STOK KANGRI LADAKH - 6123 m

Duration: 18 days
Best time: July to September
Stok Kangri Top: 6123m
Base Camp: 5230m
Technical difficulty: Low-angle snow or straightforward scrambling on rocks; ropes/crampons are not usually required; previous climbing experience is not essential
Fitness: should be fit; average rucksack weight 5-6kg

To join the expedition you need the following specialist equipment: Ice Axe, Crampons, Harness, Plastic or Leather Mountaineering Boots, 4 Season Sleeping Bag

Stok Kangri is one of the main peaks of the Zanskar range, situated in the fascinating region of Ladakh. The South Ridge provides an exhilarating climb in these fantastic surroundings. Although straightforward, the route is challenging and interesting, providing stunning views of the Karakoram Range, and on a clear day views of Mt. K2 in the far distance.

Expedition Itinerary

DAY 1, Arrive Delhi:
Arrive Delhi International Airport; assistance on arrival and transfer to domestic airport for flight to Leh, the capital of Ladakh.

DAY 2, Delhi – Leh (fly):
Early morning flight to Leh; the flight takes us over the Greater Himalayas and makes an exciting landing at one of the highest airports in the world. Weather permitting we can get excellent views of Stok Kangri as we fly in, and on a clear day it is possible to see the great peaks of the Karakoram range to the north. From the airport we are escorted to our hotel, Kang Lha Chen. The rest of the day is at leisure. Leh is at an altitude of 3500m/11500ft and you can expect to feel the effects of the rarefied atmosphere. For the first few hours, you may experience breathlessness and even a slight headache. These symptoms of altitude sickness are mild and usually disappear quickly; however, everyone is advised to take it easy for the first day or two. Any strenuous activity (push-ups, hill sprints) is definitely taboo!

DAY 3, Explore Leh:
A day entirely your own, to relax and stroll around town and to allow the effects of the altitude to wear off. This is an important period, which allows the body to acclimatise for the trek ahead. There are plenty of distractions in Leh from visual (colourful town and inhabitants) to sensual (smells and sounds of Leh) and savoury (Ladakhi cuisine).

DAY 4, Leh – Lamayuru:
The drive to Lamayuru is an experience in itself and takes about 4hrs. The road follows the Indus for some time and then rises through a series of spectacular bends before dropping down to the small village of Lamayuru. En route visit Alchi, a “World Heritage Site”.

After some refreshments at Lamayuru, we set off on our trek to Wanla. Moving from the village, we pick our way through fertile fields that surround Lamayuru and leave the valley, past some Chortens, into a dry gorge which has a beauty of its own. We follow the gorge to the top of Prinkiti La (3725m); it is a fairly short, steep ascent to the summit of the pass (La), and is soon gained if maintaining a steady pace. The path then gradually descends a narrow gorge until Mani Wall and Chortens herald your arrival in the Wanla Valley; the ochre monastery in Wanla can be glimpsed through the trees. From this point onwards we follow the valley and arrive at our campsite. Trek: about 3hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 5 Trek up the Ripchar Valley:
We leave Wanla and follow a broad trail that runs along one side of the valley, until we reach the village of Phenji. From here, we turn up Ripchar Valley and follow the path along the irrigation ditches. We pass villagers working in the fields and their scattered houses, all the time gradually climbing higher. After walk in the warm morning sun, we take a break for lunch in the shade of trees that grow along the valley. After lunch, we continue to climb until we reach the village of Hinju, where it is possible to buy a most welcome bottle of pop. The campsite (3800m)is some distance beyond Hinju in a very pleasant meadow. Trek: about 6hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 6, Cross Konse La:
We leave early and follow an easy path until we are at the foot of Konse La (height just less than 4950m). The walking at this point gets more strenuous, but the effort is soon forgotten once the top is gained; from this vantage point, the views are amazing. The descent is as swift as it is steep, but as it eases we pass a number of shepherds’ huts where we may be offered fresh curds (yoghurt). The campsite (4100m) is reached after about one hour’s descent from the pass. Trek: about 5hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 7, Trek to the village of Sumdochenmo:
From the campsite the trail descends gradually, criss-crossing a pleasant stream. After sometime we leave our friendly brook, and follow a path adjacent to a water channel until we arrive at Sumdochenmo village. At the village it is possible to get tea, and there is also a small monastery that provides a short diversion. Beyond the village, the path curves high above the vale bottom, until it drops to a junction of several valleys. Here we find some welcome shade where we may partake our lunch. Until this point, we have been descending gradually; before us is a climb separating us from our campsite. At a steady pace, the high point is reached in about an hour, before a gradual descent leads to a dusty but pleasant campsite (3900m) with spectacular views. Trek: about 4hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 8, First views of Stok Kangri from Dungduchenia:
We leave our camp and walk past some shepherd huts on our way to the top of a pass. The path is perceptible and affords some delightful views of the mountains (great place for echoes near the top). The top is reached within two hours. From Dungduchenia (4450m) if the weather permits, we get excellent views of Stok Kangri. The way down is most pleasant to begin with, but a steep descent into a gorge heralds the start of a slog particularly if the weather is hot. Fortunately, the campsite (3100m) at Chilling makes up for all the hard work. Sometimes beer is available as well as rum for the more discerning. Trek: about 5hrs; overnight in camp.

