Day 1: Arrive in Leh 3,500 m.
Arrival Leh by morning flight and transfer to the hotel. After a briefing your leader will collect your passports and make a copy in order to apply for your Stok Kangri Trekking Permit upon arrival in Leh.
The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatize to the altitude 3,500m. In the afternoon there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
Today there is a sightseeing tour to two of the major gompas (monasteries) in the area. We first drive to Shey, a former Royal Palace of the Ladakh kings. Inside is a small temple containing a 350 year old copper and gold statue of Buddha. From Shey we take a gentle walk (approx. 1 hour) to Tikse, where we visit the large and spectacular monastery perched on top of a hill its red and white buildings can be seen for miles. A recently built temple contains a magnificent image of the Future Buddha. We return to Leh in the afternoon and there is time to explore the bazaar.
Day 3: Acclimatization day
Today we will have an acclimatization walk around the Leh Valley. Set above Leh on the Namgyal Hill are the ruins of the Old Royal Palace. From here a winding path takes us to the Tsemo Monastery, from where we are rewarded for our efforts by magnificent views of the whole of Leh and its surrounding villages. Descending round the back of the palace we walk via Sankar to the recently built Japanese Peace Pagoda with good views back to the palace and across to Stok Kangri, dominating the skyline across the valley. The rest of the day is free to explore the back streets and bazaars of Leh. There is the chance today to make an optional jeep safari to the Khardung La at 5,602m, one of the highest motor able roads in the world. The journey to the top of the pass and back takes roughly 4/5 hours in total and can be booked and paid for locally. Your leader will have details. (If you do the jeep safari this will be in the morning and you can do a walk in the afternoon).
A leisurely start this morning allows time to separate out your climbing gear (ice axe, crampons, harness, helmet and summit boots if you have a different pair) which you will leave at the hotel this will rejoin you at Mankarmo or base camp in time for your summit climb. We leave Leh and drive to the start point of our trek. The road follows the Indus River for a short while before turning off into a small dirt track, which winds along following the Zanskar River. The scenery is truly spectacular as the valley narrows into a gorge. Where the track ends we leave our vehicle and have a short climb to Choksi (3,210m) where we camp. This pretty village is a model of self sufficiency. It is inhabited by one large extended family who farm this small valley. In the afternoon we can have a short acclimatization walk in preparation for tomorrow.
Day 5: First full days trekking
A fairly hard first days walking as we climb very steeply out of Choksi, walking on some loose scree and shale, and gain over 1000m in altitude before reaching our next camp. As we ascend the valley narrows and becomes more and more spectacular. Looking back we can see the magnificent rock formations of the Ladakh mountains. The dramatic mountains in various shades of purples, greens and browns can be seen for miles in every direction. The trail ascends the valley all day and our first night's camp is a small rocky site by a shepherd hut. In the afternoon we will have an acclimatization walk up the valley opposite the camp for views of the surrounding peaks. Approximate walk profile: Choksi to Choksi Drok, 4-5hrs, 6km.
Day 6: Short to Kang La B.C.
For acclimatization purposes we have a very short walk today, steadily continuing up the Choksi Valley to the base of the Kang La (4,900m). We will have lunch at camp and in the afternoon we will trek to the top of the small rocky peak behind camp, at 5,056m. We have called it 'Exodus Peak' and from the top the views are magnificent we can see the Kang La and Palam Peak ahead and the Himalaya are spread out in front of us with the Ladakh range in front. This is one of the most spectacular wild camps with great views across to the Karakorum. Look out for marmots whistling to one another all around the campsite. Approximate walk profile: Choksi Drok to base of Kang La, 3hrs, 3.6km
Day 7: Cross the Kang La and Ganda La
Today is a hard day as we cross our first two passes. The climb is a long ascent, which is gradual at first with a last steep rocky section to the top of the Kang La (5,260m). The paths are little used and can be indistinct. From the top of the pass we have the opportunity to walk up Palam Peak (5,380m) for views second only to the view from the summit of Stok Kangri. Ahead we can now see the summit of Stok Kangri and in the distance is Leh. Behind us the Ladakh Range and Himalaya can be seen for miles. From the top we descend a little and then contour round into the next valley. As the trail contours round the top of the valley we have great views across to Stok Kangri. We contour round the valley and on up to our second pass, the Ganda La (4,970m). This pass provides access into the Markha Valley and we may well see other trekkers today crossing the pass in the opposite direction. From the pass we can see our route for the next couple of days. We camp at the base of the Ganda La (4,550m). Approximate walk profile: base of Kang La to base of Ganda La, 7.5/8hrs, 11.3 km.
