Markha Valley Trek is one of the famous trekking areas in Ladakh to meet the magical kingdom of Ladakh. Trekking across the Markha Valley and its famous Markha River is will take the trekkers along the beautiful monasteries, quaint villages, lush greenery of Nimaling and the tall peak of Kangyatse. The Markha Valley trek is certainly one of the most diverse treks in the Western Himalayas and the barren landscape of Leh Ladakh and its unique Buddhist culture makes it even more special. Markha Valley trek is also known for being a ‘tea house trek’ where one can expect accommodation in parachute tents at most of the villages enroute. The trek goes inside a beautiful Hemis National Park and involves two pass crossings- Gandala La (15748 ft) and Kongmaru La, (17,060 ft).
Landing at Leh is an adventure in itself as the airport strip is between mountains on both the sides. Leh airport is around 6 km from Leh city. Leh is at an altitude of 10,000 feet so acclimatizing yourself to high altitude is important to enjoy trekking in Ladakh. Rest for the first half of the day and in the evening go for a walk to the Leh market.
We will depart for Spituk from Leh by jeeps. An early start is imperative for the Markha Valley Trek as there is no shade along the south banks of the Indus River until you enter the Zinchen Gorge. In Spituk our team will be waiting for us with horses to carry our trekking equipment. The trek will begin along an old kucchha (un-metalled) road into a barren & dried region of Leh Ladakh with wild roses along the trail. After trekking through the parched land we will enter the lush Zingchen Valley, where the Rumbak River flows into the mighty Indus. Further into the valley lies our campsite, in the two-house hamlet of Zingchen (meaning ‘big field’).
Today we will enter in the Hemis National Park. Hemis National park is home to the lynx, Ladakhi Ural (a type of goat), Arghali (great Tibetan sheep), Bharal (blue sheep), red fox, Tibetan wolf, dhole (wild dog), marmot and mountain hare etc.(link) . After paying the entrance fee, we will climb gradually through a beautiful gorge before reaching the valley leading to the village of Rumbak. At Rumbak we will stop for tea at tea house made of a parachute run by women from the same village. After that we will continue past the house of Yuruche before reaching our camp at the base of Ganda La (4545m). From our campsite there are spectacular views of Stok Kangri and the whole Stok range.
We will be starting a big day in which we will be crossing our first pass. After our breakfast, we will begin a 2-hour ascent towards Ganda La (4900m). The Tibetan prayer flags mark the top of the pass, where one may see Blue sheep, Marmots and Arghali roaming the hills around us. Views of the lofty Zanskar Range and the distant Himalaya Range are great as well. After a short rest, we will make a gradual descent to Shingo and break for lunch. We will finish the day by hiking for 2-hours through a spectacular gorge before making camp at Skiu (3300m).
From Skiu we head east up the Markha Valley. After 2km the trail winds high above the riverbed. En route there is an abundance of willow thickets and poplars where ancient mani walls and chortens line the trail and barren cliffs rise high above the valley.
The trail continues through a bridge over the Markha River. While trekking along the Markha River, we get stunning views of the valley below. We will cross the river at and reach Markha (3800m). Markha is the largest village in the valley, consisting of around 20 houses, an old monastery and a ruined fort. We have an option of staying in a village homestay in Markha or in our tents for the night.
The Markha valley trail continues passed old stone-mills, a ruined castle and the auspicious monastery of Techa, which is proudly perched upon a cliff that looms above Markha. The path then intersects the river several times before cutting through the last hamlets in the valley. After leaving the village of Umlung, we will be afforded our first view of mighty Mt. Kang Yatse (6400m), which will stay in sight until we cross Kongmaru La. After we break for lunch in the village of Hangkar (the last one in the valley), we will continue onward to the lovely green pasture of Thachungste (4100m), where we will camp for the night.
After breakfast we will follow a trail which leads us up to the beautiful plateau of Nimaling, where the people of the Markha Valley bring their herds to graze during the summer months. At 4700m, Nimaling is the highest camp (4600m) on the trek, giving us spectacular views of the huge peak of Kang Yatse to the right.
Our trek will be started early in the morning leaving from Nimaling. We will cross Kongmaru La (5200m), the highest pass on the trek, and from there we will have a wonderful view of the Indus Valley and Ladakh Range. The descent is quite steep, but will gradually level out as we enter Shang Gorge, with its fascinating rock formations. More river crossings bar our way before we arrive at Shang Sumdo. Drive from Sumdo to Leh takes about 2 hours. Reach Leh by evening. Trip ends here.