Jamie McGuinness Lobsang, star organizer

 

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Crossing the Zarlung Karpo La into a remote and wild valley, note the horses at the bottom - Jamie

Trekkers say

Great trip, I have lots of photos to sort out!

Phil Robinson, Ladakh Peaks & Passes 2015

 

There are so many adventurous memories of this trekking experience to be imprinted into my mind to last me my lifetime!!

Esther Tan, Kang Yatze II 2014

 

This was a great trip, except that I could not make it up Dzo Jongo but there is always next year for that. It was really fun and awesome company.

Ranjan Banerji, Ladakh Peaks & Passes 2016

 

Looking back through the photos has me smiling - what a great trip, thanks all for the great company in a stunning part of the world. My mind is already thinking ahead to 2017 ...

Melissa Clarke, Ladakh Peaks & Passes 2016

Why this trek-climb?

Our wonderful trek is significantly better than the homestay trek because we can acclimatize properly, explore and get off the beaten track. Homestay trekkers cannot stay at Tachutse and therefore have to make a big jump from Hankar 3985m to Nymaling 4750m and are hard hit by the altitude gain, and therefore virtually everyone only stays one night before heading down, which is a real shame as exploring around Nyimaling is one of the real highlights. We take a more remote, very scenic route out too.

The meals and accommodation in the homestays are basic whereas our meals are delicious three course meals and you stay in your own private tent.

If you just want to get to 6000m the easiest way possible then Dzo Jongo Ri is the best peak for this. It is easier climbing than Stok Kangri and Kang Yatse II. Stok Kangri is overcrowded and steep at the top, to the point where ropes should be used, but mostly aren't. Kang Yatse II is even worse, significantly more dangerous and in 2014 we watched several locally guided teams using appalling ropework, and we found many crevasses, more that one would expect.

Why Project Himalaya?

In a nutshell: caring, knowledgeable, experienced crew; healthy, tasty meals; quality camping gear, and more. We really care and offer amazing service in every well thought-out detail; our trek service is better (or at minimum equal) to any other high end company so that you can just turn up with the right gear and enjoy.

Jamie and Lobsang and the rest of the crew have trekked this route many times and are totally familiar with the area. We use good tents (mostly Mountain Hardwear and REI) and have a spacious dining tent and serve delicious and healthy meals. Ram Lal takes care of our horses and mules and we have yet to lose a day to lost horses, and if you have trekked a lot in Ladakh you will appreciate how unique this is.

Our trek set up is perhaps the best, the most comfortable there is in Ladakh. We have a comfortable, warm dining tent with our unique setup using back chairs, so the tent is a pleasure to relax in. We also have an outside dining set with super-comfortable chairs and sun shade that we use for some breakfasts and afternoon tea. We provide a thick (by trekking standards) mattress to save you flying with a bulky carry mat (closed cell mattress), we have clean filtered water available at camp all the time, use good, appropriate tents, roomy for a single and or a palace for doubles. We really have worked at making our trek set up the best, and with horses carrying the loads there is no guilt about the extra gear.

A delicious, healthy dinner coming up

Lobsang serves a delicious meal of assorted flavourful but non-spicy and non-oily curries - Jamie

Experience level

For the trek you should not be scared of heights as some of the trails are relatively challenging. You don't need to be an experienced trekker however you must know that you love being in the great outdoors and like the concept of camping.

The Dzo Jongo peak scramble is optional, however it is straightforward, no steep bits. The majority of the climb is a walk up with one short snow section. For this at minimum, you need basic crampons that will fit your boots. Strap on-style crampons on normal trekking boots are OK in good conditions, however if you have mountaineering boots and crampons and an ice ax, then bring.

In 2016 people climbed in trainers (see the photo) however Jamie did fix a handline and helped everyone across one section exposed individually. With crampons then we would not need a rope. Do discuss your gear with Jamie.

See what everyone is wearing here on a cool, cloudy day - Jamie

Maps

The best map for our trek is the central map of the Ladakh & Zanskar trekking map series by Editions Olizane. These maps are available on the internet and in Leh.

Roshan, the quiet, competent horseman from 2014 Jamie's Flickr photo sets - explore them! Esther over 6000m

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

Detailed itinerary

We plan to follow the itinerary however roads wash out, or are extended, occasionally people get sick, logistical challenges arise, or we hear of a better campsite, and so we will adapt it as needed.

This detailed itinerary is a work in progress!

(Day 0 - arrive Delhi / early Leh arrival)

We spend two nights in Leh, so reasonable acclimatization to the 3480m/11,415ft altitude but if you are new to altitude or to Leh, perhaps plan to arrive one day early 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.

For the 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 a Basgo Gompa mural

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 his brother 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 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, Bon Appetit, Tibet Kitchen and Summer Harvest.

Sophie admires a Basgo Gompa mural

Demet pets a gompa snow lion - Jamie

Day 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.

By chance on a sightseeing trip to Matho we watched this - Jamie

Day 3 - drive Chilling, trek Skiu 3300m

We set off after breakfast for a two hour drive then a surprise - a small cable car is the only way across the fast flowing Zanskar River. There was a brand new steel girder road bridge in 2014 that we ducked across as perhaps the first foreigners, using the painting planks, but sadly this was destroyed by the flood of 2015, and lies in a twisted wreak downstream. So the cable car is an adventure and it will take a while to get all our gear and us across, especially if there are other groups there at the same time.

It is only a couple of hours of sometimes hot and sunny walking to our camp where there is shade and a wonderful afternoon tea awaits. We introduce our crew and the camp, and your tent, your home for the following few weeks.

