Welcome to northern India!
Our Ultimate Ladakh trek is an epic journeey in our series of 'best-of' journeys in Ladakh and Zanskar treks, crafted from 15+ years of exploratory treks in the wilds of the Indian Himalaya. This trek (+plus) is a diverse and stunningly beautiful route through some of Ladakh's most unique regions - otherworldly high salt lakes, several nomadic regions, remote Himalayan villages, sparkling rivers, Himalayan passes, Tibetan Buddhist culture and monasteries, rare wildlife are a few of the highlight. This journey combines two very different trekking regions with a jeep safari to the turquoise Pangong Lake, on the border of Tibet, white water rafting on the Zanskar or Indus Rivers, some incredibly beautiful and challenging cycling around Leh, visiting ancient monsteries and palaces in the Indus valley + more!
Ladakh Silk Route Trek - High Salt Lakes + Tibetan Nomadic Region
Our epic Kamzang Journeys Ladakh Silk Route Trek is an adventure into the high nomadic regions of Ladakh, in the sublimely beautiful Indian Himalaya, trekking across the Tibetan-style green plateaus of the beautiful Tsomoriri & Tso Kar lake region and crossing some of Ladakh's highest mountain passes. 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 ...
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. Once past Tso Kar salt lake we trek though our favorite exploratory route of years past, camping at the far-flung Teri village, which hardly, if ever, see Westerners.
Markha Valley + Rupshu Nomadic Trek
From the traditional villages of the willow-lined Markha river valley, we trek to the high nomadic plateaus, where we camp with the Markha-pa and their hundreds of sheep, yaks and goats, a timeless vignette. Crossing the 5000+ meter Zalung Karpo La pass, we reach the Ladakhi nomadic region of Rupshu, a green, willow filled and breathtakingly beautiful region of canyons, grasslands, river valleys and Buddhist shrines.
We trek along ancient trade routes lined with long Tibetan Buddhist mani walls, where travelers and their caravans were protected by a series of lookout towers and fortresses guarding against invasion from Tibet or India, all of which attest to this region's importance in days of yore. We'll take you into hidden winter settlements of the nomads, with wolf traps, 'lhatoos' (shrines to mountain dieties) and local village monasteries. En route through this nomadic region, we splash through rivers, wade through a slot canyon, cross grassy pasture lands and trek up remote valleys to reach idyllic campsites in some of the region's most far-flung locations, with lots of time to relax, enjoy the Himalayan scenery and soak in the surroundings ...
More wildlife; kiang, blue sheep, snow leopard, wolves, ibex, argali and golden eagles. Remote villages, active Buddhist monasteries, nomadic settlements on the high grazing plateaus, 5000-meter Himalayan passes, soaring canyons and sparkling river valleys to ford.
Pangong Lake Jeep Safari
An epic jeep safari over the 5000+ meter Chang La pass to the stunningly beautiful Pangong Lake, where traditional villages with tented camps dot the lakeside. Enjoy a swim in the (chilly) lake, visit the villages, wander barefoot on sandy lakeside beaches, rejuvinate and enjoy the views!
Cycling, Rafting + Sightseeing
There is endless opportunity for adventure in the Indian Himalaya, and as we love all of these activities, have added a day of rafting, cycling and Indus Valley sightseeing to the trip!
Summers in the Indian Himalaya are wonderful. Campsites are green and breathtakingly beautiful, days are long and sunny, traditional villages are bustling with activity, glacial rivers sparkle and Himalayan panoramas from the passes are spectacular. The nomadic settlements we encounter along the way are timeless, vignettes Ladakh and Zanskar from centuries past. There is always plenty of extra time built in for exploration on our treks. A photographer's dream, a perfect trip!
Join us for this wonderful journey through Ladakh & Zanskar, an adventure through old Tibet!
