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The Exceptional 3 Day Markha Valley Trek In India

The Exceptional 3 Day Markha Valley Trek in India

We finished our trek from the Zanskar Valley to the Indus River in northern India with World Expeditions with the spectacular three day Markha Valley trek. Most of our 16 day trek was well off the proverbial beaten path. Beauty in the Markha Valley 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 to the start of the formal Markha Valley trek 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.

Almost at the junction with the Markha Valley after many hours of hiking up a river bed
Almost at the junction with the Markha Valley after many hours of hiking up a river bed
Entering the Markha Valley
Entering the Markha Valley
We end up in Hankar Village where you can find simple guest houses
We end up in Hankar Village where you can find simple guest houses

Here’s a look at some of the highlights we encountered on the Markha Valley trek.

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.

 The second day started off with flat easy, walking past many a mani wall
The second day started off with flat easy, walking past many a mani wall on the Markha Valley trek
 Some of the mani stones are beautifully carved
Some of the mani stones are beautifully carved
Six thousand metre peaks pop into view
Six thousand metre peaks pop into view
We pass this precariously perched monastery
We pass this precariously perched monastery
Expect to see a lot of prayer flags
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
It's a treat to see flowers in bloom after trekking on incredibly dusty trails devoid of vegetation
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
We reach a tea house by lunch time
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 on the Markha Valley trek
And the climb to Nimaling continues
And the climb to Nimaling continues
Nimaling is really just a collection of tents that you can rent by the night
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 on the Markha Valley trek

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 on the Markha Valley trek
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.

Further reading on northern India

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

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 61,000 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 2 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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