++ With an optional shorter Nomads & Salt Lakes Trek + Pangong Lake Extension ++
Our cutting-edge (and NEW) trek is an adventure into the high nomadic regions of Ladakh (Indian Himalaya), the green plateaus of the idyllic Tsomoriri & Tso Kar salt-lakes. We follow the old Silk Route caravan trails over high Himalayan passes of the Changthang plateau as we trek through remote valleys, populated with Tibetan-style villages, to Pangong Lake on the border of Tibet. This is a remote region reminiscent of western Tibet, with the snow-peaks of the Ladakh, Zanskar and Pangong Ranges providing a spectacular backdrop.
Highlights are spending several days trekking along the shores of Lake Tso Moriri in Ladakh during the peak of nomadic migrations, camping next to the nomads in their yak-hair tents on the banks of this incredibly scenic 26-kilometer lake, surrounded by snow-capped peaks. And crossing a small pass to arrive at the salt lake of Tso Kar, once an important source of trade and income for the local Ladakhi villagers and nomads, now a wetlands preserve, home to a vast array of migratory birds and rare wildlife. The kiang, or wild ass, run wild in big herds through these watery realms.
Our green Ladakhi campsites are backed by the snow-capped Himalayas and the grasslands are peppered with colonies of yak-hair nomadic tents. We visit several small semi-permanent villages with ancient Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, sacred lands. We camp along the meandering rivers that feed into the lakes, an exciting entrance into the fading world of Tibetan and Ladakhi nomads. The nomadic Ladakhi population has traditionally transmigrated from the high plains of Tibet in search of nutritious grass for their livestock, salt to trade, and a market for their butter and wool, a difficult and tenuous existence. This unique way of life, sadly, is quickly dying as the nomads find an easier existence to this harsh life in the cities ...
Once past Tso Kar Lake we trek though our favorite exploratory routes of years past, camping at far-flung and idyllic Ladakh villages which hardly, if ever, see Westerners. We finish this epic trek with a few days of relaxing on the shores of sublime Pangong Lake ...
Kyang (wild donkeys) roam these wide valleys of Ladakh, guarding their territory, and red fox, blue sheep, argali, marmots, pikas and Himalayan hare. 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.
Join our wonderful journey through a piece of 'old Tibet'!
Nomads, Lakes + High Passes of the Changtang Trek
Day 1 - Meet in Leh
Day 2 - Leh
Day 3 - Leh
Day 4 - Drive Chumantang
Day 5 - Drive Korzok Phu (Tso Moriri Lake)
Day 6 - Trek Mid-Lake Camp
Day 7 - Trek Kyangdom Lake Camp
Day 8 - Trek Sunshine Camp
Day 9 - Trek Himalaya Camp
Day 10 - Trek Zozogong
Day 11 - Trek Gyama La High Camp (cross Zozo Doksa La 5130m)
Day 12 - Trek Kyagar (cross Gyama La 5840m)
Day 13 - Trek Nuru Chang (cross Kyamayuru La 5430m & Horlam Kongka La 4950m)
Day 14 - Trek Thukje (Tso Kar Lake)
Day 15 - Thukje
Day 16 - Trek Thratsang Kyang Camp
Day 17 - Trek Gyungaro Sumdo Camp | Teri Valley Camp (cross Thratsang La 5140m)
Day 18 - Trek Teri Phu
Day 19 - Trek Kyungyam Phu (Roang)
Day 20 - Trek Gun La Doksa High Camp
Day 21 - Trek Gun La River Camp (cross Gun La 5680m)
Day 22 - Kherampulu Festival
Day 23 - Trek Kherampulu
Day 24 - Drive Pangong Lake (Camp Man village)
Day 25 - Pangong Lake (Daytrip Merak village)
Day 26 - Drive Leh
Day 27 - Leh
Day 28 - Trip Ends
Short Nomads + Lakes Trek
Day 1 - Meet in Leh
Day 2 - Leh
Day 3 - Leh
Day 4 - Drive Chumantang
Day 5 - Drive Korzok Phu
Day 6 - Trek Mid-Lake Camp (Tso Moriri Lake)
Day 7 - Trek Kyangdom Lake Camp
Day 8 - Trek Sunshine Camp
Day 9 - Trek Himalaya Camp
Day 10 - Trek Zozogong
Day 11 - Trek Gyama La High Camp (cross Zozo Doksa La 5130m)
Day 12 - Trek Kyagar (cross Gyama La 5840m)
Day 13 - Trek Nuru Chang (cross Kyamayuru La 5430m & Horlam Kongka La 4950m)
Day 14 - Trek Thukje (Tso Kar Lake)
Day 15 - Drive Leh
Day 16 - Trip Ends
Pangong Lake Extension
Drive directly to Pangong Lake from Terido and return to Leh a few days later for this wonderful extension!
