Jamie McGuinness Lobsang, star organizer

 

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The spacious valley up from Gyama Barma has enough room for kiang and yaks, and is one of my favourite places in all of Ladakh - Jamie

Expedition thoughts

Why our expedition? We know the region well, have climbed safely and successfully on every trip and have a carefully crafted itinerary that compares well against all others (actually, the best but we shouldn't say that). We don't break the trek part way through, nor spend days trekking along roads, neither are we running the shortest expedition that will unreasonably push the altitude.

We have climbed Lungser Kangri four times; we were amazed at how many GUIDES got lost or were on Lungser Kangri for the first time in 2013.

Why the small team? Our maximum is only nine bookings as our wonderful dining tent seats ten comfortably (including Jamie).

This is a good expedition to spend time at high altitude, we spend nine nights at 5000m or more, for example as an altitude intro to Everest or other 8000m peaks, and Jamie is happy to talk big mountains over (and has climbed Everest 5x and many other peaks)...

Experience level

The climb is a pure walk up using crampons and ice axe so no previous experience needed; we will provide some instruction.

Specialist gear

You will need ice ax, crampons and warm mountaineering boots for this expedition. We rent ice axe and crampons and can email a rental sheet (ask) but you need to bring your own boots. There are few rental options in Leh.

Boots for the climbs are perhaps the most difficult decision and basically you need boots that have insulation as part of the design. Something like the La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX or Nepal Extreme are ideal. Still good enough, just, are the La Sportiva Trango Prime and the cheapy Lowa Mountain Expert GTX. Note all of these boots are insulated, and that is the key, and is essential. These boots DON'T have a removable inner; the insulation is part of the boot. Moving up a level, the La Sportiva Batura 2.0 is a particularly warm and versatile boot. Additionally any boot with a removable insulated inner boot would work for this expedition and Aconcagua, eg the La Sportiva Spantik and Scarpa Phantom 6000...

Do discuss your boots options with Jamie.

If the past we have carried a harness set and rope on this climb, and some companies use a rope as standard. There are two crevasses that are stable and so on the balance, so far anyway, we feel the benefits of moving easily and more quickly outweigh the small risks posed by these obstacles. We do scout the route first, and scout again on the way up. We will take a few harness sets as backup just in case.

This is also a trip where river sandals may be useful for a couple of days.

Dinner time

Lobsang serves a delicious meal of assorted flavourful but non-spicy curries - Jamie

Your guide

Jamie, your guide, has climbed Lungser Kangri four times before and plenty of other peaks in Ladakh and Nepal, also Aconcagua, Vinson and Everest 5x, and we have a wonderful crew supporting us too. Lobsang has also climbed Lungser Kangri three times.

Jamie's Google+ photo albums - explore them! Punsok, our delightful cook

To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a tablet or laptop browser.

Detailed itinerary

We plan to follow the itinerary however roads wash out, or are extended, occasionally people get sick, logistical challenges arise, or we hear of a better campsite, and so we will adapt it as we see is needed.

For the 2013 Lungser Kangri expedition we started at Tirido and trekked via Tso Kar (lake) then climbed a 6200m peak prior to reaching Tsomoriri. That was a wonderful itinerary which we will repeat but this year our horse team will be in a different area, which also lends itself to a surprisingly good lead up for the peak. Also in 2013 we really focused on a warm up peak that was a surprisingly satisfying achievement, so satisfying that it was enough for several people. For 2014 we cross a very high pass with a ridge beside, to walk up to a 6000m peak, more of an aside.

(Day 0 - arrive Delhi / early Leh arrival)

We spend three nights in Leh, so reasonable acclimatization to the 3480m/11,415ft altitude but if you are new to altitude or to Leh, perhaps plan to arrive one day early and we will arrange transfers and hotel and show you around.

Included in all our Ladakh trips are a couple of sightseeing trips, with or without a cultural guide (your choice) and it is your choice of where to go; many people joining are previous trekkers so have seen some places previously.

If you are more ambitious we can also help you arrange a day or overnight trip to Alchi and Basgo Gompas, a day rafting trip on the Zanskar River or even a mountain bike descent of the Khardung La (best a few days into your Leh sojourn). If you have been working flat out you are welcome to just relax, kick back and de-stress too.

