A trail report of an exploration leader from Markha Valley trek.
Kang Yetse base camp – Markha Valley Trek Diary
Leh City. Leh Palace is a former royal palace overlooking the Ladakhi Himalayan town of Leh. Modeled on the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.
The construction of the palace on the Tsemo Hill was initiated by Tsewang Namgyal, the founder of the Namgyal dynasty of Ladakh in 1553 and was completed by his nephew Sengge Namgyal.It is nine storied high; the upper floors accommodated the royal family, while the lower floors held stables and store rooms.
Panoramic views of city Leh floats into huge Indus valley guarded by the Zanskar mountain range to the south and the Ladakh mountain range rising behind the palace to the north.Also, Namgyal Tsemo Gompa sparks like the brightest stone into Ladakh range. This was founded in 1430 by King Tashi Namgyal. It has a three-storied high gold statue of Maitreya Buddha know as future Buddha, also as the laughing Buddha.
Start a little early.Leave hotel after breakfast for Spituk, 7km away. The day begins with a visit to Gelugpa sect monastery built by Lama Od-lde in the 11th century.This hill top monastery shares a wonderful view of Indus valley. Then a short drive ahead before we start. Once we are done with loading all luggage and formality of permit & red tapes, start your first day hike with a gentle walk upon vast open terrain. The trail follows the clear path and continues through easy slope keeping Indus River on right. As you come across the valley on the left, leave Indus behind and enter into the valley of wilderness. The motor-able road ends here with all signage of modern days civilization. Trek continues along the upstream small river as far as Zingchen. Our 1st camp sight.
A gradual and quite an easy walk today.The trail is through a wide open gorge crossing the streams flowing into it.The landscape is mostly barren with patches of green and yellow paddy fields.After we cross the old Sumdzom Village, we walk upstream crossing some wooden bridges on the trail, entering the beautiful gorge of Zingchen Nala.The trail enters a valley which narrows down as we move ahead passing the rocky canyons.Now the trail moves eastwards up to Rumbak Village,which is one of the hotspots during winter for Snow Leopard sighting. The path follows along with the Kandalla Nala up to Yurutse Village, a little beyond which is our next halt at the base of the Ganda La, a high altitude pass of 4971 mts.
Its a beginning of a difficult day so its better to start early.The climb from Ganda La Base to the Pass is quite a steep ascent of almost 2 – 2: 30 hours.But once at the top,behold the mesmerizing view of the vast open never ending valley that lies in front of you.The Ganda La top is 4850 mtrs above the sea level and the trail is a hotspot for Marmot and Blue Sheep.
After a steep descent for around 30 mins from the Pass, the rest of the trail is gradual downhill along a dusty trail till you each the beautiful valley of Shingo Village. As you follow the trail along the Shingri Nala towards SkySkiu, the color of the mountains changes to different shades of yellow, brown red and green. The camp for the day is near to the Skiu Monastery of ancient Maitreya (Future Buddha) which is also definitely worth visiting.
Skiu to Markha. A moderate day walks with very less altitude gain/loss though there is a lot of distance to cover. Trail heads toward east from Skiu , alongside ofMarkha river gorge. Markha river bed is filled with willow trees in patches. This walk through pictorial landscape takes 5 to 6 hours to reach Chalak. From Chalak the trail ascends gradually as you pass by signage made of Bharal horns for directions. Observe chortens and mani walls set high above the river throughout the way. After another 2 to 3 km the valley opens up and the most difficult river crossing is waiting here to take you toMarkha Village. The water is icy cold and as it comes close to sun set; the level can go beyond thigh high. Once you cross over, hike for a couple of kilometers till you see a final bridge crossing before Markha . This is the biggest village of the area. This village has 25 houses. An old fort dated back to 1830’s and full of memories on silk route trade fares. There is renovated Gompa, well worth a visit. Let’s call it a day here.
You may feel sad, but we have to leave Markha behind. The hike goes on. Another moderate day for the trek. Trail follows Markha river along the right side. A couple of time we have to remove our shoes to cross streams. Just after crossing the river you can see Tache gompa, perched high up on a cliff and its a sheer engineering marvel. After 1.5-2 hrs reach Umlung. Further, trail opens up the view of almighty Mt.Kang Yatse on way to Hankar; one of the highest and oldest village in this Silk route. Here Nimaling Chu meets Markha river and trail splits into two. We need to follow the gorge of Nimaling Chu to reach Thochuntse. Finally, pass a bridge made of stones and enter a wide field, today’s campsite Thochuntse.
Thochuntse landscape suits best for wildlife sighting. Thochuntse blessed a bunch of RockyFeet with the rarest moment of a lifetime; a snow leopard chasing a herd of blue sheep on high curves of the mountain just opposite to the campsite. It was a failed attempt.
Day 7 is almost 3-4 Hrs walk on a high terrain with a teasing view of Mt.KangYatse (6240m) in front. The trail takes you up on a hill top. Several cairns; a mound of rough stones built land marks, make this place unique. Trail splits into 2 from here. We will take the right way to reach Mt.KangYatse basecamp. This high plateau gives one of the most pictorial walks of this trek. Trail ends in a vast wide open valley beneath Mt.KangYatse. Basecamp provides a 360-degree view of the snowcapped mountain and the highland moonscape of Ladakh. A campsite here will create lifelong memories of wonders. Climbers take 2 different routes to reach KangYatse main and shoulder.
This is an absolute day of leisure. Wake up early morning to capture as many shades you can. A Thousand shades of sun and cloud, playing over Mt.Kangyatse makes it heaven. Have break fast in the lap of mountains and just get lost into the high plateau. Today we will climb down to Nimaling Valley in around 1-1:30 hrs. A pleasant walk takes you to a high point from where lies the shepherd grazing ground in front while the majestic Mt.KangYatse looks over you from behind. A vast wide open field along the river Nmaling chu welcomes you. A day to bring out the poet within you.
The last day walk on Markha Valley Trek, begins with a steep climb up. Leaving Nimaling behind, Kongmaru la pass (5265 m) is a difficult way up into thin air takes on an around 2 hrs.At the top, the pass offers a great view of Indus valley and Ladakh ranges. You can also see a wide array of wildflowers on the slope leading to the pass. Guide and porters become active to create communication with Leh, due to sudden mobile network availability on top.
Now the trail enters into a narrow canyon after massive drops down on rocky steep. The brown and reddish giant rocks on both sides of canyon take you through another landscape pattern of Ladakh. The trail goes on steep downhill till Sukarmo. From Sukarno to Shang Sumdo it is a river bed walk. At Shang Sumdo trail connects to the motorable road to the highway which is about 8 km away. It takes about 2 hours to reach Leh from Shang Sumdo.
After 8 days again you are returning back to modern days of Ladakh. While leisure of a car to move on; gives an amazing pleasure to muscles, but the soul remains stuck to the memories of march.
You are back, and you know , just 8 days rooted you back to the antiquity of almighty, Nature.