AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Kim's Kamzang treks are also listed on the Project Himalaya website...

Another in our series of 'best-of' journeys culled from our many exploratory treks over the past few years in Ladakh and Zanskar. We consider this wild 'kora' route one of our best itineraries ever, an exciting and challenging trek through the sublime canyon lands, far-flung valleys of remote villages, green nomadic plateaus, high Himalayan passes and hidden valleys of mythical Ladakh & Zanskar. This is a river trek, so bring good sandals with you!

(A kora is a Tibetan Buddhist circumambulation, clockwise...)

Our journey begins in the nomadic region of Kharnak, where nomads live a traditional pastoral life in their yak-hair tents, herding their flocks of pashm goats, sheep and yaks. We'll camp with the nomads, drink some salt-butter tea and experience their dying way of life.We trek through a wild region where kyang (wild ass) roam the wide valleys, marmots and pikas emerge from their burrows, Himalayan hare dart about and high altitude wetland birds nest. 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.

Next, via one of our secret and idyllic nomadic valleys, we cross the challenging Morang La to reach remote Shun Shade valley. Trekking through remote canyon-lands, we spend a few days following the turquoise Tsarap Chu river, past deserted villages, staying at beautiful campsites. Once in secluded Shade, the most set-apart in Zanskar, we have an extra day to experience traditional village life before setting off on our next adventure.

Crossing high passes, fording rivers and wandering through green pasturelands in a region of high, craggy peaks, we trek towards mythical Zanskar, a fantastic route that we doubt other Westerners ever explore. Zanskar, the land of white copper, is a timeless Himalayan region tucked away between the Himalayan and Zanskar ranges, once part of an ancient trade network with Tibet. We visit our favorite villages here, high and remote with spectacular views, before heading into Ladakh, 'land of high passes'. Our journey takes us into beautiful 'bear valley' to finish the trek in Photoksar, the most photographed village in Ladakh.

The traditional villages and nomadic settlements we encounter along the way are timeless, a vision of days-past in Ladakh and Tibet, and the campsites are wonderful. There are plenty days built in for exploration, and lots of time to relax, enjoy the Himalayan break and soak in the surroundings...

Join us for this exciting journey!

Treks

Full Trek

Day 01: Arrive Leh
Day 02: Leh
Day 03: Leh
Day 04: Drive Lato
Day 05: Drive Dat
Day 06: Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa
Day 07: Trek Kyang Camp
Day 08: Trek Lungmoche (Over Yar La 4,950m)
Day 09: Trek Zabuk Barma
Day 10: Trek Canyon Camp (Over Bong La 4,670m)
Day 11: Trek Tsokmitsik (Over Marang La 5,350m)
Day 12: Trek Satak
Day 13: Trek Hormoche
Day 14: Trek Nialo Kontse La Camp (Over Nialo Kontse La 4,830m & Gotunda La 5,150m )
Day 15: Trek Shade
Day 16: Shade
Day 17: Trek Lar (Over Rotang La 4,890m & Lar La 4,690m)
Day 18: Trek Yangdam Chen
Day 19: Trek Bazza Camp (Over Pandang La 5,175m)
Day 20: Trek Tzazar Doksa Sumdo
Day 21: Trek Zangla Doksa River Camp
Day 22: Zangla Doksa River Camp
Day 23: Trek Karmafu (Over Namtse La 4,495m)
Day 24: Trek Bear Valley Camp
Day 25: Trek Nyeraks (Over Takti La 4,955m)
Day 26: Trek Yulchung
Day 27: Trek Meadow Camp (Over Singge La 4,970m)
Day 28: Trek Photoskar (Over Bumiktse La 4,430m)
Day 29: Drive Leh
Day 30: Leh
Day 31: Trip Ends

Short Trek

Day 01: Arrive Leh
Day 02: Leh
Day 03: Leh
Day 04: Drive Lato
Day 05: Drive Dat
Day 06: Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa
Day 07: Trek Kyang Camp
Day 08: Trek Lungmoche (Over Yar La 4,950m)
Day 09: Trek Zabuk Barma
Day 10: Trek Canyon Camp (Over Bong La 4,670m)
Day 11: Trek Tsokmitsik (Over Marang La 5,350m)
Day 12: Trek Satak
Day 13: Trek Hormoche
Day 14: Trek Nialo Kontse La Camp (Over Nialo Kontse La 4,830m & Gotunda La 5,150m )
Day 15: Trek Shade
Day 16: Shade
Day 17: Trek Lar (Over Rotang La 4,890m & Lar La 4,690m)
Day 18: Trek Yangdam Chen
Day 19: Trek Bazza Camp (Over Pandang La 5,175m)
Day 20: Trek Tzazar Doksa Sumdo
Day 21: Trek Zangla Doksa River Camp
Day 22: Drive Rangdum
Day 23: Drive Lamayuru
Day 24: Drive Leh
Day 25: Trip Ends

Highlights+Reviews

Trip Advisor Reviews

Client's Highlights
Outstanding trekking adventure, first class guides and personal attention - this is why Kamzang has so many repeat clients! We trekked with Kim Bannister and Lhakpa Dorje Sherpa for 22 days through remote Zanskar in Aug 2014. It was the adventure of a lifetime. Kim has many years experience and a loyal team of support staff and horsemen. Food and camping were very well organized; Kim and Lhakpa lead us through stunning scenery into remote Zanskari villages. Their detailed local knowledge and ability to speak with villagers made for a memorable rich experience. Over high passes and crossing rivers we always were in good hands. Thoroughly recommended if you really want to trek off the map.
- David R. & Kathy F (Canada), Wild Ladakh & Zanskar Trek 2014

This was the third time I've trekked with Kamzang Journeys and Kim and her crew it was lovely to be back amongst friends. Ladakh is a fabulous destination and a real step back in time to 'real' travelling. Trekking with Kim and her crew is authentic but also luxurious; a single tent as standard, the 'Festival Tent' for relaxation and meals, hot water for tea/coffee on 'tap', and great standards of cooking! No fears of food poisoning as hygiene is excellent. If you're stuck with June - September for your long Himalayan trekking Ladakh is the place to go and Kim and Kamzang Journeys are the people to go with!
- Sally L (UK), Nomads, Lakes & High Passes Trek, Wild Ladakh & Zanskar Trek + more

