Stok Kangri – Part 3 – The Stok Kangri summit, and back to Leh

This is the 3rd, and final part, of the three part Stok Kangri series. You can find the Part 1 and Part 2 here.

26-27th July

After an early dinner, we went to the tent to sleep…but obviously couldn’t due to anxiety and the fear of missing out on some preparatory and need-to-carry stuff.

Early dinner before the summit attempt!

When the alarm rang, I stepped out in the cold weather, met up with Radhika and the guides, had a warm soup and started in the darkness with our head torches to guide us on our path. Reaching the first hillock was a breeze since we had done it once already during the day. Getting down from that peak on the other side was not hard either, and we reached the erstwhile ABC – Advanced Base Camp – that was the night halt for trekkers before the government closed this camp in the interest of environment. The ABC is just a slope of the mountain, with sharp-edged boulders all over it. I wonder how could the teams have slept in such a terrain!

We continued walking further until we reached the frozen Stok river, aka glacier! This was to be the highlight of our summit attempt! It’s a beauty to behold in the moonlight, the snow glistening bluish white, with small streams of melting snow flowing downstream.

The glacier…uneven at places, smooth as glass at others, and always awesome!

We put on our crampons and crunch-crunch‘ed our way onwards across the glacier. We had picked up the narrowest part of the glacier to cross, which means we had to trudge further upstream on the bank of the glacier.

No place for liquid water…even the moisture on the rocks turns into thin invisible ice, making for a super-slippery rock!

Crossing the glacier was slow but easy, barring 2 crevasses we had to jump over, and ‘jumping over’ with your heavy backpacks and wearing crampons was not a cake walk. And there is no chance of error – a fall could easily hurt you. We also met some folks from other groups who had to return due to fall or other issues.

The crevasses run deep, and you can hear water gurgling down!

After crossing the glacier, we removed the crampons and continued further towards the peak, through rocky inclines ranging from 50-70 degree slopes, requiring us to take big high steps, and reached a point where we could see a gorgeous sun rising from the horizon.

One of the most beautiful sun rise of our lives…and clear skies!

We rested here a while, and had a quick bite. Looking further up, we could see other climbers far higher up, negotiating another glacier on a steep slope. And they looked like tiny ants from where we were. It was 5:30 am at this point, and the guide said, while we could continue walking for another hour, or hour-and-a-half, our chances of summiting are very low since we were too slow.

Time’s up 😦
Radhika and me, soaking up the welcome sun!
Everything is 10x more beautiful bathed in the golden glow of sun!

We called it quits at this point and walked back to our welcoming tents at the base camp. I guess we went back to sleep around 8 am, while those of us who did summit (Seba, Michael, Alex and Nivedita), reached back to base camp around noon. Rest of that day is a haze due to sleep deprivation and mixed feelings about how the day went.

Overall, I would consider this a massive success for myself since

  • I had the courage to undertake a goal much bigger than myself, and venture into the unknown (this was my first high-altitude trek)
  • Got out of the tent on the chilly summit night, and got going with sights firmly set on the summit
  • Had the best time of life during this trip
  • Got to celebrate my 40th birthday with wife and friends, in this exotic location!
  • The kitchen crew was kind enough to bake us a cake for dinner to celebrate the effort!
  • The cake! Stoked, by surprise!

    A good night, with clear skies and a satisfaction of having done our best that day.

    28-29th July

    We started early on 28th, 8 am’ish, and slowly walked down the Stok river. It’s amazing how quickly time passes when you are able to breathe easy while losing altitude. We crossed Mankormo and took the right when the river turned right (the left would have taken us back to Stok La, unsurmountable from this side!). Not too long afterwards, we reached the Chang Ma camp site – which had just a canvas covered permanent tent – and we continued further, soaking in the different mountain views, until we reached the Stok village.

    Chang Ma camp site looked to be just this canvas-and-stone tea house!
    The terrain continues to amaze us on this route too!
    One of the high points on our way back to Chang Ma …with panoramic views!
    “Follow the river” is a wise advise to any lost soul. It will lead you to civilization!

    If you follow the river, you would avoid climbing a mountain, but the guide said it’s not ‘safe’ to follow the river and hence we did climb a mountain just 30 mins before the Stok village. Upon reaching the Stok village, we were happy as kids, being back to civilization, with shops well stocked with fizzy sugary drinks and potato chips laden with excess salts! Life’s good!

    We waited a while for the van to come back after dropping the first set of friends to the hotel, and meanwhile, the ponies too had arrived. Idling away our time, we had parathas and chana sabzi, with Thums up (Nidhi’s favourite), and relaxed and chatted endlessly.

    Lessons learnt:

    • Depending on the speed, we should have started early on the summit night. May be 8 pm or so, instead of 11 pm.
    • Group warm up exercises and stretches before leaving, and after reaching.
    • Walking together for team spirit, and not spreading the resources (read, guides) too thin
    • We should have taken the route through Chang Ma to save energy and accummulated fatigue. That is, leave Stok La for another day.
    • Instead of walking, and stopping to catch up on breath, it would be better to walk at slower pace so that we don’t have to stop so frequently…that way the rhythm would set in and help us trek easy

    Future plans:

    We intend to do another high altitude trek next year. And continue to look at the maps!

    6 thoughts on “Stok Kangri – Part 3 – The Stok Kangri summit, and back to Leh

      1. Thanks Ameya!
        We went through “Zanskar Kanishka Expeditions”. It’s a Leh based firm…and the owner Mr Lobzang is very helpful and knowledgeable.
        It would be certainly helpful to speak at length to the guide(s) who will be leading the expedition to get to know each other, develop comfort and have the right set of expectations.


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