Tuesday, September 15, 2009

9th September - 14th September: Stok Kangri Trek

Stok Kangri Trek

Scrabble: Sheena 4 - Simon 1

Squabble: Sheena 6 - Simon 1


So this is the story of the Stok Kangri trek. To make it easier for you we have provided you with 2 options. Option 1 is Simon’s abridged version for those not willing to read for more than 30 seconds. Option 2 is Sheena’s much more sensible edited version of Simon’s long winded boring summary. Read one or both as you wish.

Option 1 - Abridged Version:

Hot rocky

Valley pretty

High tiring pass

Snow storm

Cute Marmot

Sheena sleep Simon climb

Fucking Cold!

Simon sad

Cute Marmot


Beer and chicken

The End

Option 2 – Sensible Edited Version:

Day 1

We set off from Spituk on our way to Zingchen with our guides, Stenzin (our walking guide) and Andy (our personal chef as well as mountain guide). It was a hot 4-5 hours walking through fairly flat, but quite rocky terrain. The campsite was picturesque with lots of trees and a river running through it. After a hot sweaty walk, it was refreshing, to say the least to wash in the ice cold river water. Why is it on these treks, they always overfeed you? Not complaining though! Andy cooked a feast and Sheena attempted to communicate with him in her broken Hindi. Good practice.

A horse trying to break into our tent at Zingchen

Day 2

Another massive meal to start the day, before we started our uphill climb towards the Rumbak valley located in Hemis National Park. The Rumbak valley is home to a wildlife conservation group dedicated to looking after the local species including the snow leopard. We didn’t see any.

Zingchen is only at 3300m altitude and our campsite in the valley was to be at over 4000m so there was a bit of increase to be achieved. The scenery was beautiful as we followed a stream up through a gorge until we reached the base of Rumbak valley which greets you with the sight of snow capped mountains in almost every direction.

From our new, colder home we could see Stok La, which was the pass we had to tackle the next day…At over 4900m it looked intimidating!

Heading up through the Rumbuk Valley

Sheena looking chilly at camp on day 2

Day 3

The walk up to the Stok La was steep and difficult (more difficult for some than others J) The view from up the top was spectacular. The walk down was easy and really enjoyable. On the way we encountered our first meeting with wildlife as a herd of Blue Sheep jumped from rock to rock on a cliff face.

Once at camp we could see Stok Kangri clearly and we (especially Simon) looked on in horror as a storm piled lots more snow on the peak.

That night we celebrated Andy’s 26th birthday with cake and soft drink kindly bought by Andy at the local supply tent.

Sheena on top of the pass at 4900m

Heading down from the Stok La

Looking up at the snowstorm in disgust!

Celebrating Andy's birthday, Andy on the left, Stenzin on the right

Day 4

Today’s trekking involved a relatively short walk up to Base Camp which is situated at over 4900m. Even though the walk was short, it was quite tiring as it was continuously ascending and the altitude was high. On our way up we came across a lot of disappointed trekkers who were not able to summit due to the poor weather conditions the night before. Also came across some who did summit the night before that who said it was V. Hard. Sheena discouraged and not wanting to summit. We also were fortunate to see our first Marmot; a small beaver like animal that lives in little holes in the mountains.

After lunch we decided to walk up the first steep section of the summit trek up to the snow line. From here we felt like we could touch the summit and it was quite exciting. After a bit of a snow fight, Sheena was starting to consider the summit. 2 hours later Sheena once again decided she didn’t like the idea of climbing a mountain in the cold and dark.

Cute Marmot

Base Camp at over 4900m

Just up the hill from base camp at over 5000m with Stok Kangri in the background looking menacing.

Just above Base Camp

Day 5

At 12:30 we woke up and Sheena told the guides that she would not be attempting the summit, which meant I (Simon) would be going up with Andy and Stenzin would stay at Base Camp.

With the Chemical Brothers programmed into my Ipod, I set off in the freezing cold attempting to climb a further 1200m up to the peak at over 6100m.

At this point there is fairly little to say except, dark, cold, and tiring, however it was all going very well up to Advanced Base Camp and I was feeling quite confident considering the good pace being set.

Andy and I then walked through the snow across the magnificent glacier adjacent to the peak having to jump over the odd small crevasse. This was the highlight of the night.

Once over the glacier the trek became a lot more difficult with the ascent becoming very steep and over snow, ice, and lots of rocks. It was at this point that I became quite cold and was also feeling the sickening effects of altitude. After a further hour and a half of steep climbing and intensely freezing temperatures we had made it up to about 6000m however I was frozen from head to toe. I could barely feel my fingers, legs and toes and with the ridge to be crossed which encounters strong winds, we decided it was no longer safe to continue.

Heading down towards base camp was quite painful and tedious and after coming very close to throwing up on the glacier I at least got to witness the sunrise light up the peak making all the hard work actually worth while.

By 6:30 in the morning I had interrupted Sheena’s sleep passing out in the tent after briefly explaining what happened.

After a few hours sleep we walked back down the mountain towards the village of Stok for about 4 hours.

Even though I didn’t summit Stok Kangri, the trek was still very enjoyable and beautiful, and I am already thinking about when I want to come back and try again (Richard S – interested?)… This time with warmer clothes and in warmer July! Sheena thinks I am mad.

Feeling a lot warmer than 1 hour before... the sun reveals the glacier at about 5400m having come down from about 6000m.

Super strong Andy having a smoke at Advanced Base Camp

The sun lighting up the peak that defeated me... this time

I would've taken some photos from higher up if I could have felt my fingers, but happy snaps was not really the priority at the time :p

Day 6

After waking up in our tent for the last night we had another Andy breakfast feast of porridge, parathas, eggs and chai. We walked down to Stok Village to be picked up for a ride back to Leh.

All credit to our guides Stenzin and Andy (and our pony man name unknown) for constantly smiling and laughing and making us feel like a Sahib and Madam ji J As amazing the scenery of Ladakh is, a lot of what makes this place special is the kindness of all these mountain dwellers.

After coming back to Oriental we had AWESOME long hot showers, chilled out and relaxed. Meat and beer for dinner. YUM.

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