A bucket list must, and an expeditionary style adventure in a pristine environment. All at the good hands of Kim Bannister, the organizational wizard, and her extraordinary staff. Kim and her guide partner Lhakpa Dorji led us on an idyllic route through the remote and beautiful Ladakh & Zanskar region of northern India. My initial apprehensions, as a first time trekker, were quickly extinguished by the friendly and professional manner of the competent staff. It was the experience of a life time, certainly one that I will never forget. This trekking company deserves a "5 star rating"! You need only bring a good set of lungs, a strong pair of legs, a zest for adventure and a sense of humor. I will return!
- Tom B (USA), Ladakh & Zanskar Kora Trek 2013

Magnificent treks and highly professional! I have trekked with Kim four times, three in Ladakh in Northern India and one in Nepal. On all four occasions the treks were very well organised and run in a very professional manner. Kim's crew are all enthusiastic and are very happy to provide assistance where necessary. As trekkers you are very well looked after with individual tents and a large tent for socializing and dining. Kim and Lhakpa plan their treks so they are interesting and that they go off the beaten track and you are not walking in procession with other trekking groups, Kim is aware of the different needs and capabilities of her trekkers and her daily itineraries cater for all. On the more challenging parts of her treks Kim and her crew are always there to support. I hope to do more trekking with Kim and Kamzang Journeys and highly recommend them.
- Dennis B (Australia), Nomads, Lakes & High Passes Trek 2015, Wild Ladakh & Zanskar Trek 2013 + more

Thank you very much for a wonderful trek. I felt so very well looked after, from great food to river crossings to much needed breaks and always someone to see that we did not feel lost or alone. Your attention to detail, from the shopping expeditions both in Leh and along the way, from the variety and quality of food to making sure that everything we needed was provided and easy to access, is amazing. Also your energy and generosity of time and spirit in those extra expeditions to nomad tents, the fort etc. when many leaders would have signed off for the day.
- Leslie S (Australia), Nomads, Lakes & High Passes Trek 2012

I have done a number of treks with a variety of companies. One of these treks was to Ladakh, India with Kamzang. I found the trek’s organization and quality of food to be excellent. Equally important was Kim’s knowledge of the cultures that we trekked through, so that we, as relative outsiders, could gain some insight into their lives. However, two things stand out. Kim’s infectious enthusiasm: not just for the landscapes and cultures we passed through but for dad-to-day life on the trek. Secondly, the shared ‘mess-tent’, a haven of comfort and conversation. Very highly recommended.
- Roger E (UK), Nomads, Lakes & High Passes Trek 2011

What a trip! Thanks for all your hard work and imagination. Truly a spectacular journey and the clientele you attracted was a magnificent bonus.
- Chris R (USA), Wild Ladakh & Rupshu Trek

Wow! What an unforgettable experience you have given me. I was constantly amazed at your patience with the individual needs and concerns of the group and of the heartfelt care and connection you have with your staff and horses. You are a great leadership team and a joy to wake up to each morning! The landscape, the interactions with the villagers, nuns and monks along the way, the exhileration of the more risky bits of the trip and your smiling faces will not be forgotten. Thank you & Jullay!
- Annie K, Wild Zanskar 2010

I think about you and Lhakpa and everybody a lot; and I miss the trek, the beautiful mountains, the amazing sceneries and rich culture there. Every time when I go through my trekking photos, the memories of those great moments come back to me, speaking to me and asking me why I haven't packed my gears and signed up for my next Himalaya trip?!
 - Summer T (China), Wild Ladakh Zanskar Traverse

I have been on treks with Kim four times. All her trips are superbly well organized and smoothly run. Everything is take care of. The food is great and accommodation good. The only thing you have to do is the walking. It's a five star service and great value!
- Peter H (UK), Ladakh & Zanskar Treks + more

Client Highlights
Trekkers' Comments

Trek Highlights

  • Exotic Leh & the historic Indus Valley
  • Nomadic region of Kharnak
  • Wild Shade - Zangla Route
  • Marang La pass
  • Remote Shun Shade valley
  • Bear Valley
  • Zangla Fort
  • Canyons, river crossings & far-flung villages
  • Tibetan Buddhist gompas of the Zanskar valley
  • Challenging trekking & high passes
  • Sublime Himalayan scenery
  • Central Asian wildlife
  • Few other trekkers & our secret routes!
  • Extra days for exploration

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

2013 Trek Price
25 Days: $3580
31 Days: $3880
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 $200 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.

 

 

Itineraries

Full Itinerary

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 the Ibex or Summer Harvest, a few of our favorite restaurants.

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 is a great cultural show around sunset at Soma Gompa.

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: Spiyok, 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 Lato 4020m
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 Lato 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 - Drive Dat 4310m
Another spectacular and short day of driving as we head south, crossing the 5300 meter Tanglang La and descending through a wide, green nomadic region peppered with nomad tents. At the bottom of the long pass we turn right, heading west through the nomadic region of Zara over the 4960 meter Yar La and descend on a serious of switchbacks to the valley below. At the end of this small valley our jeeps will turn right and drive for half an hour through a wild plateau of nomads, kyang and marmots to our idyllic campsite at Dat.

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' ...

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.

Day 6 - Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa 4505m
The next few weeks are mind-bogglingly beautiful, almost always with no other trekkers in sight, and we will take time to enjoy each day as we trek through these magical valleys, visit remote nomadic settlements and explore remote Himalayan villages ...

Our trekking begins! 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' ...

Day 7 - 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 8 - 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 dieties 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 9 - 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 Kharnak and Rupshu.

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, a huge blaze ...

Day 10 - Trek Canyon Camp 4535m (over Bong La 4670m)
Today we leave Kharnak, skirting just below Rupshu, another nomadic territory of Tibetan and Ladakhi nomads, and head toward the Shun Shade valley. We trek along the clear Zara Chu on a relatively flat, grassy trail, past sparkling river intersections and nomadic doksas, sometimes having to cross the river. Have your sandals with you! We soon pass Zabuk Yogma, another green, idyllic settlement of the Kharnak nomads, followed by Yakbu. To the east, on our left as we hike down valley, the Tozay Chu leads to Pang on the Leh-Manali highway and Kharnak and is bordered by a fantastic canyon of sculpted rocks and hoodoos. Continuing to follow the flat riverbed, we cross the large doksa of Lungo in a curve in the river, a large nomadic settlement of stone houses and sheep dung, afterwards crossing the Zara Chu again. Putting our shoes back on, we hike up an easy hill, cross a small campsite and start the ascent of the Bong La. It's a fantastically scenic climb as we ascend high above the Zara Chu, which sweeps a hugs arc to the north across the valley from us. The steep peak across the river inside this curve is incredible, as is our trail as we sometimes hike on a stone trail, slightly exposed. In an hour or so we reach the first Bong La (4670m), from where we continue to contour towards a more westerly part of the pass.

