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Highlights Of 3 Days Of Trekking In The Markha Valley

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Our trek in northern India from the Zanskar Valley to the Indus River with World Expeditions was for the most part well off the proverbial beaten path for all but the last three days. We ended our trek trekking through the spectacular Markha Valley. Beauty here comes with a price; a lot more people and the tea-house culture. There’s nothing wrong with that but it requires an adjustment after a couple of truly remote weeks.

Our trip up the Markha Valley began after a long day that included crossing the Rubrang La at 5,020 metres followed by a long descent and walk up a river valley. We only had a few kilometres in the actual Markha Valley itself but what a glorious entrance it was.

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Almost at the junction with the Markha Valley after many hours of hiking up a river bed

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Entering the Markha Valley

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

We end up in Hankar Village where you can find simple guest houses

Hankar Village to Nimaling

Over 6.5 hours with a nice long stop for lunch by the tea house we hiked from Hankar Village gradually at first and then more steeply to finally reach the windswept meadows used for grazing yaks in the summer in Nimaling. While the hiking on this section was never difficult, I for one was feeling fatigued from several weeks of hiking. This section was one of the more spectacular days on the hike, especially because you have 6,000 plus metre peaks in your view for long stretches.

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

The second day started off with flat easy, walking past many a mani wall

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley - past many a Mani Wall filled with beautifully carved mani stones

Some of the mani stones are beautifully carved

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Six thousand metre peaks pop into view

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

We pass this precariously perched monastery

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Expect to see a lot of prayer flags

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

A lovely stretch of trail with views in every direction

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

It’s a treat to see flowers in bloom after trekking on incredibly dusty trails devoid of vegetation

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

I think we’re all really enjoying the relative flatness of the AM as most days start with a climb to a pass

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

We reach a tea house by lunch time; all tea houses have the same general appearance with a parachute type roof

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

At the top of a mini-pass you’re met with a plateau of stacked rocks

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

A beautiful spot to stop and catch our breath

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

And the climb to Nimaling continues

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Nimaling is really just a collection of tents that you can rent by the night

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

The colourful tents that make up Nimaling

Nimaling to Shang Sumdo

It was cold camping in Nimaling, elevation 4,800 metres (15,748 feet) but once the sun hit the plains in the morning, it warmed up almost instantly. From our campsite we could see our route up to the Kongmaru La at 5,150 metres (16,896 feet) and it looked innocuous enough. But when you’re trekking at altitudes of 5,000 metres are more it’s still slow going. It took me 90 minutes to reach the top, going at what felt like a snail’s pace. What a glorious pass to finish on with lots of sunshine and a real sense of camaraderie among the other hikers.

The descent was steep initially but with a backdrop of purple mountains I think most people were focused on the incredible beauty. It got even better the deeper you got into the gorge.

We stopped at a tea house – and sipped cold mango juice which was a total treat, about 30 minutes from the formal finish at Chogdo at 4,000 metres (13,123 feet). We’d descended 1,200 metres which in my normal life would leave me feeling sore for days but at the end of the trek didn’t faze any of us a bit. Our camp for the night was still another 90 minutes away via a dusty road so cars had been arranged which felt a bit like cheating but in the end it was a treat to be done.

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Once the sun hits the plains its warm enough to have breakfast outside

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

It looks like easy enough hiking here but everyone is sucking wind because of the altitude

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Crossing the highest pass of the entire trek – the Kongmaru La at 5150 metres

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Enjoying the sunshine on our last pass

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

It’s steeply down for several hours through these beautiful purple coloured mountains

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

On the way through a truly spectacular gorge to reach Shang Sumdo

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

The horses are masters at picking their way down

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Walking through the gorge was like nowhere else I’ve ever been

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

You couldn’t help but stop and stare when trekking through such an unusual landscape

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Trekking through layers of colour

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Fantastic array of textures and colours on the gorge walls

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

These narrow trails are used by the local families when the river is flooding; some of them look incredibly precarious

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

The last river crossing we have to do – notice how filthy our pants are

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

The last few hundred metres of walking are incredibly dusty

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley

Our final camp is by no means the prettiest but we talked the cook into a dinner of tomato soup, French fries and grilled cheese sandwiches which put smiles on everyone’s face

The Zanskar to Indus traverse is one tough hike but looking back at the photos I’m still in awe of the landscapes we traveled through.

Other posts you might enjoy related to this trip:

Highlights of 3 Days of Trekking in the Markha Valley, northern India

Leigh McAdam

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Hey! Thanks for writing this up. I’m planning on doing part of this trek in 2 weeks. I was wondering if you had any perspective on whether it would be wise to do be in Hemis Nat’l Park despite the troubles in Kashmir.

    1. @Sebastian That’s a tough call. I’d check with advisories first. I’d figure out how to register with the embassy. I always say that the media makes things sound worse than they are but it is hard to tell from a distance. I’d definitely figure out a backup plan – and have data on my phone – in case anything went south.

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