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Stok Kangri The Expedition — Day 11: Stok Village

It was a successful ascent to the summit and everyone had a good sleep to rest our tired bodies. Rawat, Bramh, Suhas and few others had left to leh the previous day itself. Only a few of us were left and we headed to stok village which would take 4-5 hrs. We would then be transported back to leh.

Since it would be a continous descent, prakash, myself and few others headed off soon. We reached mankarmao in an hour. The rest of them were long way back and we took a break till they reached. Tsering asked us to regroup before we continued as we had to cross few streams and only he knew the route.

The descent continued and jumping across few streams and boulders we continued our journey back to stok village

Way back to stok village

We spotted a couple of ibexes which were doing some acrobatics while trying to get down a hill. A brief glance at them and we continued. After crossing few streams there was a steep pass to climb. This would be one of the two passes and after climbing stok it was pretty easy for us to go over those.

The valley from the first pass was amazing and short break and few shots later we continued the journey

View from the pass

We could see other trekkers coming from stok village as we went ahead. The descent continued for few more hours with small breaks and soon we could see the village in sight.

Hoping across few small streams we reached the stok village and crashed at a shop. Soon the rest of the group arrived thus marking an end to an wonderful trek.

Tired after a loong trek

Bramha and rawat came to meet us and shortly the ponies arrived with our luggage. Dumping our luggage in the car we headed back to stok thus completing an amazing trek

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Stok Kangri The Expedition : Day 10 — The Final Ascent

Today would be the first attempt at the summit. We got ready and after dinner everyone had a short nap in their tents before we were called out to our respective groups. Once everyone assembled the first team headed off followed by the others.

Tsering was leading the first group, and they started the trek with prakash leading the way. Bramha was with the second group and we soon started. Rawat was leading the final group. Dambal opted out the final climb and to our suprise vikas had to turn back shortly after the climb began citing shortness of breath. The climb to stok is a direct ascent from the basecamp and there is no descents anywhere. As we go higher the steepness increases.

Bijit was the next to return back after the initial climb and the size of the group in which i was reducing. It was a long walk from the climb to the advanced basecamp and we were moving at a brisk pace while taking small breaks in between.

Couple of hours of walking and we reached the glacier which we had to cross. Out came the crampons and after putting them, we began to walk across the soild ice. There were a couple of places where we had to cross and the helpers who were with us, made it easy by helping us to cross them. The climb continued for couple of hours and as we went higher, the gradient also increased and the pace at which we were climbing was becoming slow.

The path after the glacier was full of rocks and loose stones and vikas at this time was suffering from fatique and had to call it quits. We still had a long way to go and bramha was shouting for us to pick up the pace. It was time to take a break as all climbing was making us feel very tired. Couple of sips of water and the climb began. There were other teams climbing as well and the route was busy. We reached another patch of ice and we had to wear crampons again. Seeing that we were loosing time removing and wearing the crampons bramha asked to leave the crampons on.

It was already 5 hrs since we were climbing and we were yet to approach the ridge. The sun was peaking above the horizon when we reached the ridge after climbing a steep incline. A short break and we could see the summit just a 1000 feet above us. Vibhor had fallen back long way behind and finally managed to catch up with us. We could get a brief glimpse  of K2 and kailash manasasarovar for a brief moment before mist engulfed the place.

The final climb was a bit tricky as we had to negotiate the steep edges and climb carefully. We were roped up to begin the climb. As usual the first batch went ahead and we followed them. Vibhor who was ahead was feeling very tired was constantly taking breaks slowing us down. There were other teams apart from us and everyone were getting delayed. The climb continued at a snail pace and we were almost at the summit when anshul slipped !!!!. Bramha who was just behindhim prevented him from falling thus averting a major disaster !!!!.

Finally after 7 hrs and 15 min of climbing we were on top of stok kangri. It was a joyous moment for everyone. The indian flag was proudly hoisted and we had a couple of group snaps to celebrate the occassion

Atop Stok Kangri

Spending some more time at the summit we decided to head back to camp. The descent was slow as everyone were still roped together. We had stop every couple of steps as the person behind had to descend before we could move ahead. We reached the ridge after stopping numerous breaks. From the ridge we decided to take a shortcut which involved a steep descent on the ice. Again it was slow moving as the loose gravel made it difficult to walk and everyone were slipping in the loose gravel.

We reached the ice after a long and slow descent and those who were new to ice had a nice time slipping and sliding down. Rawat was little annoyed with this and asked us to pick up the pace as we still had a long way to go down. Few of them really had a tough time getting down in the ice and after quite a lot of slipping and sliding we managed to reach the bottom. Everyone were tired and we still had to cross the glacier and the advanced base camp. Few of us took a brief power nap before moving ahead. During the descent we could get the enormity of the climb we had done at night. It looked like a never ending walk back to the basecamp.

The glacier was crossed and the next target was the advanced basecamp. The walk to the basecamp was quite a long way and our tired bodies had to be pushed little more till we reached the basecamp. Finally after 13 hrs of trekking we managed got back to the basecamp thus completing a successful ascent to the summit. Energy drinks were consumed and we hit the sleeping bags immediately as our tired bodies needed some well deserved rest

Stok Kangri The expedition– Day 1: Touchdown at srinagar

Stok Kangri present in Hemis national park in ladakh is one the highest peaks in the stok range. Towering at 6,153m or 20, 182 feet stok kangri is one of the highest trekkable peaks in the region and this was chosen for this years trek.

