Markha Valley – Ladakh

The Markha Valley Trek is certainly one of the most varied and beautiful treks in the world. It ventures high into the Himalayas crossing two passes over 15,000 ft (4575m) as it circles from the edges of the Indus Valley, down into parts of Zanskar, and passes through terrain that changes from incredibly narrow valleys to wide-open vast expanses! It is made all the more interesting by the ancient form of Buddhism that flourishes in the many monasteries that dot the landscape perched high atop hills.The trails are decorated by elaborate “chortens”(shrines) and “mani”(prayer) walls which further exemplify the region’s total immersion in Buddhist culture.Apart from the striking contrast of trekking in an arid cold desert valley, you get an outstanding view of Ladakh and Zanskar ranges, the 21,000 ft Kang Yissay and the 20,086 ft Stok Kangri peaks.The trek goes inside a beautiful Hemis National Park and involves two pass crossings- Gandala La (15748 ft) and Kongmaru La, (17,060 ft).Some exciting waist-deep river crossing sections on Markha River to trails going across interesting Buddhist villages and rocky canyons are some of the features that give this trek a unique fervor.



 Arrive Delhi international airport, transfer to the hotel. Evening free .Over Night in Hotel.


 Time to relax or go sightseeing. The heat, dust, sights and sounds of India’s frenetic capital are quite a culture shock! We provide a half-day sightseeing of old and new Delhi in the company of an English-speaking Indian guide. Delhi is basically twelve old towns/cities laced together by the new city of Delhi built by the British in the old times. The sheer size and scale of the old colonial buildings in New Delhi give some idea of the power of British imperialism in India. Many of the old Lutyens / Baker buildings survive to this day. This sightseeing tour will take in some of the old mosques and markets of Old Delhi, along with some of the sights of grand design of New Delhi. Overnight hotel.

DAY 03: FLY DELHI-LEH. 3500 m

 After an early breakfast you transfer back to the domestic airport for the early morning flight to Ladakh.  This surely is one of the most sensational scheduled flights in the world, taking you right over the top of the Greater Himalaya before dropping down in a series of steep turns, to land at the small military airport at Leh. During the flight you should get good views of the distant Karakoram including K2; the second highest mountain in the world, and will pass over some of the highest peaks in Jammu & Kashmir (which includes Ladakh), flight time 70 minutes. The flight, incidentally, takes you right past Stok Kangri! You will be met on arrival and driven through Leh to check in to your hotel, where you stay overnight. We recommend that the rest of the day be spent resting to help adjust to the altitude. Overnight hotel.


 Again take it easy today and enjoy a tour around town. Leh is very Tibetan; the national dress, ‘stove-pipe’ hats and felt boots with turned-up toes are much in evidence. The 16thC Royal Palace, which dominates the town, is very reminiscent of the Potala in Lhasa and Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, large chortens, prayer flags and mud brick houses with flat roofs are a dramatic culture change from the hot, teeming frenetic rush of Delhi. Don’t try to do too much today! Visit the palace, poke around the bazaars and if you’re feeling really keen and strong, walk out to one of the villages just to the north. Meander slowly up the many steps to the Tsemo Gompa and Shanti Stupa from where there are great views, and experience an hour’s dancing display in the Royal Palace in the early evening for a modest fee. In the summer there are often polo matches at the polo ground in the old part of town. Overnight hotel.


 The morning is free to poke around the bazaars of old Leh town, or perhaps walk out to one of the villages just north to stretch your legs and see something of the traditional way of life of the Ladakhi village people. In the afternoon we include a half day sightseeing trip of Shey Palace, Stakna Gompa and the monastery at Hemmis. Overnight hotel in Leh.  Hemis monastery is famous for its gigantic thangka, one of the largest in the world, which is only displayed to the public every twelve years at the Hemis festival. Hemis is the largest and one of the most important monasteries in Ladakh, quite apart from its annual festival. It was founded about 350 years ago by Stagtshang Rinchen. One of the temples contains Buddha statues that have, apparently, in the past “spoken”. Shey Palace is the old summer palace of the kings of Ladakh and was built about 550 years ago by Lhachen Palgyigon, the first King of Ladakh. The old Shey palace has the largest golden Buddha statue in Ladakh inside its temple. It stands twelve meters high and has blue hair. As with many places in Ladakh, Shey has a famous oracle. During the August harvest festival, the Shey oracle rides on a horse and stops at various places to prophesies the future. Stakna Gompa, which means “tiger’s nose”, is set spectacularly on top of a sharp hill beside the Indus river. It is part of the Drukpa Order of Tibetan Buddhism. It is therefore one of the monasteries that was built at the instigation of the first ruler of Bhutan, Nawang Namgyal, who had an alliance with the King of Ladakh. Inside the main temple there is a very prominent and fearsome looking idol of Nawang Namgyal.


