Although we try to follow the itinerary below but it is only a guideline. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.
The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...
Day 1 - Meet in Leh 3500m
Welcome to Leh, the capital of predominantly Buddhist Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir, tucked away amidst the Ladakh mountains, part of the great Trans Himalayan range. If you arrive by air you'll feel the big jump in altitude and it will take your body a few days to adjust. If you arrive by road from Manali or Srinagar you'll have had some extra acclimatization en route, but will still need time to adjust to the 3500 meter altitude. Hydrate with plenty of water, stay away from beer for a few days, rest and don't over-exert yourself. Even walking up the stairs of the guesthouse, let alone the Leh Fort, will make you breathless for the first day or two. 250 mg of Diamox twice a day is a good way to help your body acclimatize naturally. We recommend starting the day before you fly up to Leh.
We stay at the family-run Shaynam Hotel, more of a family-run guesthouse with a lovely garden in the center courtyard, located just a few minutes south of the Main Bazaar in old Leh town. Your rooms will be booked for you, you'll just need to advise Kim of your arrival time, whether by air or by road. Once everyone has arrived and checked into rooms, Kim will show you around town: the bakeries, cafes, tandoori restaurants, email cafes, banks and wonderful markets. We'll meet for dinner in the evening at the Ibex, Chopsticks, Penguin or Summer Harvest, a few of our favorite restaurants.
Days 2, 3 - Leh
We've scheduled two more free days in Leh to acclimatize and to enjoy the peaceful, willow-lined streets and bustling bazaar life of Singge Namgyal's 17th century capital of Ladakh, once an integral part of Western Tibet and a major trading post along the southern Silk Route. There is lots to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the newly-restored ruins of the 17th century Leh Palace, the ancient 15th century Leh Fort and the attached Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, other historic Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the Sunni Muslim mosques, narrow back alleys with steaming Muslim bread, tiny antique shops tucked away amidst the many ancient stupas and architectural remnants, the exotic Main Bazaar (c. 1840s) which once accommodated trade caravans, and even a polo field. Today, the Main Bazaar is a colorful street, the sidewalks crammed mornings and afternoons with Ladakhi women selling their fresh fruits and vegetables, and locals at the far end vending their dried nuts, apricots and apples.
Caravans of merchants from far-flung destinations such as Yarkand, Tibet, Kashgar and North India passed through Leh during ancient trade missions, trading salt, wool, Pashmina, tea and semi-precious stones, lending to the city its exotic allure. Pilgrims flocked to the monasteries of Leh and the Indus valley, explorers of old stopped in Leh to re-stock and weather out the harsh Himalayan winter and soldiers en route to plunder and conquer desirous destinations passed through Leh, all leaving their mark on this unique capital.
Kim will take you for a walk up the bustling Fort Road, lined with shops owned by Kashmiri, Tibetan and Kashmiri shop-keepers, to the crumbling but majestic Leh Fort (3680 meters) and the red, Maitreiya Tsemo Gompa, perched high on a craggy and crumbling hilltop overlooking the bazaars of old Leh. You can stop at 16th century nine-story Leh Palace, of a similar architectural design to the Tibetan Potala Palace, on the way down if you have the energy. Visit the museum, a worthwhile endeavor, as well as the nearby gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) - Soma Gompa, Chamba Lakhang and Chensrig Lakhang.
We might wander the willow-lines streets of Changspa to reach the many steps leading to the Japanese-built Shanti Stupa for a view over the green fields and white-washed Ladakhi houses of the villages surrounding Leh. The precariously perched Leh Fort guards the eastern edges of the fertile valley. Sankar Gompa (17th - 18th century), reached through shady lanes to the east of Changspa, lies in the midst of Chubi's groves of poplar and willow and is another wonderful morning or afternoon walk. The back route to Leh Fort starts in Chubi and passes through a desert-like Buddhist cremation ground before climbing to the fortress.
OPTIONAL GOMPA TRIP: Arrange (through Kim, our Tibetan jeep-driver Wang Chuk or the Shaynam Hotel) a 'jeep safari' through the fertile Indus Valley to visit a few of the living Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the crumbling ruins of ancient fortresses and palaces and the traditional villages that dot the banks of the region, the 'cradle of civilization' of much of the ancient world. Kim can help arrange jeeps and/or a guide for a day's excursion.
