Ladakh is one those few destinations in India whose high altitude ranges, massive lakes, scenic trails, deep valleys and high passes makes it a perfect destination for adventure enthusiasts to relish their love for adventure. This rugged region holds a place unparalleled by any other region in their wish list. Nestled at the altitude of 3000m, and lying between the Karakoram and the Great Himalayas, this landlocked region offers a variety of adventure sports, the prominent ones being Mountaineering, trekking, mountain biking and White River rafting.
If travelling, exploring and mountains have always thrilled you and give you that kick then Trekking is adventure for you. It serves as the ultimate recipe for a perfect adventure getaway. Trekking in Ladakh offers a never-before adventure experience to the travellers. To enjoy Ladakh, Trekking is one the most famous activity and to enjoy every nook and corner of the region. Ranging from easy to highly challenging treks, Ladakh has everything that a trekker quests for.
|Markha Valley Trek||Stok Kangri Trek|
|Duration||7-10 Days||10-15 Days|
|Trek Distance||75 Km||80 Km|
|Highest Altitude||17,060 ft||20,177 ft|
|Best Time||July – September||July – September|
|Cost||18,000 – 21,000||19,000-22,000|
Ladakh offers some of the most magnificent treks which attract thousands of tourists from all over the world. Whether it is summer or winter, easy, moderate or tough treks you are going to get the best experiences of your life. Ladakh offers a new experience on every trekking trail which is blessed with magnificent beauty. Markha Valley Trek and Stok Kangri Trek are one of the most adventurous treks in Ladakh. However, there are some similarities and differences between these two treks. While Markha Valley Trek is a trekking destination, Stok Kangri Trek requires some mountaineering skills because you have to climb the peak. Stok Kangri trek is for some real adventure freaks which require technical skills and physical fitness. On the other hand, Markha Valley Trek also requires skills but this trek is moderate nature. Before going to compare these two treks, first, we will know about these two treks individually.
Must Visit: Markha Valley Trek 2019 (9D/8N)
Markha Valley Trek, a tea house trek which offers trekking in the chilling cold desert valley. This trek is famous for its beautiful views of Kang Yatse peak and Stok Kangri peak, Buddhist villages and rocky ravines. The trek happens inside Hemis National Park and includes two pass crossings – Gandala La (15,748 ft) and Kongmaru La (17,060 ft). This trek is famous for its varying landscapes. Deep river crossings are also one of the major attractions of this trek. It is a moderate trek which requires technical skills and physical fitness.
Stok Kangri Trek is one of the most difficult treks in Ladakh due to the climbing of the peak. This trek requires mountaineering skills if you want to climb the peak. This is the trek for those who are some real adventure freaks. Stok Kangri is the highest mountain peak in the Stok range of the Himalayas and also highest trekkable summit in India. This trek offers you several obstacles, climbing on the steep hills, facing sunny morning to snow storms, and trekking on rambling routes which will ultimately lead you to Stok Kangri Peak.
Can’t Miss: Stok Kangri Trek 2019 (9D/8N)
Location of Both Treks
Markha Valley is situated between the Zanskar and Leh region of Ladakh in J&K. This valley is located at a short distance from Leh and offers magnificent, wild and barren terrains. Markha Valley is also called as Little Tibet sometimes. Running parallel to the mighty Himalayas, Markha Valley offers the breathtaking views of Zanskar and Ladakh ranges, Kang Yatse at 21,000 ft and Stok Kangri at 20,086.
Stok Kangri, the highest mountain peak in the Stok range of the Himalayas, is located south of Leh which can be accessed by trekking to Stok village and further climbing of the peak. This peak is the highest trekkable summit in India and declared by IMF (Indian Mountaineering Foundation) as an open trekking peak. Anyone can attempt Stok Kangri trek who is physically fit. Stok Kangri summit offers magnificent views of Ladakh ranges, Karakoram ranges and Zanskar ranges.
Best Time To Do Stok Kangri & Markha Valley Trek
Weather is unpredictable in Ladakh due to high altitudes especially during Stok Kangri Trek. When will a sunny day turns into snow storm, you can’t predict. You need to prepare well for these kinds of situation. Stok Kangri temperature varies due to its unpredictable nature. July to September is the best time to attempt Stok Kangri trek as you don’t need special equipment or expertise in mountaineering during these months. Also, the temperature ranges between 20 ° and 30 °C during daytime and weather is calm and pleasant. Apart from these months, you need expertise in Mountaineering to attempt this trek.
Markha Valley experience winter from November to February when minimum temperature can goes down to -30 °C. Summer in this valley is pleasant which remains from Mid May to September. During this time, average day temperature ranges from 20 ° to 30 ° C and weather is calm and pleasant. June to September is the best time to visit Markha valley and attempt Markha Valley Trek. During this time both the highways, Leh-Manali and Srinagar-Leh, are open for normal traffic.