Day 1 - meet in Leh 3480m

Phew, after a long series of flights, you are here! Look for a sign with your name on it at the airport, and our wonderful drivers Ang Chuk or Pasang will pick you up.

Jamie meets you at the hotel on your arrival and we discuss altitude over tea/coffee or breakfast and perhaps introduce Leh and show you the better places to eat. Most people crash out for a few hours and spend the day relaxing; do drink plenty of fluids which helps the acclimatization process. We normally go out to dinner together, let's meet in the hotel lobby at 6:30pm.

2 - Leh 3480m

A day for sightseeing and relaxing. Perhaps best today, if you are waking up early, is to visit some of the historic gompas and monasteries a short distance from Leh. We will arrange a jeep, and a local cultural guide if you like (included). Choosing where to go is the biggest challenge; Spituk Gompa, Matho, Stok, Pyiang, ever popular Shey, Thikse and more. Usually we arrange as a morning trip with lunch at Leh (or Thikse) then you can relax in the afternoon. although we can easily arrange a day trip.

Prayer time at Matho Gompa

Prayer time at Matho Gompa - Jamie

3 - Leh 3480m

After gentle sightseeing yesterday we exercise a little more today. In the morning we wander up to the palace and gompa above Leh, and before dinner, perhaps up to the Peace/Shanti Stupa for a Leh sunset panorama. Because tomorrow we stay 4000m, at minimum we need three nights here in Leh prior to moving higher.

Leh from Shanti Stupa

Leh from Shanti Stupa - Jamie

4 - drive Lhatoo 4000m with sightseeing

It is only a couple of hours drive to our camp on the Leh-Manali road so we visit some gompas that are further afield from Leh along the way such as Matho, Stakna, busy Hemis or Chemre and Thag Thog. What haven't you already seen? We will camp at Lhatoo with our trek crew, which is more comfortable than the simple hotels there, and get our first taste of Punsok's wonderful cooking.

Ang Chuk with his Scorpio jeep

Ang Chuk, one of our regular drivers, with his turbo Scorpio jeep - Jamie

5 - drive Sangtha 4420m via Tanglang La ~5328m

With more altitude under our pillow, we drive over the Tanglang La, claimed by India to be the second highest road pass in the world, and regardless of the reality, it is scenic with views of the Kang Yatze mountain range and over the other side, the More/Mare Plains. Then we slip off the main Leh-Manali highway to a side road through a nomad camps area, reaching our already set up camp at Sangtha, probably mid-afternoon. We introduce you to our camping setup and relax in the peaceful area.

A Tanglang La view - Jamie

6 - trek Tozay Chu camp 4450m

We follow the Zara Chu (chu is water and river in Tibetan) downriver until the junction with the Tozay Chu where we turn upstream and wander along to a camp on the river banks. This day is a somewhat exploratory day as although we have trekked this area extensively we haven't taken this particular trail.

Nights 5, 6 and 7 are all at ~4500m so we really can get used to the altitude before progressing higher.

A nomad

We will meet nomads somewhere - Jamie

7 - trek Pang river camp 4500m

We continue along the pinnacled river valley to our "yoghurt" camp, beyond the road camp of Pang. So we do cross the road; sadly there are fewer and fewer treks that are not interrupted by a road. However we don't walk along the road at all and the camp is peaceful, serene, and full of memories from explorations of yesterdecade.

From near Pang, looking up our trekking valley

Our delightful Pang camp is one of the more distant green patches on the river - Jamie

8 - trek Shemra 5000m

This is perhaps a sandals trekking day as we zigzag up the braided river amid the remarkable scenery.

Ram Lal, star horseman

Ram Lal, our wonderful horseman - Jamie

9 - rest Shemra 5000m

We rest and wash, and if you have the energy perhaps explore. We should have a rest day roughly every week and here is the perfect combination, the right time, and also a chance to acclimatize further ready for the high pass tomorrow.

10 - trek Kyama Gongma 5250m via Kyama La 5850m

Also called the Gyama La on older maps, this is a spectacular pass with a 6000m peak right beside, that we will nip up, no crampons or ice axe! The camp area is also miscalled Kyagar. We might find the pass altitude a little tough but the horses jsut cruise up, despite their loads.

The top of a pass filled with the expectation of new views, an opening towards where we are heading; at the same time, we are leaving where we have come from with some real finality.

