|Our treks||Expeditions||Contact us||About us||Photos & Diaries|
2012 Upper Zanskar Traverse *yoga
Wild trekking, yoga, and an optional 6000 meter non-technical Himalayan peak climb
Tucked away in the far northwest of the Indian Himalaya, Ladakh is an ancient Tibetan kingdom hushed every year by the winter; the summer is a brief time of great warmth and joy as the barley that is their life ripens and the high desert is splashed with the vivid green of their oasis-like villages - the chortens are whitewashed again, the vivid colored prayer flags crack against the cerulean sky, and as the winter snow that has cloaked their sacred peaks melts, the sound of running water is everywhere.
Our journey takes us over the Himalaya and across three mountain ranges. We'll traverse steep valleys and wide plains of this special mountain sanctuary, through villages moving with the cycle of the seasons that slow our steps as we pass to match their rhythm.
We have been trekking through remote Ladakh for many years and every year we feel privileged to introduce this very special place to trekkers. This year, Lilly brings yoga along to the experience. She'll be leading dynamic morning yoga sessions before trekking, and rejuvenation sessions in the evening. High and wild trekking, yoga, and excellent Asian trekking cuisine. Join us!
About yoga while on trek
While on trek, Lilly will guide you through daily yoga, pranayama (breath), and meditation practice; balancing each days session with our trek. Each morning, after a well earned sleep, we will practice 45-60 minutes of energizing yoga to prepare our body, breath, and mind for the rewarding day to come. In the evenings, after camp is set up and we've had some hot, delicious Indian chai, Lilly will guide us through a 40 minute restorative yoga sequence, rejuvenating your tired muscles, ending the session with short meditation.
Hailing from Melbourne, Australia; Lilly is a full time yoga teacher. She's practiced yoga for 13 years, developing her own teaching style based on the fundamentals of Ashtanga Vinyasa, Iyengar and Himalayan Yoga Tradition. Coming from a marketing background, she made renounced the corporate lifestyle to teach yoga full time in 2007. Lilly’s dynamic classes are infused with an essence of the sacred, focusing on traditional spiritual teachings of the great sages of the Himalaya. She attributes her love for the Himalaya to her Spiritual Master, Sri Swami Rama, an practitioner of the Himalayan Yoga tradition. She looks forward to sharing her experience with you, and making your journey through the Himalaya one of enlightenment and rejuvenation.
Note that although we try to follow the itinerary here, 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 our trekkers' acclimatization rates.
Day 1 - Arrive Manali 2060m
The trip starts in Manali and you can either fly from Delhi (DEL airport code), or take bus from Delhi or Dharmasala. If by flight then the nearest airport is Buntar airport (KUU airport code) in the Kullu Valley. We'll meet you at the gate and walk with you out to the waiting jeeps for the 30 minute drive Manali, where we have breakfast settle in. Today is a day to unwind from travel, and just relax.
Day 2 - Manali 2060m
This day is incorporated into the trip to ensure that everyone makes it in for tomorrow's departure for the Spiti valley. We'll pick up any last minute items for the trip, and enjoy the mountain air among the pines of Manali. If anyone would like to go rafting, that will be offered as an option. The main goal of the day is ensuring that everyone is prepared for the trek; we'll do gear checks to ensure everyone has the right gear and answer any last minute questions. Dinner at the lodge will be a good time for introductions and talking over the schedule for the next few days.
