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When it comes to trekking in Ladakh region for experienced trekkers, they pick up the best one. The Markha Valley Trek along with Stok Kangri is one of the most beautiful and strenuous treks in the Ladakh belt that takes approximately couple of weeks to cover an entire stretch from Chilling to Leh via Stok Village. The trail climbs up from an altitude of 3500 meters to 6150 meters, which is the highest trekable summit in India, the Stok Kangri summit, and requires proper acclimatization. Passing through the fertile and rich green Markha Valley secluded by the Kang Yatse at 6400mts from east and Zanskar range from the south west the trail winds to Stok Kangri en route steep climbs, narrow and rocky tracks, glaciers and changing climatic conditions. The Markha Valley along with Stok Kangri Trek further delves into the indigenous culture of the Indo-Tibetans dwelling in the remote villages tucked at the lofty and steep ridges.
The major attractions on the Markha Valley along with Stok Kangri Trek are the Hemis National Park that houses some of the rare species of Himalayan wildlife like 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; Rumbuk Village; Ganda La wherefrom one can enchant the breathtaking view of the Stok Kangri summit and Zanskar ranges; and shrines like Lhatos and Mani towards Markha village. Further it continues the trail onto a steep climb towards the Kongmaru La and thereby steep descent to a steep gorge. The journey dilates the changing landscape from rich to barren valleys and from a bright sunny day to a bizarre climate. The backpackers hit several obstacles to reach the Stok Kangri summit wherefrom one can get a 360° view of the farfetched snow capped peaks. Mt. K2, which is the second highest peak of the world, is visible from the summit on a clear blue sky. Nonetheless one can also enchant the peaks of Sasser Group and Zanskar range.
Meet our representative after reaching Delhi Airport. Transfer to the hotel. Overnight stay in hotel.
Day 02: Delhi to Leh (3500 mts/11480 ft) (Complete Rest in Leh for acclimatization)
Catch the flight for Leh in the morning. Reach the guesthouse and take a complete day rest to get acclimatized. Overnight stay in guesthouse.
This day is for visiting local monasteries of this area. Shey Gompa located near Leh was once the summer palace of Ladakh kings. You can explore lots of Stupas and Gompas around Shey Palace. Deldan Namgyal built this palace in 17th century.
Thiksey Gompa is located close to Shey, at about 17 kms distance. The monastery is said to be one of the most majestic in Ladakh and belongs to the Gelukspa order.
Hemis Monastery is situated about 45 kms south of Leh and it is one of the most frequented and largest monasteries in Ladakh. Hemis belongs to the Drukpa order and it was founded in the early 17th century. The ambiance is perfect with the monastery cradled in a beautiful valley, fringed by streams and fronted by elongated Mani walls. Overnight stay at the guesthouse.
We have now become accustomed and ready to start trekking. The concise introduction to the Tibetan Buddhist World of Ladakh cab be explored completely while trekking through Markha Valley. It is around 40 kilometers of drive along the track towards Srinagar and Kashmir to Nimmo. On the route, we will have to cross Indus on a b bridge and then proceed along the left bank of the river Zanskar through the ravine to Chilling. Chilling is also a doorway into the Markha Valley. Our camping will be in Chilling and we will enjoy an easy afternoon.
Cross Zanskar through box and cable bridge and we will meet the trek crew and pack-ponies. These pack-ponies have come via Markha Valley in advance of one day. We will sort out the loads for ponies and start the first day of trekking along the slender trail on the right shore of Zanskar to the meeting point of Markha River and Main Valley.
We scramble to cross spur and can view southwards to where the imposing Zanskar ravine fades around a corner. At this point, we will turn in the direction of southeast into the Markha valley and continue in anticipation of reaching the irrigated trees and turfs of the settlements of Skiu and Skays, where we will camp overnight. The key trail into the Markha Valley from the north, over the Ganda La, junctions our course at this point. A small monastery in Skiu and a deserted fortress/monastery on the cliff are there above our shore camp.
Crossing and re-crossing the Markha watercourse, we mark a long day’s walk of about 7 hours to the 30 or 40 houses belonging to Markha Village (3800meters). The track passes through fairly sumptuous vegetation at the riverside, as the upper valley-gradients are unvaryingly brown and dry. We will come across bridges at many of the more challenging crossing places. On the way route we pass several more dilapidated monasteries, which are every so often quite demanding to pick out, elevated on the valley sides. We will also witness a number of well-maintained chortens and prayer walls and at least one good illustration of wolf trap. Throughout the winter, snow leopards and wolves are a nuisance in these lofty valleys, which become bold on account of their hunger drop away to the hamlets and prey on domestic animals. The indigenous form of wolf trap is a stone insertion with pendulous sides, into which is positioned live or dead animals baits. I case a wolf a jumps into the insertion to eat the bait, is incapable to escape and is stone to decease by the native folks. We also pass a pair of isolated house, one of which headdress acknowledged as a peraq. Right on a hill to the north of Markha there is a small Gompa. The local monk will be contented to show you the prehistoric wall paintings and festival masks which are enclosed within this exquisite old monastery – supposedly one of the primogenital in Ladakh. This trek from Skiu to Markha is as worthy a day’s trekking as any of the treks in the Himalayas.
