We drove higher and higher, the road corkscrewed tighter, and the air grew thinner. It was September of 2019 and I was travelling with my wife and two sons in the Indian province of Ladakh, deep in the Himalaya. We were on our way to the Nubra Valley, a high-altitude desert in the northeastern part of the province, close to the Chinese border. The road crossed the 17,428-foot-high Wari La Pass, at roughly the same elevation as Mt. Everest’s base camp.
As we climbed, there was a pounding in my temples; I wondered if we’d have to use the oxygen cylinder in the trunk. Mostly, I felt the isolation. There was no cell-phone coverage, and the vistas were forbidding in their emptiness. It felt like the end of the world; I worried about a breakdown.