Zanskar offers the trekker a bewildering array of world class trekking routes. Planning a 10 day trek through the hills can be as simple as just picking up a map and letting your imagination do the rest. Personally, I prefer Sonam Tsetan's Trekking Map Of Ladakh; one can usually find the most recent edition (and accompanying booklet) in one of the book shops in Leh (Lehling on the main street is a good place to start looking). Otherwise, Artou/Editions Olizane Geneve publish a 1:350000 Ladakh Zanskar trekking map, and sheets 2 & 3 of the Leomann 1:200000 Indian Himalaya Maps are also of some use (although beware if you are planning to cross the Shapadak La as its location on sheet 3 is incorrect). For those who prefer a few contours then the US Military 1:250000 series or the Soviet General Staff 1:200 000 maps are also useful reference (although for the latter brush up on your Cyrillic). Whichever map suits your needs, remember a) that place names vary according to the transliteration and b) you can usually buy it cheaper in Leh bazaar than you can outside of India. Increasingly, Google Earth is also quite handy for pre-departure planning.
A few general points that you might want to consider:
- employ guides who know where they are going and have up-to-date knowledge of the desired trekking route. For obvious reasons, when trekking in Zanskar I always use a Zanskari guide or horseman. If you are planning to visit Zanskar, and you want to contact a Zanskari guide but you don't know how, then check out www.trekzanskar.org
- ensure you have changed foreign currency into Indian Rupees before heading into Zanskar. There is no money changing facility in Padum and whilst many Zanskaris have now seen a 50 or 100 USD note it's awkward for them to change. It's really embarrassing to end a trek and not have enough money to pay your guide or horseman; more importantly you owe your staff some cash. It's no longer necessary to carry a suitcase of small denomination notes (the economy has moved on somewhat), but by all means carry some, the pan-Indian 'no change' phenomena is alive and well in Zanskar too!
- make the most of the choice in the shops in Leh or Manali. There are food and general provision stores in Padum but choice is limited for more Western-style luxuries, especially towards the end of the summer trekking season (and in winter or early spring before the Pensi La has opened). I usually carry a few choice items like Marmite, Nutella and Western Style Meusli (which, if nothing else, has amusing marketing on the reverse of the box). If you are concerned that you wont be contributing to Zanskar's economy then don't worry, many of the shops in Padum are not owned by Zanskaris. You will probably make a greater contribution by employing Zanskari trekking staff.