We will keep continue moving above Markha Village and trekking eastwards, deep into the Markha valley, to Hangkar, which is a good camping spot. All through today’s 4 to 5 hour walk we will cross more remarkable monasteries, some abandoned and some unharmed, a testimony to the fact that this valley was formerly more heavily populated than it is at present. Concealed away between the two hamlets which form Hangkar Village, at high on a rock-strewn spur is another note worthy derelict monastery. This high valley makes tourists see small herds of blue sheep (Bharal), which often come right down to the stream to graze.
After leaving Hangkar, there is a good view of a splendid snow peak at the head of the valley. This peak is Kang Yatze, a 6400-meter tall mountain having a subsidiary peak at about 6100 meter which is very up-front and often scaled as a trekking crest its own right. Crossing another well-maintained wolf pit we pass through the Markha watercourse on the last bridge that we will witness and start sheer ascend on the way to the high plains well-known as Nimaling, This day we will ascend from about 4000 meters to a camp positioned at 4600 meters and we will sense the effects of elevation. The backdrop opens out as we navigate around to the north of Kang Yatze and quest out for the pass which we will have to cross in order to return to the Indus Valley.
We transverse up to the Kongmaru la (5100 meters) on a well-marked trail, which crisscrosses across rock for the final 250-meter to reach the pass. It is a 2 hours ascent. From the pass, we will come across the vistas of Eastern Karakoram Range. The southern landscape is made exquisite by Kang Yatze presenting pleasingly knotted rock formations, buttresses and pillars, some of them having remarkable colors. The first camping place is at Chuskirma, where there are a couple of stone-huts and few rough pastures.
We will continue our decline trail, crossing a couple of imposing house, the utmost in the valley. Then we will pass another section of rock-strewn gorge. The gorge opens out a little as we reach close to the scenic settlement of Sumdo and soon afterward we reach a jeep road that is in the course of being constructed into the valley. Afterwards, we will follow this for an hour until we can view the houses and foliage of Martselang, which is positioned on the main Indus valley road. We opt to skirt above the valley on a train from here, which will take us after about an hour, through scores of striking chortens, to the tributary valley below the Hemis Monastery, At this place, there is a good camping spot in a field of large vegetation. If you are not tired of Gompas then you can re-visit Hemis.
We transfer by jeep to Stok village in the morning. This village lies immediately at the south of Leh. We will find is a royal palace in Stok Village, where the recently crowned young Ladakhi Ruler lives. Moreover, there is also small museum containing religious artifacts and traditional clothing belonging to the regal clan. There is time to scout the palace and monastery at Stok before the lunchtime. After lunch, we will begin our walk-in to Stok Kangri with an easy trek of 2 hours. At very close to the Indus valley, we are in a high and wild area visited only by hiking groups and by the indigenous people who spend some of the summer months in quaint villages of stone-huts. From these villages they tend their flocks of sheep and goats.
On this day, we will carry out a trek taking few hours up to the base camp area of Stok Kangri. It is a very congenial campsite on a grassy area beside lots of Mel-water streams. We can enjoy the view above the camp in the afternoon. The area above the camp offers breathtaking views of contiguous peaks like Gulap Kangri, Stok Kangri, Parcha Kangri and many more.
It is the day for taking rest and acclimatization to make certain that the group is feeling all set to carry out the climb of Stok Kangri. It takes the half-four ascent up to the pass at 5000 meters above our campsite, perhaps taking the climbing hardware that can be accumulated at the pass in preparation for the following day’s ascent.
Day 14 & Day 15: We have scheduled two days for the climb, to attempt to give each person a chance.
This is the day for ascending up to the peak. We will start only after ensuring that they is no contingency like poor weather, etc. According to the fitness of the team, we will either go for a one-day scaling from our base camp, or decide on to institute a high camp, from where we can make the climb on the next day. Much of the ascent encompasses walking transversely through scree and rocky gradients, which are likely to be unadorned of snow by the time of our excursion; if not there has been unseasonal snowfall. The ultimate part of the ascent will comprise the use of crampons and ice-axe on the snow-slopes up to approximately 35 degrees. However, this is not a technically challenging ascent, at an elevation of over 6000 meters displaying peaks in Tibet at the north-east and a bird’s eye view of the Indus valley, there is certain demand of good physical fitness. If we accomplish to hike the peak on the first day itself, there may be a chance to go for one of the other easy peaks above the base camp.
We will descent directly from our base camp to the upper extents of Stok Village, with its meadows of barley and buckwheat. The jeeps at Stok will take us back to Hotel in Leh.