How in your dreams? The Stok Kangri, at

How high have you ever dreamt of soaring or climbing
or floating up the altitude in your dreams? The Stok Kangri, at (hold your
breath) 20,500 feet ie 6,153 m is the highest summit that one can trek upto in
India. The allure of scaling the magnificence of the terrain that the Himalayas
offer draws several venturesome travellers to the Stok Kangri. It is perched
atop the Stok Chu river valley near the village of Stok.

The Stok village is located in the Leh district of
the state of Jammu and Kashmir (Leh tehsil, 17 km southeast of Leh town). The village
houses its share of locations worthy of being visited, ancient structures such
as the 600-year old Stok monastery and a nineteenth century palace which is the
current residence of the former royal family of Ladakh. According to the 2011
census of India, the village of Stok houses some 300 households. It can be
explored for sight-seeing before we set out on the actual trek.

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Stok Kangri is popular amongst trekkers as a
trekking peak and is often climbed as an initial non-technical foray into high
altitude mountaineering. Over the last few years, it has become extremely
popular amongst trekkers even novices due to its non-technical nature. The peak
is considered non-technical from July–August, but becomes quite technical when
the climax of winter hits. Illustrating the Himalayan terrain, this trek
embraces deserted surroundings and offers its trekkers the opportunity to
experience a different dimension. The entire trail has incorporated many ridges
such that one feels the sudden change in scenery. In winter, the whole
landscape attains a perfect magnificence. The peak provides a dynamic view of Zanskar and the Indus
Valley.

However, this trek does not come without its share
of challenges and risks. The Stok Kangri, firstly, is not for the faint of
heart, as it can stagger you physically. The most essential factor is good
acclimatization without which scaling such an altitude and such a terrain is
impossible. At 20,500 feet, things can get very hard.

Despite its relative ease, the peak presents the
daunting risks and challenges of a trekking expedition. Acclimatisation in Leh,
before attempting the trek/climb and altitude acclimatization during the
ascent, is essential. The biggest obstacle at such altitudes is rarefied air,
which can cause acute headaches, nausea and other symptoms of altitude
sickness even in the most physically fit of all climbers. There have been
a lot of professional and experienced climbers criticising the enthusiasm of
novices or inexperienced trekkers who set out to climb the Stok Kangri.

At 20,500 ft, this peak is the highest trekkable
summit in India. It poses a great set of intimidating challenges. Acclimatization,
as mentioned above, is the most important of all factors, as that ensures one’s
tolerance and bearability factor when it comes to the rarefied air. It is also
very surprising how this acclimatization is done only in the mountains of
Ladakh, which at 11,000 ft are a good 9000 ft short of what one sets out to
conquer in climbing Stok Kangri. Ones capacity to acclimatize there does not
predict one’s capacity 9000 ft above that. Several people are hit by AMS or
nose-bleeding and turn back halfway through.