Must See: Budget Ladakh Bike Trip (6D/5N)
Difficulty and Itinerary
Markha Valley Trek is one of the moderate to difficult treks in Ladakh which needs technical skills and physical fitness. This trek passes through steep and rugged cliffs, deep gorges all during the whole time of the trail, two high altitude mountain passes and deadly hills. Gandala La (15,748 ft) and Kongmaru La (17,060 ft) offers a mesmerizing view of the splendid Markha Valley, one of the main attractions on the trek.
Markha Valley Trek starts from Spituk which is 10 Km from Leh. After that an easy trek to Zinchen starts with passing the village and a bridge over the River Indus. Trek from Zinchen to Yurutse is also easy. The trail crosses a stream with the help of the wooden bridge. After crossing a check post trek takes place in Hemis National Park. The trail takes you to Yurutse through Rumbak village (12,470 ft). From Rumbak, a route to Stock La approaches ahead from where you can go to climb the Stok Kangri.
From Yurutse to Skiu, there is a difficult trail with long distance to cover. This day leads you to climb Ganda La which is a steep climb of 2 and half hours from Ganda La base camp. Again there is a steep descent from Ganda La for 20 min then descent become gradual. After that trek takes place in valley with open fields and rugged terrains. From Shingo, there is a long downhill trek through a rocky terrain. You will reach Skiu, which is located at the confluence of Shgri Nala and Markha River.
From Skiu to Markha, you have another moderate long day of trekking. Trekking is designed along the Markha River. You will reach Markha valley campsite after crossing river. Another moderate day of trekking from Markha to Thochuntse starts with the climbing to upper Markha valley. After 2 hours of climbing, you will reach Umlung from where you can get the mesmerizing view of Mt. Kang Yissay. After Umlung the trails goes through Tacha and Hankar from where a rocky and steep ascent will leads you to Thochuntse camp.
From Thochuntse to Nimaling, there is an easy trek which passes through the smoother terrain and gradual ascent. You will face difficult trekking trails from Nimaling to Shang Sumdo especiall when you climb Kongmaru La. The climb to Kongmaru La is steep and tough. This trail is difficult due to steep climbing and thin air. After 2 hour of climbing there is a steep descent till Sukarmo. There is a flat riverbed walk from Sukarmo to Sumdo. From here you can take cab to Leh. In total, Markha Valley Trek is of moderate one due to its landscapes and less technicality. But still this trek requires good physical fitness and some technical skills.
Don’t Miss: Manali To Leh Ladakh Bike Trip (10D/9N)
Stok Kangri Trek is one of the most difficult treks in India which is mainly for those experienced trekkers that have at least 1-2 trekking experiences above 5,000 m. To finally reach Stok Kangri summit at 20,000 ft, one has to cross various hindrances, climbing on the steep hills, facing sunny morning to snow storms, and trekking on rambling routes. This trek requires mountaineering skills as well as good stamina if you want to climb the peak. It is one of the arduous treks in Ladakh which needs sincere acclimatization before starting the trek to Rumbak village.
There are various trails to get to the Stok Kangri Base Camp. Stok Kangri trek starts from Leh but trekking starts from Spituk or Zingchan. This is an easy trail and after that a moderate trail will lead you to Stok La via Rumbak village. Trekking routes till Rumbak village are same as that of Markha Valley Trek. From Rumbak, routes to both treks are different. Trek from Stok La to Monkormo is difficult due to steep climb and AMS. Climb to Stok La is very steep and here problem of altitude sickness hit. After experiencing the panoramic views of the landscapes and mountain peaks, a gradual descend will lead you to Mankormo Campsite. There is an easy trek from Mankormo to Base camp so that time will be utilised for acclimatization and preparation for climbing.
What make Stok Kangri expedition different from Markha Valley trek are Climbing, severe acclimatization, difficult trails and more spectacular views. Stok Kangri Summit is the next activity to do which is non technical and not dangerous but also not as easy as we imagine. This day is a long day where you have to climb 1200 m in order to reach the summit. Stok Kangri Summit route starts from Base camp which crosses Spur, Glacier, Glacier crossing point, foot of the South East face, South Ridge and finally made it to reach Stok Kangri Summit.
Next day after the summit, trail descends down to Stok village from base camp. After 6 hours of moderate trekking you will reach Stok village from where you can drive to Leh. Due to its climbing, altitude sickness, and difficult trails, Stok Kangri summit trek is difficult. However, summit of Stok Kangri also offers mesmerizing views of barren valley and snow capped mountains. If you are lucky enough, you can get an opportunity to witness the view of K2.
Both treks offer splendid views of the valleys and mountains. While Markha valley trek is famous for offering lowland view of the valleys and snow capped mountains, Stok Kangri expedition offers the view of valley from the peak of mountain. It also offers the panoramic view of the Saser Kangri. Markha valley trek doesn’t require mountaineering skills at all but if you are attempting Stok Kangri during months except than summer, you need to have mountaineering skills.
While Markha Valley Trek can be done by any person due to its moderate difficulty and relatively easy trails, Stok Kangri Trek is not recommended to those who have never done high altitude trek before.
Acclimatization in Ladakh is necessary to further smoothen your excursion. Weather is unpredictable in Ladakh due to high altitudes. It is necessary to acclimatized yourself before starting your trip. Be aware of symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) like mild headache, nausea and general discomfort. Level of Altitude sickness differed from region to region.
