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This year we've improved our most popular trek in the Indian Himalaya and added several great exploratory sections! Our trek is an adventure in the high nomadic lake regions of Ladakh, following the old Silk Route caravan trails over the high Himalayan passes of the high Changthang Plateau, a region reminiscent of western Tibet with the snow-peaks of Ladakh. One of the highlights is spending several days trekking along the shores of Lake Tsomoriri during the peak of nomadic migrations, camping next to the nomads in their yak-hair tents on the banks of this incredibly scenic lake, surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

Our journey passes through regions once part of ancient network of trade routes, made all the more poignant by the crumbling fortresses, ancient Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, long mani walls and huge, white-washed chortens. Tibetan Buddhism, along with remnants of an older, more animist Bon religion, infuse the region with powerful symbols: 'lhatoos' or offering chortens for the mountain deities and prayer flags strung up on high peaks.

Starting in the northern, nomadic reaches of the Markha valley, we cross high passes to reach the turquoise salt-lakes and high Tibetan grasslands of Kharnak and Rupshu, with soaring, snow-capped Himalayas as a back-drop and peppered with colonies of yak-hair nomadic tents, are simply breathtaking.

Getting there involves fording rivers and crossing high passes, and our reward is camping along the meandering rivers that feed into the lakes, an exciting entrance into this fading world of the nomads. The nomadic population has traditionally transmigrated from the high plains of Tibet in search of nutritious grass for their livestock, salt to trade, and a market for their butter and wool, a difficult and tenuous existence. This unique way of life, sadly, is quickly dying as the nomads find an easier existence to this harsh life in the cities...

Kyang (wild ass) roam these wide valleys, guarding their territory, and red fox, blue sheep, ibex, marmots, pikas, Himalayan hare and many high altitude birds and fowl live in the region. It is a truly awesome, wild landscape of wide plateaus and craggy snow-peaks but also a gentle world of grassy meadows, delicate flowers, blue skies and meandering streams.

We are featuring some secret nomadic valleys, routes we think westerners have rarely, if ever, visited. Join us for our wonderful journey through a piece of 'old Tibet'...

Join us!

Treks

Full Trek

Day 1 - Meet in Leh
Day 2 - Leh
Day 3 - Leh
Day 4 - Drive Meru 3,720m
* Day 5 - Trek Posa Sumdo 4,250m
* Day 6 - Trek Chumik Marpo/Chuskirmo 4100m (Over Shapodok La 4670m)
* Day 7 - Trek Konmaru La High Camp 4700m
Day 8 - Trek Nyimaling (Over Konmaru La 5,260m)
Day 9 - Trek Mani Chen (Over Kongka Nongpo La 5200m)
Day 10 - Trek Tsokra (Over Zalung Karpo La 5200m)
* Day 11 - Trek Khizurkham Valley
Day 12 - Trek Dat
Day 13 - Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa
* Day 14 - Trek Kyang Camp
* Day 15 - Trek Lungmoche (Over Yar La 4950m)
Day 16 - Trek Zabuk Barma
Day 17 - Zabuk Barma
Day 18 - Trek Narbus (Over Narbus La 4900m)
Day 19 - Trek Numa River Camp
Day 20 - Trek Zozogong (Over Thelekang La 5,025m)
Day 21 - Trek Himalayan View Camp
Day 22 - Trek Pebble River Camp
Day 23 - Trek Kyangdom
Day 24 - Kyangdom
Day 25 -Trek Dungri
Day 26 - Trek Mid-Lake Camp
Day 27 - Drive Leh
Day 28 - Leh
Day 29 - Trip Ends

Trek Short

Day 1 - Meet in Leh
Day 2 - Leh
Day 3 - Leh
Day 4 - Drive Meru 3,720m
* Day 5 - Trek Posa Sumdo 4,250m
* Day 6 - Trek Chumik Marpo/Chuskirmo 4100m (Over Shapodok La 4670m)
* Day 7 - Trek Konmaru La High Camp 4700m
Day 8 - Trek Nyimaling (Over Konmaru La 5,260m)
Day 9 - Trek Mani Chen (Over Kongka Nongpo La 5200m)
Day 10 - Trek Tsokra (Over Zalung Karpo La 5200m)
* Day 11 - Trek Khizurkham Valley
Day 12 - Trek Dat
Day 13 - Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa
* Day 14 - Trek Kyang Camp
* Day 15 - Trek Lungmoche (Over Yar La 4950m)
Day 16 - Trek Zabuk Barma
Day 17 - Zabuk Barma
Day 18 - Trek Narbus (Over Narbus La 4900m)
Day 19 - Drive Leh
Day 20 - Trip Ends

* = Exploratory

Highlights

  • Exotic Leh & the historic Indus Valley
  • The nomads of Kharnak & Rupshu
  • Lake Tso Moriri
  • Yaks, pashmina goats & 'gurs'
  • Trans-Himalayan snow-peaks & high passes
  • The green Tibetan plateau
  • Challenging trekking
  • Beautiful campsites in remote locations
  • Central Asian wildlife
  • The drive along the Leh-Manali Highway back to Leh (crossing the Zanskar Range)
  • Few other trekkers

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Kashmir + Srinagar Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Himalayan Photos
Wildlife
Himalayan Wildlife Photos

Birds
Himalayan Bird Photos

Flowers
Himalayan Flowers Photos

Travel Reading
Travel Books

Articles on Ladakh

Ladakh Diaries: Postcard from Paradise | India Today - Features Kamzang Journeys

Chang Tang Pa | Cat Vinton Photo Essay

Ladakh, Mountains & Men | Le Figaro

Blog Article | Za Rahula Local Nomadic God

Street Food in India | India Mike Blog

Ladakh, the Last Shangri La | National Geographic

A Journey to Little Tibet | National Geographic

Legends of Dha Hanu

India: Extreme Biking in Beautiful Ladakh - The Telegraph UK

The Grey Ghosts of the Mountains - Vimeo

Kashmir, the Inheritance of Loss - New York Times

Date+Price

Dates
tba

2014 Cost
20 Days: $2980
29 Days: $3780
Flights NOT included (meet in Leh)
Hotel Single Supplement $100

Includes

  • Airport transfers in Leh
  • Hotel in Leh
  • Group transportation by private vehicle
  • 'Kamzang' expedition-style trekking: Delicious meals, fresh coffee & gourmet teas, horse portering, Western & Sherpa guides, local staff, single, roomy Marmot & Big Agnes tents (double for couples) & our famous 'Tibetan Festival Tent' as a dining tent

Excludes

  • Domestic flights
  • Meals in Leh (while not on trek)
  • Travel or travel health insurance
  • India visa
  • International flights
  • Equipment rental
  • Alcohol and bottled drinks
  • Gompa donations
  • Laundry
  • Tipping and other items of a personal nature

Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $300 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $150 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.

Contact+Details

Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Kamzang Journeys Contact
Kim Bannister
kim@kamzang.com
Kim Mobile: +(91) 9419 981715
Lhakpa Mobile: +(91) 9419 977569

Delhi Airport Transfers & Sightseeing | Dhruv Travels
Contacts: Prince & Rajesh
travelorganiserindia@yahoo.co.in
Office: +(91 11) 6536 8764
Prince mobile: +(91) 98104 85897
Rajesh mobile: +(91) 98993 73886

Srinagar & Kashmir Contact
Shangaloo Travels
Mehraj Deen (GM & Ladakh Operations)
mehraj@shanglootravels.com
Mehraj Mobile: +(91) 9419013874, 9858986512
Office: +(91) 0194 2502083
Shangaloo Travels Tel : +(91) 0194 2502082|2502083|2502084|2502085|2502086|2502087|2502088|2502089|2502090,
+(91) 9596 787001 -20

Kathmandu Contact
Khumbu Adventures
hiking.guide@gmail.com
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361

On-Trek Contact
We are not able to access SMS or phone calls to our satellite phone in Jammu & Kashmir state because of security restrictions. In case of emergency, a few numbers are listed below, or contact Doma Sherpa of Khumbu Adventures (above)

Ang Chuk (driver) +(91) 9419 344641
Rinchin (Shaynam Hotel manager) +(91) 9906 990444

InReach Explorer
NOTE: We are probably not able to use this satellite messaging system in 2016 either, but in case of restriction changes, info below:
We have a MapShare page that works for sending emails to our InReach messaging device. Give this link to people who want to follow us and have them send us a message so we have their email in the system. We can email them back directly Please tell people not to expect updates every day. There is a ‘message’ button on the top left, and the message sender needs to put their EMAIL address instead of phone number to get a response. Messages are free, enjoy.

Follow Us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook
(Posts before and after treks, from Leh)

Arrival Hotels Leh
Hotel Shaynam
Padma Guest House
Hotel Omasila

Hotels in Leh
We use one of the three hotels below as our 'arrival hotels' depending on availability and your preference. Our standard hotel is the Hotel Shaynam where Kim and the staff stay, a lovely family-run guest house with a blooming garden, deck chairs & umbrellas. We don't charge a single supplement here. There is a single supplement or small upgrade charge for Hotel Omasila &  Padma Guest House. We book all hotels for you regardless of where you stay. Please specify your preference when booking a trek. If staying at Shaynam or Padma we recommend 'Open Hand' down the road for a delicious meal or coffee & great atmosphere.

Hotel Shaynam
Single Supplement - No
Breakfast - Included
Extra Nights - Single $30, Double $35

Padma Guest House
Single Supplement - $75
Breakfast - Included
Extra Nights - Single $45, Double $55

Hotel Omasila
Single Supplement - $175
Extra Nights - Single $65, Double $75, Suite $115
Breakfast - Included

Alternative Hotels
We're happy to book other hotels of your choice for you. Some recommended hotels below.

Dragon Hotel
Single Supplement - $185
Extra Nights - Single $70, Double $80, Suite $120
Breakfast - Included

Luxury Hotels in Leh
We offer options to upgrade to one of Leh’s wonderful luxury hotels, which include breakfast in the tarriff. Indulge yourself! We’ll make the bookings for you, just let us know the dates …

The Grande Dragon Ladakh
Inquire for price
Breakfast - Included

Health Information
India Health Information
CDC

We also recommend bringing probiotics with you to help prevent infections while on trek. Doctor's recommendation!

Travel Medical Insurance
Required for your own safely. We carry a copy of your insurance with all contact, personal and policy information with us on the trek and our office in Kathmandu keeps a copy. Note that we almost always trek over 4000 meters (13,000+ feet) and that we don't do any technical climbing with ropes, ice axes or crampons.

Note that private helicopter insurance generally not available in India!

Global Rescue
We recommend that our trekkers also sign up for Global Rescue, which is rescue services only, as a supplement to your travel medical insurance.
Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Medical
We have a full medical kit with us including Diamox (for acclimatizing), antibiotics, inhalers, bandages, re-hydration, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs etc. but please bring a supply of all prescription and personal medications. Kim has First Aid, CPR and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certifications as well as many years of experience with altitude in the Himalaya but is NOT a qualified medic or doctor, so please have a check-up before leaving home, and inform us of any medical issues. This is for YOUR OWN safety.