Day 15 - Drive Pangong Lake (cross Chang La). Tented Camp at Man 4260m
Day 16 - Pangong Lake. Daytrip Merak
Day 17 - Drive Leh (cross Chang La)
Day 18 - Leh | Optional Rafting or Indus Sightseeing
Day 19 - Trip Ends
Our Ladakh + Zanskar trips start and finish in Leh, Ladakh. There are daily flights Delhi - Leh - Delhi. If you have successive international flights that are not all part of the same ticket or following domestic flights we suggest planning more cautiously and leaving an extra day in Leh after the trip. We'd love to help arrange excursions to Srinagar, Pangong Lake or sightseeing in the Indus Valley if you have extra time!
Trip Advisor Reviews
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
Read More Testimonials
- Exotic Leh & the historic Indus Valley
- Wild & remote route to Pangong Lake
- Tso Kar & Tso Moriri Lake regions
- The nomads of Korzok & Rupshu
- Far-flung & idyllic Ladakhi villages
- Yaks, pashmina goats & 'gurs' Trans-Himalayan snow-peaks & high passes
- The green Tibetan Changtang plateau
- Beautiful campsites in remote locations
- Central Asian wildlife
- Challenging trekking
- Few other trekkers & our unique routes
Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography
Kashmir + Srinagar Photos
Kim Bannister Photography
Himalayan Wildlife Photos
Himalayan Flowers Photos
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
India: Extreme Biking in Beautiful Ladakh - The Telegraph UK
The Grey Ghosts of the Mountains - Vimeo
Kashmir, the Inheritance of Loss - New York Times
11 July - 6 Aug (Nomads to Pangong Lake Trek)
11 - 26 July (Nomads to Tso Kar Lake Trek)
2015 Trek Price
$3880 (Nomads to Pangong Lake Trek)
$2880 (Nomads to Tso Kar Lake Trek)
+ Flights NOT included (meet in Leh)
+ Hotel Single Supplement - $100-$200
- Airport transfers
- Hotels in Leh
- Group transportation by private vehicle
- Kamzang-Style Trekking:
Marmot or Big Agnes tents (2x, or 3x for couples), delicious & copious 'gourmet' food with seasonal, fresh produce, French-press coffee, chai, Kashmiri & herbal teas, Katadyn filtered drinking water, warm washing water, library, 'lounge' with dhurri rugs, Crazy Creek camp chairs, blankets & the occasional music at night, oxygen & PAC bag (when needed), full medical kit, our caravan of horses, Western, Sherpa & local guides (when needed), our 5-star staff & the signature yellow 'Kamzang Dining Tent', NO single supplement for single tents. And flexibility ...
Safety & Health Precautions
- Thuraya satellite phone (when allowed)
- InReach satellite messaging system (when allowed)
- Updated route published on InReach site (when allowed)
- Helicopter evacuation services (when allowed)
- Oxygen saturation monitoring system
- PAC bag (portable oxygen chamber)
- Full medical kit & stretcher
- Kayadyn filtered water
- Safe, sanitary, delicious & plentiful food and drinks
- Domestic & international flights
- Indian visa
- Meals in Leh (while not on trek)
- Travel or travel health insurance
- Equipment rental
- Alcohol & bottled drinks
- Gompa (monastery) donations
- Tipping & 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.
Kamzang Journeys Contact
Kim Mobile: +(91) 9419 981715
Lhakpa Mobile: +(91) 9419 977569
Delhi Airport Transfers & Sightseeing | Dhruv Travels
Contacts: Prince & Rajesh
Office: +(91 11) 6536 8764
Prince mobile: +(91) 98104 85897
Rajesh mobile: +(91) 98993 73886
Srinagar & Kashmir Contact
Mehraj Deen (GM & Ladakh Operations)
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
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361
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
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)
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.
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
Single Supplement - $175
Extra Nights - Single $65, Double $75, Suite $115
Breakfast - Included
We're happy to book other hotels of your choice for you. Some recommended hotels below.
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
India Health Information
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!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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).
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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 ...
'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 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!
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)
- 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
- 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!
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.
Everyone gets their own Northface Dome tent (3 person, huge) without a single supplement. Couples share the same sized tent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 guesthouse, let alone the Leh Fort, will make you breathless for the first day or two. 250 mg of Diamox twice a day is a good way to help your body acclimatize naturally. We recommend starting the day before you fly up to Leh.
