Trek and stunning climb in Rupshu-Ladakh

This is an excellent straightforward climb with awesome views of the surrounding peaks and the Tso-Moriri Lake. It is a great objective for fit trekkers without any climbing experience. Although the ascent is not difficult, the rarefied air makes it quite challenging.

Duration: 22 days
Best time: July to mid September
Base Camp: Rugyado Phu (5630m)
High Camp: between 5900-6000m
Approach: from the western slopes
Technical difficulty: Low-angle snow or straightforward scrambling on rocks; ropes/crampons are required; previous climbing experience is not essential
Fitness: Should be fit; average rucksack weight 5-6kg

To join the expedition you need the following specialist equipment: Ice Axe, Crampons, Harness, Plastic or Leather Mountaineering Boots, 4 Season Sleeping Bag

Expedition Itinerary

DAY 1, Arrive Delhi:
Assistance on arrival and transfer to hotel; morning free to re-charge. Perhaps there is no other capital city in the world so steeped in history and legend as Delhi. It was the magnet that drew the Mongols, Turks, Persians, Afghans, Mughals and finally the British; all of whom contributed to its glorious but turbulent history. The fascination with Delhi was such that even though it was abandoned many times, its rulers returned to it again and again, rebuilding it at least seven times. Afternoon Old Delhi Tour (half day): Shah Jahan founded the city of Shahjanabad in 1648, now referred to as Old Delhi. The famous Red Fort in the heart of Old Delhi was once the most opulent fort of the Mughal Empire and it boasts of Diwan-i-Am (Hall of Private Audience), among other architectural delights. Opposite the fort is Jama Masjid – one of the largest mosques in the world – built by Shah Jahan at the pinnacle of his rule. Later visit Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi. Breakfast & overnight in hotel.

DAY 2, Delhi – Leh:
Early morning transfer to domestic airport; the spectacular one-hour flight over the mighty Himalayas brings you to Leh – the capital of the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Ladakh. Transfer to a Ladakhi style hotel. A day of complete rest to acclimatise to the arid high altitude of Leh (3500m). Dinner & overnight in hotel.

DAY 3, Leh:
After breakfast, set off on a half-day sightseeing trip to the 200 years old Shankar monastery, which contains a plethora of impressive images, wall paintings and a huge statue of Aloketesvara – with 1000 arms and heads. Next stop is the Japanese built Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda); crowned with a massive dome, this stupa is reminiscent of Nalanda and Rajgir stupas. Our last stop is the rather decrepit Leh Palace – a replica of the Patola Palace of Lhasa. The palace was strategically built on the hilltop in the 18th century and offers fabulous views of the Indus valley below. Afternoon, visit a Ladakhi Buddhist family and share a cup of butter tea, tsampa (roasted barley) and tschang (fermented barley beer) with them, and observe their way of living; evening free. Dinner & overnight in hotel.

DAY 4, Leh – Hemis/Thiksey/Shey:
Full day sightseeing to three most important monasteries of Ladakh – Hemis Gompa, Thiksey Gompa and Shey Palace. Hemis is one of the largest and wealthiest monasteries in Ladakh and houses about 150 monks; it also stages the annual Hemis festival. The Gompa (monastery) nestling in a gorge and surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery was built in the 18th century and houses a wide range of beautiful frescoes, thankas (Ladakhi painting), Buddha statues and an excellent library. On the way back to Leh, we visit the 16th century Thiksey Gompa, breathtakingly perched on a hill top. The Gompa houses an important collection of Tibetan-style books, a huge Buddha statue and some excellent Ladakhi artefacts. Last stop is the ramshackle Shey Palace, once the summer palace of the pre-Tibetan kings. The palace monastery houses a large, bronze, blue haired Buddha statue. Back to our hotel in Leh. Dinner & overnight in hotel.

DAY 5, Leh – Rumtse:
After breakfast, a scenic drive along the main Indus Valley to Rumtse village (4300m) (about 80km/3hrs). En route, the scenery is spellbinding, with huge rock walls towering on either side of the road. After unloading at Rumtse, we trek few kilometres to a camping place situated on the river. Overnight in camp.

