Ladakh, or "Little Tibet," as it is known, is one of the most remote areas of India, lying to the north of the Himalaya on the Tibetan Plateau. A land of immeasurable vastness, it boasts a dramatic and thoroughly mesmerizing landscape of deep-cut gorges, snowy mountains, and arid open plains. A number of parallel mountain ranges, including the Great Himalayan Range, the Zanskar, and Ladakh ranges, divide this terrain, offering an opulence of 19,000-foot peaks and a maze of excellent trekking routes that usually involve crossing high passes (Ladakh translates literally to "many passes"). Our challenging adventure, with senior MTS trekking guide Sergio Fitch-Watkins, takes you past remote fertile valleys to moonscapes of stark yet evocative beauty, where you'll trek over high passes marked with fluttering prayer flags, see Buddhism practiced in its purest form, and visit the base camp of Tsomothang Peak, from where you'll have views of some of the Zanskar Himalaya and Karakoram peaks, including the isolated pinnacle of K2, second in stature only to Mount Everest!
Leh Very early transfer to the airport at 3:30 a.m. for the 5:40 a.m. spectacular mountain flight to Leh (11,500'), arriving at 6:50 a.m. Leh is the capital of Ladakh and was once a stop on the Asian "Silk Route." (If the weather is clear, there should be magnificent views of the Himalaya and Karakoram.) Upon arrival, transfer to the peaceful surroundings of the Guest house/ Hotel. The remainder of the morning is free to rest and acclimatize. In the afternoon, we'll visit the monasteries of Shey nad Thiksey. Shey, the former palace of Upper Ladakh, is situated at the top of a hill and commands a breathtaking view of the Indus River. The palace contains a massive statue of the Sakyamuni Buddha—the biggest of its kind in Ladakh. We'll also visit famous Thiksey monastery, said to be a blessed site and the most well known "Gelugpa," or yellow sect, gompa of all. The oldest portion of the building is reputed to date back to the 11th century, and a breathtaking view from the top enables us to see the palaces and monasteries of Leh. B,L,D guest house/ Hotel
Khardungla As part of the acclimatization process, we will drive 1½ hrs from Leh to Khardungla, which is the highest motorable road at 18,360 feet. The pass divides the Indus valley and the Shyok valley of Nubra, and there are excellent views of the Saser Khangri massif from the pass. The drive is through spectacular scenery, a magical sight of the green Indus valley against the backdrop of the Stok Mountains and surrounding stark landscape. Return to Leh in time for lunch. The remainder of the day is free. You may wish to stroll in the Leh bazaar, where there are many shops selling Ladakhi, Tibetan, and Kashmiri goods. B.L.D. Guest house/Hotel
Late morning drive to Chilling (10,433'). Alternately, we have the option of doing a 2½–hour rafting trip down the Indus River from Phey to Nemo. We'll have lunch at Nemo and drive up the valley on a rough track following the Zanskar River upstream to Chilling (two hours). Chilling is a small village and one of the few where metalwork is practiced. It is thought the earlier settlers came from Nepal and intermingled with the Ladakhi people. B.L.D. Camp
Begin trek We enter a narrow valley and follow a river, passing several old stupas and mani walls. We then climb quickly following a zigzag path, sections of which are on scree, to the base of Dungduchenla ("la" means pass). This will be a short day due to the gain in altitude. (3 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp (13,287')
Sumda Chenmo (12,795') Begin trekking with a steep climb for about 3 to 4 hours to the top of Dungduchenla (15,912'), a pass offering good views of the Stok range of mountains up to Kangyatse and the Indus valley. From the pass it is a gradual easy descent to Lanak (13,912'), the other base of Dungduchenla. We then descend to a nice spot near a grove of willow trees and wild roses and then to the river from where we climb gradually for another hour to the small village of Sumda Chenmo (12,795'). Sumda Chenmo has an old monastery and a couple of houses where we may see metalworkers at their craft. (5-6 hours hiking.) Camp before the town. B.L.D. Camp
Continue up the main valley to some shepherds' huts at Sumdo Phu, Turn the corner and continue up on the stream bed for another hour. Camp at 14,600'. (4-5 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Climb through pastures where shepherds graze their yaks to Konzkela (16,076'), another fantastic viewpoint for the distant Zanskar peaks and the Stok range. From the pass it is a short steep descent to camp (12,467') in pastures on the other side of the pass. (5 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Hanupatta (12,631') Descend to the village of Hinju and then on down the Ripchar valley to the village of Phenjila. (The trail is easy now as a road is being built.) We then enter a lovely but narrow gorge with colorful rocks. (Some sections of the trail are being widened here and are difficult for the horses.) We go through natural stone archways and bridges before reaching Sumdo, the meeting point of three valleys. We take the right valley and follow the river for another two hours to camp in the large village of Hanupatta, marked by mani walls and chortens. Electricity has now reached the village and there is one school here, too. We camp near the river a little beyond the village at 12,631'. (6 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
