Few places in India – and possibly on the planet – experience the extreme conditions of the Changthang Plateau of Ladakh in winter. The temperatures remain sub-zero for more than four months of the year, often dipping below -25°C. Water is scarce, as most of the rivers and streams turn to ice. And at altitudes of over 11,000 ft, there’s very little oxygen to breathe.

You’d expect a mountainous desert in conditions as harsh as these to be desolate, uninhabitable. But it isn’t.

Click through (above) to see how it sustains life, both human and wild.