Afternoon tea is ready! Our shady Skiu campsite - Jamie

Day 4 - trek Harmochen

Although some treks plan Skiu to Markha village in one day, it is a long way, especially at the beginning of a trek, so we have an easier day to a simple camp with good grass for the horses nearby. This relatively gentle start allows for legs that perhaps didn't do enough training, and for any possible flight delays, and because the trekking here in the valley base is still hot. We lose that tomorrow...

We pass through a mix of small villages and cropping areas, amid this steep-sided valley.

Dinner is served under (our sun shade since it was a warm evening) - Jamie

Day 5 - trek Markha 3700m

Today we pass the remains of old hermitage caves high on the opposite cliffs. Inside are the remains of tiny caves where lamas once sat in meditation, platforms carved in rock. Look also at the chortens that lines of trekkers sweat past - inside are piles of tiny 'tsatsas', the remains of ashes of the departed formed into tiny clay figurines. As soon as the valley widens we spot the old fort on the hill above Markha village, and then, on the other side of the hill is our camp on the banks of the Markha river. Long ago invaders from what is now Pakistan coveted the high grazing and livestock of Nyimaling, thus the Markha valley was at one time heavily fortified.

After tea we ascend to explore the local gompa, the inside dark and chang smelling; and check out the ornate carved silver barley beer holders in front of the village lamas chair. Look, and look again, the more you look the more you will see.

Fields and villages in the Markha Valley - Jamie

Day 6 - trek Tachutse ~4350m

This is another day of ambling along the trails used by countless shepherds and traders over the centuries. We cross several calf deep rivers then two hours beyond Markha we have the chance to climb to the old hilltop monastery of Umlung, and it is here that we leave the year-round villages behind. The snow mountain ahead is the real 6400m peak of Kang Yatse, which we are going to see much more of soon. And then we see the spire at valley end that marks the strategic junction with the routes to Zanskar and Nyimaling, and there is Hankar village, marked by a centuries old crumbling fort above. The legend is that the Dogra army that conquered Ladakh in the early 19th century was led this way to their prize, the Indus valley and Leh, by a renegade Zanskari.

Once the cliffs around us change to green hills we cross a bridge to the true left side of the valley and just beyond is the popular campsite and teashop of Tachutse. There are more but smaller campsites after a 20 minute climb to a shallow valley where a herders shelter sits on a moraine ridge above. Let's see which campsite suits us.

Esther crossing the steam above Markha - Jamie

Day 7 - trek Nyimaling ~4750m

Passing some lakes worth wandering around, we puff a little harder with the altitude. More ascent leads us to the huge Nyimaling plain where villagers from the Markha Valley graze their sheep in summer and make curd from the milk of their livestock. We camp in a convenient spot (hence the ~4750m/15,600ft altitude) and drink in the views - dinner outside?

What a backdrop, heading up to Nyimaling - Jamie

Day 8 - rest-explore Nyimaling ~4750m

We have ascended relatively quickly and here take a break to acclimatize, and wash clothes and explore this wonderful, panoramic valley.

There is a choice of day trips. The standard exit for a Markha trek is over the Konmaru La (Gongmaru La) and the view is well worth the effort, you can see towards Leh on a good day, as well as up and down the valley we are trekking in. There are more gentle ascents above our camp but they tend to keep going, and it is even possible to climb to over 5700m on the ridge leading to Reponi Mallai Ri.

Ram Lal, star horseman

Collecting fuel; the traditional lifestyle is still alive at Nyimaling - Jamie

Day 9 - trek Dzo Jongo Base Camp 5100m

Ram Lal, star horseman

Pickaboo! A pika playing for the cameras - Jamie

Day 10 - prepare

Day 11 - scramble Dzo Jongo ~6200m

Ram Lal, star horseman

That is a view! 6000m Kang Yatse II summit selfie - Jamie

Day 12 - trek Kang Yatze base camp

Day 13 - trek Tikyu

We have a beautiful, satisfying day ahead. Leaving camp we cross a minor ridge to an open grassy valley and skirt around the side of this aiming for the pass above.

There is a surprise at the top, an initially steep descent on loose dirt but just over the small stream the way becomes a real path, and particularly scenic at that. We continue skirting around ridges, gently dropping to the valley base where we camp at the last grassy spot, the best camp for tomorrow.

Blue sheep horns - Jamie

And much better to see blue sheep alive, here is a young one - Jamie

Day 14 - trek Tsogra 4600m via the Zalung Karpo La ~5200m

We are straight into it, and the top of the high pass comes soon enough, with a bit of surprise, it is a three way pass with a route dropping into the very Rabrang area, an area where I have seen wolves and we have seen snow leopard scat too (and would love to return there!).

Descending into the gorges, we camp well down at the grazing area of Tsogra (Sorra). There is an ancient dzong (fort) on the hillside that once guarded the gorge against invaders.

Ram Lal, star horseman

Wow, the dramatic panorama from the Zalung Karpo La - Jamie

Day 15 - trek Dat

I love this valley, the steep sides and sparkling streams - Jamie

Day 16 - drive Leh

We hit the the Leh-Manali highway which has mostly been resurfaced and so is a relatively quick drive now. Driving back will take around 2 hours driving time (barring delays) where we deserve a cold beer or cocktail and a celebratory meal. Chopsticks or Bon Appetit?

Statna Gompa in the Indus Valley

Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - Jamie
(Stakna literally means tiger/leopard's nose on account of the rock)

Day 17 - 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.

Julley!