Ultimate Ladakh | Nomads, Remote Villages, Salt Lakes + High Passes Trek
Day 1 - Saturday, 12 August 2017 - Meet in Leh
Day 2 - Leh
Day 3 - Leh
Day 4 - Drive Chumanthang
Day 5 - Drive Korzok. Trek Beach Camp (Tso Moriri Lake)
Day 6 - Trek Korzok Phu
Day 7 - Korzok Phu | Nomadic Camps + Exploration
Day 8 - Trek Sherma (cross Yalung Nyau La 5450m)
Day 9 - Trek Rajung Karu (cross Kartse La 5410m + Kyamayuru La 5430m)
Day 10 - Trek Nuru Chang (cross Horlam Kongka La 4950m)
Day 11 - Trek Thukje (Tso Kar Lake)
Day 12 - Trek Thratsang Kiang Camp
Day 13 - Trek Teri Valley Doksa Camp (cross Thratsang La 5140m)
Day 14 - Trek Teri Phu
Day 15 - Trek Terido. Drive Pangong Lake. Drive Pangong Lake (cross Chang La 5360m). Tented Camp at Man 4260m
Day 16 - Pangong Lake. Daytrip Merak
Day 17 - Drive Leh (cross Chang La 5360m)
Day 18 - Leh | Optional Indus Sightseeing or Cycling
Day 19 - Leh | Optional Rafting
Day 20 - Drive Jingchen + Trek Rumbak
Day 21 - Trek Ganda La High Camp
Day 22 - Trek Shingo (cross Ganda La 4985m)
Day 23 - Trek Chumik Hamjura
Day 24 - Trek Markha
Day 25 - Trek Thuchungtse
Day 26 - Trek Nyimaling
Day 27 - Trek Mani Chen or Zalung Karpo La High Camp (cross Kongka Ngongpo La 5180m)
Day 28 - Tsokra (cross Zalung Karpo La 5200m)
Day 29 - Trek Nomadic Lhatoo Camp
Day 30 - Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa Camp
Day 31 - Trek Lungmoche (cross Yar La 4950m)
Day 32 - Trek Zabuk Barma
Day 33 - Trek Narbus (cross Narbus La 4850m). Drive Leh
Day 34 - Leh
Day 35 - Friday, 15 September 2017 - 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!
Watch a Kamzang Journeys Ladakh Trek!
Kamzang Journeys | Kharnak Nomads | MrMennoBen
Kamzang Journeys | Markha Valley | MrMennoBen
Kamzang Journeys | Changthang Nomads | MrMennoBen
Kamzang Journeys | Rupshu Nomads | MrMennoBen
Leh + Indus Valley | MrMennoBen
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
- 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 + Videos | Ladakh + Zanskar, Indian Himalaya
Kamzang Journeys | Kharnak Nomads | MrMennoBen YouTube
Kamzang Journeys | Markha Valley | MrMennoBen YouTube
Kamzang Journeys | Changthang Nomads | MrMennoBen YouTube
Kamzang Journeys | Rupshu Nomads | MrMennoBen YouTube
Leh + Indus Valley | MrMennoBen YouTube
Ladakh Diaries: Postcard from Paradise | India Today - Features Kamzang Journeys
On Snow Leopard Mountain | BBC Planet Earth
Child Monks of the Himalayas | BBC - In Pictures
Chang Tang Pa | Cat Vinton Photo Essay
Silent Roar, The Snow Leopard | National Geographic Documentary
Shepherdess of the Glaciers | Trailer YouTube
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
Kashmir, the Inheritance of Loss - New York Times
In Search of Gandhi | BBC Documentary
12 Aug - 15 Sept
2017 Trek Price
Flights NOT included (meet in Leh)
Hotel Single Supplement - $100 - $300
- Hotels in Leh (breakfast)
- NO single supplement for camping
- Restricted area permits
- Personalized Leh sightseeing with Kim
- Group transportation by private vehicle
- Airport transfers
- Kamzang Journeys Boutique Trekking
Single Northface tents (2+3 person tents), delicious & plentiful meals with seasonal, fresh produce, French-press coffee, Indian Chai, Kashmiri & herbal teas, Katadyn filtered drinking water, warm washing water, trek library, full medical kit, our Kamzang 'lounge' with Indian rugs, Crazy Creek camp chairs, blankets & occasional music in the evenings. For support, our caravan of horses + mules, Western, Sherpa & local guides and our 5-star Kamzang Journeys team. Highlight is our signature yellow 'Kamzang' dining tent'. NO single supplement for single tents. AND flexibility, experience, adventure, challenge + fun!
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
- Lunch + dinner in Leh
- 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 at least $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 (email@example.com)
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,
Have a wander around town, or Kim is happy to take you on her short tour. There are Muslim (and other) bakeries, cafes, tandoori restaurants, old alleyways, Buddhist monasteries, mosques, Hindu temples and wonderful markets, especially the Main Bazaar. 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 MONASTERY + INDUS JEEP 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
Ang Chuk and our private jeeps awaiting and head for the start of the trek at our acclimatization destination, the green fields near Chumantang hot springs. We following the Leh Srinagar Highway east, past the resplendent 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.
