Stok Kangri (6,153m) : My first high altitude summit
- Brief Itinerary
- Detailed Itinerary
- Day 1 : Leh – Zingchen (3390m) – Rumbak (3870m)
- Day 2 : Rumbak (3870m) – Mankarmo (4380m) via Stok La Pass (4900m)
- Day 3 : Mankarmo (4380m) – Stok Kangri Base Camp (4980m)
- Day 4 : Acclimatization Day at Stok Kangri Base Camp(4980m)
- Day 5 : Base Camp (4980m) – Stok Kangri Summit (6153m) – Base camp (4980m)
- Day 6 : Stok Kangri Base Camp (4980m) – Stok Village (3600m) – Leh
- Learning Points
Stok Kangri was my first high altitude trek. I had no real experience going past 4,000m, the highest being Kinabalu (4095m) and the longest time I have stayed outdoors in the mountains was during Rinjani for 3 days and 2 nights.
To set the context, my initial plan was not to go to Stok Kangri, but a Markha Valley Trek and paying a visit to Ladakh because I had heard and read so much about it. Luck had me link up with random people who were intending to do a summit trek, all 1st timers, so I decided to join in. The group of us consisted of me, Darren, Siswanto, Natlie and Ping.
We flew into Delhi and made our way up using the Manali-Leh highway. Upon reaching Leh, we found out that there was severe flooding the past few days so most of Markha Valley was closed. On top of that, most of the roads were out and around Leh were closed. Luckily for us, some of the roads started the open while we were acclimatizing in Leh and we were able to do one of proposed high altitude treks.
The initial choice of discussion was between Kang Yatze and Stok Kangri. Kang Yatze was slightly harder, had a steeper incline and lower chance of reaching the summit. Seeing that all of us were first-timers, we curbed our natural instincts to reach too far like Icarus. The final decisions was to stick with Stok Kangri.
We went with Ecological Footprint in Leh, which my friends had contacted and arranged beforehand. This Stok Kangri Trek was in August 2015. I know it was a long time back, but the information is still relevant because it should still be the same. Before reading this, do read up on my other post on how to plan your trip for Stok Kangri and the various itineraries first!
I learnt a lot from this trek, from the guide and the people who went on the trek with me. It made me realize the need for better equipment, how to layer your clothes, how to manage yourself on the mountain and conserve your energy. For training, I tried to make sure to run 10km at least 3-5 times a week, some days consecutive in order to try to mimic the same conditions as hiking everyday. This is to ensure I had endurance on top of power.
Therefore, I hope this post is useful for those who are looking at how the whole trek looks and feels like.
Starting from Spituk/Rumbak
Day 1 : Leh – Zingchen (3390m) – Rumbak (3870m) ~2h drive + 4 to 5 hrs trek.
Day 2 : Rumbak (3870m) – Mankarmo (4380m) via Stok La Pass (4900m) ~ 6 to 7 hrs
Day 3 : Mankarmo (4380m) – Stok Kangri Base Camp (4980m) ~ 3 to 4 hrs.
Day 4 : Acclimatization Day at Stok Kangri Base Camp(4980m)
Day 5 : Base Camp (4980m) – Stok Kangri Summit (6153m) – Base camp (4980m) ~12-18hrs
Day 6 : Stok Kangri Base Camp (4980m) – Stok Village (3600m) – Leh ~ 6-7 hrs
*Buffet day not used
The first 2 days of the trek is more tiring, followed by 2 days of easy trek. The summit push is really long and tough.
Day 1 : Leh – Zingchen (3390m) – Rumbak (3870m)
Duration : ~2h drive + 4 to 5 hrs trek
Elevation : 480m
We packed our bags in the morning and had to leave the comfortable home which was arranged for us. It had a beautiful garden and a bedroom view of Stok Kangri.
After that, we headed to the Ecological Footprint office. All of our equipment and bags were loaded up and tied onto the vehicle. Although the shortest way for the Stok Kangri climb was through Stok Village, we wanted to enjoy our trek. Also, approaching base camp from Stok Village doesn’t allow one to have sufficient time to adjust to high altitude, especially for us in Singapore. Therefore, we chose to do it through Rumbak.
