10 Days 9 Nights
Transfer by jeep from Manali to Darcha, it’s a 8 hours trip, night stay in camp near Darcha village.
The starting point is on one of the bends above Darcha village. We follow the motor able dirt road to Palamo. This road is cut off many times at points due to landslides. We continue on the right bank of the river (Darcha river). We will cross a small village, Ragig (3500m) on the way. Just short to Palamo there is a small temple on the edge of a gorge, dedicated to the local goddess Paldan Lahmo. We can enjoy the sight of the tremendous force of the river as it crosses over. Just after the gorge we go an additional kilometer and set up our camp. Most of the walk is gradual and easy.
We follow the path on the left of the river and the trail winds through the boulders and moraines. There are few small streams and rivulets to negotiate. One of the rivulets has a small wooden bridge. Then we reach the beautiful campsite on the left bank of the river at the confluence of the Sumdo Nala and the Darcha Nala.
We cross the river to climb into the valley on the left bank of Sumdo Nala. The initial part of the climb is very steep and then becomes gradual. It is a beautiful walk with glacier across the nala. A spectacular view of Ramjak and Shingola Peak can be seen from the camp. Ramjak is about 6km from Zanskar Sumdo. The camping site is at Chumiknakpo where there is a fresh water sping. It’s the base camp to the pass.
An early start is advisable to get a good view from the top. The path is fairly steep with some river crossings. We follow the path on the left bank of the nala. It keeps changing every year depending on the snow melts and the rivulets. The last part of the trek to the top is fairly steep and the nala at times looks as if it is falling from the sky, Shingola pass is 5060m height. The view from here is absolutely breathtaking , with a deep blue-green partly melted lake on the top. On the other side of the ridge the barren Zanskar Range and Gombu Rongjon can be seen. The pass can be fairly windy and cold and is marked by cairns and prayer flags. A steep path takes you down to the base of the pass on the other side. From here the walk is fairly gradual. The beautiful campsite located near Lakhang Nala can be seen from the top, before the steep descent to the Nala.
We cross the river by the bridge and follow the path on the right bank passing below the gombu Rongjon rock,which can be seen till the next campsite at Kargiak. There are few rivulets to negotiate. The path goes through the plains of Zanskar. If one has not be to the region before it is difficult to imagine the size of these vast plains. Kargiak is the first village you encounter, and has friendly people. We go an extra kilometer and camp on the right bank of river opposite Kye village. The campsite here is a lush green meadow with a freshwater spring.
The path continue along the Kargiak nala on the right bank for 6.5km till you reach a small village , Tanze. At tanze, the path crosses the river by a bridge, and continues further on the left bank, it become fairly narrow at times. We follow the path for another 4.5km to reach a camping ground at Kuru. After some distance, we come to a beautiful gorge,with a small bridge on the Kargiak nala. We do not cross the bridge and continue on the left bank . There will be a few streams to cross and one of them has a bridge. The crossing are fairly easy , depending of the amont of snow in winter. A short steep climb brings you to yal , a small village with a camping ground. You have now covered most of the distance (17km). Descend steeply along the Kargiak nala before it meets the Tsarap chu. We cross the bridge and climb about 80m to reach the camping site at Purne. The campsite is beautifully laid out in terraces of green grass with a freshwater stream.
From the camp we take the path along the Zanskar on the right bank. We walk along the river till we reach a wooden bridge. We turn on the bridge and climb up a steep couple of hundred feet . At the last bend is the Phuktal Gompa nested high up in the cliff. We visit the gompa and come back to the camp.
Phuktal monastery is perched in the grey-white cliffs, surrounded by blue and green rocks with a solitary juniper tree on top. It is centered around a sacred spring which flows all year long. The gompa was originally built in the cave and additions were made outside later.
The roof of the cave is black with wood smoke. One can visit the different prayer room and light oil lamps. There are ancient paintings of Buddha’s life depicting the stage of his attainting nirvana. A small donation is accepted in the monastery for its maintenance and for the education of the nearby village children. The monks at Phutkal Gompa are Tantric Buddhists, wearing a yellow cap and are from the Gelug order.
This is an easy walk along the left bank of the Zanskar river. After a short 3km walk you reach cha village, next come the villages Kalbok and Khetang 4.7km and 9.2km respectively from Purne. After Khetang, the path descends very steeply to one of the rivulets. We have to cross it and then make the steep ascent to the other bank.
From here it is a easy walk along the left bank of the river till Pipula. The camp here has grey sand and stones.
The path continues along the left bank of the river. Itchar is 5.3km from Pipula and is a good halfway resting point. The path is fairly simple, at times becoming a bit narrow. After walking for about 8km we face a steep climb to the Reru valley. Reru isvillage is visible soon after reaching the top. However this is deceptive as one has to go left down to a stream and again come up on the other side to reach the village. The trek ends here as we reach the road to Padum.
From Padum we need one day to reach Leh by jeep (about 12 hours) On the way back we can visit the old monastery of Alchi and Lamayuru , the way back to leh may takes two days if the road condition is not good. From Leh you can get a direct flight to Delhi or take a jeep or bus to Manali.
Rate : From 2 to 4 pax : 125000 INR
From 5 to 9 pax : 115000 INR
The price included the guide , the mules, the cooker and help cooker, all accomodations during the trek, the transport from Manali to Darcha and from Padum to Leh. Hotels in Manali and Leh are not included.