We'll stop for a local lunch of Tibetan momos, fried rice or noodles soon after the turnoff to Manali, afterwards continuing along the Indus highway to our campsite near Chumantang and its small hotsprings. The staff will have some delicious chai waiting, and we will introduce you to our Kamzang dining tent and your personal tents, have a wash in the river and perhaps go for a wander. (6 hrs drive)
Day 5 - Drive Korzok (4550m). Trek Tso Moriri Beach Camp (Gyung Malung) (4530m)
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 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.
After lunch in Korzok we have a short trek along the idyllic, turquoise Lake Tso Moriri to our 'beach camp' right on the shores of the lake. We'll hike along a well used trail to a beautiful Korzok viewpoint at the north of the lake, descending on a sandy trail past section of small cliffs with offerings of white rocks in the small nooks, 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!
Hike up above the campsite after your swim and visit the doksa's 10-12 yak-hair tents about 100 meters above the lake (if it's the right time of the summer season). Have a swim in the lake, photograph the reflection of Himalayan peaks in the still water and then sit by the lake with a book, or wander up the hill to see if the nomads are camped just above our campsite, the perfect way to acclimatize for the rest of the trek (3 hrs drive, 1 hr trek, 3 km)
Day 6 - Trek Korzok Phu 4640m
A morning trek over a small pass to the nomadic settlement of Korzok Phu to reach our camp in the midst of the nomadic tents. Leaving camp, we trek straight up behind camp to a small pass, from where we're treated to wonderful views of the 6000 meter Himalayan peaks across the lake, and the lesser Himalayas to the south of Tso Moriri. In the afternoon, there is an option to walk up the eastern hilltop for yet another great view of the lake. Once down to the plateau, we'll follow a gurgling stream, hopping on grassy tussoks, through the watery, green nomadic plateau to our campsite at the northern reaches Korzok Phu.
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, 10 km)
Day 7 - Korzok Phu | Nomadic Camps + Exploration
One more day to acclimatize and explore this fascinating world of nomads living in their yak hair tents. Every once in while you'll spot wild kiang (wild ass) attempting to mate with the local mares, a fascinating encounter between wild and domestic horses!
Day 8 - Trek Sherma 5160m (cross Yalung Nyau La 5450m)
Our first Himalayan pass! We'll leave camp heading away from the lake, hiking on relatively flat ground until reaching the steep climb up to the 5450 meter Yalung Nyau La. It will take us about an hour of walking along the plateau to reach the approach to the pass to the left, and then three more hours of strenuous climbing to crest the prayer-flag festooned Yalung Nyau La. The weather can be changeable, so be ready for anything. The views back down to Tsomoriri are wonderful, and to the south of the pass are the Mentok (flower in Ladakhi) Peaks and a valley leading to Zozogong.
The descent is beautiful, past grazing areas and through grassy, narrow valleys and a slate-slab river which we'll need to jump a few times. We stop for lunch on a grassy knoll next to the river, kick off our shoes, and enjoy a deserved rest! We continue past hillsides where the nomads graze their giant flocks of sheep and goats through the small nomadic settlement of Gyama and then another nomadic camp called Sherma, crossing a river in between (you can wade without shoes if you don't feel like carrying your sandals over the pass). We'll set up camp near Sherma and enjoy the rest of the afternoon either visiting the Tibetan nomads in their cozy tents, taking photos with the wide, blue skies. (6 hrs, 17 km)
Day 9 - Trek Rajung Karu 4870m (cross Kartse La 5410m + Kyamayuru La 5430m)
A truly beautiful 'Changthang' day, starting with one more river crossing, usually jump-able, just past the nomad tents at Sherma. We head up and over the (relatively, as we're already so high) small pass ahead of us, the Kartse La (5410m) and then contour down the hillside to the clear river and green valley below and to another nomadic settlement called Changma, our highest pass yet at 5210 meters. This valley is pure Tibet, wild with open, grassy plateaus, breathtaking views, big sky and nomads on horseback herding their sheep.
