School Trek - The Markha Valley

A high-altitude trek with two pass crossings

16

days

Schools

Trek

From $2,900 Land only

Book this holiday

Holiday Overview

Highlights

  • Learn about the Buddhist religion and way of life
  • A Community Project day in Leh
  • Visit the unforgettable Taj Mahal
  • The best short trek in Ladakh

With its excellent trekking routes, colourful Buddhist religion and charming inhabitants, India's northern region of Ladakh makes for an exciting location for a school adventure. Geographically, Ladakh is a western extension of the Tibetan Plateau and, as recently as the beginning of the nineteenth century, this mountainous country was a part of Tibet. Buddhism is the dominant religion throughout Ladakh and there are many colourful monasteries, often occupying impressive hilltop sites. The Muslim religion is also important in Ladakh, thanks in part to the influence of Kashmir to the west. A mixture of cultures and religions is an important element in the attraction of Ladakh as a destination for school groups. Perhaps more important, however, is the remarkable landscape of the area, which is absolutely brilliant for trekking. Close to the old capital of Leh, the 8-day circuit trek through the Markha Valley is one of the most popular short treks in Ladakh - with good reason. Our journey starts out by way of the exciting flight to Leh, where we spend 3 days acclimatising, exploring some of the monasteries of the upper Indus Valley.  We will also drive up into the mountains to the north of Leh, as far as the Khardung La (5380m), which is one of the highest road passes in the world. The Markha Valley trek makes a complete circuit of the prominent Stok Kangri group of peaks, which lie to the south of Leh and visits several remote settlements and monasteries en route. The valley is a part of the Hemis High Altitude National Park, a wildlife conservation area which is home to many species including wolf and snow leopard. We cross the Ganda La (4900m) to enter the Markha Valley and at the end of our trek, we cross the even higher Kongmaru La (5100m) on our return to the Indus Valley. North of the Indian Himalaya and sheltered from the influence of the monsoon, the starkly beautiful region of Ladakh is at its best in the summer months. Providing a fascinating glimpse of Ladakh's unique culture and exposure to a range of colourful landscapes, this is a fantastic itinerary for any School Group. This tried and tested KE Schools itinerary can be adjusted to better fit the needs of your group - please call and speak to a KE School Groups Coordinator or email schools@keadventure.com

Is this holiday for you?

This is an excellent school adventure and a great travel experience. It includes a trek at altitude through the Markha Valley, with two tough pass crossings. To allow group members to acclimatise to the altitude in Ladakh (3500m), our tried and test itinerary includes 3 days and nights in Leh before setting off on the trek. It is important to note that trekking at high altitude makes greater demands on the body than walking at low elevations. There are 8 days of trekking and most of this is on good trails, which are the main routes between the villages of the Markha Valley. Crossing the two high passes on the trek, we will encounter zig-zag paths on scree. We will trek for an average of approximately 5 hours each day, with a couple of longer days. On most afternoons there will be the opportunity to rest and relax and interact with local people, but there are no exclusively resting days during the trek and it is reasonably sustained. 

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in Delhi. Transfers from Delhi Airport are provided.
  • Fly to Leh and transfer to the group hotel. Afternoon free, with optional stroll around the town.
  • Sightseeing and acclimatising. Visit the Buddhist monasteries at Shey and Thikse.
  • A free day for further acclimatisation, which can also be used for project work.
  • Drive up to the Khardung La (5380m) the gateway to the Nubra Valley. Return to the hotel in Leh.
  • Drive via Spituk Monastery to Lato. Short trek via the Jingchan Gorge to Rumbak (3880m).
  • Trek through the village of Yurutse to the foot of the Ganda La with good views of the Ladakh Range.
  • Trek up to the Ganda La (4974m) and descend to Skiu (3380m) in the Markha Valley.
  • Trek beside the Markha River through several isolated hamlets to Markha Village (3770m).
  • Follow the river upstream via the village of Hangkar to Thachungtse (4250m).
  • Trek up onto the Nimaling Plain and camp (4860m) opposite the peak of Kang Yatze.
  • Cross the Kongmaru La (5290m) and descend through a rocky gorge to Chuskyurmo (4150m).
  • Trek down to Hemis Monastery, with time to look around before driving back to Leh.
  • Fly to Delhi in the morning. City sightseeing tour after lunch, or take it easy at the hotel.
  • An early start for the excursion by train to Agra and the Taj Mahal. Return to the Delhi hotel.
  • Departure day. A transfer to Delhi Airport is provided.

