You will arrive in Delhi in the morning and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and recover from the flight, or for individual exploration of Delhi. Rooms in the hotel are usually available from noon.
Very early in the morning, you will transfer to the domestic terminal at Delhi airport for the spectacular flight over the Himalayas to Leh. The rest of the day is free to relax, and acclimatise to the altitude (3500m). In the afternoon, there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.
Today there will be a sightseeing tour around three of the major gompas (monasteries) in the area. Firstly, you will be driven just over half an hour to Shey, once the residence of the Ladakhi royal family. Below the old palace ruins is a small temple which contains a two-storey gilded statue of Buddha. From Shey, you will be able to either drive or walk across the fields to Tikse. Set on a hill, Tikse is one of the most impressive gompas in Ladakh. It has several temples, one of which contains a superb statue of the future Buddha. Next, you will be driven to Hemis, which lies tucked away in a more hidden valley. Once the largest and richest of all monasteries, its huge prayer hall is of particular interest.
Today there will be an acclimatisation walk round the Leh Valley. Set above Leh on the Namgyal Hill are the ruins of the Old Royal Palace. From here, a winding path takes you to the Tsemo Monastery, where we are rewarded for our efforts by magnificent views of the whole of Leh and its surrounding villages. Descending round the back of the palace we walk through Sankar to the recently built Japanese Peace Pagoda, which has fantastic views of the palace and across to Stok Kangri, which dominates the skyline. The rest of the day will be free for you to explore the back streets and bazaars of Leh. Today, there is a chance for you to go on a jeep safari to Khardung La at 5602m in altitude, one of the highest roads in the world. This can be booked and paid for locally. (Your leader will have the details of the safari. If you do the jeep safari, it will be in the morning, and you can do the walk in the afternoon.)
You will leave Leh and drive to the starting point of our trek. The road follows the Indus River for a short while, before turning off onto a small dirt track, which winds along following the Zanskar River. The scenery is truly spectacular as the valley narrows into a gorge. At the first bridge, the vehicle will be left behind, and you will have a short climb to Choksi (3210m), where you will camp. This pretty village is a model of self-sufficiency. It is inhabited by one large extended family who farm in the small valley. In the afternoon there will be a short acclimatisation walk in preparation for tomorrow.
The first day consists of a fairly hard walk, as you tackle the very steep climb out of Choksi. As you ascend, the valley narrows and becomes more and more spectacular. If you look back, you will notice the magnificent rock formations of the Ladakh mountains. These dramatic mountains, in various shades of purples, greens and browns, can be seen for miles in every direction. The trail ascends out of the valley all day, and the camp for the first night is a small rocky site by a shepherd’s hut. In the afternoon, there will be an acclimatisation walk up the valley opposite the camp, for views of the surrounding peaks.
For acclimatisation purposes, today’s walk will be very short, up to the base of the Kang La (4900m). After lunch, you will trek to the top of the small rocky peak behind camp, at 5,056m, where the views are magnificent. You will be able to see the Kang La and Palam Peak ahead, and the Himalayas will be spread out in front of you, just behind the Ladakh range. This spectacular wild camp also has fantastic views across to the Karakorum. Look out for marmots whistling to one another all around the campsite!
Today is a hard day, as you crossy our first two passes. The climb to the first pass is a long ascent, which is gradual at first with a last steep rocky section to the top of the Kang La (5,260m). The paths are seldom used, and can be indistinct. From the top of the pass you will have the opportunity to walk up Palam Peak (5380m), for views second only to the view from the summit of Stok Kangri. Ahead you will be able to see the summit of Stok Kangri, and Leh in the distance. Behind you, the Ladakh Range and Himalayas can be seen for miles. From the top you will descend a little, before contouring round into the next valley. As the trail bends round the top of the valley you will have amazing views of Stok Kangri. This magnificent high trail brings you to the top of the second pass, the Ganda La (4900m). From the pass, it is an easy descent to the camp.
Today you will have an easy , following after the exertions of yesterday! The trail winds easily down the valley, and you will walk through the villages of Yurutse and Rumbak before beginning the ascent to the Stok La. You will camp just below the Stok La tonight. Ahead, the mountains are truly incredible; fold after fold of phosphorescent, jagged rock will tower above you, and as the sun sets and the light fades, the colours change dramatically. This short trek is a geologist's paradise; every pass you cross envelops you in another spectacular valley with amazing rock formations.
Today is probably one of the most spectacular walks in Ladakh, as you cross the Stok La (4900m), the final pass of the trek. At first, you will trek on a beautiful, gently sloping trail, before the path becomes steeper and steeper as it zigzags up to the top of the pass. Rock flutes rise all around you, home to the elusive snow leopard. From the top, the views are even more spectacular; layer upon layer of multi-coloured rock cathedrals are spread before you in every direction. The descent is very steep at first, but then you contour round two valleys to a junction, where the river flows down from Stok Kangri. We follow the river, crossing a few side streams, until we reach a shepherds’ settlement at Mankarmo (4380m). Look out for the herds of blue sheep scrambling on the rocks around camp.
Cross Ganda La and Stok La to Stok Kangri Base Camp (5210m).
These days are devoted to the ascent of Stok Kangri. You will first establish a base camp at 5210m. On the afternoon of day 11 (day 12 ex London), you will prepare for the climb. The summit day (day 12; day 13 ex London) will be long and hard (at least 12 hours will be spent walking). After a very early start, in the dark, you will cross a glacier to reach the foot of the climb. The route to the summit is very steep, and usually involves the use of an ice axe and crampons. For your security and confidence, you will also carry a rope. The summit route follows an exposed ridge for some of the time, and there will be some scrambling on loose, and potentially icy, rock. However, the altitude will be the greatest difficulty. The climb from the camp to the summit will take five to seven hours, and the final 100m needs particular attention as you cross the icy slopes just below the summit. From the summit the views are truly amazing. Miniscule Leh can be seen in the distance, and, surrounding you, the snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya, the Karakorum and the Ladakh Range reach far to the horizon. You will spend a short while at the top to savour the beauty you can see (and regain your breath!) before descending to Base Camp. The crew will be waiting there with welcome hot food. (Please note that the actual climb is entirely optional. For anyone not intending to climb there are wonderful walks from the base camp itself. There will be an optional walk for those not climbing to the glacier at the foot of Stok Kangri.)
Today will consist of an easy but spectacular last day's walk down the valley to Stok. Layer upon layer of multi-coloured rocks surround you as you descend, until, finally, the valley widens as you approach Stok village. Your transport will meet you there, and you will take a short drive back to Leh for a welcome hot shower and a well-deserved celebration.
There will be an early start for the flight back to Delhi. The rest of the day is free in Delhi for individual shopping or sightseeing.
After Breakfast you will depart from Delhi.