Stok Kangri – Spectacular Failure
Although it might seem that we move from one adventure to another with relative ease, we thought that we might take a moment to share one of our super-duper failures with you. It’s a tale of poor timing and bad information coupled with uncharacteristic shotty preparation on our part.
One of our goals here in Ladakh was to climb Stok Kangri, the 6,000+ meter (20,000+ foot) giant which towers above Leh and the Indus River Valley. It was meant to be a huge personal achievement for Thomas and me as well as an exciting addition to our blog, our first foray into mountain climbing.
Our first mistake was having given away our Goretex pants in Nepal – bad decision, but you can only carry so much when you are nomadic. Our second mistake was having sent back our camping gear last spring assuming we could rent good equipment here in India – not true. So we bit the bullet and bought an overpriced little Chinese-made tent and a new camping stove as well as two warmer down sleeping bags. That’s a lot of cash outflow – ouch!
As the weather had been quite warm and there wasn’t a cloud in sight, we decided to to skip the Goretex pants. (Yes, I know, we are idiots.) On top of that, I have had difficulty finding any quality footwear since my hiking boots died trekking around Mt. Kailash in Tibet, so I currently only have trail shoes. (All the local guides and horsemen will be happy to verify that India is not the place to shop for well made hiking boots.) To sum up, we were seriously hoping the good weather would last during our climb and we left crossing our fingers.
It started snowing on day one as we wound our way up from Stok village through the bizarrely eroded landscape over boulder fields and winding rivers to our first camp site. More flurries on day two as we made our way up the steep valley to base camp, but we were still hoping for the sun to melt it off. We spent most of day three at base camp hiding from the snow in the tea tent. Still living with the fantasy that we would do the climb, we did do an acclimatization hike aboveÂ base camp towards the glacier to scout out the trail. (We had to familiarize ourselves with the trail because the ascent begins in the middle of the night.) On day four at 1 AM, the time to begin the ascent, we unzipped the tent to discover it was snowing and the snow was already eight inches deep at base camp. Bummer.
This is when we made our first good decision: not to go. So as everyone else headed out into the night with their waterproof pants and expedition-strength hiking boots, Thomas and I sank back into our ridiculously small tent and consoled ourselves with the fact that the bad weather would probably force everyone to return before morning. Even if everyone made it to the peak, the spectacular Himalayan views would certainly be obscured.
We awoke the next day to beautiful, clear, sapphire-blue skies. Oh, the tragedy!!!
MORAL 1: Never climb a mountain crossing your fingers. Get the right gear. (We already knew this moral.)
MORAL 2: Never buy a Chinese tent when you are over 6 feet tall. (This one was also relatively obvious.)