After lunch on top we drop down just a bit to the wide valley bottom at the intersection to several valleys, and head straight ahead on flat ground. We've got about an hour of trekking along this wide, sandy valley; on the way look for snow leopard and blue sheep prints which we found in abundance near the watering holes in 2011. The river valley narrows as we head west, and we enter a narrow canyon, following a small stream to a blocked section which we have to climb over, dropping right down to our fantastic Canyon Camp. Our grassy camp is at the bottom of this idyllic valley at the head the narrow canyon, with a natural hole in the rock above us. Enjoy the afternoon ...

Day 11 - Trek Tsokmitsik 4100m (over Marang La 5350m)
A big pass day today, with lots to look forward to as we head for one of the most scenic viewpoints in Ladakh. You might want your sandals today depending on the water level as we cross a stream for the last few hours.

We trek for a beautiful hour or so along a small valley, jumping the small stream, during which the valley widens and becomes less green and more rocky. Look for the oyster bed fossils en route. Beginning to ascend steeply on a gravely trail after the last grassy patch, we again have to jump the river a few times before ascending towards the pass. Up and over the Marang La and into the remote Shun Shade valley! From the top of the 5350 meter pass we will be treated to views of the snow-capped Himalayan range ahead of us, and the craggy Zanskar range in back. Soon we reach the rocky Morang La High Camp (4810m) and continue to descend to the right as the valley narrows and becomes greener, cliff faces soaring above us and grazing pastures on many of the surrounding hillsides. We continue to descend into the narrowing canyon, past ancient fossil beds, dropping down to the stream, the sun shimmering on the willows hanging onto existence between the high canyon walls. Passing a small, green doksa, we'll have to jump back and forth across the small, willow-lined stream for the next half an hour as we enter the narrow section of the canyon, emerging into a soft world of willows lining the large Tsarap Chu.

The campsite is another idyllic one right on the river, and we can set up our tents river-side and jump in for a well-deserved dip! Perhaps tonight even warrants a few glasses of rum ...

Day 12 - Trek Satak 4025m
Leaving our idyllic camp, we hike along the river on the right banks, passing a wolf trap (in which we've actually found wolves) followed by several doksas. We have a small ascent on a hot plateau which we cross, and then a descend back down to the sandy river bed. After a few hours we start our ascent of the first of several scenic ridges that we have to cross to reach Satak, the Tsarap Chu below us bordered by steep cliffs. From the top of the first ridge, actually a pass which we've named the Satak La (4406m), we're treated to wonderful views in all directions. Continuing to contour, we have several more ridges to crest, each with a drop afterwards, but the trail is good, so it's not a difficult hike. The last is Satak Ridge (4375m), a flat rock protruding over the canyon, from where we start our 350 meter descent. We contour on a slightly exposed trail far above the Tsarap Chu which snakes its way between deep canyon walls below us and soon reach a flat plateau which takes 20 minutes to cross. Descending steeply, we immediately a narrow, willow-filled canyon where we side-step the grazing yaks, jump the small stream and climb briefly to our camp at Satak village.

Satak village, with ancient chortens above it, was deserted a few years ago, the inhabitants now occupying houses built for Tibetan refugees on the Leh-Manali highway. It's hard to imagine what prompted them to leave such a wonderful spot for their new haunts. The village is now a museum; the last time we camped there, we explored the small alleyways, peeked into the windows and even borrowed some salt. Many of the villagers belongings are still inside, and grass and wood for the winter is still piled on top of the roofs.

Day 13 - Trek Hormoche 3970m
A six-hour sandals day today. After ascending the small hill in back of Satak and passing the ancient chortens, we have a few hours of beautiful hiking along flat plateaus peppered with large rocks, with just a bit of exposure along the way. Soon we arrive at the deserted village of Munele, with a rocky spring and grassy pastures, after which we pass through several seasonal settlements, now abandoned. It's half an hour to the scenic, small bridge on the left banks of the river leading, we imagine, to high pasturelands. We contour around several hillsides and then descend on loose scree and sandy trails to the river below. A few minutes later we reach the large Zara Chu, which intersects the Tsarap Chu, almost doubling its size. We have to cross this river, usually easy but once in a while a challenge! Across the river is our 'Zara River Camp' where we camped in 2011 because of unusually high waters. The Zara Chu leads to the nomadic region of Rupshu.

After our river crossing we'll have 2 1/2 hour of scenic hiking ahead of us. We follow the eastern bank of the magnificent Tsarap Chu, heading northwest, on a high mesa which drops to the river below in dramatic hoodoos. We have to descend and ascend three times into eroded slide regions making the hike harder than it would seem, but the views make up for it. We'll share our trail with chortling chukkars, a partridge-like bird found around much of the Himalayan ranges. The Tsarap Chu, far below, ranges in color from a striking turquoise blue to brown depending on the volume of water pulsing though it's canyons.

Soon we spot the Hormoche 'chomo-gompa' or nunnery, now sadly unoccupied, its statues gazing blindly out on the empty assembly hall, and just afterwards the few small dwellings of Hormoche, which seems to be (have been) only a seasonal settlement. At the end of the plateau is our incredible campsite right along the turquoise Tsarap Chu, with a willow-patch on one side. Take a look down on the semi-abandoned houses across the valley (Marshun village) and absorb this sublime, expansive landscape.

Day 14 - Trek Nialo Kontse La Camp 4410m (over Nialo Kontse La 4830m & Gotunda La 5150m)
We'll be up early with a good breakfast in us for our two-pass day, by any reckoning a long and hard day of Himalayan trekking, and a fantastically beautiful and diverse one. We enter the narrow canyon on the other side of camp, jumping the small stream and start to ascend steeply on a sandy, switchbacking trail to a lone doksa, partially overgrown with high grasses. To the right as we ascend are two small opaque, turquoise lakes and below us rocks hollowed out by wind, water or heat. The next section of landscape as we climb is a bizarre moonscape, starkly beautiful, resembling the remains of a volcanic upheaval. Geologists welcome!

