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 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.
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.
Collecting fuel; the traditional lifestyle is still alive at Nyimaling - Jamie
Day 9 - trek Dzo Jongo Base Camp 5100m
Pickaboo! A pika playing for the cameras - Jamie
Day 10 - prepare
Day 11 - scramble Dzo Jongo ~6200m
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.
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?
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.