Travel ▻ Himalayas ▻ India20-Day Ladakh Trek with Markha Valley and Stok Kangri Climb
20-Day Ladakh Trek with Markha Valley and Stok Kangri Climb

20-Day Ladakh Trek with Markha Valley and Stok Kangri Climb

20 days

20-Day Ladakh Trek with Markha Valley and Stok Kangri Climb
from $2895 USD

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Come to a land that is arguably more "Tibet" than Tibet itself; a land where ancient Tibetan traditions and vital religious shrines have been carefully protected and honored. We start by flying into the Ladakhi capital of Leh, where the imposing peak of Stok Kangri (20,080 feet) is prominent on the southern skyline. While spending several days acclimatizing, we visit the colorful ancient Buddhist monasteries at Shey, Thiksey, and Hemis before setting off on the gorgeous trek through the Markha Valley. Our route winds through several remote and picturesque villages to the high Nimaling Plain below the magnificent peak of Kang Yatze. Crossing the Kongmaru La, we then follow a scenic high route to Stok Kangri Base Camp, a three-day approach to the mountain, which includes superbly located campsites and far-reaching views of Tibet and the eastern Karakoram. Although very safe and technically straightforward (involving low-angle scree and easy snow slopes), the climb on Stok Kangri is both physically challenging and interesting. This trip is perfectly suited to someone seeking his or her first Himalayan summit.

* Note that this trip can start any day during the Ladakh summer, however the best season is between mid-June through early September.

* Special Festivals: A host of dazzling local festivals (such as the brilliant Hemis Festival) occur all year; we can time your trip to coincide with festivals for added culture! Contact us for suggested dates.

* This trip can be shortened for those who need a shorter trip by removing Day 4 and Day 9.

* We can easily add an English-speaking professional tour leader to join your party throughout the trip for an extra cost. The flat fee is $4,000 per group. This option truly enhances your experience so we highly recommend it!

Full Itinerary expand all collapse all

Day 1: Arrive in Delhi

On arrival to Delhi, you will meet your guide at the airport and we will transfer you to your hotel (rooms will be available starting at 12 noon).

Meals included: n/a
Mid-Range Accommodations: Jivitesh-Standard room

Day 2: Fly to Leh, Ladakh

In the early morning, we will transfer you to the airport to board the flight to Leh.  You will enjoy a spectacular mountain flight upon leaving the plains of north India and entering the mighty Himalayas.   Very soon the green of the greater Himalayan range gives way to the arid Trans-Himalayan desert.   Upon your arrival at the Leh airport, we will transfer you to the hotel.  The rest of the day is at your leisure to acclimatize to the high altitude of Leh.  

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: The Kaal/Ladakh Sarai or similar

Day 3: Explore ancient Leh

You will go on a guided morning visit to Phyang and Spituk monasteries by car. Where the Phyang monastery now stands was once a part of numerous monastic properties, very active during the time of Dharmaraja Jamyang Namgial to Chosje Damma Kunga. The hill of Phyang served as the main venue of a monastery, known as Tashi Chozong, established in the year 1515. Historic Spituk Monastery, established in the 11th century, is located on the mount of a hill in Leh on the shore of the Indus River. The monastery is famous for its wide and varied collections of ancient masks, icons, antique arms, and numerous Thangka.

In the afternoon, you can walk around the city of Leh and explore its many lanes and alleys at your leisure.

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: The Kaal/Ladakh Sarai or similar

Day 4: Discover more of magical Leh

Today, we will take a wonderful Indus valley monastery tour, starting with a visit to Shey, the ancient capital of Ladakh.  The monastery here has a massive gold-gilded statue of Buddha Sakyamuni with a large silver lamp burning in front of the statue.  Then, we will visit the Thiksey gompa, an impressive complex rising, tier upon tier, on a hill above the village.  The monastery has a beautiful 30-meter high gold-plated statue of Maitreya Buddha, the Buddha of the future.  Next, we will drive further into the valley to visit the famous Hemis Gompa, founded in 1630s by Stag-tsang-ras-pa under the royal patronage of Sengge Namgyal.  Hemis is one of the largest and richest gompas in Ladakh.  The two-day festival of monastic dance in June-July has raised the reputation of Hemis especially high.  The festival is dedicated to the guru Padmasambhava, popularly known as the “second Buddha” and responsible for spreading Buddhism throughout the Tibetan world. 

