This Stok Kangri trip report was written by experienced guide John Healy about his adventures in August 2017.
Diversity could be the keyword to describe the Stok Kangri climb. From weaving through the chaotic hustle and bustle in the heart of Delhi’s city to the quiet trails amid a seemingly endless network of canyons, valleys and high passes, there always seemed to be something interesting developing around the next corner.
Getting to Ladakh
From India’s capital Delhi, we took a breath-taking flight over the foothills of the Himalaya which ends with a dramatic diving turn of the aircraft to land on a runway crafted from the broad sweep of the Indus valley at the Ladakhi capital of Leh. Here, traders mingle with tourists, trekkers bargain over trinkets and tapestries. The mountains meet the river plains and everything is up for negotiation. We can only linger long enough to acclimatise to the new height before we begin our trek.
We drive along the Indus Valley until we meet another mighty river, the Zanskar, and follow this until the road runs out. Our intrepid group cross the Zanskar via a precarious basket cableway, and with that, we step into another world. Over the next few days, we follow the river canyons and valleys. Sometimes they’re steep and rocky and other times broad and green. It’s here that small communities of farmers eke out their living. The friendliness and smiles of the locals belie what must surely be a hard existence.
Getting above 5000m
Progressively we gain height and acclimatisation, the vistas as we cross the Ganda and Stok La passes at almost 5000m serve to inspire us onward to the final camp below the Stok Glacier. Here it is time to rest and eat, preparing for the summit day. Our first night at camp brings snowfall, a contrast to the blue skies we have enjoyed so far, but really it is just a reminder that these are high mountains, to be respected. We pack equipment, test the crampons, eat and rest some more and soon it is summit night.
Summit night on Stok Kangri
The initial hours pass quietly, we have the trail to ourselves as it meanders along the moraines and eventually crosses the Stok Glacier and the real climb begins. We don our crampons and start up the long snowy slopes that lead to the summit ridge. As we climb higher, the altimeter creeps up. You can see twinkles from the head torches of other groups on the glacier far below. They’re too far away to be heard and the silence of the mountain is both eerie and mesmerising. We emerge on the ridge as the light begins to filter over the horizon.
After we scramble along the icy rocks towards the summit, an hour of careful work realises our goal. We have timed it to a tee…….the sun breaks over the horizon just as we arrive at the summit. The golden dawn bathes the surrounding peaks below us. Time to draw a satisfying breath, summit hugs, and take it all in. It has truly been a memorable experience for all involved.
Thanks again to John for writing this Stok Kangri Trip report. I know it makes me want to go, what about you?