Following is the planned itinerary and we plan to follow this however roads wash out, occasionally people get sick or other logistical challenges arise, and so we will adapt it as we see is needed.
(Day 0 - arrive Delhi / early Leh arrival)
We spend minimal time in Leh, just a day to start acclimatizing but if this is your first time there or you are a slow acclimatizer or have more time available, we strongly recommend you arrive a day or two earlier and we will arrange transfers and hotel and show you around.
Included in all our Ladakh trips are a couple of sightseeing trips, with or without a cultural guide (your choice) and it is your choice of where to go; many people joining are previous trekkers so have seen some places previously.
If you are more ambitious we can also help you arrange a day or overnight trip to Alchi (~3100m) and Basgo Gompas or further afield Lamayuru (~3500m), a day rafting trip on the Zanskar River or or hammer down the Khardung La on a mountain bike (best a few days into your Leh sojourn). If you have been working flat out you are welcome to just relax, kick back and de-stress too, and adjust a little more slowly to the time zone change.
Sophie admires the mural at Basgo - Jamie
Day 1 - meet in Leh 3480m
Phew, after a long series of flights, you are here! Look for a Project Himalaya sign or a simple sign with your name on it at the airport, and our wonderful drivers Ang Chuk or Pasang will pick you up.
Jamie meets you at the hotel on your arrival and we discuss altitude health over tea/coffee or breakfast and introduce Leh (if you are a first timer) and show you the better places to eat. Most people crash out for a few hours and spend the day relaxing; do drink plenty of fluids which helps the acclimatization process, perhaps pop some vitamins and let your body adjust to the new time zone.
We normally go out to dinner together, let's meet in the peaceful hotel garden at 6:30pm. We eat at some of our favourite clean (very important!) restaurants: Chopsticks, G Kitchen, Tibet Kitchen, Open Hand and Summer Harvest.
2 - Leh 3480m
This is a day for sightseeing and relaxing. For today perhaps the best plan is to visit some of the world's most revered gompas and monasteries a short distance from Leh. We will help plan and arrange a jeep, and a local cultural guide if you like (included). Usually we arrange as a morning trip with lunch at Leh (or Thikse) then you can relax in the afternoon although we can easily arrange a full day trip.
Choosing where to go is the biggest challenge, there are so many special places to visit. To the east is Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho and Stok, although don't plan on visiting all of them in one day. Thikse also has a good restaurant for lunch.
Heading west out of Leh are Spituk, Phyang, Nyemo where the Indus meets the Zanskar River, and further afield are Basgo, Likir and Alchi.
3 - drive Tirido 3750m
With a gompa stop en route, we drive to our camp, with a relatively gentle jump in altitude. After breakfast at a normal time, we drive west and have the choice of stopping one of the many gompas in the valley. Hemis Gompa and monastery is perhaps the busiest, being the main one of the region but there are many others too. We have a brief walk to the camp close to the village and probably it will be hot here, hence we don't want to arrive too early. We settle in and introduce you to our caravan.
Ang Chuk, one of our regular drivers, with his turbo Scorpio jeep - Jamie
4 - trek middle camp 3950-4100m
Trekking at last, this is a gentle day as we stop for a "lunch camp", ie where lunch is cooked, we stay as well, camping at a good altitude for acclimatizing. We stay at a local grazing area, perhaps in the company of yaks, sheep and goats, as we do for the next couple of camps.
5 - trek Tiri ~4350m
Again we have a morning walk for a sensible acclimatization plan. Perhaps cards, or scrabble, or exploring up a side valley. It is our sleeping altitude that is most important. These days are wonderful de-stress days, if you have been busy at work and preparing for this trip.
6 - trek Tisaling ~4750m
With less of a gradient, we get to trek a little further today, although still an easy day's walk, to a main river junction, and camp on the nearest good spot. Explore up the valley or relax, it is pleasant camping.
7 - trek Thugje Gompa 4700m via Thratsang La 5170m
At last a real days trekking, and a real pass - or two, as there is a choice of several routes. We cross to the huge plain with Tso Kar ahead. Tso means lake, kar is salt... We camp at the best water source, probably near Thugje Gompa, which we will visit. This is a nomads area, although now some families have mud brick houses rather than tents.
