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 - 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
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, 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?!