The Sham Valley is one of the shortest treks in the Ladakh region of India. You’ll often hear it said that this is one of the ‘easier’ treks in this part of the world, but just how easy is it?
While there may be more technically difficult trails throughout Northern India, there are still several things you should be prepared for before venturing out on the Sham Valley Trek. While often referred to as a ‘baby trek’, don’t let the infantile title fool you. Avid hikers might find it on the easier side, but there are certain sections that are steep and challenging, so being active or having some experience is recommended.
The Baby Sham is a high-altitude trek, as all of Ladakh sits at a very high altitude. There are precautions you can take when hiking at high elevation. Even the most prepared and physically fit person can feel the effects. Altitude sickness is more about your genetic make up than about how in-shape you are. The highest point of the trip is close to 4,000 meters. The best advice to prepare for any treks in high altitude is buffering in acclimatization days prior to your trek. Flying into Leh (the capital of Ladakh) and resting for a couple of days before you set out into the mountains will give your body a chance to adjust to the elevation. Staying hydrated while in high altitude is imperative to helping combat headaches and nausea. Talk with your travel doctor about if bringing medications for elevation, and know you can also find these easily in local pharmacies.
The weather can also play a role in how easy this trail can be. The best time for trekking in the Ladakh region is May through October. There are winter treks for snow leopard observation, but the temperatures are cold and there will be snow on the ground. Many places are closed to tourists during this time, so you should plan accordingly.
Homestays are the accommodation of choice in this region. There are no large, luxury hotels on Ladakh’s trekking trails, giving you a chance to meet the locals as you’ll be staying with them. Not only will you get a better idea about how the locals live, but you’ll also keep your tourism dollars in the local economy.
Physical fitness is an important part of preparing for the Sham Valley Trek. You’ll enjoy your journey so much more when you are physically prepared. Some areas on the trek are very remote. Since it wasn’t quite yet into tourist season when I did it, we only saw one other hiker in between our village stays over the four days.
The route itself is a great introduction to higher altitude hiking in the Himalayas, whether in India, Nepal, Tibet, or Bhutan. The journey starts about 90-minute drive from Leh, in Likir. Be sure to visit the Likir Monastery before starting out. Local guides can give you the history of these monasteries as well as an opportunity to learn more about the region, the culture and its people.
From the monastery, you’ll walk across the Pobe La Pass towards Yangthang. The first day is one of the longer days of the trek; you have a second pass to traverse before arriving at your homestay. You’ll be welcomed on your first day with spectacular views of the mountains. If trekking during the off-season, you may not see many other hikers. You’ll have these views all to yourself. When the sun shines on down on the snow-capped peaks, the scenery is truly special.
From Yangthang you’ll cross the Sarmanchan La Pass to the village in Hemis Shukpachu. The second day covers a shorter distance but has some steeper trails. Finally, through Hemis Shukpachu there is the final hike to Temisgang. Be sure to visit Temisgang Palace and Monastery on your drive back to Leh. Spending another day or two relaxing in Leh is a perfect way to round out a hiking holiday in Ladakh.
Article by Abbie Synan.