In September I headed to India with 15 other women from the Love Her Wild community to take on a 10 day Stok Kangri Trek. Our goal was to reach the summit of this 6,153m mountain which sits in Ladkah, North India.
Stok Kangri is a great entry-level 6,000m trek and anyone with good fitness can attempt it even if your trekking experience is limited.
This was by far the biggest mountain I’d attempted yet, my previous treks only taking me as high as the peaks in Morocco.
And, well, things didn’t exactly go to plan….
Getting to Stok Kangri
Our team flew into Dehli from London where we had a long layover before catching our flight to Leh. We took out our roll mats, opened our books and made ourselves comfortable….helped massively by Dehli airports 24/7 Costa Coffee.
As soon as we got out of the airport in Leh (which is heavily guarded as it’s a military airport) we could see Stok Kangri in the distance looking intimidating.
We had 2 nights in Leh to acclimatise (we were now 3,500m up) so rested, double checked our kit and ate a lot of food….hard to resist when a curry in town will set you back just a couple of ££ a dish.
We stayed at Mahey Retreat and were well looked after.
Starting the Stok Kangri expedition
Most climbers attempt to reach Stok Kangri expedition base camp in 2-3 days from Stok Village. This does not leave much time for acclimatisation, making a tough climb even tougher!
Our group was instead taking a 7-day trek to base camp leaving more time for acclimatisation and more time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. This also meant that we were on a really quiet trail. We only passed 3 hikers on our way to base camp.
Our trek began in a teeny tiny village (basically a farm) called Choksi. We walked through the valley, heading further into the mountains.
When the Stok Kangri Trek started to go wrong
By afternoon disaster had struck. We’d had nothing but clear weather but suddenly the rain came in. Fast!
We found a nearby ‘guesthouse’ to shelter for the night. All 16 of the team bedded down in a large leaky room.
Raging rivers meant we were trapped.
Now this is what I call an adventure!
By late afternoon the next day the weather had cleared and we could start drying out kit. We could push on agian early the next morning.
We had an amazing sherpa team who organised our tents and cooked us wonderful food. There was always a LOT of food!!
Back in business for the Stok Kangri summit
After being trapped in a tiny homestay for 2 days it was a relief to finally get going again.
As soon as we turned out of the valley the views were instantaneous.
Today was a day of gentle but consistent uphill.
Another change of plan!
Our route was going to take us up and over the Kang La mountain pass. But heavy rains low down meant heavy snowfall high up. By the time we reached our camp spot, it was clear that the pass would be too snowy for our mules and team to pass.
A new plan was put in place (thankfully we were being led by experienced Everest summiter, Jo Bradshaw).
We would hike up and over Ganda La and down the valley where we would take a car ride to Stok Village.
Although it was looking too snowy for the summit there was a chance we might still make it. At least the hike until now had been good acclimatisation so our bodies would be ready.
I was struggling with the altitude so started taking Diamox. It helped but does make you pee an annoying amount!
The beautiful Ganda La pass
The next day we hiked up and over Ganda La (just shy of 5,000M). It was especially beautiful in the snow. This was the highest I’d ever hiked….and I felt it! My body was really struggling with the altitude – I felt exhausted and nauseous.
I’d recently been ill and don’t think I’d given my body enough time to recover which wasn’t helping.
You just don’t know how your body will react to altitude until you try it. It’s different for everyone.
Stok Kangri Village
Our wonderful sherpa team had arranged for cars to be waiting for us to do the 1-hour drive around the mountain to Stok Village.
We overnighted in a beautiful camp spot.
The next day it was a short half day hike to base camp.
That night we were told what we already knew. The snow was too thick to summit. No one had reached the summit now in over a week. This was really unusual weather for this time of year and we’d just got unlucky.
The next day though the team geared up and used the snow as an opportunity to try out some crampons and ice axe skills. Aiming to get as high as we could.
Most of the team got to 5,100m. Considering all the drama and changes of plan this felt like a huge achievement. At the end of our first-day hiking, it looked like we might not even get out of the valley, let alone past base camp.
Was I disappointed?
Of course, we all were.
But we’d signed up to an adventure and that is what we got. The mountains are unpredictable at the best of times. And while we didn’t summit we got more of a chance to hang out with the locals plus a good story to take home….so I’m not complaining!
We also managed to fit in a night in Dehli on the way back to visit this gem….
Top Tips for Stok Kangri Trek
For anyone thinking of climbing this magnificent mountain, here’s my advice…
- Give yourself at least 1 full day to acclimatise when you get to Leh. It’s a nice town with good food and markets to explore so plenty to keep you preoccupied.
- Take high energy snacks. You are seriously well fed by the staff but having easy to grab snacks in your pocket for the tough hours trekking will make all the difference.
- You’ll likely lose your appetite at altitude but the more you eat the more energy you will have
- Ladakh has many other activities to offer such as river rafting, mountain biking, meditation… Those interested in Buddhist culture can visit some of the many monasteries during a sightseeing tour
- Drink lots. Even though peeing gets annoying it helps with altitude sickness.
- It can get really cold, especially at night. Keeping yourself warm at night is essential to a good nights rest. Check out my staying warm in a tent tips.
- Your money goes a long way in Ladkah and the staff work hard so tip generously!
- If you are travelling alone or in a small group, a good option is to use a shared taxi. This will not only reduce the cost of your trip but also its carbon footprint… and you can meet travellers and make new friends!
What to pack for a Stok Kangri trek
You’ll want to keep your kit to a minimum to save on carrying unnecessary weight (even if it is the mules doing the hard work) and also on time packing and unpacking each day.
I’d really suggest getting yourself one of these heavy duty water resistant duffle bags for all your gear (I’d recommend North Face duffle bags). You need a soft case for portage and these hard wearing bags are the best for the job.
To see what I took, check out my full Expedition kit list for Stok Kangri.
Insurance for Stok Kangri
For insurance, I used World Nomads. World Nomads will cover a trek up to 6,000metres. For summit day I then took out an additional 1 day cover with BMC as you go to 6,153m (or at least we were supposed to!).
Doing it this way worked out a lot cheaper than going with a mountaineering insurer for the whole trek. You can get a quote with World Nomads using this link.
Will I return to try another attempt at the summit?
I don’t think so!
While it was beautiful I don’t feel the need to attempt the hike again just for the summit.
Plus there’s so much more of the Himalayas to explore.
But, well, never say never….
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*Any women reading this?* I founded a women’s adventure community called Love Her Wild . Check out our private Facebook page and see what adventures we have coming up.