We follow a nice path for about half an hour before climbing gradually for another 45 minutes to a tiny settlement of two houses. From here we climb gently for another hour and a half, enjoying the captivating scenery of colorful rocks and snowcapped peaks as we walk past juniper bushes and wild rose bushes. After reaching an irrigation pond, we leave the main Zanskar trail and take the left trail, crossing a small river before climbing a ridge. We walk along the right bank of the river to another small ridge and climb for another half an hour to the top, which offers very nice views of the surrounding valley. We continue climbing gradually past shepherds' huts to our camp at the base of Sniugutsela at 14,763'. (4 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Today we may have chances of seeing lots of marmots and ibex. We follow the right bank of the river for about an hour, then enter a narrow gorge with sharp jagged rocks. We then climb steeply to the top of Sniugutsela (16,732'), which is marked by prayer flags and boasts great views of the Zanskar Mountains. We then descend steeply on a zigzag path for about 20 minutes before climbing gradually for about an hour. We cross another small river and go past some more shepherds' huts before descending to a river we wade across several times. After the last crossing we climb again steeply for a while and then gently to camp (15,639') at the base of Unnamed pass. (6–7 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Base Camp (16,388') We climb steeply on a direct but not too well defined zigzag trail to the top of the unnamed pass (17,000'). The steep haul for an hour and a half is rewarded with fantastic panoramic views of the colorfully landscaped valley and surrounding peaks, including the prominent peak of Tsomothang. An easy descent brings us to a lovely spot near a spring, where we establish a High Camp at 16,388'. (5 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Day Hike to High Camp We'll hike to the high camp (17,400') where climbers stay on their attempt to ascend Tsomothang. As we explore the high camp we can see the glacier and K2. Return to base camp. (6–7 hours hiking.). B.L.D. Camp
Kanji Descend the valley and follow a river, crossing it several times, until we reach the tiny village of Dumbur with its huge prayer wheel. Continue to the scenic village of Kanji (12,631'). We're back to civilization as we see more people and shops. Today is a nice walk with good chances of seeing marmots and ibex. (5-6 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Leaving the village, we pass cultivated fields and follow the river, which we cross by a small wooden bridge. We then follow the right bank of the Kong River, which we must wade across several times. We continue through a narrow valley past shepherds' huts, taking a small trail leading to the Kajila base camp. Camp at 14,399'. (5 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Mapollan Today we follow a steep rough trail on loose rocks to the top of Kanjila (17,315'). From camp, we climb steeply about 1½ hours to a small ridge, then walk on moraine and rocky terrain to the actual base of the pass from where we follow a steep narrow path to the top (snow is likely on top of the pass). Fluttering prayer flags and fantastic views of the Nun Kun massif and Zanskar Mountains greet us at the top. From the pass it's a two-hour descent on rocky terrain to a narrow dark gorge. Cross the river and camp at Mapollan (14,136'). (7–8 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Tashitongde We walk through meadows of wild alpine flowers and follow a stream until we reach the roadhead. Walk up to Rangdum Gompa (12,030'), scenically situated atop a hill and covering a huge area. Rangdum was founded in the early 16th century and is currently home to about 40 monks. The monastery complex also houses a small school. Descend to the road and continue a little farther to a lovely camp at Tashitongde (11,482'). (5 hours hiking.) B.L.D. Camp
Kargil It's a very scenic drive today as we cross the Parkachikla (14,438'), from where we get good views of the Parkachik glacier, and drive through the most scenic valley of Ladakh—the Suru Valley, which is also known as the Granary of Ladakh as its hillsides are green and filled with flowers. Forming a backdrop to the green pastures are the high peaks of Nun (23,408') and Kun (23,251'). Overnight in a hotel in Kargil. (6–7 hours driving.) B.L.D. Guesthouse/Hotel
Leh We are now on the main Srinagar–Leh highway. We pass through the town of Mulbek with its interesting, gigantic statue of Maitreya carved on a rock by the road. Continue across the passes of Namikala (12,202') and Photola (13,450') and dramatically situated Lamayuru monastery. Arrive in Leh in the evening. (7-8 hours driving.) B.L.D. Guest house/ Hotel
Every effort will be made to adhere to the above itinerary, but as this is adventure travel in a remote mountain region, we cannot guarantee following it to a T. Weather playing truant, road conditions, vehicle breakdowns, the health of climbers, are all factors that can individually or collectively precipitate last-ditch changes. Though the Expedition Leader and our local guide will try to ensure that the trip runs according to plan�having a cheerful disposition will definitely be an asset! Hidden Peak is graded 3B: It is suitable for those with previous ice axe and crampon experience on Grade II winter climbs. The expedition is a long journey and members should be prepared for the relative isolation and stark landscape, distinctive features of this region which lies in one of the remotest parts of the Himalayas.
Cost incidental to any change in the itinerary/ stay on account of flight cancellation due to bad weather, ill health, road blockages due to uncalled-for-incidences/natural calamities and/or any factors beyond control.