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This is a very old itinerary, see Our treks for all the trips running.
Rugged, colourful gorges contrast with the azure rivers and spacious valleys, all classic Ladakh trekking, as good as it gets.
The Changthang is the name given to the captivating high mountain plateaus of Western Tibet, an area which sits at an average elevation of 4500 to 5000m. This remote and fabled region is peopled by Changpas, the traditional traders of the Changthang, who have wandered these high pastures with their Gurs (nomad tents) and flocks of pashm goats and sheep for centuries. This traditionally Tibetan region lies in part in the Indian Himalaya, although the culture remains purely Tibetan.
This trek is a unique experience; a journey in time during which we witness a way of life that has not changed for centuries. It is a true journey in the classic sense, traversing remote passes to visit remote people. Essentially we are trekking into the ancient Tibetan Kingdom of Guge, home of the Bon religion which predates Buddhism for hundreds of years, and we emerge into a part of the present day Indian Himalaya.
Project-Himalaya has been trekking this remarkable area since it opened in the late 90s, with our Tibetan Sirdar, Lobsang, a Changpa himself, from a Nomadic family.
We are Himalayan experts and professional guides and our treks are motivated by a deep love and respect for the peoples and regions of the Indian Himalaya.
Preparation and trekking with us
Note that most flights into Delhi arrive late at night/very early in the morning. Plan your arrival time-date carefully and ask if you are not sure.
The Caravan is a shorter version of this itinerary (ie the Extended Caravan). The Caravan 50 joins after the first 10 days of trekking. Join this longer trek if you can!
Logistically what will happen is Joel will meet and handle the trekkers for one of the trips, the one with most of his friends on then Jamie and Nicola will handle the Delhi-Leh section for the others and then we will all be trekking together. The smart will also realise that we are running an exploration trip at the same time - these people are also trekking with us and while Joel will continue with the trekkers, Jamie and Nicola will head off with the exploratory team. It is likely that at the end of the trip we will all meet in Manali again to party and exchange stories.
Day 1 - arrive Delhi
Joel, Kim or a representative will be at the airport to meet you and take you to the atmospheric Metropolis Tourist Home in Paharganj, near Connaught Place in central Delhi.
day 2 - fly Leh 3500m
Did you get any sleep? We are early to board the spectacular flight to Leh, crossing the main Himalayan Barrier to the capital of Ladakh, Tashi Namgyal's 15th century Himalayan capital at 3500m. The clear high air will catch at the throat when we arrive, and now we start the serious business of acclimatization; and eating, as after we settle into our hotel we have a long leisurely breakfast It will take your body a few days to adjust to this high altitude. It is important to drink plenty of (non alcoholic) liquids, and do not attempt to rush around. Even walking up the stairs of the guest house will make you breathless at first! We will discuss this in detail. Note that we have planned plenty of acclimatization time into our itinerary.
Day 3 - Leh 3500m
We have 2 days to explore the bazaars and alleyways of historic Leh, and the striking Indus valley which surrounds it, visiting some of the most ancient forts and Gompas of the Tibetan Buddhist world.
Day 4 Leh 3500m
Another day for relaxing and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere.
All gear duffels should be packed and ready for a 6 am start tomorrow, which is when our crew, (not us!) head off to meet the ponies and set up the camp site.
5 - Shang Sumdo 3660m
A post lunch drive through the beautiful Indus valley brings us to the hamlet of Shang Sumdo, where our crew has set up camp amongst an idyllic grove of willows at the sumdo (river junction). Here we meet the other vital component of our trek, Tsarap and his team of mules and horses.
6 - Chukirmo 4070m
Our first days trek is an easy one, as we climb slowly to 4000m along the river valley. Today you will feel the elevation, and the summer heat, so it is important to walk slowly, wear a hat and lots of sun block. Chukirmo is the start of the area in which blue sheep, a protected species, now roam freely. There is also a naturally carbonated spring at the campsite, with which we top up our bottles.