We had to drive around 2 hours to enter the Hemis National Park, supposedly starting at Zingchen. The car drove up the circumventing red sand hills. I saw other trekkers along the path, I assumed they started from Spituk and I did not envy them at all. I was thinking, thank god I did not have to walk uphill on the dirt road for like hours. Luckily we were starting from further in front. It did not seem like much value to start from Spituk.
We dropped off at a random point just before the entrance because the car couldn’t go further anymore. It was time to start.
After walking for awhile, we passed by the entrance. There was no one manning it, or it was simply processed by the guide previously already I have no idea.
The path was wide and made up of small rocks. It was a slow and gradual uphill, but my bag was too heavy and adjusted wrongly. I was carrying close to 15KG at that point I think. It was quite silly of me. I struggled to catch up to the rest while trying desperately to take pictures.
I could see that we were headed deeper into the valley. The trail soon narrowed as we ascended steeper. The Himalayan Blue Sheep could be seen on the surrounding hills and rocks. At the rest point, there was even the blue sheep bones as display! I bet it was just for a photo opportunity.
The path goes through several small river crossings, due to the flood the past week. We had to take off our shoes and change into our sandals, at some points I got lazy and just hopped across barefoot. I initially tried to avoid the water, being careful not to get my shoes and socks wet. After stepping into some puddles, I gave up and simply waddled through the river without a moment of hesitation. Wet feet it shall be.
After a few hours of trekking, we saw some semblance of civilization as we approached Rumbak village. It is made up of various houses along the streams as you can see from the map. Most of the houses have a homestay option but the villagers generally go about doing their own things. It makes quite an authentic homestay as compared to Nepal.
I was pretty exhausted by the time we reached Rumbak. I kept asking and thinking to myself, are we there yet? The village seemed to go on and on with its stone walls. The mud was thick and akin to walking on quicksand. Every step had a loud “squelch” sound as we sank in and had a hard time trying to dig our feet out.
As some of the rooms were taken up, we walked uphill and had to split into different rooms. I stayed with my guide Badal and the rooms was quite comfortable. It was even on the rooftop so one could see the area around and the village.
As there was nothing to do while waiting for dinner, I took a small hike to enjoy the evening sun and fresh air in the village.
The stars were brilliant that night when I woke up to pee. I stood outside for awhile just admiring the cloudless night sky. That is the great thing about being away from the city.
What a start to the trek.
Day 2 : Rumbak (3870m) – Mankarmo (4380m) via Stok La Pass (4900m)
Duration : ~6 to 7 hrs trek
Elevation : 1030m
We had a hearty breakfast. Although the food was basic, it was extremely filling because of the thick bread. Although we could not really communicate with our homestay hosts, it was nice to see their smiles and feel their hospitality. They had a beautiful dining area where we gathered for all our meals and tea, with all the copper pots and metal plates.
It was day 2. We gradually made our way from Rumbak village along the flat plains into the valley ahead. The views were amazing as you can see below. It started with a gradual uphill, which gets steeper as we inch closer to Stok La Pass.
The fun part started as we moved towards the high pass Stok la. I looked up, the path zig-zagged all the way to the top of the pass. I focused myself on controlling my breathing, believing that it will help me for the summit climb. This was training for me as i wanted to make sure I could acclimatize. I started to focus on controlling my breathing by breathing through my nose only and not panting. Going slow but taking consistent steps uphill was the key.
We trudged along the path slowly to Stok La pass. It was slow, really slow. Every step seemed to get harder, the breathing heavier. I persevered with my “training” and before I knew it, I had reached the top.
At the top of the pass, the multitudes of mountain peaks spread out before me. It was endless.
I stood there, absorbing the moment, breathing in the view while thinking about how beautiful this scene was before me and how hard it was for me to describe to people. I started wishing that there were more people who could see or experience such a beautiful view and started feeling sad at the same time that not many people could experience it.
A range of emotions welled up in me, so did my tears. My parents most likely in their lifetime would never see this, nor would my godparents, or many of my friends. How could I share such an experience that was burning in me?