We stay at the family-run Shaynam Hotel, more of a family-run guesthouse 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, Chopsticks, Penguin or Summer Harvest, a few of our favorite restaurants.
Days 2, 3 - Leh
We've scheduled two more 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 15th 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. Today, the Main Bazaar is a colorful street, the sidewalks crammed mornings and afternoons with Ladakhi women selling their fresh fruits and vegetables, and locals at the far end vending their dried nuts, apricots and apples.
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 the crumbling but majestic Leh Fort (3680 meters) and the red, Maitreiya Tsemo Gompa, perched high on a craggy and crumbling hilltop overlooking the bazaars of old Leh. You can stop at 16th century nine-story Leh Palace, of a similar architectural design to the Tibetan Potala Palace, on the way down if you have the energy. Visit the museum, a worthwhile endeavor, as well as the nearby gompas (Tibetan Buddhist monasteries) - Soma Gompa, Chamba Lakhang and Chensrig Lakhang.
We might wander the willow-lines streets of Changspa to reach the many steps leading to the Japanese-built Shanti Stupa for a view over the green fields and white-washed Ladakhi houses of the villages surrounding Leh. The precariously perched Leh Fort guards the eastern edges of the fertile valley. Sankar Gompa (17th - 18th century), reached through shady lanes to the east of Changspa, lies in the midst of Chubi's groves of poplar and willow and is another wonderful morning or afternoon walk. The back route to Leh Fort starts in Chubi and passes through a desert-like Buddhist cremation ground before climbing to the fortress.
OPTIONAL GOMPA TRIP: Arrange (through Kim, our Tibetan jeep-driver Wang Chuk or the Shaynam Hotel) a 'jeep safari' through the fertile Indus Valley to visit a few of the living Tibetan Buddhist gompas, the crumbling ruins of ancient fortresses and palaces and the traditional villages that dot the banks of the region, the 'cradle of civilization' of much of the ancient world. Kim can help arrange jeeps and/or a guide for a day's excursion.
To the East: Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho & Stok.
To the West: 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 $40.
Day 4 - Drive Chumantang 4000m
Mid-morning we’ll jump into our jeeps and head for the start of the trek at our acclimatization destination, the green fields below Mahe Gompa. 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, with a large monastic community, on the left. The renown Hemis Gompa is built high up on a hillside to our right, across the Indus.
Soon after the turnoff to Manali, we continue along the Indus highway and camp near Chumantang and it's small hotsprings for the night. We'll have chai waiting, introduce you to our Kamzang dining tent and your personal Marmot Thor tents, visit the monastery and go for a wander through the village. (6 hrs drive)
Day 5 - Drive Korzok (4550m). Trek Korzok Phu 4640m
Another few hours of scenic driving as we head south at Mahe bridge, cross an 4800 meter pass with views down to our first salt-lake, Thadsang Karu Kyagar Tso, and continue along the small road towards lake Tso Moriri. Once at the protected wetlands section at the top of the lake we take the western route to Korzok and on to the nomadic settlement of Korzok Phu to reach our camp in the midst of the nomadic tents.
We will stop at Korzok, one of the highest villages in the world, to visit the recently renovated 300-year-old Korzok Gompa. There are often 'mani' pujas happening when we're in Korzok, so if we're lucky we'll have a chance to sit in on all the villagers and nomads counting their prayer beads in this ancient monastery. In the afternoon, there is an option to walk up the eastern hilltop for another great view of the lake. We can walk the rest of the 45 minutes along a gurgling stream and through the green nomadic plateau to our campsite at Korzok Phu if we want ...
We'll enjoy the majority of the day in this bustling, colorful nomadic settlement where our Tibetan horseman Sherap has relatives. Nomadic boys cruise by on their donkeys if they're not in school, children and local Ladakhi nomads stop by camp to watch the happenings, donkeys roam the green campsite, and the hundreds of sheep and goats are herded back to their paddocks in the evening. Kim will lead the shopping expedition, jumping from one dry green tussock to another, to several nomad tents in search of yak-hair blankets, yogurt and a cup of barley beer or salt butter tea. (3 hrs drive, 45 min trek)
Day 6 - Trek Mid-Lake Camp (Tso Moriri Lake) 4530m
We have two options to get to our campsite right on Lake Tsomoriri. The first is to walk back to Korzok, following a lovely, well-used trail and a meandering stream on the left of the valley and continue up to the Korzok viewpoint (4490m) half an hour away. From here we'll be treated to magnificent views of Korzok Gompa, the lake, the mountains and the surrounding village and green barley fields. The second is to climb a small pass at the eastern-most point of the nomadic settlements, stop for a great view of the lake, and then trek down just below this Korzok viewpoint.
