Jamie McGuinness Lobsang, star organizer Punsok, our delightful cook


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Stakna Gompa near Leh - Jamie McGuinness

Trekkers say

The main reason of this e-mail is to register our especial thanks to Jamie for his ultimate competent and dedication to us in special to Raquel when he could demonstrated in field why he is recognized one of the best mountaineering guides in nowadays.

Thank you so much, Jamie!

Denio and Raquel, Lungser Kangri/Mentok II 2014


It was a wonderfully hilarious trek.

*, Lungser Kangri/Mentok II 2014

Trek-climb thoughts

Why this trek? Certainly our time in Leh is cultural, and with our local crew but ultimately this is a truly great wilderness trek. Put your tent where you want, sleep under the stars, freedom!

Why not the Parang La? We have trekked this a number of times and it is a known, used route but it involves taking horses/mules on a real glacier (!) over a 5780m pass. The horses slide a round a bit and there is a small risk of falling in a crevasse if off-route, and it is often cloudy up there. Locals use it for grazing animals, however we are trekkers and so want to see if a new route makes more sense for trekkers.

Real exploring, how come? All other trekking companies focus on the bottom line, and research an area for the purpose of developing a new standard, set itinerary, one that has marketing appeal. We are inspired to explore just for exploration's sake, and have a team that excels at doing this too; who are unafraid of the concept. Local horsemen mostly don't like the risky unknown, guides neither, with having to work out camps, deal with clients who want to know how many hours walk it will be.

For our exploratory route there are ways out if ourselves and the horse team unable to cross the crucial pass. Our explorations add up to greater than the sum too, witness our GHT explorations in Nepal.

In our own way we are making history and now with cameras with GPS etc, we can share our knowledge more effectively.

Why Project Himalaya? We really care and offer amazing service in every detail, our trek service is better (or at minimum equal) to any other company so that you can just turn up with the right gear and enjoy.

Zanskar, not our trek, but not too dissimilar - Jamie

Exploratory history

We have had a slow ongoing affair with exploring the greater region, REALLY exploring the region, and we know more of its secrets over a wider area than anyone else alive. Seriously, over a decade we have trekked east to west and north to south and still have a few more passes to go, all the while running classic trekking trips. Treks in this area include:

2015: Ladakh Peaks & Passes, after success on Dzo Jongo we topped out on a mysteriously undocumented 5865m pass and will return to this delightful area in the future.

2014: Exploring the Great Divide including peak 6230m, the elusive Pangpo La, Tsarap Chu headwaters and forgotten pass, and the old Spiti pass to the Paralatse region.

The 2014 Great Divide team atop the remote Pangpo La, a real achievement.
Lobsang, Luca, Tod (hidden) Demet, David, Arabella, Len, Helena, Jussi and Jamie

2014: We climbed Mentok II the easy way and found that tough unmarked-on-maps 5950m pass (Lungser Kangri was closed).

2013: We 6000m explored between Tso Kar and Tsomoriri then climbed Lungser Kangri again after a decade's break for wonderful views of our elusive 6230m peak.

2012: Changtang Passes, we explored the Ladakh Range from Ligche; high passes, straightforward peaks and amazing green grass camping.

2012: Our Kanji trek was a Great Himalaya Trail (GHT) exploration to those elusive Ralakhung villages, although difficult terrain thwarted us for the final goal. The Dibling-Zingchan traverse was still a first for trekking groups.

2009: As part of a long private Zanskar traverse we crossed the Paralatse area to Chandra Tal (lake).

2006: planned for elsewhere, this turned into an attempt on Kang Yatse. Serious about it, we had everything set up and it rained records, we were about the only people that didn't abandon our trek, even if we didn't have a chance to summit.

2004: Caravan 6000 exploratory with Eric, Brian & Andriya: we climbed the sharks fin, my 2nd to last of the 6000m Mentok peaks and branched off an already minor route to cross the "Rupshu ice field" - we now know some of its secrets. We didn't find the "unknown" peak. Leaving, we made passes, including the disused 5300m Takling La.

2003: Caravan 6666 exploration with Richard and Nicola: we climbed five (!) 6000m peaks, including the devilish 6666m, some Mentoks and spied this "unknown" peak again (below), and some of the mysterious "Rupshu ice field", as pilots call it.