DAY 6, Rumtse – Kyamar (trek begins):
On our first day, we start off with a delightful walk on a well defined path to our campsite at the foot of Kyamar La (4925m). The route takes us through pleasant pastures, with several minor river crossings. This is an area much used by nomadic shepherds and we will get used to seeing their temporary encampments, surrounded by herds of sheep. We set up camp on the grazing ground of Kyamar (4380m). Trek: about 5-6 hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 7, Kyamar – Tisaling:
After breakfast ascend to Kyamar La (4925m) from where there are beautiful views of the Zanskar range and towards north the high plateau of Chang Tang. We descend on grassy slopes to Tiri Doksa, a temporary shepherd settlement and then continue to a stream, beyond which we trek up to Mandalachan La (4805m), a low col. Descend to camp at Tisaling (4720m). Trek: about 6 hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 8, Tisaling – Phongponagu:
After breakfast we start our long day trek over the Thasang La (5030m); from the top we will have fine views of Tso Kar Lake. Descending gradually to the shores of this brackish salt water lake, we find ourselves in an area where there are several nomad camps. Flocks of sheep and goats and small herds of yaks are scattered across the pastures, as are the nomads’ tents. Walking around the lake, we set up camp at Phongponagu (4430m), a place which is well known for sighting Tibetan Wild Ass (Kiang), Ibex, Marmot and several species of migratory birds. Trek: about 7-8hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 9, Phongponagu – Nuruchan:
Commence trekking after breakfast; the going is easy as we cross open plains, looking out for the distinctive and very robust Kiangs, amongst the occasional groups of livestock. It takes 4-5hrs to reach our night halt on the pastures of Nuruchan. This is a high and wild part of the world, inhabited by the rare Bharals (Blue Sheep) and the Himalayan Wolves. Trek: about 4-5hrs; overnight in camp.

AFTER BREAKFAST CONTINUE OUR TREK TOWARDS TSO Morari. We climb gently to Nuruchan La (4750m) and drop down into another herding area. We aim to reach our camp at Rachungkaru early afternoon and have the afternoon free to put our feet up. Trek: about 4hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 11, Rachungkaru – Gyabarma:
Another hard day, as we cross Kyamaru La (5200m) and Gyabarma La (5175m) passes. Even though we are by now well acclimatised, trekking at this altitude is always quite tough and we may experience breathlessness. Camp is on the pastures at Gyabarma at a height of around 5000m. Trek: about 7-8hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 12, Gyabarma – Karzok Dok:
Today after breakfast we cross Yalung Nyau La (5300m) – the highest pass on the trail – to reach Tso Morari Lake. Beyond an initial ridge at 5150m, we drop into a broad valley to begin the easy climb to the pass. At the crest of the pass, there are breath-taking views of the blue expanse of Tso Morari and its backdrop of snow-capped peaks. The long descent to Karzok Dok takes about 4 hours. Overnight in camp.

DAY 13, Karzok Dok – Karzok:
After breakfast we trek along the beautiful lake and after about 3-4 hours reach the picturesque lakeside village of Karzok (4350m), its dozen or so houses and a gompa, appear like an oasis set in barren hills. This is the only permanent settlement in Rupshu; otherwise the region is inhabited only by the nomadic Chang Pa herdsmen, who move with their yaks and cattle to high pastures during summertime. Afternoon we explore the lake area, which supports Kiang, marmots, hares, mouse hares and voles. We may also see Blue Sheep, and if favoured by the Gods, even a Snow Leopard. The lake is the breeding ground for numerous species of birds, including the Bar-headed Goose, Great Crested Grebe, Brahminy Duck and Brown-headed Gull. Trek: about 3-4hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 14, Karzok – Kurchu:
After breakfast we trek along the lake to its eastern shores. After a climb, we reach the grassy slope of Kurchyu (4915m). Trek: about 5-6hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 15, Kurchu – Rugyado Phu (Base Camp):
After breakfast we trek for about 4hrs to our Base Camp at Rugyado Phu (5630m). Trek: about 4hrs; overnight in camp.

Day 16, Rugyado Phu – Advance Camp:
We start early morning and make a steep ascent to our Advance Camp between 5900-6000m; the views of the Lake from here are simply amazing, this is a very important stage for our next and final phase. We acclimatise further for the summit attempt. Overnight in camp.

DAY 17, Summit Day:
An early start (0400Hrs) for the long climb ahead. The climb itself is not technical and basically requires walking on scree, moraine and then snow slopes. If we encounter any exposed or icy sections, the group will rope up to safeguard the ascent. It is a climb of 6-7hrs to the summit, which affords stupendous views in all directions. Back to camp at Rugyado Phu in about 4-5hrs. Trek: about 10-12hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 18, Extra Day:
One more day for summit attempt, in case we can’t make it on Day 17. Overnight in camp.

DAY 19, Trek back To Karzok:
After breakfast long hike back to Karzok. Overnight in camp.

DAY 20, Karzok – Leh:
After breakfast drive back to Leh, we drive over bumpy and dusty roads to the village of Chumathang, and continue onwards arriving in Leh in the evening. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 21, Leh – Delhi (fly) – Agra (drive):
Early morning flight back to Delhi. Arrive Delhi and drive to Agra (240km/4hrs) to see one of the most mesmerising monuments ever built – the Taj Mahal. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 22 Agra – Delhi (evening transfer to airport):
After breakfast guided sightseeing of Agra; visit the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Sikandra. Late afternoon drive back to Delhi. Evening transfer to International Airport in time to board your return flight.