Trekking in the arid, extremely cold trans-Himalayan desert of Ladakh and Zanskar, very often at altitudes that exceeds 5000m (16404 feet), can be uniquely exhilarating experience. The terrain, as starkly beautiful as any highland setting in the world, has a number of trails, many of which trace asian trading routes to central asia. They lead past spectacularly located monastries, remote passes, sometimes staggeringly high, deep river gorgeous and lush meadows scattered with mani walls and chortens. The best time of trekking in Ladakh and Zanskar is between June and September. When the land is not snowbound and the terraced feels are being harvested.
Trekking in Ladakh and Zanskar
1: Likir to Tingmosgang
It is an easy, two day, 22km (14-mile) path, past a number of villages at 4000 m (13,123 ft).
2: From Lamayuru
A tough five day, 65 km (40 mile) trek, via Konki-la at 4,905 m (16,093 ft), ends at Alichi.
3: Padum to Lamayuru
This 160 km (99 mile) path follows the Zanskar river via Karsha, past the impressive Lingshet Monastry and Singe-la (“Lion-Pass”), ending at Lamayuru, a slightlier easier route past Zangla, joins the main trail at Yelchang Village.
Duration: 10 days
Altitude: 5,000 m (16,404 ft)
Level of Difficulty: Tough
4: Padum to Darcha
The 115 km (71 mile) path goes from Zanskar into Himachal Pradesh, along the beautiful Tsarap river, past Phugtal monastry and Kurgiakh, Zanskar’s Highest village at 4,100 m (13,451 ft).
Duration: 10 days
Altitude: 5,100 m (16,732 ft)
Level of difficulty: Moderate
5: Spituk to Hemis
Ladakh’s most popular trek, this 105 km (65 mile) path runs along the Indus river through Markha valley, past Skiu village and the high pass of Kongmaru, and ends at Hemis Monastry.
Duration: 8 days
Altitute: 5,274 m (17,303 ft)
Level of difficulty: Easy
Be Prepared: Most of the walking is hard, and it is imperative to be well acclimatized to the altitude, as even the bottoms of river gorges are 3,000 m (9,843 ft) above sea level. Guides and Ponies are essential for all treks in the region. Maps are insufficient, so don’t wander off on your own as it could prove fatal.
On the trek: Drink plenty of water. Do not litter; carry all rubbish back with you. Plastics can be taken to Ecology Centre (01982) 253221 in Leh. Carry cooking fuel. Never burn wood, which is a scarce resource.
Equipment, jeep hire and operators: Dreamland Trek and Tours in Leh (01982) 252 089, hires out trekking gear. Rafting agencies include Indus Himalayan Explorers (01982) 253 454 and Rimo Expeditions (01982) 253 348. Jeeps are expensive and can be hired from Leh for trips to Nubra and the lakes. Check the price list at the taxi stand.