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The tour starts at our hotel in Delhi. Passengers travelling on the group flights usually arrive into Delhi in the morning and will be transferred to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and recover from the flight or for individual exploration of Delhi. Rooms in the hotel are usually available from noon. Those who have made their own flight arrangements will join us at the hotel during the day.
Fly to Leh (3500m); afternoon orientation walk.
A very early start today for the flight to Leh. We usually leave the hotel at around 2am and drive to the airport for the very early morning but highly spectacular flight over the Himalaya to Leh. If the weather is good and the flight goes on time we should be in Leh for breakfast. Flying straight to the high altitude of Leh can take your breath away (literally) and so we concentrate on relaxing and acclimatizing to the altitude (3,500m). In the morning we rest and catch up on some sleep and in the afternoon there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
Two days in and around Leh to aid acclimatisation; trip to Thikse and Shey Monasteries.
Today there is a sightseeing tour to two of the major gompas (monasteries) in the area. We first drive to Shey, a former Royal Palace of the Ladakh kings. Inside is a small temple containing a 350 year old copper and gold statue of Buddha. From Shey we walk to Tikse, where we visit the monastery perched on top of a hill - its red and white buildings can be seen for miles. A recently built temple contains a magnificent image of the Future Buddha. We then return to Leh in the afternoon, with time to rest or explore Leh.
Acclimatisation day; trip to the ruins of the Old Royal Palace and optional jeep safari to the Khardung La, the highest motorable road in the world (5602m).
Today we will have an acclimatisation walk around the Leh Valley. Set above Leh on the Namgyal Hill are the ruins of the Old Royal Palace. From here a winding path takes us to the Tsemo Monastery, where we are rewarded for our efforts by magnificent views of the whole of Leh and its surrounding villages. Descending round the back of the palace we walk via Sankar to the recently built Japanese Peace Pagoda, with good views of Stok Kangri dominating the skyline across the valley. There is the chance today to make an optional jeep safari to the Khardung La at 5,602m, one of the highest motorable roads in the world. This can be booked and paid for locally. Your leader will have details. (If you do the jeep safari this will be in the morning and you can do a walk in the afternoon).
Drive to Stok; trek to Mankarmo (4200m).
This morning we leave Leh and drive to the start point of our trek. The road follows the Indus River for a short while through Choglamsar before crossing the river and then climbs on a side road to Stok. We start trekking at the end of Stok village on an easy trail that winds up a spectacular valley. We follow the Stok River most of the way (and may have to cross it once or twice), with multi-coloured rocks towering above us as we ascend. The walking is easy and not steep; it will take us 4-4.5 hours to reach our first camp at Mankarmo. Look out for herds of Blue Sheep that graze on the hillsides around here. Walk profile: 4/4.5hrs walking, distance 10km
Cross the Matho La to Gangpoche (4440m).
We cross the first of our six passes today. The trail takes us gradually to the top of the pass, the Matho La, at 4,960m. As we ascend the views become more and more spectacular with the magnificent rock formations of the Ladakh mountains surrounding us. The dramatic mountains in various shades of purples, greens and browns can be seen for miles in every direction. From the pass we descend to our campsite at Gangpoche, which is located by the shepherd huts.
Climb over the Shang La to Shang Phu (4373m).
Today we leave camp and have a long climb to our second pass, the Shang La, at 4,950m. The trail climbs out of camp to a low ridge and then down into the next valley, from where we have a long but gentle climb to the pass. From the top we are greeted with fantastic views of the Matho Range to the north. We then descend into the valley below and camp near some shepherd houses at Shang Phu. Walk profile: 7hrs walking, distance 13km
Cross the Gyuncho La then descend the valley to Chuskurmo.
Another day, another pass! This morning we turn into a side valley to the right and climb through the barren landscape to the Gyuncho La (4,718m). Descending a short way, we cross a stream and then climb up again to a second col at 4,693m. We now descend on a rocky trail into a large barren valley that brings us down to Chokdo village, which is on the Markha Valley trek. We arrive in a spectacular gorge with wonderful purple-coloured rocks. Our camp tonight is close to the village. There should be time before we reach camp to visit a local house for a well-deserved cup of tea. Walk profile: 6/6.5hrs walking, distance 11.5km
Ascend a beautiful gorge to cross the Gongmaru La (5286m) to Nimaling.
