Stok Kangri Trek is more than just a trek. It is an adventure where you will be challenged physically, emotionally and psychologically. The summit day will give you jitters for months after the trek is over. The glacier which you would trek on the last day of Stok Kangri trek will probably be one of the toughest physical challenges ever! The dark surroundings which can make you weak in knees will resurrect the worst demons in your mind. The lack of oxygen and unforgivable wind will make you curse the day you decided to trek Stok Kangri peak.
But, when you reach the seemingly insurmountable peak, it will be worth. You will look at the valley below, the sky above and thank your stars. You will thank your destiny which brought you here, amidst purest of nature and blissful landscapes, providing you a memory to cherish for the lifetime!
The mighty Stok Kangri peak in backdrop
So, what makes Stok Kangri trek tough as compared to other treks in India? If you wade out the technical treks, which are obviously tough, Stok Kangri might just be the toughest peak to climb in India.
To read my details Stok Kangri trek experience, you can read my blog post here.
Here, I am highlighting 5 factors which made Stok Kangri trek tough for me. You might discover more factors or would find some of these not too daunting. But, I surely had to overcome these factors to achieve a successful summit climb.
1) High Altitude
This is an obvious one. But, it has a major impact on trekker and hence, can’t be missed. Any high altitude above 12,000 feet can induce AMS symptoms in a trekker. In Stok Kangri trek, all the camps are located above this height. The Stok Kangri base camp is stationed at a staggering 16,300 feet. The Stok Kangri peak itself stands 20,100 feet tall! High altitude plays a very important role in creating difficulties for a Stok kangri trekker. The thin air and lack of surplus oxygen supply can throw your mind in a conundrum and affect your judgment skills.
AMS, however, can be fought away by following some important tips. To read 5 significant tips to keep AMS symptoms at bay, you can refer my blog about How to prevent altitude sickness
2) Blatant Cold wind
When you are trekking towards Stok Kangri summit on Day 4 & 5 of the trek, a major challenge is the 3 KM long glacier which can shake your belief and hamper motivation. As many as 7 trekkers dropped out while trekking the glacier stretch. A major reason was the piercing cold wind which takes the open terrain of the glacier and culminates in swooshing wind at subzero temperatures. Despite wearing 5 layers, I shivered while trudging through the glacier terrain.
For folks who weren’t even wearing 3 layers, I can’t even imagine their plight.
The glacier in daytime
To fight this unforgivable cold and thrashes of wind, it is advisable to wear at least 4 layers and have your ears covered well. Keeping your head open can also prove to be a mistake.
3) Inclination gradient
The steep terrain you encounter on the summit day is no joke. Almost 70-degree inclination gradient is a considerable challenge for an individual having average fitness level. In addition, the hard snow on glacier stretch and after makes it difficult to affirm grip on. The crampons, however, help in establishing a good grip. But, one miss and you will go tumbling down in a dark valley below.
Keep your spirits high and be cautious with every step. Undivided attention is required to avoid slips and falls. Make sure you have established a good grip before taking every step forward. Your trekking pole will help you here.
To face this gradient efficiently, you need to ensure physical fitness. I was clocking around 150 squats a day before my Stok Kangri trek. Strong thighs will really help you out there.
This is one of our acclimatization walks. The summit day inclination is even greater than this.
4) Lack of sleep
For the summit day trek, you start anywhere between 9 pm to 11 pm. You trek for the entire night to reach the summit around 8 am. That’s around 12 hours of strenuous trekking! You get to see sights to behold for life. But, when you are up there, a calming waft of wind will seduce you to sleep. It is important to stay aware and fight any impulse to take a nap under the pretext of resting, especially when you reach shoulder. Trekkers rest for some time at the shoulder before they are roped up and last leg of summit day trek begins. Fight your sleep and don’t let those eye lids drop down.
To evade massive sleepiness in wee hours of the morning, make sure you sleep in daytime on rest day. On the same day when the trek starts at 10 pm, you have a free afternoon. Slither in your tent, pull over that sleeping bag and get a sound sleep of 3 to 4 hours. It might be difficult for folks who aren’t habituated to nap in afternoon. The sun at its zenith might also make your tent hot. But, try and take a nap. You will thank me later!
5) Gastronomic problems
When you are trekking in the middle of night after a heavy dinner, you are bound to have stomach issues. It will be tough to find a spot to relieve yourself. So, when it comes to having food, your breakfast should always be heavier than lunch & dinner. Dinner should be very light. Folks gorge on food in dinner thinking that they will extract energy from it. But, I don’t think it’s a good idea.
Well, these 5 factors can make Stok Kangri trek a tough one. But, all can be tackled if prepared well.
Our team atop Stok Kangri peak