DO bring all prescription medications and good rehydration/electrolytes. We advise bringing your own Diamox, Ciprofloxin, Azithromyacin & Augmentin. We have all of these with us but the Western versions are always better than the Indian equivalents.

PAC Bag + Oxygen
We carry a Portable Oxygen Chamber, or Gammow Bag, with us on many treks. There is no charge for use of the PAC bag but oxygen is $300 per canister (cost price, pass on to insurance company).

Travel Books
Travel Books

Arrival India

Arrival in India
NOTE: Flights to/from Leh are NOT included in the price or itinerary. Everyone will need to arrange their own flight or overland trip to Leh. You can book your international flights all the way to Leh, Ladakh (IXL) which will ensure that your flight provider is responsible for hotels if your flight is delayed or cancelled. You might also want to come overland from Manali, breath-taking jeep safari, or from Srinagar, both some of the planet's most spectacular drives.

Email us your flight arrival details and have our contact details with you when you arrive in Delhi in case you need assistance. Kim will have her mobile with her, as will our agents from Dhruv Travels, so don't hesitate to call. We can help with hotels, flights, airport pick-ups and drops, sightseeing in Delhi or travels further to Rajasthan or Agra & the Taj Mahal (see Dhruv Travels).

Indian Visa
Be sure to have your Indian Visa before arrival in India. Most countries qualify for the new visa-on-arrival system, which is valid for 30 days. Information about the new visa-on-arrival for citizens of many countries (excluding the UK). NOTE that you need to apply and pay for the visa BEFORE arriving in India. You get the actual visa with your paid application once in India.
Indian Visa

Reference for Indian Visa:
Hotel in Leh: Shaynam Hotel, 20 Old Leh Road, Leh 194101
Travel Agent in Delhi: Dhruv Travels, 2464, Nalwa St, Chuna Mandi, Paharganj, New Delhi, 110055, India, +91 11 2358 2715
Hotel in Delhi: Jyoti Mahal Guest House, 2488-90 Nalwa Street, Chuna Mandi, Pahar Ganj, New Delhi,110055, +91 1123580523/24/25/26

You can print out + fill out your Visa on Arrival form before arriving in India, but you need to apply for the visa before leaving for India!

Delhi Airport Hotels
Delhi Airport Hotel

Delhi Restaurants + Bars
Zomato

Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.

The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...

Temperatures + Clothing
Dress conservatively in Leh and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are okay if they aren't too short, mini skirts aren’t recommended. Sleeveless t-shirts are absolutely fine, but perhaps avoid tank-tops on the trail. Super tight doesn't go over so well with the village elders. Many of the younger generation in Nepal wear modern Indian or Western-influenced clothes, but remember that you haven't signed up for a beach or surf vacation. Use your good judgment, be an ambassador for western tourists! Please ask Kim or your guide if unsure about appropriate clothing.

Leh is generally very hot during the day (t-shirt weather) and cool at night (long sleeve shirt, fleece or synthetic jacket weather depending on month in the summer). A sun hat is essential during the day, sandals like Keens perfect for both a wander around town and trekking. Ladakh is very casual, a pair of jeans and shirt fine for evenings.

Trekking temperatures vary considerably, and you will need a wide range of trekking gear during the trek. Gear will range from sandals to boots, from t-shirts to down jackets. We suggest packing a warm sleeping bag, and bring layers. A full discussion of gear on 'Gear' tab.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face style duffel bags with Kamzang Journeys logos for sale (XL, orange). They are (mostly) waterproof, mid to lightweight (lighter than North Face) and good quality. Price $40. Please inquire early as we need to bring from Kathmandu.

Cultural Issues
Ladakhis are very open and welcoming, but there are a few issues you should be aware of to make your stay in Ladakh more fulfilling. Use your right hand to pass things, shake hands or do most anything. Left hands are somewhat taboo. Best not to pat kids on heads, or point feet ahead of you at monasteries. Don't walk over someone's legs or feet, but put your hand down in front of you to signal them to pull their legs to the side. Take off shoes and hats when going into Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples, don't use flashes inside monasteries or temples in general, be respectful of a puja (prayer ceremony) if attending one. You can talk, all religious are very tolerant, but be aware of your level of voice.

Ladakhis don't anger quickly, so try not to raise your voice if exasperated or angry as it only will make a situation worse. Do bargain at shops, with taxis and rickshaws, but don't fleece them. They are poor and making a living, generally.

Give small donations on the streets if you choose, but try not to encourage begging too much. Be aware of who you are giving money to, and please only give small amounts. If you do want to donate to a cause, ask about our Kamzang Fund or other responsible organizations.

Note that Leh and Ladakh are melting pots of different religions: Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim, as well as a few Christians. Tolerance and acceptance of all religions tolerated!

Pampering Yourself in Leh
Inquire if you're interested in staying in one of Leh's high end hotels. A few suggestions ...

Stok Palace
'Built entirely by the Ladakhi craftsmen in 1820, the Stok Palace still continues to be a snug abode for the Namgyal dynasty. The Namgyal dynasty traces its origin to its founder –Lhachen Palgygon as early as 10th century. You are entering a historical property and the Palace stands 195 years old. The Stok Palace was opened to public in 1980 with blessings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and since it’s been over a decade and visitors continues to pour from all over the World. It encapsulates and reflects the lifestyle and history of Royalties set in the midst of the valley of Singey Sangpo which is known more popularly as Indus River.

Preserved from urbanity, this pristine natural landscape allows you to relax in serene atmosphere, pregnant with the delicious aroma of the country side and amazing views all around and takes the visitors through the imagery experience, detailing the softness of Snow, the brilliance of sunlight, billowing clouds, wandering pathways, and picturesque local architecture. As with anything embracing the grandeur and beauty of nature, the landscapes achieve a sense of timelessness; they envelop the echoes and silence of eons gone by. So come and enjoy the fine dining experience prepared from the family kitchen products coming from the local market and village. You can enjoy the pleasures of healthy and natural Ladakhi, Tibetan and Indian food.'

Nimmu House
'Nimmu House Ladakh is a sustainable Hotel in Ladakh, 30 km from Leh, in the village of Nimmoo. A noble house belonging to the cousin of the king of Ladakh, from the early 90s, surrounded by an orchard. Nimmu House includes five spacious tents scattered across the orchard and a room located in the house. Activities include Hiking, trekking, rafting, cooking classes, visits to the village of Nimmu and the monasteries of the Indus Valley'

The Ultimate Traveling Camp
'The first truly mobile luxury camps in India covering a calendar of destinations and festivals. This nomadic super luxury camp introduces the discerning traveller to different adventures in Carefully selected exceptional locations in the mountains, deserts, jungles and unexplored Countryside. Experience the many moods of exotic India with its dramatic landscapes, rustic and unexplored rural surroundings. Rediscover yourself…meet gurus from the far reaches of the Himalayas, raft down the River Indus, watch a game of Polo, a sport of the Royals, picnic in picturesque spots, celebrate tribal hues at the Hornbill Festival, explore quaint tribal Naga villages, or simply curl up in your ‘tent with a view’!

Tips for Staff
We recommend at least $200 per person to go into the tip pool for the staff. Please bring IC with you on the trek for the tips. It’s nice to buy the staff drinks on the last night. Or any other night that you feel like getting them a bottle of run!

Tips in General
Tips are always appreciated but they don’t need to be extravagant. 50 IC to carry bags to/from your room is fine. 100 IC for drivers to/from the airport. Round up taxi fares. A larger tip would be expected for a day trip in a car, perhaps 500 IC. 10% is included in some restaurant and hotel bills in India, and if it’s not included it’s still expected. Check your bills, and still round up at restaurants. Feel free to give out small change to the beggars in the streets (5, 10, 20 IC).

Cash + ATMs
You’ll want some cash with you on the trek for drinks, snacks, beer, sodas, etc. There are often  chances to during the trek, and usually local crafts to buy en route. (You’ll want your tip money IC as well). There are ATMs in Leh but they don’t dispense large amounts of cash so you’ll be best with currency to change. Traveler's checks not recommended in India.

Extra Days in India | Customize Your Journey
We are happy to book extra nights at the hotel, or a hotel of your choice, if you want to stay in Leh for a few extra days to explore our favorite Central Asian capital, or just to relax and soak in the mountain scenery. We are also happy to book trips to Nubra, sightseeing jeep safaris along the Indus Valley, rafting, bicycling down the Kardung La or any other activity you would like.

See our Extensions Tab for trip ideas!

Gear List

Gear List
This is a guideline, not a bible, for the gear you will need on the trek. Ask if you have questions!
NOTE: Your duffel bag can NOT be any larger than a North Face XL (140 Liter, 32" x 19" by 19"). ONE duffel bag only please.

20 kg (50 lbs) weight limit for treks

  • Duffel Bag
  • Day Pack (35-45 L)
  • Sleeping Bag (-20F/-30C recommended)
  • Down Jacket
  • Trekking Boots
  • Air Mattress
  • Crocs (evenings & washing) 

  • Hiking Sandals | Running Shoes (REQUIRED for river crossings - Crocs will also work)
  • Trekking Pants (2-3)
  • T-Shirts (3)
  • Long-sleeve Trekking Shirts (2-3)
  • Trekking Jacket
  • Gortex (or similar) Jacket & Pants
  • Fleece or Thermal Top (evenings)
  • Fleece or Thermal Bottoms (evenings)
  • Lightweight Long Underwear (to sleep in or layer under clothes)
  • Socks (5)
  • Gloves (lighter & heavier for passes)
  • Wool Hat
  • Baseball Cap or Wide-brimmed Hat
  • Camp Towel
  • Trekking Poles (optional, recommended)
  • Down Booties (optional, recommended)
  • Sunglasses (2)
  • Water Bottles | Nalgenes (2-3)
  • Bladder (optional, recommended)
  • Toiletries, Sunscreen with SPF, Lip Balm with SPF
  • Watch (with alarm)
  • Extra Batteries
  • Battery Chargers
  • Head Lamp 
(2)
  • Yak Trax (for treks with icy passes)
  • Water Purifying Tablets, Small Water Filter or Steripen
  • Camp Washing Bowl (optional, collapsible for clothes)
  • Laundry Detergent (Kathmandu) or Bio-degradable Clothes Soap
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Small Solar Panel (optional, recommended for iPods, iPhones, camera batteries, Kindles)
  • Book(s)
  • Zip-Lock | Plastic Bags
  • Soft Toilet Paper | Tissues (we supply toilet paper but you will want something softer for blowing your nose)
  • Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes (for personal cleaning)
  • Handi-Wipes, J-Cloth or Chux (optional: easy for a quick daytime clean, fast drying)
  • Rehydration | Electrolytes
  • Snacks!
  • Personal Medical Supplies

NOTE: We have a 'dress code' for the evenings in the tent, which essentially means you'll be changing out of your trekking clothes and into clean, dry evening clothes!

