The wool from the end of the world
Perched at an altitude of over 3,500 metres and bordering Kashmir and Tibet, the ancient Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh is at the heart of the ancient pashmina wool road. Pashmina goat wool is amongst the world’s most precious wools.
A rare fibre harvested in the heart of the Himalayas, also known as the ‘Kingdom of Snow and Ice’. The pashmina goat is protected by several layers of an extraordinarily fine coat of 14 to 19 microns in diameter. They are raised by the nomads of Ladakh at an altitude of over 4,800 metres on the high plateaux of Changthang, where few travellers venture.
The rarity, softness and incredible fineness of pashmina wool – a pashmina hair is six times finer than a human hair – make it extremely precious.
The fibre comes from the undercoat of the domestic goats of Changthang, the high plateau of western Tibet. Like their cousins in Kyrgyzstan and the Gobi, they can only be farmed by shepherds moving between summer and winter pastures in wilderness areas. And so, for centuries, perhaps longer, the Changthangi nomads have been producing pashmina wool at an altitude of nearly 5,000 metres for the master weavers of the Kashmir valley.
A large herd of goats crossing an ice field at over 5,000 metres, on their way through a col between the Changthang plateau and the high valley of Lahaul. At this altitude, winter temperatures are frequently as low as -30°C, with extreme winds.