Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Excerpts from the Stok Kangri expedition.

Day 1. 07/08/2013 21:28:41
Waiting for the flight to Delhi. Flight delayed by a good 20 minutes. This is the first time I'm facing a flight delay!
Leh flight is at 05:15 am tomorrow morning. I've set the alarm at 04:05 am. By the way, #NowPlaying Von by Sigur Ros #Love.

Day 1. 08/08/2013 03:21:35
Waiting for the flight to Leh from Delhi since 12:30 am. Cant really sleep on these airport seats. Reset the alarm to 03:30 am. The security guards here thought that we were from the armed forces!

Day 1. 08/08/2013 22:56:39
Leh is hot and tough. Weather is dry. Dehydration is a threat. Sun rays are strong. The heat today was beyond our expectations. Saw a star studded sky while coming back from dinner. Highlight of the day was the masala tea, under the open sky, listening to the running stream.
A view from Leh of the Shanti Stupa.

Day 2. 09/08/2013 22:30:30
Uneventful day. Met the fellow trekkers. A very fit and healthy group. Rahul is our trek leader.

Day 3. 10/08/2013 19:41:48
First campsite. Shang. It's next to a stream. Water looks murky. I was advised not to drink it. One major update is that the skies are clouding up! Also, we spot wild mountain goats!
Shang campsite. A wild mountain goat.

Day 4. 11/08/2013 15:05:41
4 hour trek to Shang Phu. A slight neck pain. Heavy downpour when we arrived at the campsite. The group is singing a beautiful song - "Mein shayar to nahi"...
Shang Phu campsite. Pic taken from within our tent.

Day 5. 12/08/2013 22:23:03
A very long trek of 7 hours. Two high passes. One of 16,500 ft and the other of 14,500 ft. Tricky walk after the second pass. Walked in hailstorm and rains. Right now, a few kilometers off Gangpoche campsite.
Tents at the campsite. (A few kilometers off Gangpoche)

Day 6 and 7. Written on 14/08/2013 21:18:27
Stok Kangri base camp. Altitude of around 5090m. Very bad weather. Visibility of around 100ft. Punjab police team to attempt summit tonight. Climbed up the ridge today. Yesterday, we were at Mankarmo. By the way, James seems fine with me now!!!
Pic taken when we arrived at base camp. Weather turned bad the same night.

Day 8. 15/08/2013 18:51:56
Bloody hell! It's been raining all day long. Very very bad weather. No sunshine. Independence day celebrated with vigor. Summit climb tonight. Fingers crossed. Weather is cold. We are within the clouds!

Day 9 and 10. Written on 17/08/2013 00:52:41
Evacuated base camp yesterday due to heavy snowfall. Crazy plans going around. We are going for a second try. We leave for the base camp from Stok village today (17/08/2013) and attempt the summit tonight. If the weather is bad, me and Raghu will attempt it again tomorrow night, while Phoebe and Janka will return tomorrow(18/08/2013) morning/afternoon (Their flight is on 19/08/2013). Kushal to accompany us! Indiahikes is not responsible for anything from now onwards.
Base camp situation on 16/08/2013 around 07:00:00.

Day 10 and 11. Written on 19/08/2013 17:55:05
A flashback.

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17/08/2013 08:35:00 - 10:05:00
Walk from Stok Village to base camp. We carry only our day packs. Walk is fast paced and motivated. Sky is still overcast. Kushal keeps the spirits up. Janka struggling a bit due to her day pack. She's a fighter. She'll get through. I know.

17/08/2013 11:30:00
Mankarmo campsite. Met other groups going down while coming to Mankarmo. Other guides here at Mankarmo cheer us up and ask us to climb the summit! They don't want us to go back empty handed. Kalyan, our guide to be, seems unsure if he'll join us.