To the East: Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho & Stok.
To the West: Spiyok, Phyang, Basgo, Likir, Alchi, Rizdong & Lamayuru.
OPTIONAL RAFTING-TRIP: You can arrange a day rafting trip on the Indus (easier) or the Zanskar River, approximately $40.
Day 4 - Drive Chilling. Trek Skyu3360m
After breakfast, we jump into our jeeps and head for the start of the trek, turning off the Leh Srinagar highway just past the ancient, 14th century Spitok Gompa, spectacularly perched on a craggy hillock above the cultivated fields of Spitok village. At the confluence of the Indus and Zanskar rivers we descend to the newly paved road, driving on the right side of the river for an hour to Chilling, a village of once Nepali metal workers. Here we cross a new bridge and start the trek with a short hike to Skyu, an easy trek of 2 1/2 hours.
Skyu is marked by a line of ancient chortens, a lovely village which was badly damaged by the mud slide several years ago. We have time to explore the thousand year old Skyu Gompa and have a cup of tea at one of the many parachute tents. Here at Skyu, we intersect the route into the Markha Valley from Chilling, and intersect the Markha River. (2 1/2 hrs)
Day 5 - Trek Chumik Hamjura 3525m
Continuing along the Markha River along the left bank, we pass the many white-washed chortens, mani walls and ancient, carved Buddha rocks that mark the trail out of Skyu, and trek through willow and poplar groves, past traditional Ladakh houses, up onto a cliff-side trail. We'll reach a cluster of old, crumbling chortens perched high on a ridge, which afford us a wonderful view up and down the valley, in a couple of hours and soon afterwards will arrive at the parachute tent at Sumdo for lunch.
Half an hour after lunch there is a naturally-chilled spring, and then another 45 minutes of hilly walking later we cross the Markha river on a wonderful, old bridge. Our campsite at Chumik Hamjura is close by, a green, wet grazing area of the Markha people. The staff will have set up camp for the night, and cold beers and cokes are available from the small tea-house. Local villagers often pass through the campsite with their flocks of sheep and pashmina goats just before dinner, a great photo op! Enjoy the stream running in front of the campsite. (5 hrs)
Day 6 - Trek Markha 3760m
A beautiful, diverse, five-hour day as we continue again along the left bank of the Markha River. Leaving camp, we ascend gradually to a wide plateau with a long mani wall and chortens, and then descend to the two houses of Nakdi, which look out towards an ancient meditation cave on the plateau across the river. We arrive Sara, the parachute-tent and camping site at the rocky riverbed which intersects the Markha River, and then pass briar patches of seabuckthorne and the ruins of ancient 'dzongs' and monasteries built high up into the cliff sides. Crossing another small bridge, we reach the small tea-house of a local wood-carver and walk along the left bank of the river, past the fields of Chalak, with spectacular canyons and spires above us, along the trail marked by old, crumbling Tibetan chortens. After passing a long mani wall and impressive, giant chortens (look back for wonderful views of the Markha Valley behind us), we'll stop for a break at an ancient 'lhatoo', or offering monument for the local mountain deities, where offerings of chang are served up in sheep horns. A powerful site. As we approach the intersection of the Markha valley with another small tributary about an hour later, we'll pass a group of tricolored chorten marking the valley, gaze up-valley at the cliff-dwelling built into the valley wall, and descend by the wolf trap to the river, where we often have a wide river crossing (sandals recommended). We'll see the ruins of the Markha fort ahead of us on a hillside before we arrive at the village about half an hour later. We camp at one of two wonderful, grassy campsites, and are visited by all the village kids before dinner ...
