Jamie McGuinness, Project Himalaya owner-guide
Leader Jamie McGuinness
Lobsang, star organizer


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Climbing Mentok II - Jamie

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

Detailed itinerary

We plan to follow the itinerary however roads wash out, occasionally people get sick, rarely 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 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 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 (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, 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 - 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.

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

Leh from Shanti Stupa

Moonlit Leh from Shanti Stupa - Jamie

4 - drive Lhatoo 4000m 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 870m/2850ft between Leh and our trek start into two parts, spending the night at 4000m between, 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 camp on the Leh-Manali road so we visit some gompas that are further afield from Leh along the way such as Matho, Stakna, busy Hemis or Chemre and Thag Thog. What haven't you already seen?

Ang Chuk with his Scorpio jeep

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

We camp at Lhatoo with our trek crew, which is more comfortable than the simple hotels there, and get our first taste of our cook's wonderful cooking.

Lunch at Lhatoo is served! - Jamie

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

With more altitude under our pillow, we drive over the Tanglang La, claimed by India to be the second highest road pass in the world, and regardless of the reality, the panorama is gorgeous with views of the Kang Yatze mountain range which we have explored and over the other side, the More/Mare Plains.

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, however if the river is slightly higher, we will start trekking a few kilometers earlier, which isn't a problem.

We trek a few hours in the afternoon to either Yabuk Gongma or its sister camp Yabuk Yogma a little further down, and introduce you to our camping setup and relax in the peaceful area.

Few trekkers ever use this route and in 2014 our camp was visited by some younger Tibetan Argali sheep, very 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 in to the wilderness.

All of the following photos were taken on our trek route.

A nomad

Our delightful Yabuk Barma camp - Jamie

6 - 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 5, 6 and 7 are all at ~4500m so we really can get used to the altitude, a real key before progressing higher and one of the reasons that all our climbing expeditions that have used this route in have been so successful.

A nomad

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

7 - trek Numa camp 4550m

We continue steam 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 with fresh veg. Soon after we also pass one of our favourite camps, our "yogurt" or Pang camp, full of memories from explorations of yesteryear and yesterdecade.

However rather than staying there we continue on to the next good camping area as this allows us to cross the pass tomorrow...

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

8 - trek Lanyar 4850m via the Thelakung La 5020m

At last we trek above 5000m, briefly, crossing this pass that so many people get lost on. Don't follow the main valley to the end!

We are spoilt for camping choices in the huge valley, filled with yaks being herded by Tibetan cowboys in 2014, and often has nomad camps where we can get fresh yoghurt and perhaps even some dried meat. It is also kiang and wolf country and has gorgeous, oh-so-spacious panoramas.

Note Lanyar is located wrongly on the second edition of the Olizane (Swiss) map...

Ram Lal, star horseman

Local cowboys herding their yak - Jamie

9 - trek Thargang 4740m

We continue down the broad valley to the delightful camping area of Thargang, watch for wildlife, particularly wolves, which we have previously seen here. It is yet another peaceful camp, and in all the times we have trekked here, we have never shared our camp with any other groups.

We have a mix of tight and open valleys - Jamie

10 - trek to Mentoks Base Camp 5080m

Turning up a neat side valley, we ascend on grass to our almost flat base camp with panoramic views. We have seen foxes here, and been visited by lammergeiers and griffons.

Raining stars at our Mentok Base Camp - Jamie

11 - Mentoks Base Camp 5080m

We explore the area and prepare our gear for tomorrow. This is an area that, as far as I can guess, only we have camped here. It is otherwise unknown.

Check out the beard of this lammergeier or bearded vulture. It is more like a mustache to me... - Jamie

12 - climb Mentok Kangri I

We start at first light for a long, tough day but lets see how we do. Climbing, at breathless stops, there is a huge panorama to inspire us, and that extends around 360 degrees from the summit.

Mentok Kangri I - Jamie

13 - trek Lameke

Returning Threading minor valleys and cresting another series of broad ridges, in this broad, dramatic landscape, we gently descend to our next remote campsite beside a tinkling stream. We share the area only with wild animals.

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

14 - trek Kiangdam

After many days on the move it is time for a rest, perhaps time to clean a few clothes, and also explore the unbelievably vast area. We know at least some of the secrets and will explore more today. Jamie and some of the crew will scout our pass for tomorrow.

The spacious Kiangdam camp - Jamie

15 - trek Korzok

We trek along side Tsomoriri, with Lunger and Chamser Kangri tempting us on the other side of the lake.

Traversing Tsomoriri, this fearsome-looking squall didn't actually touch us - Jamie

Day 16 - drive Leh

We take the scenic route back via Tso Kar, an area that we love trekking through, however there are roads throughout now. Back in Leh we deserve a cold beer 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.