Medical Supplies
We strongly suggest bringing Western meds with you as there are a lot of Indian fakes on the market!

Suggested: Diamox, Azithromyacin, Ciprofloxacin, Tinidazole or Flagyl & Augmentin. Bring COMPEED for covering blisters & good tasting electrolytes &/or rehydration salts (Emergen-C is a good American brand). The local versions aren’t very appealing.
We also recommend bringing strong knee & ankle supports & braces, ACE bandages for sprains & strains, Tegaderm &/or other would coverings. Duct tape is always useful. We're happy to take excess medical supplies off your hands when you leave if you won't need them and pass them on to others. We use lots of the large amount we have with us to treat locals as well as our own trekkers ...

Comments on Gear
Layers are essential for trekking. Quality is more important than quantity. It’s worth investing in the great, newer lightweight trekking gear available in all gear shops or online.

Kim's Gear Suggestions: I generally wear a trekking t-shirt, light trekking pants, a mid-weight shirt, a lightweight synthetic jacket (instead of a fleece), a lightweight jacket and pants for wind and rain. If the weather looks stormy or it’s a pass day I carry a lightweight down jacket and a storm-weight jacket. I always have a pair of lightweight gloves (heavier ones additionally for pass days), a hat, a baseball cap and an extra pair of socks in my day-pack. I generally trek in low Merrill hiking shoes, and Keen boots on very cold days and over passes. I always carry Crocs with me in case of river crossings, or to air my feet at lunch. I carry a 38 L (although it looks larger) Black Diamond day pack although I also love Osprey packs. On pass days I carry Yak Trax and trekking poles, and I always have an extra pair of sunglasses, electrolytes, my camera, a medical kit, a Steripen, snacks and lots of water in my pack. My favorite gear brands are Patagonia Mountain Hardwear and Marmot.

Good trekking boots are essential. High boots are best, but you don’t need climbing or plastic boots (for mini-crampons or micro-spikes). You can also get away with low, sturdy trekking boot, which I wear quite often except for over the passes. Trekking poles are not required but strongly recommended, especially for going down passes which are often steep and icy and for treks with river crossings. Bring gators if you tend to use them but they’re not required if you don't own a pair. Micro-spikes (mini-crampons) or YakTraxs are almost always useful (or essential) for the pass crossings. We will have at least one ice ax with us. It’s also good (possibly essential) to have a pair of plastic Crocs for washing and to wear in the lodges in the evenings. Tevas take a long time to dry and are relatively heavy.

Good, polarized sunglasses are essential. Do bring an extra pair. Don’t forget a sun hat and/or a baseball cap, an extra headlamp and have plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with SPF!

The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip (although they do tend to weigh more). We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & rips.

Nights are chilly to cold, so a down jacket and a WARM sleeping bag are essentials. For your sleeping bag, we recommend a DOWN bag of 0 to -20 F (-18 to -28 C). Mine is -20 F. At lower altitudes I open it and sleep under it like a quilt and up higher am toasty warm during the cold nights. Campsites near passes can get COLD. Rentals available. The dining tent is a Tibetan style ‘yurt’, with blankets and camp chairs on the ground. It warms up in the evenings with the gas lamp but it is still important to have warm clothes for the evenings. I always use down booties which are great when it’s cold, but a pair of thick wool socks also work.

Bring extra large plastic bags or stuff-sacks in case of rain. You can pack electronics in them or stash your sleeping bag and clothes. The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip. We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & thorns.

Tents
Everyone gets their own Northface Dome tent (3 person, huge) without a single supplement. Couples share the same sized tent.

Day Pack
We recommend a 35-45 liter day pack (ask at your gear shop if you’re not sure of the capacity). Better to have it too large than too small as on pass days you’ll need to carry more warm gear. Most have internal water bladders built in, which are good for ensuring that you stay hydrated. Make sure it fits and is comfortable before purchasing!

In your day pack, you will be carrying your camera, 2 liters of water, a jacket, wind & rain pants, hat, gloves, extra socks, sunscreen, snacks, electrolytes, water purifying tablets, filter, or Steripen camera, hand sanitizer, a pack-cover and often a down jacket. I slip my Crocs on the back in case of unexpected stream crossings or for lunch. Lhakpa & I carry small medical kits in our day packs.

Water
We bring KATADYN expedition-sized water filters along on the trek for fresh drinking water, ecologically the best way to get water in the Himalaya’s fragile trekking regions. Bring your own filter pump, Steripen/UV purifier or iodine/chlorine tablets for fresh water while trekking. NOTE: To be extra safe with your drinking water, you can drop one purifying tablet into your water bottle after filling with our filtered water. Make sure you wait the required amount of time before drinking, and don’t add anything with Vitamin C as this negates the iodine.

Please bring at least TWO (and better three) Nalgene, Sigg or other unbreakable plastic/metal water bottles. Camelbacks and other bladder systems are good for trekking but can leak, so as a back-up it’s best to also bring a Nalgene or other water bottle.

NOTE: We do not provide boiled water for drinking on either our tea-house/lodge or our camping treks although there is endless hot water for herbal, black or green teas, hot chocolate, hot lemon as well as Indian chai and Kashmiri tea.

Snacks
You will NEED snacks hiking at altitude, even if you’re not a snacker. People crave unusual foods at altitude!  Energy bars, ‘GU’ gels, chocolate bars, dried fruit & nuts, beef jerky (or whatever) are important to have along for long days, pre-lunch bonks and passes. Lemonade mix, Emergen-C or similar drink mixes are great to have for hot days in your water bottles, and it is ESSENTIAL to bring electrolytes with you every day.  

Bring something to share in the tent in the evenings if you want. Cheese is great as a treat on a cheese-board before dinner (Blue, Stilton, Yarlsburg, good Cheddar, Brie, etc). If you would like, bring a bit of your favorite and we’ll throw it on a cheese board for appetizers one night.

NOTE: Nothing besides your personal snack food is required, but it’s fun to see what everyone comes up with!  Lots of basics available in Leh, so no need to over-load.

Rentals
We have Western down jackets to rent for $1.50 per day.  We also have good super-down sleeping bags to rent (0 to -10 F) for $2.50 per day. Please book these early as we sometimes need to bring from Kathmandu.

Packing & Storage
It’s easiest to pack and unpack from a duffel bag, especially when the temperature drops. It's a good idea to invest in a strong, waterproof duffel such as a North Face. You can store extra gear in Leh at your hotel.

Shopping
You can get some trekking gear in Leh, such as trekking poles, sleeping bags (about 0F), light down jackets, Chinese-made gear which is often quite wearable. Top up your gear in Leh if you need to, but best not to rely on purchasing too much there.

Extensions

Srinagar & the Jewels of Kashmir
Kashmir, Srinagar & Indus Jeep Safari

A great extension to any of our Kamzang Journeys treks in Ladakh & Zanskar, or a wonderful trip on its own. Kashmir and Srinagar are some of the jewels of the Indian Himalaya, often described by local Kashmiris as 'heaven on earth' ....

We are offering a wonderful nine-day itinerary, flying from Delhi to Srinagar and finishing in Leh via the overland route.
There are many ways to customize this trip, please get in touch to make this trip exactly what you are looking for!

Some of the highlights: old historic Srinagar & the Mughal Gardens, touring Dal & Nageen Lakes by shikara (local boat), the atmospheric morning floating market, a visit to Dacigram National Park, an excursion Manasbal & Wular Lake, the largest lake in Asia, a tour of
Yousmarg  and a visit to Naranag Temple, the oldest in Kashmir.

En route to Leh you'll have the option to drive the stunningly beautiful Indus highway via the Koji La, with a chance to visit idyllic Sonmarg and stop at several Tibetan Buddhist monasteries along the road to Leh. Or you can take a one-hour flight directly to Leh.

Enjoy the world renown beauty and hospitality of Kashmir!


Leh, the Indus Valley & High Lakes
Leh, Indus Valley Monasteries & Salt Lakes

We also have a nearly perfect extension, again also a trip on its own, of Leh, the Indus Valley monasteries (gompas, in Tibetan or Ladakhi) and a jeep safari to the breathtakingly beautiful and culturally interesting Tso Moriri and Pangong Lakes, the later partly in Tibet. Visit the nomadic communities at Tso Moriri, the traditional villages at Pangong Lake and explore the bustling Tibetan Buddhist monasteries en route to these lakes.

There is lots to explore in historic Leh and tucked away amongst the shady villages and intriguing alleyways of this Central Asian capital.

 

 

20 Days

Day 1 - Meet in Leh 3500m
Welcome to Leh, the capital of predominantly Buddhist Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir, tucked away amidst the Ladakh mountains, part of the great Trans Himalayan range. If you arrive by air you'll feel the big jump in altitude and it will take your body a few days to adjust. If you arrive by road from Manali or Srinagar you'll have had some extra acclimatization en route, but will still need time to adjust to the 3500 meter altitude. Hydrate with plenty of water, stay away from beer for a few days, rest and don't over-exert yourself. Even walking up the stairs of the guest house, let alone the Leh Fort, will make you breathless for the first day or two. Diamox is a good way to help your body acclimatize naturally; Kim will discuss.

We stay at the family-run Shaynam Hotel, more of a family-run guest house with a lovely garden in the center courtyard, located just a few minutes south of the Main Bazaar in old Leh town. Your rooms will be booked for you, you'll just need to advise Kim of your arrival time, whether by air or by road. Once everyone has arrived and checked into rooms, Kim will show you around town: the bakeries, cafes, tandoori restaurants, email cafes, banks and wonderful markets. We'll meet for dinner in the evening at

Days 2, 3 - Leh
We've scheduled two free days in Leh to acclimatize and to enjoy the peaceful, willow-lined streets and bustling bazaar life of Singge Namgyal's 17th century capital of Ladakh, once an integral part of Western Tibet and a major trading post along the southern Silk Route. There is lots to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the newly-restored ruins of the 17th century Leh Palace, the ancient 16th century Leh Fort and the attached Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, other historic Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the Sunni Muslim mosques, narrow back alleys with steaming Muslim bread, tiny antique shops tucked away amidst the many ancient stupas and architectural remnants, the exotic Main Bazaar (c. 1840s) which once accommodated trade caravans, and even a polo field. Caravans of merchants from far-flung destinations such as Yarkand, Tibet, Kashgar and North India passed through Leh during ancient trade missions, trading salt, wool, Pashmina, tea and semi-precious stones, lending to the city its exotic allure. Pilgrims flocked to the monasteries of Leh and the Indus valley, explorers of old stopped in Leh to re-stock and weather out the harsh Himalayan winter and soldiers en route to plunder and conquer desirous destinations passed through Leh, all leaving their mark on this unique capital.