Land Only

The price of our trips does not include international air travel to the start location in the destination city and country. The start location for joining the trip is identified for each trip. It's usually a centrally located hotel. KE can easily arrange all airport transfers for you.

International Air Travel

Please contact us at KE for air travel advice. We will be happy to discuss the flight arrangement which best suits your group.

2 teachers FREE

The Guide Price assumes that 2 teachers will accompany the group. Their Land Only costs are covered by the group's payment.

Guide Price $2,900*
Park Fees/permits N/A
Other Charges N/A
Enquire

* We give a price estimate for all of our school trips. This is based on 12-16 pupils and includes two free teacher places. If you are interested in a specific trip, we will send you a quote letter. You may wish to take extra teachers or add on additional days and this can all be included into your quote, on request.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • airport
  • pass
  • point
  • peaks
  • trip direction
  • pass
  • transfer
  • trek

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in Delhi. Transfers from Delhi Airport are provided.

    Meet at the group hotel in Delhi. Airport transfers are provided for all clients arriving on Day 1. KE Land Only package services begin with lunch. Afternoon at leisure, with the chance to enjoy the gardens and pool at our airport-accessible hotel. The tour guide will provide a briefing before the evening meal.

    • Accommodation Hotel with swimming pool

    • Meals ld

  • Fly to Leh and transfer to the group hotel. Afternoon free, with optional stroll around the town.

    After an early breakfast, we return to the airport (this time to the Domestic Terminal) for the early morning internal flight to Leh. The hour long flight is simply spectacular and provides close-up views of the 7000 metre massifs of Nun and Kun. Arriving at Leh (3500m), we drive by jeep to our hotel. The rest of the day is free to either rest in the shade of the hotel courtyard, or for those not phased by their long air journey, there is the option to take a lazy walk into Leh’s colourful bazaar to check out the roadside stalls selling Tibetan artefacts. Flying straight into the high altitude of Leh can take your breath away and it is best to concentrate on acclimatising for the first few days.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Sightseeing and acclimatising. Visit the Buddhist monasteries at Shey and Thikse.

    A full day’s sightseeing tour. Today we will visit the impressive monasteries at Shey and Thikse and have the opportunity to meet the monks who live there. These monasteries occupy elevated sites and offer remarkable views across the Indus Valley. Visiting Leh’s monasteries always involves climbing up and down long flights of stairs which is all good for our acclimatisation.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • A free day for further acclimatisation, which can also be used for project work.

    A free day for further acclimatisation, which can also be used for project work. Through our work with the Juniper Trust, we can arrange a suitable project for the pupils to be involved in.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Drive up to the Khardung La (5380m) the gateway to the Nubra Valley. Return to the hotel in Leh.

    Today, we further our acclimatisation with a jeep drive up to the 5380 metre Khardung La, one of the world’s highest road passes. This high pass in the mountains to the north of Leh leads into the Nubra Valley, which has until recently been closed to foreign visitors. The 2000 metre climb to the pass provides panoramic views of the Zanskar Range beyond the Indus Valley, with Stok Kangri standing out prominently as one of the higher peaks in the range. At the pass, we can look across to the Eastern Karakoram peaks. After taking tea at the pass, gasping in the thin atmosphere, we return to our hotel in Leh.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Drive via Spituk Monastery to Lato. Short trek via the Jingchan Gorge to Rumbak (3880m).

    We set off on the drive to the start of our trek. After just 15 minutes, we arrive at Spituk Monastery and take the opportunity for a quick look around. We then continue our drive to Lato, which takes a further hour or so. Here, we begin trekking. A fairly easy 3 to 4-hour walk takes us away from the Indus and through the Jingchan Gorge to our overnight camp near Rumbak (3880m). The trek crew will have made an early start and our camp will be ready for us. This area is also famous for blue sheep, snow leopards, Tibetan wolves, wild dogs and red fox. The evening can be spent visiting the village.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Distance 8km

    • Meals bld

    • Time 4 hrs trekking

  • Trek through the village of Yurutse to the foot of the Ganda La with good views of the Ladakh Range.

    Our trek continues easily to the lovely little settlement of Yurutse. We then follow a well defined path along the mountainside to a small valley and one of 2 possible camping places at the base of the Ganda La. Taking care not to gain height too quickly, today’s walk is short and we arrive at camp by lunchtime. The altitude at camp is 4380 metres.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Distance 8km

    • Meals bld

    • Time 4 hrs trekking

  • Trek up to the Ganda La (4974m) and descend to Skiu (3380m) in the Markha Valley.

