Ideal Time: July to mid-September
Base Camp Altitude: 5,420m (Mentok)
Region of approach: From the Western Slopes
Technicality involved: Low slanting snow or up-front climb on rocks; use of ropes and crampons; prior climbing experience not mandatory.
Fitness Range: Fit and capable of carrying a rucksack with average weight of 5 to 6kgs
Sharing her banks with the Tso Moriri Lake, Mentok Kangri is a captivating peak situated on a long crest which drops to the south of Korzok Village. July and August bring greenery to the Korzok Valley leaving the air lingering with the scents of wild flowers and lending the name ‘Mentok’ to the peak, which means ‘flower’ in Ladakhi.
Mentok Kangri Expedition Detailed Itinerary:
Following a hearty breakfast, we ride to Thiksey Village and drop a visit to the monastery. Shey Village will be our next stop where we will explore the Shey Palace and Gompa. Our tour continues into the Hemis monastery- the most prominent monastery of Ladakh. On our way to return, we make a stopover at Stok Palace and Museum. The evening brings us back to Leh for night of relaxation.
Thiksey Gompa: Located about 19kms from Leh, Thiksey is symbol of architectural masterpiece amongst the Gompas of the region. The Gompa constitutes many temples along with stupas, sculptures and paintings of Buddha.
Shey Palace and Gompa: Placed about 15kms over Leh, Shey Palace and Gompa was once home to the royal family. Traditions bring down to us that it was the throne of power to the pre-Tibetan kings. One of the wonders among the Gompas is the large statue of Buddha, made of copper and coated in gold placed in the premises.
Hemis Gompa: Considered to be the richest and most prominent of Gompas in the region of Ladakh, Hemis Gompa is placed 40kms from Leh and has its popularity rooted in the annual summer festival to celebrate the birth anniversary of Guru Padma Sambhava. Once every 12 years, the Thanka- the largest amidst those of monasteries is unfolded for the privilege of the present. Constructed in 1630, the Hemis Gompa was built under the rule of Singge Namgyal. The Drugpa sect took care of the monastery and owing to its friendly association with the Namgyal Dynasty, the Gompa flourished. The monastery consists of two sections: the right is locus of the assembly hall and the left houses the main temple. The zealous dancers also call the hall (dukhang) “green room” during festival time. The temple is called Tshogkhang. The gallery of the monastery is a mosaic of miniature paintings and most famously the ‘Wheel of Life’ (Kalachakra).
Stok Palace and Museum: Previously home to extricated royal family, Stok contains a museum which presents exquisite antiques- clothing, porcelain items, armor, rare stones, coins and accessories of living. The thankas in the museum give you a glimpse into the life of Shakya Muni.
A ride to Alchi, after our breakfast, takes us to the union of Zanskar and Indus River as well as Magnetic Hill. Following a visit to Alchi Monastery, we return to Leh. On our way back, we take a peek into the Likir Monastery. Post our arrival at hotel, we enjoy warm dinner and spend the overnight resting.
Magnetic Hill: The place that transcends the law of gravity, holding physics upside-down is the Magnetic Hill, in proximity to Gurudwara Shri Patthar Sahib. If you park your vehicle (on neutral) on the metal-made road, the vehicle begins to move upward.
Marriage of Zanskar and Indus River: Just before we enter Nimu Village enroute Sham Valley, we treat our eyes to the marriage of two grand rivers- the Indus and Zanskar River. Every season brings to the confluence a different wilderness, color and flows.
Alchi Gompa: Conceived over thousand years ago, the Alchi Gompa is situated approximately 20kms from Leh on the shores of Indus River and is the only monastery of the 34 not located on a hill-top. The place overwhelms the visitors with the series of over hundreds of small-paintings of Buddha. The mind-entrancing air of reverence is deepened by the vast clay images painted brightly, bringing to you the tranquility of Buddha. Since the Gompa is not an operational religious center currently, it is under the care of monks from the Likir Monastery.