We climb and traverse several slightly exposed ridges to a last crest, where we have breath-taking views all around us, afterwards passing a small watering hole from where the last switchback to the pass behinds. Eventually, exhausted, we reach the top of the Gotunda La, at 5150-meters. A little bit of Tibet, and classic Ladakh and Zanskar!

From the crest of the pass we look out on our second pass, the slightly lower 4830-meter Nialo Kontse La, on the neighboring ridge. We drop, traverse to a plateau from where we can look down to the fantastic little lake, the Tso Tok, below. We then switch-back up again and reach the Nialo Kontse La. From this lower pass we have a 400-meter, easy descent through green pastureland decorated with mountain flowers to our camp at Nialo Kontse high camp. We may continue down another half hour to a camp by the intersecting stream depending on time ...

Day 15 - Trek Shade 4270m
If we've camped at the high camp we'll start the easy 350-meter ascent on a switchbacking trail of scree down to the small stream below, turning left and hiking along the crystal clear Tok Chu for half an hour. We reach a small bridge made of willow branches which we cross (carefully) and ascend briefly to a small plateau at the intersection to several valleys, a local doksa. From this lovely viewpoint we overlook the Tsarap Chu sumdo which leads to the cliff side Phuktal Gompa, two days down the valley.

We descend and continue along a willow-lined trail following the Niri Chu. We soon reach Trantrog Gompa at 4020 meters, a little-visited 750-year-old (or 30-4o-years-old?) gompa above the small hamlet of two houses, a tree and a watering hole. Perhaps there was an ancient meditation cave at the site of this gompa, which the caretaker told us was built by a lama from Phuktal. The interesting woman who holds the key might be around to show us the village treasures. There are apparently only three people living in the village and about as many houses. Still, it's certainly a scenic spot built up on a craggy hill overlooking this idyllic valley.

After following an easy trail high above the snaking, turquoise river we enter a narrower canyon and soon reach an impressive lhatoo, around 4000 meters, at the intersection of the Shade valley. The kata-covered lhatoo is dedicated to the god Cho Gyumjang, a female protectress of Shade and the neighboring villages. The peak on top of which she resides is to the left of Shade stream as we look up towards Shade. We've been lucky to happen upon local puja, performed by visiting monks from Phuktal Gompa, honoring her. From this lhatoo at the intersection of the Niri Chu and the narrow gorge leading towards isolated Shade, we follow a good trail along the stream, crossing over it once we've passed the deep gorge behind us. We'll trek up 250 meters (or an hour) to Shade village; along the way, we'll pass the villagers working in the fields, happily greeting us as we pass by.

Just before the village we'll pass through the patchwork of fields and Shade's entrance chorten, a little Shangri-La. Our campsite is just past Shade village, on the only flat area next to a stream, a spot perfectly situated for Shade is a village of 14 traditional Ladakhi houses with approximately 95 inhabitants. Three of the men are in the Indian Army, bringing a bit of extra wealth to the village. There are also five lamas/monks and one 'chomo', or nun, residing in the village, impressive for a remote village of this size. The villagers and village kids will be by in the afternoon, and Kim & Lhakpa will probably go into town to hunt for supplies. You're welcome to join and watch the sheep and goats bring brought into the closed paddocks for milking.

Day 16 - Shade
Shade, not often visited by Westerners, is one of the high points of our trek, so we've scheduled an extra day to explore the village and the open grazing valleys north of our campsite. The village is a cluster of mud-brick houses, packed closely together, with corrals for the goats and sheep, grass drying on the rooftops, small vegetable gardens and an idyllic feel to it. We'll visit some of the local houses for a glass of 'chang', the Tibetan barley beer, yogurt from the nearby doksa or some 'churpi', dried cheese. Shade is surrounded by extensive fields of barley (ne), potatoes (aloo), sag (shema) and snap peas and they also have greenhouses in which they grow radish (labo), cilantro, cabbage, cauliflower and carrots. There is a small school here which is desperately in need of supplies, so this is a good place to off-load school supplies. Some of the locals stay up in the doksas north of our campsite, sometimes returning every few days and other times staying longer. The villagers rotate grazing their flocks and protecting them from the many wolves and snow leopards in the area! Local words for some of the wildlife we might encounter: snow leopard (shen), ibex (hin), blue sheep (nabo) and wolf (shanku).

Above our campsite, past a line of chortens, a trail leads to the high pastures, a soft, open area of brick-red, mustard and green hills. The trail eventually leads to Zangla village and fort in the Zanskar valley, the spectacular route we take the day after tomorrow!

Day 17 - Trek Lar 4280m (over Rotang La 4890m & Lar La 4690m)
Leaving our Shangri-La, we head away from the village, climbing a small hill to reach an extensive collection of white-washed chortens, signs of Shade's importance as an ancient trade route. The valley on this side of Shade is colorful in shades of yellows, oranges and reds, and we contour easily up to the Rotang La (4890m) except for one steep ridge, an ascent of three hours or less. We've seen snow leopard prints in this valley so keep you eyes on the trail. From the crest of the pass we look out to the craggy peaks, deep valleys and oasis of green doksas that mark our exciting and remote route to Zangla, a route rarely taken by Westerners or locals!

The descent is gradual, past Rotang Doksa (4470m) where we might find some fresh sheep-milk yogurt. From the doksa the trail switchbacks down to Mitsik Doksa (4285m), a lovely river-side camp where we stayed during our exploratory trek in 2012. The deep, willow-lined valley to our left leads to Niri Chu, which snakes through deep canyons below us.

Jumping the river, or wading across, we climb past a large doksa on the plateau just above us and then start up the 400-meters to the Lar La (4690m), a steep grazing ridge which drops right down (again steeply) to the next valley. The valleys are now a dramatic combination of soaring cliff-walls, deep canyons and willow filled river valleys, lovely. We'll set up camp in this second valley, another grazing settlement called Lar with a small stream running down the center.

Day 18 - Trek Trek Yangdam Chen 4430m
It's going to be a fun and beautiful, river day today. We start the morning with a short climb to a ridge named the Liyu La at 4375 meters, afterwards contouring on an easy trail, gradually losing altitude until we reach Niri Chun (4285 m), a grassy grazing plateau and our campsite on the exploratory trek. Taking a minute to absorb the views and looking out for blue sheep, we descend to the banks of the Niri Chu, where we immediately cross the small, intersecting stream. The river adventures begin as we skirt across a rock-ledge just above the river on the right bank, and as the narrow canyon widens, our river crossings begin. The rivers get high in the afternoon so we've scheduled a short day to avoid crossing dangerously high waters. We almost continuously cross and re-cross the Niri Chu this morning, staying mostly at river level, so keep your sandals on all day and have your poles with you.