We have another two hours of trekking across the wide open Tibetan style plateau, with marmots and pikas peeking out of their holes, we hike through herds of wild looking yaks and dri (female yaks) with their young frolicking by their sides. The landscape is peppered by craggy rock outcroppings with orange and mustard yellow lichen, and we often pass herders with their massive herds of sheep and Pashmina goats as we approach the pass. The ascent to the prayer-flag festooned Kyamayuru La (5430m) is a straight forward hike straight up the valley, and from the flat topped summit we are treated to a breathtaking view of the turquoise Tso Kar Lake below, with layers of steely blue hills and Himalayan peaks in the distance, a spectacular sight.
The descent to end end of the Rajung Karu valley (4870m) 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. 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. (6 hrs)
Day 10 - Trek Nuru Chang River Camp (cross Horlam Kongka La 4950m)
Just past two ancient mani walls we begin our short and steady ascent up rolling hillsides to a ridge marked by a stone cairn just to the east of Horlam Kongma La, a rounded pass decorated with mani stones and a cairn festooned with Tibetan prayer flags and bleached blue sheep skulls. From our hilltop we have spectacular views down to the salty Tso Kar Lake far below us, with smaller Startsabuk Tso just below it and several semi-permanent nomadic dwellings shimmering in the harsh Ladakhi sunlight.
We skip going directly to Nuru Chang, instead dropping down the hillside to the north of this much-used camping spot to our 'secret' river campsite to the right of the river (so we don't have to wade across it). 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.
ALTERNATIVE ROUTE: Climb gradually up about 150 meters from camp, following the faint jeep trail to the rise in the hill top, stopping at flat rocks near the top to admire the views. Contouring down the rocky valley, with curious herds of kiang watching as we trek, we head left at the large cleft leading to Tso Kar Lake and trek past several seasonal doksas to a now deserted seasonal village with a massive Buddhist chorten at the end of the settlement. From here, at the big S turn in the river, we follow the hill around to the left, and drop down to camp about 15 minutes upstream. (2 - 3 hrs)
Day 11 - 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 1/2 hrs, 15 km)
Day 12 - Trek Thratsang Kiang Camp 4730m
The next few days are wild days of trekking through of some of the most stunningly beautiful nomadic regions and remote regions in Ladakh, with one of Ladakh's most beautiful and least visited villages along the way.
Our first day is a short one, heading north as we leave camp at Thukje and hiking along a dirt road past the old chortens which mark Thukje Gompa. We continue to walk along this flat dirt road for an hour or so, crossing the road leading to the Leh Manali Highway as we trek north along a wide-open plateau. Kiang populate this region, scaring our horses, which bolted and scattered their loads in all directions, many years ago. We have a straight forward walk to the opening of the valley to the west of the plateau, past several now-empty doksas, where we set up camp in a pretty green spot with a small, warm 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). The ridge straight above camp to the right is about 220 meters above the campsite (4950m), and you'll find a basic nomadic doksa at the 'sumdo' straight ahead of camp.
Once at camp, climb any of the hills for incredible encounters with large herds of very wild kiang, incredible photographic opportunities! (3 hrs, 10 km)
Day 13 - Trek Teri Valley Doksa Camp 4490 or Sumdo Camp (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, kiang 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 flat and broad pass, almost not noticeable and dotted with clumps of 'seat-moss' we have a broad view or the high peaks surrounding us, possibly including Kang Yatze. 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. The walk is lovely and colorful as we trek past smooth, sculpted river rocks in various shades of rust, moss green and mustard. We'll have lunch on the grassy banks of the small stream, and then have only a short walk to reach he intersection (sumdo) of this stream and the Teri Chu (which was somewhat exposed after a harsh winter in the summer of 2015). 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. From Gyungaro sumdo (4735m) we have a short ascent (about 50 meters) to a small, prayer-flag marked pass with a stone cairn, followed by a steep descent back down to the river. We have to cross this river, either on a bridge (which is sometimes washed away) or by wading across the shallow but wide stream. Continuing downriver, we pass several green plateaus with lichen-covered river rocks, perfect for camping. The staff has set up the campsite near two distictive large red rocks, and you're free to enjoy the afternoon in this idyllic setting. The doksa is 10 minutes below the campsite, to the left.