2002: Caravan Explorer 6000: from Pang we pioneered our classic Caravan HIGH route - the lowest passes were around 5700m, the highest was 6000m and of course a couple of us peaked over 6000m. September was cold!

2001: Caravan 6666: in retrospect it was this 39 day trek that started my fascination with the region. We eyed many peaks (climbed on later trips) and, climbed Chamser Kangri 6622m and Lungser Kangri 6666m. An all time classic trek.

Jamie's Flickr photo sets - explore them!

To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a laptop/desktop browser or tablet in landscape (and hit refresh).

Detailed itinerary

We plan to follow the itinerary however roads wash out, or are extended, occasionally people get sick, logistical challenges arise, or we hear of a better campsite, and so we will adapt it as we see is needed. This is very much an exploratory trip.

(Day 0 - arrive Delhi / early Leh arrival)

We spend three nights in Leh, so reasonable acclimatization to the 3480m/11,415ft altitude but if you are new to altitude or to Leh, perhaps plan to arrive one day early and we will arrange transfers and hotel and show you around.

Included in all our Ladakh trips are a couple of sightseeing trips, with or without a cultural guide (your choice) and it is your choice of where to go; many people joining are previous trekkers so have seen some places previously.

If you are more ambitious we can also help you arrange a day or overnight trip to Alchi and Basgo Gompas, a day rafting trip on the Zanskar River or even a mountain bike descent of the Khardung La (best a few days into your Leh sojourn). If you have been working flat out you are welcome to just relax, kick back and de-stress too.

Day 1 - meet in Leh 3480m

Phew, after a long series of flights, you are here! Look for a sign with your name on it at the airport, and our wonderful drivers Ang Chuk or Pasang will pick you up.

Jamie meets you at the hotel on your arrival and we discuss altitude over tea/coffee or breakfast and perhaps introduce Leh and show you the better places to eat. Most people crash out for a few hours and spend the day relaxing; do drink plenty of fluids which helps the acclimatization process. We normally go out to dinner together, let's meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30pm.

2 - Leh 3480m

A day for sightseeing and relaxing. Perhaps best today, if you are waking up early, is to visit some of the historic gompas and monasteries a short distance from Leh. We will arrange a jeep, and a local cultural guide if you like (included). Choosing where to go is the biggest challenge; Spituk Gompa, Matho, Stok, Pyiang, ever popular Shey, Thikse and more. Usually we arrange as a morning trip with lunch at Leh (or Thikse) then you can relax in the afternoon, although we can easily arrange a day trip.

Prayer time at Matho Gompa

Prayer time at Matho Gompa - Jamie

3 - Leh 3480m

After gentle sightseeing yesterday we exercise a little more today. In the morning we wander up to the palace and gompa above Leh, and before dinner, perhaps up to the Peace/Shanti Stupa for a Leh sunset panorama. Because tomorrow we stay 4000m, at minimum we need three nights here in Leh prior to moving higher.

Leh from Shanti Stupa

Leh from Shanti Stupa - Jamie

4 - drive Skyidmang village 4000m with sightseeing

Starting a trek from the 4500m altitude of Tsomoriri is always problematic for people so we break the journey and the altitude jump in a village that few people visit.

It is only a few of hours drive to our camp so we visit some gompas that are further afield from Leh along the way such as Matho, Stakna, busy Hemis or Chemre and Thag Thog. What haven't you already seen?

We camp Skyidmang village with our trek crew, which is more comfortable than the simple hotels there, and get our first taste of Punsok's wonderful cooking.

Ang Chuk with his Scorpio jeep

Ang Chuk, one of our regular drivers, with his turbo Scorpio jeep - Jamie

5 - drive Yarlung Marlung 4540m (Tsomoriri)

We continue driving and the closer to Tsomoriri, the more scenic it gets. At Korzok, on the lake shore, we meet Ram Lal and our horse caravan team and head just an hour or so beyond the end of the road, to a peaceful camp. The mountainscapes and cloudscapes here are often stunning with a foreboding storm or two building in the distance, yet rarely do they hit us.