Day 3 - Drive Keylong 3110m
An early breakfast and on the road by eight, or possibly earlier, as road conditions vary a lot on the Rohtang; it's only a little pass as the Himalaya goes, at 3978m but the range it crosses, the Pir Panjal, gets the worst of the monsoon, and icy blasts and storms still catch the unwary - and along with that in July the pass still attracts tourists whose cars can block our way! The road winds up slowly, through stunning forests and lush green pastures, waterfalls crashing down sheer granite faces - it was John Keay who said 'Spring always seems present in the Pir Panjal' - he also points out that crossing the Rohtang is the most abrupt change on the face of the earth; after three hours driving, we are witness to this, as we climb out and look down into Lahaul; the road winds down across stony hillsides and ahead are the unexplored 6000m plus peaks of the Lahaul massif; to the right the road to Spiti, only opened (and still closed a lot by storms) in 1993, and to the left the Chandra valley sweeps beneath the hanging glaciers of the Pir Panjal to meet the Chenab. We drop to the collection of Dhabas (roadside cafes) where we lunch before driving on. This next section trekkers normally rotate through the left hand seats - the views of peaks and glaciers are stunning. By mid afternoon we are in our hotel in Keylong, settling in for the night and getting used to the thin clear mountain air. Over a huge Indian meal, Luke will go over the next few days, and talk over some altitude issues.
Day 4 - Drive Palamo 3680m
We jump back in the jeeps and head further into Lahaul, winding along the wild and majestic Bhaga river valley; then to climb up the Bara River to our first camp (!).
Day 5 - Trek Zanskar Sumdo 3940m
We head across old glacial rocks and past side streams to our camp at the base of the valley that leads up to the main Himalayan barrier - make sure you have your sandals today, as we have to negotiate several side streams. It takes about three hours to reach our camp, but this is a pretty valley, there is no rush, and most trekkers feel the elevation, and need no excuse to go slow. Camp, 'Zanskar Sumdo' (literally, 'The junction for Zanskar') is a series of clearings at the base of an old moraine, with snow peaks peering over the hilltops all around. We normally have lunch on arrival, and then spend the afternoon climbing high above the camp for even better views. We have tomorrow here, so unpack and settle in. Over dinner Luke will talk over the options for our acclimatization day.
Day 6 - Zanskar Sumdo 3940m
Breakfast in the sun, and then we are heading off for our walk. Several options, but the most attractive is to head west on the trail that leads to some remote passes to the Miyar glacier, a trail we are exploring in 2009. The trail leads through some lovely pastures and small lakes, crossing some icy glacial side streams, with some great views of the peaks. We carry lunch and can make a full day of it, but most trekkers have preferred to be back in camp for lunch. Again over dinner Luke will talk over our next day on the trail.
Day 7 - Trek Ramjak 4400m / Chumik Nakpo
And now we head up...crossing the Darcha river first, normally just by the bridge, but sometimes we have to ford a couple of streams before the bridge. Then straight up the steep hillside ahead, slowly making the 200m to the top, with views back across the Pir Panjal, a perfect excuse to stop and rest. We progress slowly higher today, the trail contouring high above the valley then dropping to some (blessed!) green pasture where we can top up our water bottles before climbing to our feet to make more elevation. We lunch in a pretty clearing, and after seven hours walking reach one of many camps that we use; it all depends on how we are acclimatizing. We aim at being in camp by three at the latest, to settle in and get ready for crossing the Himalaya!
Day 8 - Cross the Himalaya via Shingo La 5000m to Lakong 4329m
We have to move early today as the snowcap on the pass can be hard for our horses later; so we aim to be on the trail by five at the latest. Have all your gear for the day laid out ready the night before; headtorch to avoid that fumbling, down jacket, gloves, sunglasses - all covered in the briefing. The trail climbs gently away from camp - look out for the side streams crossing the trail, they can be frozen at this hour - until at seven we rest together, drink and snack at a wonderful viewpoint, looking back to the mountains of the Pir Panjal. Then we cross the first glacial ice, walking on old snow, then more rubble. At this point of 4700m our kitchen crew normally overtake us, dressed in all their 'Tibetan-bandit-snowboard-chic' as one trekker called it, closely followed by our horse team, banging and clattering with cheerful shouts and laughter. Now we have a steep 100m climb on a sandy trail opposite the old glacier - then we reach the lake that marks the plateau the pass sits on - look north and you will see the fluttering prayer flags on the pass. Then we are on top, taking in the true Himalayan views, and pity Andrew Wilson, the first Brit to cross in 1849 - he was so obnoxious to his porters that they abandoned him here and he slept out on the pass! Our crew always make a point of being together for a few moments here with us - putting up our prayer flags, and shouting their thanks to the Gods to all the winds of Asia.