NOTE: We may continue another hour down the valley, turning right at our camp intersection, to the beautiful, green Sumdo Camp (see next day's route). (6 hrs, 10.5 km)
Day 14 - Trek Teri Phu 4235m
Today is one of Ladakh's most beautiful and interesting trekking days as we head towards Teri village, one of the most idyllic that we've discovered in Ladakh, virtually not visited 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. 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 (seasonal grazing settlement), 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. (4 1/2 - 5 hrs, 10.5 km)
Day 15 - Trek Terido. Drive Pangong Lake (cross Chang La pass 5300m). Tented Camp at Man 4260m
We have a 1 1/2 hour walk down through the remainder of Teri Phu on a newly rebuilt trail (soon to be a road) 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 bridge across it at Tirido. We cross the Indus on a wooden bridge to reach Tirido village (3730m) and the Indus highway, connecting Tso Moriri and Chumur with Leh and further on, Manali, from where we'll be picked up. Sadly, our nomadic trek has ended!
Trekking finished, jump into the jeep 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 you will stay at the somewhat luxurious tented camp right off 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! (1 1/2 hr trek, 4 hrs drive)
Day 16 - 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 17 - Drive Leh (cross Chang La pass 5300m)
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 18 - Leh | Indus Sightseeing
Three days, three adventurous activities! You can choose which you'd like to do, and we'll make the arrangements! For sightseeing, see options on Days 2 + 3.
Day 19 - Leh | Optional Leh Sightseeing or Cycling
Many amazing options in Asia's new adventure capital. Kim will take you personally on some of the Leh valley's best cycling routes!
Day 20 - Leh | Optional Rafting
World class rafting on either the Indus or Zanskar rivers, your choice!
Day 21 - Drive Jingchan + Further. Trek Rumbak Sumdo 3875m
After a rejuvinating rest, the trekking begins again! After breakfast we jump into our jeeps and head for the start of the trek, turning off the Leh Srinagar highway just past the ancient, 14th century Spitok Gompa, spectacularly perched on a craggy hillock above the cultivated fields of Spitok village. After crossing the Indus River and following it on a precipitous road for an hour, we intersect the Jingchan Chu (river) and meet our horsemen and team at the hamlet of Jingchan. Time to start trekking ...
With the Jingchan Chu as our guide, we trek up a narrow, green valley, crossing many times on small, wooden bridges or jumping when there is no bridge, stopping for lunch under shady trees. The trail pass through a small canyon, past cairns with prayer flags and Buddhist mani walls, and have our first view of the snow-peaks of the Stok Range to the south and the Ladakh Range to the north. Entering a broad valley, we reach the grassy campsite at Rumbak Sumdo where we set up our first camp of the trek. 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, and since we haven't ascended too high, you can chill one in the stream!
The nine houses of Rumbak, surrounded by billowing fields of barley and marked by circular mani stones along the trail, are flanked by the snow-capped Rumbak Kangri range. Rumbak is a lively village; large herd of pashmina goats and sheep are brought back to the village at twilight, and villagers will be threshing their barley at harvest time. There are many green-houses in the village, initiatives that we will see through out the Markha Valley.
There is a large mani wheel in the middle of the lovely village and chukkors (Himalayan partridges) chortle at visitors from the nearby hillsides. Keep walking for another ten minutes past town, heading towards the Stok La pass, to the ancient, white-washed chorten atop the ridge to your right for wonderful, late-afternoon golden views of the peaks ahead and down to Rumbak, the gompa and the campsite. (1-2 hrs driving, 1-2 hrs)
Day 22 - Trek Ganda La Base Camp 4375m (or Lartsa High Camp 4530m)
Leaving camp, we head left up-valley, following the meandering Jingchan River upstream. At the grove of willows, we cross a small, wooden bridge, and soon afterwards turn right up the dramatically multi-hued valley and head towards Yurutse, a hamlet of one large household situated at 4200 meters, with magnificent views of Stok Kangri. As we ascend through this magical avocado-green and eggplant colored valley, look for chukkors, pikas and marmots amongst the grassy valley floor and rocky slopes surrounding us. We've even seen the rare argali bashing horns in a show of male dominance in this valley and blue sheep are common inhabitants. We'll be treated to more views of the Stok Range as we reach Ganda La Base Camp, an hour's walk from Yurutse. We'll set up camp near the tea-house in a spectacular setting, throw on some warm clothes, enjoy the sunset and get ready for the Ganda La pass tomorrow. There is a ridge to climb next to the campsites for great views of Stok Kangri, and you might spot the Himalayan hares darting from rock to rock as you climb.
