All expert trekkers should for sure go on Stok Kangri trek to experience the ultimate thrill. Eight days of challenging and exciting trek through the Ladakh Mountains will push you to the limit. Stok Kangri, at about 20128 feet above sea level, is the highest peak in its namesake range of the Ladakh Himalayas. Before you start the excursion, you get a whole day just to roam around in Leh, a scenic and culture-rich town. You then travel to the old village of Stok, where you will reach after a drive through winding mountain roads lined with birch trees. The elevation gain will begin right from the moment you start the expedition from the village. You will first travel to Chang Ma, where you will find your tents set-up on slopes at an altitude of around 13087 feet.
The next day you continue the Stok Kangri expedition and make for Mankorma. This is among the most picturesque of journeys as along it, the mountains will keep changing colour depending on the amount and angle of sunlight. Mankorma with its flat terrains provides a pretty contrast to the slopes of Chang Ma. At night, the Orion arm of the Milky Way galaxy with millions of twinkling stars is clearly visible from here. Wake up in the morning and get ready for a tough part of your excursion. The diminishing oxygen levels, rising cold and increasing altitude will make you utilise all your mountaineering skills.
This section of Stok Kangri trekking will take you to the base camp of the mountain. You will get to look at some wonderful scenery, which will take away all your stress and the feeling of the hike being difficult. Along the way, you will come across many small glacial lakes, which shine white because of the bright sunlight. A lush green meadow by a narrow brook makes for a perfect spot to set up camps. To reach the top, you will first ascend to a glacier, and then begin the real ascent. You will have to walk on all fours along the southern face of the mountain because of the narrow rocky path, and the approximately 75 degree gradient of the slope. After an hour, the climb will become easier, and at the top, you will get views of the Zanskar and Karakoram Mountains. After you reach Stok, you will drive back to Leh, where you get a whole day to rest.
Day 01: Arrival in Leh
There are numerous options to arrive in Leh, which is the administrative centre of the Ladakh region. You can come here all the way from New Delhi via road. Alternatively, you may also opt to take flights from New Delhi to Leh, or book trains to Jammu and complete the rest of the journey by road. On arrival in the town, find your lodging and rest for the night.
Day 02: Leh (Acclimatisation)
Day two is for you to continue gathering energy for the ensuing Stok Kangri trek, and acclimatise to the cold weather, high altitude and diminishing oxygen levels. You can also utilise your free time to stroll through the town, and learn about its culture. You may see the raw beauty of the Ladakh plateau, shop at local markets or pay visits to numerous Buddhist stupas and monasteries nearby. In the evening, return to your lodging for another overnight stay in the town.
Day 03: Leh (11500 feet) to Chang Ma (13087 feet) via Stok Village (11800 feet)
In the morning, drive to the picturesque village of Stok. It is located south of Leh, and from the vehicle, you will get enchanting views of naked mountains and the lush green fields nestled amidst them. The road goes through the Himalayas, and is lined with birch trees, which provide a rich contrast to the otherwise barren slopes of the region.
Stok, located at an altitude of around 11800 feet, is among the oldest inhabited places in Ladakh. The village was the residence of the former Ladakhi royal family, and a museum here displays their belongings. The most prominent attraction here is the Stok Monastery, which was constructed somewhere in the 14th century. Your Stok Kangri expedition begins after you arrive in this picturesque and culturally rich village. In the first stage, you hike through the mountains to Chang Ma. Your tents here will be set-up on rocky and treeless slopes, giving you a unique experience. It might be a challenge for you to get in and out of them as they would not be on flat lands, and will definitely elevate your challenge further.
Day 04: Chang Ma (13087 feet) to Mankorma (14200 feet)
This day, you travel more through the mountains, and ascend to greater heights. You will hike through the Himalayas for roughly 3 hours on a relatively easier track. On the way you pass some pretty streams and scenic high-altitude Ladakhi mountain valleys. As you cross the first brook, the scenery will change altogether. Till here, the mountains would have seemed grey and lifeless, but beyond the river, the angle and amount of sunlight will be such that the hills will become purple.