In the afternoon we'll head to the 400 year old Markha Gompa, built by Kushok Tsering Palden, the prince who became a monk, now recently renovated and affiliated with Hemis Gompa, and take a walk through the lively, colorful village and its barley fields. You can head up to the ruins of Markha Fort, but be careful! The snow-capped peak looming ahead of us isn't Kang Yatze 1, but a sister peak. (4 hrs)
Day 7 - Thuchungtse 4260m
Another classic Himalayan trekking day, a bit longer than yesterday, starting with a climb up on the cliff-side trail just past camp for amazing views back to the Ladakh Range. We have two river crossings today, so bring your sandals in your day pack. The first crossing comes just after our first descent, not deep but wide. Just afterwards we'll spot the monolith and stone 'lama's seat' where a local Druk-pa Lama gives a yearly puja. Look up the valley off to the right leading to the Ruberang La and the wild Jumlam trek.
One more river crossing and we've reached the breath-taking Tertha Gompa, also affiliated with Hemis Gompa, built at the top of a razor-sharp rock, and with views up and down the valley. We'll hike up for a look; they've recently built a new assembly hall above the old one. Soon, we approach the small hamlet of Umlung, at 3900 meters, where we'll stop for a seabuckthorne juice, produced locally by the Markha women's groups. From Umlung, take the high, cliff-side trail when the water is high; it affords wonderful views in any case.
Ahead of us, the dramatic 6400 meter Kang Yatze finally comes into sight, its peak a pure, triangular snow-cap. We have another hour or so of river-side walking in blue-sheep territory before reaching Hangkar (3950 meter) guarded by a fantastic fortress way up on the top of a rock spire. We'll have lunch here and take some time to climb to the top of the fort, approximately five centuries old, with unbeatable views from the top. There are also ancient mani stones, old fort-walls and relics such as mortars and pestles, clues to the past. Hangkar village, a hamlet of about fifteen houses, lies on the other side of a saddle in the trail, past a long line of mani walls and the village's old, tiny gompa. We'll pass just to the left of the village and through its many fields of barley before taking the left fork at a small, wooden bridge, heading along the Nyimaling Chu.
From Hangkar, it's a wonderful two-hour afternoon walk up to the summer grazing area of Thuchungtse, where the dramatic afternoon high-altitude light make for spectacular photos. Our campsite is another beautiful one, so enjoy a late afternoon wash in the gurgling, rocky stream, or take a short hike and look out for blue sheep, which descend to the stream for a drink. Plenty of bird life as well (6 1/2 hrs)
Day 8 - Trek Nyimaling 4850m
Another wonderful day of trekking, not long but absolutely spectacular, with broad views of the Zanskar range, and Kang Yatze as a back-drop. The trail snakes up the valley in back of our campsite, and crests several ridges before reaching a small doksa and pond where the reflection of Kang Yatze and the peak itself right in front of us reward us for our climb. In back of us is one of the most dramatic views of the trek, with layers and layers of peaks clothed in subtle hues guarding the skyline. Another hour brings us to the high altitude grazing region of Nyimaling, where Hangkar villagers herd their flocks of Pashmina sheep as they've done for centuries. We set up another scenic campsite, have lunch and have the entire afternoon to wander, look for wildlife and explore this unique, high plateau. Yaks roam freely, creating a perfect Tibetan environment. To the right is the Gongmaru La, the 5200 meter pass that leads out of the Markha Valley.
Just before sunset the villagers return to their stone doksas with their flocks of hundreds of sheep and goats, and we can head over for a visit, perhaps even for a bowl of fresh yogurt. Sunsets are truly awe-inspiring on the plateau, with a flaming, red orb descending behind the hills in down-valley from us, and setting the snaking Nyimaling Chu ablaze with color. (3 1/2 hrs)
Day 9 - Trek Mani Chen 4410 or Zalung Karpo La HC 4675 (cross Kongka Ngongpo La 5180)
We'll have an early morning start with the sheep as it's a long day, nearly eight hours, and you'll need your sandals for the tail-end of it. Heading up the deceptively steep ridge along the rocky stream bed in back of camp, right towards Kang Yatze, we'll keep right and low as we contour around the snow-peak to the ridge visible ahead. The high plateau is lovely, covered in Edelweiss, lavender, daisy-like asters and brick-red 'glacier flowers' in round clusters. At the second, cairn-marked ridge, we descend to Kang Yatze Base Camp and ford a small stream, usually jump-able, contouring for another hour towards the Kongka Ngongpo La (5180 meters). It usually takes us three hours to reach the pass. After admiring the broad views, we switch-back right back down, steeply and a bit precipitously, towards the Langthang Chu Valley and our High Camp for the Zalung Karpo La. Our barely-perceptible trail leads us past summer doksas and into more blue sheep territory.
