Adventures in Ladakh: Self-Supported Markha Valley Trek

The Markha Valley trek is the most popular trek in Ladakh.  It follows a well-established path up a valley, so it is hard to get lost, and villages along the way means that trekkers can do home stays the whole way and avoid carrying camping gear or food.  We brought our camping gear with us to Ladakh so we needed to do at least one self-supported trek, so we decided to do the trek self-supported.  Though I would have enjoyed the cultural exchange involved in homestays, I’m glad me made the decision to go self-supported.  It allowed us to stop when we got tired and avoid the crowd.

We started our route in Chilling, which is a bit of a shortcut route, but it seems it is now the most popular route.  It allows for a 4-6 days trek, which was perfect for our agenda.  Markha valley is not only the most accessible trek in Ladakh, but many locals will say it’s the most beautiful.  It is definitely much greener than the other treks we did.  The trek reaches 5200 m, which makes it an awesome acclimatization trek for people planning to summit a peak.

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Some of the many Stupas along the trail.

A few things I didn’t mention in a video

Knowledge of acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a must.  Staying hydrated is absolutely key, especially since it really is hot when the sun is out and the wind isn’t blowing.  The day before we started the trek, a man actually died of high altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE) the day before we started the trek.  It was on a pass that we skipped out on, and we would have been trekking our portion of the route at the same time as us.  AMS is unpleasant, but it can turn into high altitude cerebral oedema (HACE), both of which can be fatal in a matter of hours.  AMS symptoms are similar to a hangover: fatigue, headache, and nausea.  Dizziness and trouble sleeping are some fun bonuses.

Also, bring a hat.  This may be obvious to some, but I hate hats.  I like the idea of hats, but when I wear them, I inevitably take them off and lose them.  There aren’t a lot of trees in Ladakh, and it’s pretty much always sunny.  I think my nose just about melted off thanks to my hatlessness on the Markha Valley.  Sunscreen was useless since I was sweating buckets the whole time.

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