Day 1: Arrive in Leh 3,500 m.
Arrival Leh by morning flight and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatize to the altitude 3,500 m. In the morning we rest and catch up on some sleep and in the afternoon there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
We include a sightseeing trip to Shey Palace, before visiting Tikse monastery. Shey Palace originally housed the Ladakh royal family before they moved to Leh in the 17th century. A few km up the Indus valley is the spectacular setting of Tikse monastery perched on the summit of a sugarloaf mountain. On return to Leh we have the opportunity to visit to the Shanti Stupa at Chanspa, as well as visiting the Ladakh Ecological Centre to appreciate how the Ladakhi people have been able to incorporate new technology into their traditional lifestyles.
Day 3-4: Attend Hemis Festival
The two-day festival at Hemis commemorates the Indian sage Padmasambhava who introduced Tantric Buddhism to this region of the Himalaya in the 8th century. The festival consists of an elaborate series of masked dances depicting the life of Padmasambhava and the moral victory of knowledge over ignorance etc. Several hundred Ladakhi villagers from throughout the Indus Valley attend the festival. Besides its religious significance it is a time to renew acquaintances, visit the many stands and drink large quantities of butter tea and barley beer. In essence it is more of a medieval fair than a religious festival that reflects much of the contemporary cultural life of Ladakh. On both days we return to Leh for overnight accommodation.
From Leh we drive to Zinchen (3380m), a small settlement to the south of the Indus Valley. After our packhorses are loaded we head up a spectacular gorge to our campsite (3850m) below the village of Rumbak.
We undertake day walks to Rumbak village and up side valleys leading to the base of the Stok La that afford spectacular views of the Trans Himalaya.
Day 7: Trek to Ganda La
A short day following a trail that winds up past the solitary house at Yurutse to our camp (4350m) at the base of the approach to the Ganda La. From camp there are impressive views of the Stok Kangri. That afternoon we have devised a more challenging walk that heads way above the scree slopes to a magnificent viewpoint affording views back down to the Indus Valley and across to the high peaks that form the Stok Kangri range.
Day 8: Trek to Base Camp to Shogdo
Above our camp we gain views of the snow-capped Stok Range. After gradually ascending a series of switchbacks we make the final gradual ascent to the Ganda La (4950m). From the pass there a views south across the endless folds of the Zanskar Range and the snow capped summits of the main Himalaya Range before completing the gradual descent to the village of Shingo 4,150 m.
Below Shogdo the trail enters a narrow gorge where willow, poplar and rose bushes provide a natural canopy alongside the river course. The Skui monastery (3435m) marks the confluence of the stream coming from Shogdo and the Markha Valley. We then head up the Markha Valley to Narding 3,530 m. and a comfortable, grassy campsite.
The trail gradually ascends the Markha Valley passing a few small settlements en route to Markha (3770m) the largest village in the valley. That afternoon we visit the derelict fort above the village and the gompa that has recently been renovated by funds from trekkers and Hemis monastery.
Day 11: Trek to to Hankar
Our trail crosses the Markha river twice to reach the village of Umlung. A few km beyond the village the valley widens and the imposing peak of Kangyaze (6400m) can be appreciated before reaching Hankar (3980m), the highest village in the Markha Valley.
Day 12: Trek to Zalung La
From Hanker we divert from the main trail and commence our ascent across yak herders pastures to our camp at the base of the Zalung La 4,650 meters.
Day 13: Trek La to Tsorka
From camp it is a steady and long climb to the top of the Zalung La 5,190 m. This pass offers impressive views of the peaks and jagged ridges of the Zanskar Range. From the pass it takes about three hours to reach a delightful grassy camp near to the abandoned encampment known as Tsorka 4,200 m.
Day 14: Trek to Dat settlement
From Sorro we trek to the head of a nearby gorge. Anticipate a cold start to the day as this section necessitates two or three river crossings. We then enter a side gorge that we follow for three hours to the settlement of Dat 4,340 m. During the summer the settlement is practically deserted as most of the villagers are grazing their yaks and goats on remote grazing pastures. The shepherds are known as Chang pa and follow lifestyles similar to their counterparts in nearby western Tibet.
Day 15: Drive to Tso Morari
En route to Tso Morari we spend time at the smaller salt lake at Tso Kar with an opportunity to view the rare black necked crane, before driving over two high passes and past Chang Pa encampments to reach the vast lake of Tso Morari On arrival we head to a secluded campsite before visiting the nearby village of Kursoc, the headquarters of the Chang pa in this wild and remote region of Rupshu. Later we heading to the shores of Tso Morari where Brahmani ducks and a host of bird life nest close to the lake.
In the early morning we ascend the high ridges above Tso Moriri and gain panoramic views of the surrounding snow capped peaks that stretch to the horizon. After an early lunch we break camp and complete the drive back to Leh.
A rest day in Leh with time to explore the bazaar and complete shopping.
Early morning transfer to the airport for taking the flight back home.