Markha valley and ascent of Stok Kangri - August 2006


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Day 16 - To Stok Kangri advanced camp


It is quite possible to go to the summit of Stok Kangri from base camp but because of our poor altitude acclimatisation (having spent too much time in Leh waiting for decent weather instead of trekking at higher altitudes) it was a better idea to spend a night up higher and closer to the summit.

So in the afternoon we leave base camp for high camp at 5300m. Fortunately there is no one else camping there which is great because good spaces are a little limited unless you want to camp on the snow.

The weather has cleared up. There is a lot of snow for summer time but it is not too powdery so ascending to the ridge won't be too hard.

We plan to get up at 2.30 in order to have frozen conditions on the way up so try to get some sleep early. Not so easy when you are poorly acclimatised but I manage a few short naps.



Our tents and the ridge that we'll have to climb tomorrow morning


The ridge leading to Stok Kangri



Prayer flags near high camp



View towards the valley with our tents already in the shade on the right


Day 17 - To the summit of Stok Kangri (6120m)


After forcing breakfast down we start under a clear starry sky, no wind. The slope is frozen and steep enough to need to rope up.

The ascent up to the ridge takes us a lot longer than I expected and we reach the top of the ridge well after daylight. I didn't check exactly but I think that it took us 5 hours from camp. Considering that the ridge is only 600 or 700m higher than the high camp it's very slow going...and I am still breathless and at times feeling a little dizzy. My climbing companion doesn't look like she feels much better. Our two climbing sherpas are fine though. They are fully acclimatized and for them it's a walk in the park.

By the time we reach the ridge the clouds have come and the views are limited.

From there on the going is a little tougher because of some snow fluting on the narrow ridge, added to which there are quite a few rocky areas to negotiate with crampons on and I feel more and more dizzy. I don't think that the dizziness is caused by the precipitous north slope but is more likely the result of mild AMS. I am glad to be roped up!

I keep going and suddenly we are there, prayer flags and beyond them a big snow drift overhanging a sheer drop towards the North. It didn't take long at all from the ridge or maybe I didn't see the time pass. The clouds open a little but unfortunately don't clear enough for us to see the far ranges of the Karakoram and the Greater Himalayan range.

Still, we are lucky: no wind, no snow and no other people on what can be a busy summit.

After enjoying the views for a while we start our descent back to Base Camp. The snow below the ridge has become soft and heavy and my crampons keep collecting snow despite the anti-balling plates. I am glad when I can finally take them off.

We arrive back at Base Camp in the early afternoon. It is a little less crowded than yesterday as some people have given up their attempt due to altitude problems (I guess that we were not the only ones with poor acclimatisation. The rest are planning to go to advanced camp later today and climb the summit tomorrow morning if the good weather holds.
But right now it starts snowing and I go lie down in my tent. I feel exhausted and my sleeping bag is the only place that I want to go to.




Arriving at the ridge


Lakpa, our climbing sherpa just at the ridge



On the ridge


View towards the North from the summit



On the summit


On the summit



Prayer flags on the summit


Prayer flags on the summit (detail)


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