Jamie McGuinness, Project Himalaya owner-guide with a wild yak skull and horns
Leader Jamie McGuinness

 

Lobsang Chomphel, star organizer
Organizer Lobsang Chomphel
Chanden, our cook with character
Cook Chanden Malla

 

 

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Ascending Mentok Kangri II - Jamie

Saving data; use your phone in landscape to see the detailed itinerary and more photos.

2013 Lungser Kangri Flickr album

I looked through all my 2013 trip photos of this area, and the cloudscapes - WOW! We had some impressive storms around us although very few actually dropped rain on us. Light snow fell on some of the 6000m peaks although did not interfere with our peak ascents. Not as much is shown in the album but also note the clothing the team is wearing.

2013 Lungser Kangri

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.

(Day 0 - arrive Delhi / early Leh arrival)

We spend three 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 plus 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 us are previous trekkers so have seen some places previously.

If you are more ambitious we can also 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 hammer down the Khardung La on a mountain bike (best a few days into your Leh sojourn). If you have several days, we recommend a Nubra jeep safari or overnighting at Panggong Lake. The cost for all of these adventures are reasonable, and paid directly to our drivers in Leh.

If you have been working flat out you are welcome to just relax, kick back and de-stress too.

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 Losang or a friend of his will pick you up.

Jamie meets you at the hotel on your arrival and we discuss altitude health (and the time zone change for North Americans) over tea/coffee or breakfast then introduce Leh and show you the better places to eat. Most people crash out for a few hours and spend the day relaxing and recovering. Do drink plenty of fluids, which helps the acclimatization process, and do also pop some multi-vitamins to help in a small way to ward off colds from the plane or being rundown from the travel.

We normally go out to dinner together; let's meet in the peaceful hotel garden by 6:30pm, arrive earlier to soak in the view. We eat at some of our favourite clean (very important!) restaurants: Chopsticks, Bon Appetit, Tibet Kitchen and others.

Day 2 - Leh 3480m

This is a day for experiencing the revered gompas, monasteries and palaces of the Indus Valley, ie a short drive from Leh. We arrange a jeep or two (and a local culture guide if you like, included). Usually, we arrange as a morning trip with a late lunch out of Leh then you can relax in the afternoon although we can easily arrange a full day trip as an alternative.

Choosing what to see is the biggest challenge, there are so many special places to visit. Close by are Spituk Gompa and Stok Palace. To the east is Shey Palace, and the gompas Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna and Matho, 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.

Visiting a gompa is atmospheric and a timeless experience engendering respect for their philosophy.

3 - Leh 3480m

After gentle sightseeing yesterday we exercise a little more today. In the morning we wander up to the palace and gompa above Leh, and before dinner, perhaps up to the Peace/Shanti Stupa for a Leh sunset panorama. There is the option of sightseeing further afield today, as well, such as Alchi and Basgo (for a small additional cost).

Because tomorrow we stay at ~4000m, at minimum we need three nights here in Leh prior to moving higher.

Leh from Shanti Stupa

Full moon on Leh from Shanti Stupa- Jamie

4 - drive Chokdo 3980m with sightseeing

Starting a trek in Ladakh always involves the altitude issue and we take acclimating seriously, and have vast experience helping people acclimate. For this trek we break the jump of 800+m/2650+ft between Leh and our trek start with two nights at ~4000m, a proven formula. We have watched other groups ruin their treks with over-large altitude gains out of Leh.

It is only a couple of hours drive to our overnight stop at Chokdo so we visit Hemis Gompa and its museum en route.

Chokdo is the end of the Markha Valley trek and there are a few homestays there although few trekkers normally stay as most people prefer to return to Leh the same day. There is a reasonable chance we have a homestay to ourselves. Each has two to three rooms with mattresses on the floor and the family will cook a meal for us, very traditional!

5 - trek Meru via Kichen La 4670m, drive Lato 4000m

We walk out the Chokdo homestay and trek up a side valley (not the Markha trek!) initailly through the main small village then up through a herding area and over a moderate pass. The views change on the other side and we descend eventually into a red rock canyon and pop out on the Leh-Manali highway near the village of Meru. Lobsang will meet us and then we drive to Lato, a little further up the road and at the perfect altitude for acclimatizing. We stay in a simple guesthouse sharing rooms.

Ang Chuk with his Scorpio jeep

Ang Chuk, one of our regular drivers, with his Scorpio jeep - Jamie

The 2014 team lunching at our acclimatization spot prior to the trek start - Jamie

6 - drive Sangtha 4420m via Tanglang La ~5328m, trek Yabuk ~4340m

With more altitude under our pillow, we drive over the Tanglang La, once claimed by India to be the second highest road pass in the world, and now updated to read "the twelfth highest". Regardless, it is scenic with views of the Kang Yatze mountain range and over the other side, the More Plains. It is often moody, windy and cold too...

A Tanglang La view - Jamie

We then slip off the main Leh-Manali highway to Sangtha, a deserted-in-summer nomad camp, which we reach around lunchtime. There is one tricky stream crossing for the jeeps and we need good river conditions to be able to drive all the way, so, if the river is slightly higher, we will start trekking a few kilometers earlier. If conditions are good, we may even be able to drive to the higher Yabuk then trek to its sister camp Yabuk Yogma a little further down. We Introduce you to our camping setup and relax in this peaceful area.

Few trekkers ever use this route and in 2014 our camp was visited by some younger Tibetan Argali sheep, rare to see. Above the camp was a lammergeier nest with a chick in it and pikas popped up all around our camp, so we really have jumped into real wilderness.

A nomad

Our delightful Yabuk Barma camp - Jamie

7 - trek Tozay Chu camp 4450m

We follow the champagne Zara Chu (chu is water and river in Tibetan) downriver until the stony junction with the Tozay Chu where we turn upstream into the broad valley and wander along to one of the many possible grassy camps on the river bank.

Nights 6, 7 and 8 are all at ~4500m so we really can get used to the altitude, a real key before progressing higher.

A nomad

Trekking along the river is delightful as it is the warmest time of the year - Jamie

8 - trek Pang camp 4550m

We continue stream hopping along the pinnacle-sided river valley to the Leh-Manali highway, which we cross close to Pang, a startling contrast of "development" and the cleanliness of the wilderness. So we do cross the road; sadly there are fewer and fewer treks that are not interrupted by a road, however this is also a chance to resupply. Soon after we stop at one of our favourite camps, our "yogurt" camp, full of memories from explorations of yesteryear and yesterdecade.

From near Pang, looking up our trekking valley

Our delightful Pang camp is one of the more distant green patches close to the river - Jamie

9 - trek Shemra 5000m

This is as far as the detailed itinerary goes, instead here are some photos of what we can expect.

Ram Lal, star horseman

Local cowboys herding their yaks - Jamie

Cloudscapes for our Gyama Barma lunch - Jamie

Our Mentok II base camp - Jamie

Coming across kiang, the dominant male is protecting the rest of the herd - Jamie

Meeting nomads along the way; Lobsang and Dorjee come from nomad families and speak their language, and usually we are invited in for a cup of tea and chat - Jamie

 

Ram Lal, star horseman

Ram Lal, our wonderful horseman - Jamie

 

Gyama Barma lunch

En route to crossing the real Lanyar La - Jamie

 

Exploring above camp - Jamie

One of my most favourite nightscapes - Jamie

...

27 - drive Leh

We hit the road, back to Leh with around 7-8 hours driving time (barring delays) where we deserve a cold beer and a celebratory meal. Tibet Kitchen or Bon Appetit?

Statna Gompa in the Indus Valley

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

Day 28 - 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!