Close to Ladakh's eastern border with Tibet, the rarely visited high plains of the Chang Tang are colored in just a few places by beautiful turquoise lakes, such as Tso Kar and Tso Morari and this exciting trekking and climbing holiday is the perfect way to view this remote and stunning landscape. Chang thang is a Tibetan word meaning western plains. It is inhabited by the Changpas who are a nomadic tribe and travel all over Chang thang following the ancient grazing patterns. Mentok Kangri means the 'mountain of flowers' and is a cluster of three peaks and the highest being 6277 m. The sight from the summit is stunning where on one side you have endless mountains and on the other side the turquoise blue waters of the Tsomoriri Lake. Technically undemanding, this peak presents an excellent challenge to fit and adventurous trekkers. A super trek and climb combination in a special part of the world.
Neither the trek to Tso Morari, nor the climb on Mentok II are technically difficult undertakings. However, the high altitudes involved during the trek (between 4500 and 5500 metres) and the climbing above 6000 metres does mean that this trip will present a challenge to even very fit group members. The lower slopes and approaches to the Mentok peaks are likely to be free of snow during the summer months, but we will need to use crampons and carry an ice-axe (and the UFO leader and Sherpa team may fix some sections of rope, if necessary) above approximately 5500 metres.
Meet at the group hotel in Leh. A single group transfer at 10.30am from Leh Airport to the group hotel is provided. The first day is reserved for acclimitization and you will be advised to rest, eat and keep yourself hydrated as much as possible. A short walk around the city to Leh Palace in the evening can be organized.
We will make an early start after tea and breakfast to catch the morning prayers at Thiksey Monastery. Affiliated to the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, it is situated on a hill in Thiksey village and is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. We will then head towards Shey, the ancient capital of Ladakh where a picnic lunch will be waiting for us. After lunch, we rest a bit and visit the Shey Palace and surrounding areas. You will be given sometime to yourself where you can explore the palace on your own. In the evening we will visit the Shanti Stupa and head back to the hotel for dinner.
We will leave from Leh to Tso Kar (White Lake) which is 153 kms from Leh and should take us about 4-5 hours to reach. We will camp on the shores of the salt lake of Tso Kar. There should be time in the afternoon to explore the lake shore, with a good chance to see kyang (wild ass), marmots and great birdlife, such as bar-headed geese and Brahminy ducks on the lake. Tso Kar is a salt water lake and the nomads take this salt across to Tibet for trade.
Today’s walk is an easy one, along the shore of the lake and then across the open and quite arid Chang Tang plains to a beautiful campsite in the pastures of Nuruchan (4694m). There are usually several nomad camps in this area, with scattered tents, shepherds and their dogs and herds of livestock.
On leaving camp, we cross a stream and pass close to a mani wall, sculpted by the Chang Tang herders. We then hike up to the Nuruchan La (4750m), before descending easily to cross another stream and another low pass. In this area, the nomadic herdsmen that we meet are likely to be Tibetan, having been displaced here from the western part of that cross-border territory. We camp at Rachungkaru (4952m) amongst grazing yaks, sheep and pashmina goats. Afternoon at leisure.
Today is a fairly long day as we cross 2 passes of above 5000 metres. It takes us around 2 hours to reach the first of these, the Kyamaru La (5400m), where the views extend across a high-level landscape to numerous snow-capped peaks. After a short descent, we climb again to cross the Gyabarma La (5300m), beyond which we descend, cross a stream and reach our camping place in the pastures at Gyabarma (5171m). A wild and remote location.
Today, we finally get views of the stunning lake of Tso Morari, as we reach the top of the Yalung Naula Pass (5400m). Some 20 kms long and surrounded by high, snow-capped peaks, Tso Morari is one of the most beautiful lakes imaginable. The approach to the pass is straightforward, but quite long. We descend to Karzok Dok (4632m) on a zig zag path.
Today, we hike up to the basecamp area below Mentok II. This approach leads through an open valley and over rounded ridges, on a trail that is mostly poorly defined and which crosses a mix of open moorland and bouldery moraine. We set up camp at approx 5300 metres.
A day to rest at basecamp and make final preparations for the ascent of Mentok II. The group leader and Sherpas may opt to fix ropes today on the headwall leading to the col between our objective peaks.
After an early start, we hike for 2 hours to the foot of the snow slope that leads to the col between Mentok 1 (6250m) and Mentok II (6210m). We then ascend to the col (possibly with some sections of fixed rope) and continue more easily to the top of Mentok II. If the weather is good, we will spend some time admiring the fantastic views across the lake to the peak of Lungser Kangri (6666m) and distant Tibet. We descend to basecamp via the same route.
We begin our walk-out with a relatively easy descent to the village of Karzok, which is one of the highest permanently inhabited settlements on Earth. It is scenically located beside Tso Morari at an elevation of over 4600 metres. The afternoon is free to walk by the lakeshore, meet the local people and check out the village and its ancient monastery.
We will rendezvous with our vehicles at Karzok and set off on the 6-hour drive back to Leh which is 220 kms away. The road is quite rough at first but we travel on an ever improving surface and once we reach the Indus River, the road is very smooth making the final part of the journey quite comfortable. There are some great views as we cross the open plain of the Chang Tang and then descend by the (at this point) very small Indus. We will all be pleased to check into the hotel in Leh, get cleaned up and eye up the soft bed before tucking in to a celebratory dinner.
We have an early start and go to the airport to catch our flight to Delhi. If you want to extend your stay in Leh, please let us know.