We traverse an untrekked region of the Ladakh Range
Our 2012 exploration (Flickr photos) revealed just how high and
unexplored the Changthang and Rong part of the Ladakh Range is, with the local headman telling us that no trekkers
had EVER crossed the Gongma La, the pass we were aiming for. We didn't meet a single other
trekking group for the entire trip, during absolute peak season, and I don't expect 2018 to be any different.
This time we aim to finish what we started, and climb a couple of satisfying 6k/20k hills, and of course have a rewarding journey. We start off similarly, from Namchang and take a similar but one day slower acclimatization plan up to a valley with a gorgeous cirque of mountains begging to be explored. Finally acclimatized, we will pop over the 5850m/19,188ft Gongma La to the head of another valley of temptations and check out an old pass for a possible trick over it. Dropping down, we briefly see a road on the other side of the valley. The huge Harong grassy plain (the banner above) is typical of the Changthang, and yet there are so few plains like this open to trekkers.
Heading back to recross the Ladakh range, we wander up a promising side valley first, thoroughly "exploring" it, then pop over the 5600m Yar La (unless we work out an alternative :) .
Over more than a decade of exploring, we have had two trips that we have backed out of the most ambitious section, due to worries about the strength of our horse team. In both cases, we were using local-local horses and not our usual tough horse-mule crew, so on this 2018 trip, Ram Lal will definitely be along to ensure there are no logistical issues. No 5000m foals as in 2012!
This is classic high altitude trekking with an endless succession of delightful campsites, some rambling exploring, and 6000m scrambling. Do get in touch for a few further details!
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Day 0 - early arrival
Do plan your arrival time well, considering your flight to Leh, see Delhi-Leh travel. We are happy to assist planning, and with early arrival provide transfer and hotel booking.
Day 1 - Wednesday 1 August - meet in Leh 3500m
We meet you at Leh airport (code IXL) and you can now relax.
2-3 - Leh 3500m
Time to unwind and explore, and the all important time acclimatizing. Leh is a sightseer's and photographer's
paradise. Experience the gompas and festivals.
4 - drive Lhatoo 4000m with sightseeing
All our high altitude treks now begin in the same proven way, and the red rock canyon here has to be seen to be believed.
5 - drive Namchang, short trek to Kagtsa camp 4320m
Driving back to the Indus, we soon drive to the end of the road in a side valley and set up camp at the nearest spot, again, at a good altitude for acclimatizing.
6 - trek Junction Camp 4700m
We stretch the trekking legs and make a base where five valleys converge.
7 - explore Junction camp 4700m
There are numerous possibilities, although exploring higher will be hard work. This is also snow leopard and other wildlife country.
8 - trek Gongma La BC 5150m
At last, we get to a high camp where we revel in the mountains around us.
9 - explore Gongma La BC 5150m
The head of the valley is ringed by tempting mountains.
10 - explore Gongma La BC 5150m
More exploring, and keep an eye out for wildlife too.
11 - trek Gun Valley Camp ~5130m via Gongma La 5850m
This is a high day, over the very high Gongma La, and we head into the unknown down the other side.
12 - Gun Valley Camp ~5130m explore Gun La 5650m
At the head of this valley is a another pass, but is the pass at the lowest saddle?
13 - explore Gun Valley Camp ~5130m
More exploration time.
14 - trek Chipra Gompa 4440m
We descend on the old trading and grazing route.
15 - trek Chibra-Harong camp 4370m
Descending along the main valley, we camp on the edge of a huge grass and wetland plain.
16 - Chibra-Harong camp 4370m
Rest day for birding, washing and exploring.
17 - trek Rukheru Valley camp 5080m
After seeking local advice, we will likely head up a large side valley.
18 - Rukheru Valley - explore
We explore up to the head of the valley and check out routes.
19 - explore Rukheru
And let's have a closer look at what we found.
20 - trek Yongma La high camp
We can camp at the high camp or very high camp before the pass.
21 - trek Nanchang via Yar La 5600m, drive Leh
We meet the jeep team where we started; the drive back should be around 3 hours, then let's celebrate!
Day 22 - Wed 22 August - trip ends
You are free to fly out today or stay on in this town of yore.
The large wetland of Chibra-Harong
To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a laptop/desktop browser or tablet in landscape (and hit refresh).