8 - trek Nuruchang 4660m
We skirt around the salt lake and traverse this huge plain, camping where we find the best water on some grassy flats. This could be hot walking.
9 - trek Spanglung 5230m
Skirting a few hills, we head as close to the peak as we camp, gaining real altitude still - this is a particularly high altitude area - and settle in for a possible couple of days here. At over 17,000ft we are camping higher than Gorak Shep in the Everest region, the highest sleeping altitude on the Everest trek, also higher than the highest settlement on the Annapurna Circuit.
10 - rest Spanglung 5230m
This is a extra day for just in case, and also gives time to wash and relax, and to acclimatize, for us to get stronger, and prepare for tomorrow. There are plenty of exploration opportunities for those still with energy, and some of us will scout the route too.
11 - Spanglung - climb peak 6050m
Lets see how we go! The peak is a straightforward scramble so we don't have to carry much gear; it is really an opportunity to get to serious altitude easily.
12 - trek Nugma Nunda 5150m via the Kozur La 5590m
No rest for the wicked, we continue on, crossing a very high pass over to the next valley system.
13 - trek Peldo (Tsomoriri nomads camp) 4560m
The reward is staying on the grassy flats at the head of the lake, where nomads will almost certainly be camping, with their herds of yaks, goats and sheep.
Even Getty liked this shot - copyright 2014 Jamie McGuinness
14 - trek Skyurchu 4850m
We camp near the sKyurchu spring (the "s" is light, the "K" is heavy) which is the best camp for us as our previous delightful "flowers camp", Nima Kanchik, has been taken over by army road workers.
Skyurchu camp and Tsomoriri, moon and stars, with the lights of Korzog/Korzok and an army base - Jamie
15 - trek Base Camp 5680m via pass 5930m
I have to admit, the first time we crossed this pass I was seriously caught out, expecting to climb high a day later. When we climbed Lungser Kangri years ago we simply ascended up the valley floor from an utterly delightful camp, that is now a road worker's camp, so it sees a lot more use than previously.
Anyway, there is some real ascent today, and on a relatively skinny trail although as you can see in the photo below the terrain in moderate. After some descent down the other side, we suddenly arrive at our grassy base camp.
Crawling up the 5950m pass - Jamie
16 - rest Base Camp 5680m
Last night we slept higher than Kala Pattar in the Everest region or indeed the top of Annapurna's Thorung La so have an extra day to acclimatize, all part of maximizing our chance of success. It is a pleasant spot but there isn't a real view of the mountain yet, and neither down to the lake, however there are good views when exploring from the camp.
Lungser Kangri Base Camp - Jamie
17 - trek High Camp 6000m
Up we go and have a big jump in altitude today, that the previous climb and long time we have spent at altitude assists us with.
Amazingly enough we can take the pony team to High Camp, which is only a couple of hours from BC. We spend the afternoon preparing our gear for the climb tomorrow.
Arriving at high camp - Jamie
18 - climb Lungser Kangri 6666m
The big day and we start out a little after dawn (depending on weather) for the long haul to the summit. Initially we reach the 6200m col between Lungser and Chamser Kangri, and occasionally groups camp here but the altitude jump first from Skyurchu and then BC really is too extreme. The terrain is mostly easy although we do climb on snow, and one area has a couple of crevasses, easily avoided or jumped over. It will probably take us around 6-7 hours to the summit although the fit and well-acclimatized make take less than 5 hours (as we did in 2014). The views are glorious over the lake and on the opposite side, the the restricted Hanle area, where Lobsang is from.
2013 summit success (although no views from the summit this time);
we need a better photo, here is to summiting in 2015!- Jamie
19 - descend to Skyurchu
It will probably be a hot direct descent down the stony valley to a point where we can meet the jeeps. It will also be our last camp overlooking this magnificent lake.
20 - drive Leh
We hit the road, back to Leh with around 6-7 hours driving time (barring delays) where we deserve a cold beer or cocktail and a celebratory meal. Chopsticks or Bon Appetit?
Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - Jamie
Day 21 - trip ends
You are free to take the morning flight to Delhi or bus to Manali for the long way back, or just enjoy more time in this central Asian town of yore.
Jullay, see you again!!