Markha Valley Trek
Markha Valley Trek
This is Ladakh’s most popular and beautiful trek on the other side of the valley with an easy access. The impact of the collision between the Indian subcontinent and Eurasia’s rock formation is visible at many places, with unique crusts and beautiful colors. The area is inhabited by endangered and rare Himalayan wildlife. This trek also provides an opportunity to glimpse of the traditional houses and livelihood of Ladakhi people.
Day 1: Spituk to Zingchen (4-5 hours)
After an early start from Leh, we will travel by jeep to Spituk, where horses will be waiting to carry our equipment. The trek will begin along an old jeep road into a parched and exposed region, so water and sunscreen are absolutely vital! After plodding through the shattered land for 3-hours, we will enter the lush Zingchen Valley, where the Rumbak River flows into the mighty Indus. Further into the valley lies our campsite, in the two-house hamlet of Zingchen (meaning ‘big field’). The rest of the day may be spent relaxing, or even taking a dip in the river.
Day 2: Zingchen to Ganda La base (3-4 hours)
Today we will enter Hemis National Park, where we may be fortunate enough to glimpse wildlife as diverse as the snow leopard, lynx, Ladakhi Urial (a type of goat), arghali (great Tibetan sheep), blue sheep, red fox, Tibetan wolf, dhole (wild dog), marmot and mountain hare. After paying the entrance fee, we will climb gradually through a beautiful gorge that will unveil the imposing Stok Range from time to time. Before reaching Rumbak, we will stop at a teahouse run by women from the village. After a warm cup of tea, we will continue through Rumbak, and pass by the house of Yuruche, before reaching camp at the base of Ganda La (4545m). From our campsite, we can see a spectacular view of Stok Kangri and the whole of the Stok range.
Day 3: Ganda La base to Ganda La to Skiu (6-7 hours)
After a light breakfast, we will begin our 2-hour ascent of Ganda La (4900m); views of the lofty Zanskar and Stok Ranges will leave you breathless. The usual chorten and prayer flags mark the top of the pass, where one may see blue sheep, marmots and arghali roaming the hills. After a short rest, we will make a gradual hour-long descent to Shingo and break for lunch. We will finish the day by hiking for 2-hours through a spectacular gorge before making camp at Skiu (3300m). Within this idyllic village lies an old monastery and ruins of an old castle (once a rest stop for the Royal family on their way to Srinagar).
Day 4: Skiu to Markha (7-8 hours)
Following the Markha River, we will hike through the lovely valley on a fairly level path. The trail crosses the river at various points, and passes 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 for refreshment. Once we cross the river for the final time, we will arrive in Markha, the largest village in the valley, consisting of around 20 houses, an old monastery and a ruined fort.
Note: Water and sunscreen are essential, since the valley is quite exposed.
Day 5: Markha to Thachungtse (5-6 hours)
The Markha valley trail continues passed old stone-mills, a ruined castle and the auspicious monastery of Techa, which proudly perches upon a towering cliff that looms above Markha, but is well worth visiting, if we have the 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 be afforded our first view of mighty Kang Yatse (6400m), which will stay in sight until we cross Kongmaru La. After we break for lunch in the village of Hangkar (the last in the valley), we will press onward to the lovely green pasture of Thachungste, where we will make camp.
Day 6: Thachungtse to Nimaling (4 hours)
Today the trail will lead us up to the beautiful plateau of Nimaling, where the people of the Markha Valley bring their herds to graze during the summer months. At 4700m, Nimaling is the highest camp on the trek, giving us spectacular views of Kang Yatse to the right, the Zangskar Range and the Markha Valley below.
Day 7: Nimaling to Shangsumdo (7 hours)
After a hearty breakfast, we will cross Kongmaru La (5200m), the highest pass on the trek and from here we have a wonderful view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. The 2-hour descent is quite steep, but will gradually level as we enter Shang Gorge, with its strange and otherworldly rock formations. More river crossings bar our way before we arrive at the sour-spring of Chuskurmo (used in traditional medicine by the Amchi doctors). After a break, we will cut through a couple of villages before reaching Shang Sumdo, where we will spend our last evening together, enjoying the camaraderie and an excellent beer!
Day 8: Shangsumdo to Leh via Martselang (2 hours trek, 1 hour drive)
Our spirits lifted by a successful journey, we will enjoy a pleasant 2-hour walk along a jeep road to Martselang, where the jeep will pick us up. On the way to Leh, it will be possible to visit some of the great monasteries of Ladakh such as Thikse, Hemis and Shey.