Descending on a sandy trail, we pass a section of small cliffs with offerings of white rocks on our right, followed by an incredibly reflective section of the lakeside, bordered with flat multi-hued slate and mica. Don't miss a photo of the snow-peaks to the east reflected in the calm lake with the rocks in front. Continuing past a section of many long mani walls, we soon reach our sandy campsite right on the beach of the lake, a little piece of paradise! (2 1/2 hrs)
Day 7 - Trek Kyangdom Lake Camp 4530m
Another idyllic day of lake-side trekking, a wonderful day of walking through a unique Himalayan landscape, the high salt lakes of the Changthang.
Leaving our beach camp we soon jump two glacial run-off streams which emerge from green valleys on our right and continue with more scenic walking past rounded, granite rocks on the bank of the lake. After two hours of hiking we and climb quite steeply through a granite bounder-strewn hillside for dramatic views up and down the lake. The clouds and snow-peaks to the west are mirrored in the lake, and sandy beaches line much of the lake on both sides. Descending, we pass a small mani wall and continue along the lakeside on a rocky, sandy trail which gets hot mid-day. As we trek, contouring around the many circular bays that line the lake, notice the smooth, flat rocks reflecting in the river, watch the geese as they float on the lake with their young and gaze up and over the snow-called peaks to the east.
We pass the remnants of the early summer nomadic settlements as we near camp, jumping the rivulets as we head to the opposite bank of the lake (you'll need your sandals or to go barefoot leaving camp). Finally we arrive at Kyangdom, one of Ladakh's most perfect settings at the end of Tsomoriri Lake, with the Himalayas in the background and the lake just in front of us. Our campsite is home to groups of Ladakhi (Korzok-pa) nomads for a few months of the summer. Kyangdom, which translates as 'realm of the kiang' (kiang means roam in Ladakhi), actually does harbor many kiang in the southern delta. They often stand still and shimmering in the morning sun, seeming an illusion from a far away desert land ...
There is time to explore in the afternoon; watch the migratory bar-necked geese and ruddy shellducks, spot the cormorants and black-headed gulls, photograph the still lake glimmering in the late afternoon sun, set up your camp chair in the sun and watch the world of the nomads go by if we happen to arrive when they are still clamped there. The Korzok-pa nomads often camp just across the streams from camp, and an excursion to one of their tents to buy some 'tsampa' (barley flour), 'yos' (half-popped barley) or 'chang' (barley beer) is a step back into time. At the end of the afternoon, the sheep, Pashmina goats and yaks return to the nomad camps, herded by wild-looking nomads on horseback, and later the sunset turns the lake and northern hills shades of pink and orange. The Himalayan peaks in back of camp are breathtaking. For the very energetic, climb up the hill to the west of camp to look down from the lake from a different viewpoint, worthwhile! (5 hrs)
Day 8 - Trek Sunshine Camp 4670m
Leaving idyllic Kyangdom, we have to jump over or wade through the ribbons of streams that separate our campsite from the shore, afterwards climbing gradually for half an hour to an amazing viewpoint over the turquoise Lake Tso Moriri, which stretches north from here for 26 kilometers. Below us, past the sculptural twists and turns of the delta fed by the Phirse Chu and the Pare Chu, is our spectacular campsite at Kyangdom and lone kiang, often standing still and shimmering in the morning sun, seeming an illusion from a far away desert land ...
Descending to the intersecting river valley, the rest of the day is a wonderful river walk on smooth river pebbles as we follow the river valley of the wide gorge, the sculpted hillsides in shades of tans and browns. As we trek we pass nomad camps marked by stone circles and bleached sheep skulls. The canyon narrows and then opens as we hike, passing several river junctions to our left, and we might need our sandals if the river is high. There are some springs along the river if you need to fill your bottles.
We'll pass our Pebble Beach Camp and continue on another hour to Sunshine Camp, the valley narrowing as we hike right along the riverbed. Just after this are several bluffs which are easily climbed and descended, and Sunshine Camp is tucked away next to an eroded cliff and often visited by somewhat wild kiang! The spring water at camp is clear and cold, a perfect bathing spot after a hot day of trekking. (5 1/2 hrs)
Day 9 - Trek Himalaya Camp 4750m
Climbing the ridge just above camp, we reach at the interesting, prayer-flag festooned Lhatoo Gongma (4670m) where local Korzok-pa have their yearly pujas. After descending from the lhatoo, we climb several more plateaus and descend again to a greener valley where kyang have eaten the dwarf-rhubarb that grows in the valley. The large, rounded granite boulders and chunks of crystallized quartz of the second valley indicate that the landscape is changing. After jumping two streams and passing by several inviting valleys to our right, we ascend just a bit as we approach the dung-covered Mani Chen doksa, recently vacated.
