Stok Kangri – Part 1 – pre-trekking days

This is the first part of the blog that covers our Stok Kangri summit in July 2018.

20th July 2018

Having woken up from our disturbed sleep – the flight took-off from Mumbai at 4 am! – we raised the window shades of the airline seats we were in (which, we had, smartly enough, all selected the ‘A’ seats to get the best views…more here) and could not stop looking outside at the remarkable and intriguing Himalayan landscape below. For a first timer landing in Leh, it’s amazing how remote, barren, inhabited and incredibly beautiful this place is!

View of the Himalayas as the flight lands in Leh

The landing strip at Leh airport…as seen from air
Gazing mesmerized at the view outside
The play of shine and shade over mountains near Leh airport

There were pre-landing announcements in the aircraft, and continuous announcements at the airport asking people, in summary, to take it easy on the first few days in Leh. Drink lots of water, do not exert too much, take rest (but avoid sleeping during the day which will make it difficult to sleep in the night, and shallow breathing during sleep is a potential culprit in some of the AMS symptoms), and consult a doctor should you have any AMS symptoms.

It was funny actually. All of us were conscious to not muck around too much, not carry luggage ourselves too fast, or even to speak too fast and laugh out too loud!

We took pre-paid cabs (they fix the rate on a slip, but you pay only after arriving at your destination!) to our homestay – Tukchu – and reached our rooms. The place is just at the base of Shanti Stupa. Besides the excellent Tripadvisor reviews, its proximity to Shanti Stupa was an attraction since we could then do multiple acclimatization hikes to the Stupa! Good spacious clean rooms, and welcoming hosts. Had a nice breakfast, stayed in the rooms, chatted, and generally chilled for the rest of the day, only stepping out to go to the market for a quick coffee and momos in the evening.

Time for some introductions!

This is our gang of intrepid adventurers just after leaving Rumbak. From L to R: Nilesh, Anand, Rajeev, Alex, Anusmit, Seba, Anne, Nivedita, Michael, Nidhi, Radhika

21st July 2018

Sleep was good…and we were in good spirits the next day. So good, in fact, that we chose to do a short hike to the Shanti Stupa.

The Shanti Stupa in all its glory against a beautiful sky

The hike to the Shanti Stupa from the base of the hillock

In the second half of the day, quite impromptu, we managed to hire a cab and head over to Khardung La! We were advised to stay there for 20 mins, and we ended up staying there for over 45 mins…climbing up the Gompa, having Maggie and coffee, and clicking pictures. There was a slight drizzle which made the weather too cold though.

Khardung La – what’s a trip without a photo with this board?
A milestone – probably the highest in the world too?
Some Maggie and coffee, anyone?
It’s cloudy, drizzling and very cold!

The second night too was quiet and everybody slept well.

22nd July 2018

The third day we climbed Shanti Stupa again in the morning, did some last minute packing and shopping in the afternoon. We even had Lobzang come over to give us a briefing on what to expect in the coming days, and answer our questions. We went to his office to make some payments, to hire walking sticks from a nearby shop, and get our shoes checked for suitability (general firmness, and crampon compatibility).

The main Bazaar in Leh is beautiful…and pedestrian only!
Walking around in the by-lanes of Leh market
Stop-n-Shop – we got our customized t-shirts done here, and he was kind evolutions to deliver at our Homestay past midnight!

I had my birthday, and 40th one at that, and the gang was kind enough to arrange a small celebration and cosy dinner at a nice and quiet place. One of my most memorable birthdays ever I must say!

A birthday dinner with friends!

We reached Tukchu and slept, with great anticipation of the trek to begin the next day.

For the first 4 days of trekking until reaching the Stok Kangri base camp, please continue reading on to Stok Kangri – Part 2 – Trek to Stok Kangri Base Camp.

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