If everyone is doing well with acclimatization, we might opt to head up the valley for another hour, ascending another 175 meters to the Lartsa High Camp for the night. (4-5 hrs)
Day 23 - Trek Shingo 4050m (cross Ganda La 4985m)
Our first pass day, so we're up early with a hot mug of coffee and a good breakfast to get us going, starting off with a steep climb of the hill to the right of camp, along a gully, and then switch backing up to the top of the hill. Behind us, Stok Kangri looms impressively, and we will take some time to catch our breath and take in the views. It will take us about an hour to reach the pass from here; at the Ganda La pass (4985 meters), 360 degree views await us, and we can see as far as the Zanskar Range to the south. After hanging our first multi-colored Tibetan prayer flags, we head steeply down into the Shingo Valley, which we can see below us. The trail becomes more gradual, and a few hours later we arrive at our green campsite of Shingo Village, another small hamlet of two house, marked by chortens and a mani wall. We'll have the afternoon for laundry and washing up in this beautiful spot. (5-6 hrs)
Day 24 - Trek Chumik Hamjura 3525m
Continuing along the Markha River along the left bank, we pass the many white-washed chortens, mani walls and ancient, carved Buddha rocks that mark the trail out of Skyu, and trek through willow and poplar groves, past traditional Ladakh houses, up onto a cliff-side trail. We'll reach a cluster of old, crumbling chortens perched high on a ridge, which afford us a wonderful view up and down the valley, in a couple of hours and soon afterwards reach the parachute tent at Sumdo where we might find local seabuckthorne juice for sale. 15 minutes after this stop is a naturally-chilled spring, and then another hour of hilly (and generally very hot) walking later we cross the Markha river on a wonderful, old bridge.
Our campsite at Chumik Hamjura is close by, a green, wet grazing area of the Markha people. The staff will have set up camp for the night, and cold beers and cokes are available from the small tea-house. Local villagers often pass through the campsite with their flocks of sheep and pashmina goats just before dinner, a great photo op! Enjoy the stream running in front of the campsite. (5 hrs)
Day 25 - Trek Markha 3760m
A beautiful, diverse, five-hour day as we continue again along the left bank of the Markha River. Leaving camp, we ascend gradually to a wide plateau with a long mani wall and chortens, and then descend to the two houses of Nakdi, which look out towards an ancient meditation cave on the plateau across the river. We arrive Sara, the parachute-tent and camping site at the rocky riverbed which intersects the Markha River, and then pass briar patches of seabuckthorne and the ruins of ancient 'dzongs' and monasteries built high up into the cliff sides. Crossing another small bridge, we reach the small tea-house of a local wood-carver and walk along the left bank of the river, past the fields of Chalak, with spectacular canyons and spires above us, along the trail marked by old, crumbling Tibetan chortens. After passing a long mani wall and impressive, giant chortens (look back for wonderful views of the Markha Valley behind us), we'll stop for a break at an ancient 'lhatoo', or offering monument for the local mountain deities, where offerings of chang are served up in sheep horns. A powerful site. As we approach the intersection of the Markha valley with another small tributary about an hour later, we'll pass a group of tri-colored chorten marking the valley, gaze up-valley at the cliff-dwelling built into the valley wall, and descend by the wolf trap to the river, where we often have a wide river crossing (sandals recommended). We'll see the ruins of the Markha fort ahead of us on a hillside before we arrive at the village about half an hour later. We camp at one of two wonderful, grassy campsites, and are visited by all the village kids before dinner ...
In the afternoon we'll head to the 400 year old Markha Gompa, built by Kushok Tsering Palden, the prince who became a monk, now recently renovated and affiliated with Hemis Gompa, and take a walk through the lively, colorful village and its barley fields. You can head up to the ruins of Markha Fort, but be careful! The snow-capped peak looming ahead of us isn't Kang Yatze 1, but one of the 4 sister peaks. (4 hrs)
Day 26 - Trek Thuchungtse 4260m
Another classic Himalayan trekking day, a bit longer than yesterday, starting with a climb up on the cliff-side trail just past camp for amazing views back to the Ladakh Range. We have two river crossings today, so bring your sandals in your day pack. The first crossing comes just after our first descent, not deep but wide. Just afterwards we'll spot the monolith and stone 'lama's seat' where a local Druk-pa Lama gives a yearly puja. Look up the valley off to the right leading to the Ruberang La and the wild Jumlam trek.