From here we climb the very short, steep and dusty trail to the barely noticeable Mani Chen La (4795m). Climb to the top of the left hill for even more expansive views of the intersection of two large valleys. Perhaps we'll see roaming kyang below; they seem to love this wide river intersection, and we often bring sandals with us to run after them through the small streams of the flood plain.
From the pass it's only half an hour of easy descending on well-trodden trails to the grassy riverbed, following the pebbly, clear Zozogong (or Zoguang) Chu (river), which reflects the Himalayas in the calm of the afternoon, and soon we reach our scenic stopping point, Himalaya Camp which we named after the incredible sunset views of the Himalayan range to the south. The river is wam, so have a wash and enjoy the afternoon. We may have nomadic visitors from the doksas just north of us (see tomorrow's itinerary) as they bring their flocks back to their doksa for the evening.
In 2013 we sat in the dining tent as the earth shook, the epicenter of an earthquake right at our camp! (6 hrs)
Day 10 - Trek Zozogong 4940m
It's another wonderful day of trekking as we head north along the Zozogong Chu, passing grazing valleys and nomad encampments. We often meet nomads still camped here, or are lucky enough to watch their trans-migration with their caravans of yaks, sheep, goats and small children enjoying the festive atmosphere. Kim bought a wonderful blanket from these nomads years ago so its worth a look around as we pass the nomadic tented camps.
We continue along the river, which soon become flood plains, past more small doskas. More kiang appear as our own horse caravan catches up with us; we often first spot the 'alpha' male keeping watch for the herd of younger males and females, snorting and pawing as we approach, and then gathering the whole herd together and kicking up a trail of dust as they bolt by us, close by. The plain becomes soft and marshy as the river runs below it and flowers bloom abundantly, and we might also see Himalayan hare, pikas, voles and marmot, and there are many of high-altitude birds en route.
Dropping off the last grassy knoll to the pebbly flood plain (jumping the river as we do so), we soon pass 'Kiang Alley' on our left and continue hiking straight ahead with the snow-capped Himalayan range behind us. The heat intensifies as we hike up valley, so be sure to have a sun hat and plenty of water with you.
Finally, about 2 1/12 hours after jumping the river, we reach yet another perfect, green campsite at Zozogong, a beautiful spot with the snow-capped Himalayas to the south of Lake Tso Moriri behind. Years ago at Zozogong we woke up surrounded by snow after an evening of Kyang spooking our horses the night before. There is sometimes a group of Korzok-pa nomads camped here, so we may have company (in addition to the pika sticking their heads curiously out of their holes). Views are great, camp is grassy and there is plenty of (cold) water for washing. (6 hrs)
Day 11 - Trek Gyama La High Camp 5110m (cross Zozo Doksa La 5130m & Shemra La 5000m)
Up valley straight ahead of us is the Thelekang La, the 5025 meter pass just above our camp. Instead of taking this pass we have a more exciting route which we discovered recently on an exploratory trek. We head directly east up the valley just to the right of camp, hike up the middle of the green valley where yaks graze, sending them running, and after half an hour start our relatively easy ascent to the Zozo Doksa La at 5130 meters. After a few photos at the rather uneventful top of the pass we start a series of several contours down, around and up valleys, eventually reaching the lower Shemra La at 5000 meters. From this rounded pass we gaze down towards one of our other remote routes from Rupshu, a Tibetan nomadic region. One last gradual descent and we round the corner to Shemra Doksa, a local grazing settlement of the Korzok-pa at 4960 meters. We have often passed large herds of their horses and yaks grazing in this beautiful and remote valley. We now follow the clear Shemra Chu up a remote, stunningly beautiful grazing valley for a bit less than an hour to our camp at Gyama La High Camp, another high doksa at the base of the Gyama La (5830m), which we cross tomorrow. Camp is high and chilly, a green spot of tussocks, rounded granite and a bracingly cold river. (5 1/2 hrs)
Day 12 - Trek Kyagar 5325m (cross Gyama La 5840m)
We have a big pass day ahead of us as we leave our high camp heading east and ascend on a switch backing trail of scree to the top of the formidable Gyama La, our highest pass at 5840 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 kiang 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 nomadic campsite.