As we ascend to the base of the pass, the valley narrows and becomes even more spectacular. The trail follows a small stream as we climb, following the river bed and sometimes climbing above it. The wonderful multi-coloured mountains surround us as we head to the pass. The final ascent zig zags up a barren slope (look out for a small herd of Blue Sheep) and we finally reach the string of prayer flags which mark the top of the Gongmaru La (5,236m). This pass provides access into the Markha Valley and we may well see other trekkers today crossing the pass in the opposite direction. From the pass we are rewarded with spectacular views down to Nimaling and across to the Indian Himalaya and the Ladakh Range. The most prominent peak is Kang Yangtse, at 6,400m, the highest in the Ladakh Range and if it’s clear we can pick out Dzo Jongo across the valley. It’s an easy descent down to our camp at Nimaling (4,854m), where the valley opens out. There is no permanent habitation at Nimaling, but during the summer months the shepherds bring their flocks of sheep, goats and dzos to graze on the high altitude pasture. The shepherds stay in stone shelters close to the grazing area for the whole summer and we can often buy yoghurt or local cheese from them. In the evenings the animals are brought down from the hills and it is quite usual to have a lot of them wandering through the campsite. Look after your edibles! Walk profile: 6/6.5hrs walking, distance 10km
Summit Vatseri Peak (5640m); continue to Dzo Jongo Base Camp (5010m).
Today we ascend our first peak of the trip. Vatseri Peak requires no technical skills and it’s an easily graded trail to the summit. The altitude makes it tough but the views from the top make it all worthwhile. On a clear day we can see Dzo Jongo East and West across the valley and many other peaks. We descend towards our base camp at 5,010m, home for the next three nights. Please note Vatseri Peak is optional. The trekking crew will walk directly to base camp from Nimaling, which is 3km and takes 2hrs. Walk profile: 7hrs walking, distance 7km
A well-deserved day of rest at base camp after the exertions of yesterday. In the morning we can have a short walk up the valley to see tomorrow’s trail and admire the scenery. In the afternoon we will get the climbing gear out, check everything and prepare our rucksacks for tomorrow.
Climb Dzo Jongo East (6040m).
After a day of rest, we climb our second and highest peak with a very early start just before dawn. We walk a short way up the main valley before turning off into a steep gulley to the right. We climb steeply up the gulley, passing a glacier on our right and emerge onto an easy angled snow slope, which leads us to a fine ridge that we follow to the top. Sometimes there is snow and depending on conditions we may or may not need to use our ice axe and crampons. We should not have to rope up but we will carry a rope just in case. The summit ridge is long but technically easy. A small group of prayer flags mark the top from where we are greeted with views south to the Zanskar mountains and north to the Karakorum and the mountains in Tibet. We spend a short while at the top to savour the beauty of it all and regain our breath before descending slowly and carefully back to base camp for a well-earned celebration. The climb is entirely optional and for anyone not wanting to do the climb there is a great walk further up the valley to a small glacial lake. Walk profile: 10-13hrs walking (round trip)
Climb Konga Ri (5,680m) to Droksa (4,700m) or cross the Lalung La (5,320m) to Droksa (4,700m)
We leave base camp this morning and head off towards the Manali to Leh highway through a remote valley, where we are unlikely to meet any other trekkers. Today there are two options. One is a shorter option and crosses the Lalung La direct to camp, following the same route as the trekking crew. The second option is to climb a third peak, Konga Ri, before descending to camp. For the first option the trail climbs out of the Nimaling Valley to the Lalung La (5,320m). From the top we descend into a wonderful gorge to a spectacular wild camp. For Konga Ri we climb away from the Lalung La onto a wide ridge, which ascends gradually and spectacularly to Konga Ri. Throughout the ascent we have amazing views across the valley to Dzo Jongo East and West, Regoni Malari and many other peaks. The top is a huge plateau from where we descend on an unmarked trail to our camp. Walk profile: Option 1 - 3/4 hrs walking / Option 2 6hrs walking
Cross the Chagtsang La (5200m) to Lato (4000m).
Our last day of trekking today, with one more pass to cross. From camp it’s quite a steep climb up to the Chagtsang La, but there are fantastic views down to the valley. The trail contours round the hillside for a while before dropping off into a side valley. Descending, we have lunch at Riyul Sumdo and continue on down the valley, crossing the river several times, until we emerge at the green fields of Lato village, where we camp. Walk profile: 7hrs walking, distance 10km
Drive to Leh.
Lato is a small village on the main Manali to Leh highway and our transport will arrive after breakfast. It’s a two hour drive back to Leh and the comforts of our hotel and a well-deserved celebration. We should be in Leh before lunch and the rest of the day is free for last minute shopping.
Fly to Delhi.
An early start for the flight back to Delhi. The rest of the day is free time in Delhi, for individual shopping or sightseeing.
Those on the group flight will depart Delhi in the morning for the flight to London. Those not flying with us to London will leave the hotel after breakfast.