When indiahikes announced the trek I immediately registered for it. Saloni, Suhas and Nutty with whom I had done roopkund last year also registered for the trek. We had planned to do this trek last year itself when we were discussing our options for the next trek in the himalayas after finishing roopkund.

With the bookings done, we got a mail from indiahikes regarding the travel plans and a chain mail started with various people pitching in with their travel plans. After a long mail thread, and few calls, me, suhas, anshul, bharani and pradeep who were are from bangalore decided to meet up in srinagar.

Tickets were booked by suhas for me, himself and anshul and I booked the accomodation at YHAI srinagar for the 5 of us and we met up at the airport on 8th morning. Pradeep and Bharani had already reached srinagar and had checked into the hotel. We reached srinagar by noon and reached the hotel in an hour or so. After checking in and freshening up we decided to head out for a tour of srinagar.

First to visit was the famous DAL lake which was just a couple of kms from the hotel. The lake is one of the major tourist attractions and the best way to see the lake is to take the shikara a small boat which is used by the locals to ferry people across the lake. There are houseboats lined across the lake which one can rent for a night or for longer stays depending on the duration. The rent for the houseboats starts from 3000 and goes upwards depending on the boat size and other factors such as rooms etc

Dal Lake and Shikara

We took a shikara for an hour and half after negotiating the price with the person. We could see various shaped houseboats and named after various places. The shikaras are the main source of transportation on the dal lake and during winter when the lake freezes people walk over it and even play cricket and even ride cycles on it.

Houseboats on the lake

As we went ahead the lake widened and we soon reached a small garden admist the lake where we took a short break and couple of snaps before getting back to the boat.

Wider view of Dal Lake

As our ride continued towards the inner parts of the lake we were shown the floating market which happens every morning. People who are living on the lake each day get their wares to sell and others can buy the same. People living on the house boats can also participate. As we rowed we could see different kinds of shops selling kashmir shawls, dry fruits etc.

Floating Markets

We could see quite a lot of grass present on the surface and upon asking we were told the grass is cultivated here and is harvested and sold in town. We even happened to see a huge grass cutting machine which went about doing its job. Upon asking how much it would cost to build the houseboat, we were told it costs anywhere between few lakhs to a crore and it takes more than a year to build a houseboat. Soon our ride was finished and we came back to dry land after paying the shikara owner.

As Srinagar is popular tourist spot local transport can get pretty pricey for tourists as the cab and autorickshaw drivers can charge exhorbitant prices and one needs to bargain with them to get the prices in our favour.

Srinagar has quite a few gardens and we visited the famous ones such as a mughal and nishant gardens. We stuck a deal with a autodriver to cover shankracharya temple, Shalimar and nishant gardens, hazartabal shrine, nagin lake and old city before dropping us back to the hotel.

Our first point of interest was the shankaracharya temple situated atop the hill. We had to pass a check post where we were asked if we had any cigarrates, or plastics etc in our bags. One needs to go empty handed to the temple as we need to keep our cameras, bags etc in the vechile before leaving to the temple. After a mandatory frisking at the entrance we climbed up the steps and reached the shirne. We could see people going up and coming down while chanting prayers. We reached the top pretty soon and went to the temple.

Spending some time at the temple we headed back to the auto and proceeded towards mughal gardens while stopping a brief while to take a few shots of Srinagar from the top

View of Srinagar

The next place in our list was the Shalimar garden which is one of the popular gardens in srinagar. This along with nishat and Chashm-e-shahi make up the mughal gardens which is a must visit for any one visiting srinagar.

Purchasing tickets we entered the shalimar garden. The garden has variety of flowers and with the backdrop of hills it looks very pretty,

Shalimar Garden

The long fountains with continous flowing water give the garden a smoothing feeling. However the weather wasnt ideal for us to enjoy the garden as the sun was beating down on us and we soon exited the complex after taking a few photos.

We then proceeded towards nishat bagh which is located a short distance from the shalimar gardens. The nishat bagh is constructed differently when compared to shalimar garden.

There is a huge fountain complex and small waterfalls dotting the garden. The garden is again set in the mountain backdrop. As usual the sun was still high up and the temperature was soaring thus preventing us from enjoying the garden, A couple of shots and we headed out

Nishat Bagh

Hazartbal mosque which is one of the popular mosques in srinagar was the next destination to be visited. It was already evening by the time we visited the mosque.

Hazratbal Shrine

A short tour of the outer portion of the mosque and we went out of the complex and to the auto.

Nagin lake was the second lake to be visited. This lake is smaller compared to dal lake. We found many houseboats here too and as it was evening it was less crowded compared to dal lake. As the light was fading we couldnt do much and we headed to the last destination, the old city where we did some shopping before heading back to the hotel

Sunset @ nagin lake

We met bharani and pradeep at the hotel and discussed the places to see on the way to leh and possible accmodation options in lamayuru and headed back to our room, as we had a long drive to leh the next day and we had to leave early by 6 the next day

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