About Stok Kangri Trek
How high have you ever dreamt of soaring or climbing or floating up the altitude in your dreams? The Stok Kangri Trek, at (hold your breath) 20,500 feet ie 6,153 m is the highest summit that one can trek up to in India. The allure of scaling the magnificence of the terrain that the Himalayas offer draws several venturesome travelers to the Stok Kangri. It is perched atop the Stok Chu river valley near the village of Stok.
The Stok village is located in the Leh district of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (Leh tehsil, 17 km southeast of Leh town). The village houses its share of locations worthy of being visited, ancient structures such as the 600-year old Stok monastery and a nineteenth-century palace which is the current residence of the former royal family of Ladakh. According to the 2011 census of India, the village of Stok houses some 300 households. It can be explored for sight-seeing before we set out on the actual trek.
Stok Kangri is popular amongst trekkers as a trekking peak and is often climbed as an initial non-technical foray into high altitude mountaineering. Over the last few years, it has become extremely popular amongst trekkers even novices due to its non-technical nature. The peak is considered non-technical from July–August but becomes quite technical when the climax of winter hits. Illustrating the Himalayan terrain, Stok Kangri trek embraces deserted surroundings and offers its trekkers the opportunity to experience a different dimension. The entire trail has incorporated many ridges such that one feels the sudden change of scenery. During the winter season, this entire landscape looks stunning. The peak provides a dynamic view of Zanskar and the Indus Valley.
However, Stok Kangri trek does not come without its share of challenges and risks. The Stok Kangri, firstly, is not for the faint of heart, as it can stagger you physically. The essential factor is good acclimatization without which scaling such an altitude and such a terrain is impossible. At 20,500 feet, things can get very hard.
Despite its relative ease, the peak presents the daunting risks and challenges of a trekking expedition. Acclimatisation in Leh, before attempting the trek/climb and altitude acclimatization during the ascent, is essential. The biggest obstacle at such altitudes is rarefied air, which can cause acute headaches, nausea and other symptoms of altitude sickness even in the most physically fit of all climbers. There have been a lot of professional and experienced climbers criticising the enthusiasm of novices or inexperienced trekkers who set out to climb the Stok Kangri.
At 20,500 ft, this peak is the highest trekkable summit in India. It poses a great set of intimidating challenges. Acclimatization, as mentioned above, is the most important of all factors, as that ensures one’s tolerance and bearability factor when it comes to the rarefied air. It is also very surprising how this acclimatization is done only in the mountains of Ladakh, which at 11,000 ft are a good 9000 ft short of what one sets out to conquer in climbing Stok Kangri. One’s capacity to acclimatize there does not predict one’s capacity 9000 ft above that. Several people are hit by AMS or nose-bleeding and turn back halfway through.
The landscape is filled with the magnificence that does not fail to awe but it does not remain without posing challenges that test one’s ability to endure physically strenuous challenges. All of your trekking efforts will be worth, the time you reach the peak, You will look at the valley below and be filled with joy.
Important factors regarding Difficulty –
Then, to illustrate what exactly makes trekking this peak difficult, I will state a few factors.
First of all, and the most evident one, is the problem of a high altitude. An altitude that surpasses 12,000 feet can induce AMS symptoms in a trekker. It dries the respiratory system out and puts pressure on the lungs. At Stok Kangri trek, each of the resting camps can be found above this elevation. The base camp itself is stationed at an intimidating 16,300 feet. And here again it is to be specified, that acclimatization is literally the essential factor in easing the passage of oneself through the trek.
The second factor is the unforgivably cold, freezing wind that cuts through the skin. When trekking towards the summit on the fourth/fifth day of the trek, a major obstacle is a glacier spanning a few kilometers that causes a huge hindrance. Several trekkers tend to drop out when moving through this stretch because of the piercing cold wind which consumes the open terrain at subzero temperatures.
The 70-degree gradient of inclination on summit day is a challenge for everybody and requires great levels of physical fitness and to add to this is the rigid ice and snow that decorates the glacier which hinders one from establishing a firm grip.
Climbing the Stok Kangri is incentivized by the pictures and ideas of the beautiful landscape that one can behold on reaching atop but the journey is also tough. However, if certain things are taken into account and practiced along with great endurance and good physical fitness, the Stok Kangri trek should be relatively easier. Also to be considered is the fact that it is not just the ascent but also the descent that is to be taken into account. For once one has reached the top of the mountain, there is the coming back part, which is believed to be tougher. Descending from Stok Kangri peak is even more challenging than the climb up as the sun makes the snow soft and the path slippery. Thus, there is no end to the challenges posed.