Day 13 - Trek Nuru Chang 4690m (cross Kyamayuru La 5430m & Horlam Kongka La 4950m)
Trekking across the wide open 'Tibetan' plateau for half an hour, with marmots and pikas popping their heads out of their holes, we hike through herd of wild-looking yaks and dri (female yaks) with their young frolicking by their sides, we reach the approach to our morning pass. It's a relatively easy and straight forward ascent to the prayer-flag festooned Kyamayuri La (5430 meters) from where we are treated to a breathtaking view of the turquoise Tso Kar Lake below, a spectacular site backed by Himalayan peaks.
The descent to end end of the Rajung Karu valley (4870m at the end) will take us about two hours of mostly green, 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, and possibly more kiang. We follow the river to our sometimes 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.
Just past two ancient mani walls we begin our short and steady ascent to the Kyamayuru La (5430 meters), a rounded pass decorated with mani stones and a cairn festooned with Tibetan prayer flags and bleached blue sheep skulls. More views of salty Tso Kar Lake below us, with its smaller sister lake Startsabuk Tso and several semi-permanent nomadic dwellings, shimmering in the harsh Ladakhi sunlight.
We descend on a long, wide trail for a good hour and then veer off the trail to the right, soon afterwards looking out at the ruins of seasonal Nuru Chang to the left of the river. The river makes an S turn and we finally see our campsite ahead, a mirage of yellow and orange in the afternoon sun. Climb the craggy rock to the right of camp for great afternoon views, and enjoy a bit of washing by the river. (6 hrs)
Day 14 - Trek Thukje (Tso Kar Lake) 4560m
Today is one of the Indian Himalaya's most unique and sublimely beautiful trekking days through the salty marshes and salt flats of Tso Kar Lake. Leaving camp we trek along the right side of the small river to just past the first set of prayer flags, where we cross the river and follow it on the opposite side as it loops to the right. (Another option is to climb the ridge to our right as we near the prayer flags). To our right looms a large, ancient chorten and the small doksa of Chushok, perched on a small hillside across the river as it makes a large S turn to the south and in the distace south of us are Phuk and Lanakmo doksas.
We have another hour and a half of hiking on a jeep road along the flat plateau, past the bird watching tower, trekking right in the middle of this wonderful, grassy (and often boggy) plateau, with the curious kiang taking a circular route around us, often spooking the horses, and the lake glimmering like an oasis in the distance. Finally we reach a swampy section and a small, metal bridge which spans the isthmus between the two lakes.
We continue to trek along the right side of the Tso Kar Lake along a salty, crusted and baked plateau next to more boggy grasslands. Bird life abounds in this wetlands, especially long-legged wading birds and rare migratory cranes. We can walk right along the shores of the lake, where bubbles and slabs of salt have been pushed up onto the white shores. En route we will probably encounter more herds of wild kiang marking their territory by racing in front of us, kicking up dust and performing incredible maneuvers. National Geographic material.
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. After a long day, we finally reach our beautiful camp at the semi-permanent village of Thugje along the green, wet northern reaches of the lake. There is a new gompa being built next to the old one above our camp, a wonderful vantage point to look down on this magical world of lakes and salt. And there are several tented tea-shops where you can pick up a beer or coke.
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. Most of the people of Tso Kar lake are Tibet semi-nomadic people who spend the winters in their villages at the lake. (6-7 hrs)
Day 15 - Thukje
An extra day to relax in the yellow tent, head out for some bird watching, do some laundry in the warm streams or head up to the monastery for beautiful views of the lake.
Day 16 - Trek Thratsang Kyang Camp 4730m
The next 10 days are wild days of trekking through of some of the most stunningly beautiful nomadic and valley regions in Ladakh, with one of Ladakh's most beautiful and least visited villages en route. Have sandals with you every day in general ...