After lunch on a rocky-outcropping, we drop steeply through a meadow to an old doksa, descend again to another plateau with a ridge overlooking the valley and finally contour for another hour to the Langthang Chu valley. Once in the valley it's a quick walk to the small mani wall of Mani Chen, meaning 'place of mani stones', an old stop on the nomadic route. Mani Chen is a lovely campsite, grassy and flat with a small stream winding its way across the plateau. The river has some good spots for washing if the water isn't too silt-filled. A great afternoon excursion is up the valley to the left (on our side of the river) to see the blue sheep.
If the rivers are low we might opt to continue on another two hours to Zalung Karpo La High Camp, a rocky campsite with late afternoon sun. We'll have a few small river crossings en route. High camp is on the left of the glacial river on a small, grassy spur with a cold stream for washing and late-afternoon sun. (6 or 8 hrs)
Day 10 - Trek Rubrang (cross Zalung Karpo La 5200) 4340m
The start of our wild Jumlam route, one of the wildest and least visited in Ladakh; the Jumlam is an old trade route leading into Zanskar during the months when the rivers were low enough to trek along the riverbeds. We'll trek through narrow canyon lands, wide, pebbly riverbeds and the deep ravines that Tibetan, Ladakhi & Zanskari traders used when early snows fell, blocking the high passes. You will need sandals almost every day of this section of the trek.
We'll have an early start for our next pass, the Zalung Karpo La, and you'll probably want your sandals with you if the sun is out and (thus) the rivers are high. We'll have two hours of flat riverside walking, jumping the small stream, to reach the high camp from where it takes less than an hour to reach the access valley to the Zalung Karpo La. Our valley is the second large valley on the right, just ten minutes past the first one. Heading up this valley of shimmering, mica-composed slate and scree, we follow a small stream much of the way up valley as we gradually ascend. The valley opens up to a false summit reached by a steep switchback, and finally about an hour later we crest the 5200-meter, prayer-flag festooned Zalung Karpo La. Ahead in the distance, both the Zanskar and the Himalayan ranges are visible, an impressive view.
Enjoy the spectacular views from the prayer-flag festooned pass. Straight ahead, down the green valley, is the nomadic region of Kharnak, a high, green pasture land of nomadic doksas, kiang, wolves and hidden nomadic settlements. From the pass we descend into remote territory on the Jumlam route, a trading route of yore with wild river crossings, rare wildlife and beautiful campsites.
We turn right down the sharp ridge and switchback our way steeply downhill for 300 meters, passing through a series of nomadic encampments marked by stone circles, the bases of their yak-hair tents. Next is a steep rubbly section of trail which becomes greener as we descend, to the next major intersection where we'll set up the night's camp amongst the willows at Rubrang
Day 11 - Trek Kharnak Sumdo 4170m
From Rubrang we have a day of river crossings to get to Kharnak Sumdo; you will need good hiking sandals or running shoes to enable you to cross knee-high rivers, jump rivers and to trek for several hours at a time.
Descending to the main valley below camp, we trek northwest for an hour to the first of the gorges, and begin to cross and re-cross the many streams. The Jumlam valleys are incredible, autumn colors and sparkling water all around. Joel described it fittingly: 'crags and peaks soar up in spires in which you can discern every shape of imaginary castle, from gothic to fairytale'. Splashing through more rivers, we trek in a lost world of willows and 'dinosaur plants', with several relatively exposed sections, and soon reach our camp amongst the trees on the right of the river, a lovely and unexpected spot.
Our camp at Kharnak Sumdo is near the large intersection of the Kharnak Chu which leads to the Ladakhi nomadic region of Kharnak.
