As this is an exploratory, one-off trek, we detail only the first few days until on the trail, and then show some authentic photo inspiration.
We spend three nights at around 3500m/11,500ft before heading slowly higher so that we are well prepared by the time we reach 4300m for that first pass crossing. This is a sound, 2022-proven acclimatization plan.
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 & 3 - Leh 3480m
These days are 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.
Prayer time at Matho Gompa - Jamie
4 - 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
Descending the Pitung La - Jamie
in Dibling village - Jamie
One of the camps at Zangla
The striking steep-sided gorge
Our colourful remote camp
Descending from the Pandang La
Phuktal Gompa set in a cave high above the Tsarap Chu
The trail from Phuktal Gompa
This is a typical Upper Zanskar scene, Shing Village
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:
2022 Zanskar GHT: from Sarchu, we explored up a valley over a pass that lead to a trail we knew and refined, leading eventually to Chandra Tal. Zanskari horsemen said our route wasn't feasible; a shepherd wasn't sure. I was more sure from some previous exploring in the region. Given the location, this is a useful trek route.
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.
Lesa, Tomie and Esther - photo by Jamie (links to the Flickr album)
2016: Ladakh Peaks, Passes & Lakes, after success on Dzo Jongo Ri (album), we did successfully cross that 5865m pass (below), dropping us into the most amazing area where we climbed a handful of peaks -see our 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, see the album.
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 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
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