Saturday, September 23, 2017

Stok Kangri - A Dream Unfulfilled! (Part 2)

Stok Kangri - A Dream Unfulfilled! (Part 1)
Stok Kangri - A Dream Unfulfilled! (Part 2) (You are reading this)
Stok Kangri - A Dream Unfulfilled! (Part 3) 

Day 3 (28th July, 2017)

Shouts of bed tea made us wake up around 6.30 am. After finishing early morning chores and breakfast, we got ready for today's hike to our second camp at Manokarma at 14200 feet.

Tushar Dada ready for the hike:

We ascended a trail to reach to the plateau we had visited yesterday as part of our acclimatisation. Yesterday we had followed the left trail going up on the mountain but today's trail was in the opposite direction. We rested a bit on this plateau before descending for some distance.
Initial ascent to reach to the plateau:

Vishnu on the backdrop of rocky mountains:

Yesterday we had followed the faint looking trail going up the mountain as part of our acclimatisation walk.

Now, we were walking with the mountain on the right and a river bed on the left with part of river bed occupied by a gushing stream.

Gushing stream accompanied us for some part of trail.

Today we started encountering trekkers going back to Leh from Stok Kangri expedition. "Did you summit Stok? How was the experience?" were the questions posed for these trekkers. Most of the trekkers answered in the negative and we realized that summit was going to be a challenge for our group as well.

A pretty lady was descending with headphones almost dancing. She seemed pretty ecstatic.

"Did you summit?" and "Yes" was her emphatic reply.

"How was it?"

" It is pretty tough sir. Only will power will take you up there." She was the only one from her group to have made it to the summit and she was over the moon.

"What is your name"?

"Kubra Sait"

Name didn't ring any familiarity to me but it did for Vishnu from Bangalore Team. Later he told us that lady was the famous Radio Jockey, actress and anchor of Pro Kabaddi league.

Team with actress Kubra Sait:

Vishnu with Kubra Sait:

Just before our second camp, I came across three German trekkers. All of them were successful in scaling Stok Kangri and were in effusive praise for Leh Ladakh and India. They were in Leh region for a month and had done few acclimatisation treks before attempting Stok Kangri. As compared to them, we seemed poorly acclimatised after just 2-3 days of acclimatisation.

Our tents were not yet laid as we reached to the campsite. Soon, weather deteriorated and everyone started shivering. To keep the body warm, some of us kept moving here and there. Milind Dadu decided to have a small jog to keep the body warm. Everyone retired to the tents as soon as they were laid.

Today I was feeling much better and was able to eat much better (though 25% of my normal diet) than the previous days. In fact I was feeling the best today in all the days since I landed in Leh. It made my mood buoyant. I participated in UNO game and kept on playing for many hours with the team.

Our campsite:

Enjoying the game of UNO:

Today I was feeling great and did not want to go inside the tent. Somehow spending time inside the tent was making me lethargic; so I kept killing time outside the tent. In the evening I decided to go a bit higher. Only Aadil Baba agreed to accompany me as everyone preferred to stay inside the tent with a very dull weather outside. Weather was overcast and possibility of rain loomed. Still I took a chance and went for a stroll with Aadil Baba accompanying me. Hardly had we walked for 10 minutes when it started raining and we reluctantly returned back to the tents.

Today's day went really well as far as I was concerned. Finally all the negative thoughts of not getting acclimatized were swept away and for the first time I started imagining myself conquering Stok Kangri.

Day 4 (29th July, 2017)

We woke up to the crisp morning next day. Today's target was to reach to the final camp at 16500 ft. I was pretty excited as for the first time in my life, I was going to camp at an elevation above 16000 ft.

Start of hike towards base camp:

We were gaining height slowly and steadily. At one point we witnessed many mountain goats wandering merrily on the eerie slope of the mountain in front of us. We kept on watching their movement by perching on the rock.

We encountered a big ascent as we were approaching our final camp site. This ascent tired all of us and we took frequent breathing breaks while negotiating this final ascent.

A large campsite with large number of tents greeted us as we came on a large plateau. Again our tents had not yet arrived and we just lied down on the grass . Finally we had arrived at the campsite over 16000 ft. Campsite was again beside the big mountain stream. A gigantic mountain laid in front of us and we spotted a distinct trail going up the mountain. Same trail was going to take us in the direction of Stok Kangri.

Beautiful weather at camp site:

Today we were just advised to rest avoiding doing anything strenuous. So we just killed time in strolling around the campsite, playing UNO and just chatting. In the afternoon, I preferred watching a movie on Milind Dadu's mobile instead of sleeping.

Most of us seemed to be in good condition when we arrived but some started developing headache and mild dizziness as the day progressed. Worst of the lot was Milind Dadu who had acute headache and preferred to rest inside the tent. Being the fittest member of our group, I was pretty certain that Milind Dadu would start feeling better soon.

Kiran Kale posing and urging me to take his photograph:

Next day morning, we were taken for the acclimatisation walk on the trail going up the mountain. It was a gigantic mountain but we did pretty well and reached to the top in 40 minutes. Campsite looked like few tiny dots as we reached to top of the mountain.

Soaking in the great vista:

Today night we would be traversing the immediate mountain ahead and I kept looking and wondering what would be in store for us behind the mountain.

Group photo before descending to camp:

Final acclimatisation walk was done. All participated. Though no one complained, I started worrying about Milind Dadu. Though he came with us on top of the mountain, he looked very wretched and slept the whole time we were on top of the mountain. After spending half an hour, we descended back to the camp site.

Milind Dadu's headache didn't subside even after taking multiple tablets. Considering his condition, Dr Sathaye, I and Tushar Dada advised him to descend to Leh as soon as possible and he also agreed instantly. This retreat was pretty shocking to us considering Milind Dadu was the fittest member among us. Sadly high altitude sickness had cut short his quest to conquer Stok Kangri . A helper from the team was chosen to accompany Milind Dadu to Leh and we all escorted him for certain distance and kept on watching him till he disappeared.

Considering number of strenuous treks we had done together, losing Milind Dadu from the expedition was the personal setback for me. But it was the right decision at that moment and we had to take it in our strides. Still there were 10 of us and there was a peak to be climbed.

We were going to start for the summit bid at night and we were asked to rest the whole day. Considering we had to trek the whole night, we preferred to rest inside the tents and tried to get as much rest as possible. In the afternoon, our guides prepared the crampons to suit all shoes and we were given crampons, ice axes and harnesses to carry in our rucksacks.

As the afternoon wore on, I came to know that Pandit Dhondge and Aadil Baba had also decided to quit and they would rest in the camp itself. It brought the count to 8 now . We were given early dinner around 5 PM and then were asked to sleep for few hours. Considering the long night ahead, we retreated to our tents. Tonight I was embarking on the most challenging high altitude trek of my life. Mentally preparing myself for the summit bid, I tucked inside my sleeping bag to get the much needed rest.

Stok Kangri - A Dream Unfulfilled! (Part 1)
Stok Kangri - A Dream Unfulfilled! (Part 2) (You are reading this)
Stok Kangri - A Dream Unfulfilled! (Part 3)