Day 12 - Trek Wangchuk Sumdo 4040m
Another glorious river walking day, trekking along stony, clear riverbeds through woods of willows, Zanskar rose bushes and poplars, crossing several small intersecting rivers en route. After a couple of hours we head west (left) at the wide Tilat Sumdo, at the large river intersection with the Zumlung Chu. Keep en eye out for the prints of rare wildlife such as snow leopard, wolves, ibex, blue sheep and foxes in the muddy riverbanks.
Heading west, we have a few tricky sections on exposed, rugged trails and some deeper water to cross, the canyon walls closing in around us. The trail crosses the river several times, at times climbing high above the river and crossing narrow side canyons, with walls contorted by centuries of rushing water. Our camp at Wangchuk Sumdo is at another river junction with views up and down the valleys, peaks as a backdrop and the sound of water as we doze off in the evening.
Day 13 - Trek Chupchak 4470m
Another classic Jumlam day, negotiating sublime gorges and seemingly impossible trails, meandering across the main stream in our sandals, gaining altitude as we trek. After several hours of river hiking we pass through a section of old glacial rubble, gaining elevation as the canyon narrows, and eventually emerging at Chupchak, a wide, grassy pasture with soaring craggy peaks. We often spot ruddy-colored ibex, the males with spiraling horns and beards, on the hills above us in the early evening.
Enjoy this beautiful campsite, on the cover of a Big Anges catalogue several years ago, have a chilly wash and be ready for a colder evening.
Day 14 - Trek Tzazar Doksa Sumdo (cross Charchar La 5000m) 3825m
Our last Jumlam day, and an exciting one as we cross the magnificent Charchar La into Zanskar, the 'land of white copper'. There is sometimes an ice bridge to walk gingerly across, or under, and might have to take an exposed trail high above the valley.
We gain quite a bit of elevation as we negotiate the icy streams dropping through the weatherworn canyons; the final climb from the base to the top of the Char Char La, at 5000 meters, takes less then an hour. From the chorten atop the pass, with prayer flags snapping in the wind, you can pick out the peaks of the Great Himalayan Barrier to the south.
Dropping to the green pastures below for lunch, we continue to descend through a green hillside, with willows emerging once again, to our lovely camp at the junction of Zangla which we call Tzazar Doksa camp. Camp is warm and beautiful, surrounded by willows, but loses the sun early. After a wash in the stream right in front of us, take a 5 minute walk through seabuckthorne bushes to the doksa.
We also camp here as we trek another remote route from Zangla to Shade, one of Zanskar's most remote and idyllic villages. You'll have to come back another year for that route!
Day 15 - Trek Zangla Doksa River Camp 3430m
Our last day of the Jumlam trek, we have about five hours of river crossings along the Zumlung Chu, staying much of the day in sandals. En route we'll pass fossilized oyster beds and possibly see the prints of snow leopards, with likely sightings of blue sheep and ibex.
We walk along the irrigation ditch for a bit while descending and soon reach the green doksa of the Zangla people. From here we head left, or east, along the Zumlung Chu (river), crossing many times in the willow-shaded valley full of ancient beds of fossilized oysters. It should take us about five hours of easy walking and many river crossings to reach our picture-perfect campsite at Zangla River Camp. The valley is narrow, sometimes in sun and other times shaded, and the river crossings feel good as the temperature rises. As we get closer to Zangla we pass the summer doksas of the Zangla villagers, several ancient lookout towers on both sides of the valley, now crumbling and in ruins, attesting to the importance of the Jumlam route in trade centuries ago.
Eventually we climb to trek along an irrigation ditch on a well-used trail and pass the protector deity's small lhakhang (god's house) on the left of the trail. The magnificent Zangla Fortress now comes into view, home to the kings of Zangla of yore, an impressive site.
Those who want can climb up on new steps, and through the new entrance 'kane' chorten to visit the (outside, probably) historic fort, descending through a mass of crumbling chortens which attest to the power of the once Kingdom of Zangla and its line of kings. The fortress has been recently renovated by a team of young, Hungarian architect students, following in the footsteps of the renown scholar, Cosmos de Coros.