One more river crossing (15 minutes) and we've reached the breath-taking Tacha Gompa, also affiliated with Hemis Gompa, built at the top of a razor-sharp rock, and with views up and down the valley. We'll hike up for a look; they've recently built a new assembly hall above the old one. Soon, we approach the small hamlet of Umlung, at 3900 meters, where we'll stop for a seabuckthorne juice, produced locally by the Markha women's groups. From Umlung, take the high, cliff-side trail when the water is high; it affords wonderful views in any case.
Ahead of us, the dramatic 6400 meter Kang Yatze finally comes into sight, its peak a pure, triangular snow-cap. We have another hour or so of river-side walking in blue-sheep territory before reaching Hangkar (3950 meter) guarded by a fantastic fortress way up on the top of a rock spire. We'll have lunch here at a teahouse and take some time to climb to the top of the fort, approximately five centuries old, with unbeatable views from the top at 4110 meters. There are also ancient mani stones, old fort-walls and relics such as mortars and pestles, clues to the past. Hangkar village, a hamlet of about fifteen houses, lies on the other side of a saddle in the trail, past a long line of mani walls and the village's old, tiny gompa. We'll pass just to the left of the village and through its many fields of barley before taking the left fork at a small, wooden bridge, with a massive wall on the right, heading along the Nyimaling Chu.
From Hangkar, it's a wonderful two-hour afternoon walk up to the summer grazing area of Thuchungtse, where the dramatic afternoon high-altitude light make for spectacular photos. Our campsite is another beautiful one, so enjoy a late afternoon wash in the gurgling, rocky stream, or take a short hike and look out for blue sheep, which descend to the stream for a drink. Plenty of bird life as well (7-8 hrs)
Day 27 - Trek Nyimaling 4855m
Another wonderful day of trekking, not long but absolutely spectacular, with broad views of the Zanskar range, and Kang Yatze as a back-drop. The trail snakes up the valley in back of our campsite, and crests several ridges before reaching a small doksa and pond where the reflection of Kang Yatze and the peak itself right in front of us reward us for our climb. In back of us is one of the most dramatic views of the trek, with layers and layers of peaks clothed in subtle hues guarding the skyline. Another hour brings us to the high altitude grazing region of Nyimaling, where Hangkar villagers herd their flocks of Pashmina sheep as they've done for centuries. We set up another scenic campsite, have lunch and have the entire afternoon to wander, look for wildlife and explore this unique, high plateau. Yaks roam freely, creating a perfect Tibetan environment. To the right is the Gongmaru La, the 5200 meter pass that leads out of the Markha Valley and towards Hemis Gompa.
Just before sunset the villagers return to their stone doksas with their flocks of hundreds of sheep and goats, and we can head over for a visit, perhaps even for a bowl of fresh yogurt. Sunsets are truly awe-inspiring on the plateau, with a flaming, red orb descending behind the hills in down-valley from us, and setting the snaking Nyimaling Chu ablaze with color. (3 1/2 hrs)
Day 28 - Trek Mani Chen (Langtang Chen) 4410 or Zalung Karpo La HC 4675 (cross Kongka Ngongpo La 5180)
We'll have an early morning start with the sheep as it's a long day, nearly eight hours, and you'll need your sandals for the tail-end of it. Heading up the deceptively steep ridge along the rocky stream bed in back of camp, right towards Kang Yatze, we'll keep right and low as we contour around the snow-peak to the ridge visible ahead. The high plateau is lovely, covered in Edelweiss, lavender, daisy-like asters and brick-red 'glacier flowers' in round clusters. At the second, cairn-marked ridge, we descend to Kang Yatze Base Camp and ford a small stream, usually jump-able, contouring for another hour towards the Kongka Ngongpo La (5180 meters). It usually takes us three hours to reach the pass. After admiring the broad views, we switch-back right back down, steeply and a bit precipitously, towards the Langthang Chu Valley and our High Camp for the Zalung Karpo La. Our barely-perceptible trail leads us past summer doksas and into more blue sheep territory.
After lunch on a rocky-outcropping, we drop steeply through a meadow to an old doksa, descend again to another plateau with a ridge overlooking the valley and finally contour for another hour to the Langthang Chu valley. Once in the valley it's a quick walk to the small mani wall of Mani Chen, meaning 'place of mani stones', an old stop on the nomadic route. Mani Chen is a lovely campsite, grassy and flat with a small stream winding its way across the plateau. The river has some good spots for washing if the water isn't too silt-filled. A great afternoon excursion is up the valley to the left (on our side of the river) to see the blue sheep.