After about three hours we'll pass a large river valley at the large sumdo on our right that leads to the nomadic region of Kharnak that we came from earlier in the trek. We cross the river about half an hour afterwards, our last crossing of today, and continue along a flat trail to camp at Yangdam Chen, a flat, riverside doksa just ahead of us.

Day 19 - Trek Bazza Camp 4250m (cross Pandang La 5175m)
Another big pass crossing ahead of us this morning, leading into the central Zanskar valley. Zanskar translates as 'land of white copper', a once remote collection of Himalayan kingdoms cut off from the rest of the world by the Himalayan Range to the south, and the Zanskar Range to the north. We start the ascent with a climb to a grassy doksa about an hour away, followed by another switchbacking ascent up the hillside and finally an easy half hour contour to the crest of the 5175 meter Pandang La. The mountain panorama is breath-taking as usual, so we'll sit and enjoy it for a while. The trail to our left at the pass as we look ahead towards Shade leads, eventually, to Ichar. A route to explore another year ...

We've got a few hours of steep descents through green pastures, walking to the right side of the steep ravine which drops down below us. The views are still spectacular as we look over the craggy peaks ahead of us into Zanskar. Blue sheep roam the hillsides, so keep your eyes open as you walk through the green plateaus ahead, all possible campsites for small groups. After the last doksa we drop into a narrow, willow-filled valley, walk for a few minutes, cross a small stream and find our secret Bazza Camp, a stunning, green pasture by a cold and clear stream, a little piece of paradise in this remote valley. We've named this hidden spot Bazza Camp after Bazza, who celebrated his birthday here in 2012.

Day 20 - Trek Tzazar Doksa Sumdo 3825m
Heading out of the grove of willows which hides our campsite, we descend gradually for half an hour, flowers and oasis of trees softening the stark landscape. We descend steeply on a trail of loose scree and rocks which ends down at the Zumlung Chu (river) below. We have to cross the river, and make our way through the underbrush to join the trail to Zangla, not a well-used one. The route is known by villagers from Tsazar just south of Zangla, who use the valley as their summer pastures. Villagers from Shade also sometimes know this remote region ...

Our trail undulates as we negotiate the tricky valley floor, often climbing and descending to avoid sheer rocks dropping to the river or thick groves of underbrush. At the next sumdo, or river junction, at 3950 meters the trail widens and we trek through a batch of seabuckthorne bushes, probably without the tart, orange berries just yet. Note the amazing canyon on our right and the dramatic, soaring canyons in general as we hike today. The valley is full of 'dinosaur plants', willows and oyster beds, a rocky, narrow valley of large scree trails. The next two hours of hiking are easy, crossing the river many times in a magical valley which narrows as we head south, still following the shimmering Zumlung Chu. Just past Tzazar doksa we reach our camp right on the small river, warm and beautiful, surrounded by willows and seabuckthorne, but which loses the sun early.

Day 21 - Trek Zangla River Camp 3430m
Our wild route through the colorful gorges and canyons leading from remote Shun Shade valley to Zangla and Zanskar continues, again a sandals day. It should take us about five hours of relatively easy walking and many river crossings to reach Zangla River Camp. Just past the large sumdo (to the left) is a trail and valley leading to the main Jumlam route and the Charchar La. We are trekking part of the Jumlam, or 'middle road' route, an old trade route leading into Zanskar when the rivers were low enough to trek along the riverbeds. We continue to trek west along the Zumlung Chu, crossing many times in the willow-shaded valley and passing ancient fossil-beds of oysters along the way.

Finally we reach the green doksa of the Zangla people, and we walk along the irrigation ditch for a bit while ascending to the fantastic Zangla Fort. On both sides of the valley we pass ancient look-out towers, now crumbling and in ruins, attesting to the importance of the Jumlam route in trade centuries ago. Near the fort, on the left of the trail, we pass the protector deity's small lhakhang (god's house) and finally, the magnificent Zangla Fort, home to the kings of Zangla of yore. Descending on a sandy trail, looking down on central Zanskar and Zangla village, we easily reach the road and wander past the dilapidated king's house, followed ascend for 2o minutes later by the Zangla Ani Gompa (nunnery).

Below us lies the wide plain that was the once kingdom of Zangla. You really get a sense of why this remained a hidden kingdom for so many centuries, surrounded by high peaks on all sides. Past Zangla is the Himalayan barrier and the Umasi La which leads to Kashmir. The wooden beams that are the center of most Zanskari houses came from there, laboriously carried by porters. Far below, the Zanskar River curves away into the Muslim Suru valley and the Pensi La, closed for all but three months of every year and in front, behind the villages of Pidmo and Pishu, the Zanskar range cuts off approach for all but those like us, a well-equipped caravan. Welcome to mythical Zanskar!

We drop down to the river-side, trekking along the grassy embankment to our lovely riverside camp, Zangla Doksa River Camp. The grass is green, the stream warm, so go for a wash and settle in for the evening. The locals from Honya Doksa, will pass by in the evenings with their large herds of sheep, goats and donkeys, making for some classic photos of traditional life in Zanskar, and sunsets and sunrises are amazing from the tents ...

Day 22 - Zangla Doksa River Camp
Finally a rest and exploration day; options are to hang at camp and relax in this sublime setting or to hike up and explore the wonderful and historic Zanskari village of Zangla.

ZANGLA OPTION: Climbing gradually out of our campsite, we hike along the plateau past a weathered rock carved with thousand-year old Mon chortens, soon reaching Zangla Chomo Gompa (nunnery) to the northern side of the village, and then follow the village road past the King of Zangla's house, where we had tea last summer with the royal residents, including the Queen Mother. The young King of Zangla is now in his 40s, and the new house right next to the somewhat dilapidated royal residence is the house of the village carpenter! The piece de resistance of Zangla, however, is its fortress, presently being restored by an organization called 'Cosmos Room'. The ruins of the 500 year-old Zangla Fort, the old dzong (palace fortress) of the ancient Kings of Zangla, are a breathtaking site, built precariously on top of a ledge of rock at the intersection of the Zanskar River and the small river leading out to the Jumlam, or middle route. This route was an autumn trading route to avoid the high passes of Ladakh, and must have been open to invasions, thus the fort and series of lookout towers down the Jumlam valley. The dzong houses a wonderful prayer room, which we happened upon a few years ago. In 2005, over two straight weeks of continuous rain and wind literally 'melted' the dzong, and it is now quite as safe as it was previously. The famous Hungarian scholar Alexander Csoma de Koros spent a winter in the 19th century studying Tibetan in order to make a dictionary in a room in the fort, now commemorated as his room. The fort is guarded over by a giant, new stupa built in 2009, while more ancient chortens with tsatsas in the niches line the trail as we descend back to the village and eventually to camp.