Markha valley trek doesn’t require severe acclimatization as this region doesn’t experience unpredictable weather. Normal one or two acclimatization in Leh will make your trek more smooth and memorable. But this is not true in the case of Stok Kangri Trek. It is one of the arduous treks in Ladakh which requires proper acclimatization before starting the trek to Rumbak village.
This trek need acclimatization at Stok Kangri Base Camp even after crossing some high altitude passes like Stok La (4,900 m), Mankorma and camping at high altitudes. This area has unpredictable weather. Physical fitness and at least 10 days in the mountains is required for attempting Stok Kangri. Due to its steep trail, altitude increases rapidly which will led to start signifying symptoms of AMS. Be aware of the altitude sickness and its symptoms.
Duration and Cost
Markha Valley and Stok Kangri, both treks take approx equal time to complete the excursion. But depending upon the starting point and ending point, duration of treks varies. Markha Valley Trek can be completed in 4 to 10 days depending upon your stamina, and route. Considering Chilling Village as the starting point and Shang Sumdo village as the ending point, this is the shortest route to complete this trek. An ideal trek starting and ending from Leh takes 7-8 days.
Stok Kangri expedition also takes 10-15 days depending upon the weather, route, and physical fitness of the trekkers. Shortest route to cover this whole expedition take 6-7 days. Considering Leh as the starting and ending points, it takes 8-9 days to complete this expedition.
As far as the costs of the treks are concerned, Stok Kangri Trek is cheaper than Markha valley trek, considering duration same for both the treks. An ideal Markha Valley Trek of 9 Days/8 Nights will cost you about Rs 18,000 to 21,000 while Stok Kangri Trek of same duration will cost you Rs 19,000 to 21,000. It solely depends on you to choose which trek is best for you as there are various other factors which make these treks definitely consider doing.
Highest Altitude and Route
Both treks takes place in Hemis National Park and more or less have same altitude throughout the treks. But since Stok Kangri Trek also includes climbing of mountain peak, it increases the highest point of the trek. Both treks also have some high altitude passes like Gandala La (15,748 ft) and Kongmaru La (17,060 ft) in Markha Valley trek and Stok La (16,176 ft) in Stok Kangri Trek. Highest altitude of Markha Valley trek is Kongmaru La (17,060 ft) while Stok Kangri Summit (20,177 ft).
Stok Kangri Trek route and Markha Valley trek route overlap for initial two days. However it depends upon the trekking route taken by trekkers. Trekking routes for both the treks are:
Markha Valley Trek: Leh – Spituk – Zinchen – Yurutse (via Rumbak village) – Skiu (via Ganda La) – Markha – Thochuntse – Nimaling – Shang Sumdo (via Kongmaru La) – Hemis – Leh
Stok Kangri Trek: Leh – Spituk – Zinchen – Stok La (via Rumba village) – Mankorma – Base Camp – Stok Kangri Summit – Stok village – Leh
Markha Valley Trek with Stok Kangri
Trekkers who want to attempt both Markha Valley Trek and Stok Kangri Summit, this trek is for them. Markha valley trek along with Stok Kangri expedition is one of the most beautiful and arduous treks in India which takes about couple of weeks to cover the area from Chilling to Leh via Stok village. There are also various routes to cover this stretch. The trail takes you to 6,150 m from an altitude of 3,500 m, which is highest trekable summit in India. This trek requires proper acclimatization. Trekking trails consist of fertile, rich green Markha valley isolated by the Kang Yatse at 6,400 m and Zanskar range, steep climbing to Stok Kangri with narrow and rocky paths, glaciers and unpredictable climatic conditions. Hemis National Park is the major attraction on the Markha Valley along with Stok Kangri Trek. This trek is for those who have mountaineering and climbing skills. Otherwise you can attempt Markha Valley trek which doen’t requires such type of skills.
Stok Kangri with Markha valley trek starts from Chilling. After crossing Zanskar River, trek leads to Skiu, which is gateway to the Markha valley. From Skiu to Markha, there is a moderate long day of trekking. Trekking is designed along the Markha River. You will reach Markha valley campsite after crossing river. Another moderate day of trekking from Markha to Thochuntse starts with the climbing to upper Markha valley. After 2 hours of climbing, you will reach Umlung from where you can get the mesmerizing view of Mt. Kang Yissay. After Umlung the trails goes through Tacha and Hankar. After that there is an easy trek to Nimaling. The climb to Kongmaru La is steep and tough. This trail is difficult due to steep climbing and thin air.
After crossing Kongmaru La trek will head towards Stok Village. After few hour of trekking from Stok village will lead you to Stok Kangri Base Camp. Stok Kangri Summit is the next activity to do which is non technical and not dangerous but also not as easy as we imagine. This day is a long day where you have to climb 1200 m in order to reach the summit.
Stok Kangri with Markha Valley Trek is a difficult trek which lasts 15-21 days, depending upon routes. July to September is the best time to attempt this trek. Highest point on this trek is Stok Kangri Summit (6,150 m).