It's an easy descent down the valley and we walk through the one house village of Yurutse to the valley bottom. Crossing the river we have a short ascent to Rumbak village. Rumbak has round 20 houses and we may well be invited in to a local house to try the traditional Ladakhi butter tea. Our camp is just beyond the village at the base of the Stok La tonight (approx. 4,300m). Ahead the mountains are truly amazing; fold after fold of multicolored jagged rock tower above us and as the sun sets and the light fades the colors change dramatically. One of the beauties of this short trek is that it is a geologist's paradise; every pass we cross brings us in to another spectacular valley with intriguing rock formations. Approximate walk profile: base of Ganda La to base of Stok La (Rumbak), 4.5hrs, 8.6 km.
Day 9: Trek over the Stok La to Mankarmo
Today is probably one of the most spectacular walks in Ladakh as we cross the Stok La (4,900m), our last pass of the trek. At first we trek on a beautiful, gently sloping trail, but then the path becomes steeper and steeper as it zigzags up to the top of the pass. Rock flutes rise all around us, home to the elusive snow leopard. From the top the views are even more spectacular; layer upon layer of multicolored rock cathedrals are spread before us in every direction. The descent is very steep at first and then we contour round two valleys to the junction with the river coming down from Stok Kangri. We follow the river, crossing a few side streams, until we reach a shepherd settlement at Mankarmo (4,380m). Look out for the herds of Blue Sheep scrambling on the rocks around camp. Approximate walk profile: base of Stok La to Mankarmo, 6hrs, 10.9 km.
Day 10: Trek to Base Camp
The next two days are devoted to our ascent of Stok Kangri. From Mankarmo the trail ascends the valley easily. It is a half day walk to base camp and as we ascend the valley Stok Kangri can clearly be seen ahead of us. There will probably be a couple of river crossings today. We will reach our base camp by lunchtime and the afternoon is spent resting and preparing for the climb. Gear will be checked and there will be a full briefing about tomorrow's ascent and a run through of walking in a rope team and with crampons. After an early dinner we retire to bed to rest for a few hours. Approximate walk profile: Mankarmo to Stok Kangri base camp, 3hrs, 4.4 km.
Day 11: Climb Stok Kangri 6,153 m.
The summit day is long and hard (at least 12 hours). We leave at about midnight and start with a one hour steep climb out of the base camp to a ridge. The trail then eases for a while as we follow the valley gradually up on a rocky trail for a couple of hours to the glacier. Crossing the glacier we come to the foot of the climb. The gradient now increases significantly and it is a very steep two hours to the ridge. Usually (but not always) there is snow at this point and we will have to use our ice axe and crampons. The sun should just be rising as we reach the ridge and we can see almost all the way back to Leh. We will usually rope up for the last two hours up the ridge, which is quite steep and is exposed for some of the time, with some scrambling on loose (sometimes icy) rock. Finally we spot the prayer flags on the top and a final steep section will bring us to the summit. The altitude will be the greatest difficulty, though. The climb from camp to the summit will take six to eight hours. The final hundred meters needs special care while crossing the slopes just below the summit. From the summit the views are amazing. Miniscule Leh can be seen in the distance, and all around us the snow‐capped peaks of the Himalaya, the Karakorum and the Ladakh Range reach far to the horizon. We spend a short while at the top to savor the beauty of it all and regain our breath before descending slowly and carefully back to Base Camp, where the crew will be waiting with welcome hot food. Approximate walk profile: Ascent of Stok Kangri and return to base camp, 12‐14hrs (estimate only), 14.2km (8.8mi), max. altitude 6153m. Please note the actual climb is entirely optional. For anyone not intending to climb there are wonderful walks from the base camp itself. There will be an optional walk for those not climbing to the glacier at the foot of Stok Kangri for magnificent views.
Day 12: Descend through Mankarmo to Stok, drive to Leh
An easy but particularly spectacular walk down the valley to Stok. As we descend layer upon layer of multicolored rocks surround us. The trail finally emerges from this amazing gorge and the valley widens as we approach Stok village where our transport will meet us for the short drive back to Leh. We return to Leh by lunchtime for a welcome hot shower and a well deserved celebration.
Approximate walk profile: base camp to Stok, 5hrs, 11.4 km.
Early morning transfer to the airport for taking the flight back home.