Trekking in Ladakh
Eight adventurous trekking routes
An essential guidebook to trekking in Ladakh. With detailed descriptions of eight treks in the Ladakh, Zanskar and the Markha Valley of north India, including details on combinations and alternative routes. Ladakh is a remote environment where trekking is extremely challenging, for adventurous trekkers only. Practical information is also included.
SeasonsUnlike other parts of the Himalayas, Ladakh is not normally hit by the Monsoon. Therefore summer (June to September) is the best trekking season.
CentresAccess is through Leh, the capital of Ladakh. The treks travel through towns and villages all over the Ladakh region, as well as the Zanskar sub-region and the Phukthal and Karsha monasteries.
DifficultyHigh altitude, lack of lodges and restaurants as well as the remoteness of the region make trekking in Ladakh a rather challenging activity. Moderate to very demanding treks have been covered in the book. A number of local agencies can help organise the trip and make the trek much easier.
Must SeeThe rich Tibetan-style culture, remote mountains, high passes, serene monasteries and Ladakhi people. See K2 from the Kanji Pass. Cover the classic Darcha-Padum-Lamayuru trek. Trace snow leopards and venture up deep river gorges.
This trekking guidebook gives detailed descriptions of eight different treks across the Ladakh, Zanskar and Markha Valley in northern India. Ranging from moderate difficulty to very demanding, each trek is broken down into multiple stages, and has information on difficulty, available accommodation and access, as well as the many combinations and alternative routes open to exploration.
Trek 1: Kharnak, 148 km / 10 days. Starts in Kharu in the Indus Valley and ends in Pang, on the Manali-Leh road.
Trek 2: Tsarab Chu, 174km / 12 days. Starts in Pang and ends in Padum, Zanskar.
Trek 3: Darcha to Padum – the classic trek to Zanskar, 135km / 9 days. Starts in Darcha and ends in Padum.
Trek 4: Round Sultanlango, 112km / 6 days. Starts in Padum and ends in Stongde, Zanskar.
Trek 5: Padum to Lamayuru – the classic trek from Zanskar, 148km / 8 days. Starts in Padum and ends in Lamayuru on the Kargil-Leh road.
Trek 6: Padum to Lamayuru via the Kanji La, 169km / 10 days
Trek 7: Alchi – a circuit over five passes, 98km / 8 days. Starts in Alchi in the Indus Valley and ends in Phanjila, Wanla, Lamayuru, Nurla or Mangyu
Trek 8: Markha Valley, 113km / 9 days. Starts in Spituk, southwest of Leh and ends in Hemis near the Indus Valley
Known as Little Tibet; for both its landscape and culture, Ladakh lies at the northern tip of India. The region is bisected by the great River Indus and neighbours Tibet and Kashmir. This quiet corner of the Himalaya has developed a strong trekking culture over recent years for adventurous trekkers. Trekking in this remote, high-altitude region is extremely challenging, as paths are not signed and there are only a limited number of villages. However, its magnificent landscape (a huge area full of limitless trekking possibilities), hospitable people, rich heritage and limited number of tourists make Ladakh an amazing destination.
The guide includes background information on local culture, history and religion, as well as all the planning detail you need on crucial aspects such as environmental responsibility, health and safety in the mountains, trekking practicalities and preparation for altitude.
Plants and animals
Trade routes and tourism
Buddhism in Ladakh
Planning the trip and the trek
What to bring from home
Health and fitness
Visas and permits
Money, insurance and dealing with emergencies
Tips on travelling in India
What to take on trek
Using this guide
How to get there
Travelling and sightseeing in Ladakh
On the trek
Stage 1 Kharu to camp beyond Shang Sumdo
Stage 2 Camp beyond Shang Sumdo to waterfall camp
Stage 3 Waterfall camp to Nyimaling via the Gongmaru La
Stage 4 Nyimaling to Langthang Valley via the Kongka Ngonpo
Stage 5 Langthang Valley to Gunlus Valley
Stage 6 Gunlus Valley to near Dat village, Kharnak Valley
Stage 7 Camp near Dat village, Karnak Valley, to camp near Lungmoche
Stage 8 Camp near Lungmoche to Zara Valley camp
Stage 9 Zara Valley camp to Toze Valley camp
Stage 10 Toze Valley camp to Pang
2 Tsarab Chu
Stage 1 Pang to Toze Valley camp
