India - Stok Kangri Expedition - HT Wandelreizen - July 2010

Panoramic View

Below you find a list of pictures, taken on the Stok Kangri Expedition organised by HT Wandelreizen from July 6 2010 to July 26 2010.
The most interesting images have a red bullet in front of them. In a hurry? Just want to see the pictures? Check out the slide show.
The days we were walking we kept track of how much time we spent walking. This is excluding the time for breaks.

July 6: Flight to Delhi

We met our group (minus Arie who flew via London) at the airport. We had to wait a long time before we could actually leave Schiphol Airport as it was very busy over Poland. The flight itself was very smooth.

July 7: Flight to Leh and back to Delhi

It was 2am when we landed on New Delhi International Airport. As we get out of the airport we stopped at a food court to watch the Dutch national soccer team play Urugay- and win! This meant we would not be able to see the final 4 days later as our expedition would leave Leh a couple of hours before the match... We then took the shuttle bus to the domestic airport. Something went wrong with the baggage labels so one bag had to be retrieved and re-labled before we could go through customs. Then Arjen found out his name was not on the boarding pass so he had to go back (on his socks as his shoes had already been scanned) and get a new boarding pass. We then had some muffins at the bakery and then the waiting began. At 6.30 we took off, later than planned as the visibility near Leh was quite poor. As we got closer we could indeed see that was true: a thin layer of clouds covered the entire valley. After circling the area for 45 minutes, looking for a clear spot to go through the clouds, the pilot gave up and we returned to Delhi.
After waiting a very long time for our luggage, we received vouchers for cabs and a hotel. Close to 1pm we arrived at the hotel. After a quick wash we had lunch. We went back to our room and read a little until it was time for dinner. After watching TV for a while, we went to bed.

July 8: Flight to Leh and around Leh

At 1.30am we received a wake-up call (that we didn't ask for). So we watched the last part of the other semi-final of the world championship soccer between Spain and Germany. Spain won and would be the opponents of the Dutch soccer team in the final. We packed our last stuff and went to the lobby to wait for the shuttle bus to take us to the airport. There was a very long queue at the check-in desks and when it finally was our turn, it seemed that the plane was full. Then Arie said we absolutely had to get on the plane as our expedition would leave the next day. When the lady behind the desk heard this, she gave our group the business class seats! So with a small lie we ended up on the plane... We left at 5.15 and we were served a very nice meal (apart from Arjen as they were out of business class meals by the time it was his turn). There were some clouds, but by far not as many as the day before. We landed at Leh at 6.20. The taxis were already waiting for us at the airport and took us to our guesthouse (Maryul). After unpacking and a cup of tea, we went by taxi to see some of the monasteries in the area. First the Sheh Palace, then the monastery of Thiksay and finally the Hemis gompa. Around 4.30pm we arrived back in Leh. We went for a short nap. Afterwards we had a slight headache which could be caused by the lack of sleep, the altitude or a combination of both. We had dinner at the rooftop terrace of the "Pizza Hut". After a bit of reading back in our room we went to bed early.

July 9: Likir and Alchi

After sleeping very well and very long, we had breakfast and by 9.30 the taxis arrived to take us to the monasteries of Likir and Alchi. On the way we had a photo-stop to look at the spot where the Indus and Zanskar rivers merge. At the Likir monastery they have a huge Buddha statue outside. In Alchi we had lunch before visiting the monastery which consists of a bunch of temples. Around 3pm we headed back for Leh. Close to Leh we had a small accident as our taxi tried to squeeze in between a car and a truck and only did so after hitting the truck. No severe damage, but still scary. After dinner we had our briefing on the expedition with the local guide and the Dutch owner of the local trekking company. It all sounds not to tough, but spring has been long, wet and cold - meaning there will be a lot of snow up there. Temperatures promise to be quite ok: probably no colder than -5°C (23°F) at night.

July 10: Phyiang and Leh

Around 10am we took the taxis to Phyiang, which is quite close to Leh, to attend a religious festival. After an hour or two we took the taxi back to Leh. After lunch and some rest in our room (partly spent on the toilet by Patricia as she had diarrhea), we did a tent-inspection to see how they should be put up and if they were in good shape. The tents were quite big and very easy to put up. After dinner at "Wonderland" we went to bed as we would have to get up early as the expedition would start the next day.