And down; snowfields and more rubble, then a real trail zig zagging down. There may be some old glacial ice to negotiate and as ever look to Luke to find the correct way; we rock hop some streams, then relax and lunch in our first meadows. Look across the valley and you will see the black dots that are the yaks of the Kargyak villagers grazing in their high pastures. After lunch the trail is an easy one hour to our camp in the riverside pastures known as 'Lakong' or 'Gateway' for the door into Zanskar. The views from this camp are totally sublime - we have crossed the Himalaya and are in Zanskar!
Day 9 - Trek Kargyak 4050m
Today is a classic Himalayan trekking day as we cross the Kargyak Chu and wend our way among the rocks that litter the slopes of the Gumbarajon, literally 'Natural Gompa' soaring high above the pastures that the Kargyak villagers move their flocks up to when summer arrives. After resting by a crystal clear stream that flows from this granite monolith, we meet the first of the Doksas (summer camps) where we are normally offered fresh yoghurt as the newborn yaks crash around us - do not venture to close to these cute creatures if their mothers are on hand!
We progress on across the high pastures, and at around noon Luke will lay out our lunch; crisp salads, cheese, fresh baked bread and fruit. If it is a warm day, a post lunch siesta is always in order! Moving on across this classic high Asian landscape, stopping to watch the afternoon light on the Gumbarajon, we pass piles of rocks, Mani walls, marked with the Buddhist mantra, 'Om mani padme hum', and soon we reach our first chorten. These line our route across the Buddhist land we traverse - originally in the early days of Buddhism in India, they were burial mounds, later developing, in a religion with no art tradition, into a representation of the seated Buddha, or even the upturned begging bowl of a monk. Then we crest a rise and there is Kargyak in all its summer greens and golds spreading down to our camp on the banks of the Kargyak Chu. As we move through the narrow lanes of the village, we may be joined by Singge, the boy we sponsor, home for the holidays. Our camp has views back to the Gumbarajon in the upper valley, and although a lovely spot, the winds gusting down from the Main Himalayan range can snatch a pre pegged tent from the hand of an unwary trekker and end up in the river - so take care! Normally we give school supplies to the village children we have come to know over the years, so expect a horde of delightful waifs with your afternoon tea.
Day 10 - Trek Tangze 4000m
Today we trek along the headwaters of the Zanskar River; entering the main heart of upper Zanskar. This is the population hub for the area, with villages dotting the patchworked landscape of shimmering green barley and bright yellow mustard fields. Summer is in full swing and we pause along our path to practice our Zanskari with locals as they methodically work their proudly constructed fields.
Day 11-13 Trek Phirtse La to Peak 6010 high camp 5200m
We enter into a wild section of the trip where few venture to trek, crossing the spectacular 5000m Phirtse La.
Day 14 Climb peak 6010 - 5200m
Today we scramble up non-technical peak 6010. If you aren't interested in the peak hike, it's a nice place to relax and enjoy a book by the river with tea, or go for a stroll up the valley.
Day 15-17 Trek Sarchu 4210m
We trek down valley to the green pastures of Toyar and then on to Sarchu over a period of three days, a peak experience fresh in our minds. Each night, we'll sleep next to the river, the sounds of the flowing water lulling us to sleep.
Day 18 - Drive Leh 3500m
We'll jump in the jeeps, and head to Leh for a celebratory dinner and hot showers, our trek complete (!).
Day 19 - Extra Day in Leh
A free day to have laundry done and shop for souvenirs for loved ones.
Day 20 - Depart Leh (or stay on...)
Trip ends. There are morning flights from Leh (IXL) to Delhi (DEL) but be aware these are fine weather flights only, and as such can occasionally be delayed by a day or two. This only tends to happen a couple of times a month.