Stage 2 Toze Valley camp to camp beyond Lung
Stage 3 Camp beyond Lung to Morang La Advance Base Camp
Stage 4 Morang La Advance Base Camp to Tsokmitsik
Stage 5 Tsokmitsik to Satak
Stage 6 Satak to Hormoche
Stage 7 Hormoche to Nyalo Kuntse La Base Camp
Stage 8 Nyalo Kuntse La Base Camp to Yata
Stage 9 Yata to Phukthal
Stage 10 Phukthal to Pepula
Stage 11 Pepula to Mune
Stage 12 Mune to Padum
3 Darcha to Padum: the classic trek to Zanskar
Stage 1 Darcha to Zanskar Sumdo
Stage 2 Zanskar Sumdo to Chumik Nakpo
Stage 3 Chumik Nakpo to Lhakhang Sumdo
Stage 4 Lhakhang Sumdo to Kargyak
Stage 5 Kargyak to Testha
Stage 6 Testha to Purni (and Phukthal Gompa)
Stage 7 Purni to Pepula
Stage 8 Pepula to Mune
Stage 9 Mune to Padum
4 Round Sultanlango
Stage 1 Padum to Raru
Stage 2 Raru to Kalbok
Stage 3 Kalbok to Phukthal
Stage 4 Phukthal to Niri Valley camp
Stage 5 Niri Valley camp to Shingri Valley camp
Stage 6 Shingri Valley camp to Stongde Gompa
5 Padum to Lamayuru: the classic trek from Zanskar
Stage 1 Padum to Pishu
Stage 2 Pishu to Hanamur
Stage 3 Hanamur to Nyetse
Stage 4 Nyetse to Lingshed
Stage 5 Lingshed to Sengge La Base Camp (Gazho)
Stage 6 Gazho to Photoksar
Stage 7 Photoksar to Phanjila via the Askuta Way
Stage 8 Phanjila to Lamayuru
6 Padum to Lamayuru via the Kanji La
Stage 1 Padum to Pishu
Stage 2 Pishu to Hanamur
Stage 3 Hanamur to Zhingchan
Stage 4 Zhingchan to Squaz
Stage 5 Squaz to Dibling
Stage 6 Dibling to Kanji La Southern Base Camp
Stage 7 Kanji La Southern Base Camp to Kanji La Northern Base Camp
Stage 8 Kanji La Northern Base Camp to Chomotang Togpo Valley
Stage 9 Chomotang Togpo Valley to Shillakong
Stage 10 Shillakong to Lamayuru
7 Alchi: A circuit over five passes
Stage 1 Alchi to Stakspi La Base Camp
Stage 2 Stakspi La Base Camp to Sumdha Chungun
Stage 3 Sumdha Chungun to Manechan
Stage 4 Manechan to Hinju
Stage 5 Hinju to Ursi
Stage 6 Ursi to Tar
Stage 7 Tar to Mangyu
Stage 8 Mangyu to Alchi
8 Markha Valley
Stage 1 Spituk to Zhingchan
Stage 2 Zhingchan to camp below Kanda La
Stage 3 Camp below Kanda La to Shingo
Stage 4 Shingo to Pentse
Stage 5 Pentse to Markha
Stage 6 Markha to Hangkar
Stage 7 Hangkar to Nyimaling
Stage 8 Nyimaling to Chuskyurmo
Stage 9 Chuskyurmo to Hemis
Appendix A Treks overview table
Appendix B Stage summaries
Appendix C Some Ladakhi language words and phrases
Appendix D Glossary
Appendix E Embassies and consulates
Appendix F Further reading
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Update on the effects of the Zanskar River flood on trekking routes
A flood on Tsarab and Zanskar rivers in Ladakh in May this year destroyed many bridges and parts of newly-built roads. This has effected some trekking routes in the area and much damage has not been repaired will last into next trekking season, too. Trekking is possible but alternative pathways need to be followed in places.
The following information records what the author recorded on his latest visit, in late September:
- The route along the Tsarab River between Barandy Nala (Gian) and the abandoned village of Hormoche (Trek 2) has been repaired and is fine. However, this is an autumn option, usually not accessible earlier than the beginning of September due to high water levels.
- All the way along Niri Chu (the Niri River) down to its confluence with Tsarab and the route along Tsarab to Yata and then down to Phukthal (Treks 2 and 4) is fine.
- The bridge on Tsarab just below the Phuktal Monastery en-route between the gompa and Purni as well as the bridge on the Kargyak River just before its confluence with Tsarab in Purni had been washed away but new bridges have been built already. I saw the bridge in Phukthal but did not see the one in Purni and the one below Phuktal (Treks 2 and 4 as well as a side trip on Trek 3) is a simple footbridge, not suitable for horses.
- My Zanskari friends also tell me that it is fine to follow the route on the right side of the river between Phuktal and Cha village (Trek 2).
- The bridge in Cha below the confluence of Tsarab and Kargyak rivers has been already rebuilt but again it is not strong enough for horses. There is no bridge below it down the valley as far as Raru but it is possible to trek on either side of the valley (I tested the route between the Enmu village and the Raru bridge on the right side of the river).