Our first day is a short one, heding north as we leave camp at Thukje and hiking along a dirt roas past the old chortens. We continue to walk along this flat dirt road for an hour or so, crossing the road leading to the Manali-Leh highway as we trek north along a wide-open plateau. Kiang populate this region, scaring our horses with their loads in all directions in 2013. It's a straight (and straight forward) walk to the opening of the valley to the west of the plateau, past several now-deserted doksas, where we set up camp in a pretty green spot with a small stream and wild, purple and white geraniums. After lunch, wander up the valley in search of kiang and their young, and continue up the western valley if you want a longer walk (we go the eastern route tomorrow). (3 hrs)
Day 17 - Trek Gyungaro Sumdo Camp 4735m or Teri Valley Camp 4490 (over Thratsang La 5170m)
A beautiful day today as we head out of camp to the north, soon passing a seasonal doksa from where we take the eastern valley, staying on the left of the small stream as we ascend quite easily to the flat-topped Thratsang La. There are often blue sheep and argali in this valley, as well as herds of grazing yaks which belong to the nomads of the south and villagers of the north. From the pass, almost not noticeable and dotted with clumps of 'seat-moss' we have a broad view or the high peaks surrounding us. We descend a bit more steeply, and the valley narrows as we trek closer to the small river and head into the Tisaling-Teri valley. We'll have lunch right by the stream, and then have only a short walk to reach our idyllic camp right at the intersection (sumdo) of this stream and the Teri Chu. Tisaling is a doksa just up the intersecting valley to the east, and we might see villagers from Teri, who also stay at Tisaling, passing by with their donkeys or grazing sheep. (4 1/2 hrs)
We may head another hour down the valley and camp at an equally perfect and green campsite at Teri Valley Camp. (+ 1 1/2 hrs)
Day 18 - Trek Teri Phu 4235m
One of Ladakh's most beautiful and interesting trekking days today as we head towards Teri village, one of the most idyllic that we've discovered in Ladakh, and equally unvisited by westerners. We take a sharp right out of camp, following the Teri Phu for the entire day, mostly right on the banks of this beautiful river. We start the day, however, by hiking up to a small pass with a stone cairn just 50 meters above camp, and then descend steeply back to the river. Continuing downriver, we pass several green plateaus with lichen-covered river rocks, perfect for camping (which in fact we may have done). There are 1 or 2 river jumps en route, probably do-able without sandals (but have them in case), after which we pass stunning fluted canyons and a large cave (inhabited once?) on our left. Teri doksa is often bustling with villagers tending to their crops or animals, and soon afterwards we're treated to the majestic site of Teri Gompa (4340m), an important pilgrimage site for Ladakhis. The Drukpa gompa is said to be 700-years old, and the ancient interior is worth a visit, as is noticing the 'rangjung', or self-emanating, chorten.
Twenty minutes later we reach one of Ladakh's most scenic villages, Teri, surrounded by vivid green barley and pea fields, with several irrigation ditches, large, white-washed and tri-colored chortens, willows and an active school in the upper reaches of the village. Camp is at Teri Phu (grazing area), just 20 minutes past the far end of the village, heading past the large chortens and mani wall. Take the afternoon to relax with a book, watch the grazing cows and meet the villagers who will drop by the campsite. (5 hrs)
Day 19 - Trek Kyungyam Phu (Roang) 4310m
Welcome to the Changthang, although it doesn't seem like it yet. It's an interesting and diverse day of trekking starting with 1 1/2 hours down through the remainder of Teri Phu on a good trail, through beautiful, weathered red canyons, valleys of Zanskari wild rose bushes, languid willows and other trees. We pass through the small nomadic settlement of Kiamchumikchan (chumik means 'spring' in Ladakhi) and continue on through a 'river world', stunningly beautiful. The valley is green as we follow good grazing land through the narrow valley, reaching the Indus (and the road across it) at Tirido. We'll have to cross the river to reach Tirido village (3730m) and the road, but we imagine there is a bridge this year. It may still be a scramble down to the road where we cross the Indus at Tirido on a footbridge.
One on the Indus highway, connecting Tso Moriri and Chumur with Leh and further on, Manali, we have to hike 3 1/2 kilometers along the nearly traffic free road until we reach Kyungyamdo (3730m). We'll stop at the small shop and pick up cold drinks as it's probably a hot walk, and then start on the uphill trail just behind the shop. The landscape changes, a valley peppered with rounded granite boulders; soon we cross the river to a partially built road and have a hot but beautiful walk heading uphill. There are some willow-shaded and grassy spots where we'll stop for a swim and/or lunch en route, and a few small settlements which the villagers say are all called Kyungyam (although the map calls them Thanka (on the right) followed by Kiamlun and Kardang on the left).
