Saturday, April 27, 2019

Ladakh | Shang Sumdo to Rumbak Trek Aug 31-Sept 7 2019

If you are looking for a short trek in Ladakh and don't want the crowds of Markha then the five day route from Shang Sumdo to Rumbak  is extremely attractive. The route walks in the shadow of the Matho Kangri and Stok Kangri peaks with typical rolling grasslands, fast flowing rivers, wildlife and nomadic settlements of sheep and yak. The trek approach is close to Leh making this an ideal  one week vacation.

Who should join this trek?
A good choice for regular hill walkers, moderate level of fitness required. Prior trekking experience is advisable as it is a camping trek.
1) Walking times: average 5 to 6  hours walking per day.
2) Altitude: up to 4,940 metres at the passes and around 4200-4400 metres at the campsites. 
3) Terrain: for some of the time following well-travelled trails although also likely to encounter rough and rocky conditions near the passes.
4) Remoteness: the trek is in a remote mountain area but not far from the roadheads at Shang Sumdo, Matho, Stok. There is no mobile phones and wifi connectivity on the trek.

August 31st to September 7th 2019


 Day 1 Fly in from Delhi to Leh and rest for the day.

Day 2 Acclimatisation rest day - visit monasteries in and around Leh.

Day 3  Leh to Shang Sumdo 3950m 
We drive from Leh to Shang Sumdo and reach in about 90 minutes.  We camp near the river and spend the day acclimatising in and around Shang Sumdo. This second acclimatisation day will help us in our future days.

Day 4 Shang Sumdo 3950m to Shang Phu 4250m 5 to 6 hours
We start our trek today - our ponies are waiting for us here and after breakfast  we start our first days walk. Today the trail ascend gradually through green fields of wheat and barley following the Shang river, flowing from south of Matho Kangri.The valley heads up a shepherds hut the grasslands around serve as grazing grounds fro yak, sheep and goats. We camp overnight at Shang Phu. There is no pass to cross.

Day 5 Shang Phu 4250m to  Gangpoche 41500m across Shang la 4940m 5 to 6 hours
The day begins with a long three to four hour climb to the Shang la through a zg zag trail. This area is home to snow leopards, bharal, marmots, golden eagle and a lot of other bird life and wildlife. The view from the top is impressive with the mountain wall of Matho Kangri 5900m just behind and above the pass. The path then descends gradually to the campsite  of Gangpoche.

Day 6  Gangpoche to Mancarmo via Matho La 4930 5 to 6 hours
This trail travels across the Gangpoche meadows until it reaches the base of Matho la 4350 metres. It then climbs the gentle slopes to the top of Matho La our second pass. The trail steadily ascends to a series of grassy slopes, Yak herders from the nearby villages live in stone settlement at the foot of the pass and the view from the pass is absolute amazing , the popular Stok kangri peak right behind.  From the top of Matho La is descends gradually for around 3 km to the campsite of Mankarmo 4480m.

Day 7 Mankarmo 4480m  to Rumbak 3900m  across Stok La 4900m  6 to 7 hours.
Today we  have a hard climb to the top of Stok La which has a spectacular view - this is our final pass and then we descend gradually to the the village of Rumbak.  We stop for a snack at a tea tent in Rumbak and then walk one hour down to the road head where our transport is wating  drive us back to Leh 2 hour drive.

Day 8 Fly back from Leh to your home city

Rs 55,000 plus GST for Indian cicitzens and US $900 plus GST for foreign passports  Leh to Leh some exclusions apply - for more information do visit

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Himalayas | High Altitude Trekking Tips

Below the Larke La pass on the Manaslu circuit
South Col Expeditions often does long high altitude treks. There is the  fourteen days Mustang trek, sixteen days around Manaslu and seventeen days in the Everest region crossing Cho La and Rhenjo La passes and the long 23 days Kangchenjunga north and south base camps from the Nepal side  to name a few.

These long treks do make it very difficult as other than the walking there is also the discomfort of high altitude, cold,  basic toilets, repetitive food and lack of creature comforts. So how do you pace yourself for a trek like this so that you are not losing heart half way through?