July 11: To Hinju and our first Campsite

Breakfast at 6. After a last visit to the toilet by Arjen (who now had diarrhea) we took off. We passed Phanjila, the original starting point of our expedition, as the road was just asphalt. We stopped at Hinju where the road ended. We met our horsemen and cooking crew and had lunch before we started walking - finally! After only 45 minutes we arrived at our first campsite. We put up the tent and after tea went for a short walk up hill to explore the first part of the route of the next day. Arjen was troubled by diarrhea and nausea. We started with diamox to prevent altitude sickness. After dinner everybody almost immediately went to their tents.
This day we walked approximately 1h25m.

July 12: First Campsite (3.938m / 12,920 ft.) - Konzke La (4.900m / 16,075ft.) - Second Campsite (4.243m / 13,920 ft.)

At 6.30am we got bed-tea and washing water. The night had been quite warm, no colder than 14°C / 57°F inside the tent. The first part of the trip went slowly uphill. After that there was a very steep ascent to the Konzke La at 4.900m / 16,075ft.. As Arjen still had diarrhea that was a very tough ascent. On more than one occasion he thought he would not reach the pass, but finally at 12.40 we arrived at the pass. We went down on the other side a bit to have lunch in a less windy spot. We then went down much more towards a small creek that we had to cross on several occasions. Fortunately it was not very broad so we could jump over it. We saw lots of pretty flowers. At 4.20pm we arrived at our campsite. Arjen took Lopramide against the diarrhea.
This day we walked approximately 4h35m.

July 13: Second Campsite (4.243m / 13,920 ft.) - Pagal La (4.115m / 13,500ft.) - Dundunchen La Base Camp (4.105m / 13,470 ft.)

Again bed-tea at 6.30. It had been a cold night, only 4°C / 39°F inside the tent. Arjen took Lopramide as there still was no improvement on his condition. As our Dutch guide had forgotton to mention we had to have our water shoes in our day pack, we all had to dig them out our main luggage before we finally left around 8.15. We went mostly down, crossing/jumping the stream occasionally. Around 10.10 we arrived at Sumda Chumo where we had drinks. We also visited the largest house of the village where they served us tea and showed us around the house. It even had its own altar. After that we had a look at the wooden Buddha statues dating from the 8th century. We then started walking again, further downhill. The mountains on either side of the valley had wonderful coulours: red, yellow, black, green and pink. At the lowest point for the day we had lunch. After jumping the stream (most used their watershoes to cross it), we zig-zagged up to Pagal La at 4.115m / 13,500ft. (according to our GPS). Shortly after that, we reached the camp site at Dundunchen La Base Camp. Arjen took another Lopramide to try and stop the diarrhea.
This day we walked approximately 4h55m.

July 14: Dundunchen La Base Camp (4.105m / 13,470 ft.) - Dundunchen La (4.585m / 15,040ft.) - Chilling (3.265m / 10,710 ft.)

The night had been quite warm again, 14°C / 57°F inside the tent. The ascent to the pass started immediately outside camp. First we passed some summer meadows where we ran into the grandfather of Jigmet, our guide. At 10 we arrived at Dundunchen La at 4.585m / 15,040ft. The climb went reasonably easy. At the pass most went up some nearby hills, but Arjen stayed behind. From the windy pass you could look for miles. In the distance Stok Kangri was visible. We headed down until noon when we had lunch at 3.875m / 12,710ft.. After lunch we walked down even further to Chilling where we arrived at 2.30pm. Here we learned that the Dutch soccer team had been beaten 1-0 by the Spanish 3 days earlier. Patricia used the solar charger for the first time - it works really well! In a reastaurant near the Zanskar we had cokes and potato chips. Arjen received a banana in a further attempt to stop the diarrhea. After dinner he discussed the options for continuing as he was getting weaker now. It was decided to try it for one more day as the next day would be easy and we would camp close to the highway.
This day we walked approximately 4h15m.

July 15: Chilling (3.265m / 10,710 ft.) - Choksti (3.225m / 10,580 ft.)

