This review is for the Grand Traverse of the Indian Himalaya (Trip code TGI). This code was not available on your website. I am assuming this is due to no further trips this year but wold hope Exodus do continue to consider this.
I would say this trip was both punishing and rewarding in equal measure. While the acclimatising walks around Leh are good and necessary, particularly for the two days where we crossed two plus 5000m passes as though relatively fit I did find them challenging.
Over the entirety of the trekking we got a bit of everything in terms of weather and I a good sun hat and good quality waterproofs was critical to being able to enjoy what is one of the last great wildernesses on this planet. Similarly it is worth stressing that the combination of the physical exertion, weather conditions and repeated nights camping does takes its toll and while the trip notes do stress the tour is for those who have experience of altitude I would also add it is for those who are not adverse to living under canvas and are not overly sensitive to making sacrifices in personal hygiene.
From day 13 (north of Norbu Somdo) we were required to deviate considerably from the trip notes due to impassable rivers and path erosion due to heavy rainfall in the days leading up to this. But while there is the disappointment of missing out on Parang La I do not feel that this was to the detriment of the trip as the guides demonstrate great management of the trip and a route which personally I found more interesting walking/ camping than some of the earlier days.
After doubling back north for an hour we trekked North West for four days to Pang where we re-joined the Leh/Manali road. Walking through broad glacial valleys, though not dealing with the gradient of earlier days (only one pass of significance), these were still challenging days walking (plus 20Km). This route had the added benefit of not trekking the same route as the few other tour groups which we shadowed for the first half of the trip from Rumtse to Korzok and providing a much greater sense of the remoteness of the area. I question whether more than a handful of tourists traverse that valley each year. Did not see any snow leopards but did see some sizable cat paw prints so they were about.
Having not covered the ground to Parang La I cannot comment on comparison but the I think the detour to Pang would be worthy of a trip in its own right, particularly the second to last and last days walking to Pang which took us through striking and very different scenery to that of the earlier part of the trip. A valley dominated by sizable sandstone turret like monoliths and requiring numerous river crossings. As you might expect the scenery for the whole trip is fantastic but my personal highlights in the camping was the two nights by the two lakes on the trip as the views and peacefulness at these locations was just stunning.
Outside the trekking the accommodation is very good. The hotel in Dehli is particularly welcome and the base in Leh is homely and suitably placed to allow you to explore the city. The two day drive down to Mandi brings its own challenges and more fantastic scenery. A couple of people in our group who had been on similar trips voiced the opinion that they would have preferred to have flown from Leh but being my first time in India I found the drive both fascinating and nerve-racking. To me this was not simply a prolonged drive back to the airport but an entertaining part of the whole experience.
A final word for our tour guide Sukman who was excellent. I know when you read reviews on this website you find many messages of praise for those organising the trips and having gone on a number of Exodus trips I think that the vetting/recruitment and training of the staff is probably one of the main reasons Exodus remain one of the premier tour operators. Considering the challenges faced by such a long and arduous trip, considering the need for a sizable deviation from the trip schedule I can only describe his management of the tour as faultless.