We start our adventure in Leh. Stay and meals in Leh are not included in the trek fee, so you can choose your hotel or request us to book you into a guest house. You can opt for the Roads & Journeys pick up or make your own arrangements, but do let us know in advance.
The first day is reserved for you to acclimatize to the Leh weather and spend some time around the town. If you choose to spend it with the Roads & Journeys team then we’d be glad to give you an early introduction to the rest of the team.
Post this, you set off to visit the local sights of Leh. Visit the Shanti Stupa, Leh Market, Hemis Monastery, a museum run by the army. Eat the local cuisine and get a sense of the culture of the region. Post this we get together for dinner. It’s also a great time to poach us with any questions you have about the trek. Relax the night away.
Chilling To Skyu
Today we begin our adventure to Markha Valley by heading towards our first destination enroute, Chilling. The village is located by the Zanskar river and is an hour and half drive from Leh. The drive to Chilling is a beautiful one. You pass by the famous Magnetic Hill and cross the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus river. An interesting fact is that here there used to be a walkover bridge that was washed away in the floods and this was a big problem because people couldn’t cross over the river. To solve this, the locals made a trolley that one had to sit inside and pull themselves across the river, or use assistance to be pulled across.
Of course now there is a new bridge that has been made for people to walk over. We carry packed lunch, which usually constitutes boiled egg and bread for non vegetarians and break and vegetables for vegetarians. These meals will be prepared at the homestays we will be staying overnight at, which means it’s completely local. For those who want a change in food, there are makeshift dhabbas along all our routes, so you can stop over for a packet of Maggi or whatever more they have to offer.
Once we reach Chilling, you have a three and hour hour walk to Skyu, which is where we will be staying overnight in a homestay. The walk is not a strenuous one and is a gradual climb, so you don’t have to worry about exhausting yourself on the first day. Notice the barren landscapes around you that carry shades of grey, red and violet on them. It’s quite a beautiful sight. Once we reach Skyu, we’ll be staying overnight in homestays. Rest well before you embark on another day of trekking. (One day living in tent at 16000 ft)
Skyu To Markha
Post breakfast, it’s time to trek our way to Markha, the biggest village in the valley. It constitutes about 20 houses, an old monastery and a ruined fort. This walk is very interesting because it takes you through valley after valley. You find yourself ascending and descending quite often. En route, you will find yourself trekking by abundant willow thickets and Poplars, where ancient Mani walls (carved or inscribed with the six-syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara). Chortens line the trail and barren cliffs rise high above the valley. The trail continues through a series of willows and coarse thickets up until you reach a bridge over the Markha River. While trekking along the Markha River, you can enjoy stunning views of the valley below. After crossing the river, we reach Markha and check into our homestay for the night.
Markha To Hangkar
The next morning, we set out of Hangkar, a small village with just a population of 80. You will notice that the people here live a very wholesome life. Due to a consistent availability of water and favourable climate, they can harvest everything they need and sustain livestock. We leave post breakfast and are met with several attractions along the way. The trail passes by old stone mills, the auspicious monastery of Techa that is perched upon a cliff that looms above Markha, and a ruined castle on top of a hill. The castle is a short climb away, if you are up for the detour. The path then intersects the river several times before cutting through the last hamlets in the valley. After leaving the village of Umlung, we will get our first view of the mighty Mt. Kang Yatse. The mighty mountain will stay in sight until we cross Kongmaru La. After we break for lunch in the village of Hangkar (the last one in the valley), we will continue onward to the lovely green pasture of Thachungste, where we will camp for the night. Before retiring into bed, take the opportunity to gaze at the stars above, because you wouldn’t have seen these many stars in the sky before. Try to spot constellation, which is not going to be easy.
Hangkar To Nimaling
After breakfast we will follow a trail which leads us up to the beautiful plateau of Nimaling, where the people of the Markha Valley bring their herds to graze during the summer months. At 4700m, Nimaling is the highest camp (4600m) on the trek, giving us spectacular views of the Kang Yatse peak to the right. We spend the day hiking through one of the most beautiful valleys of Ladakh. As we start climbing higher, you will notice the valley getting narrower. You will see a lot of mountain goats running about freely. Shepherds bring their yak and sheep to graze because the weather conditions are favourable to the animals at this time of the year. However, as we ascend higher, the winds get tougher. So, you should be prepared for harsh weather conditions. It takes about five to six hours to reach Nimaling, depending on the collective speed of the trekkers in the group. This is also where we will set up camp as there are no homestays available at that altitude. Be prepared for a camping experience where we will be sitting by a bonfire to warm ourselves and enjoy our time far from civilization.
Nimaling To Chokdo
As it is not possible to return to Leh through the route we came by, we need to take an alternative route on our return back. This route takes us through the Kongmaru La Pass, which is the highest pass on our trek. Going up takes a lot of effort, but once you have reached the pass, it’s a rewarding one. You are greeted by the view of the entire Indus valley and the Ladakh range. You can even see the Kang Yatse range. Your descent will be extremely steep, and it takes you about ten hours or more to reach Chokdo village, which is where we will be spending the night. Be prepared for knee pain along the route, but you will have sufficient time to recover from time to time. The landscape evens out as we enter Shang gorge, where the rock formations are unique and quite different from anything you might have seen before. We pass by few more river crossings, all formed by ice melting from the glaciers. This water is really cold, and it can be quite distressing every time you have to cross it. But it is well worth the adventure. We finally arrive at Chokdo village and spend the night there; a well-earned rest.
Chokdo Village To Shang Sumdo To Leh
This is the last day of the trek. We wake up early, pack up and make our way Shang Sumdo. En route, we cut through a couple of villages that give us more insights into the lives people live there. We might also be lucky to grab some local food on the way. Once we reach Shang Sumdo, we embark on a two hour walk along a jeep road to Martselang. This is where we get onto our vehicle back to Leh. We stop over at the Hemis Monastery, which is said to have existed before the 11th century. Back in Leh, we have a little more time to explore the city by catching up on things we missed on the first day and finally retire back to our hotel.
We hope you had a memorable experience and depart with the hope to see you soon on another adventure with Roads & Journeys.