    We follow the path up the mountainside to the top of Ganda La (4974m). This prayer-flagged summit affords excellent views of the Stok range of mountains. A long but easy descent then leads to Shingo and we can look out for marmots as we go. Beyond the hamlet of Shingo, the walk passes through a wonderful gorge with quite luxuriant stands of willow on the stream-bed. Reaching the Markha River at the village of Skiu (3380m) after a total day’s walk of around 6 to 7 hours, we set up camp amongst irrigated fields and poplar trees. There is a small monastery in Skiu and a derelict fortress-monastery on the cliff above our riverside camp.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Distance 15km

    • Meals bld

    • Time 6 hrs trekking

  • Trek beside the Markha River through several isolated hamlets to Markha Village (3770m).

    Crossing and recrossing the Markha stream, we make a long day’s walk of around 8 hours, without too much up and down, to the 30 or 40 houses of Markha Village. The trail passes through quite lush vegetation at the riverside, whilst the upper valley-slopes are uniformly brown and dry. There are bridges at many of the more difficult crossing places. En route we pass several more derelict monasteries, which are often quite difficult to pick out, high on the valley sides. There are also a number of well maintained chortens and prayer walls and at least one good example of a wolf trap. During the winter, wolves and snow leopards visit these high valleys. Becoming bold on account of their hunger, they descend to the villages and prey on domestic animals. The local form of wolf trap is a stone enclosure with overhanging sides, into which is placed live or dead animals baits. If a wolf jumps into the enclosure to eat the bait, it is unable to escape and is stoned to death by the local people. We also pass a couple of isolated houses, one of which was traditionally occupied by old lady who continues to wear the old-style Ladakhi headdress known as a peraq. On a hill to the north of Markha there is a small gompa. The resident monk will be happy to show you the ancient wall paintings and festival masks which are contained within this lovely old monastery - reputedly one of the oldest in Ladakh. We camp at Markha, at an altitude of 3770 metres.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Distance 22km

    • Meals bld

    • Time 8 hrs trekking

  • Follow the river upstream via the village of Hangkar to Thachungtse (4250m).

    We continue above Markha Village, trekking eastwards, deeper into the Markha Valley, to a good camping place at Thachungste. During today’s walk we pass more impressive monasteries, some ruined and some intact, a testament to the fact that this valley was once more populous than it is today. In this high valley we are likely to see small herds of blue sheep (bharal) which often come right down to the river to graze. After 2 hours of trekking we pass through Hangkar village, where high on a rocky spur is another remarkable ruined monastery. There are glimpses ahead of us of the summit of Kang Yatze (6400m), the biggest peak in this immediate area. A further 2 to 3 hours brings us to our overnight stop at Thachungste (4250m).

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Distance 17km

    • Meals bld

    • Time 6 hrs trekking

  • Trek up onto the Nimaling Plain and camp (4860m) opposite the peak of Kang Yatze.

    Passing another well maintained wolf pit, we cross the Markha stream on the last bridge that we will see and start a steeper climb up towards the high plains known as Nimaling. Today we will climb from around 4250 metres to a camp at 4860 metres and we will feel the effects of the altitude. The scenery opens out as we traverse around to the north side of Kang Yatze and we can see ahead of us the location of the pass that we must cross to return us to the Indus Valley. The Kongmaru La is not immediately apparent from our camp beside the frozen upper reaches of the Markha stream. As well as herds of blue sheep, huge golden marmots and large hares, the other impressive wildlife species hereabouts are immense birds of prey, including lammergeiers (bearded vultures - the biggest of the Himalayan raptors) and golden eagles. The sight of a lammergeier drifting towards you on motionless wings, passing just overhead, unconcerned by your presence, is simply unforgettable.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Distance 8km

    • Meals bld

    • Time 4 hrs trekking

  • Cross the Kongmaru La (5290m) and descend through a rocky gorge to Chuskyurmo (4150m).

    We trek up to the Kongmaru La (5290m) on a well marked trail which zig-zags across scree for the final 250 metres to the pass, overall a 2-hour ascent. From the pass there are views north to the hills of the eastern Karakoram and into Tibet, whilst the southern panorama is dominated by the shapely Kang Yatze. Descending, we enter a narrow gorge, which presents wonderfully contorted rock formations, pillars and buttresses, some of them remarkable colours, reds through to green and greys. The best trail crosses from one side of the valley to the other time and time again - and we are obliged to cross the growing stream many times. Except for a small level area just beyond the pass, the first reasonable camping place is at Chuskyurmo at 4150 metres.

    • Accommodation Camping

    • Distance 11km

    • Meals bld

    • Time 5 hrs trekking

  • Trek down to Hemis Monastery, with time to look around before driving back to Leh.

