An awe inspiring flight from Delhi to Leh takes you up and away from the monsoon clouds that shroud the southern side of the Himalaya at this time of year. Descending to the dramatic runway below Lehyou may get an impression of a stark and inhospitable land. Yet the clear crisp air and warm friendly welcome from the mainly Buddhist population alongside the beauty of the town, with its colourful markets nestled beneath the old Royal Palace, give the traveller an exciting taste of the trek to come.
Markha Valley Trek is experiencing Ladakh at its best. We access this strikingly attractive valley which offers rugged trekking in a strangely barren but beautiful landscape via the 4380m Ganda La pass with its views south to the Zanskar range. The trail criss-crosses several delightful streams along the Markha valley where we overnight in tents under the stars. Above Markha the trail ascends steadily through high pastureland, passing prayer carved mani walls to the last day of the trek where we climb to the 5100mKongmaru La, before descending to the impressive monastery at Hemis. Towering walls of red sandstone surround the greenery of isolated villages. Goats and yaks graze in high alpine pastures and the high passes offer extensive views of Zanskar and the Karakoram ranges.
Days 1/2 Depart UK, arriving Delhi the following morning. Transfer to hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and recover from the flight or for individual exploration of Delhi.
Day 3 In the early morning we transfer to the domestic terminal for the highly spectacular flight over the Himalaya to Leh. The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatise to the altitude (3500m).
Day 4 Today we will have an acclimatisation walk round the Leh Valley, visiting the ruins of the Old Royal Palace, the Tsemo Monastery and the recently built Japanese Peace Pagoda. (There is the chance today to make an optional jeep safari to the Khadung Pass (5602m) the highest motorable road in the world. If you do the jeep safari this will be in the morning and you can do the walk in the afternoon).
Day 5 By now we should be well acclimatised and we take a short drive from Leh to Spituk. From here a new road takes us across the Indus towards Jinchen. We will drive as far as the road conditions allow and to where our ponies will be waiting. After they are loaded up we start our trek into the Jinchen Gorge at the foot of the Stok Mountains. An ever-changing panorama of fantastic coloured mountains surrounds us and eventually the valley widens and reveals the snow topped peaks of the Stok Mountains. Prayer flags on a wide pasture mark the junction with the trail leading to Rumbak village. 2 to 5 hours walking (depends on road condition).
Day 6 There is time this morning for an acclimatisation walk into the Rumbak valley to the village. Returning to camp we then carry on up the main valley that ascends gradually up past the one house village of Yurutse. We camp just past Yurutse at the base of the Ganda La, our first pass. 4 to 7 hours walking.
Day 7 A long day today as we cross our first pass. As we climb the views become more and more spectacular. Behind us Stok Kangri dominates the skyline. From the top of the Ganda La (4900m) the views are worth all the effort. Ahead is the Zanskar Range and behind are the Stok Mountains. As we descend keep an eye open for marmots and blue sheep. Beyond Shingo the trail takes us through a spectacular gorge with beautifully coloured and eroded rocks. We continue down the gorge all the way to the small hamlet of Skiu (3400m). 6 to 8 hours walking.
Day 8 A fairly long, but easy walk today, as we trek along the valley to Markha. The terrain along the valley is not demanding so there is plenty of opportunity to admire the magnificent scenery. The colours of the barren mountains of Ladakh are truly spectacular, pastel pinks, blues and greens shine in the brilliant sunshine and change colour dramatically as the sun rises and sets. The trail crosses the Markha River a few times and although bridges have been built there may be some paddling involved.7 to 8 hours walking.
Day 9 Just beyond Markha the trail meets the Chacham Valley. Here is the Umlung gompa, set way above us on the cliff face. There is time to visit the monastery, which is the most important in the valley and is affiliated to Hemis. Continuing up the valley we walk through Umlung village to Hankar. 4 to 5 hours walking.
Day 10 From Hankar the trail turns off from the main valley and now follows the Nimaling stream to Tatchungtse (4300m) where we camp. It is a short trek and we may be lucky and see wild sheep high up on the grazing areas above the campsite when we do an acclimatisation walk in the afternoon. 2 to 4 hours walking.
Day 11 A short walk today to Nimaling. The trail climbs steeply to the plateau where the valley opens out. Ahead are spectacular views of Kang Yangtse (6400m) the highest peak in the valley. In the evenings the shepherds who spend the summer here bring their animals down from the hills and it is quite usual to have hundreds of goats, sheep and yaks wandering through the campsite. We should have the afternoon in Nimaling and the energetic can walk up on the hills behind camp towards Kang Yangtse to aid acclimatisation. 2 to 6 hours walking.
Day 12 Our trail begins today by climbing to the Gongmaru La (5200m). It is a fairly long, steep ascent zigzagging to the top of the pass but the views from the top are worth the effort. Looking back we see Kang Yangtse and Nun Kun in the far distance. Ahead there are views across the Stok Range and down to the Indus valley. The descent is steep at first and we then enter a spectacular gorge and descend more gradually now with a few small river crossings. High up on the barren cliffs we may spot the elusive Blue Sheep which inhabit this area. Passing through Shogdo we continue our descent to the village of Sumdo. Today is quite a hard day due to the crossing of the high pass and the long descent. 8 to 10 hours walking.
Day 13 We drive today to Lehen route Visiting Hemis and Thiksey monasteries. Hemis was once the largest and richest of all the Ladakhi monasteries. A wander round the dimly lit temples containing grotesque yet beautiful masks and statues, will take us back hundreds of years in time. We then drive back to Leh and the comforts of a hot shower at our hotel. We should get to Leh for lunch and the rest of the day is free for last minute sightseeing or shopping in the bazaars.
Day 14 We fly from Leh to Delhi. The rest of the day is free for individual sightseeing in Delhi.
Day 15 Departure flight back to home.
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