 Drive to SPITOK visit Spitok Gompa ,was built about 500 years ago by Gyalpo Bumlde, although one temple, dedicated to Mahakala was built about 900 years ago. About 125 yellow-hat sect lamas are considered Spitok Lamas, but at least half of them live and pray at Spitok’s dependent monasteries at Sankar, Stok and Sabu. All the lamas do however gather for major festivals. The name Spitok is probably derived from the Central Tibetan language and means, “effective as an example,” referring to the fact that this was the Tibetans’ first monastery in Ladakh. The head lama for Spitok is the head lama for Ladakh. Spitok Gompa contains both old temples and those built in the 1970s. Ancient thankas are preserved there, some having been taken from the Potala in Lhasa after the Chinese invaded Tibet. Spiti is a small village and monastery just south of Leh. A short drive brings you to the road head. The trek begins from Spitok by crossing a bridge and walking south west of the River Indus. The trail passes through barren countryside for about 3 hours until the Indus enters a narrow gorge at its confluence with the Zinchen. From here the trail climbs steadily through the Zinchen Valley, which is lined with trees, providing sufficient shade for a rest stop, before you reach the tiny village of Zinchen, which consists of just 4 or 5 houses. Camp overnight.

DAY 07: TREK TO KHILCHAY. 3801 m. 5 hrs.

 The trail from Zinchen ascends gradually all the way along the Rumbak Nala until you reach Rumbak, the largest village in the Zinchen Valley. If the fields are cultivated you may have to ford the river a few times up to the Rumbak junction. You then follow the well-marked trail on the left bank of the Rumbak Nala, passing cultivated fields and scattered houses until you enter a side valley leading to the south. The whitewashed houses of Yurutse lie further up the valley. Camp overnight.

DAY 08: TREK TO YURUTSE.3900 m.5-6 hrs.

 Today you follow the trail beside the river until the valley widens at Rumbak. After 10 minutes’ walk from the camp you have to cross the river to the right hand side. Here you can see golden eagle nests up in the rocks. You then carry on along the river until you reach Rumbak where you can see the snow-capped peaks of the Stok mountains. Here you take the right fork of the river and continue a gradual ascent towards Yurutse, where the villagers grow barley, potatoes and some green vegetables. Near the village are some impressive purple and green rock formations. Camp overnight.

DAY 09: YURUTSE OVER CROSS THE KANDA LA 4,800M, -SKIU 3018 m.7-8 hrs.

 Immediately after you leave camp, a gradual ascent followed by a steep climb gets you to the Kanda La. From the pass there is a fabulous view of white-fringed mountains merging into the distant ranges of the Karakoram. The trail descends steadily to the head of the Skiu Valley, where a number of rivulets join to form a small stream. The broad grassy shoulders of the upper valley narrow  sharply to the pinched waist at Sumdo, with its few houses and fields at  the junction of a small stream with the Skiu Nala. From here the river swoops exuberantly down a tight, narrow gorge, choked with willow and wild roses, and you follow the trail as it leaps from bank to bank all the way to the village of Skiu on the banks of the Lower Markha. You enter the village confronted by towering rock faces. Since Skiu is only at about 9,900ft/3,018m and the Markha Valley is quite narrow, the temperature is higher here. At dusk just as the evening shadows begin to envelop the valley, it is worth walking back along the trail where the Skiu Nala meets the Markha to visit a small monastery. This is cared for by  an old nun, who comes every morning and evening to light the butter lamps at the altar of Chamba – the Future Buddha. Camp overnight.

DAY 10: TREK TO THINLEPA. 3589 m. 6 hrs.

 Today is a very pleasant walk up one of the loveliest sections of the Markha valley. Woody bushes grow thickly along the river, which is spanned by several bridges over which the trail leads to Thinlespa. The camp is beyond this small village on the right bank of the river. Camp overnight.

DAY 11: TREK TO HANKAR.3,986 m-6-7 hrs.

 The trail continues eastwards climbing steadily up the valley through the picturesque village of Markha, which has a fascinating monastery well worth a visit. Coming in from the south is thetrail from Rubering La, one of the routes from Zangla in the Kingdom of Zanskar. From Markha the country changes and the warm, relatively wooded section of the lower Markha is left behind. The camp below the twin villages of Lower and Upper Hankar is distinctly cooler than at Thinlespa. Between the two villages is a ruined fort, the walls of which climb sharply up a crag to an eyrie of a lookout tower, worth visiting for those with a good head for heights. Camp overnight.

DAY 12: TREK TO NIMALING. 4,906 m. 8 hrs.

 From Hankar the trail climbs steadily up the now narrow valley, past villages smaller and seemingly poorer than those in the lower areas. The Nimaling plain is a broad undulating meadow, sloping upwards to the base of the ice-clad Kang Yatse, 6,400m/20,997ft, which dominates the area. Nimaling with tiny ponds and rivulets flowing all over its meadows provide pastures in the summer for an astonishing number of animals; yaks, sheep, goats, dzos and horses, not only from the Markha, but also from villages all around. Himalayan marmots and white-tailed hares are seen in plenty and it is not unusual to spot the occasional blue sheep or wolf. Camp overnight.

DAY 13: REST DAY. 4,906 m.

 A chance to relax at Nimaling and enjoy the superb scenery and surroundings. There is the chance to walk to the base camp of Kang Yatze, the highest peak in the Zanskar range, 6,400m/20,997ft, and return. Camp overnight.