Below, in Zangla village, we pass the past the dilapidated king's house, a few shops, jeeps parked looking for customers and at the end of town, the Zangla Ani Gompa (nunnery). Welcome to Zangla, a wide, green plain backed by the Himalayan range. We gain an understanding of why this remained a hidden kingdom for so long. Past Zangla, the Himalayan barrier, and the Umasi La leads to Kashmir; the wooden beams that are the center of most Zanskari houses came from there, laboriously carried by porters. Below the Zanskar curves away into the Muslim Suru valley and the Pensi La, closed for all but three months of every year and in front, behind the villages of Pidmo and Pishu, the Zanskar range cuts off approach for all but those like us, a well-equipped caravan.
From the bottom of the village, past the thousand year old Mon chortens carved into a large rock (the Mons predated the Buddhists in this region), its a half hour walk to our lovely riverside camp that we call Zangla Doksa River camp. The locals from Honya Doksa will pass by in the evenings with their large herds of sheep, goats and donkeys, making for some classic photos of traditional life in Zanskar. The grass is green and the stream warm, so go for a wash and settle in for the evening. Sunsets and sunrises are amazing from camp, enjoy!
Day 16 - Zangla River Doksa Camp
Finally a rest and exploration day; options are to hang at camp and relax in this sublime setting or to hike up and explore the wonderful Zanskari village of Zangla.
ZANGLA OPTION: Spend another day exploring Zangla as we won't have seen much of it in depth yesterday. Climbing gradually out of our campsite, hike along the plateau past a weathered rock carved with thousand-year old Mon chortens, soon reaching Zangla Chomo Gompa (nunnery) to the northern side of the village, and then follow the village road past the King of Zangla's house, where we had tea last summer with the royal residents, including the Queen Mother. The young King of Zangla is now in his mid-40s, and the new house right next to the somewhat dilapidated royal residence is the house of the village carpenter! The piece de resistance of Zangla, however, is its fortress, presently being restored by an organization called 'Cosmos Room'. The ruins of the 500 year-old Zangla Fort, the old dzong (palace fortress) of the ancient Kings of Zangla, are a breathtaking site, built precariously on top of a ledge of rock at the intersection of the Zanskar River and the small river leading out to the Jumlam.
The dzong houses a wonderful prayer room, which we happened upon a few years ago. In 2005, over two straight weeks of continuous rain and wind literally 'melted' the dzong, and it is now quite as safe as it was previously. The famous Hungarian scholar Alexander Csoma de Koros spent a winter in the 19th century studying Tibetan in order to make a dictionary in a room in the fort, now commemorated as his room. The fort is guarded over by a giant, new stupa built in 2009, while more ancient chortens with tsatsas in the niches line the trail as we descend back to the village and eventually to camp.
ZANSKAR VALLEY GOMPA OPTION: Get a group together to hire a jeep to visit the fascinating, old gompas of Zanskar from Padum. You will have time to visit the 1000 year old Sani Gompa on the Stod River, the route out to Rangdum and the Suru Valley. From Sani, you can take the back roads to Karsha Gompa, one of the largest and most scenic in Zanskar or Ladakh, built high up into the cliffs above the village of Karsha. To return, you will pass back through Padum where you can do some email or pick up supplies at the many shops. Padum is a very Central Asian feeling village, a transit point for goods coming and going from Leh to Kargil, with a large Muslim population. There are some thousand year old pre-Tibetan Buddhist Buddha carvings just below Padum, worth a look if you're stopping in town. And pick up a plate of momos on the main drag! En route back to Stongde, make a quick stop at Pipiting Gompa on a small hill in the direction of Stongde. And that should be a full day ....
Kim & Lhakpa will head to Padum to resupply for the second half of the trek. Some people might want to head to central Zanskar to make a wonderful Zanskar gompa tour.
Day 17 - Trek Hanumil 3420m
Leaving our idyllic riverside camp, we hike for an hour along the higher plateau (or perhaps taking the longer but more scenic route along the riverside embankments) to the walled Honya Doksa, where locals from Zangla keep their animals during the daytime and the warmer summer months. Perhaps we'll get to sample a bowl of fresh goat yogurt while passing through ...