Likir Gompa: Likir Gompa came into being in 11th century and was later proclaimed by a different monastic order during the 15th century due to the destruction of previous Gompa in fire. The Gompa constructed under the care of the latter order was brought into existence in the 18th century. Producers of awe-inspiring thankas, the village surrounding the Gompa is home to talented craftsmen who make clay pots and sculpted wood items. Situated as though it were the queen of the region, Likir Gompa gives you a wonder-filled landscape. It is also living ground for the Jupiter tree, a slowly extinguishing species.
Following breakfast, we move along the Indus valley through a stream of life-giving landscapes to Rumtse Village (4,300m). The two sides of our road stands high with larger-than-life walls. We unload at Rumtse and begin our trekking. After a few kilometers, we situate ourselves in the camping site, in close vicinity to the river. We spend the night at our camps.
We approach Kyamar La (4,925m) walking through a well-organized trail. Amidst the earthly scent, we pass through many streams and come across nomadic groups who set up transient shelters in the area, along with their flock of sheep. On the pastures of Kyamar (4,380m), we place our camps and rest for the night.
Our breakfast is followed by ascent to Kyamar La (4,925m) where we witness the beauty of Zanskar range and also, the richness of Chang Tang plateau to the north. Tiri Doksa forms our next stop, which we reach through the grass-filled slants. This place forms the point for nomadic clusters to temporarily shelter. After walking along the stream, we begin trekking up to the Mandalachan La (4,805m). A descent from this area takes us to Tisaling (4,720m) where we set our camps and spend the night.
A long day of trekking awaits us post-breakfast. We trek over Thasang La (5,030m) and the peak renders us wonderful views of the Tso Kar Lake. We approach the lake slowly and walk amidst the groups of nomads living in camps. Along with the nomads’ tents are diverse gangs of domestic animals like yaks, goats and sheep. After exploring the lake, we set up our camp at Phongponagu (4,430m). This site is recorded for high probability of sighting Tibetan Wild Ass, Marmot and Ibex as well as a range of avian species which migrate through the region.
Resuming our trekking journey, we pass through green pasturelands keeping an eye for Kiangs which often visit the area. Our night stop is about 4 hours from this region. Set in midst of green fields of Nuruchan, we experience the night at a place considered home to wilderness and adventure, being residence of exotic Blue Sheep (bharal) and Himalayan Wolves.
Trekking continues after breakfast as we approach Nuruchan La (4,750m) and descend to a herding paddock. Our target to reach the campsite at Rachungkaru is early afternoon which is followed by an afternoon left to relaxation. We spend the night at the camp.
The day is filled with adventure and hard work as we pass through Kyamaru La (5,200m) and Gyabarma La (5,175m). Due to the high altitude, even those who have fairly adapted to the weather could face difficulties in breathing. Our camp for the night is placed in the pastures of Gyabarma (5,000m).
Today would mark our pass through the highest peak of our journey, prior to reaching Tso Morari Lake. Following breakfast, we trek over Yalung Nyau La (5,300m). An initiating crest of 5,150m drops us into a wide valley. From here, trek to the pass is simple. Edge of the pass awaits us with unfading beauty of Tso Morari laid on the screen of mountains wearing caps of snow. Around 4 hours are spent on our trekking down to Korzok Dok. We stay at the camp for the night.
Walking with the Tso Morari Lake, we reach the village of Karzok (4,350m) a God-sent basket of paradise. Consisting of a dozen homes with a gompa, the village is like eyes to the valley. Throughout the year, multiple groups of nomads, especially the Chang Pa visit the region and temporarily settle along with their cattle and yaks. Karzok is the only permanent colony in the region. The exploration of lake is sprinkled with nature watching for hares, Kiang, voles, marmots and mouse hares. It might be possible to spot a Blue Sheep and if fate favors us, we could even get to glimpse at a Snow Leopard! The lake region forms breeding land for innumerable avian species including the Brown-headed Gull, Bar-headed Goose, Brahminy Duck and Great Crested Grebe.