- The Pepula campsite (Treks 2, 3 and 4) no longer exists and there are no camping nor homestay options on the left side of the Lungnak (Tsarab Lingti) rive between Changpa Tsetan and Raru.
- There is no longer a bridge between Changpa Tsetan and Enmu and the bridges in Dorzong and Ichar have also gone. The road between the Enmu village and Pobre (the solitary house half way between Enmu and Dorzong on the right bank), which was built in recent years, is badly damaged but passable.
- If you reach Ichar on the right bank of the river there is no other option than to continue to the Raru bridge on Tsarab. It is a bit tough on a high traverse but views are rewarding. It is also fine to walk on the left side of the river although the part of the road between the place where the Ichar road bridge was and the Raru village was washed away during the flood - there is a footpath.
- The pedestrian bridge over the Lungnak (Tsarab Lingti), just below its confluence with Raru Nala, had been partially damaged but it have been rebuilt already. It is fine both for people and horses. As reported by the local people, the road bridge over Raru Nala was not effected.
- The bridge connecting the two banks of Lungnak in Pibcha village was not seriously effected and can be crossed by people and animals. The next bridge (a road one) is in Pibiting near to Padum, just above the confluence of Lungnak (Tsarab Lingti) and Stod (Doda) which marks the beginning of the Zanskar River.
- The bridge over Zanskar which existed near to Zangla and Pishu no longer exists (according to local contacts). The Padum - Hanumer - Lingshed route is fine again now and the way is clear.
- The bridge in Niearak was destroyed but I do not have any information whether it was rebuilt.
- The road bridge on the Zanskar River just below its confluence with Markha which was built in 2014 to link Chiling and Kaya villages was washed away in May. As this point marks an alternative beginning of the Markha Valley Trek (Route 8) we had to use rafts to start the trek in mid-May this year. I am told that there is a trolley (a kind of simple cable-car) crossing at this point at the moment.
- The road bridge on Zanskar below Chiling as well as the bridge on Indus just before the confluence of the two rivers survived the flood so the road connecting Chiling with Leh is open.
I’d like to think that I could afford 3 months off working to go and work in the Himalaya, but in the real world I’m lucky if I can get three weeks off. Even though I work as a Mountaineering Instructor, the summer is usually packed with work and I’ve even given up leading expeditions during the summer holidays as I prefer to work solidly and then and take some private time off in the quieter periods.
So I’ve become an aficionado of the micro adventure, tours and trips that last no longer than three weeks and I believe that this is becoming the type of adventure that people are beginning to seek out. What a great pleasure it was then to have Trekking in Ladakh drop through the letterbox.
Radek Kucharski (who is Polish) is very knowledgeable and has visited the area many times so the book has a wealth of technical and historical information that is more than enough to give the seasoned trekker the information they need to complete one of the described treks. He offers 8 adventures from the popular and classic Padum to Zanskar 8 day trek with homestays to the more wild and remote Tsarab Chu, a difficult and remote 12 day trek for expert and seasoned trekkers.
All the routes are well described, with accommodation options given and the difficulties described in detail. The mapping is basic but gives you a full flavour of the route with major peaks, rivers, passes and camps/villages. Most importantly Radek discusses your water options for each day of the trek as well as a good description of how your day is likely to pan out.
I really like the style of Radek’s writing, he comes across as someone I would like to trek with, he feels knowledgeable and has a great respect for the environment he is travelling through and a curious nature when encountering the peoples. He has really encouraged me to give the region a proper look and hopefully to plan a trip in the near future.
So, why would you go to Ladakh? Well if you get there quick enough it really is unspoilt, the region is entirely within India and feels more Tibetan than you’d realise. So you get a flavour of Tibet with the restrictions that a visit to Tibet often entails. The region falls outside the normal Himalayan monsoon region and being at altitude makes it an ideal summer destination which you could complete within a two week holiday. Most of all though the whole region has a remote and wild feel to it so if you are an experienced trekker and looking for adventure then Trekking in Ladakh might just be the book for you – it is for me and I think I’ve got myself my next micro adventure!
Dave Sarker, Climbing Gear Reviews
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Radek Kucharski was born in Poland. After graduating in Geography he worked for a small GIS company for over 12 years, which he would periodically leave every few years for months-long trekking trips to Asia. He trekked in Nepal, Iran, Pakistan and India, getting to know the landscapes, the people, their cultures and himself. After his first visit in 2004, Ladakh instantly became his favourite destination, and he made a promise to himself to return with the task of collecting data for a guidebook. A few years later he began this work.
Since that first visit to the Ladakh Range he has also changed profession. Now working as a tourist guide, which he has been doing since 2010, Radek lives in Warsaw and guides groups to India, Nepal and Scandinavia for one of Poland's leading adventure travel agencies.
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