Kim will take you for a walk up the bustling Fort Road, lined with shops owned by Kashmiri, Tibetan and Kashmiri shop-keepers, to 15th century Leh Fort and the red, MaitreiyaTsemo Gompa, perched high on a craggy and crumbling hilltop overlooking the bazaars of old Leh. You can stop at 16th century nine-story Leh Palace, of a similar architectural design to the Tibetan Potala Palace, on the way down if you have the energy. Visit the museum, a worthwhile endeavor, as well as the nearby gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) - Soma Gompa, Chamba Lakhang and Chensrig Lakhang. There

We might wander the willow-lines streets of Changspa to reach the many steps leading to the Japanese-built Shanti Stupa for a view over the green fields and white-washed Ladakhi houses of the villages surrounding Leh. The precariously perched Leh Fort guards the eastern edges of the fertile valley. Sankar Gompa (17th - 18th century), reached through shady lanes to the east of Changspa, lies in the midst of Chubi's groves of poplar and willow and is another wonderful morning or afternoon walk. The back route to Leh Fort starts in Chubi and passes through a desert-like Buddhist cremation ground before climbing to the fortress.

OPTIONAL GOMPA-TRIP: Arrange (through Kim, our Tibetan jeep-driver Wang Chuk or the Shaynam Hotel) a 'jeep safari' through the fertile Indus Valley to visit a few of the living Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the crumbling ruins of ancient fortresses and palaces and the traditional villages that dot the banks of the region, the 'cradle of civilization' of much of the ancient world. Kim can help arrange jeeps and/or a guide for a day's excursion.

To the East: Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho & Stok.
To the West: Spitok, Phyang, Basgo, Likir, Alchi, Rizdong & Lamayuru.

OPTIONAL RAFTING-TRIP: You can arrange a day rafting trip on the Indus (easier) or the Zanskar River, approximately $35-40.

Day 4 - Drive Meru 3720m
After breakfast, we jump into our jeeps and head for the start of the trek at our acclimatization destination, Lato. We following the Leh Srinagar highway east, past the ancient, 14th century Spitok Gompa, spectacularly perched on a craggy hillock above the cultivated fields of Spitok village. We continue past the old palace and gompa at Shey, surrounded by hundreds of whitewashed chortens, and continue past more chortens built by the kings of Ladakh towards colorful Thikse Gompa on the left. The renown Hemis Gompa is built high up on a hillside to our right, down a connecting lane. Soon after passing this landmark we turn right at Upshi, following the Leh Manali highway south as it snakes its way over the high passes of the Zanskar and Himalayan ranges heading to Manali. Following the Gya Chu along a spectacular section of highway, we soon reach our campsite at the hamlet of Meru where the staff has set up camp for the night. We'll set you up in your tents, show you around our 'Kamzang' style dining tent and settle in with a mug of chai. Beers are available at a small tea-house nearby ...

* Day 5 - Trek Posa Sumdo 4250m
We start our trek with two exploratory days, leading to the well-know high pasturelands of the inhabitants of the Markha valley. Our day starts with a straightfoward ascend of an unnamed 4060 meter pass, afterwards descending to a small stream which we follow until the next river intersection, Posa Sumdo. Sumdo means river junction in Tibetan and we'll hear this name for the next few weeks.

* Day 6 - Trek Chumik Marpo 4100m (over Shapodok La 4670m)
Another small pass to start the day, so after freshly brewed coffee we set off, again heading northwest, towards the Shapodak La (4670m). After admiring the views of the Ladakh and Zanskar range from the crest of the pass, we head down quite steeply, to the north towards the next sumdo where we cross a bridge towards the west. Continuing along this green valley for another hour, we reach another sumdo and another bridge which takes us across tech river to the main route to Nyimaling from Shang Sumdo. We'll camp here, in a place our horsemen call Chumik Marpo (which might also be Chuskirmo). Chumik means 'spring' in Ladakhi, another term you'll hear often in these Himalayan regions.

Day 7 - Trek Konmaru La High Camp 4700m
The valley narrows as we ascend 600-meters to our high camp. Blue sheep roam these craggy, ochre-tinted valley freely so keep your eyes on the rugged cliff sides surrounding us. There are several river crossings, usually jumpable, along the way and the valley is colored with wildflowers. High camp is about 500 meters below the Konmaru La, and the pass is visible from our chilly camp.

Day 8 - Trek Nyimaling (over Konmaru La 5260m)
It's a relatively easy climb to the crest of the Konmaru La, at 5260 meters. Keep a look out for blue sheep along the way, and enjoy the panorama of Ladakh & Zanskar peaks from the top, as well as snow-capped Kang Yatze right in front of us. From the prayer-flag festooned top of the pass we look down onto the spectacular nomadic plateau of Nyimaling, and to the right is one of the most dramatic views of the trek, with layers and layers of peaks clothed in subtle hues guarding the skyline.

An easy descent brings us to the high altitude grazing region of Nyimaling, where Hangkar villagers herd their flocks of Pashmina sheep and goats as they've done for centuries. We set up another scenic campsite, have lunch and have the entire afternoon to wander, look for wildlife and explore this unique, high plateau. Yaks roam freely, creating a perfect Tibetan environment. Down the valley in the direction of the craggy peaks is the famous Markha Valley. Take a walk up to the plateau just below Kang Yatze, where pikas and marmots scurry towards their burrows, and high altitude bird life is plentiful. The lichen on the granite rocks adds a lovely hue to the already colorful plateau ...

Just before sunset the villagers return to their stone doksas with their flocks of hundreds of sheep and goats, and we can head over for a visit, perhaps even for a bowl of fresh yogurt. Sunsets are truly awe-inspiring on the plateau, with a flaming, red orb descending behind the hills down valley from us, and setting the snaking Nyimaling Chu ablaze with color.

Day 9 - Trek Mani Chen 4410m or Zalung Karpo La High Camp 4675m (over Kongka Ngongpo La 5180m)
We'll have an early morning start with the sheep as it's a long day, nearly eight hours, and you'll need your sandals for the tail-end of it. Heading up the deceptively steep ridge along the rocky stream bed in back of camp, right towards Kang Yatze, we'll keep right and low as we contour around the snow-peak to the ridge visible ahead. The high plateau is lovely, covered in Edelweiss, lavender, daisy-like asters and brick-red 'glacier flowers' in round clusters. At the second, cairn-marked ridge, we descend to Kang Yatze Base Camp and ford a small stream, usually jump-able, contouring for another hour towards the Kongka Ngongpo La (5180 meters). It usually takes us three hours to reach the pass. After admiring the broad views, we switch-back right back down, steeply and a bit precipitously, towards the Langthang Chu Valley and our High Camp for the Zalung Karpo La. Our barely-perceptible trail leads us past summer doksas and into more blue sheep territory.

After lunch on a rocky-outcropping, we drop steeply through a meadow to an old doksa, descend again to another plateau with a ridge overlooking the valley and finally contour for another hour to the Langthang Chu valley. Once in the valley it's a quick walk to the small mani wall of Mani Chen, meaning 'place of mani stones', an old stop on the nomadic route. Mani Chen is a lovely campsite, grassy and flat with a small stream winding its way across the plateau. The river has some good spots for washing if the water isn't too silt-filled. A great afternoon excursion is up the valley to the left (on our side of the river) to see the blue sheep.

*** If the rivers are low we might opt to continue on another two hours to Zalung Karpo La High Camp, a rocky campsite with late afternoon sun. We'll have a few small river crossings en route. High camp is on the left of the glacial river on a small, grassy spur with a cold stream for washing and late-afternoon sun.

Day 10 - Tsokra 4330m (over Zalung Karpo La 5200m)
We'll have an early start for our next pass, the Zalung Karpo La, and again you'll probably want your sandals with you if the sun is out and (thus) the rivers are high. We'll have two hours of flat riverside walking, jumping the small stream, to reach the high camp from where it takes less than an hour to reach the access valley to the Zalung Karpo La. Our valley is the second large valley on the right, just ten minutes past the first one. Heading up this valley of shimmering, mica-composed slate and scree, we follow a small stream much of the way up valley as we gradually ascend. The valley opens up to a false summit reached by a steep switchback, and finally about an hour later we crest the 5200-meter, prayer-flag festooned Zalung Karpo La. Ahead in the distance, both the Zanskar and the Himalayan ranges are visible, an impressive view.

If it's not too windy we'll have lunch at the prayer flags on top of the pass. The descent is a steep and sandy switchback and the valley below can be scorching. We are now entering Kharnak, translated as 'black fort', the high altitude grazing region of the Ladakhi nomads. We have 2 1/2 more hours of hiking, with a few hills but mostly river-walking, and possibly a few tricky river crossings depending on the water lever. Finally, approximately eight hours of hiking later, we reach our grassy campsite at Tsokra, a local grazing plateau. Again there are opportunities for a wash in the river or small stream that winds its way through our green campsite.

* Day 11 - Trek Khizurkham Valley
Leaving our usual route, we'll spend a day exploring a valley to our left, just in back of Kharnak fort, that we've always wanted to explore. There's said to be a beautiful green campsite over a small pass that we'll head for ...

Starting with an easy river crossing as we trek along the flat river-side trail for an hour to a wooden bridge spanning the narrow canyon above the stream. En route we'll pass through a nomadic settlement with threshing fields and an old mill which look as if its not been used for years, as we're towered over by soaring canyons. The ruined fort, called 'Khar Fortress' (and which Kharnak is named after), is perched impressively above us, an ancient guard of the many valleys. From the fortress, we'll take one of the valleys to the backside and crest a small ridge leading to a nomadic valley between the Tsokra and Dat valleys.

* Day 12 - Trek Dat 4310m
Depending on where we end up, the day goes something like this ... Today continues with more superlatives. We enter a canyon of dramatic spires, tawny cliffs, willows and a gurgling river. We'll cross the river and take the willowy trail on the right side of the river as blue sheep have kicked stones from above, which have come hurtling down on the left trail. Note the wonderful cliffs, sculpted by centuries of ice and water erosion. We cross the next bend in this river, continue along the widening riverbed at the intersection to the Kharnak Chu and then climb past another old doksa, dropping to one last river crossing.

Turning left at the wide intersection of Tantse Sumdo, we follow the Kharnak (or Chang) Chu, heading further into Kharnak and the pasturelands of Dat. Another 2 1/2 hours later, after trekking through a hot, bug-infested (but lovely) valley of willows and cliffs cut by the Kharnak Chu, the valley opens to damp, green pastures watered by numerous springs. We climb on a cliff-side trail on the right of the winding river, descend again, and soon reach the fantastic Kharnak 'lhatoo' (called Lhatoo on the map), where the nomads and local monks make offerings to their local deities during a ceremony called Gertsa, which takes place for five days from the end of May to early June (corresponds with Saga Dawa). Men place a new ritual arrow on the lhatoo, signifying men's protection under the gods. (Women aren't allowed at this ceremony...). Beautifully carved mani stones are piled along extensive platforms, yak skulls carved with Om Mani Padme Hum are stacked in the main altar, bowls smelling of old butter await next year's puja and multi-colored prayer flags flutter in the wind. Red and yellow-billed choughs, revered as messengers of the mountain gods, sit aloft high prayer-flag poles. Climb the hill for a great view. Overall, an impressive entrance to Dat!