I had no answer, except to soak in the moment and hope that one day, I would be able to convince more people to climb the mountains and experience the same view. Even though we might not experience the view at the same time, but I believe that the experience will be as intense if not more, and at least there will be a shared commonality.
We stopped at Stok La for lunch and to enjoy the amazing view. As I am usually not hungry when I trek, I did not touch most of my food. I think the experience of being in higher altitude during our Manali-Leh highway trip helped as none of us felt much of a headache at Stok la despite it being at 4900m. It got really windy and cold, no surprise seeing as it was so high. We quickly made our way down. The nice part about descending as opposed to ascending is that you get to enjoy the view that stretches out beyond you.
We continued downhill and walked along the river till we reached Mankarmo. The river trek was full of white rocks. It got extremely hot and tiring for me and I started having headaches. I think it was due to the intensity of the sun, as well as the weather difference, being cold and windy at Stok La and glaringly hot later. The lack of shelter from the blazing sun contributed to it too. Luckily I had my jungle hat if not it would have been a lot worse.
Or it could have been because of AMS. Either way, it was a relief to see the tents as I stumbled into Mankarmo. Mankarmo is situated near the gushing river where we could wash our clothes and ourselves if we really wanted to. I was too tired and had a throbbing headache. I ate as much as I could and tried to sleep it away.
The headache did not go away, so I had a horrible sleep.
Day 3 : Mankarmo (4380m) – Stok Kangri Base Camp (4980m)
Duration : ~3 to 4 hrs trek
Elevation : 600m
After 2 long days of trekking, today was a short day for us. It was only a morning walk to base camp and we would reach by noon. We had a long, slow and relaxing walk to base camp.
My legs were aching and my head still having a slight headache. However, as I kept on ascending, I felt better. It was only bad when I stopped walking. What a weird AMS I had. Perhaps it was more fatigue than anything. From Mankarmo, we could already see the snow-capped peaks of Stok Kangri. Now it feels real as you can really walking towards it.
The trail at the start was mostly rocks as we followed the river upwards. It was as though we were trying to find the source of the river.
We had a lot of time, so we took a long break and just lazed in the sun while watching others descend.
Apparently they were all groups coming from the base camp. We were excited to look and observe the various groups and wondered if they had reached the summit. Apparently, our guide Badal conversed with the other guides of those groups, NOBODY managed to summit for that night! That was crazy!
It meant that many groups were only going to Stok Kangri base camp, and the remaining had failed the summit attempt. After most of the groups had descended, there was one big group of old Korean guys, around 10+ people whom we said hi enthusiastically. It was rare to see Asians here. They were the only group who managed but they took like 20+ hours and reached the base camp at night. That was insane. Their guide joked that they were donkeys and he had to pull them by rope, maybe it wasn’t a joke. All the Koreans however looked pretty exhausted but in high spirits.
Seeing all these people and hearing all these stories, I wondered how we would fare. Well another worry for another day. We still had to make our way to base camp.
Oh, at this point I think we found out that our horses ran away so the horseman was trying to find back his horses. What a silly situation.
Resting too long wasn’t such a good idea as it reminded me of how much my body was fatigued. Luckily, the next 1-2 hours was pretty easy with a nice trail to the base camp.
Stok Kangri base camp was situated near the gushing river. You can hear the flow of the water from anywhere around. Luckily for us, the base camp was dry because we heard that that if it rains, it would snow in the base camp. The summit climb was weather dependent so we did not want to have bad weather. Usually, there is a 1 day buffer just in case of bad weather like a snow storm.
We heard 1 story of a guy who stayed a few days in base camp while waiting for the snow storm to pass and for him to acclimatize. How terrible was that? Just staying in the tent with nothing to do.
The water was really cold. It looked tempting to shower in there but there was no way anyone could do it, unless you were a crazy Russian maybe. My hands were frozen from trying to brush my teeth and wash my grimy face using the water.
After lunch, we had to do an easy acclimatization walk. This was because of the acclimatization SOP, of “Climbing high and sleeping low”, which allows the body to acclimatize faster. The standard is about climbing at least 400m higher than your sleeping altitude.
We took the same route we would take on the summit day for our first acclimatization walk that afternoon. There were some resident dogs in Stok Kangri base camp. Don’t ask me where they come from, but they would follow anyone who walks to Stok Kangri, like your guard dog.
