Jamie McGuinness Lobsang, star organizer

 

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Esther jumping for joy atop a pass (with a nearly empty pack) - Jamie McGuinness

... this is a work in progress!

Philosophy

We aim to have fun. While trekking with a full pack is real, we stop for photos, breathers and snacks, and there is always time to adjust a strap or take that stone out. We are not fastpacking against the clock.

Terminology

I am still feeling my way around for the best term. These are definitely wilderness backpacking/hiking trips, perhaps bespoke backpacking even. Fast packing is light however implies moving as fast as possible, which we are not. Hero packing is a little egotistical; I personally like 'sky packing' as my unique term for it, as we are constantly under that big sky landscape.

But can't I just go teahouse trekking like in Nepal?

There are only a couple of homestay trekking routes in Ladakh and the facilities are super-basic, unlike the lodges of Nepal. If you are interested in a pure homestay trek then do trek the Markha Valley or other routes and either go alone or arrange with a local Ladakhi trekking company. Our backpacking trips are not homestay treks, although on certain route options we may end up intersecting a homestay trek.

Alternatively, go teahouse trekking in Nepal, which is wonderful.

Who carries what?

You carry everything you need. You carry your tent, meal supplies and fuel. For the group gear, we will split a first aid kit, water filter, light USD charging solar panels, and if we are a larger team, a light dining tent (eg Black Diamond Mega Light).

Acclimatization

It takes your body days to adapt to the thinner air here, our trips are planned with this in mind and feature a calibrated buildup, and the longer spent at altitude, the stronger you get. We discuss acclimatization extensively and carry all the appropriate drugs, so you don't need to bring medicines from home.

Experience level

You MUST have done multi-day hikes before, carrying all your own gear. These trip are not for novices. We prefer that you have previously trekked in Nepal previously.

Fitness

You MUST be fit, trekking at altitude is far more strenuous than normal hiking. You do not need to be over the top fit, we are not out to break records, but the fitter you are, the more you will enjoy it.

Trails and camps

Trails are rough underfoot, sometimes exposed and there are no boardwalks or hand rails or even bridges in some areas, this is adventurous trekking. If you are scared of heights, do not book.

We free camp in the wilderness where there is water close by. The is no toilet or tap, or anything, other than some flat ground, usually soft grass. We try to pick the most scenic, best camps with clean water though.

Trekking gear

Light is right, but only up to a point. It is all about finding the balance.

We are writing a separate comprehensive gear discussion that we link to upon booking.

Gear provided

We provide some of the heavier or more difficult gear to transport.

Tent

We offer the very nice REI Arete ASL 2 tents (which they no longer make). These are the prefect blend of toughness and functionality for two people but still light at 2.4kg. We have a selection of other tents too. You are welcome to bring your own tent however do discuss.

Stoves & fuel

We provide stoves and fuel, and we carry a backup stove. This saves you transporting troublesome to travel will stoves. We also supply pots, if you don't have your favourite.

Trail supplies

We buy healthy, wholesome food with our own philosophy on a balanced hiking diet, and also take a few goodies like chocolate. We mainly bring what is locally available in India. I will write a detailed discussion.

Going it alone

For some people going it alone suits, and if this is you, then just do it!

If you would like someone else to do the detailed planning, plan the best itinerary and prepare supplies ahead of time, then book with us.

Trek-climbs

We know the peaks as well, and after a trek we can make a quick ascent, probably partially supported - lets talk!

Resupply

Lobsang and our regular drivers drive out to meet us with the supplies for the next section and cater for us while we are by where we can drive a jeep. Lobsang cooks up gourmet three course meals, breakfasts, lunches and Indian dinners, with fresh supplies for us to refuel for the next section.

Maps

The best maps for our trek are the Ladakh & Zanskar trekking maps by Editions Olizane, the south and central maps. The south map covers the start while the central covers the end. These maps are available on the internet and in Leh.

Guidebooks

My Himalayan trekking addiction started with the cute Artou guidebook that featured concertina pages unfolding to a map with notes. Although Artou publish a now fat guidebook in French, the English language guidebook are mostly dated (and none cover our routes).

Trailblazer: Trekking in Ladakh by Charlie Loram - older

Lonely Planet: Trekking in the Indian Himalaya - also older

Cicerone: Trekking in Ladakh by Radoslav Kucharski and this guide book is especially for the hardcore trekking solo. He also has an Amazon Kindle edition of this book.