Here are some tips:
  • Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated right through the walk - two to three litres a day is mandatory especially at heights above 3000 metres.
  • Sleep at night with your window or tent flap open just a crack- you need fresh oxygen to breathe no matter how cold it is!
  • If you feel breathless, often sleeping in a semi reclining position helps to ease the breathing - prop yourself  up your pillow or rucksack!
  • If you have a past history of altitude sickness you may consider starting with diamox 125 mg twice daily - consult  a physician before starting diamox.
  • Never get cold - it takes a long time to warm up once you are frozen!
  • Carry a water bottle which can take hot water - for those really cold high altitude nights put the water bottle with hot water in the sleeping bag, your toes will warm up instantly!
  • Wear layers so that you can peel on layers and take off layers depending on the weather conditions!
  • You often reach camp or a lodge in the early afternoon - carry  a book to read or music on your phone so that the evenings are not too long and boring!
  • Before a climb eat something like a power bar or chocolates - the extra energy will help you get the to the top with less difficulty!
  • Carry the essentials in your daypack - some food, warm jacket, cap, gloves, water, sun glasses, sun block cream, some essential medicines so that you can be self sufficient during the day.
  • Do not stay wet and sweaty once you reach camp - change into dry clothes immediately!
  • Walk at a speed which you are comfortable with - don't worry too much about the speed hiker ahead of you who always reaches camp first!
  • Carry trekking poles - these are essential while crossing a stream or coming down a steep ridge!
  • If you expect snow at the passes or frozen sections of the trail, a pair of microspikes can prove useful!
  • Put your gloves, socks and cap inside your sleeping bag at night so that they are warm and toasty in the morning!
  • Stop before you are exhausted - it is best to walk for forty five minutes and take  a five minute breather!

For more details on trekking in the Himalaya do visit

Friday, April 12, 2019

Three Passes of Everest Trek

The top of the Rhenjo La pass - one of the three passes crossed on this trek 
The trek across the three passes in the Everest region the Kongma la, Cho la and Rhenjo la has become quite popular of late owing to the better infrastructure in terms of lodges and facilities below the passes. Having said that it can be quite an ardous trek as all the passes are well over 5000 metres in altitude and good acclimatisation is a key to this trek.

For the complete photo essay  please do visit


There are a number of flights every morning from Kathmandu to the mountain airstrip of Lukla, the start of the trek. Tara Airways (, Summit Air and Sita Air  all run the maximum number of flights to Lukla. The fare is presently USD 360 for foreigners and USD 270 return for Indian citizens.  In bad weather, Lukla flights get disrupted and the only option then is to take a seat on a helicopter ( back to Kathmandu (USD 450-500 one way). 
Update - Due to the Kathmandu airport being closed from April 1 2019 from 10 pm to 8 am daily Lukla flights are going from Manthali airport Ramechap. It takes 4-5 hours to drive from Kathmandu to Manthali. There are basic hotels in Manthali where you can spend a night. 

The best season for the trek is April to Mid May and again from Mid October to early December. Though the passes are crossed later in the season as well, there is always the possibility of heavy snowfall closing down the route. If there is heavy snow during the trek, the passes are best avoided and the route can be done by following the valleys instead. We trekked in late April and were rewarded with a riot of mountain flowers including the rhododendron in the valleys capped by the soaring peaks. Bottled mineral water is available but very expensive, so please carry iodine/chlorine water purification tablets. You need to carry enough water with you at least one litre at a time and this can be refilled at the lodges. Trekking poles are a must as there are three passes to cross with slippery trails and scree.  The tea houses (lodges) will provide beds and quilts but a warm three season plus sleeping bag is essential. The trek crosses 5400 metres so do not underestimate the effects of the altitude or the walk. This is a difficult trek and you need to be fit and properly acclimatized to succeed.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Bhutan | Photographs from the Land of Happiness

Prayer wheels at Chimi Lakhang near Punakha
I was in Bhutan last month and also did the Druk Path trek which we could not finish due to heavy snow.  Here are some photographs from this beautiful country.

Taktshang  Tigers Nest Monastery

Prayer wheels made out of bottles Tigers Nest in the background

Close up of a prayer wheel

Students working on wood carving at the Zoric Chisum Institute Thimpu

Punakha Dzong in the late afternoon

Doorway at Punakha Dzong

Chortens at the Dochu La pass

A woman leaves the butter lamp room at the Changangkha Lakhang in Thimpu

Dechen Phodrang interior Thimpu

Entrance to a restaurant Paro

Paro valley in the autumn with paddy ready for harvesting

Drying red chillies in a Paro street

Paro Dzong and the National Museum (on top) at night

Bonde Lakhang outside Paro


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