Staying high, we trek along the plateau, dropping down after half an hour to a lovely wooden bridge which spans the Zanskar River and leads to Pidmo, an interesting and traditional village surrounded by extensive barley fields, with a prayer wheel in the center of town. Pidmo houses the winter trekkers who follow the Chadar Route along the frozen Zanskar River. Once through Pidmo we hike along a dusty trail lined with orange seabuckthorne bushes and Zanskar roses, staying right on the banks of the river. An hour and a half later we climb a small plateau to reach the two-house hamlet of Hanumil, where cold beers are waiting at the local shop and parachute tents set up to cool down on a hot day. Our grassy campsite has willows for shade, a lovely spot for a relaxing afternoon.
We watched the threshing of the summer's harvest in Hanumil one year, an interesting window into a dying way of life, and a good photographic opportunity.
Day 18 - Trek Zingchan 3410m
We leave Zanskar today and enter Ladakh, the 'land of high passes'!
Dropping back down to the riverside, we round a great bend in the river, cross an intersecting stream on a small bridge (usually) and soon afterwards begin to climb again, trekking along a high trail with the Zanskar far below to our right. The trail is undulating and slightly exposed, peppered with Zanskar Rose bushes, with spectacular views, including the new road on the opposite side of the Zanskar. After stopping on a grassy plateau for a rest we have another hour or so before starting our climb to a craggy rock, and then on steep switchbacks, to our pass, the 3900-meter Parfi La.
The views from the top are fantastic, with the Zanskar River gorge below us and the craggy, dun-colored Zanskar range spreading out in all directions.
Descending on an even steeper but well graded trail, we have an hour to the bottom of the pass where we reach the crystal clear Oma Topko River, which feeds into the Zanskar north of the pass.
We camp in Zingchan, a small tea-house and camp site next to an old, wooden bridge, a spectacular spot perfect for bathing in the clear river.
Day 19 - Trek 3550 Doksa Camp
Day 20 - Trek Lingshed Sumdo
Day 21 - Trek Dibling
Day 22 - Dibling
We've scheduled a rest day to take advantage of this wonderful and remote village of twelve houses and approximately fifty inhabitants; one day is not nearly enough to appreciate this remote outpost of Tibetan Buddhist life. Enjoy a leisurely morning at our grassy campsite washing in the river, or with a camp-chair and book. Spend the rest of the day exploring Dibling, having salt-butter tea with the villagers or wandering up the beautiful canyon beyond Dibling. The villagers will be busy harvesting their barley, peas and hay, and you'll see them hoisting large bundles of hay to the rooftops to be stored for the sparse wintertime. This village is cut off from the rest of Ladakh & Zanskar for six months of the year, so it's essential that they be self-sufficient. At the top of the village is a 100-year-old village gompa featuring murals painted with natural pigments. Wildlife and birds abound in this region, so bring your binoculars and sit quietly for a bit. The locals tell us that there are bears in the late summer raiding the fields. The horsemen often use our free days to re-shoe the horses, a wild event ...
Day 23 - Trek Puzdong La Willow Camp
Day 24 - Trek Plateau Camp
Day 25 - Trek Rangdum
Drive to Rangdum Gompa, camp.
Day 26 - Drive Lamayuru
Day 27 - Drive Leh
The trek is finished, and we'll relax in our jeeps and enjoy the spectacular drive along the Indus back to Leh.
Back at the Shaynam Guest House in Leh, hot showers and a clean change of clothes await, and tandoori food and cold beers are not far away at the Ibex, Chopsticks or Summer Harvest.
Day 29 - Leh
One last day in our favorite Central Asian capital ...
Day 29 - Trip Ends
Our wonderful Himalayan journey ends today, sadly. You have several options after the trip: a flight back to Delhi, an epic 'jeep safari' back to Manali or elsewhere in the Indian Himalaya, or spending more time in Leh. We're happy to assist on all fronts, but Leh flights are not included in our India treks.
NOTE: If you have successive international flights that are not all part of the same ticket or following domestic flights we suggest planning more cautiously and leaving an extra day in Leh.