Mountain villages hemmed in by steep granite walls of volcanic rock, wild tangles of warped rock formations etched against magnificent blue skies, wind-eroded spires, glittering turquoise rivers — the trek from western Ladakh into the isolated arid triangle of the remote Zanskar region brings to life some of the most spectacular and dramatic landscapes the trans-Himalaya has to offer. Massive tectonic forces, and the eroding powers of wind have wrought a magical effect on Ladakh and Zanskar. The Zanskar range owes its origin to a slice of the pre-historic Tethys ocean floor sliding under Tibet when the Indian and Eurasian plates started colliding some 50 million years ago. High velocity winds have since shaped the treeless land into open-air galleries of wild rock formations, scoured through with deep rivers running along tectonic faultlines. Few inhabited regions are as remote as Zanskar and traversing eight high passes over nine days would surely classify as a challenging route. But then the beauty of a mountain wilderness is often directly related to the remoteness of the place. The trek begins at Lamayuru, 125km west of Leh. You can take a shared cab going to Kargil and get dropped here (Rs 600/head). From Padum, Leh or Srinagar is a three-day drive. The road is quite bad, so plan to stop at Panikher (PWD guesthouse) and then go on to Leh. The Padum-Kargil road is one of the most scenic in the country, past several glacial tongues coming almost down to the roadhead. Taxis from Padum to Kargil cost Rs 10,000 for full jeep or Rs 1,500 per head.