We have made a 1000m/3000ft altitude jump over two days but now have two nights at the same altitude and another two nights with only a little altitude gain, and by then we should be truly acclimatized.

6 - trek Kiangdam 4560m

We trek always in sight of the lake shore, luckily no breathless hills as we are new to this altitude and will be feeling it. The views seemingly stay similar but in truth are ever changing with the play of light on the water and those cloudscapes. Finally, after a reasonably long day's walking we reach our flat camp at the end of the lake, the kiang's area. The Tibetan ass is territorial and have sometimes charged our horses here; I hope we don't get too much excitement.

The panorama is glorious.

7 - trek Lameke 4650m

Leaving the lake behind we climb up around a rocky spur to the valley coming down, so new views but still only a gentle altitude gain. We camp after a hopefully moderate day at a place where Lobsang and myself and Joel and team first explored a decade ago.

8 - trek Manechan 4760m

The valley continues up and so do we, at least for a while. Our aim is to camp in a spot where we can explore from. Some of this is going to depend on how good Jamie's and Lobsang's memories are. It definitely is area worthy of some exploration, lets see!

The scale! Yes, that is our camp at the bottom of the photo - 2004 (digital) photo

9 - trek Thargang 4750m

Let's see what actually makes sense with the terrain in front of us. My idea is to stay in the main valley going beyond the turnoff as there may be a ~6000m pass (PASS) worth investigating. As you can see we can be flexible over the next couple of days.

10 - trek Kharpa Peak BC 4925m

Now we enter this huge wide valley system, so big that even kiang are only unsure specks in the distance. Before get a chance to get lost in it though we turn up a side valley up, perhaps camping under Kharpa/Karpa Peak.

11 - rest-explore from Kharpa BC 4925m

Do we take a rest and exploration day here or elsewhere - lets see!

Getting closer to that peak - 2004 memories

12 - trek to BC for peak 6230m

Now for some real exploration, although with a little help from maps and Google Earth. Last time a decade ago without these we failed even to get to the base of the correct mountain!

13 - exploration

Do we need more time to get in position and to prepare?

14 - climb 6230m peak

We are aiming high and it will be a long, tough day but lets see how we do...

15 - trek near Kum Tso 4980m

Cresting another broad ridge, there is a direct way to the lake marked on the map, which should also be an excellent place for spotting some wildlife. Lets see if we can make it today, or camp part way only.

Curious kiang, 2004 memories

16 - trek Langpo La BC ~5100m

We should be able to camp a little closer to the pass, although this may not be necessary.

17 - trek Thochung 4560m via Langpo La 5350m

In 2004 I raced to the top of this pass to look over and realized it was going a different direction from what we wanted, but have kept a note in my mind of where it does go so that eventually one day - today - we can use it, that is after checking that there is a trail at the other end, where the valley meets the road, and I did this in 2013.

18 - trek Lamaguru 4420m

We continue down this valley with side streams originating from the Himalayan chain entering from the valleys on our left.

19 - trek Umnag Chu ~4750m

For the full trek explorers lets see what we do here. We have had a chance to glance up the side valley - will it "go"?

For people on the shorter program, today you race along the trail to the bridge near Tingting Khurd (curious name!) and meet Ang Chuk and/or Pasang. The choice will be staying in Tingting Khurd or driving over the spectacular Lachung La to Pang, and the roadside parachute camps there.

20-24 - trek-explore to Baralacha La/Tingting Khurd/Pang

I really hope we can find a route over this range as it will link with the treks around the Baralacha La/Paralatse Laarea and mean we can trek from Tsomoriri through without having to traverse the road. Let's see!

25 - drive Leh

We hit the road, hopefully from the top of the triple direction pass and some initially rough driving, the road smooths out. Driving back will take around 6 hours driving time (barring delays) where we deserve a cold beer or cocktail and a celebratory meal. Chopsticks or Bon Appetit?

A Tanglang La view - Jamie

26 - Leh

(A spare day for all those just in case's).

Day 27 - trip ends

You are free to take the morning flight to Delhi or bus to Manali for the long way back, or just enjoy more time in this central Asian town of yore.

When will we see you in the Himalaya again?!