About 2 hours into the hot walk we reach the real settlement of Kyungyam, marked by a Kyungyam Gompa (4140m) and a large village which extends for another 150 meters uphill. We have to go cross-country from here as the road ends, and walk on a grassy path past a new chorten to our green campsite at the farthest reaches of town which is also called Roang, part of the India Changthang. (7 hrs)
Day 20 - Trek Gun La Doksa High Camp 4975m
Leaving camp, we trek past a few scattered houses, accessed by rickety wooden bridges, and continue up the rocky valley, becoming more glacial as we ascend. The uphill is gradual and pretty, and we can either follow a road which was started before (and abandoned because of a landslide) or the winding trail. Rock-hopping across the river to the west mid-morning, we continue to follow the Kyungyam Chu northeast. The valley widens as we ascend gradually for another hour or more, again crossing the Kyungyam Chu at about 5000 meters, just after it intersects a stream from the right of the valley. We pass a small doksa marked with a prayer flag and cairn which we've called Roang Doksa Sumdo (4570m) and then another which we named Roang Doksa Lhatoo (4770m) with a large lhatoo (shrine to mountain deities) festooned with prayer flags, worth a stop. Soon after this stop we have several contours, a few hills, a small stream crossing on a bridge and one last small climb to reach our idyllic, green high camp at a large doksa. Wild(ish) horses abound, a truly remote site. Go for a short walk following the stream and explore, it's wonderful. (5 hrs)
Day 21 - Trek Gun La River Camp 5190m (over Gun La 5675m)
A beautiful pass day, starting the morning with a climb up the lateral moraine to the west and across the slightly boggy, green plateau, valleys intersecting the Kyungyam River valley from all directions. We reach the prayer flags 120 meters above camp and stop for a look and a few photos, continuing to ascend for the rest of the morning, passing curious marmots sticking their heads out of their holes. The pitch steepens just as we veer slightly left just past a large sumdo on the left. We'll jump the river on stones, and continue through a landscape of boggy, lichen-covered granite rocks, passing a small, opaque blue lake. After another few small ridges, we spot a small tarn just below a snowpeak, and the pass is to the left of this (there are actually a few routes, we think). We think the peak to the right of the pass is Largab (6190m).
It's a relatively easy ascent on flat shale to the pass, marked again with a large cairn; and what a view from the top of the Gun La, at 5680 meters. As well it should be as we've crossed the Ladakh Range!
The descent is VERY steep, a switchback on weatherworn shale for 200 meters which leads to a wide, flat and green plateau where we'll stop for a much-needed lunch by a meandering stream. Another 1 1/2 hours of easy downhill on tussocky grass following the lovely river leads us to yet another breathtakingly beautiful campside just around one last bend. (7-7 1/2 hrs)
Day 22 - Trek Kherampulu 4435m
Another beautiful day of remote trekking, starting with the descent of the Tamar valley, passing Tamar Doksa Lhatoo and Tamar Sumdo Cairn, which affords us wonderful views up the Harong valley. We've finally reached the Pangong Range (or close to it) which blocks our view of Pangong Lake behind it. We camp just beyond Kherampulu in a small campsite near the river (and road) in the Harong valley.
As our horsemen are heading in a different direction tomorrow, we'll have the tips ceremony tonight and share a few bottles of rum with the crew. Ang Chuk and our drivers will meet us here today and drive us to Pangong Lake tomorrow. (6 hrs)
Day 23 - Drive Pangong Lake. Camp Man 4260m
Trekking finished, we jump into our jeeps for our 'jeep safari' to Pangong Lake, following the Harong Chu, passing lovely Chidbra driving along a blacktopped road which was once an ancient trade route that went from Leh to Rudok and the on to Lhasa in Tibet. The sky is wide and blue above us as we pass Chilam (4070m), where we camped in 2012, and 7 more kilometers to the larger town of Tangse, from where we head east along the Pangong Highway and have to drive another 30+ kilometers, over the small Yakmil La (4300m), to Man. The first village at the western end of the village is the touristy Lukung. From here, we drive along the southern shores of the lake (the northern shores are restricted) followed by Spangmik, full of tented camps and parachute tents. Man is blissfully separated from the tourism at Pangong, and we set up at a perfect campsite at much more remote Man village, right on the lake. Enjoy an afternoon by the lake, walking, swimming, skipping stones, exploring the village and just relaxing and gazing out at Tibet across the lake.
Pangong is 6-7 kilometers wide at its broadest point. In 1634 at the Treaty of Tingmosgum the boundary between Ladakh under Singge Namgyal and Guge under Nyima-gon was fixed where it stands today. North of the lake across the Changchmno Range is Tibet: the Lingzithang and Askai Chin. Locals told us that in the winter they cross the frozen lake to reach their winter settlement on the opposite side! (4 hrs drive)
Day 24 - Man (Pangong Lake). Daytrip Merak
We have a wonderful day scheduled, a drive along the western banks of Pangong Lake to visit the remote, beautifully-situated village of Merak. There is a gompa to visit in town, and time to walk back (about 2 hours) for anyone who wants. Take time to also explore Man village, and walk along the idyllic shores of the lake right from our campsite, and even go for a swim! Enjoy the beach day!
Day 25 - 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. (8 hrs drive)
Day 26 - 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 27 - 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.
© Kim Bannister