For our exploratory trips we don't write out a detailed itinerary. It is worth pointing out that we start our trek in the most extensive valley system in the region, as we need to acclimatize to altitude. A minor constraint is we should start and finish on the Indus river side as our horse team has to come from and get back to that region.
We have had a slow, ongoing love affair with exploring the greater region, really, truly exploring, and we know more of its secrets over a wider area than anyone else alive. Seriously, over a decade we have trekked east to west and north to south and still have a few more passes to go, all the while running very memorable trekking trips. Previous exploratory treks in Ladakh-Zanskar include:
2017 Great Divide: From Tso Moriri we climbed 6230m then crossed our 2004 pass linking to the Takling area, and there linked with the forgotten pass we found in 2014. Then we linked to the standard but intimidating Parang La (and ended with Shimla). This was another most awesome trek.
The 2017 Great Divide team, Mike, Esther, John, Phil, Ranjan, Ralph and Alan - by Jamie
2017 Backpacking: Rather ambitiously for our first ever Ladakh backpacking trip, the first two parts from Shang Sumdo to Tso Kar were entirely exploratory, crossing no less than three passes unmarked on maps, and now disused by locals too.
Lesa, Tomie and Esther - photo by Jamie
2016: Ladakh Peaks, Passes & Lakes, after success on Dzo Jongo Ri, we did successfully cross that 5865m pass (below), dropping us into the most amazing area where we climbed a handful of peaks. We continued on the rather busy Rumtse route but finished with a pass that few trekkers ever take to Pang, meaning we have now crossed every pass along the Mentok range.
2015: Ladakh Peaks & Passes, after success on Dzo Jongo East we topped out on a mysterious undocumented 5865m pass (but didn't cross) and will return to this delightful area in the future (and we did, the following year).
2014: Exploring the Great Divide including peak 6230m (finally!), the elusive Pangpo La, Tsarap Chu headwaters and forgotten pass, and the old Spiti pass to the Paralatse region. One of the all time classic treks.
The 2014 Great Divide team atop the remote Pangpo La, a satisfying achievement.
Lobsang, Luca, Tod (hidden) Demet, David, Arabella, Len, Helena, Jussi and Jamie
2014: We summitted Mentok II the easy way and found that tough unmarked-on-maps 5950m pass (Lungser Kangri was closed).
2013: We 6000m explored between Tso Kar and Tsomoriri then climbed Lungser Kangri again, after a decade's break, for wonderful views of our
elusive 6230m peak.
2012: Changtang Passes, we explored the Ladakh Range from Ligche; high passes,
straightforward peaks and amazing green grass camping.
Some high exploring
2012: Our Kanji trek was a Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) exploration to those
elusive Ralakhung villages, although difficult terrain thwarted us for the final
goal. The Dibling-Zingchan traverse was still a first for trekking groups.
2009: As part of a long private Zanskar traverse we crossed the
Paralatse area to Chandra Tal (lake).
2006: planned for elsewhere, this turned into an attempt on Kang Yatse.
Serious about it, we had everything set up and it rained records, we were about the only people that didn't abandon our trek, even if we didn't have a chance to
2004: Caravan 6000 exploratory with Eric, Brian & Andriya: we climbed the sharks fin,
my 2nd to last of the 6000m Mentok peaks and branched off an already minor route to cross the "Rupshu ice field" -
we now know some of its secrets. We didn't find the "unknown" peak however we crossed two virtually unknown passes, including the disused 5300m Takling La.
Descending the Takling La, making our own trail
2003: Caravan 6666 exploration with Richard and Nicola: we
climbed five (!) 6000m peaks, including the devilish 6666m, some Mentoks and
spied this "unknown" peak again (below), and some of the mysterious "Rupshu ice field", as pilots call it.
Richard on our pseudo-traverse of one of the Mentoks
2002: Caravan Explorer 6000: from Pang we pioneered our classic Caravan
HIGH route - the lowest passes were around 5700m, the highest was 6000m and a couple of us peaked over 6000m. September was cold!
2001: Caravan 6666: in retrospect it was this 39 day trek that started my fascination with
the region. We eyed many peaks (climbed on later trips) and climbed Chamser Kangri 6622m and Lungser Kangri 6666m. An all time classic