DAY 14: CROSS PASS, TREK TO SUMDO.4033 m. 7-8 hrs.

 Today you cross the mountain range to the north of the Markha valley, climbing to the top of the highest of the three passes, the 17,409ft/5,306m Kangmaru La, with its wonderful views from the top. There are snow peaks in every direction and on a clear day the giants of the Karakoram, including K2, can be seen on the north western horizon. The trail descends steeply to the head of the  Martselang valley past the sulphur springs of Chyushkarmo, and follows the Martselang stream to the village of Sumdo or Shang-Sumdo, at the confluence of the Shang Nala and the Martselang. Camp overnight.


Today you make an easy descent mainly along the left bank of the Martselang to where it broadens into the valley of the Indus at the village of Martselang. Transport will be waiting here for the 2 hr drive to Leh. Overnight at Kang Lhha Chen Hotel, or similar.

DAY 16: TREK TO MATHOPHU. 4480 m, 5 hrs.

 Leaving Leh early in the morning, you drive across the Indus River to the village of Matho (one hour’s drive). Matho itself is an idyllic village with a fantastic monastery set on a rocky ridge above the houses below. The brother of our partner in Ladakh is the “King of Matho”, and if there is time, and he is available, you may well meet him and perhaps visit his house. The trek itself starts at the bridge at Choklamsar from where you trek up to Matho Phu along the side of the Matho stream. This is a barren but impressive valley and you set up camp after four to five hours’ walking at a height of 4,480m/14,700ft. Overnight camp.


 Initially from camp you continue trekking along the valley and then the path steepens and zigzags over the Matho Pass (5,029m/16,500ft). This is an exciting moment as from here you can see the whole of the route and base camp below. Descend a relatively short distance to camp.


 Time to sort out the gear, enjoy the scenery, perhaps do a little local exploration and basically enjoy being high in the mountains. Overnight camp.

DAY 19: TREK TO ADVANCE BASE CAMP 5300 m, 4 hrs.

Base camp is located not far from a stream and you may well also see Ladakhi sheep/goat herders up here in the summer months. Crossing this stream, you now follow a rising traverse which will eventually take you up to the snout of the glacier coming off Stok Kangri. Occasionally in the past, we have made an advance camp just in front of the snout, but depending on snow conditions, you may actually move further on to camp higher up on the glacier itself to give a good start for the summit day. This will depend upon weather conditions, fitness of the group and your trek leader will make this decision at the time. The glacier itself is a “dry ice” glacier, with very few small crevasses which present no danger and are easily stepped over. Overnight camp.

DAY 20: CLIMB STOK KANGRI . 6,121 m, 6-7 hrs. SUMMIT 3, hrs.DOWN.

 A pre-dawn start is needed to make the most of the hard, frozen snow. Every year the amount of snow varies. If there is plenty of snow, then it is easiest to crampon early in the morning up the face to join the ridge higher up. The slope is nowhere terribly steep and makes for a very straightforward ascent. Having gained the ridge, there is a narrow path that is easy to follow. Drops on either side are in places quite dramatic. Nearing the summit, there is occasionally a little section that is 15 or 20 feet high that is steeper than the rest, but again, it is basically kicking out bucket steps to climb onto the final summit ridge itself. From here, you have the most magnificent views of the Karakoram and eastern Karakoram to the north of you and on a clear day, you may well be able to pick out K2 itself. Over to the west on a clear day, you can see the highest peak in Jamu and Kashmir state, Nun Kun, the first British ascent of which was made by our MD, Steve Berry. To the south are the mass of peaks in Kishtwar and Zanskar. To the east you may well be able to see the highest peak in the Zanskar range, Kang Yatse that you have only a week or so previously trekked past. Having taken your pictures, it is then time to descend carefully and slowly back down to the base camp. Overnight camp.


  This is basically a contingency day in case of bad weather or any other unforeseen problems you may encounter. Overnight camp.


 It is an easy and relaxing walk back down to Stok village, though of course by now you will be pretty tired after your climb and it may seem harder work than usual. Nevertheless, there is still some very grand scenery to enjoy! Geologists say that Ladakh was the point of impact between the Indian subcontinent and the main Eurasian continent. You can see this graphically on this particular day, as there are huge areas of contorted strata and eroded pinnacles. There are also some interesting and very ancient hilltop fortresses that you should keep an eye out for as you get closer to Stok village. In Stok village, the present King’s palace  is now partly a museum and this is well worth a visit as it contains some of Ladakh’s most important royal treasures. It is then half an hour’s drive back to Leh to check into your hotel.


 This is one of the most remarkable flights to be taken in India in that it crosses the Greater Himalayan range. On one side of the aeroplane can be seen in the distance the peaks of K2, Nanga Parbat,  Gasherbrum and on the other side of the aeroplane, so close that you feel you could reach out and touch it, is the Nun Kun massif. Upon arriving in Delhi you transfer to the hotel.


 You have a Morning  in Dehli for relaxing, last minute shopping and any sightseeing you would like us to arrange. Afternoon transfer to the airport to board the flight for home Country/City.

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