In July/August 2010, working as Expedition Leader for World Challenge, I lead an expedition to India with a group from The King’s School, Tynemouth. For the pupils this four-week expedition is the culmination of a two-year Leadership and Personal Development programme.

Our itinerary includes working with a local school near Manali, a twelve-day mountain trek from Kaza to Kafnu through the Spiti valley to 4,890m altitude, a visit to Shimla and onwards on the mountain railway to Kalka then to Chandigarh for the overnight sleeper train to Jaipur, and then bus to Agra and the Taj Mahal before returning to Delhi.

For photographs of this expedition see India – Manali and Kaza-Kafnu trek – July 2010 and India – Shimla, Jaipur & Agra – July 2010

This expedition is arranged by World Challenge

We arrive in Delhi after an overnight flight from London for our first day in India. Today we need to change money and locate Himachal Pradesh Tourism in the Chanderlok building on Janpath for our overnight bus to Manali. This is a long journey which can take up to 18 hours, sometimes longer depending on the condition of the road.

After an overnight bus journey we arrive in Manali (2,050m altitude) and find accommodation. We contact our In-country Agents to discuss our acclimatisation and main trekking phase.

We have a full in Manali to get used to our surroundings and the altitude. We complete an acclimatisation day trek and buy all our provisions for our project. We also sort out transport for the next phase.

Another full day in Manali and a second acclimatisation trek day. We learn a little about Himachal Pradesh and life in the Himalaya. We explore the surrounding area by going on a walk to a higher altitude than we’ve spent the past few days at, to assist in our acclimatisation

Today we travel to our project. We are working in a school doing some renovation and some teaching.

We spend the next three days at our project site. We use this opportunity to learn some Hindi and some Indian cooking. The people are very friendly and we involve them as much as possible – they are just as interested in us as we are in them. We camp nearby in the school grounds. We take note of local customs and to dress accordingly. The project phase is a great chance to become immersed in the culture and get stuck into a challenge. Even though the school term may have ended, all the children live around the project area are eager to mix with our team and we’ve come prepared for this and play games, sing songs and organise a sports event – cricket! On our last night at the project, we organise an evening meal with the hosts and children.

It\’s now time to leave our project site and travel to Kaza (3,640m altitude). We finish our work and say thank you and goodbye to our hosts and the children. Then we travel from the project to Kaza and prepare for our acclimatisation and main trek in the Spiti Valley.

Today we take an acclimatisation trek from Kaza to an altitude of 4,418m and also ensure we have all your provisions for main trek tomorrow.

Today we leave Kaza and head to Kafnu about 140km away. We start our main trek from the village of Langza in the Spiti Valley and trek to 4,565m altitude.

Today we pass through the village of Hikkim where there is a Tibetan monastery that we visit. High up in the Spiti Valley the Buddhist culture is prevalent. We notice the change in cultures as our trek progresses. Our camp is again at 4,565m altitude.

We continue our trek. Our guides are extremely knowledgeable about the area and we learn as much as we can from them. Our camp tonight at 4,400m altitude.

We continue our trek. Our camp tonight is at 3,900m altitude.

This is a long trek and we have cooks to prepare our meals. We continue to learn about the cultures and customs of the Himalayan people and try new foods, especially Tibetan momos. Our camp tonight is again at 3,900m altitude.

We continue our trek. Our camp tonight is at 3,850m altitude.

Today we have a rest day at 3,850m in the village of Mud to aid acclimatisation.

We set off early each day in order to cross any rivers before midday when the water level rises too high to cross safely. Our camp tonight is at 4,000m altitude.

Today we follow glacial streams and pass prayer flags in this remote area of the Himalaya as we pass our high point of 4,890m altitude.

A day of descent, during which we cross several glacial streams and walk through meadow filled valleys. Our camp tonight is at 4,200m altitude.

From the high alpine terrain we get views of the surrounding valleys and the stunning mountains, Our camp tonight is at 3,360m altitude.

The last day of the trek. We continue to walk along the base of the valley, then head downhill to the village of Kafnu. From here we carry on by jeep to Rampur; the gateway to the Kinnaur valley, with it’s bustling bazaar, once the capital of the Bushahr rajas. We then continue on to Shimla.

A full day in Shimla, the former summer “capital” of India, seeing the sights and organising our transport to Kalka, Jaipur, Agra and Delhi.

In the morning we explore Shimla a bit more. There is a lot to see and do here and its unusual architecture gives the town a unique feel. In the afternoon we take the ‘toy train’, a narrow gauge railway, which winds out of the Himalaya to Kalka. We then take taxis to Chandigarh where we connect with the sleeper train to Jaipur.

The sleeper train from Chandigarh arrives early in the morning into Jaipur. Time to organise our rest and relaxation phase.

We travel on to Agra and spend the next day there. We go to see the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort.

We return to Delhi and have a final meal together to celebrate all that we’ve achieved.

The next day we catch our flight and return home.


Steve holds the prestigious International Mountain Leader Award and also the Summer and Winter Mountain Leader Awards. He is a full member of BAIML and an adviser to Mountain Training UK&I. Steve has travelled extensively on six continents and has a wide experience, gained over more than thirty five years, of explorations and leading expeditions in remote environments on land – trekking in mountains, jungles, deserts and safaris and on water – rafting and canoeing. He works with his own clients and travel companies and takes adults and children on amazing adventures around the world. He has trained at and been assessed by Britain’s National Mountain Centres who are world class in the instruction and coaching of outdoor professionals. Steve is a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Accredited Expedition Assessor. He trains, supervises and assesses candidates on Bronze, Silver and Gold DofE Expeditions. He is a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, has an enhanced DBS disclosure and his own public liability insurance.