ZANSKAR VALLEY GOMPA OPTION: Get a group together to hire a jeep to visit the fascinating, old gompas of Zanskar from Padum. You will have time to visit the 1000 year old Sani Gompa on the Stod River, the route out to Rangdum and the Suru Valley. From Sani, you can take the back roads to Karsha Gompa, one of the largest and most scenic in Zanskar or Ladakh, built high up into the cliffs above the village of Karsha. To return, you will pass back through Padum where you can do some email or pick up supplies at the many shops. Padum is a very Central Asian feeling village, a transit point for goods coming and going from Leh to Kargil, with a large Muslim population. There are some thousand year old pre-Tibetan Buddhist Buddha carvings just below Padum, worth a look if you're stopping in town. And pick up a plate of momos on the main drag! En route back to Stongde, make a quick stop at Pipiting Gompa on a small hill in the direction of Stongde. And that should be a full day!

Kim & Lhakpa will perhaps head to Padum to resupply ...

Day 23 - Trek Karmafu 3780m (over Namtse La 4495m)
Leaving camp, we have a one-hour walk along the Zanskar plateau and through Honya Doksa to the dramatic cut in the canyons to our right that leads to 'bear valley'. At the doksa, we ascend steeply past a wolf trap into a magical gorge of Zanskar roses and chortens high above us. After some three hours of ascending into through the narrow valley, following a small stream, with birds chirping around us and steep, green grazing pastures high above us we reach the Namtse La, a desert-like pass at 4495 meters. If the weather cooperates this is our lunch spot, a scenic one!

Descending for another few hours through a dramatic, broadening valley, with the views opening up in front of us, we trek under hoodoos backed by brilliant blue sky. Chukkars chortle and rush up the arid hillsides and grazing yaks glance up as we invade their pristine territory. Our small trail follows a willow-lined for an hour or so, and we'll often be jumping from side to side. After hiking through the tight willows we climb a small saddle topped with a barrier of sticks and see our campsite just below us. We have now entered what we call Bear Valley, and a steep trail down brings us to the clearing on a plateau that the locals call Karmafu, and into our 'lost valley' of Zanskar.

Our cliff-side campsite is fantastic in the early afternoon. Enjoy the views, go for a dip in the stream, and possibly spot some blue sheep and ibex that roam the hillsides here. The hoodoos that line the riverbank opposite camp are amazing sculptures of eroded rock and mud, that hosted a show of acrobatic blue sheep several years ago. We might build a campfire in the evening, a practice first started to keep the bears away years ago!

Note: Our only actual bear spotting was in 2003, when our group did this trek for the first time. We spotted a brown bear cub right next to us, and then across the valley what we presumed to be its parents, not looking happy that a large group of trekkers were hanging out with their offspring. The next season we only spotted frozen bear scat and no prints, but in 2005 and later on we again spotted fresh bear scat so presume that the bears are back. We hope to see them again!

Day 24 - Trek Bear Valley Camp 3980m
Our short walk today is an exciting and beautiful one, starting with crossing the small stream just outside of camp and hiking on a plateau just above the willow and seabuckthorne-filled river valley below, a few times having to ascend and descend on scree trails. At the junction of a small stream about half an hour away, a bear story. In 2005, Kim set off alone to help get camp set up, heard a loud splashing very close to her that she assumed to be a bear, and came running back to the lunch spot. Joel and the boys, ever brave, came running out with the bear spray to do battle. Be on the lookout for the prints and scat of snow leopard, fox and wolf as well as bear.

Next on the list of adventures, at the next bend in the river at a small rise over a narrow canyon, is a canyon trek on crumbling trails to the left side of the river, often high. Just past this tricky section, we again climb on stone steps and then drop down to the river, fording it to reach a high, exposed trail on the right which continues to the next bend in the river. Relieved at making it this far, we have one last exposed drop back down to the willow-lined stream, where we'll be jumping back and forth often. One more climb and we reach an ice bridge (usually) through a narrow canyon with ankle deep water for which you'll need sandals. From here it's an hour's walk through more willows, still jumping the stream, to our green camp in the midst of bear valley. Camp is surrounded by hoodoos on the left, and the stream on the right is great for a private afternoon's walk. The horses are taken up to the high pastures above the hoodoos, an interesting afternoon's excursion. The crew will light a fire tonight to keep the bears at bay (although the rumors are that the villagers of Zangla shot them after the bears raided their sheep paddocks). We've since seen tracks, happily ...

Day 25 - Trek Nyeraks 3710m (over Takti La 4960m)
We'll be up early for our steep, 1100 meter climb to the Takti La, which separates Zanskar from Ladakh. Making our way on the small, overgrown trail through the green valley of willows and flowers, crossing the stream a few times, we turn right into a narrow valley with a slate bottom and a small stream after an hour and begin our real ascent. We walk about half an hour up this valley and reach a steep, switchbacking trail through a green meadow, peppered with boulders. Soon we reach the top of the first, smaller pass (named Oh Shit La, at 4580m, after the view upon reaching this pass for the first time), from where we get our first view of the Takti La looming ominously ahead of us. Take a break and climb to the top of the rock outcropping on the right for amazing views of the Himalayan range.

We drop down to a small, glacial stream and then start a very steep, switchbacking ascent to the Takti La (4960m). By lunchtime we should be looking back across the massive valley to the Singge La and the serrated ridges that we will cross over the next few days, the Himalayan range to our south and the Zanskar range to our north. After lunch on the prayer-festooned pass, we begin our 1300 meter descent to Nyeraks. As we descend on good trail, cresting several cairn-topped ridges en route, notice the colorful glacier flower blooming on all around us. Walking along an old irrigation wall, descend steeply on switchbacking trails for a few hours. Take time to breath and look ahead of you towards lovely Nyeraks, a patchwork of greens, browns and tans far below us. We reach a grassy irrigation ditch and pass through a wire fence, passing to the left of a set of white-washed chortens and past the village threshing circles. Below us, mid-village, is our campsite, another spectacular one with great sunset views over the village, its ancient gompa and surrounding peaks. The quality of light in this part of the Himalaya is breathtaking, so be sure to have an evening stroll through the village, visit the gompa and take some shots of village life.