17/08/2013 around 15:00:00
We reach base camp. We spent around an hour and a half at Mankarmo. Rain and hailstorm while coming to the base camp. Again worried about Janka. Kushal worried as well. We push through though. The Singaporean group is surprised to see us. We meet our guide Kiran. Food and sleep to follow.

17/08/2013 17:30:00
Out of the tent for a toilet break. I see patches of clear blue skies. Kushal is around. I smile and point to the heavens. He laughs.

17/08/2013 21:30:00
Kushal shakes my tent up. Tells me that he's running back to Leh. I'm worried that the weather has turned bad. I rush out and he shows to me the clouds running past the moon. Clearer skies! Apparently he was sent to wake me up for the dinner! We go to the Mitra cafe for dinner. Raghu, Janka and Phoebe already there. We dine.

17/08/2013 22:05:00
Me and Raghu discuss about the gaiters. We will prepare them out of garbage bags. I dress up in the clothes I will be wearing for the climb and go off to sleep.

17/08/2013 23:35:00
I hear rain drops on the tent. Raghu wakes up and goes out. I peep out to see that the visibility has reduced. We go out to the cafe. Kiran wakes up and starts to dress up. No one else seems to be there. We prepare our gaiters. Janka and Phoebe join in.

18/08/2013 00:45:00
We start off to the summit. Very light drizzle. Formation is discussed. Kiran, Phoebe, Raghu, Janka, Me and Kushal will be the order. A Hong Kong guy joins in and he'll go behind Kiran.
Ridge climb starts out to be tougher than expected. My jacket chokes me near my neck. The balaclava prevents rapid breathing. At the top of the ridge, I remove the balaclava and loosen my jacket. We march on to the advanced base camp. Takes us around an hour and a half. Fleeting glimpses of snow.
Next is the glacier. Snow is heavy. We put on the crampons. We continue our climb. The zig-zag climb to the shoulder is hard. Hong Kong guy keeps slipping. We see flashlights in the distance. A few other teams have started. We continue in dark with our headlamps showing the way. Sky is still overcast.

18/08/2013 around 05:30:00
We turn back and see fog approaching us. We are near the shoulder of the mountain. Janka gets worried. I assure her that the fog wont catch us. Destiny, I say. Phoebe seems to be slow. Something's wrong with her. My phone begins to ring. Oh no wait, it's the alarm. I'm too lazy to switch it off. Everyone gives me a look!

18/08/2013 around 07:00:00
We are beyond the shoulder and climbing towards the peak. I tell Janka that the fog didn't catch us. I shout destiny. Kiran asks me if I'm fine. He suspects that the altitude has hit me now! Phoebe is still struggling.

18/08/2013 08:30:00
Summit. We make it to the summit despite all odds. The sun is slowly starting to shine on us. The weather clears up just enough to show us a glimpse of where we stand. I bow down to the mountain.
Footprints show the path we came from.
Phoebe is back to her normal self! The feeling of reaching the summit is beyond words. Other teams are slowly arriving.
Pic taken at the summit.

18/08/2013 13:00:00
Base camp. Journey down was more taxing than expected. Phoebe was in high spirits. Chatting all the way. Janka almost asleep. Raghu tired and sleepy. Me? Just tired.

18/08/2013 15:30:00 - 21:00:00
Walk back to Stok village and drive to Leh. Uneventful.
Inspiring thoughts are written on stones all along the way.

We still cant believe that we achieved the summit! All of us are tired. I doze off during conversations. We finish dinner at around 00:00:00. The girls fly out tomorrow morning.
Some jagged mountains on our way back to Stok village.
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Day 12 and 13. Written on 20/08/2013 09:49:21
Met Rahul yesterday for lunch. He was happy for us. Proud as well. Janka and Phoebe flew out yesterday early morning. Now I'm waiting for the flight back to Delhi. What a memorable journey it has been. An adventure that I had never expected. Thank you Raghu, Phoebe and Janka. And yes, the ever smiling Kushal and the knowledgeable Kiran.

-So long! 

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