It was a very warm night with 18°C / 64°F inside the tent. Because of the expected heat during the day, we got up half an hour earlier than the days before. By 7 we were walking through Chilling. We met the mother of Jigmet (he is from Chilling). After a short walk we arrived at the highway which we had to follow for some 20km / 12.4mi.. We saw two groups of boats rafting down the river. The first 3 boats belonged to one group. The last boat flipped over backwards and all people fell out. We saw that most reached the shore quite fast, but one person was in the middle of the river. The two boats in front apparently did not know how to deal with this situation and were unable to help before they were all out of sight. 2 guides from our group helped two of the people that managed to get ashore on our side to get up the steep riverbank. About a kilomter downstream we crossed the river using some sort of trolley attached to a cable crossing the river. We arrived at Choksti. As our horses with the luggage weren't there yet (they had to take a longer route as they obviously could not cross the river the same way we had), we had to wait a while, enjoying the nice weather. At 2.50pm we arrived at our (quite small, but very beautiful) camp site, located in an orchard. As it was warm and we had time, we both washed up in a small stream. Arjen shaved his one-week-beard off. Arjen decided to give it a shot tomorrow - if it would not go well, he would go back and head back to Leh. At 7.30pm we had dinner, special arrangments (yoghurt and noodle soup) again for Arjen.
This day we walked approximately 4h20m.

July 16: Choksti (3.225m / 10,580 ft.) - meadow near Palam Peak (4.780m / 15,680 ft.)

Again a warm night: 20°C / 68°F inside the tent. Bed tea was at 6 to get an early start. At 7.30 we started walking. This day, the only way was up. We saw some small animals (mainly lizards) and some very nice flowers. At 12.30 we stopped for lunch. Close to the camp site we saw a group of Kiangs. At 2.25pm we arrived at the camp where our staff was waiting for us with hot orange lemonade. The camp was located at a wonderful spot. Looking back we had a great view of the Ladakh mountain range and up ahead we could see Palam Peak. Arjen had a good day and felt he should be fine to continue the trek.
This day we walked approximately 4h15m.

July 17: Meadow near Palam Peak - Kang La (5.263m / 17,267ft.) - Palam Peak (5.263m / 17,267ft.) - Camp Site (4.404m / 14,449ft.)

After a couple of shots of the whole group, we started walking around 8. First to Kang La. On the way up we saw some blue sheep. If wat getting quite cold: time for our fleeces and gloves. Before 10 we were walking in the snow. At 10.10 we were at Kang La (5.263m / 17,267ft.). Here the group was split in two: Arjen and Mia who did not want to walk up to Palam Peak went to a second pass where the rest would join them later on. It turned out that Palam Peak (5.376m / 17,638ft.) was only 18m / 59 ft. higher than the pass Arjen and Mia where waiting... Patricia went on to Palam Peak to enjoy the view of the Zanskar Range, Stok Kangi, Leh and the Indus. From the second pass the group continued more or less at the same altitude for quite some time. On the way we saw a group of 5 Oryx. Impressive animals, the biggest animals in this region. We passed Ganda La - going over the ridge just below this pass (only Renske walked up; we decided not to having been there in 2004 already). From that point on it was a steep descent to the camp site at 4.404m / 14,449ft. where we arrived at 15.15. Patricia went to buy some Coke and potatoe chips - some extra salt and sugar we could definetely use. After dinner we could enjoy the view of the sun setting on Stok Kangri.
This day we walked approximately 4h50m.

July 18: Camp Site (4.404m / 14,449ft.) - Rumbag - Tsogsti Camp Site (4.268m / 14,002ft.)

This would be an easy walk. First down to Rumbag via Yurutse. Near the "restaurant" (a tent serving drinks) where we had tea we had to cross the stream a couple of times, including a walk on a small log crossing a wild stream. In 2004 we had visited this restaurant too. Not much had changed apart from the fact that the garbage is now collected per type: metal, glass, paper and plastic. One wonders though what happens with the separated garbage as it needs to be disposed of... In Rumbag we took the time to take some pictures of the local kids. By 12.15 we already arrived at the Tsogsti camp site (4.268m / 14,002ft.). That gave us the opportunity to take a bath in the nearby stream, which was unfortunately quite cold - resulting in just washing our arms, legs and hair. The advantage was the sun and temperature which warmed and dried us quickly. After dinner our staff and that of a second group camping nearby, made a camp fire. They also served Chang (sort of local brew like white beer). Patricia had a few sips, it tasted like white beer with lemon. Arjen, feeling well now for the last three days, decided not to take any chnaces and passed on the opportunity. One of our staff would have to go all the way down to Leh with all of our passports. The reason was that the permits had not yet been signed and due to an accident near Stok Kangri with someone who did not have a permit, permits would only be signed with an accompanying passport present. The guy would join us again in 2 days at Stok Kangri BC.
This day we walked approximately 2h35m.

