Added by Rachel Davidson
Experience one of the least technical, high-altitude mountaineering adventures in the Himalayas, Stok Kangri (20,182 ft.), and see India like never before.
Stok Kangri is located within the larger area of Ladakh, closest to its capital city Leh (11,562 ft.). Because Leh sits at such a high elevation, it is incredibly important to spend one to three rest days in the city before starting this climb – you’ll find plenty to do between all of the great restaurants, lookout points, and monasteries.
At the time that we set off on this climb in May of 2016, the only ground route from Delhi to Leh involved three buses and 4-5 days. However, it looks like a new luxury bus is now available for a 33-hour nonstop trip. Of course, you can always take a short $100 flight from Delhi to the Leh airport (IXL).
During the summer the mountain is actually snow-free and an equipment-free walk up, but if you climb in late spring like we did, you’ll need to pack a little differently. Either way, you can expect to only walk a couple hours each day on your ascent while your body adjusts to the high altitude.
Sample Acclimatization Schedule
- 1-3 Pre-Acclimatization Days in Leh (11,562 ft.)
- Day 1: Trailhead to campsite at Chang Ma (3,988 m / 13,083 ft.)
- Day 2: Chang Ma to Mankorma camp (4,320 m / 14,173 ft.)
- Day 3: Mankorma to Stok Kangri Base Camp (4,930 m / 16,174 ft.)
- Day 4: Summit day, return to Mankorma camp
- Day 5: Hike back out to trailhead
The trailhead for Stok Kangri is just 9 miles away from Leh within Hemis National Park (3,610 m / 11,845 ft.). The start of this trek takes you through a large drainage area, following a creek through rocky hillsides. After just a couple hours you’ll reach your destination at Chang Ma.
The second day is uneventful and only takes 2-3 hours walking up the valley to reach Mankorma – a small, developed, semi-permanent campsite with a large teahouse selling hot food, tea, and even beer. This is the last spot where you’ll be able to see Stok Kangri before summit day, as a long ridgeline blocks your view farther up the valley.
For us, it was a slow and easy 3-4 hour walk from Mankorma up to the official Stok Kangri Base Camp. As it is for most climbs like this, the higher the mountain, the more time you have to kill at camp hanging out and acclimatizing.
On Day #4 we set off by 1am heading over the ridge that was blocking our view to the summit. If the night is clear, on top of this ridgeline you should be able to look up and see your destination. Either way, you’ll head west and traverse across a steep glacier before reaching the base of the mountain. At this point, you’ll be in the center of a large gully looking up at the summit. Switchback your way up and to the left where you will meet the North Ridge; the most direct route to the summit.
This icy-rocky ridge continues for 500 meters up to the Stok Kangri summit (20,182 ft.), where you can see all around the Tibetan and Pakistani Himalayas, as well as back into the Indus Valley. The views are truly breathtaking, but as much as you can enjoy the top, you’ll need to remember that the descent is the most important part of your journey.
Like any mountain environment, weather can change in a minute – so be prepared with plenty of clothing and emergency gear. Each climber should be acutely aware of his or her acclimatization and be prepared to turn around at the first signs of AMS.
There are plenty of local guiding companies who can help organize transportation, lodging, climbing permits, and any rental gear you may need. Most groups take ponies into the valley to carry the bulk of the gear – you can expect to carry very little on your pack if you go with an organized group. Himalayan guides in India are much cheaper than the already-affordable Nepalese and Tibetans. Expect to pay $250-400 for an entire week on the mountain, everything included.
- Stok Kangri Climbing Permit from India Mountaineering Foundation (IMF)
- Camping & overnight gear (tent, stove, cookware, sleeping bag, etc.)
- Headlamp + extra batteries
- 2+ liters of water or tea
- Iodine or other water treatment
- Plenty of food
- Down suit or down jacket + down pants
- Hardshell jacket + hardshell climbing pants
- Mountaineering gloves
- Face buff, ear warmers, wool hat (or all three)
- Extra socks
- Sun glasses + sun protection
- Ice axe
- Double mountaineering boots
- Figure-8 / Descender
- First aid kit
- Emergency bivvy or shelter
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