Playground Outdoors

Kang Yatse II

Ready for a challenge? Higher and more scenic than its neighbor, Stok Kangri, the route to summit this 20,500ft peak begins up through the monastery-studded Markha Valley before becoming semi-technical as we ascend the glaciated western summit. Markha Valley is very different from many of India’s other trekking routes, as we won’t be staying in tents, but in teahouse lodges run by locals in the villages remote villages we pass through along the way - giving a unique view into rural Ladakhi culture. Passing by Lhatos (shrines for Buddhist deities), the cliffside Techa Gompa (monastery) and crumbling old forts, we divert to the base of Kang Yatse at the head of the valley to make our summit push up above the clouds. And the scene from the top? Let’s just say that no view 20,500ft above sea level ever disappointed anyone. A final descent over the Kongmaru La pass down the rocky Shang Gorge brings you back to civilization.

Difficulty

IFAS French PD

Peu Difficile - Slightly Difficult. Routes may be longer at altitude, with snow and ice slopes up to 45 degrees. Glaciers are more complex, scrambling is harder, climbing may require some belaying, descent may involve rappelling. More objective hazards.

Duration

14 days

Delhi to Delhi
3 days travel & rest
11 days hiking, mountaineering & camping

Distance

72 km / 45 mi

Maximum Altitude

6250 m / 20500 ft

Price

₹2,15,000 $3000

Itinerary


Welcome to Leh! This former Tibetan kingdom is known for taking visitors’ breath away - with its high altitude as well as the beauty and history associated with this remote mountainous desert. We will convene for the first time at the hotel arranged for you to meet and brief on the plan for the upcoming days.

Since Leh is already at an altitude of 11,500 feet, we will spend today acclimatizing in the city itself. Our goal is to be active and hydrate, so any kind of exploring will do - and this city has plenty of that to go around. Some of our favorites include climbing the prayer flag-adorned steps to the Leh Palace, built in the early 1600’s, pick up some traditional handicrafts from the main bazaar and Tibetan Refugee Markets, catch the view over the valley at sunset from the ornately decorated Shanti Stupa or explore the winding alleyways, Central Asian Museum, mosques, gurudwaras and freshly-baked tandoor bread of Old Town. Tonight, we reconvene one final time to make sure everything is set for tomorrow. In the morning, we’re off!

Enjoy the winding ride through these incredibly arid mountains and out of civilization as we make our way to Chilling by car. After about an hour’s drive, we arrive at Chilling - no more than a speck on a map set against the lumbering Zanskar River. After a short stretch alongside the banks, we will cross over a bridge and make our way into Markha Valley, following the twisting river that shares the same name until we reach Skiu, a tiny village dotted with old Lhatos (Buddhist shrines).p>

Crossing the river on several occasions, our trail winds along with the river with the valley slowly rising in altitude. We pass meditation caves, more crumbling Lhatos and mani walls painted with the 6-syllable prayer in Tibetan Buddhism, “Om mani padme hum,” which is said to invoke compassion into all who read it. We again rest in a small teahouse, this time of Sara village, far below the mountaintops that surround us. Make sure to take a look outside after sunset - the sky here will be the clearest you’ve ever seen.

Another pleasantly uphill day, we move on toward Markha, home to a crumbling, abandoned fort lying just above the village and an old monastery. Keep an eye out for wildlife, like blue sheep and magpies, which are sometimes spotted along this stretch if you’re lucky.

Heading out of Markha, we pass the cliffside Techa monastery, stone mills, shepherds herding their yaks, donkeys & goats and cross the river several times to reach the small village of Umling. As we rise out of Umling, we catch our first nerve-wracking glance at Kang Yatse towering at the head of the valley - daring us to climb it, before settling in for the night at Hangkar.

We very gradually spend today rising up onto the plateau of Nimaling, a section of valley floor so wide that it seems to almost push the mountains back from the vast expanse of neon green grass in between. Kang Yatse seeming closer and closer by the footstep now, we reach proper Nimaling, frequented by shepherds and their flocks for its grazing. A cluster of semi-permanent tent structures mark our home for the night, the campground bustling with trekkers from across the globe, and Kang Yatse standing just beyond the ridge behind us.

Today we meet our target up close and personal. The ridge we’ve been viewing Kang Yatse behind since we reached Nimaling is now the one we will climb first thing this morning. After about an hour and a half, we will reach the top, standing between two valleys, and there stands Kang Yatse for the first time in full view - the razor-sharp edge of the eastern summit and the glaciated western ascent that we will soon climb. We descend the rocky slope to the river, crossing barefoot and hike directly to the base of the summit push route to set up camp for the night.