We walked for about 2+ hours in the afternoon as we enjoyed the views around base camp. I guess on hindsight it was great to do it that afternoon because you would be able to enjoy the view. It was a slow day because everything we did was slow.
I took some time to write my journal.
It was really cold and windy in base camp though as I had to wear my jacket when I was out and my hands would freeze without my gloves even with the sun shining. Gone were the days of simply a short and pants.
Also, my nose was blocked due to the cold, like there was a lot of dry nose-shit inside. It was really quite uncomfortable. My lips were pretty dry and started to peel. Luckily, Nat had some multiple vitamin pills and Darren had redoxen. Both of which helped which made me realize how my immunity goes down due to the strain of being outdoors and in the mountains away from your normal comforts and routine. I was quite grateful for those and wished I was better prepared.
Day 4 : Acclimatization Day at Stok Kangri Base Camp(4980m)
Duration : ~2 hrs trek
Elevation : 400m
Today was another slow day. It was simply an acclimatization day so a simple 2-3 hour walk is sufficient. Although we could sleep in more, I had trouble sleeping due to the sounds of the river. It was another bad night of sleeping. My headache still hasn’t gone away, but once again as long as I walked it was fine.
We took a different route for acclimatization today as we simply walked up the hill behind for a different view. As tonight we had to do the summit push, the idea was not to strain yourself.
Once we descended, we had lessons for learning how to wear the crampons and how to tie them. We were also given gaiters. I practised a few times with tying the crampons but I wondered, would I really remember how to do it tonight?
Were we going to wear crampons from the start? I had no idea, it all depended on the weather conditions.
We had an early dinner and tried to sleep the next few hours to prepare for our summit push. I was trying to look out for the other Singaporean group, a SMU group which we met in Leh and was doing around the same time as us. I finally spotted them this evening, but they just arrived so I assumed that they were not attempting the summit on the same day.
It was quite hard for me to sleep in the evening when the sky is still bright, even though you are in your tent. Moreover people were still walking about and some crazy Isralis singing songs and making a lot of noise. Badal (My guide) and I was really annoyed as we tossed and turned, trying to get some sleep.
Day 5 : Base Camp (4980m) – Stok Kangri Summit (6153m) – Base camp (4980m)
Duration : ~12-18hrs trek
Elevation : 1173m
Start time : 12am
I was really nervous when I woke up. After putting on my contact lens, filling up my water bag and decking myself in all the summit gear, I was ready to go. It was time. We knew we were not that fast as a group so we were hoping to start earlier than others. Most groups take 6-7h up at most.
We walked the same path that we took on the first acclimatization trek. We were arranged in a certain order and I was the last man while the girls were in front. Usually the slowest is in front to set the pace.
I kept my mind off how far I had to walk, only on the path and the feet in front of me. Soon, we walked past the first snow instance. The summit path was an ascent on the hills until you hit the huge glacier traverse. There were quite a few groups going up that night. I estimated it to be around 10+ groups of people.
My guide Badal, who is from Sikkim has a bad impression of Indians trekking Stok Kangri. He claims that most of them just pay the money but are unfit and unprepared for it and they often make it only to base camp and turn around. It was true based on what I saw because throughout the trek, many of them looked really overweight or unprepared for it, like treated it as a for-fun activity. During the summit push, some of the groups turned around after hitting the glacier, it seemed like their guides were prepared for it, as if attempting the summit push was a show. I wondered if it was a case of an agency just pushing for them to do Stok Kangri because it was considered to be the “easiest 6,000m mountain” but knowing that their clients would most likely not make it.
The glacier was huge, it was flat at the start before going uphill on the snow. We had to traverse through the glacier to the false summit.
Our guide said because the weather was good and the snow was soft, there was no need to wear crampons. We continued on without crampons and my feet was slowly freezing as the snow got into my socks. One of my friends was struggling in front of me and going really slow. He had severe AMS and was pushing himself. While I tried encouraging him, the pace was too slow for me and I started feeling sleepy. I was suddenly afraid of falling asleep, so I told the guides that I needed to walk in front. The path seemed pretty straightforward as we were past the glacier and just going straight up.
