgin Peak as Mt Shivalay due to the beautiful natural rock structure on the top that’s referred to by locals also by the name Shivling and discovery of the natural feature relatable to Lord Ganesha. As a matter of respect, we did not climb the feature resembling Shivling and confined ourselves to the edge of the peak.

Nothing more apt to sum up this beautiful trek would be the lesson that all the hardships, disorientation, tiredness and pain inflicted by the unknown is only directed to get the best out in front of your eyes.

I would definitely recommend the readers to go ahead and make Sarchu a destination than just a halt pointand explore the mystic Mt Shivalay as ethical mountaineers.

“Maybe, its time to up the ante by a full winter & night halt Summit!”



  • Jagpreet Singh Sodhi

    Jagpreet Singh Sodhi is a travel enthusiast and mountaineer qualified in Basic and Advance Mountaineering Courses from the HMI, Darjeeling and Liaison Officers' Course from IMF, New Delhi. The author has climbing experience of Mt Renok, Mt Frey, Mt Kang Yatse 2,Mt Gangotri 3 and Mt Kamet,apart from alpine style climbing & trekking in Ladakh.

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