Playground Outdoors

Markha Valley

Markha Valley, traditionally used as a herding route by locals, is very different from many of India’s other treks, 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 finally reach the massive green plateau of Nimaling, bustling with herds of yaks, sheep, goats and donkeys, all at the foot of the towering 21,000ft Kang Yatse, before heading over the panoramic Kongmaru La at 17,000 feet and down through the bizarre rock formations of the Shang Gorge.

Difficulty

SAC T3 Demanding Mountain Hiking

Paths are not always visible. Exposed sections can be safeguarded with ropes or chains. The hands might be needed for balance. Can have exposed sections with danger of falling, scree slopes, pathless craggy ground.

Duration

10 days

Delhi to Delhi
3 days travel & rest
7 days hiking & camping

Distance

82 km / 51 mi

Maximum Altitude

5360 m / 17600 ft

Price

₹1,00,000 $1400

Itinerary


FWelcome 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 45min car ride as we wind our way out of civilization. From Zingchen, a starkly contrasted neon-green hamlet from the jagged dry mountains that surround it, we carry forward on foot. Passing through crop fields of the isolated villages of Rumbak and Yurutse, we begin to get a feel for what life is like out here, and stop for local dishes at lunchtime. We will set ourselves up for the next day by pushing onward until we reach the barren Ganda La Base Camp.

Today we tackle the first of two high-altitude passes along this route. Rising upward, the multi-colored view of the mountains that lay below reveals the kaleidoscopic effect of the different mineral layers, showing off their greens, purples and pinks on a bright sunny day. From the prayer flag-covered top of the pass, weather permitting, we will be rewarded with a phenomenal view of the 20,200ft Stok Kangri. From here we make our descent into the village of Shingo for some tea, hot diner and a good night’s rest.

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 out 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.

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.

Fly out to Delhi from Leh in the morning, or extend your stay and join us on Digar La

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.