The route splits into three sections today, gradual glacier ascent, another few kilometers of rock and scree, finally a last gradual glacier ascent to camp. This icy world feels more like another planet than Earth as we pass over strange frozen formations, waterfalls that cascade into bottomless crevasses and tiny streams of water etching new channels across the surface of the ice. Don’t miss the chance to fill your water bottle in these for a taste of the coldest, cleanest water you’ll find. We pitch camp earlier today and rest early for our itinerary’s most difficult day - Pass Day.

Our goal is to summit by sunrise to avoid potentially bad afternoon weather as well as melting snow and ice during our ascent and descent, which can cause complications . To accomplish this, we move to high camp in the afternoon to cut a major chunk of walking off our summit push. We begin by climbing a prolonged series of rocky ascents along the spur, navigating moraine and scree until we reach High Camp. .

We wake up around 2am for an alpine start. While it’s exhausting work, make sure to give your midnight surroundings a glance. The sky is so clear at this altitude in this region that the stars literally seem closer. At this point, we put on our harnesses and crampons, pull out our ice axes, rope up and ascend single file onto the snowcapped glacier. The ascent from here is steep and blindingly white, but a quick glimpse down behind us of 14,000ft peaks looking like hills from where we now stand is some excellent motivation. We will start the steepest portion of the final ascent from a small section of black rocks jutting out from the icy shoulder, and reach the prayer flag-covered summit just in time for sunrise above the clouds and an unbelievable view. Ideally, we should be at the summit not later than 6am. We will return to Base Camp for a well-deserved break, lunch & nap in the sun before packing up and making the short hike back to Nimaling for the night.

In case of inclement weather, we will not attempt the summit push. If need be, this reserve day gives us an extra day at Base Camp and extra chance at climbing from Base Camp. If weather is fine the first night of the scheduled summit push, then we will return to Leh on the 11th day rather than the 12th.

We have one final climb before returning to civilization. Rising sharply out of the grassy expanse of Nimaling, the 17,000ft Kongmaru La pass is famous for its dual-sided view. To one side stands Kang Yatse with Nimaling bustling far below. Saying goodbye, we turn to face the range of purple, pink and green-striped mountains sprawling below, given their unique colors from their mineral composition. Descending into this range, we enter the narrow, rocky Shang Gorge, weaving up and down among bizarre rock formations carved by the river that has flowed here for thousands of years. Finally, the gorge levels out onto the riverbed, and we arrive at the small village of Chogdo, surrounded by Buddhist shrines dotting here and there. From here, we meet our vehicle pickup and return to Leh to celebrate, explore and rest. Until next time.

ly and/or drive back to Delhi. Mode of transport is subject to weather conditions and availability of flights.

Playground Perks


Handcrafted & Curated

We don’t copy our itineraries off the internet. We scout and design all trip offerings personally. This ensures enough time to acclimatise at high altitude, explore around the campsite, and indulge in authentic local experiences so you don’t miss out on anything.

Everything Included

Honestly, everything. Internal flights, best-in-class travel insurance, personal camping equipment, and all meals - we’ll take care of everything that most travel operators will mark with an asterisk. You pay for nothing except personal purchases from the day your trip starts.

Equipment & Safety

4 season Mountain Hardwear tents and sleeping bags, emergency oxygen reserves & PACs to provide a safety net against AMS, UIAA Safety Label glacier rescue kits for technical trails, WAFA/WFR & CPR certified guides, best-in-class adventure insurance - we’ve always got a plan B.

Personalised & Bespoke

We curate bespoke adventures and trips every day because we recognise that everyone’s travel bug is unique. When it comes to adventure travel, there are different ways to experience the world’s most beautiful places, because every traveler is different - which is why we’ve stepped in to provide a space for environmental advocacy, cross-cultural connections, wellness and adventure to combine - all through travel.

Responsible Travel

Responsible travel starts with acknowledging that travel and tourism often contribute to the global climate crisis. We believe in the positive power of travel to transform mindsets & generate a sense of preservation towards wild spaces. We follow LNT Principles, minimise our carbon footprint, adopt regenerative practices & give back to local communities - from making sure our field staff are well equipped to higher-than-industry-standard compensation.

Self Guided & Operated

We’ll never hand you off to someone else - we run all trips ourselves. We minimise external contracting and only partner with people we know and trust personally. While we employ and collaborate with local guides and support staff for their unparalleled expertise and knowledge of the Himalayan ranges, our trips are led by one of our core team members so you always have a single point of contact.