This is the Sixth Chapter of a series of posts about ‘how I got Leh’d’. In this series, I have covered everything related to my Stok Kangri Trek Expedition. Just to let you know that Stok Kangri is the highest trek-able peak in India. In a series of articles, I have covered EVERY SINGLE ASPECT from planning to mapping to packing your rucksack and obviously the entire trekking experience.
This chapter is about returning from the summit after I successfully scaled the highest trekkable peak in India – Stok Kangri, and the going on a wild exploration of Ladakh.
A quick recap: if you have been reading my Leh-Ladakh stories, by now you know the struggles that I have faced to reach the Stok Kangri base camp. In a series of travelogues, I have penned down how I had planned to reach Leh (episode 1) and how I ended up reaching Leh (episode 2). On one hand, I was suffering from AMS and on the other, I was super excited about the Stok Kangri Trek. After 2 days of acclimatization in Leh (we effectively got only one), we started the trek (episode 3) on the 3rd day and trekked from Stok Village (3497 m) to Mankarmo via Chang Ma (3988 m). Due to AMS, my body was severely low in oxygen content, but my spirits were always high! And it was this mental strength that empowered me to overcome all adversities, and my oxygen content magically shot up after the acclimatization trek at the Stok Kangri base camp (episode 4). Then, suddenly, nature started to play a spoilsport. But, I was determined to scale the Stok Kangri Summit..! Now it was time to climb down from the peak. Just like doing any other exciting journey, we always forget to preserve energy for the return.
— Advertisement —
From hopes to slopes to ropes
While coming downhill I slipped twice when we were walking on the narrow traverses (I was better off without ropes :P). Basically my legs were too tired but it was fun hanging from the mountain for some time. It backfired when I had to use double the energy to climb up. When I slipped the second time the guide asked me if it was my first trek in a condescending manner but when I said yes he looked at me with a very surprised expression while I just hung on the slope.
Once we crossed the traverses we reached the spot where I had left Vivek. The shoulder of the peak, from which dropped a long slope till the foothill of that peak. The guide told me his work was done and I would find Nawang waiting for me at the end of the slope. Then they showed me how to get there – by sliding on our backs and peddling with our limbs. It was such an amazingly fun experience that the dopamine and adrenaline took away all my stress. Facing just one obstacle (where my entire left leg got stuck in the snow and I had to dig it out), I reached the end and after walking for a few minutes saw Nawang and Vivek waiting for me.
— Advertisement —
Happy to reunite, but sad to return…
As I reunited with them Nawang thanked the other trekkers and then we set off on our way back to the base camp. Just before we were going to hit the glacier Nawang suggested we all eat something. We munched through whatever food we had and hydrated ourselves properly. I stole a last peek of the Stok Kangri peak (from so up close) and we came back to the base camp via the same route but this time while everything was visible in the daylight. At around 2:30 P.M. I entered the tent and Swiner was so happy and excited to share experiences. After that session (and watching all the pictures and videos together) we reconciled with the fact that leaving that place was going to be one of the toughest jobs we’ve ever had to do. But the things that suggested otherwise were internet, baths, home-cooked food and a flat surface.
In the evening Preet congratulated Ishaan, Swiner and me as the successful summit attempt got celebrated with a delicious and beautiful cake! Baked in a tent, at an altitude of almost 5000 m and by someone who has saved lives on Everest! Can it get any better? The way our trek operators took care of us and everything else was really commendable. Renok Adventures did a very good job and especially their food options are off the charts!!
Day 7: 11th July – The Nostalgia
Stok Kangri Base Camp (4968 m) to Leh via Stok (3497 m)
The next morning we woke up with a sense of accomplishment yet sadness drew on us. Our wet clothes had dried out and we were set to trek back to Stok. Preet said that if we felt like resting then we can camp at Chang Ma for the night. We left early and it was a very silent trek. Everyone was busy with themselves. Some may be reflecting, some maybe regretting and some even recapitulating. I just kept looking at the vast stretches of beautiful landscapes with immense gratitude for the artist who made it all. Taking occasional halts (climbing down is less stressful and we had gotten used to all kinds of stress and strain) we reached Chang Ma at around 1:30 P.M. We decide to just have lunch and keep moving until we reached Stok.
Our trek ended at around 4 P.M. and while Preet was clearing the official stuff at the check post and simultaneously trying to get us a car, Swiner got some snacks for us from the adjacent shop there. After a while, the car came and we all got inside it for our ride back to the guest house. All of us needed rest. I kept recalling glimpses from my experience as I watched the Stok Ranges drift away in the rear-view mirror as we drove towards Leh.
Swiner and I spent that evening exploring bike rentals for our plans to Khardung La. After talking to a few of them we finalized with “Ladakh on Wheels” and they charged 1500/- per day for a Royal Enfield Thunderbird 350 cc (petrol excluded)and gave us helmets rent-free. Swiner is a fanatic for bikes and we rented the bike right then and went for a bullet drive in the night. There is just one main highway and one main market and the entire area is well equipped with direction boards so it was impossible to get lost even in the dark.
— Advertisement —
Day 8: 12th July – The Wild Exploration of Ladakh
The next morning Swiner drove us to one of the highest motorable roads in the world, Khardung La (5359 m; which some claim to be 5602 m and name it as the world’s highest). It was a memorable experience riding on such dangerous, open, rocky, muddy, watery roads. Swiner had been riding a bike for 13 years then so I trusted him with the driving. We even joined biker gang processions and had a great experience overall.
From there we went on a wild exploration tour as far as our instincts took us and we touched some beautiful monasteries and tourist destinations on the way. The beauty of Ladakh is pristine and I hope it always remains that way. We covered as much ground as possible(riding a two-wheeler on those roads is something I will always cherish) before eventually returning the bike. The experience was no doubt extravagant however we both agreed to the fact that a Ladakh experience would be incomplete without a trek. [Just as a wedding is incomplete without a bedding 😀 ]
After finally getting Leh’d properly (for nine straight days), the next night we got in a traveler (a 12 seater vehicle used to commute mostly in the mountain areas) to Manali and everything about Ladakh seemed to just remain in the rearview mirrors. These mirrors still help me reflect on my being and I keep recollecting all the lessons I learned about myself and life (and not just trekking, camping, etc.) and these lessons and reflections aid me in leading my life everyday. “Leading your life” is only true when you are the leader of it. When someone/something else starts having control over your life(like money, a job, your boss, your spouse 😛 , etc.), your life isn’t yours anymore.
If given a chance I would like to have a “safe house” in Ladakh. Now that Ladakh is a union territory of India, I might just consider it. Still “to be continued” I guess. 😉
For the world outside me, I got Leh’d because of Stok Kangri, Khardung La, Hemis Monastery, etc. But for the world inside me, I got Leh’d because I wanted to have a buffet of experiences (which I did and could not fill in one plate). That is what Ladakh gives you. A reason to go back(with more plates) and a variety of experiences that only increase your appetite for them. After all, experience is the best teacher out there. And I feel intuition is the best student. So follow your instincts and experience everything; experience life while you still can.
“Wisdom is the daughter of Experience. Truth is the daughter of Wisdom.”Leonardo Da Vinci.
So is Truth the grand-daughter of Experience? Find out for yourself. 😉
— Advertisement —