The classic Darcha to Lamayuru Zanskar trek of a decade or three ago now has roads instead of trails for many chunks of it so we have continuously modified our Zanskar Spring trek (and older Zanskar Traverse) without losing the character. But what if you are starting from the Lamayuru end? Here is an adventurous variation that also features sound acclimatization, the bane of shorter itineraries, and takes in the very best of the whole stunning region.
We feast on the colours,
textures, formations and savage canyons of the jaw-dropping Zanskar Range. Every
visit I am blown away by the powerful beauty of the region and the welcoming
locals, and just how unique in character each trek day is, timeless vignettes. There are a number of contenders for the friendliest, most picturesque
village in Ladakh and we visit most of them in this trek for a surprisingly
adventurous and remote four week trek.
The description is perhaps hard to believe, why is it so little
visited if it is that wonderful? Simple, during peak season the first part of the trek has
overflowing rivers, only returning to that crystal blue as summer turns and after most trekkers have
We spend three nights at around 3500m/11,500ft so reasonable acclimatization 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 is a sightseeing trip, 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 and Basgo Gompas, a day rafting trip on the Zanskar River or even a
mountain bike descent of the Khardung La (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.
Day 1 - meet Leh 3480m
Phew, after a long series of flights, you are here - welcome to Leh! Look for a sign with your
name on it at the airport, and our wonderful drivers Ang Chuk or Pasang will pick you up.
Jamie meets you at the hotel on your arrival and we discuss altitude over
tea/coffee or breakfast and perhaps 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. We normally go out to
dinner together, let's meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30pm.
2 - Leh
This is a day for sightseeing but with some flexiblity to cope with people who have previously visited Leh and already seen some of the sights. 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 sightseeing trip with lunch at the good restaurant at Thikse or a late lunch back at Leh 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.
Heading west out of Leh are Spituk, Phyang, Nyemo where the Indus meets the Zanskar River, and further afield are Basgo, Likir and Alchi.
Prayer time at Matho Gompa - Jamie
3 - drive Lamayuru 3550m
We drive to timeless Lamayuru
Gompa, exploring it. Spectacularly set atop a hill, this much photographed gompa on the main Srinagar-Leh road has been an inspiration to travellers.
The sublime Lamayuru monastery - Jamie
4 - trek Shilla Orchard 3250m
Trekking! We stretch the legs crossing the baby Prinkti La at 3750m and
camp a little above Shilla in an orchard. It is here that we meet our crew with a fully set up camp. We introduce them and our style of camping.
It is likely that the crew and horse team meet you at Shilla (probably the orchard) rather than start with you on the first day since the horses would have come a long way from the end of their last trek to this start point. Your kitbags are driven around from Lamayuru to the camp, on a longer road, not the trekking route.
A luxury trekking lunch - Jamie
5 - trek Shillakong 4150m
The steep-sided gorge here is legendary, and still an adventure as the tame morning stream
starts to rage in the afternoon. You are warned!
6 - trek Kanji 3850m via Yongma La 4720m
The reward for the relentless climb is a glorious new vista, delightfully
colourful crinkled mountains. One time we stayed at a delightful camp near Dumbur
but this trek we will aim for Kanji to experience one of the most picturesque
villages in the region.
Ornella admires the view from the Yongma La - Jamie
7 - trek Kanji La Base Camp 4345m
Today we move smartly, despite the short trekking distance as we should beat
a stream that sometimes rages in the afternoon.
8 - trek Kanji Sumdo 4300m via Kanji La 5250m
Glorious! Lunch on top of the pass? It is this pass crossing that we have been building up to, with our gradual acclimatization.
We continue down through a delightful canyon
and again, if we can cross the river, we continue to good camping. If we can't
cross then it is interesting camping on a tight but scenic campsite.
9 - trek 1st Camp 4550m via Pitung La 5020m
Our aim today is to cross the pass, and then at the first possible comfortable place, camp on the other side.
Descending the Pitung La - Jamie
10 - trek Dibling 3850m
This is a lunch camp, we will reach the remote village of Dibling in time for lunch with the camp set up. Time to wash some clothes or relax and explore the village.
