Stok Kangri Summit Experience
One of the world's highest trekking summit. It is one of the most difficult treks in India. Beyond the enticing milestones that go along with the mountain lie an unnerving demonstration of physical endurance and mental ruggedness.
Am I ready for a climb of 3900 ft. on the summit day which is more climb than summit days on a lot of peaks, including Mount Everest? Not sure. Do I want to give it a shot? Certainly. I go ahead and register for the trek. The scale of challenges ensured that I am as keen to register for personal insurance as I was for the trek itself.
Jump to 4th-9th August, my first 6 days of trekking. Mostly plain terrain interrupted by mild to moderate ascents. Far from the shadow of what the final summit day would look like. Here’s to staying in tents- completely at the mercy of sunlight, locating strategic places to pee in the open, enjoying a hot bowl of dal chawal as much as I would enjoy wood-fired pizza on any other day, playing poker and mafia at 16000 ft. and possessing sleeping bags as my own little comfort zone.
9th August, 10 pm is when we leave for our summit push, hoping that the hot bowl of porridge we had just before leaving serves us both in energy and good luck. First few hours passed on as expected- trying to maneuver steep slopes in pitch dark, assisted by our last-minute assembled head torches. From hills to moraines to glaciers to the notorious shoulder- the knife edge ridge to the summit. Ropes tied to harness were safeguarding us, should we slip. Plodding with tired legs and almost wasted body, we hoped to catch sight of the summit with our every next step. It was not to be. Crossing one hump from another, summit seemed a distant dream while we continued to bargain with our body for an additional dose of energy to sustain us for another few minutes. Not so soon, the summit revealed itself on our horizon. So near, yet so far- merely a few vertical meters away, still we take ages to ascend. Slow yet unsteady, finally at 7:08 am, we step our feet on the 20100 ft. high summit. Views around the summit were a sight to behold. Mighty mountains surrounding Leh appear in the backdrop as small hillocks. If not for the mist, we could also have had a glimpse of K2, the second highest mountain in the world. The knife-edge ridge we treaded on seemed even narrower, mysteriously suspended in thousands of feet deep valley. A brief moment of silence to come to terms with our surreal surroundings gave way to chants of victories, customary poses with tricolor and group photographs. Never had I been so happy in such harsh weather conditions. Gung-ho with the satisfaction of summiting, our guides bring us back to reality- ‘We also have to descend this giant mountain’. Oops!
With our bodies only fit to walk like a kid on all fours, we begin the arduous task of retreating from the summit. Step by step, we are advised to be extra careful, as we cross accident-prone areas one after another, with a disturbing history of causalities. Motivating guides, supporting teammates, and a leap of faith on own capabilities eventually brings us to our makeshift home- our basecamp; though not before slipping multiple times on our way down. Homecoming, at around 3 pm! We are greeted by congratulatory handshakes and fresh lime juice, which we quickly gulped down as celebratory champagne. A nice way indeed to end our 17 hours long journey!