July 19: Tsogsti Camp Site (4.268m / 14,002ft.) - Stok La (4.864m / 15,958ft.) - Mankarmo (4.380m / 14,370ft.)

From our camp we had to walk up to Stok La. We left early (before 7am). The first part wasn't to steep, but soon we were zig-zagging up. Within two hours we arrived at Stok La (4.864m / 15,958ft.). There was a strong, cold wind so we didn't stay there very long. The landscape was beautiful though. Oddly shaped rocks on one side, a great view down to Rumbag and up a head a nice valley. Near the Stok river our climbing guide joined our group. He came from the Stok village. Walking upstream we arrived around 12.15 at Mankarmo (4.380m / 14,370ft.) where we camped. Quite a busy spot. At leats 50 others were camping there. Here we learned that two days before an Israeli man had fallen into a glacier lake near Stok Kangri BC and eventually died from hypothermia. We drank some Coke and ate some potatoe chips for extra salt and sugar. Most of the afternoon we spent reading in our tent.
This day we walked approximately 3h25m.

July 20: Mankarmo (4.380m / 14,370ft.) - Stok Kangri BC (4.972m / 16,312ft.)

As it would be a short day, we could sleep a bit longer. Bed tea was at 7 and we started walking only just before 9. On the way up we felt some raindrops, but not enough to get out our raincoats. We met some people coming down from Stok Kangri BC who had been at the top of Stok Kangri two nights before. Our guide did not feel well when we came close to Stok Kangri BC. After some rest he could continue to the camp. He was given some Diamox and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing. We enjoyed the sight of the marmots (lots of them!). Later in the afternoon there was a short storm. We were told by our climbing guide that with that weather nobody would be allowed to continue. He also told us that the next morning we would not immediately go up to Stok Kangri high camp, but first see how the weather would hold. Around 8 there was much less wind and the clouds were breaking already.
This day we walked approximately 1h45m.

July 21: Stok Kangri BC (4.972m / 16,312ft.) - Stok Kangri High Camp (5.350m / 17,552ft.)

Around 8 we had breakfast. The weather was just fine and we were disappointed we had to wait. We spent the time playing some games. Around 11.45 we had lunch. Just after 12.30 we got a go from our climbing guide and started our ascent to high camp. The horses would not be able to reach that, so our staff would act as porters and carry our luggage. The weather got worse and soon it was snowing. Had we started walking early, we would have been high and dry at high camp by then...
We decided to put on our rain trousers and goretex coat. Finally around 2.20pm we arrived at high camp (5.350m / 17,552ft.). We quickly set up the tents (less than before as there was not enough space for all of them, some tents now were for 3 rather than 2). As not all luggage could be carried up by the staff, we had to wait for the second batch to arrive, which it did at 4.45pm. By then we were quite cold. Arjen fixed his crampons and Patricia asked the guides when we were supposed to be doing that. They helped her as it could not be done without some equipment. We had dinner in our own tent as there was not enough room in the cooking tent (our dinner tent was left behind at base camp). The guides said the decision to go for the top or not would be made at 1am that night. We had the feeling they were planning not to go up...
This day we walked approximately 1h15m.

July 22: Stok Kangri High Camp (5.350m / 17,552ft.) - Stok Kangri (6.125m / 20,095ft.) - Stok Kangri High Camp (4.972m / 16,312ft.) - Stok Kangri BC (4.972m / 16,312ft.)