If the rivers are low we might opt to continue on another two hours to Zalung Karpo La High Camp, a rocky campsite with late afternoon sun. We'll have a few small river crossings en route. High camp is on the left of the glacial river on a small, grassy spur with a cold stream for washing and late-afternoon sun. (6 - 8 hrs)
Day 29 - Tsokra 4330m (cross Zalung Karpo La 5200m)
We'll have an early start for our next pass, the Zalung Karpo La, and again you'll probably want your sandals with you if the sun is out and (thus) the rivers are high. We'll have two hours of flat riverside walking, jumping the small stream, to reach the high camp from where it takes less than an hour to reach the access valley to the Zalung Karpo La. Our valley is the second large valley on the right, just ten minutes past the first one. Heading up this valley of shimmering, mica-composed slate and scree, we follow a small stream much of the way up valley as we gradually ascend. The valley opens up to a false summit reached by a steep switchback, and finally about an hour later we crest the 5200-meter, prayer-flag festooned Zalung Karpo La. Ahead in the distance, both the Zanskar and the Himalayan ranges are visible, an impressive view.
If it's not too windy we'll have lunch at the prayer flags on top of the pass. The descent is a steep and sandy switchback and the valley below can be scorching. We are now entering Kharnak, translated as 'black fort', the high altitude grazing region of the Ladakhi nomads. We have 2 1/2 more hours of hiking, with a few hills but mostly river-walking, and possibly a few tricky river crossings depending on the water lever. Finally, approximately eight hours of hiking later, we reach our grassy campsite at Tsokra, a local grazing plateau. Again there are opportunities for a wash in the river or small stream that winds its way through our green campsite. (7 hrs)
Day 30- Trek Lhatoo Camp 4245m
A canyon day, starting again with easy river crossings, and continuing through a semi-permanent village with threshing fields and an old mill, and then recently used nomadic settlements with their livestock paddocks and stone loom bases. The fort, called 'Khar Ruins' on the map, is perched impressively above us, an ancient guard of the many valleys. The day continues with more superlatives springing to mind; we approach a fantastic, narrow and sculpted canyon of ankle deep water (why use the bridge?) and then a wider canyon of dramatic spires, tawny cliffs, willows and a gurgling river. Turning left at the wide intersection of Tantse Sumdo, we head further into Kharnak and the pasturelands of Dat. Another 2 1/2 hours later, after trekking through a hot (and often buggy) valley of willows and cliffs, following the Kharnak Chu (river), we reach the fantastic Kharnak 'lhatoo' (called just Lhatoo on the map), where the nomads make offerings to their local deities every spring.
We'll set up our Kamzang campsite just below this amazing site. Spent the afternoon hiking up to the Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags on the small hill above the camp, trying to spot wildlife (kiang, marmot, blue sheep) or just enjoying this serene spot, where no other trekking groups camp! (5 hrs)
Day 31 - Trek Nomadic Winter Doksa 4505m
We're keeping the details of the next few days quiet as we don't know of any other trekking groups who 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' ... (5 - 6 hrs)
Day 32 - Trek Lungmoche 4710m (cross Yar La 4950m)
We have a small ridge to crest, with views of the Zanskar Range from the top; we often spot herd of kiang that reside in the nearby valleys (kiang 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. Descending from this ridge, and passing through green nomadic doscas, we beging the relatively easy ascent of the 4950 meter Yar La, a 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. (6 hrs)
Day 32 - 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, an atmospheric Ladakhi evening!
Day 33 - Trek Narbus 4820m (cross Narbus La 4850m). Drive Leh
A wonderfully dramatic hike this morning 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 used to look down on 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 once camped here for four months every summer, but sadly have now had to give up their nomadic existence and move to Leh. Once on the high plateau, we meet our drivers and our treks ends ....
Back in our private jeeps, we have a scenic drive back to Leh. En route we pass the eastern Indus valley gompas, amongst them the 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. (4 - 5 hrs trek, 5 hrs driving)
Day 24 - Leh
We've scheduled one last day in Leh, our favorite Central Asian capital, in case of delays during the trek, and (of course) time to do some more shopping and exploring, have a beer and to wind down after our journey through the high, nomadic regions of 'old Tibet'.
Day 35 - 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.
NOTE: 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.
Extra Days in Leh
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.
NOTE: 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.
© Kim Bannister