7 - to High Camp 4400m
Many groups storm straight up to climb the pass today, but we take an extra day to acclimatize, trekking only a few hours to stay at the base camp below the pass. If the weather has been fine there are delightful rock pools to bathe in here, and the valley is a striking pink and green hued gorge. If the weather has been bad the pools turn into torrents, and care is needed to thread a way across streams. We are likely to see Blue Sheep, and sometimes if we are lucky, Ibex. In 2001 we even saw a Snow Leopard on the hills above the camp!
8 - to Nimaling 4720m
We start early for the steep 2 hour pull to the pass at 5100m, where we put up our prayer flags and have a panoramic snack, taking in the amazing views of Kang Yaze, the 6400m peak that dominates the high altitude plains of Nimaling. This wide valley is one of the most beautiful high altitude plains in the Himalaya. Our spectacularly set camp will be the base for our first rest day, time to get curd from the nomads, take a day hike, dangle our feet in the oxbow stream, or simply rest in the sun. The sunsets, looking across to the gorges of the Markha valley, are stunning.
9 - Nimaling 4720m
We have a rest day here to let our bodies further acclimatize. So today we can simply sit around and drink tea or explore the marmot-infested Nimaling plain and visit the yak and goat herders.
10 - to Tikyu, base camp for Zalung Karpo La, approx 4800m
We cut away from the main Markha Valley trekking route. We cut across the shoulder of Kang Yaze to begin the climb to the 5090m Konka Ngonpo pass, followed by a steep drop to some high grazing areas where we lunch, then a gentler descent to the valley of the Langthang Chu and the shepherd camp of Tikyu.
11 - to Tsokra (Sorra) valley 4000m
A gentler climb today as we zigzag up the trails with Kang Yatze behind us, to the top of the pass with stunning views of the gorges and crags of Zanskar. Then there is another steep drop to the valley base and we camp at one of many pleasant campsites in the Tsokra gorge with views of an ancient Dzong (castle) on the hillside that once guarded the gorge against invaders.
12 - to Dat 4250m
To Dat, the major herding village in the valley. When I first came through this valley many years before, I was amazed by the sheer faces around, and the wooded valley floor. It is still one of my favourite Himalayan valleys.
We quit camp early to avoid the heat and drop through the valley of the Kharnak Chu; that is an old fort on the peak overlooking the valley-and a lot of the peaks in the area are believed by the locals to have Gods residing on them, thus the altars with flags and blue sheep horns lined up with a lot of their summits. Soon we are in a really pretty valley, wooded, with clear streams, sheer cliffs all around, then after lunch the valley opens up, and walk through wide meadows and past mani walls leading to the nomad settlement of Dat, normally deserted at this time as the inhabitants are at summer pastures with their herds. If you have the energy the local Gompa is worth a visit, seemingly deserted, in fact it is an active place of worship. The lay monk who holds the keys will appear at some point to collect our camping and grazing charges, summoned by some form of bush telegraph!
13 - to Lungmoche 4550m
Again an early start to cross the desert stretch approaching the Yar La; it is a fairly easy climb to the 4950m pass but the desert stretch, with ever expanding views back of the rock spires in the valley, can fairly sizzle when the sun gets up, so the water bottles must be brimming. Once on the pass (with some of the most intricately carved mani stones on the trek,) it is an easy drop to the pleasant meadow outside Lungmoche where we camp.
14 - to Sangtha 4300m
Flat, wide, and high... Lungmoche may seem like a long deserted ghost town, but the inhabitants have simply upped for the summer, leaving the stone rings they pitch their tents around to the Pikas and marmots, and if we are lucky the herd of Kiang, wild horses, we spot here every year. Sangtha marks the end of Ladakhi herding areas and the start of Tibetan. With its cold clear river it is also a great bathing spot, and a walk above the camp for the sunset is worth it.
15 - to Yoghurt Camp
Another day, another pass, and a cold river crossing to start the day, a relatively short one as we climb the Pogmar la,(4905m) and then a traversing descent to the summer camp of the nomads from Pogmar/Spagmur village, becoming old friends as they have charmed us with curd and butter tea many times in past years. Lobsang has relatives here which makes our welcome even warmer. We will probably be picked up by jeeps and taken to Pang (4450m) where we have fresh supplies and perhaps fresh trekkers, then continue to a camp a few kilometres upstream from Pang.