Kim's grandmother's daughter, Thinle Angmo, lives in Nyeraks and will be by for a visit with her adorable kids. One of the large houses near the gompa, perhaps formerly a royal dwelling, has an exquisite house-gompa inside which we can try to visit also.

Day 26 - Trek Yulchung 3900m
A fantastically scenic Himalayan day, one of my favorites as we trek between two remote villages, crossing the great Zanskar River. We descend along a winding trail, to the left of old mani walls and past a unique version of a 'lhatoo' (a shrine to the mountain deities the locals believe live on local peaks), a sculpture made from ibex horns, to the village of Nyeraks, perched on a plateau high above the Zanskar. From here it's a quick descent to the wooden, cantilevered bridge that spans the Zanskar gorge (and has definitely seen better days), from where we climb to a flat plateau and a jumble of large, river rocks and mani walls.

We start up a steep, dusty switchback, past Zanskar roses and a small spring, to the sharp top of the Chocho Khuri La at 3865 meters. We have a short descent to a plateau, and then contour around several hillsides with an increasingly deep drop into the canyon below to our right. Keep an eye out for the red fox that lives in the vicinity, and for blue sheep grazing along the hillsides. The last contour leads to a small ridge from where we finally see Yulchung across the valley, across the extensive fields of barley and vegetables. The isolated village of Yulchung, meaning 'small kingdom', is a remote, traditional village with a five-hundred year old gompa on the upper reaches of the village and another smaller 'lhakhang' perched on a precarious rock-ledge to our right, in front of the crescent-shaped village. We stay to the left and contour around the village, reaching our idyllic camp at the far end of the village half an hour later.

The staff has set up our camp behind the ancient chortens, in the threshing fields on the top edge of the village, right next to some wonderful old Ladakhi dwellings. The views from this village win Kim's vote for 'the-best-of-the-trek', and the villagers, not used to many trekkers, are welcoming and open. Tomorrow's pass is visible in the distance, as is the pass leading to 'bear valley', high up in the peaks in front of us, past the powerful Zanskar River. You begin to understand the harshness of life in such a setting, between pass and river gorge, a seemingly impossible place, with its own beautiful monastery, and even an old, sacred tree. The small village gompa is wonderful, a real relic of times past ...

We'll have many local visitors during the course of the afternoon and evening, including Kim's wonderful Zanskari grandmother Sonam Yanskit, and will hope to have a chance to visit a traditional Ladakhi house and the gompa in the afternoon. Sonam Yanskit's husband Nyawang Jigmet has a parachute teahouse on the other side of the Singge La and is often in Yulchung. One of the large houses near the gompa, perhaps formerly a royal dwelling, has an exquisite house-gompa inside which we can try to visit also.

Day 27 - Trek Meadow Camp (over Singge La 4970m)
This morning we head for the well-known Singge La, or 'lion's pass', 1000-meter climb above Yulchung. The valley heats up as we follow the small trail that leads north out of the village, ascending through pastures of wildflowers, lichen-covered rocks and grasses. The massive, ochre-colored canyon walls to our right as we ascend have been smoothed and textured by millenniums of wind and water erosion which have left strange caves throughout. We climb steeply into the dramatic canyon on slightly exposed trails, contouring along old trails lined with Zanskar rose bushes. There are often blue sheep and ibex in this region, so have cameras ready and eyes open for falling rocks.

We'll have to cross the newly-built road a few times as we switchback steeply up to the Singge La, an hour's climb from the stark high camp. After a break to hang five-colored Tibetan prayer flags on the chortens at the crest of the pass and admire the views across Ladakh and Zanskar, we descend into a green valley filled with wildflowers, first steeply, to a small parachute tent run by Nyawang Jigmet from Yulchung. Another 1 1/2 hours of gentle descent through low brush, crossing the stream on small rocks and staying on the right bank brings us to our campsite.

Singge Meadow Camp is set in a wide valley with plenty of space, lots of bird-life, many marmots, but no other trekkers in site, right on the banks of the clean but chilly stream. Grab a camp-chair, pick up a book, take a wash and enjoy the late afternoon sun (the morning sun is also late, unfortunately). We share the campsite with grazing yaks so don't be startled by grunts first think in the morning ...

Day 28 - Trek Photoksar (cross Bumiktse La 4430m)
We're trekking through the valley that is the high pasture of the Photoksar villagers, so we pass their herds of sheep, goats and yaks all day en route to Photoksar. Bring sandals, as there are two rivers to cross during the day. We descend gradually past summer doksas, and climb a small hill, descending to reach our first river crossing at a parachute tent and chorten, contouring again for an hour to reach the second crossing at a line of ancient, whitewashed Tibetan Buddhist chortens. We soon reach the Bumiktse La (4430m) with its long mani wall about three hours from camp. The deep gorge leading directly to Panjilla rises dramatically to our right as we climb. We are rewarded with great views of Photoksar and the fertile valley from the pass, as well as the Singge La valley, the Utah-like bulk of the Singge (lion) Peak and the Singge La (4970m) behind us.

As we descend, contouring, we have wonderful views of the incredibly scenic village of Photoksar, perched precariously on a hillside. If the wild flowers are in bloom it is one of the most beautiful spots in Ladakh, and certainly one of the most photographed. We cross a small stream and pass another green grazing plateau, soon afterwards dropping towards the village. Hiking on the left banks of the river above the billowing fields of ripening barley, we pass a kane (entrance) chorten and Ladakhi women with flowers tucked into their brown balaclava hats, dropping to the small bridge over the river.

Our campsite perfectly situated, with amazing views downriver to Photoksar, and the villagers, herding their flocks of sheep and goats, will stop by our campsite en route back to Photoksar with their herd of sheep and goats coming down from the high grazing hills. Take a walk along the river to the interesting village in the afternoon, well worth a bit of time, and spend the early evening watching the sun-rays filter through the village haze and the villagers heading back from the barley fields.

