Ladakh is a trekkers delight, and here we combine the popular Markha village trek with a straightforward peak and some sublime wilderness trekking. This is both the perfect introductory trek-climb for the inexperienced, and also a satisfying trek for Nepal-experienced trekkers here for the the first time in this delightful corner of India.
Leh is a slice of central Asian history, being part of the Silk Road and still breathes its Buddhist culture, not suffering the Cultural Revolution that was so damaging in Tibet. We explore some active gompas and monasteries, soaking up the vibrant colours and dedication of the monks in the peaceful, calming atmosphere.
Heading out trekking, we warm up with the classic Markha
Valley trek then once in the scenic broad valley of Nyimaling we explore this huge area and scramble Dzo Jongo Ri East, a straightforward, very satisfying 6218m sub-peak.
Why this trip? Face it, for a quick peak trip, Stok Kangri is overrun with literally thousands of climbers a season while Kang Yatse II is dangerous, as we found in 2014, yet Dzo Jongo Ri East is surprisingly satisfying as we found in 2015 and 2016. As far as the trekking goes, using Markha Valley home-stays mean no exploring around Nyimaling as trekkers are not acclimatized (no home-stay at Tachutse), and so miss perhaps the most beautiful and fun to explore high country. In contrast, we explore and experience all of what the region has to offer.
We aim to have a fun, flowing trek and a safe scramble - join
insurance, India visa, international flights, equipment rental, alcohol and soft drinks, laundry,
tipping and other items of a personal nature
Tips & extra cash
allow approx $100 for Leh meals
we suggest 5% of the trip cost per trekker for the crew tips pool
Day 1 - Monday 25 June 2018 - meet in Leh 3480m
We meet you at Leh airport (code IXL) and now you can relax.
2 - Leh 3480m
3 - drive Chilling, trek Skiu 3300m
4 - trek Markha 3710m
5 - trek Tachutse 4350m
6 - trek Nyimaling (Nimaling) 4840m
7 - rest-explore Nyimaling 4850m
8 - trek Dzo Jongo Base Camp 5100m
9 - prepare at Dzo Jongo Base Camp 5100m
10 - ascend Dzo Jongo East 6218m
11 - trek Chirkirmo 5050m via Konmaru La 6260m
12 - trek Shang Sumdo 3660m, drive Leh 3480m
Day 13 - - depart
On the summit of Dzo Jongo Ri East, 6218m - Jamie McGuinness
To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a laptop/desktop browser or tablet in landscape (and hit refresh).
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 two 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. In particular for this trek, we suggest people from North America arrive a day early as the flights are arduous and the time zone change large.
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 the drivers in Leh.
If you have been working flat out you are welcome to just relax, kick
back and de-stress too.
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 Pasang 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: Wonderland, Chopsticks, Bon Appetit, G Kitchen, Tibet Kitchen and Summer Harvest.
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.
By chance on a sightseeing trip to Matho we watched this ceremony - Jamie
Day 3 - drive Chilling, trek Skiu 3300m
Time to stretch the legs, we pack for some hot weather trekking today with a hat, sunscreen, snacks and plenty of water.
We set off after breakfast for a two hour drive then a surprise - a small, hand-pulled cable car is the only way across the fast-flowing Zanskar River. There was a brand new steel girder road bridge in 2014 that we ducked across as the first foreigners to ever cross it, using the painting planks, but sadly this was destroyed by the flood of 2015, and lies in a twisted wreak downstream. So the cable car is an adventure and it will take a while to get all our gear and us across, especially if there are other groups there at the same time.
It is only a couple of hours of sometimes hot and sunny walking to our camp where there is shade and a wonderful afternoon tea awaits. We introduce our crew and the camp, and your tent; your home for the following weeks. In the warmth, we usually eat dinner and breakfast outside for tonight and the next couple of days.
Afternoon tea is ready! Our shady Skiu campsite - Jamie
Day 4 - trek Markha 3700m
The walking is straightforward, mostly just above the valley floor but it can be quite a hot walk, do drink plenty today. There are several crystal clear water springs along the way where we can top up, not needing to filter the water.
We pass the remains of old hermitage caves high on the opposite cliffs. Inside are the remains of tiny caves where lamas once sat in meditation,
platforms carved in rock. Look also at the chortens - inside are piles of tiny 'tsatsas', the remains of ashes of the departed formed into tiny clay figurines.
As the valley widens we spot the old fort on
the hill above Markha village. Long ago invaders from what is now Pakistan coveted the high grazing and livestock of Nyimaling, thus the need for the fortifications all along the Markha valley.