Continuing on through a lush valley of meandering streams and springs protected by high, brick-red and wildly contorted cliffs, we pass other doksas and more smaller lhatoos, shrines to the mountain gods that live on the surrounding peaks. Yaks graze and cool themselves in the streams, and a cloud of dust could be a nomad on horseback. An hour or so later, after cresting two arid plateaus with long mani walls and wonderful carvings which indicate an old trade route, we spot the wide valley of Dat below us.

Dat is the perfect, grassy campsite for an afternoon of relaxation and acclimatization. Warm streams meander through the valley, providing luke-warm washing water, and the sun usually shines brightly. If you feel like a wander, head up the side valley in back of Shemen village for an afternoon of wildlife spotting. Spend some time in the deserted villages and Dat Gompa, where the local god Ka La Bu Skyong, the protector and 'giver of sons', reins supreme. (Interestingly, this god is only recognized in Kharnak). The semi-permanent village of Shemen is fascinating, and the gompa worth a visit if we can find the resident key-keeper, a young monk from Hemis, who also collects the camp charges. Wander through the empty passageways between the stone houses; the discarded rubbish gives a picture of what life is like during the inhabited periods.

Another option is a (slightly difficult) hike up the plateau and prayer-flag topped peak above Dat at 4710 meters for totally amazing birds-eye views down on the valley, but be ready for some scrambling.

Our campsite for the night is lovely, high pastureland next to the now-deserted village of Shemen. Dat, which houses approximately forty families (although many have now moved to Choglamsar) in the Spring and late Autumn, is actually composed of the two villages of Dango (upper) and Shemen (lower). The nomadic villagers move to the Sangtha and Lungmoche valleys with their flocks in the summer months, and to the valley behind Dat few a couple of months in the wintertime. Marmots share the campsite with us and Kyang might check us out from the ridge above Dat. Sunsets and sunrises are glorious from camp so it's worth a visit to the small, monk-run teahouse to pick up a beer for 'sundowner' ...

* Day 13 - Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa 4505m
We're keeping the details of the next few days quiet as no trekking groups know about this route. Trust us to lead you to one of the most beautiful and green valleys in Ladakh where we will set up camp in what we call our 'snow leopard valley'. I'll not write much about this to keep it as protected as possible, but will note that we found a wonderful shrine at the top of the winter doksa with unique stone carvings of the god Rahula. From the blog BlueStarBlackSnake – An Appalachian witches daily musings and interests:

'Rahu became Rahula after being subdued by Padmasambhava from originally being an asura or rakshasa to being a Protector of the Dharma, thus the La at the end, meaning god. Rahu’s father was a Rakshasa and his mother was a Nagini ... Rahula is the chief Nagaraja or Naga King of the race of Nagas and Naginis. He is blazing ultraviolet blue/black in colour. Rahula is a wrathful manifestation of Vajrapani. In the ancient Bon shamanism gZa is Zaw, or the 9 planets, with Rahula as Rahu the eclipse demon. His form is a 9-headed Nagaraja crowned with a black crow head, his coils covered with eyes. In one form he has three heads – one black, one white, and one red. His six arms hold to the right a sword, vajra, and wheel, and to the left a threatening mudra, snare, and hatchet. In another form he has nine heads, wrathful ones below and peaceful above. In his four armed form he holds a Makara staff to the right, snake left, and the two at centre pull a serpentine bow and arrow. And below the waist he is a twisting serpent surrounded by flames within a fiery quadrangle ... His lower body is like that of a snake, while his upper body is covered with eyes, which, together with the further eyes in his nine heads symbolize his ability to see in all directions. His bow and arrow are ready to strike at enemies, and his many mouths are ready to devour their ignorance. He is shown surrounded by flames of high energy, as are all Guardians, but Rahula’s power is so intense that the practitioner has already developed considerable mastery. He can be a dangerous ally of potentially overwhelming power if not approached in the right way ... He can be approached for assistance with relatively mundane matters. '

* Day 14 - Trek Kyang Camp
Another secret day with an easy pass at 4815m to reach our campsite in a green valley full of kyang, and perhaps snow leopard ...

Day 15 - Trek Lungmoche 4710m (over Yar La 4950m)
We have a small pass to crest, with views of the Zanskar Range, during which we often spot herd of kyang that reside in the nearby valleys (kyang translates as 'wander' in Ladakhi). The male often comes out to the main valley to scout for the herd of females and younger males, all of which will snort, paw the ground and arrange an impressive maneuver for us if their territory is threatened. Himalayan hares also reside in the valley and dart in and out of site. We crest one last ridge from camp before contouring towards the ascent of the 4950 meter Yar La, a relatively easy climb of just over an hour from the end of the valley following the winter snow wall built for winter sheep crossings. The chorten on the pass has some beautiful carvings including the Kharnak mountain deity, a lovely mountain goddess called Tsering Ma (Ched Inga), the eldest of five sisters, also recognized in Tibet. Most of these nomadic mountain deities are Bon deities which have been subdued by Guru Rimpoche as protectors of the Buddhist faith. We can see our old campsite just five minutes down the pass, and it will only take us half an hour (or a bit more if we camp further down the valley) to reach the turnoff to that camp at Lungmoche, another lovely pastureland. We're still Kyang territory still, so keep your cameras ready. We'll continue down the lovely, green Lungmoche valley for another half an hour or so from here, setting up camp somewhere green ...

Day 16 - Trek Zabuk Barma 4350m
Today we head into well-loved nomadic territory, hiking down the green valley on the right side of the valley (there is a road being built on the opposite side, sadly). We'll pass a large doksa soon after leaving camp, and then a mani wall and large chorten. An hour from this last chorten after a short, traversing climb brings us to a small pass where we'll have a short rest in front of the mountain home of the three sister goddesses. Look back across the Zara Chu to see the 'Five Sisters' peaks, the dwelling of the five mountain goddesses that live in the distinctly shaped range. From here we descend gradually to the right, contour up and down several arid hillsides and reach a short but dramatic canyon through which we descend. Turning left we soon reach a broad plateau with chortens marking routes on all three sides and a cluster of eight magnificent, white-washed chortens across the river. Fifteen minutes later we drop into the seasonal nomadic settlement of Sangtha, built of rounded, white river rocks and littered with goat and sheep droppings. Cross the river to the complex of mani stones and chortens for wonderful photos and great views back to Sangtha, which marks the intersection of the Ladakhi and Tibetan nomadic regions.

We follow the magnificent, clear Zara Chu on the chorten-side to a grassy lunch spot at the first river intersection. We continue for another hour or so on the same side (left) past more sparkling river intersections, nomadic settlements (doksas), and a wolf trap and then drop down to the grassy riverside. Near camp on our side of the river is a marmot colony, with small trails leading to their tunnel shelters.

One more river bend and we spot out campsite across the river at Zhabuk Barma, a spectacularly-situated seasonal settlement of the Karnak-pa. To the east (below our camp) the Tozay Chu leads to Pang on the Leh-Manali highway and the Ladakhi nomadic region of Kharnak, and is bordered by a fantastic canyon of sculpted rocks leads. The campsite is wonderful and green with perfect swimming holes along the river and a cold, fresh spring in back. There are three tri-colored chortens in a shallow cave above the stone doksas, worth a steep climb up for views over the campsite and down the valley. And just to the left of these, a steep valley leading up to a fantastic plateau with vast vistas, a must-do in the afternoon with the perfect light. Keep your eyes on the hilltops next to camp for kyang, Himalayan hare and blue sheep, all of which are common in this area.

We'll have a yak-dung fire in the evening ...

Day 17 - Zabuk Barma
We love this campsite so much that we've schedule an extra day to relax and soak up the surroundings ...

Day 18 - Trek Narbus 4820m (over Narbus La 4850m)
We have a wonderfully dramatic hike today as we re-cross the Zara Chu right out of camp and climb to a high plateau just above us. Heading slightly around the hilltop to our right we cross the plateau on a sort of natural bridge and reach the fantastic canyons above the Tozay Chu to reach the sculpted canyons. The multi-hued spires of rock sculpted by centuries of wind and water erosion make for amazing photos. The river valley below our camp leads to the small settlement of Pang, which is off the Leh Manali highway from Narbus. We hike along this plateau, a feast of textures and colors high above the valley below, eventually contouring left towards the Narbus La.

It will take us four or five hours from camp to crest the 4850-meter pass. From the wide crest, marked by a small cairn, we can spot the canvas and yak-hair tents of the Tibetan nomadic settlement of Narbus where we set up camp for the night. Our nomadic Tibetan friends camp here for about four months every summer, and we can take a look at the inside of a nomad tent or two in the afternoon. Be ready, as we will be offered treats such as salt butter tea and fresh curd (yogurt) from their flocks of goats and sheep. Narbus is a good place to donate your supplies or extra clothes; years ago we had a meeting of the women from each tent and distributed evenly much needed school supplies and extras. Another year we bargained for yak and sheep-hair blankets and nomadic knives with binoculars, a Leatherman and some cash.

The evenings are a wonderful time of the day as the orange orb of sun begins to set, the nomads returning to camp herding their hundreds of sheep and goats, and the yaks wandering back to the tents followed by the haunting yells of the Tibetans.

Day 19 - Drive Leh
Sadly, the trek is over but today's drive is a great finish to our trek. Once in the jeeps, we'll be treated to a spectacular five hour drive through the Indus Valley along the Manali - Leh highway, over the Tanglang La (5332m), and along the lovely Gya Chu, a continuation of our wonderful journey. Near the green villages of Gya and Lhato the contorted cliff sides are colored vibrant hues of eggplant and brick-red, making this one of the most beautiful canyons in Ladakh. En route we pass the western Indus valley gompas, amongst them the 1000-year old Alchi, Hemis, Rizdong, Likir, Thikse and Shey. Back at the Shaynam Guest House in Leh, hot showers and a clean change of clothes await, and tandoori food and cold beers are not far away at the Ibex.

Day 20 - Monday, 8 July - Trip Ends
Our wonderful Himalayan journey ends today, sadly. You have several options after the trip: a flight back to Delhi, an epic 'jeep safari' back to Manali or elsewhere in the Indian Himalaya, or spending more time in Leh. We're happy to assist on all fronts, but Leh flights are not included in our India treks.