Day 29 - Drive Leh
Unfortunately there is now a new road from Photoksar (and further) to Leh, so we drive the rest of the way out of the Panjilla valley to Leh with Ang Chuk and friends. Leaving Photoskar, well make a quick stop at the amazing complex of a white-washed kane (entrance) chorten, a mani wall and a lama's seat. Don't miss the view of Photoskar between the chorten door. We drive up the 4820 meter Sirsir La, passing yellow poppy-like flowers, 'bee balm' (bees love this flower) or monarda from which earl grey tea is made and marmots popping their heads out of their burrows. From the pass we are treated to views of the Nigutse La valley, its impressive rock-spires in hues of ochre and tans glowing gently in the morning rays. Dropping down the pass, we cross the Spong Togpa river on a new Bailey's bridge. The valley narrows as we descend into the massive Panjilla gorge on a dramatic road cut into the cliff-side. We pass Panjilla and Wanla, with its ancient fort, and drive up the pretty valley to meet the Srinagar-Leh highway.

We'll relax in our jeeps and enjoy the spectacular four-five hour drive, a continuation of our wonderful journey. 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 30 - 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'.

++++

Short Itinerary

Day 31 - Thursday, 26 September - Trip Ends
Our wonderful Himalayan journey ends today, sadly. But we're sure you'll be back someday! 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 no flights are included in our India treks.

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 the Ibex or Summer Harvest, a few of our favorite restaurants.

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 is a great cultural show around sunset at Soma Gompa.

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 Lato 4020m
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 Lato 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 - Drive Dat 4310m
Another spectacular and short day of driving as we head south, crossing the 5300 meter Tanglang La and descending through a wide, green nomadic region peppered with nomad tents. At the bottom of the long pass we turn right, heading west through the nomadic region of Zara over the 4960 meter Yar La and descend on a serious of switchbacks to the valley below. At the end of this small valley our jeeps will turn right and drive for half an hour through a wild plateau of nomads, kyang and marmots to our idyllic campsite at Dat.

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' ...

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.

Day 6 - 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 7 - 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 8 - 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 9 - 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 10 - 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 11 - 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 12 - Trek Shemra High Camp 5100m
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 a few hours along the flood plain, jumping over and splashing through the river many times and passing a large valley leading to the high Barma La to the left side of the river. Crumbling hoodoos line the trail on either side, backed by vivid blue skies and fluffy Himalayan clouds. We reach the second large valley junction, the Shemra Chu, which leads to Shemra, a grazing settlement, and the base of the Gyama La (5830m) which we will cross tomorrow. We'll camp at a high, grassy camp site a few hours up the narrowing, stunningly beautiful valley.

Day 13 - Trek Kyagar (over Gyama La 5830m)
A big pass day ahead of us as we leave our high camp heading east and ascend on a switchbacking trail of scree to the top of the formidable Gyama La, our highest pass at 5830 meters. It should take us three or so hours to reach the top of the pass, where we're treated to a great Himalayan panorama. The green valley widens as we descend, soon reaching the Gyarmasharma Chu which we follow to the bottom of the valley. We may have a bit of snow at the upper reaches of the valley, which narrows as we near the next sumdo. We've reached familiar nomadic territory at the bottom of the valley, a wide, green and stunningly beautiful Tibetan vignette where kyang graze freely, yaks roam the plateau and pikas and marmots stick their heads out of their burrows. This valley is pure Tibet; open, grassy plateaus, wild, amazing views, big sky and nomads on horseback herding their sheep. We'll set up camp at the nomadic settlement of Kyagar, at the base of tomorrow's small pass and enjoy the rest of the afternoon in our idyllic campsite.

Day 14 - Trek Rajung Karu 4880m
We have a truly beautiful 'Changthang' day with the nomads ahead of us, a relatively easy one after yesterday. We leave the winding, crystal clear stream which snakes its way down valley from our camp and head up the the Kyamayuri La (5430 meters), an easy ascent. From the prayer flags at the top of the pass we finally get a view of the turquoise Tso Kar Lake below us, a breathtaking site backed by Himalayan peaks. The descent to camp will take us about two hours of riverside walking along the Spanglung Chu. En route we'll pass by many nomadic encampments with their Tibetan mastiffs chained to a stick in the ground, hopefully tightly. More Kyang in this green valley. Again, we follow the river to our camp at Rajung Karu although the easiest way is to stay a bit higher on the left side. The grassy riversides are home to marmot, pikas, Himalayan mice and numerous varieties of birds which build their nests in the uneven tussocks. Camp is on the right side of the river, another beautiful and green spot with good washing in the river next to us. We'll watch the daily migration of the flocks of sheep and goats heading back to camp at upper Rajung Karu in the evening ...

Day 15 - Trek Tso Kar Camp 4560m (over Horlam Kongka La 4950m)
Continuing along the right of the river on the green riverside, past several mani walls, it will take us an hour to reach the wide Horlam Kongka La (4950 meters). From the rounded top we look down onto Tso Kar Lake and several stone nomadic dwellings. We have an easy descent to the river and a small river crossing at Nuruchan, another nomadic seasonal settlement. We continue to hike along a dirt track towards Tso Kar, glimmering like an oasis in the distance. Kyang will be watching us from a distance as we trek past the stone settlement of Riyul and the wetlands surrounding the lake. Bubbles of salt are visible at the shores, which are very boggy, and shorebirds are plentiful.

Tso Kar Lake is the 'salt lake' of Rupshu, previously the site of large salt excavations by the Rupshu-pa nomads, a section of the lake given to each group each year when the salt trade between Tibet and the lower hills was thriving (after the border with China was closed in 1959). Today, Tso Kar Lake is not as salty as it previously was, and the salt trade has diminished in importance because if the introduction of iodized and subsidized Indian salt. There is a small Tibetan village to the north of the lake called Tukje with an old gompa; most of the people of Tso Kar lake are Tibet semi-nomadic people who spend the winters in their villages at the lake.

After stopping for lunch on the grass we'll continue to round the western side of the lake, either on the dirt track or right next to the lake, a bit longer. We also have the option to climb the small Kongka Seru La (4850m) and descend easily to camp that way. It will take us a few hours to reach the tented camp of Pongunagu at the northwestern corner of the lake where we camp for the night.

Day 16 - Drive Leh
Back in the jeeps, we drive back along the southern shores of Pangong Lake and after a few hours, following a branch of the large Shyog River, turn south and drive over the Chang La (5300m) to Karu, where the road intersects the Indus and the Leh-Manali highway.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 17 - 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 18 - Thursday, 8 August - 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.

Signup for our Newsletter kimkim Add me to Skype  Facebook  Blog        Kamzang Youtube  Tripadvisor Kamzang Contact Informations