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

 

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Kanji village - Jamie

The incredible Kanji La, the top is on the left - Jamie

2014: looking into the huge Takling area from near Pass 5252m - Jamie

2017: climbing the Parang La, a particularly snowy crossing - Jamie

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

Detailed itinerary

We detail only the first few days until on the trail, and then show some authentic photo inspiration.

Early arrival

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 will pick you up.

Jamie and Esther meet 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 on the garden terrace at 6pm.

2 - Leh 3480m

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 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

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 trading caravans for centuries, and for decades once western travellers were allowed in Ladakh. The view from the bus in 1988 was also a huge inspiration for me; I need to find that slide!

The sublime Lamayuru monastery - Jamie

A luxury trekking lunch - Jamie

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7 - 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. The river will be lower tomorrow morning.

8 - trek 1st Camp 4550m via Pitung La 5020m

Our aim today is to cross the next pass, and then camp at the first possible comfortable place on the other side.

Descending the Pitung La - Jamie

9 - trek Dibling 3850m

This is a lunch camp, we reach the remote village of Dibling in time for lunch with the camp set up. Thers's time to wash some clothes or relax and explore the village.

in Dibling village - Jamie

10 - 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, provided we get the local OK that the trails are still feasible for our horses.

11 - trek remote camp

There are only a few suitable camping places in this spectacular valley, luckily we have been there previously and know them.

12 - trek Zingchan

This is a glorious day with expansive views on a trail rarely trekked. We stay at the one house village of Zingchan.

Relaxing at the little-used camp at Zingchan - Jamie

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14 - trek-drive Zangla

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 camp below Zangla.

One of the camps at Zangla

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16 - trek Zangla Sumdo

Canyon trekking adventures with plenty of river crossings!

The striking steep-sided gorge

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18 - trek Yarichun via Pangdang La 5150m

Our 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.

Near Trangtag

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

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The trail from Phuktal Gompa (which is now becoming a road)

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This is a typical Upper Zanskar scene, Shing Village

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Ang Chuk with his Scorpio jeep

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

Exploring

Our route is the result of research on our exploratory treks over a number of years and here is a little background.

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:

2019 Markha & Dzo Jongo: we added two variations to this otherwise standard route, both wilderness camps and great for spotting wildlife.

2017 Great Divide itinerary | Flickr album - 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 Skypacking: 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.

Click for the Flickr album

Lesa, Tomie and Esther - photo by Jamie (links to the Flickr album)

2016: Ladakh Peaks, Passes & Lakes, after success on Dzo Jongo Ri East, we did successfully cross that 5865m pass (below), dropping us into the most amazing area where we climbed a handful of peaks - exploratory section album. 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 Ri 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 with a successful crossing).

Atop the 5865m pass between Gya and Tsogra

Jamie's 2015 Dzo Jongo Ri Flickr album

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.

Jamie's 2014 Great Divide Flickr album

David Koelle's Flickr pix, including his bike trip afterwards

Luca's Flickr album, including compelling wide shots

Tod's Flickr album snapshots

Len's Smugmug album Len didn't seem to take a lot of shots, but he really nails the vast wilderness

Jussi's album - proving what a good photographer he is

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 (Flickr album) 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 (Flickr album) then climbed Lungser Kangri again (Flickr album), 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. My Flickr album.

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 - see the Flickr album.

2009: As part of a long private Zanskar traverse we crossed the Paralatse area to Chandra Tal (lake) - Flickr album.

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 summit.

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 and some of the mysterious "Rupshu ice field", as pilots call it.

Richard on our pseudo-traverse of one of the Mentok peaks

2002: Caravan Explorer 6000: from Pang we pioneered our classic Caravan HIGH route - the lowest passes were around 5700m, the highest was 5950m 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 trek.

Julley!