11 - rest Dibling 3850m
Rest days are important, however with the distance of yesterday and tomorrow being short, only half day's treks, there are options to slightly alter the itinerary to gain a day or to catch a day up, if behind at this stage.
in Dibling village - Jamie
12 - trek Lingshed Sumdo or further
We follow the regular trek route to Lingshed Sumdo, and while all other groups turn left up a few passes to head to Lingshed, we instead continue down the main valley now on the thin trail, for the direct remote route to Zingchan.
13 - trek remote camp
There are only a few suitable camping places in this spectacular valley, luckily we have been there previously and know them.
14 - trek Zingchan
This is a glorious day with expansive views, and on a trail rarely trekked. We stay at the one house village of Zingchan.
15 - rest Zingchan / trek Hanumil/Pidmo/Zangla
Today, whether you have a rest day or not, is partly dependent on a new bridge (under construction in 2017) and how you are feeling.
Relaxing at the little-used camp at Zingchan - Jamie
16 - trek Zangla
Assuming a rest day at Zingchan yesterday, we have a morning's walk to the big new bridge across the Zanskar River at Pidmo. Then we should be able to get a jeep to go sightseeing to Karsha Gompa while the crew pick up fresh vegetables in Padum. Meanwhile, the horsemen have set up camp below Zangla.
Another alternative is on day 15 to trek (perhaps with a short jeep ride) to Zangla then rest and sightsee, today, day 16.
One of the camps at Zangla
17 - trek Zangla Sumdo / higher
Canyon trekking adventures with plenty of river crossings! We may camp at the usual Sumdo camp, but if there is more time we will trek higher along the valley so as to shorten tomorrow's long walk.
The striking steep-sided gorge
18 - trek best camp via Pangdang La 5150m
We start the morning with a few more perhaps quite chilly crossings of the stream, now considerably smaller, and perhaps by morning tea time, we leave it behind and ascend ever higher to cross the Pangang La. Today will be a longer trek day, perhaps 8-10 hours, so be prepared.
A colourful remote camp
19 - trek Ningri
Descending from the Pandang La
20 - Shade via Rotang La 5000m
Curious ibex in one of the gorges of the previous days
21 - rest Shade / trek Trangtag
Although a rest day is possible, it is probably best we trek in the afternoon to the semi-abandoned village of Trangtag, which will shorten tomorrow.
The alternative option starts here
Which option will we take, Jamie will decide based on roads in 2019.
22 - trek Phuktal Gompa
What impresses me with this area is the variety, and today, after following smaller streams, we meet the Tsarap Chu, a larger river. At the end of the day, we trek though the tight passages of Phuktal Gompa while our horse team detours high above and around the gompa to the camp site.
Phuktal Gompa set in a cave high above the Tsarap Chu
23 - trek Trangtse
We visit the gompa after breakfast while the morning features a real challenge for the crew. There is an incredible bridge just a little downstream of Phuktal (the photo below the short form itinerary) however the horses cannot cross this (unless it has been rebuilt, which has been promised). Instead, the crew will take the loads to the bridge and hand carry them across meanwhile the horses are brought upriver to swim across the formidable river. The river will almost certainly be lower and less dangerous than when we did this in 2016.
The usual camping place is delightful Purne. We are likely to continue on though, for a couple more hours to put us in a good position for tomorrow.
The road might have now reached Purne, and so lets see how this plays out. It could be we follow the under construction road, however more likely, is we trek on the other side of the river on the old trail.
The trail from Phuktal Gompa
24 - trek Phirtse La BC
This is a typical Upper Zanskar scene, Shing Village
25 - trek Sumdo via Phirtse La 5600m
26 - trek Sarchu
27 - drive Leh 3480m
We drive back to Leh with Ang Chuk and friends. It is also possible to finish in Manali instead, talk with us.
Leh from Shanti Stupa - Jamie
Day 28 - depart (/Leh 3480m)
Ang Chuk or our other drivers take you to the airport for your morning flight.
You are free to fly out today to Delhi - or to stay in Leh for longer... The Leh-Delhi flight should get
you to Delhi before midday, but do note that on rare occasions it can be delayed a day by bad weather.
Ang Chuk, one of our regular drivers, with his turbo Scorpio jeep - Jamie