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: The Kaal/Ladakh Sarai or similar

Day 5: Drive to Chilling (10,498 ft) and trek to Skiu (10,971 ft)

After breakfast, we will drive towards Nimo (approximately 3 hours), passing the mighty confluence of the Indus river and the Zanskar river.  From here, we will follow a rough Jeep track up to the village Chilling (3,200 meters).  There, we will cross the Zanskar River and meet the trekking crew, including the camp staff and horses.  We will start a gradual upward trek until reaching the irrigated trees and fields of the little village of Skiu, the campsite for the night.  We will visit the ancient Maitreya (future Buddha) at the Skiu Gompa.  Total trek: about 4 hours.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 6: Trek Skiu to Markha (3,760 m / 12,040 ft)

Following the Markha River, we will hike through the pretty valley on a fairly level path. The trail crosses the river at various points and passes through winter settlements that contain Lhatos (religious shrines for local deities) and Mani walls (stones inscribed with Buddhist prayers).  During peak season, a number of tented teahouses will be open, providing welcome refreshment.  After you cross the river for the last time, you will arrive in Markha, the largest village in the valley, consisting of around 20 houses, an old monastery, and a ruined fort.  Total trek: between 7 to 8 hours. 

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 7: Trek to Thachungste (4,265 m / 13,992 ft)

You will continue on the Markha valley trail, which goes past old stone-mills, a ruined castle, and the auspicious monastery of Techa, which is proudly perched on a towering cliff that looms above Markha, well worth visiting if one has the time and energy!  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 view Kang-Yatse (6,400 meters), which will stay in sight until after crossing Kongmaru La.  After a lunch break in the village of Hangkar (the last in the valley), we will press onward to the lovely green pastures of Thachungste.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 8: Trek Markha to Nimaling (4,700 m / 15,419 ft)

Today the trail will lead up to the beautiful plateau of Nimaling, where the people of the Markha Valley bring their herds to graze during the summer months.  At 4,700 meters, Nimaling is one of the highest camps on the trek, affording spectacular views of Kang Yatse to the right, the Zangskar Range, and the Markha Valley below.  Total trek: 7 hours.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 9: Acclimatization Day in Nimaling

Today, you will take a rest day to acclimatize in these lovely surroundings.  You will have the option of going on a day hike or just relaxing in the camp.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 10: Trek to Chuskyurmo (4,000 m / 13,123ft)

We will climb to the top of Kongmaru La (16,750 feet / 5,100 meters), which offers excellent views south to Zanskar and north to the Karakoram range.   We will descend to enter a narrow spectacular gorge to the campsite at Chuskyurmo at 4,000 meters.  Total trek: 7 hours.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 11: Trek from Chuskyurmo to Shang Phu (4,365 m / 14,320 ft)

From Chuskyurmo, we will enter a tributary valley that leads to Gyuncho La at 15,500 feet / 4,700 meters. Descending from the pass, we will camp at Shang Phu at an altitude of 14,320 feet / 4,365 meters.  Total trek: 5 to 6 hours.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 12: Trek from Shang Phu to Gangpoche (4,435 m / 14,550 ft)

Today, we will climb to cross the Shang La (16,370 feet / 4,960 meters), descend to the Tokpo River, and trek further downhill, around spurs and over a 4,550 meter pass, to the camping place at Gangpoche (14,600 feet / 4,435 meters).  Total trek: 6 to 7 hours.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 13: Trek to Smankarmo (4,380 m / 14,370 ft) via Matho La Pass (4,965 m / 16,390 ft)

Another steady climb in the morning for us, this time, up to the Matho La (16,390 feet / 4,965 meters).  From just before the pass, you will view Stok Kangri for the first time.  When the weather is clear, you may be able to see the 8,000 meter Gasherbrum peaks looming 210 km away in Pakistan.  Kashmir is in the narrow gap in the foreground.  At the Matho La pass, you can walk 100 meters southwest on the top of the ridge, just past the first small hill, for views of Saltoro Kangri.  We will then descend into the valley to the north of Stok Village.  This lovely valley is a high and wild area, which is visited only by climbing groups and by the local people who spend some of the summer months in picturesque villages of stone huts, from where they tend their flocks of sheep and goats.  We will camp near the shepherds' huts at Smankarmo (4,380 meters).  Total trek: 4 to 5 hours.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 14: Trek to the Base Camp of Stok Kangri (16,434 ft / 4,980 m)

