This is a great trek over high passes on the other side of Zanskar River from Markha Valley. You pass the colourful, arid mountains of the Ladakh Range and the spikey, rugged peaks of the Zanskar Range.
The following information is based on our experiences on the Hidden Valleys Trek in Ladakh. It is not intended to be a guide, but hopefully will provide extra helpful information.
- We included our trekking times. Note that times do not include breaks, we were acclimatized and carried our own full packs.
- Most do the trek beginning in Lamayuru but we started in Chiling and ended in Lamayuru. Both ways have 2 long days and gain 1300m elevation if you need to stay in home-stays.
- We trekked in July 2018.
- We did not use a guide, and one is not necessary. We stayed in home-stays but there are not many, only in the towns as listed below. Costs are 1200 Rs per person per night and include a bed, tea on arrival, dinner, breakfast and a bag lunch. They have filtered water available at no cost. They all provide blankets and pillows, so you don’t have to bring a sleeping bag, but we brought our own. Not all of the homestays are as clean as we wanted. They are very basic with thin mats or rugs on the floor and a Tibetan style table for tea/meals.
- You can camp at any of the towns or at campsites along the way.
- We did the trek in 2 nights, 3 days, but we had two very long days that most would break into 2 if you have a tent. If you stay in home-stays you cannot stop anywhere else other than the towns listed.
- We took Wet N Wild’s whitewater rafting bus from Leh to Chiling, but it won’t arrive until noon or later. The first day is a long day, so we spent the night in Chiling. There is a bus from Leh to Chiling, but it does not travel everyday.
- No trekking permits are required.
- In July the sun was hot during the day, but evenings were chilly.
- There are multiple ways to spell all Ladakh words, we used the spelling from our map.
For the full story, and all our pictures from the trek click here.
Day 1 Leh to Chiling
We went on a Wet N Wild bus so arrived in Chiling at 12:30pm. We trekked to the confluence of the Zanskar and Markha Rivers to see the gorge as we heard it was very nice. It was an hour trekking on a gravel road and the views were not that great, but it filled up the afternoon. Chiling is a cute town with many home-stays. (3250m). Heritage House Home-stay is very nice.
Day 2 Chiling to Sumdo Chinmu, 7hr 10min, 1270m ascent, 890m descent
This is a long hard day with no other option to stay if you’re using home-stays, but there are other options to camp. The trail leaves Chiling along a good path which goes down toward a small rocky creek bed. It slowly gains in elevation as it follows the creek. After an hour you reach a shepherd’s hut and from here the trail climbs steeply up the ridge left of the hut and then crosses to the right. It continues steep for approx. 600m then becomes more moderate as it winds its way over the hills, around the undulated grounds going right, then left, then back again. After a large chorten, the trail goes along a bright red hill until you reach the spot where you can see the pass (approx. 950m gain). The trail then climbs up a ridge and follows along the mountain edge to Dung Dung Chen La (4710m) (4hrs 20min). There are beautiful views of Stok, Ladakh and Zanskar Ranges. The Zanskar Range is very rugged, jagged steep towers. From the pass you can see Sumdah Chenmo in the distance on a green oasis. The trail is steep on loose rock and it’s a quick 300m down to a campsite where most groups will camp (usually before they climb the pass in the opposite direction). The trail continues through the camp and crosses a small creek on the left side to climb the hill towards the second pass of the day, Pagal La, (4270m). It’s not much of a climb from this direction but is quite a slog for those coming the other way. There are gorgeous views from this pass of the colourful mountains on the north. You can see the trail on the right side of the valley ahead. It’s another fairly steep descent all the way to the creek below. Cross the creek, pass another campsite and then cross to the other side of the valley to the trail. The trail has a few ups and downs as it follows the gorges of the mountain until you can finally see Sumdah Chenmo. There are a few guest-houses here that work on a rotation system. There’s a locked building that has many old wooden Buddha statues. They are in various levels of decay but were very interesting to see. One of the homes has the key, your guest-house will be able to arrange a visit.
Day 3 Sumdah Chenmo to Hinju, 7hrs, 1000m ascent, 1150m descent
This was another long, hard, day. It rained overnight so the rivers were higher than the previous day. There are 2 routes, high and low. The high route avoids crossing the Sundan Chu (River), but it climbs and descends an extra 300m or more. Even though it had rained we opted for the low route. It follows the irrigation channel for a while until going down to the river. Cross when you can see the trail on the other side. We had to ford at both crossings. The trail climbs a little and follows the hill on the south side of the river. You can see the pass from several places along the trail today. After approx. 20 min it drops to the river where you cross again and climb up the north side to a large chorten. The trail follows the river first above and then at river level. It does wide turns as it goes around the hills until you reach a shepherd’s hut near the base of the pass. The trail then goes left up a steep moraine for 200m and follows the ridge to Konzke La (4900m), (4hr 30min). When we were there, we were in clouds so had no views. It’s a steep descent, approx. 450m, down a scree and loose rock trail to reach a tight gorge and then slowly descends to the long Ripchar Tokpo River valley. You first see Upper Hinju where there is a campsite. A few minutes later you see Hinju. The village of Hinju (3750m) is a group of typical Tibetan homes piled on top of each other on the side of the mountains. There are many home-stays in Hinju.
Day 4 Hinju to Lamayuru 5hrs 47min walking (10min by car)
The trek leaves Hinju on the gravel road above the Ripchar Tokpo River. It’s a gentle descent with wonderful views despite being on a road. You first get to the village of Urtsi (1hr) and then Phanjila (2hr) (3230m). Here the trail meets the paved highway. Turn north on the paved highway and follow to Wanla (3150m). We were lucky to wave down a car who drove us 5 -6 km which helped a lot. There were a few cars on this road, but only 2 on the dirt road. The monastery in Wanla is worth a visit and is at the turn-off to continue to Lamayuru. Some will end or start their trek in Wanla or Phanjila. There are hotels and home-stays in each. If continuing to Lamayuru, from the large prayer wheel at Yapola River in Wanla, take the dirt road west 2 km to Shila. After Shila you cross the Shilakong Tokpo on 2 logs (bridge has been destroyed) and follow the valley west on a partial dirt road passed apricot tress. When you reach 4 large chortens take the narrow canyon on your right. This narrow, dry canyon gradually ascends all the way to the pass. You have occasional views of the colourful peaks above. It’s a very interesting canyon. From Prinkti La (3710m) you have a great views of Zanskar’s jagged peaks behind and barren hills in front. The trail down from the pass crosses a large barren cirque and then enters a small canyon to continue on the arid hills above the creek. You can soon see the highway ahead. At the large chortens the trail goes left to reach Lamayuru. The impressive 10th century Lamayuru Gompa sites high on the hill above town. There are many hotels and guesthouses here with remarkably good wifi.
For more of our treks click here, or go directly to Phuktal Gompa Zanskar), Markha Valley Trek (Ladakh), Kashmir’s Great Lakes, Everest 3 Passes, Manaslu Circuit, Upper Mustang, Jumolhari Yaksa Trek (Bhutan),Kalaw to Inle Lake (Myanmar), Pinnacles Trek (Borneo), Carstenz Pyramid(Indonesia).
For pictures from Richard’s Everest summit click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFmsecd6yN0