We sometimes camp by the shcool, sometimes 10 minutes before the actual village, in a spot that also suitable for the horses.
After afternoon tea do wander up to the local gompa, the view is satisfying while inside is dark and chang-smelling. Look, and look
again, the more you look, the more you will see.
Markha village - Jamie
Day 5 - trek Tachutse ~4350m
This is another day of ambling along the trails used by countless shepherds
and traders over the centuries, with a hit of snow capped peaks near the end of the day.
After leaving the village behind, is the only river crossing of the calf deep Markha river. Everywhere else the river is narrow however here it isn't possible to build a simple bridge. An imposing rock spire to the right marks the entrance to the valley leading to the Rabrang La, which we explored on our wildlife trek in 2017, and is also the Jumlam route to Zanskar. Legend says that the Dogra army that conquered
Ladakh in the early 19th century was led this way to their prize, the Indus
valley and Leh, by a renegade Zanskari.
Aroud the next bend is the spectacularly set hilltop monastery of Tetsa/Tacha, well worth the climbing detour, providing we are moving well. We might lunch in front of the impressively sited centuries
old crumbling fort above or shade in Hankar village, the last village of the valley.
We have often marvelled as blue sheep dance on the cliffs beyond, and when we cross a bridge to the right side (ie true
left), just beyond is the popular campsite of
Tachutse (pronounced Ta-jung-tse).
Esther crossing the steam above Markha - Jamie
Day 6 - trek Nyimaling ~4840m
It is mostly uphill walking, with widening views as recompense. Cresting a ridge, the views really open out to include some impressive hoodoos at a good spot for a quick break. Passing some ponds, we puff a little harder with the altitude.
mountain ahead is Kang Yatse II, which is actually only the shoulder of the real peak, rather than being a separate peak. We will see much more of the real peak tomorrow.
More ascent leads us to the long Nyimaling plain where villagers from the
Markha Valley graze their sheep in summer and make curd and cheese from the milk of their livestock. We camp in a convenient spot and drink in the views.
What a backdrop, heading up to Nyimaling - Jamie
Day 7 - rest-explore Nyimaling ~4840m
We have ascended relatively quickly and here take a break to acclimatize,
wash clothes and explore this wonderful, panoramic valley.
There is a choice of day trips. The standard exit for a Markha trek is over the Konmaru La (Gongmaru La) and the view is well worth the effort, you can see towards Leh on a good day, as well as up and down the valley we are trekking in. There are more gentle ascents above our camp although they tend to keep going, and it is even possible to climb to over 5700m on the ridge leading to Reponi Mallai Ri.
Collecting fuel; the traditional lifestyle is still alive at Nyimaling - Jamie
Day 8 - trek Dzo Jongo Base Camp 5100m
Only an hour or so along the valley, this is also partly an acclimatization day, and a day for exploring. The panorama is inspiring from the Lhalung La, a little-used alternative exit for the Markha trek while further up the valley are a series of lakes. Its also possible to climb up towards Reponi Mallai and some of the shoulders nearby.
Pickaboo! A pika playing for the cameras - Jamie
Day 9 - trek Dzo Jongo Base Camp 5100m
The key to successful 6000m peaks is sound acclimatization... For the energetic, the view from the domed 5740m Konga Ri is hard to beat for the altitude. We also thoroughly prepare for tomorrow, and Jamie will scout conditions.
Colours ... I love the contrasting reds and greens, fading into the distance
The view from the Lhalung La - Jamie
Day 10 - scramble Dzo Jongo 6218m
We start smartly, although not particularly early as it seems to take twice as long to get set off in the dark, as it does to rise at first light. We begin by walking up the valley then the endless uphill begins. Atop a shoulder, we stop for our first refuel break, and the panorama is already extensive. The rounded ridges turnes sharper as we climb onto the real ridge to the summit. This should be snow-free, ie all rock with minor scrambling along the small trail, however if it has been a snowy spring there could still be lingering snow patches. Earlier season climbs might still require crampons at some stage.
We return to base camp and sleep there.
Dzo Jongo East summit, 6218m - Jamie
Day 12 - trek Chirkirmo
We have a beautiful, satisfying day ahead. Leaving camp we soon climb to the top of the pass with glorious views to our camp.
Descending the formidable gorge to Shang Sumdo - Jamie
Day 13 - trek Shang Sumdo, drive Leh
We trek down then it is only a couple of hours drive to Leh where we deserve a cold beer or cocktail and a celebratory
meal. Chopsticks, Tibet Kitchen or Bon Appetit?
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 14 - 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.