I squinted my eyes to see the farthest peak in Karakoram range. With my palm facing downwards, I placed my hand on forehead, to shed the bright sunlight away. The intense sun and cold winds created an unforgiving combination. At a height of 20,187 feet, cold breeze created a swooshing sound under my skullcap. The sub-zero temperature made me shiver with cold but the early morning sun disbursed warmth at the same time. Laden under the burden of exhaustion, sleep, and hunger, my body was in the most hostile environment ever. My mind contemplated running down to be endowed by the warmth of barren lands. But, my heart was overwhelmed, excited by this physical and mental feat of conquering the Stok Kangri peak. I listened to my heart and took a deep breath. Though I didn’t get as much oxygen as sea-level, it felt good. I felt at peace. After a year of planning and anticipation, I was finally sitting peacefully on Stok Kangri peak with my arms wrapped tightly around knees and the trekking pole resting on my shoes. I allowed the feeling of exuberance to seep in. I rested my eyes on the illuminated glacier below, reflecting the bright sun-rays in magnificent fashion. I couldn’t fathom how a glacier, this beautiful in the day, can be so nerve-wracking at night while climbing!
I shifted my focus and observed the sun. 8 AM Sun never looked so bright! I couldn’t stare at the sun for long and my heavy eyelids gave in. I tuned out the excited cheers in the background and a quick flashback ran across my vision.
I reached Leh 3 days before the 6 day Stok Kangri trek started. Generally, trekkers arrive one day in advance to acclimatize well to the reduced level of oxygen in Leh. But, we arrived earlier with an intention to explore the beauty of Leh before we embarked upon Stok Kangri trek. We spent one day in the local sightseeing, which you can find as a part of various Ladakh tour packages and the next day visiting Tso Moriri lake.
Day 1 – Let the adventure begin – Stok Village to Chang Ma (13,100)
On Day 1 of our Stok Kangri trek, we were taken to the Stok village which lays around 15 KM away from Leh town. Stok is a quaint little village resting peacefully under the shade of the mighty Stok Kangri peak. After distributing refreshments, our trek leaders initiated the trek. We strolled amidst vast landscapes and on rocky terrain with a lot of hope in heart.