They allowed me and I moved on ahead. I split from the group and kept on walking up. I followed the footprints in the snow left by people who were faster. There was another path, a straight arrow up to the summit, which was done by this group of 2 really fit and fast people. They simply put on their crampons and used their ice axe and went straight up, like 60 degrees vertical. I followed the safer zig zag path.
However, it still got too steep and slippery for my shoes. I realised I was on the wrong path and had to go downhill to meet the rest. The sun was starting to rise by then.
It was hard to go down as the snow was really slippery. I was starting to slide and scrambled to find a foothold or handhold. A guide helped stabilize me. When he saw I wasn’t wearing crampons , he flashed a look of annoyance and anger as he asked why I wasn’t wearing crampons and asked me where my guide was. I was too tired to respond at that point in time.
Meeting up with Darren and Nat at that point in time, we started to wear our crampons with freezing fingers. Luckily I managed to remember how to tie after a few tries. The guides were helping the other 2 while we helped each other before our guides caught up with us. In fact, our real guide was the 2 mountain dogs who were following people to the summit. They were the real Stok Kangri guides, it seemed effortless for the dogs to walk in the snow. I wondered where they got their mountaineering training.
It was sunrise by now and I could see the footsteps clearly which led us to the top. All ready with my crampons and ice axe, I headed on. Although the crazy group went straight to the summit, most people stop at the false summit.
I quickly took our my DSLR to snap some pictures. Finally I had the opportunity to do so, lugging it up to the summit was worth it after all.
The summit looked pretty close as you can see from the below pictures. However, it was way further than what it looked. It was at least a good 2 hours away and a harrowing ridgeline trek there.
From this picture below, you can see the massive glacier on the right side, which we came from the base.
We stopped for an hour break at the false summit. I still had energy to continue due to adrenaline, but the rest were quite exhausted and needed a break. Siswanto said, if you want to go ahead you can go ahead, but they needed a break. At this moment I realized it was more important for all of us to summit together than for me to go on so I stopped pushing.
In fact, there was only 1 other group of people with us at the false summit. The insane group of 2 persons had already gone to the summit and descended. The Israelis were on their way down. Out of the 10+ groups, we and another group of 2 person were the only ones at the false summit.
It was at this moment where I heard a loud shout followed by other shouts from people near the summit. It was the same group of Israelis who were making a lot of noise. They were running down the route and they were asking if we saw their friend. One of them had slipped on the way down and had tumbled down, most likely dead. We got quite scared and nervous, was it really that dangerous? Were we doing the right thing? Was this out of our league?
I wonder if the Israelis were drinking the night before, but they were certainly partying and making a lot of noise. Running down the mountain was crazy and I had no idea why they wanted to take such a risk, I guess maybe they were youthful and wanted a challenge.
Nat was really worried but we tried to calm each other down by saying we will go slow and steady and that they were careless. We tried not to think about it.
The final section of the Stok Kangri summit climb is on a rocky ridge which starts in front of the false summit, about 300 metres elevation more. The guides used rope to tie each of us together to ensure our safety, even though it was not a technical climb.
Slowly but steadily, we made our way to the summit. Ping was quite gone by this time as I could see that she was practically being pulled by Badal. The ridge line was pretty scary had we had to go in a single file and be really steady. One small mistake and we would have fallen off the sides down the mountain. I don’t think the snow is thick enough to save us.
Somehow, despite the lack of sleep, I was the feeling the best and strongest. I guess going uphill is my forte and I was lucky, it would suck for me to have severe AMS. Soon the summit was within our grasp, just 10 more metres before we reached. We did one final push together as I tried to power my way up.
We finally reached the summit, after 9 hours and were the only ones there! Hello 6153m!
The view from the top of the summit was nothing short of spectacular. I wished we reached earlier so that there wasn’t so much clouds, but in the moments where the clouds cleared, we could see the various mountain ranges which stretched before us, all the way to K2. Nothing could really describe the feeling and that moment. If you wish to know, get to the summit yourself!
The summit is actually a very small area, and behind us was a straight vertical drop to oblivion. I didn’t dare to look behind for too long.