DAY 9, Return to Leh (drive):
Having completed the initial part of the expedition, we return to Leh for a breather. The trek will have taken us through spectacular country, both acclimatising us and making us fitter for the final assault on Stok Kangri. The benefits may not be immediately apparent, as we shake off the celebrations from the night before, but on summit day to come, our acclimatised bodies will be more assured. After breaking camp, we drive along the banks of the Indus to Leh and on arrival settle down in our hotel for the evening. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 10, Rest and exploration in and around Leh:
The time is your own to chill out and explore Leh. The austere Leh Palace looms over the town, which was the seat of the old Ladakhi kings. Below the citadel, behind the bustling bazaars, in the narrow labyrinthine streets and alleys of the ancient city, another world pulsates with life; worth a dekko. Sauntering through the many, bazaars, shops and restaurants of Leh you will have a pleasurable day, but do take time to look towards the south. On the horizon, rising higher than all the mountains in its vicinity, stands Stok Kangri. Don’t be alarmed by its appearance, as it does look very precipitous from Leh. Just remember, that there is an easy way up the other side…and we know it! Overnight in hotel.

DAY 11, Matho River Valley -Stok Kangri (trek):
Early morning, we drive up the Indus Valley to Matho (2hrs); the start of our approach to Stok Kangri. Returning once again to the barren mountain wilderness, we trek up the Matho River Valley and camp at a place called Matho Phul (4480m), after several hours’ walk. After a rest in Leh and fully acclimatised by the first slog, everyone should be fit and in tip-top shape for the trek to base camp, and climb to the summit. Overnight in camp.

DAY 12, Trek to Stok Kangri Base Camp
From Matho Phul, we continue up the valley making a steep climb over a pass from which we get superb views of Stok Kangri. Also visible below is the Base Camp and the whole route from Base Camp to the summit can be pointed out. From here, a steady descent leads to our campsite (5000m) and home for the next two nights. Overnight in camp.

DAY 13, Rest day and eleventh-hour inspection for safety measures & other details:
The expedition leader checks the route and you may join him, talk short walks around, rest and prepare yourself for the big day ahead! Overnight in camp.

DAY 14, Summit day:
Our summit day begins before dawn, to give us ample time for the climb. The nature of the climb from Base Camp depends on present snow cover. It is most likely that we do not need our crampons for the most part as we scramble over scree and boulders, which lead up to the south ridge. The 450m ridge that stretches up to the summit is exciting and superbly exposed, although never particularly steep and very straightforward. Most of the ridge is like a steep path, so ropes are not usually necessary, although some scrambling is required. At an altitude approaching 6000m it is extremely tiring; therefore, anybody may use a rope if feels the need for it. The summit is a superb reward for all the sweat, providing magnificent views in every direction; Leh appears like a tiny speck, barely visible. After taking photographs and perhaps a small bite (by way of lunch), we set off downhill to the Base Camp. The route taken depends on the leader, but it is usually a reversal of the way we went up. The evening meal is accompanied by a wee dram to celebrate the occasion! Overnight in camp.

DAY 15, Base Camp – Stok:
From Base Camp we trek down valley for the village of Stok. This is a long but delightful tramp, passing several homesteads and ruins of numerous old fortresses. We reach Stok after about 6-7 hours walking, from where we drive back to Leh. Overnight in hotel.

DAY 16, Leh – Delhi (fly) – Agra (drive):
After another spectacular flight, we return to Delhi and drive to Agra (about 5hrs). Overnight in hotel.

DAY 17, Agra (sightseeing) – Delhi:
Sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal, set within paradise gardens; return to hotel and after breakfast visit the grand Agra Fort. Return to Delhi. And transfer to hotel where we have rooms available just for wash and change till 1800hrs. After dinner transfer to the airport for return flight

DAY 18, Departure:
Early morning fly back.

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