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 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.
In 2014 the Indian army prevented climbers going to the area, being close to Chumar where they were dealing with Chinese incursions so instead we climbed Mentok II, an amazing expedition.
For 2015 we return to Lungser Kangri with a variation on our delightful 2014 route in. We cross a very high pass with a 6000m bump beside, then have a chance to resupply before the final summit push.
As mentioned above, the mountain was closed for most of the 2014 season. We have been assured that it will be open for 2015 as it is so important to the local economy and the army couldn't come up with real justification for the closure, to the point where the general in charge said "open it". In the unlikely event of it still being closed, we will adapt to a similar itinerary to 2014 and probably climb Mentok I (or perhaps another shapely peak I have my eye on), for some serious peak satisfaction.
(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 full day trip.
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 - 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, one of our regular drivers, with his turbo Scorpio jeep - Jamie
5 - drive Sangtha 4420m via Tanglang La ~5328m, trek Yabuk ~4340m
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 to Sangtha, a deserted-in-summer nomad camp, which we reach around lunchtime. We trek a few hours in the afternoon to either Yabuk Gongma, our delightful 2014 camp, or its sister camp Yabuk Yogma a little further down, and 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 one of the many possible camps on the river bank.
Nights 5, 6 and 7 are all at ~4500m so we really can get used to the altitude, a real key before progressing higher.
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.
Our delightful Pang camp is one of the more distant green patches on the river - Jamie
8 - trek Lanyar 4850m via the Thelakung La 5020m
At last we trek above 5000m, briefly, crossing this pass that so many people get lost on. We don't follow the main valley to the end!
We have camping choices in the huge valley, filled with yaks being herded by Tibetan cowboys in 2014. It is also Kiang country and has gorgeous panoramas.
Ram Lal, our wonderful horseman - Jamie
9 - short trek to high camp ~5150-5350mm
Although we can stay at or near Lanyar we will probably ascend a couple of hours up this valley where last year Lobsang and Veronica saw a wolf. We then rest and wash, and if you have the energy perhaps explore. We are acclimatizing ready for our first seriously high pass tomorrow.
6000m summit success on the 2013 expedition - Jamie
10 - trek Sumdo 5250m via the Lanyar La 5860m
This is the real pass, not the one marked wrongly on the Olizane map, and is a stunner. 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. We ascend the bump beside for that 6000m feeling. Where we camp will depend on where we get to, there are a number of spots.
Lunch in the Kyama Barma valley - Jamie
11 - rest-explore Sumdo 5250m
Clothes washing and taking in this incredible valley system. 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.
12 - trek Korzog Sumdo 4650m via pass 5600m and 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.
13 - 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
14 - 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 camp and Tsomoriri, moon and stars, with the lights of Korzog/Korzok and an army base - Jamie
15 - 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.
Crawling up the 5950m pass - Jamie
16 - 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 Base Camp - Jamie
17 - 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.
Arriving at high camp - Jamie
18 - 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.
2013 summit success (although no views from the summit this time) - Jamie
19 - 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.
20 - 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?
Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - Jamie
Day 21 - 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!