As we were tied by rope and I was too lazy to undo it, there was limited angles which I could take my pictures and move about.
The best part was the somewhat planned coincidence that we reached the summit on Singapore’s National Day! I had brought my flag all the way up and taken a picture with Darren who was the only Singaporean with me. It was quite a perfect moment for me.
I think having seen so many teams of people drop out and not make it to the summit, I felt it was amazing and more fulfilling that all 5 of us made it. This was our first time to a high altitude summit and we made it together which was important.
The thing about a high altitude expedition is that the summit is just 50% of the journey. The other 50% is descending. You cannot spend all your energy and reserves summiting, as compared to doing Kinabalu or Rinjani as a lot more focus is required for descending.
We had to descend soon, if not we would be one with the snow at the rate we were resting. Most of us were exhausted by then. As it was almost the mid-day sun, it started to get really hot, but cold when the wind blows or the clouds cover the sun. The snow started to melt more on the way down, which made descending really difficult.
It was a slow process. First, we had to descend via the ridge which was an extremely tricky feat. It was filled with small rocks and snow. We went really slowly to make sure we had the right footing, all the while thinking of the Israeli who slipped on his way down.
After we reached back to the false summit, we had to descend through soft snow. The snow had melted and was quite soft by now. As we were tied by rope, it meant that if one of us fell, we had to wait for the person to get up before we could continue. If one of us had to stop and rest, all of us had to wait. It was truly one for all, all for one.
Our guide Badal tried to explain to us how to utilize the ice-axe if we ever fell. We were told that if any of us fell and pulled the rest off, the others should fall towards the ground and stick the ice-axe into the ground. Just a slight amount is enough to keep us anchored to the ground.
Just moments after he had mentioned that, he had slipped as he was running down to get to the front.
I felt the tug of the rope, a scream from Ping. I instinctively and instantaneously put my body and the ice axe into the ground. The amazing part was how everyone had the same reaction, except Ping and Badal who had slipped.
I guess in times of survival, your body will react to save yourself even though you have never trained for it. It wasn’t as scary as it sounds because Badal simply slipped downwards and not off the mountain and his body momentum wasn’t that fast or strong enough to pull all of us down. It was still a crazy moment, but pretty fun too.
As we descended under the devastating combination of elements of fire and ice, we started to run out of water and energy. I had almost no more water halfway during the trek and kept licking my parched lips. I had drank a lot on the way to the summit to keep myself hydrated as I feared getting AMS.
Additionally, my shades wasn’t so good so I started to suffer from snow blindness too. It was pretty scary because everything just looked white to me. I kept blinking and looking away, trying to mitigate the snow blindness as much. The heat and glare from the sun was really affecting me that I started feeling annoyed and dizzy as well, like I was walking in a dream.
I think some of us were really frustrated by the roping as it was extremely slow. It was for safety, but on hindsight we could have unbound the rope earlier to be faster, because being faster was better.
We finally unbound ourselves when we reached the flat part of the glacier. The soft snow can reach up to your knees at times which made it really hard to walk. Although the route was pretty much flat, it was basically extremely slippery because it was rocks and a bit of ice above it.
I was starting to feel quite scared because I kept hearing the sound of running water and imagined myself plunging into a water body (like walking in North Pole) with nobody to help me. The sound of trickling water really got on my nerves.
It felt like it was never-ending as the end of the glacier was never in sight. I had to keep my mind on following the other’s footsteps, tricking my brain that I would be reaching soon. It was a long lonely walk. I wasn’t even that tired when we were pushing uphill to the summit. Neither was I that tired when we were slipping and descending down the glacier.
However, it was at this point I really felt like I wanted to give up. Every time I slipped, I took a long time to get up wondering if I could just take a break. My reserves were spent and I was walking like a zombie, persisting only because I saw others still going. I saw Natlie start running through the glacier and I was amazed how strong she still was.
We finally reached the end of the glacier as I saw the assistant guide waiting for us. The colourful prayer flags really answered my prayers. It was a relief to finally stop walking on snow and crampons as we took a short break and took out the crampons. Now, it was another 2 hours back to the base camp.