16 - to Zozogong 4850m
An early start for a longish day, and pack your sandals as we cross several streams. We lunch by some delightful rock pools then cross the 4980m Thelekang La (pass) by mid afternoon, with great views of the peaks around Tso Moriri.
17 - to Phuang 4700m
Down! we lose some elevation, crossing a wide plateau, where herds of wild ass, Kiang, roam. It is also a favourite valley for nomads and we camp above the river banks near a nomad camp.
18 - to Manechan 4640m
We cross a small pass today as we follow nomad trails to Manechan, set in stunning high desert scenery. We call this our "sunshine camp" as we have sun into the early evening. This is a great place to crack those bottles of red wine everybody brings...
19 - to Kiangdom (Tso Moriri) 4530m
A stroll down to the end of the gorge, then a climb high above it, and there is Kiangdom ("horse kingdom") with Tso Moriri glittering in the afternoon sun.
20 - Kiangdom 4530m
Tso Moriri is a magic place, a huge lake. Watch the wading birds, yaks and wild ponies around the lake and its grasslands, or the storms that seasonally move up and down the lake, which creates its own weather. We have a well deserved rest day here.
21 - Korzok 4530m
We walk along close to the lake shore, sometimes thru sand, sometimes on rock, but always with expansive views. There are no real hills but all the same it is a surprisingly tough day. We meet our jeep with fresh supplies from Leh.
22 - mid-camp
One of our discoveries in 2001 was this tiny camp by a spring, with awesome views.
23 - Dungri 4460m
The route out along the eastern shore of Tso Moriri is a wonderful day, at times on a sandy beach, at times climbing high above the shore with the sparkling lake contrasting with Parilungbi. 6 hours walking brings us to the pastures of Dungri.
24 - Norbu Sumdo 4400m
Distant Kiang, nomad herds, and lake Tsomoriri drops slowly behind as we walk across classic central Asian grassland to the river junction with the Parang Chu.
25 - Umlung (rock camp) 4700m
A valley the size of Nepals' Kali Gandaki, but empty...a cold river crossing to kick off before 5 hours walking brings us to a camp we have named after the boulders that hem it in. The fit can try their hand at climbing them!
26 - End in sight camp 4850m
Why the name? Because from here you can just make out the ice ridge that marks our last pass, the Parang la at 5700m.
27 - Parang La high camp 4955m
Situated among rocks at the foot of the glacier, a good meal and an early night are in order, we have a long day tomorrow.
28 - chicken run camp
Away at 6am and on to the ice that curves up to the pass; soon we are among sasturgi with the pass a seemingly impossible climb; by 12 noon we are on top, and by one we are lunching at the bottom, then a long hot gorge and a final climb to the pleasant meadow named after our 2000 chicken dinner! Seriously, this is probably one of the best days trekking in Northern India, probably the planet.
29 - Kibber 4700m
An easy mornings walk to our delightful hotel in the quiet village of Kibber, where we can shower and slowly ease back into civilisation. We arrive at lunchtime, and spend our last day in the hills in mellow surroundings.
30 - drive to Manali
An early start for a spectacular jeep ride to Manali via the Kunzum and Rohtang Passes. We arrive in Manali about 6 PM after a long dusty day on the road.
31 - Manali
Washing, shopping, eating, relaxing, this is your day of rest.
32 - drive Delhi
We have most of the day in Manali then around 5pm take the luxurious Himachal Pradesh night bus, arriving in Delhi early the next day.
Day 33 - depart
You arrive in Delhi sometime between 8am and 11am, so you could fly out sometime after midday. Most flights are at night so either you can spend time in town or we can arrange a hotel room for the day.
We hope you had a great trek!
Please see Our treks.
This cost includes:
+ Hotels: 2 nights in Delhi, 2 nights in Manali, 3 nights guest house in Leh
+ Delhi-Leh flight
+ airport transfers
+ Jeep transport: Leh-Hemis, Kibber-Manali
+ bus transport: Manali-Delhi
+ All meals and full service on trek
Budget $200 of your own money for crew tips, meals and drinks for Delhi, Manali and Leh.
Not included: international airfares, meals in Delhi, Leh or Manali, equipment rental (if any), alcohol, laundry, tipping and other items of a personal nature.