Your crew

Jamie, Lobsang and the team know Ladakh and Zanskar better than anybody ...

Background

I (Jamie) simply love trekking, have 'tramped' all over New Zealand and trekked alone all over Nepal in my early years there. More recently, I have explored Zanskar and Ladakh, truly explored, with our amazing crew and our luxurious full service trek setup. Normally I carry perhaps 10kgs of camera gear plus my usual day gear. If I ditch the full frame camera gear, I could carry a tent, stove and supplies instead and barely even notice. Lets see!

Jamie's Flickr photo sets - explore them!

To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a laptop/desktop browser or tablet in landscape (and hit refresh).

Inspiration

I will expand this section sometime. In the meantime here are some inspiring photos!

Sophie admires a Basgo Gompa mural

Sophie admires the mural at Basgo - Jamie

Ang Chuk with his Scorpio jeep

This is what we can look forward to when we resupply, all prepared by Lobsang and the resupply team - Jamie

Magnificent scenery and one of our favorite camps - Jamie

Have you ever seen water this crystal-clear? - Jamie

- Jamie

Remote - Jamie

Statna Gompa in the Indus Valley

Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - Jamie

Exploring

Perhaps surprisingly, we will do some real exploration on some of our backpacking treks, here is a little background.

We have had a slow ongoing affair with exploring the greater region, REALLY exploring the region, and we know more of its secrets over a wider area than anyone else alive. Seriously, over a decade we have trekked east to west and north to south and still have a few more passes to go, all the while running classic trekking trips. Exploratory treks in this area include:

2016: Ladakh Peaks, Passes & Lakes, after success on Dzo Jongo Ri, we did cross that 5865m pass (below), dropping us into the most amazing area were we climbed a handful of peaks and must return. We continued on the rather busy Rumtse route but finished with a pass that few trekkers ever take to Pang, meaning we have now crossed every pass along the Mentok range.

2015: Ladakh Peaks & Passes, after success on Dzo Jongo we topped out on a mysteriously undocumented 5865m pass and will return to this delightful area in the future.

2014: Exploring the Great Divide including peak 6230m, the elusive Pangpo La, Tsarap Chu headwaters and forgotten pass, and the old Spiti pass to the Paralatse region.

The 2014 Great Divide team atop the remote Pangpo La, a real achievement.
Lobsang, Luca, Tod (hidden) Demet, David, Arabella, Len, Helena, Jussi and Jamie

2014: We climbed Mentok II the easy way and found that tough unmarked-on-maps 5950m pass (Lungser Kangri was closed).

2013: We 6000m explored between Tso Kar and Tsomoriri then climbed Lungser Kangri again after a decade's break for wonderful views of our elusive 6230m peak.

2012: Changtang Passes, we explored the Ladakh Range from Ligche; high passes, straightforward peaks and amazing green grass camping.

2012: Our Kanji trek was a Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) exploration to those elusive Ralakhung villages, although difficult terrain thwarted us for the final goal. The Dibling-Zingchan traverse was still a first for trekking groups.

2009: As part of a long private Zanskar traverse we crossed the Paralatse area to Chandra Tal (lake).

2006: planned for elsewhere, this turned into an attempt on Kang Yatse. Serious about it, we had everything set up and it rained records, we were about the only people that didn't abandon our trek, even if we didn't have a chance to summit.

2004: Caravan 6000 exploratory with Eric, Brian & Andriya: we climbed the sharks fin, my 2nd to last of the 6000m Mentok peaks and branched off an already minor route to cross the "Rupshu ice field" - we now know some of its secrets. We didn't find the "unknown" peak. Leaving, we made passes, including the disused 5300m Takling La.

2003: Caravan 6666 exploration with Richard and Nicola: we climbed five (!) 6000m peaks, including the devilish 6666m, some Mentoks and spied this "unknown" peak again (below), and some of the mysterious "Rupshu ice field", as pilots call it.

2002: Caravan Explorer 6000: from Pang we pioneered our classic Caravan HIGH route - the lowest passes were around 5700m, the highest was 6000m and of course a couple of us peaked over 6000m. September was cold!

2001: Caravan 6666: in retrospect it was this 39 day trek that started my fascination with the region. We eyed many peaks (climbed on later trips) and, climbed Chamser Kangri 6622m and Lungser Kangri 6666m. An all time classic trek.

 

Julley!