    From Chuskyurmo, we make an easy descent of 3 hours to reach the road at Shang Sumdo. Meeting our vehicles, we now drive to the monastery at Hemis. This is the most powerful of the monasteries in the vicinity of Leh, and belongs to the Kagyupa Buddhist sect. Large areas of the surrounding farmland are controlled by the monastery. After looking around the monastery, we continue our drive back to Leh. We check in to our hotel and look forward to a celebratory evening meal.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Distance 8km

    • Meals bld

    • Time 3 hrs trekking

  • Fly to Delhi in the morning. City sightseeing tour after lunch, or take it easy at the hotel.

    We have an early start and go to the airport to catch our flight back to Delhi. Arriving in Delhi, we transfer to our airport-accessible hotel in time for lunch. In the afternoon, a city sightseeing tour is provided. Alternatively, you may choose to take it easy at the hotel.

    • Accommodation Hotel with swimming pool

    • Meals bld

  • An early start for the excursion by train to Agra and the Taj Mahal. Return to the Delhi hotel.

    We make an early start and transfer to New Delhi Railway Station to catch the 'Taj Express' train for the 2 hour journey to Agra. Here we visit the incomparable Taj Mahal and the impressive Red Fort. We catch the evening train back to Delhi. Overnight hotel.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Departure day. A transfer to Delhi Airport is provided.

    KE Land Only package services end after breakfast at the hotel. Airport transfers are provided for all client departing on this day. There are lots of extensions that can easily be added to your holiday in india. Why not pre-book a 1-day excursion to the fabulous Taj Mahal, or a multi-day Rajathan experience, or a beach hotel break in Goa or Kerala. Contact our office for details.

    • Meals b

Holiday Information

  • A qualified UK KE Schools leader
  • Experienced English-speaking local guide
  • Delhi Airport transfers
  • Internal flights and transfers
  • All land transport involved in the itinerary
  • All accommodation as described in the trip dossier
  • All meals
  • A full service trek including food and all equipment (excluding personal equipment)
  • Entrance Fees to the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort
  • Travel insurance
  • Visas
  • Tips for local staff
  • Miscellaneous expenses - soft drinks and souvenirs etc.
Part of the experience of visiting India is tasting the amazing food this country produces which is far more varied than the fare avaialable in Indian restaurants at home. However, more 'international' dishes will also be available. The food served during the trek is a mixture of local and Western style dishes, made from ingredients mostly purchased locally and cooked for us by highly trained trek cooks. The emphasis during the trek is on providing a high-carbohydrate and largely vegetarian diet, which we have found to be easily digestible at high altitude. In Delhi, Leh and Agra we take our meals in the group hotel or in nearby restaurants.
All meals are included in the price from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 16.
Delhi Airport transfers are included on arrival and departure. The KE School Group Leader or KE representative will meet you on arrival and assist with the transfers to the group hotel. Full joining instructions along with hotel contact details and an emergency number will be provided with the booking confirmation.
At the beginning of the trip the group will spend one night in a tourist standard hotel in Delhi. We also spend 5 nights in a comfortable tourist standard hotel in Leh. At the end of the trip we have 2 nights in a tourist class hotel in Agra. Whilst on trek there will be a total of 7 nights camping. All accommodation is allocated on a twin sharing basis.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

A typical day starts with an early morning cup of tea or coffee served in your tent usually at first light. After a hot breakfast, during which camp will be struck and the ponies loaded, we start walking in the pleasant cool of the morning. We take a packed lunch every day and will stop at a convenient place on the trail for this snack meal, usually after 3 or 4 hours’ walking. The pony men and their animals usually catch up with the group during lunch and are well on their way to camp by the time we set off on the afternoon's walk. It is usual for the afternoon’s walk to be shorter than the morning session. The local people often set up temporary shops and tea-houses and it is a good idea to take your time and stop at these places to take a cup of tea or a soft drink. Not only does this set a relaxing pace but also puts something back into the local economy. On arrival at camp, the trek crew will quickly put the tents up and a hot drink will soon follow. Dinner is ready shortly after dusk and is a 3-course meal served in the dining tent. This is a great time of day for reliving the events of the trek so far and for socialising. Once it gets dark the temperature starts to quickly fall and by early evening most people will be tucked up in their sleeping bags.
All KE School Adventures are led by a specialist UK KE Schools leader. During the trip the leader will be assisted by an English-speaking local guide and on trek will be supported by a trek crew including a cook, camp staff and porters or baggage animals and their handlers.
This trip is fully inclusive. However you will need to take some money for miscellaneous expenses. £100 should cover your personal spending including soft drinks and snacks. There are several opportunities to buy souvenirs on this trip and you may wish to take more if you intend to buy a lot of souvenirs or more expensive items. It is not necessary to purchase local currency (Indian Rupees) before you travel. Take your travel money in the form of cash rather than travellers cheques, since you will be changing it into local currency on the day of arrival.
Tipping is the accepted way of saying thank you for good service. Tips do not form part of the wages of your guides, porters and trek crew but they are very much appreciated. It is important to remember that tipping is voluntary and should be dependent on good service. However, most people will want to give a tip to the people who work so hard to make their trip a success and as a general guide, we suggest a contribution of approximately £30 from each pupil ought to provide a sufficient pool for tipping all the crew. Your Schools Expedition leader will help you allocate the tips fairly to the various members of the crew.
The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking should be no more than 15 kgs. / 33lbs. It is possible to leave travel clothes or other items not required on trek at the group hotel in Leh.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