29 Days

Day 1 - Meet in Leh 3500m
Welcome to Leh, the capital of predominantly Buddhist Ladakh, in Jammu and Kashmir, tucked away amidst the Ladakh mountains, part of the great Trans Himalayan range. If you arrive by air you'll feel the big jump in altitude and it will take your body a few days to adjust. If you arrive by road from Manali or Srinagar you'll have had some extra acclimatization en route, but will still need time to adjust to the 3500 meter altitude. Hydrate with plenty of water, stay away from beer for a few days, rest and don't over-exert yourself. Even walking up the stairs of the guest house, let alone the Leh Fort, will make you breathless for the first day or two. Diamox is a good way to help your body acclimatize naturally; Kim will discuss.

We stay at the family-run Shaynam Hotel, more of a family-run guest house with a lovely garden in the center courtyard, located just a few minutes south of the Main Bazaar in old Leh town. Your rooms will be booked for you, you'll just need to advise Kim of your arrival time, whether by air or by road. Once everyone has arrived and checked into rooms, Kim will show you around town: the bakeries, cafes, tandoori restaurants, email cafes, banks and wonderful markets. We'll meet for dinner in the evening.

Days 2, 3 - Leh
We've scheduled two free days in Leh to acclimatize and to enjoy the peaceful, willow-lined streets and bustling bazaar life of Singge Namgyal's 17th century capital of Ladakh, once an integral part of Western Tibet and a major trading post along the southern Silk Route. There is lots to explore in this wonderful Central Asian town; the newly-restored ruins of the 17th century Leh Palace, the ancient 16th century Leh Fort and the attached Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, other historic Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the Sunni Muslim mosques, narrow back alleys with steaming Muslim bread, tiny antique shops tucked away amidst the many ancient stupas and architectural remnants, the exotic Main Bazaar (c. 1840s) which once accommodated trade caravans, and even a polo field. Caravans of merchants from far-flung destinations such as Yarkand, Tibet, Kashgar and North India passed through Leh during ancient trade missions, trading salt, wool, Pashmina, tea and semi-precious stones, lending to the city its exotic allure. Pilgrims flocked to the monasteries of Leh and the Indus valley, explorers of old stopped in Leh to re-stock and weather out the harsh Himalayan winter and soldiers en route to plunder and conquer desirous destinations passed through Leh, all leaving their mark on this unique capital.

Kim will take you for a walk up the bustling Fort Road, lined with shops owned by Kashmiri, Tibetan and Kashmiri shop-keepers, to 15th century Leh Fort and the red, MaitreiyaTsemo Gompa, perched high on a craggy and crumbling hilltop overlooking the bazaars of old Leh. You can stop at 16th century nine-story Leh Palace, of a similar architectural design to the Tibetan Potala Palace, on the way down if you have the energy. Visit the museum, a worthwhile endeavor, as well as the nearby gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) - Soma Gompa, Chamba Lakhang and Chensrig Lakhang.

We might wander the willow-lines streets of Changspa to reach the many steps leading to the Japanese-built Shanti Stupa for a view over the green fields and white-washed Ladakhi houses of the villages surrounding Leh. The precariously perched Leh Fort guards the eastern edges of the fertile valley. Sankar Gompa (17th - 18th century), reached through shady lanes to the east of Changspa, lies in the midst of Chubi's groves of poplar and willow and is another wonderful morning or afternoon walk. The back route to Leh Fort starts in Chubi and passes through a desert-like Buddhist cremation ground before climbing to the fortress.

OPTIONAL GOMPA-TRIP: Arrange (through Kim, our Tibetan jeep-driver Wang Chuk or the Shaynam Hotel) a 'jeep safari' through the fertile Indus Valley to visit a few of the living Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the crumbling ruins of ancient fortresses and palaces and the traditional villages that dot the banks of the region, the 'cradle of civilization' of much of the ancient world. Kim can help arrange jeeps and/or a guide for a day's excursion.

To the East: Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho & Stok.
To the West: Spitok, Phyang, Basgo, Likir, Alchi, Rizdong & Lamayuru.

OPTIONAL RAFTING-TRIP: You can arrange a day rafting trip on the Indus (easier) or the Zanskar River, approximately $35-40.

Day 4 - Drive Meru 3720m
After breakfast, we jump into our jeeps and head for the start of the trek at our acclimatization destination, Lato. We following the Leh Srinagar highway east, past the ancient, 14th century Spitok Gompa, spectacularly perched on a craggy hillock above the cultivated fields of Spitok village. We continue past the old palace and gompa at Shey, surrounded by hundreds of whitewashed chortens, and continue past more chortens built by the kings of Ladakh towards colorful Thikse Gompa on the left. The renown Hemis Gompa is built high up on a hillside to our right, down a connecting lane. Soon after passing this landmark we turn right at Upshi, following the Leh Manali highway south as it snakes its way over the high passes of the Zanskar and Himalayan ranges heading to Manali. Following the Gya Chu along a spectacular section of highway, we soon reach our campsite at the hamlet of Meru where the staff has set up camp for the night. We'll set you up in your tents, show you around our 'Kamzang' style dining tent and settle in with a mug of chai. Beers are available at a small tea-house nearby ...

* Day 5 - Trek Posa Sumdo 4250m
We start our trek with two exploratory days, leading to the well-know high pasturelands of the inhabitants of the Markha valley. Our day starts with a straightfoward ascend of an unnamed 4060 meter pass, afterwards descending to a small stream which we follow until the next river intersection, Posa Sumdo. Sumdo means river junction in Tibetan and we'll hear this name for the next few weeks.

* Day 6 - Trek Chumik Marpo 4100m (over Shapodok La 4670m)
Another small pass to start the day, so after freshly brewed coffee we set off, again heading northwest, towards the Shapodak La (4670m). After admiring the views of the Ladakh and Zanskar range from the crest of the pass, we head down quite steeply, to the north towards the next sumdo where we cross a bridge towards the west. Continuing along this green valley for another hour, we reach another sumdo and another bridge which takes us across tech river to the main route to Nyimaling from Shang Sumdo. We'll camp here, in a place our horsemen call Chumik Marpo (which might also be Chuskirmo). Chumik means 'spring' in Ladakhi, another term you'll hear often in these Himalayan regions.

Day 7 - Trek Konmaru La High Camp 4700m
The valley narrows as we ascend 600-meters to our high camp. Blue sheep roam these craggy, ochre-tinted valley freely so keep your eyes on the rugged cliff sides surrounding us. There are several river crossings, usually jumpable, along the way and the valley is colored with wildflowers. High camp is about 500 meters below the Konmaru La, and the pass is visible from our chilly camp.

Day 8 - Trek Nyimaling (over Konmaru La 5260m)
It's a relatively easy climb to the crest of the Konmaru La, at 5260 meters. Keep a look out for blue sheep along the way, and enjoy the panorama of Ladakh & Zanskar peaks from the top, as well as snow-capped Kang Yatze right in front of us. From the prayer-flag festooned top of the pass we look down onto the spectacular nomadic plateau of Nyimaling, and to the right is one of the most dramatic views of the trek, with layers and layers of peaks clothed in subtle hues guarding the skyline.

An easy descent brings us to the high altitude grazing region of Nyimaling, where Hangkar villagers herd their flocks of Pashmina sheep and goats as they've done for centuries. We set up another scenic campsite, have lunch and have the entire afternoon to wander, look for wildlife and explore this unique, high plateau. Yaks roam freely, creating a perfect Tibetan environment. Down the valley in the direction of the craggy peaks is the famous Markha Valley. Take a walk up to the plateau just below Kang Yatze, where pikas and marmots scurry towards their burrows, and high altitude bird life is plentiful. The lichen on the granite rocks adds a lovely hue to the already colorful plateau ...

Just before sunset the villagers return to their stone doksas with their flocks of hundreds of sheep and goats, and we can head over for a visit, perhaps even for a bowl of fresh yogurt. Sunsets are truly awe-inspiring on the plateau, with a flaming, red orb descending behind the hills down valley from us, and setting the snaking Nyimaling Chu ablaze with color.

Day 9 - Trek Mani Chen 4410m or Zalung Karpo La High Camp 4675m (over Kongka Ngongpo La 5180m)
We'll have an early morning start with the sheep as it's a long day, nearly eight hours, and you'll need your sandals for the tail-end of it. Heading up the deceptively steep ridge along the rocky stream bed in back of camp, right towards Kang Yatze, we'll keep right and low as we contour around the snow-peak to the ridge visible ahead. The high plateau is lovely, covered in Edelweiss, lavender, daisy-like asters and brick-red 'glacier flowers' in round clusters. At the second, cairn-marked ridge, we descend to Kang Yatze Base Camp and ford a small stream, usually jump-able, contouring for another hour towards the Kongka Ngongpo La (5180 meters). It usually takes us three hours to reach the pass. After admiring the broad views, we switch-back right back down, steeply and a bit precipitously, towards the Langthang Chu Valley and our High Camp for the Zalung Karpo La. Our barely-perceptible trail leads us past summer doksas and into more blue sheep territory.

After lunch on a rocky-outcropping, we drop steeply through a meadow to an old doksa, descend again to another plateau with a ridge overlooking the valley and finally contour for another hour to the Langthang Chu valley. Once in the valley it's a quick walk to the small mani wall of Mani Chen, meaning 'place of mani stones', an old stop on the nomadic route. Mani Chen is a lovely campsite, grassy and flat with a small stream winding its way across the plateau. The river has some good spots for washing if the water isn't too silt-filled. A great afternoon excursion is up the valley to the left (on our side of the river) to see the blue sheep.

*** If the rivers are low we might opt to continue on another two hours to Zalung Karpo La High Camp, a rocky campsite with late afternoon sun. We'll have a few small river crossings en route. High camp is on the left of the glacial river on a small, grassy spur with a cold stream for washing and late-afternoon sun.

Day 10 - Tsokra 4330m (over Zalung Karpo La 5200m)
We'll have an early start for our next pass, the Zalung Karpo La, and again you'll probably want your sandals with you if the sun is out and (thus) the rivers are high. We'll have two hours of flat riverside walking, jumping the small stream, to reach the high camp from where it takes less than an hour to reach the access valley to the Zalung Karpo La. Our valley is the second large valley on the right, just ten minutes past the first one. Heading up this valley of shimmering, mica-composed slate and scree, we follow a small stream much of the way up valley as we gradually ascend. The valley opens up to a false summit reached by a steep switchback, and finally about an hour later we crest the 5200-meter, prayer-flag festooned Zalung Karpo La. Ahead in the distance, both the Zanskar and the Himalayan ranges are visible, an impressive view.

If it's not too windy we'll have lunch at the prayer flags on top of the pass. The descent is a steep and sandy switchback and the valley below can be scorching. We are now entering Kharnak, translated as 'black fort', the high altitude grazing region of the Ladakhi nomads. We have 2 1/2 more hours of hiking, with a few hills but mostly river-walking, and possibly a few tricky river crossings depending on the water lever. Finally, approximately eight hours of hiking later, we reach our grassy campsite at Tsokra, a local grazing plateau. Again there are opportunities for a wash in the river or small stream that winds its way through our green campsite.

