Trekking In Ladakh

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Trekking In Ladakh

History

Trekking through Ladakh isn’t easy- its’ harsh, rugged terrain and inhospitable climate is enough to tax the most seasoned of hikers- but once you’ve walked these trails, you could easily get hooked for life.

TREKKING ROUTES:

1.Spituk-Rumbak-Yurutse-Ganda La-Skiu-Markha-Nimaling-Kongmaru La-Chogdo-Hemis-Leh:

Starting at the tiny village of Spituk, only about 8 km from Leh, this trek goes right up to the lovely Markha Valley, and then to the renowned Hemis Gompa, the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh.

Start by taking a tour of the Spituk Gompa, an 11th century Buddhist monastery which houses a fine collection of ancient thangka paintings, masks, idols and weaponry. From Spituk, travel along the Jingchen Valley to the Ganda La pass, going through Rumbak and stopping en route for the night at Yurutse. Ganda La, at an altitude of 4,900 mt, is one of the two mountain passes on this trek; once you’ve traversed it, you descend into the Markha Valley, stopping for the night at the village of Skiu. After Skiu, the track starts rising again, up to the alpine pastures of Nimaling, past the high reaches of the Kongmaru La pass, and on to the village of Chogdo. Camp for the night at Chogdo, then trek on to Hemis. The gompa, which lies in a mountain valley along the Indus, houses a number of valuable idols, scriptures and Buddhist paintings; at the height of summer, it’s also the site of the heavily-attended Hemis Festival.

A daily bus connects Hemis to Leh, so you can actually end your trek at Hemis and go to Leh by bus.

2.Lamayuru-Wanla-Hinju Valley-Konze La-Sumdo Choon-Stapski La-Alchi:

One of the most popular treks in Ladakh, the Lamayuru-Alchi route connects two of Ladakh’s most scenic villages, both with interesting old Buddhist monasteries. Lamayuru, 124 km from Leh along the road to Srinagar, is the start of the trek; once you’ve had a look at the fascinating Lamayuru Gompa – believed to have originally been a temple of the now extinct Bon Po religion- you can begin the trek. Start by ascending to the little-known Prinkiti La pass, then climbing down into the Shilakong Valley, where the village of Wanla is situated. Wanla, known primarily for its gompa, is a suitable place to pitch camp for the night.

From Wanla, trek on to the Hinju Valley, which is a good base camp for a detour to Konze La. Konze La, at 4,950 mt, offers a wonderful view of the mountain ranges all around, and it’s one of the few places in Ladakh where there’s still a possibility of spotting the elusive snow leopard or the highly endangered blue sheep.

From Konze La, you can return to base camp in the Hinju Valley, and continue, the next day, to the village of Sumdo Choon, where there’s another gompa, profusely decorated with ancient paintings. After a night at Sumdo Choon, climb up to the Stapski La Pass, from where a day’s descent brings you down into the valley to Alchi. Alchi, with its 11th century fresco-filled gompa, is worth a bit of sightseeing, before you go on to Leh.

3.Lamayuru-Prinkiti La-Wanla-Hinju-Konze-Sumdo Choon-Dung Dung La-Chilling:

A variation on the Lamayuru-Alchi route, the Lamayuru-Chilling route is basically identical to the trek to Alchi, at least till Sumdo Choon. From Sumdo Choon, instead of climbing up to Stapski La, ascend to the Dung Dung La pass. Dung Dung La, with its stunning views of the Zanskar Valley, leads down into a valley where the main village is Chilling. From Chilling, you can either cross the Zanskar River- by a pulley bridge- and go on to the Markha Valley, or you can trek back to Lamayuru, and from there go on to Leh.

Best time to visit

The passes which lead to Ladakh, whether Zoji La on the Srinagar-Leh road, or Rohtang on the Manali-Leh road, are choked by deep snow and ice for eight months in the year. Every year, when the snow melts, is when the roads are open - usually between late June and late October. This is, as you’ll guess, about the only time you can get to Ladakh, other than by air. Although you can get to Ladakh in the winter by plane, it’s really not recommended. Temperatures can drop to below -40ºC and frostbite, snow-blindness and hypothermia are very real risks. Time your trek for summer; it’s really the only time to visit Ladakh.

Trivia

Precautions and Essentials:

Special permits are required for visitors going to the Nubra Valley, Pangong Tso and Rupshu. The permits are available free of charge from the Collector’s Office near the Polo grounds. You have to submit two photographs and photocopies of relevant pages of your passport. The permits are usually valid for seven days and are issued to groups of four or more travelling together. Several photocopies of the permits should be made as they need to be produced at the various checkpoints. Foreigners may have to pay a fee of to enter the area.

Even in summer, although the days may be quite warm- even hot in places like Leh- evenings tend to get chilly. Pack sufficient protective clothing, including something to ward off the bone-chilling winds which whoosh down the mountains; they’re deathly cold. Make sure to carry some Vitamin C and aspirin tablets for the high altitude. The scorching sun in the day can result in sunburn, so carry a protective lotion, hat and sun glasses. While on treks, take along your own food and plenty of fluid, preferably in the form of bottled water. The entire region of Ladakh- barring parts of the Nubra Valley- is very dry, and if you’re not careful, there’s a risk of dehydration.

Ladakh’s ecology is extremely fragile, so be very careful not to disturb it while trekking through the area. Be especially cautious about disposing of waste; carry out all tins, bottles, et al- don’t leave rubbish behind you.

Further information on treks and sightseeing can be obtained from the Tourist Information Centre at Fort Road, Leh, or the Assistant Director of Tourism, at the Tourist Reception Centre, Leh (Tel: 01982-52297, 01982-52095). There are, in addition, countless travel agents, tour operators and trek organisers all across the main market of Leh, who will be able to help plan a trek, arrange for permits and supply both guide and equipment.

Timing

Accommodation:

Leh is full of hotels and guest houses, most of them clean, cheap and comfortable. Accommodation, therefore, is not a problem in Leh, but further out- in the wilds- you’ll probably end up having to pitch tents or staying in the so-called `guesthouses’ in the larger villages. Settlements like Sumur, Diskit, Panamik, Hunder, Lamayuru and Dha-hanu have small guesthouses, most of them rooms let out by local villagers, but these are invariably few and far between. In most cases, a tent is what you’ll have to sleep in.


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