This itinerary involves going to very high altitude. During the course of your trip you will be spending at least one night above 4000 metres and/or trekking to 5000 metres or above. This is not something that you should worry about; the human body is quite capable of adapting to a very wide range of altitudes, but it is important that we follow some simple rules in order to acclimatise successfully. Before coming on this trip you should read the advice on trekking at high altitude on our website which can be viewed via the link below. You can also talk to one of our trekking experts if you have any concerns about altitude. On this trip we carry a portable altitude chamber (PAC-bag) and/or bottled oxygen for use in emergencies. www.keadventure.com/page/altitude.html

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum. There is a baggage limit on the flight to Leh of 15kg for hold baggage and an additional 7kg for cabin baggage.

  • The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking should be no more than 15 kgs / 33 pounds.
  • You must bring the following items:

    • Daypack c. 30 to 40 litres
    • 4 season sleeping bag*
    • Hiking boots
    • Trainers / sneakers or sandals for river crossings and camp use
    • Socks
    • Technical walking socks (2 or 3 pairs)
    • Trekking trousers / pants
    • Lightweight waterproof overtrousers / rain-pants
    • Underwear
    • Long johns (thermal underwear)
    • Thermal baselayer shirts (2 short sleeve, 2 long sleeve)
    • Shirts or T-shirts
    • Fleece jacket or warm jumper
    • Waterproof jacket
    • Warm jacket (down)
    • Sunhat
    • Warmer over gloves or mittens
    • Thermal gloves Warm hat or balaclava
    • Eyewear – Sunglasses
    • Headtorch / headlamp with spare batteries
    • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)
    • Water bottles 1 litre / 1 quart (x2)
    • Washbag and toiletries
    • Antibacterial handwash
    • Small towel
    • Basic First Aid Kit containing pain-killers, plasters (band-aids), blister treatment and rehydration salts. We also recommend a broad spectrum antibiotic and altitude medicine such as Diamox

    The following items are optional:

    • Thermarest (note that foam mattresses are provided)
    • Trekking poles
    • Gaiters
    • Insect repellant
    • Scarf or buff
    • Sleeping bag liner
    • Travel clothes
    • Pocket-knife (note: always pack sharp objects in hold baggage)
    • Repair kit – (eg. needle, thread, duct tape)
    • Small padlock (to lock your KE trek bag)
    • Camera, film / memory cards, batteries

    Equipment hire / rental

    • Items marked * can be hired / rented through KE Adventure Travel. Please make requests at least 6 weeks prior to the trip departure.
    • Note all hire / rental equipment will be issued in Leh.

    For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

    A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

    We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:

    http://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/

    As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: www.fco.gov.uk. North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: www.travel.state.gov for essential travel advice and tips.

    KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

    During July and August the temperature in Delhi will be hot (35°C) and humid. On the high plateau of Ladakh, the maximum daytime temperature low down on our trek (and at Leh) will be around 15°C, with night-time lows around 10°C . At our highest camps, the night-time temperature may fall as low as minus 10°C. At high altitude, the sun has a very strong effect and it will feel hotter than the indicated temperatures. Ladakh is not affected by the monsoon and we can usually expect stable, weather. However mountains do generate their own weather systems and some rain or snowfall cannot be ruled out.
    Leh and Trekking in Ladakh. Charlie Loram. Trekking in the Indian Himalaya. Weare. (L.Planet). The Trekkers Handbook. Tom Gilchrist. Ladakh, Crossroads of High Asia. Janet Rizvi.
    India - 150K Ladakh and Zanskar Tekking Maps

    Editions Olizane Scale: 1:150,000. Great map with 3 sheets. The North and Central sheets are appropriate for this trip.

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