A Passage to IndiaPassage to more than India!
O secret of the earth and sky!
Of you, O waters of the sea! O winding creeks and rivers!
Of you, O woods and fields! Of you, strong mountains of my land!
Of you, O prairies! Of you, gray rocks!
O morning red! O clouds! O rain and snows!
O day and night, passage to you!
Walt Whitman – Leaves of Grass
Leh, India, is about an hour and twenty minute flight from Dehli which is less than 14 hours nonstop from NYC. It’s one of those great climbing towns that’s at 3500 meters (11,500 feet) with lots to see and do during your 3 or 4 day acclimatization period. So you fly in, and start working on getting ready to climb immediately.
Taking an 11,000 foot altitude gain from Delhi, you’ll want to start slow. Climb up to some ruined Palaces. Some Gompas.
Leh is surrounded by lots of mountains, passes, climbing opportunities of all shapes and description. The real deal. The Himalaya.
At 6114 M (20,059 feet), Stok Kangri, is an excellent target for a two week adventure. Knock off a few 5000 M peaks in preparation. There’s plenty of these, some without names, many without pages here on SP.
You’ll need a permit for Stok Kangri, 2,000 Rs (about USD 40) at present. You can buy these in Leh or even in Stok. You can get Taxis to the Trailheads and good maps are easily available at bookshops in Leh. You can also get your adventure “organized” at one of many Travel Agencies in Leh. Maybe spend a day rubber rafting in the Indus as well. Or a little Mountain Biking up to a high pass.
The route in, is a very rough trail over loose stones in a stream bed. Leave the “Light Hikers” at home. Some steep passes. You may want to hire a ponyman with a pony to carry the heavy stuff. A guide might be useful. There are no signs pointing the way, though you can speak to people who are coming out. Many people take the wrong valley. There are some “Homestays” (like Nepalese Teahouses) but they don’t have the regular interval necessary to avoid bringing a tent. There are campsites with outhouses.
The Da Lai Lama has his residence nearby. We took a flight with him and hand baggage was not permitted, though we were informed that we could check as many as ten bags.
Stok Kangri has a glacier and you should carry an ice axe and crampons. Though we did it in our ice boots and never went over to the crampons. You’ll need to jump over some streams and crevasses.
I had developed a sore throat and light cough in the Canadian Rockies swimming in 3 -5 degree ( 40 F or so) a couple of days before I left. Things went downhill during the trip. The cough got much worse, the amount of phlegm was biblical, a rib cracked and a tooth abscessed. I was able to make and enjoy the daily moves on the route from Chokri to the Base Camp at 4900 M (16,076 feet). Didn’t summit Stok Kangri, or this would be a TR.