We overheard our guide and the climbing guide discussing the options. They were quite negative but to our surprise the decision was to go for it. We did not pack up (as we "could be back within an hour" - talking about confidence and positive thinking...). This we would do on the way down. We were supposed to leave at 2.15 but as someone from the group was arguing she had not known she would have to carry her day pack this day herself (prior days they had helped her as she was not feeling too well by carrying it for her and apparently she could not figure out herself that for our staff an extra day pack would be too heavy). Finally at 2.30 we left the camp. After just half an hour Arjen's leg went through the snow (up to his hip). Unfortunately there was water below the snow, which ran into his shoe. He immediately knew that was the end of the summit attempt as it was too cold to continue with a wet foot. He turned back to the camp, accompanied by our climbing guide who said he would drop Arjen off at the camp and then go back up to join the group. Back at the camp, Arjen's foot was blue, but he could warm it inside the sleeping bag. Good thing it hadn't happened higher up the mountain and good thing he had decided to go back. The climbing guide left the campsite to go back up - or so he said. Not too long after Arjen turned back, one of the group felt she could not keep up anymore and decided to go back too. Our guide decided to accompany her. Just outside the camp they met our climbing guide. Then the three of them joined Arjen back at the campsite. Patricia, the rest of the group and the remaining staff (the cook and our trekking guide) went up to the point (5.800m / 19,029ft.) where the last ascent to the top would start.
Here they discovered there were only 4 harnesses for 8 people... That's 4 short, 8 if you count the people back at high camp who were supposed to have been up there too. Two of the group decided to go back and the staff went up without harnesses... It was a tough ascent, but around 8.30 they were at the top! According to Patricia's GPS they were at 6.125m / 20,095ft. They spent half an hour taking pictures and enjoying the view before heading down again. On the way back Patricia and another person also went through the snow with one of their legs. They had to be dug out, but were lucky not to have been into the water. By 11.30 Patricia arrived back at the camp. Arjen had already packed everything including the tent. After some tea we started going down to base camp where we arrived at 1.30pm. By 9 we went to bed.
This day we walked approximately 3h41m (probably a lot more, but perhaps we went so slow the GPS did not notice we were moving).

July 23: Stok Kangri BC (4.972m / 16,312ft.) - Mankarmo (4.380m / 14,370ft.) - Stok (3.625m / 11,893ft.) - Leh

The last day of packing up and the last day of walking! Bed tea was at 6.30. We left around 8.30. They way down led back to Mankarmo (4.380m / 14,370ft.) and then downstream to Stok (3.625m / 11,893ft.). On the way we had tea and later on a long lunch laying in the sunshine. There were 2 minivans waiting for us. We took the first one straight to Leh together with two others. The rest wanted to see Stok Palace first. Back at the guest house we took a long, hot shower. At 6.30pm we went for dinner with the group and asked our staff to join us - they had done a marvellous job and deserved the treat. It also was a nice opportunity to thank them, give them their tips and say goodbye. Some would set out for a next trekking within 2 days. The food at Summer Harvest was excellent. After the goodbyes we went back to the lodge.
This day we walked approximately 3h20m.
This makes for a total of 44h20m for this holiday!

July 24: Leh

We slept for a very loooooong time. After finally getting up, we went to the German Bakery "Pumpernickel" where they serve excellent cream cheese sandwiches. Then we went shopping for souvenirs. We bought calendars for our families and then went back to the hostel to drop them off. For lunch we went to the Pumpernickel again - this time cream cheese sandwiches and chocolate pie. Yummie! At 4pm we gathered to discuss the following day (going back to Delhi). We went for a beer with two others. It was difficult to find a restaurant serving this, but we eventually found one where they served "special tea" - beer from a tea pot and glasses covered by a napkin so no-one could see you were drinking beer. This because the restaurant was located near the town's mosque. We bought some more cream cheese sandwiches (for breakfast the following day). For dinner we had pizza. Back in our room we packed the last stuff and quickly went to bed - we would have to get up real early the following day.

July 25: Leh - Delhi

We got up around 4. The sky was clear, so we had a good chance of getting a flight out. After our sandwiches and a cup of tea we headed for the airport at 5.30. At 7.45 we took off. 8.55 we arrived at Delhi. We said goodby to one person that had a different flight back and wanted to visited downtown Delhi. The rest of us went to the Ashok Country Resort. We took two rooms so we could fresh up during the day and relax a bit as our flight to Amsterdam would only leave late that night. We had lunch and dinner there and in between most of the group spent the time in or near the pool. Some went to Delhi and Arjen stayed inside (an airconditioner is a wonderful invention...). Around 9.15pm we took a taxi to the airport.

July 26: Delhi - Amsterdam - home

At 1.15am our plane left Delhi. We had a good flight back and landed half an hour early at 5.20am. Trains weren't running accoring to plan, so it still took quite some time before we finally arrived back home around 8.30.

10 days later: flash floodings

Flash Floodings in the greater Leh area killed over 125 people on August 5 2010, just 10 days after we had left the area. Some of the houses we passed while visiting Leh, Sheh and Stok are no longer there, its inhabitants dead because of nightly flash floods that came in their sleep without any advance warning.
Our thoughts go out to the victims and their families.