The trail now was pretty standard. As it was later in the afternoon, the sun wasn’t so hot anymore. I took my time to enjoy the view as I knew that the dangerous and tough parts were over.
The biggest surprise was meeting our cook, who specially came to bring us some food and drinks. It was at a great moment, as I was desperately needing something to drink. Drinking worked wonders, especially when it was a sweet drink. Suddenly my head cleared and I was energized. Kudos to our cook! Kudos to the Stok Kangri dogs who followed us to the summit and back too! All the while wagging their tails happily and urging us forward.
Once we reached back to the camp, it was almost 6pm. Our summit push was almost 18 hours long. I was exhausted beyond belief and everything felt surreal. People came over to congratulate us for reaching the summit and some others were asking us about our trek. Well, at least now I could brag about reaching a 6,000m+ summit! It was an amazing experience thinking back, on all the little incidents that happened and I was just glad I made it up and survived.
Day 6 : Stok Kangri Base Camp (4980m) – Stok Village (3600m) – Leh
Duration : ~6 to 7 hrs trek
Elevation : -1380m
We were on high spirits when we woke up in the morning. We did it! The thought of it all kept running through my head as I tried to relive my experience. Although I would have wanted to sleep in longer, we had to depart back to Stok village. I thought that it would be a short walk, but it was longer than expected.
I think only 4 teams reached the summit that day. I felt really proud not because of the fact our team made it, but all of us in the team made it. Usually 1 or 2 people will drop out in a team but we managed to summit.
The route back was quite simple. We followed the same path down like those we saw on the way up to base camp. When we walked past people who were headed to base camp, I could see in their faces that they had the same thought I had, did these people summit? How was it?
I saw their looks of curiosity, amazement and a slight tinge of jealousy and worry when they conversed with us. I bet we had the same look too. It is great to be on the side that could proudly lift their heads high as the ones who managed to summit Stok Kangri.
The thing about this descent day was that I expected it to be a straight-forward descent. It was at the start.
We followed the river until we reached the familiar terrain of Mankarmo which was a trail of white rocks surrounded by rocky hills. It is at this point the path will split into a number of switchbacks. My body started to remind myself how fatigued I was as I struggled. My feet started to have blisters and my toes were hurting.
Everytime I ascended, I asked myself why? I guess the answer is in the next picture.
After one final ascent, I could see the village from the top. The path of greenery was a welcomed sight. We were close!
I thought it might have been another half hour away, but places are always further than what you expect. It took another 1.5hours for us to get to Stok Village. The rock walls were signs of the village. It was close, I picked up my limping speed. Seeing homestays was the first sign of civilization we saw for some time.
It was the end, finally.
I immediately took off my shoes and changed into my sandals. We had to wait for our vehicle to arrive to bring us back to Leh. We even had energy to visit Stok Gompa, because why not! Our thoughts were filled with finally being able to shower, lie on the comfortable bed or have an awesome dinner.
This concludes our successful Stok Kangri summit! We were so lucky to have great weather throughout the trek as it didn’t rain at all.
For more information on what to do before and after the Stok Kangri trek, do read up on my post on Leh and the side trips around. To know how to plan for this trip and other itineraries for the Stok Kangri Trek, do read this post.
Looking back, I had an amazing experience and learnt a lot from this trip. Although a part of me wished I had better sleep and wondered how fast I could have been, I am glad that things turned out the way they did.
I am sure everybody’s experience are different so I would suggest for you to have your own epic experience in Stok Kangri. Here are some of my pertinent learning points.
- Snow blindness is real, get good shades
- Redoxen or vitamins do help with your body immunity because one might not be used to such a strenuous trek
- A jungle hat is really useful
- A bandanna also helps one for breathing in the cold
- Overall, having good and proper equipment makes a huge difference to the trek
- Keeping hydrated and eating well helps with AMS.
- Do not spend all your energy reaching the summit. It is important to have enough stamina for the descent. Try to save some water for the descent
- The safety of everyone is more important than reaching the summit. It might be the most accessible +6,000m mountain but it doesn’t mean it is easy!
- It is much more fulfilling to reach the summit with all your friends =)
- If the dogs can do it, so can you!