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Exploring the Great Divide
Leh - Tsomoriri - 6000m peak - exploratory pass crossings - Leh
This is a trek is roughly equivalent to a Ladakh to Spiti via the Parang La trek, instead we pioneer an alternative adventurous route, climb a 6000m peak or two en route, cross the bottom end of the Zanskar Range then see if we can find a clean way over the Himalayan range. This is true remote area exploring, building on previous explorations of the region, and a wild wilderness route that in part has probably never been trekked previously.
This is a journey of peaceful, panoramic camps, on a route that we are not likely to meet other trekkers after the lake. One 6000m peak is straightforward although we may use a rope for crevasses, the other peak - let's see, and there are plenty more around. Although little-trekked, we are already familiar with this Rupshu "ice field" as it is sometimes called by pilots, a starkly beautiful, barren area without ice when we go, late season. It is an area of coloured and textured rocks, with more variety than expected. This great wilderness means it is also the hideaway of kiang, foxes, wolves and perhaps even snow leopard.
This is a journey, we are trekking with our fully self-contained horse caravan in a rhythm untouched by the always-on daily stress. After a nourishing breakfast we trek, sometimes in huge valleys, sometimes over windy passes, having a simple but delicious lunch and then set up camp when we find that perfect spot, with running water. Afternoon tea, with snacks leads to time to relax or explore, and a hearty dinner and an evening of kicking back, and fitful sleep.
This is the trekking life, join us.
The grand scale; our horse team descends - Jamie
We start trekking at glorious Tsomoriri, Kiangdam is on the centre grass - Jamie
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 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. So we 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 just to explore for exploration's sake, and have a team that excels at doing this too, 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.
Prayer time at Matho Gompa - Jamie
We have had a slow ongoing affair with exploring the region.
2013: We climbed Lungser Kangri for wonderful views of our elusive peak.
2012: Jamie explored the Ladakh Range, high passes and straightforward peaks.
2012: Our Kanji trek was in fact a 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 Zanskar traverse we crossed the area we are aiming to finish in.
2006: planned for elsewhere, this turned into an attempt on Kang Yatze. 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 6622 and Lungser Kangri 6666m. An all time classic trek.
This photo has haunted me since 2003, finally we will climb this peak!
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 an exploratory trip so we don't write full trek itinerary notes, however here is some more detail on the start of the 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 - 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 - Jamie
4 - drive Skyidmang village 4000m with sightseeing
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 will 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, 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 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.
6 - trek Kiangdam 4560m
7 - trek Lameke 4650m
8 - trek Manechan 4760m
9 - trek Thargang 4750m
10 - trek Karpa Peak BC 4925m
11 - rest-explore-climb? from Karpa BC 4925m
12 - trek to BC for peak 6230m
13 - exploration
14 - climb 6230m peak
15 - trek near Kum Tso 4980m
16 - trek Pangpo La BC ~5100m
17 - trek Thochung 4560m via Langpo La 5350m
18 - trek Lamaguru 4420m
19 - trek Umnag Chu ~4750m
20-24 - trek-explore to Baralacha La/Tingting Khurd/Pang
25 - drive Leh
We hit the road, and some initially rough driving, the road smooth's out and so is a relatively quick drive now. 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?
Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - 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?!