Mankorma consists of flat and wide terrain with thorny bushes, typical of desert-type vegetation, scattered all around. A narrow stream flows below and makes for an ideal site to camp. On reaching Mankorma, stay overnight in tents. When it is pitch black, do not forget to look at the skies. You will see millions of twinkling stars in a white band, which is the Orion arm of the Milky Way – our galaxy. If you are a couple, this would be among the most romantic settings to camp anywhere in the world.
Day 05: Mankorma (14200 feet) to Base Camp (16300 feet)
The following section of Stok Kangri trekking will take you to the base camp of the summit. It will be a difficult ascent as the continuous gain in altitude will result in lessening levels of Oxygen. All along the hike, you will wind along rocky and narrow mountainous trails. Though you will face difficulty in climbing and breathing, the divine scenery will compensate generously for it, and make it a wonderful excursion. After you cross a hissing river, the trail will become wider and smoother, but will keep ascending. Along the way, you will see numerous alpine lakes, and their tiny ripples and waves will seem white due to the sunlight falling on them and illuminating them. You will also travel across mountainous meadows, where you may be able to see sheep grazing on lush grass.
On reaching the base camp, enjoy lunch and spend the rest of the day at leisure. The base camp is situated on a comparatively flatter land form. A narrow brook makes its way through here, and the slopes and ground have a nice green covering. In almost any season, you will be able to see some amount of snow at the topmost points of the mountains, which encircle the base camp. There are a few smaller peaks here, which you may climb as a means of preparing yourself for the toll-taking ascent, which you will encounter later in your expedition. Relish dinner in the evening, and then retire for the night in the tents provided to you.
Day 06: Rest, Acclimatisation and Training
Though it does not involve any hiking, this is one of the most important days of your excursion. The rest has been provided so that you are able to further acclimatise to the weather and topographical conditions, and also get the necessary information needed for scaling the summit. Your guide or team leader will brief you about the different challenges and hazards you might face during the climb. Make sure you have snow boots as the snow will be soft, and as a result, your feet will sink in it. Also ask your guide about the trekking plan, the terrain of the region, and what all you need to do or carry. Post the briefing, explore the area, click pictures, relax, and later enjoy another overnight stay here in tents.
Day 07: Base Camp (16300 feet) – Stok Kangri (20080 feet) – Base Camp
The morning brings yet another phase of long and rigorous mountaineering. Considering the length of the journey, it will be divided into a number of smaller sections, and you will stop to rest after each one. Starting from here you will travel to a glacier. You will first encounter a sharp and lengthy ascent, after which the altitude gain will become lesser. The slopes and your ascent will be gentle till you arrive at the magnificent river of ice, which originates from the peak.
You reach the glacier after a gruelling hike of approximately three hours from the base camp. The real climb to the summit of Mount Stok Kangri begins here. To reach the top, you will climb for about two hours more along the southern face of the mountain. The gradient of the slope here is almost 75 degrees, and the path contains loads of small rocks and enormous boulders. Remember to climb carefully as one little mistake can be dangerous. Post negotiating the rocky path for about an hour, you will see that the climb has become gentle, and it is way easier to walk now than it was before.
From here, you will get a clear view of the summit and colourful Buddhist prayer flags decorating it. On reaching the top, look around and see the Karakoram Range in the north and the Zanskar Mountains in the south. Post enjoying your success and clicking photos, retrace the track back to the base camp. Coming down brings a different challenge as due to the force of gravity, you will end up descending too fast. You will need to keep a check on your velocity. On arriving at the base camp, relax and enjoy your overnight stay.
Day 08: Base Camp to Leh
The last phase of your Stok Kangri trek will make you travel for 12 km till you reach the village of Stok. On arrival in the village, board a vehicle and drive back to Leh. After you reach the town, transfer to your lodging and rest for the night.
Day 09: Departure from Leh
In the morning, travel to the airport to board your onward flight, or drive to New Delhi by road.