We will trek up to the base camp area for Stok Kangri (Yarlas at 4,980 meters).  This pleasant campsite is on a grassy area beside a glacial melt water stream.  In the afternoon, we will walk above the camp for views of the Rimo peaks (adjacent to the Siachen Glacier in the East Karakoram), where the torrent flows out of the very middle of the Gulap Glacier's terminal moraine at 5,160 meters.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 15: A rest day and time for final preparations for ascent

You will have a day of relaxing and preparing for the big summit day tomorrow, before spending another night at base camp to complete acclimatization.   Psychologically, you will find it helpful to have previously covered the ground to the old advance base camp, as this section of the ascent will be done in the dark.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 16: Summit Day - Ascend Stok Kangri (6,220 m / 20,406 ft)

Your summit day begins before dawn, to allow ample time for the climb. From the advance base camp, the nature of the route depends on the snow cover. We will scramble over scree and boulders, which lead up to the south ridge. The 1,500-foot ridge that stretches up to the summit is exciting with 360 panoramic views, although never particularly steep and very straightforward. Most of the ridge is a steep path, so ropes are not usually necessary, although some scrambling is required. At an altitude approaching 20,000 feet, the climb is extremely tiring and anybody who needs a rope will be able to use one (provided by the guide).

The summit is a superb reward for your effort, offering superlative views in every direction. The city of Leh is so small that one can barely see it. After you take photographs and perhaps have a bite to eat, we will set off back down the hill. The route taken depends on the leader, but the route is usually a reversal of the way up. On reaching the glacier, we will return to base camp.

Meals included: Breakfast
Budget Accommodations: Camping

Day 17: Trek to Stok Village from base camp / Drive to Leh

From base camp, we will trek directly down the valley towards the village of Stok.  The trek is a delightful walk through a dramatic canyon with amazing red sandstone formations, an excellent example of vertical strata showing how plate tectonics can shape mountains so quickly.  Also, we will look out for exotic Blue Sheep as they scamper across steep rock faces, which most of us would not venture out onto without climbing equipment!   We will pass several homesteads and numerous ruins of old fortresses, reaching Stok.  Total trek: 6 hours.  We will find a vehicle waiting for us to transport us back to the hotel in Leh.

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: The Kaal/Ladakh Sarai or similar

Day 18: Fly back to Delhi

In the morning, we will transfer you to the airport to board the flight to Delhi. On arrival in Delhi, we will transfer you to the hotel. The rest of the day is free for you to relax.

Special Option: the supplement to upgrade to a luxury room at the Park Hotel in Delhi is $40/person.

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: Jivitesh-Standard room

Day 19: Explore Delhi or Agra/Taj Mahal

Today, you are free to enjoy Old and New Delhi at your leisure. This day is important to build in as a “buffer day” in the program in the unlikely event of any plane delays prior to today.

* Optional: You can go on a full day private guided trip to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Supplement: US$140 per person (2-3 travelers), US$100 per person (4 or more travelers).

Meals included: Breakfast
Mid-Range Accommodations: Jivitesh-Standard room

Day 20: Transfer / Depart Delhi

At the right time, we will transfer you to the international airport in Delhi to board the flight for your onward journey.

Meals included: Breakfast

Pricing

20-Day Ladakh Trek with Markha Valley and Stok Kangri Climb
from $2895 USD

NOTE: Prices are per person in U.S. dollars based on double/triple occupancy. All quotations are based on the current rates of park fees, VAT, other government taxes, and current exchange rates. Should any of these be increased or a new tax introduced, these increases will be added on even if your trip has already been paid for.

INCLUDES:
  • All accommodations per itinerary
  • All meals per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • All tours and entrance fees per itinerary (unless listed as excluded)
  • All transportation and transfers per itinerary
  • Services of an English speaking specialist local guide in Leh 
  • Services of professional trekking guide on the trek
  • All camping, trekking and wildlife fees and permits
  • Sherpa Cook (1 for the group) on the trek
  • Trek assistants •  Pony / ponies as needed
  • All camping equipment; such as tents, dining tent, kitchen tent, toilet tent, mattresses, etc. (except sleeping bag, available for rent or bring your own)
  • All required kitchen equipment on the trek
EXCLUDES:
  • International and domestic flights
  • Meals not listed
  • Beverages and alcohol
  • Tips for guides, drivers, hotel staff
  • Optional tours
  • Single room supplement
  • Personal expenses (visas, airport taxes, Internet, etc.)

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