So Dinesh and I set off for a trek nearby Leh where we will trek through Hemis and Markha valley.
The official starting point is at Spituk but we would be walking on an asphalt road through some construction area and because that doesn’t look like trekking at all, we started at Zinchen (around 12km further amd taxi from Leh can take you there for some extra charge).
First day should have been quite easy – from Zinchen to Yurutse, around 6km, 400m of elevation. But somehow I couldn’t manage. It was super difficult for me to get to the village, at 4000m I got a bit dizzy and short of breath. There was a possibility to go up to the lower/upper base camp of Ganda La which was another 30mins/one hour further but I couldn’t. So we stayed at the only home stay in the village which was pretty cool! Very ancient-like and authentic with no electricity nor running water. We showered in the nearby stream, had dinner and went to sleep.
Next day was a big day because we had to cross a pass at 4900m and with my previous day’s performance in mind, I was quite afraid that I won’t manage. We set off after breakfast around 8am and I felt great! 800m of elevation, 6km to reach the pass and we made it in 2 hours💪 yay! But then my beloved descent was awaiting. 13km, 1400m of elevation.. First half was quite ok on a dusty trail but second half sucked a big time, mostly going through a river bed with huge rocks so the trail wasn’t as smooth as I expected, which also took more time. We arrived to Skio at around 3pm, after 7 hours of trekking all together with breaks. Description of the trek said that it takes 8-9h with 25km to go – no idea where they got this number, since it really is only 18. Maybe my maps don’t consider all the turns and zigzags but I find it hard to believe it. Let’s see about tomorrow – should be 18km with graduate climb of 440m so if my feet regenerate properly, it should be long but not so difficult day.
Today was also quite a long day, although maybe not so difficult. Our destination was Markha village and we walked for about 20km. However, walking through a river is quite exhausting and my feet were already telling me since yesterday that they are not happy in my boots. There were quite many tea tents on the road and I was counting meters until we reached each one of them to get some chai – 400m seems like forever when everything is hurting! Total ascent wasn’t that crazy either, from 3400m to 3770m but still… And I’m especially nervous when I’m walking in a horse ‘caravan’, gosh.. Always worried that a horse will try to overtake me and hit me with it’s load (which already happened several times).
We reached Markha after 3pm, so again 6h of walking, passing by Sara village where there is also possibility to get a room in a home stay.
Markha was so beautiful! On a hill above a river, set amidst wheat fields and we stayed at a very cozy home stay, little bit further from center. But we were the only ones in a room and basically lived with the whole family for that evening – got typical ladakhi dinner (cooked vegetables with pasta-like noodles) and kids were sleeping in the dining room. It was also last place where we could take a shower and wash hair – so bucket it was, filled with fresh and cold spring water, which almost gave me a heart attack and surely did give me a brain freeze cuz I couldn’t rinse the shampoo from my hair at all😰 But! At least my hair was clean again😊
Markha to Tatchungtse (4000m). Again not so difficult ascent with only 13km to walk.
We (again) started as the last ones and (as usual) finished first. We’re just the best, I know😜
Anyway, we passed through two villages – Umlung and Hankar. Hankar had a nice tea tent and we refreshed ourselves with fresh apricot juice (I didn’t even know you can squeeze an apricot and get some juice! Thought it’s too pulpy to do that) and then continued. At that point my right pinkie toe gave up and I thought I won’t make those 5k that were still ahead of us. It’s incredible how such a small thing on your body can cause so much pain. As it turned out at the end of the day, my pinkie toe became one huge blister, ugh..
When we reached Tatchungtse, we thought that there will be some guesthouses available but not this time. Only tents were available at the local camp and we got one just for ourselves. Nothing fancy, simple tent where there is hot during the day and cold during the night. Well at least we had somewhere to sleep😉
Tatchungtse to Nimaling (4730m), 7km. That was a really easy day and we deserved it. However, at the beginning when full of energy and blisters-free, we thought that maybe we could merge the trek to Nimaling with Kongmaru La crossing. Well thank god we didn’t pursue this idea at the end. Nimaling was such a beautiful place to stay at and chill, in a wide valley between two mountains with crystal clear river running through it. This was also the place where all trekkers met at once and the dining tent was packed for dinner!
It was probably my favorite place during the whole trek and maybe if we had more time, we would stay one night longer. We also did a mini acclimatization climb up to 5000m to get ready for the pass next day and the views were amazing – we clearly saw the pass in front of us, Yang Kartse mt. next to us (above 6000m) and to sum it up, it was a perfect day all together.
Crossing Kongmaru La (5285m) and then all the way to Shang Sumdo (3730m) and back to Leh by taxi. The trail to the pass was only 2,5km long and we reached the top in like 1,5h. First 500m consisted of a steep climb up, then 1,5km was a graduate climb and last 500m again steeply up. Dinesh was always in the front and I didn’t mind, but few meters before the top he stopped, waited for me, took my hand and said ‘let’s reach the top together’. And that was like the sweetest thing I’ve ever experienced❤️ It was around 9:30 when we reached the top.
The way down was long, sometimes boring, sometimes difficult and my feet were hurting a lot. It was around 1500m to climb down, through river beds and steep and dusty trails on cliffs but finally around 3pm we reached Shang Sumdo and met our fellow trekkers with whom we also shared a taxi to Leh. Then we had a nice dinner at the Penguin restaurant (meet and beer!!!!), shared stories with friends and went to sleep. And it took only 2 beers to have a mild hangover next day😅
Some information to note
Staying at local guesthouse/home stay is around 1000rs per person. Also in the tent, except for Nimaling, they charged us 1200rs
The price also usually includes dinner, breakfast next day and packed lunch (egg, potato, puri bread, chocolate and juice).
You can do it alone, without a guide or agency without any problems.
Having a tent will cost you much less – you don’t pay anything for the tent space.
No need to bring any food, there are plenty of tea tents on the way (chai 20rs, maggi noodles 150rs for example). But it was nice to put some cheese and chunks of tuna to the noodle soup, just sayin’😉