* Day 11 - Trek Khizurkham Valley
Leaving our usual route, we'll spend a day exploring a valley to our left, just in back of Kharnak fort, that we've always wanted to explore. There's said to be a beautiful green campsite over a small pass that we'll head for ...

Starting with an easy river crossing as we trek along the flat river-side trail for an hour to a wooden bridge spanning the narrow canyon above the stream. En route we'll pass through a nomadic settlement with threshing fields and an old mill which look as if its not been used for years, as we're towered over by soaring canyons. The ruined fort, called 'Khar Fortress' (and which Kharnak is named after), is perched impressively above us, an ancient guard of the many valleys. From the fortress, we'll take one of the valleys to the backside and crest a small ridge leading to a nomadic valley between the Tsokra and Dat valleys.

* Day 12 - Trek Dat 4310m
Depending on where we end up, the day goes something like this ... Today continues with more superlatives. We enter a canyon of dramatic spires, tawny cliffs, willows and a gurgling river. We'll cross the river and take the willowy trail on the right side of the river as blue sheep have kicked stones from above, which have come hurtling down on the left trail. Note the wonderful cliffs, sculpted by centuries of ice and water erosion. We cross the next bend in this river, continue along the widening riverbed at the intersection to the Kharnak Chu and then climb past another old doksa, dropping to one last river crossing.

Turning left at the wide intersection of Tantse Sumdo, we follow the Kharnak (or Chang) Chu, heading further into Kharnak and the pasturelands of Dat. Another 2 1/2 hours later, after trekking through a hot, bug-infested (but lovely) valley of willows and cliffs cut by the Kharnak Chu, the valley opens to damp, green pastures watered by numerous springs. We climb on a cliff-side trail on the right of the winding river, descend again, and soon reach the fantastic Kharnak 'lhatoo' (called Lhatoo on the map), where the nomads and local monks make offerings to their local deities during a ceremony called Gertsa, which takes place for five days from the end of May to early June (corresponds with Saga Dawa). Men place a new ritual arrow on the lhatoo, signifying men's protection under the gods. (Women aren't allowed at this ceremony ...). Beautifully carved mani stones are piled along extensive platforms, yak skulls carved with Om Mani Padme Hum are stacked in the main altar, bowls smelling of old butter await next year's puja and multi-colored prayer flags flutter in the wind. Red and yellow-billed choughs, revered as messengers of the mountain gods, sit aloft high prayer-flag poles. Climb the hill for a great view. Overall, an impressive entrance to Dat!

Continuing on through a lush valley of meandering streams and springs protected by high, brick-red and wildly contorted cliffs, we pass other doksas and more smaller lhatoos, shrines to the mountain gods that live on the surrounding peaks. Yaks graze and cool themselves in the streams, and a cloud of dust could be a nomad on horseback. An hour or so later, after cresting two arid plateaus with long mani walls and wonderful carvings which indicate an old trade route, we spot the wide valley of Dat below us.

Dat is the perfect, grassy campsite for an afternoon of relaxation and acclimatization. Warm streams meander through the valley, providing luke-warm washing water, and the sun usually shines brightly. If you feel like a wander, head up the side valley in back of Shemen village for an afternoon of wildlife spotting. Spend some time in the deserted villages and Dat Gompa, where the local god Ka La Bu Skyong, the protector and 'giver of sons', reins supreme. (Interestingly, this god is only recognized in Kharnak). The semi-permanent village of Shemen is fascinating, and the gompa worth a visit if we can find the resident key-keeper, a young monk from Hemis, who also collects the camp charges. Wander through the empty passageways between the stone houses; the discarded rubbish gives a picture of what life is like during the inhabited periods.

Another option is a (slightly difficult) hike up the plateau and prayer-flag topped peak above Dat at 4710 meters for totally amazing birds-eye views down on the valley, but be ready for some scrambling.

Our campsite for the night is lovely, high pastureland next to the now-deserted village of Shemen. Dat, which houses approximately forty families (although many have now moved to Choglamsar) in the Spring and late Autumn, is actually composed of the two villages of Dango (upper) and Shemen (lower). The nomadic villagers move to the Sangtha and Lungmoche valleys with their flocks in the summer months, and to the valley behind Dat few a couple of months in the wintertime. Marmots share the campsite with us and Kyang might check us out from the ridge above Dat. Sunsets and sunrises are glorious from camp so it's worth a visit to the small, monk-run teahouse to pick up a beer for 'sundowner' ...

* Day 13 - Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa 4505m
We're keeping the details of the next few days quiet as no trekking groups know about this route. Trust us to lead you to one of the most beautiful and green valleys in Ladakh where we will set up camp in what we call our 'snow leopard valley'. I'll not write much about this to keep it as protected as possible, but will note that we found a wonderful shrine at the top of the winter doksa with unique stone carvings of the god Rahula. From the blog BlueStarBlackSnake – An Appalachian witches daily musings and interests:

'Rahu became Rahula after being subdued by Padmasambhava from originally being an asura or rakshasa to being a Protector of the Dharma, thus the La at the end, meaning god. Rahu’s father was a Rakshasa and his mother was a Nagini ... Rahula is the chief Nagaraja or Naga King of the race of Nagas and Naginis. He is blazing ultraviolet blue/black in colour. Rahula is a wrathful manifestation of Vajrapani. In the ancient Bon shamanism gZa is Zaw, or the 9 planets, with Rahula as Rahu the eclipse demon. His form is a 9-headed Nagaraja crowned with a black crow head, his coils covered with eyes. In one form he has three heads – one black, one white, and one red. His six arms hold to the right a sword, vajra, and wheel, and to the left a threatening mudra, snare, and hatchet. In another form he has nine heads, wrathful ones below and peaceful above. In his four armed form he holds a Makara staff to the right, snake left, and the two at centre pull a serpentine bow and arrow. And below the waist he is a twisting serpent surrounded by flames within a fiery quadrangle ... His lower body is like that of a snake, while his upper body is covered with eyes, which, together with the further eyes in his nine heads symbolize his ability to see in all directions. His bow and arrow are ready to strike at enemies, and his many mouths are ready to devour their ignorance. He is shown surrounded by flames of high energy, as are all Guardians, but Rahula’s power is so intense that the practitioner has already developed considerable mastery. He can be a dangerous ally of potentially overwhelming power if not approached in the right way ... He can be approached for assistance with relatively mundane matters. '

* Day 14 - Trek Kyang Camp
Another secret day with an easy pass at 4815m to reach our campsite in a green valley full of kyang, and perhaps snow leopard ...

Day 15 - Trek Lungmoche 4710m (over Yar La 4950m)
We have a small pass to crest, with views of the Zanskar Range, during which we often spot herd of kyang that reside in the nearby valleys (kyang translates as 'wander' in Ladakhi). The male often comes out to the main valley to scout for the herd of females and younger males, all of which will snort, paw the ground and arrange an impressive maneuver for us if their territory is threatened. Himalayan hares also reside in the valley and dart in and out of site. We crest one last ridge from camp before contouring towards the ascent of the 4950 meter Yar La, a relatively easy climb of just over an hour from the end of the valley following the winter snow wall built for winter sheep crossings. The chorten on the pass has some beautiful carvings including the Kharnak mountain deity, a lovely mountain goddess called Tsering Ma (Ched Inga), the eldest of five sisters, also recognized in Tibet. Most of these nomadic mountain deities are Bon deities which have been subdued by Guru Rimpoche as protectors of the Buddhist faith. We can see our old campsite just five minutes down the pass, and it will only take us half an hour (or a bit more if we camp further down the valley) to reach the turnoff to that camp at Lungmoche, another lovely pastureland. We're still Kyang territory still, so keep your cameras ready. We'll continue down the lovely, green Lungmoche valley for another half an hour or so from here, setting up camp somewhere green ...

Day 16 - Trek Zabuk Barma 4350m
Today we head into well-loved nomadic territory, hiking down the green valley on the right side of the valley (there is a road being built on the opposite side, sadly). We'll pass a large doksa soon after leaving camp, and then a mani wall and large chorten. An hour from this last chorten after a short, traversing climb brings us to a small pass where we'll have a short rest in front of the mountain home of the three sister goddesses. Look back across the Zara Chu to see the 'Five Sisters' peaks, the dwelling of the five mountain goddesses that live in the distinctly shaped range. From here we descend gradually to the right, contour up and down several arid hillsides and reach a short but dramatic canyon through which we descend. Turning left we soon reach a broad plateau with chortens marking routes on all three sides and a cluster of eight magnificent, white-washed chortens across the river. Fifteen minutes later we drop into the seasonal nomadic settlement of Sangtha, built of rounded, white river rocks and littered with goat and sheep droppings. Cross the river to the complex of mani stones and chortens for wonderful photos and great views back to Sangtha, which marks the intersection of the Ladakhi and Tibetan nomadic regions.

We follow the magnificent, clear Zara Chu on the chorten-side to a grassy lunch spot at the first river intersection. We continue for another hour or so on the same side (left) past more sparkling river intersections, nomadic settlements (doksas), and a wolf trap and then drop down to the grassy riverside. Near camp on our side of the river is a marmot colony, with small trails leading to their tunnel shelters.

One more river bend and we spot out campsite across the river at Zhabuk Barma, a spectacularly-situated seasonal settlement of the Karnak-pa. To the east (below our camp) the Tozay Chu leads to Pang on the Leh-Manali highway and the Ladakhi nomadic region of Kharnak, and is bordered by a fantastic canyon of sculpted rocks leads. The campsite is wonderful and green with perfect swimming holes along the river and a cold, fresh spring in back. There are three tri-colored chortens in a shallow cave above the stone doksas, worth a steep climb up for views over the campsite and down the valley. And just to the left of these, a steep valley leading up to a fantastic plateau with vast vistas, a must-do in the afternoon with the perfect light. Keep your eyes on the hilltops next to camp for kyang, Himalayan hare and blue sheep, all of which are common in this area.

We'll have a yak-dung fire in the evening ...

Day 17 - Zabuk Barma
We love this campsite so much that we've schedule an extra day to relax and soak up the surroundings ...

Day 18 - Trek Narbus 4820m (over Narbus La 4850m)
We have a wonderfully dramatic hike today as we re-cross the Zara Chu right out of camp and climb to a high plateau just above us. Heading slightly around the hilltop to our right we cross the plateau on a sort of natural bridge and reach the fantastic canyons above the Tozay Chu to reach the sculpted canyons. The multi-hued spires of rock sculpted by centuries of wind and water erosion make for amazing photos. The river valley below our camp leads to the small settlement of Pang, which is off the Leh Manali highway from Narbus. We hike along this plateau, a feast of textures and colors high above the valley below, eventually contouring left towards the Narbus La.