Summit success!

6000m summit success on the 2013 expedition - Jamie

11 - trek Kyama/Gyama 5180m optionally via the Kostse La 5380m

I love this huge valley. We have a choice of two routes, one over a high-sounding Kostse La, but in reality less than a 200m climb, or a slightly longer but level way around.

Gyama Barma lunch

Lunch in the Kyama Barma valley - Jamie

12 - rest-explore Kyama/Gyama 5180m

Clothes washing and taking in this spacious, soft valley. We rest high, this is one of the highest valley campsites there is; and that means even some 6000m exploring won't necessarily be too tough. It is also a day's rest that we can forgo if we are behind schedule.

13 - trek Korzog Sumdo 4650m via Yalung Nyau La 5430m

This high, broad area at last ends atop another pass, and we descend initially in a tighter valley to a good camp. Our cook, Punsok, is from this region and doubtless we will run into family today or tomorrow.

14 - trek Peldo (Tsomoriri nomads camp) 4560m

The reward is staying on the grassy flats at the head of the lake, where nomads will almost certainly be camping, with their herds of yaks, goats and sheep.

Even Getty liked this shot - copyright 2014 Jamie McGuinness

15 - trek Skyurchu 4850m

We camp near the sKyurchu spring (the "s" is light, the "K" is heavy) which is the best camp for us as our previous delightful "flowers camp", Nima Kanchik, has been taken over by army road workers.

Skyurchu moon

Skyurchu camp and Tsomoriri, moon and stars, with the lights of Korzog/Korzok and an army base - Jamie

16 - trek Base Camp 5680m via pass 5930m

I have to admit, the first time we crossed this pass I was seriously caught out, expecting to climb high a day later. When we climbed Lungser Kangri years ago we simply ascended up the valley floor from a utterly delightful camp, that is now a road worker's camp, so it sees a lot more use than previously.

Anyway, there is some real ascent today, and on a relatively skinny trail although as you can see in the photo below the terrain in moderate. After some descent down the other side, we suddenly arrive at our grassy base camp.

Pass 5950m

Crawling up the 5950m pass - Jamie

17 - rest Base Camp 5680m

Last night we slept higher than Kala Pattar in the Everest region or indeed the top of Annapurna's Thorung La so have an extra day to acclimatize, all part of maximizing our chance of success. It is a pleasant spot but there isn't a real view of the mountain yet, and neither down to the lake; what a shame to be camping so high without broad vistas, and indeed somewhat surprisingly too.

Lungser Kangri BC

Lungser Kangri Base Camp - Jamie

18 - trek High Camp 6000m

Up we go and have a big jump in altitude today, that hopefully the previous climb and long time we have spent at altitude assists us with.

Amazingly enough we can take the pony team to High Camp, which is only a couple of hours from BC. We spend the afternoon preparing our gear for the climb tomorrow.

 

Ram Lal takes the horse team to 6000m

Arriving at high camp - Jamie

19 - climb Lungser Kangri 6666m

The big day and we start out a little after dawn (depending on weather) for the long haul to the summit. Initially we reach the 6200m col between Lungser and Chamser Kangri, and occasionally groups camp here but the altitude jump first from Skyurchu and then BC really is too extreme. The terrain is mostly easy although we do climb on snow, and one area has a few crevasses, easily avoided or jumped over. It will probably take us around 6-7 hours to the summit although the fit and well-acclimatized make take less than 5 hours (as we did in 2014). The views are glorious over the lake and the restricted Hanle area, where Lobsang is from.

Lungser Kangri summit success

2013 summit success (although no views from the summit this time)- Jamie

20 - descend to Skyurchu

It will probably be a hot direct descent down the stony valley to a point where we can meet the jeeps. It will also be our last camp by this magnificent lake. It may also be possible for us to head down and drive to Leh the same day, arriving late, lets see what people feel like.

21 - drive Leh

We hit the road, back to Leh with around 6-7 hours driving time (barring delays) where we deserve a cold beer or cocktail and a celebratory meal. Chopsticks or Bon Appetit?

Statna Gompa in the Indus Valley

Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - Jamie

Day 22 - trip ends

You are free to take the morning flight to Delhi or bus to Manali for the long way back, or just enjoy more time in this central Asian town of yore.

We hope to see you again soon!