It will take us four or five hours from camp to crest the 4850-meter pass. From the wide crest, marked by a small cairn, we can spot the canvas and yak-hair tents of the Tibetan nomadic settlement of Narbus where we set up camp for the night. Our nomadic Tibetan friends camp here for about four months every summer, and we can take a look at the inside of a nomad tent or two in the afternoon. Be ready, as we will be offered treats such as salt butter tea and fresh curd (yogurt) from their flocks of goats and sheep. Narbus is a good place to donate your supplies or extra clothes; years ago we had a meeting of the women from each tent and distributed evenly much needed school supplies and extras. Another year we bargained for yak and sheep-hair blankets and nomadic knives with binoculars, a Leatherman and some cash.

The evenings are a wonderful time of the day as the orange orb of sun begins to set, the nomads returning to camp herding their hundreds of sheep and goats, and the yaks wandering back to the tents followed by the haunting yells of the Tibetans.

Day 19 - Trek Numa River Camp 4610m
We start on our six hour day to the beautiful Numa Valley Camp. We cut across the Narbus valley for two hours to reach the Leh - Manali highway (unless we hitch a ride), and then continue right across the tussocked plateau towards the spectacular canyon that extends from Pang, four hours from Narbus. There are several nomadic settlements peppering the plateau in front of us and to our left, and we often spot Kyang along the way, even a weasel last year. It can be hot and there is no shade along the way so it's a good day for an umbrella. Look up and down valley as the views are spectacular, the Himalayan rising impressively in front of us behind Pang. When we reach the edge of the plateau leading to Pang we are on yet another dramatic plateau overlooking sculpted rock outcroppings and 'hoodoos', with the river snaking through the flood plain valley below us.

We hike along the canyon rim for another hour to the turnoff to camp, the second large valley descending to our right. We'll have lunch somewhere just before we hit this valley. After lunch, we'll drop and contour around two small hill-sides and then descend extremely steeply to the river, following in the tracks of our horses (in case you can't believe this is really a trail). We see our campsite being set up far below us as we descend.

Dropping steeply down a scree-filled gully, we slip our way down to the riverbed far below. Our campsite is right on the river at the intersection of a lovely stream, under the pillars of eroded sand which have formed themselves into Himalayan cathedrals called hoodoos. We'll have time in the afternoon for a wash in the river, or a wander up the stream bed to the left of camp ...

Day 20 - Trek Zozogong 4940m
Yet another wonderful Himalayan trekking day ahead of us and another sandals day. The trek takes on a completely different character as we follow the wide Sumkhar Togpo river valley for two and a half hours along the flood plain, jumping over and splashing through the river many times and passing three large valleys (one without water) to the left side of the river. Crumbling hoodoos line the trail on either side, backed by vivid blue skies and fluffy Himalayan clouds. Eventually, we reach the large turnoff at the far left of the valley, which leads to the base of the Thelekang La, the 5025 meter pass above our camp. From the turnoff, it should take us about an hour and a half of walking along a small stream with wide open views to reach the hill leading to the pass, and another easy hour of climbing to the pass. En route, we'll see large flocks of sheep and Pashmina goats roaming the hillsides with their owners. Below us, we see the horses reaching our campsite and ahead in the distance, the snow-capped Himalayas to the south of Lake Tso Moriri. Zozogong is a fantastic campsite; years ago we woke up surrounded by snow after an evening of Kyang spooking our horses the night before. There is sometimes a group of Korzok-pa nomads camped here, so we may have company (in addition to the pika sticking their heads curiously out of their holes). Views are great, camp is grassy and there is plenty of water for washing, so enjoy the afternoon!

Day 21 - Trek Himalaya View Camp (Gekyor or Yongma) 4750m
We'll have a leisurely morning as the cafe is in such a nice spot, and start off down the wide flood-plain heading towards the impressive snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan range ahead. More kyang spotting this morning in what we call 'Kyang Valley' about two and a half hours from camp. We often first spot the 'alpha' male keeping watch for the herd of younger males and females, snorting and pawing as we approach, and then gathering the whole herd together and kicking up a trail of dust as they bolt by us, close by. We might also see Himalayan hare, pikas, voles and marmot, and there are many of high-altitude birds en route. The plain becomes soft and marshy as the river runs below it and flowers bloom abundantly. Past more grazing valleys and nomad encampments, we continue along the flood plains, which soon become a clear river, to our campsite just past a few dung-scattered Ladakhi nomadic settlements. Most of the nomads from the settlements we passed stay out with their flocks until the evening, so we will probably have some visitors of both the shoed and hoofed variety at our dining tent. Kim bought a wonderful blanket from these nomads years ago so its worth a look around as we head to camp. Kyang also roam the nearby valleys, and over the next few days we should see many of these majestic creatures.

We continue on another hour to 'Himalaya View Camp' which we discovered several years ago, a less windy spot with wonderful views and a pebbly, gurgling river beside the grassy banks of the river.

Day 22 - Trek Pebble River Camp 4625m
We have a four and a half hour day in front of us as we leave our idyllic campsite and head towards another pass, a barely noticeable once called the Mani Chen La. Staying on the left bank, we follow the pebbly, clear river, the Zozogong (or Zoguang) Chu, which reflects the Himalayas in the calm of the morning. From Himalaya View Camp it's only another half an hour of easy climbing and contouring along well-trodden trails to the Mani Chen La (4795m). Climb to the top of the left hill for even more expansive views of the intersection of two large valleys. Perhaps we'll see roaming kyang below; they seem to love this wide river intersection, and we often bring sandals with us to run after them through the small streams of the flood plain.

We approach the Mani Chen doksa after a steep descent from the pass, and have to jump two streams and cross three plateaus as we continue down-valley. The large, rounded granite boulders and chunks of crystallized quartz of the second valley indicate that the landscape is changing. We'll likely see more kyang at the interesting, prayer-flag festooned Lhatoo Gongma (4670m). Continuing, we climb one more plateau just after descending from the lhatoo and descend again to a greener valley where kyang have eaten the dwarf-rhubarb that grows in the valley. The valley narrows and we'll trek around three small bends, heading to the left, walking in the riverbed to cool down if we choose. Past this last bend we spot our idyllic camp shimmering in the distance, just under the cliffs ahead and right on the pebbly flood plain. The camp gets late sun in the evening and early sun in the morning, and dunks in the river are a must ...

Day 23 - Trek Kyangdom 4530m
Today it seems as if we drop off the edge of the world as we follow the rocky bottom of the wide gorge and the sculpted hillsides in shades of tans and browns past nomad camps marked by stone circles and bleached sheep skulls. It is a wonderful, six hour 'river walk' day with wild Kyang mirroring us as we trek down-valley. We first climb up a plateau right out of camp and then drop back down to the river, either staying on the left bank or walking in the center of the valley on smooth river pebbles. It's a good day for sandals! We reach our first junction after an hour and a half of hiking and then a second in the same amount of time. The canyon seems to shut itself behind us at the large river bend to the left after nearly four hours, and just after this we might need our sandals if the river is high. There are some springs along the river if you need to fill your bottles. We have another hour until we climb on a slightly exposed trail for our first, spectacular view the turquoise Lake Tso Moriri, which stretches north from here for 26 kilometers. Below, past the sculptural twists and turns of the delta fed by the Phirse Chu and the Pare Chu, is our spectacular campsite at Kyangdom, home to groups of Ladakhi (Korzok-pa) nomads for a few months of the summer. Kyangdom, which translates as 'realm of the Kyang' (Kyang means roam in Ladakhi), actually does harbor many Kyang in the southern delta. They often stand still and shimmering in the morning sun, seeming an illusion from a far away desert land ...

There is time to explore in the afternoon; watch the migratory bar-necked geese and ruddy shellducks, spot the cormorants and black-headed gulls, photograph the still lake glimmering in the late afternoon sun, set up your camp chair in the sun and watch the world of the nomads go by. The Korzok-pa nomads often camp just across the streams from camp, and an excursion to one of their tents to buy some 'tsampa' (barley flour), 'yos' (half-popped barley) or 'chang' (barley beer) is a step back into time. At the end of the afternoon, the sheep, Pashmina goats and yaks return to the nomad camps, herded by wild-looking nomads on horseback, and later the sunset turns the lake and northern hills shades of pink and orange. The Himalayan peaks in back of camp are breathtaking ...

Day 24 - Kyangdom
As the nomads will be camped here in June, it's the perfect time of year for a rest day. Take advantage of being here to wander over to the nomad camps across the ribbons of stream and experience a dying way of life ...

Day 25 - Trek Dungri 4530m
We've not trekked the beautiful eastern route of Lake Tsomoriri for several years so thought we'd go this way once again. Leaving camp and heading southeast, we have to head back into the floodplains below us a bit to avoid the tangle of streams which feed the lake. In back of us, mirages, kyang stand guard and nomads on horseback cross the wide plains. We have about 2 1/2 hours of jumping before we reach the green plateaus of Dungri, just a bit north of Kyangdom. It's a lovely, green plateau dotted with nomad tents this time of year, so we set up camp and head out to explore! There's a small stream running in back of our grassy campsite, also a perfect setting for a wash. Climb the hill in back of camp, further east, which leads towards the restricted region of Hanle for some views.

Day 26 - Trek Mid-Lake Camp
Heading north, we pass several doksas as we hike along the eastern shores of the lake, with incredible reflections in the lake in the mornings when the lake is still. The eastern banks of the lake are much hillier than the western banks, and we have to climb and descend several hills before stopping for lunch at a wide valley. There is a new road now built leading to the Hanle region, so we'll ignore it for today and focus on the scenery instead. We'll camp somewhere mid-lake ...

Ang Chuk and the other drivers will arrive in the afternoon to meet us, and drive us back to Leh tomorrow. We'll have our tips party tonight as we won't see the horsemen again ...

Day 27 - Drive Leh
Sadly, the trek is over but today's drive is a great finish to our trek. Once in the jeeps, we'll be treated to a spectacular five hour drive through the Tsomoriri region and the Indus Valley along the Manali - Leh highway, over the Tanglang La (5332m), and along the lovely Gya Chu, a continuation of our wonderful journey. Near the green villages of Gya and Lhato the contorted cliff sides are colored vibrant hues of eggplant and brick-red, making this one of the most beautiful canyons in Ladakh. En route we pass the western Indus valley gompas, amongst them the 1000-year old Alchi, Hemis, Rizdong, Likir, Thikse and Shey. Back at the Shaynam Guest House in Leh, hot showers and a clean change of clothes await, and tandoori food and cold beers are not far away at the Ibex ...

Day 28 - Leh
We've scheduled one last day in Leh, our favorite Central Asian capital, in case of delays during the trek. We'll also have time to do some more shopping and exploring, and to wind down after our journey through the high, nomadic regions of 'old Tibet'.

Day 29 - Wednesday, 17 July - Trip Ends
Our wonderful Himalayan journey ends today, sadly. You have several options after the trip: a flight back to Delhi, an epic 'jeep safari' back to Manali or elsewhere in the Indian Himalaya, or spending more time in Leh. We're happy to assist on all fronts, but Leh flights are not included in our India treks.

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