Stok Kangri (6,123m) is the most popular mountain in Ladakh. Every year, hundreds of people from all over the world have tried to climb the 6,000er. But that over for now, because from now on further expeditions to the mountain are forbidden until further notice.

 

Why all expeditions to Stok Kangri are closed

Stok Kangri is considered the most popular mountain in Ladakh for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it is technically relatively easy to climb, on the other hand, it can be reached in a very short time from Leh and thus – and because for few years now relatively cheap fixed tent camps were available – expeditions to the mountain were comparatively low in costs. For reasons of environmental protection, however, this is over for now, because the inhabitants of the village Stok and the authorities have now decided to give the mountain a break to recover. We hope that there will be some access restrictions in the form of a maximum number of expeditions per year when reopening the mountain and / or only expeditions with trained teams will be allowed.

Gesar Travel welcomes this measure, because unfortunately not all mountain climbers and agencies were considerate and gentle enough, left rubbish behind and thus contributed to a pollution of the streams that endangered the drinking water supply of the population.

At present, it is impossible to predict for how long Stok Kangri will remain closed.

Anyone who still wants to go to Ladakh to climb a mountain has a variety of alternatives. There are countless 6,000ers that are technically equally easy to climb.

Some of the alternatives:

Starting from Nimaling in Markha Valley: Dzo Jongo, Regoni Malai Ri, Tasken Ri, Kangyatse Schulter

In Changthang: Dome Peak, Pyramide Peak, Mentok Peaks, Spangnak Ri

and many others.

We are happy to help you choose a suitable mountain.

Also read the following blog post on mountains in Changthang:

Mountain climbing in the land of the nomads

 

At Gesar Travel we guarantee a considerate approach to nature on all our expeditions: our team is well trained and never leaves trash behind! (Again and again, our team collects the leftover garbage of other expedition tours and takes it back to Leh.) We urge all mountain climbers to leave nothing but footprints.

Here a few examples of our other expeditions in Ladakh:

Sky of the nomads || 6000er Expedition

Two 6000ers in a row || Expedition

Zanskar for Sky Busters

Expedition Nun 7.135m

 




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The quiet way? Then why do we write this post? Well, we have been thinking a lot about whether we should write it or not, and have finally decided to do it. Otherwise people could mistakenly conclude that we are environmentally and socially irresponsible. So let’s say it once and for all: we do good, we just don’t talk much about it.

eislaufen_khardong

We brought ice skates for the children of the Khardong village

 

Good deeds

Since the founding of Gesar Travel in 2004, a lot of effort and money have gone into voluntary work and community projects:

 

  • More than 2000 EUR donated to the volunteer Austro-Ladakhi Project Help for Ladakh
  • Collection of ice skates in Austria and subsequent transport to Ladakh, where they were delivered to the children of the Khardong village
  • Financial support for the education of several Ladakhi boys and girls in a private school for a period of over ten years
  • Support of the Munsel School in Leh. The Munsel School is a school for children with mental handicaps
  • Financial support for the renovation of the monastery in the Khardong village
  • Continued (and continuing) allocation of interest-free mini-loans with the purpose of “helping people help themselves”
  • Ever since the beginning of his work at Gesar Travel, Tashi Wangail has repeatedly given young and talented but poorly trained Ladakhi the chance to better themselves – they have since trained, learned and gained a stable job with fair wages

 

munsel

For several years now, we have supported the Munsel School in Leh – a school for children with mental handicaps

Ecological responsibility without a label

We strive to act in an environmentally responsible way, especially in our everyday work.

Müll Ladakh

With the help of our horses, we always bring our trash back to Leh.

 

Environmental responsibility starts at home, and small gestures matter. We always point out to our guests that they should use their water reserves wisely, and we then show them the Dzomsa river in Leh, where it is possible to refill the bottles with drinking water, avoiding the need to buy new plastic ones. We also brief our chefs and guides to collect and bring the waste produced during our tours (consisting mainly of tin cans) back to Leh. This works so well that many of our team members collect and bring even the garbage of other groups!

Why we don’t really promote our good deeds

We don’t want to judge. Many companies proudly publicize every good deed done, and that’s ok. Sometimes though, we wonder about the real intention that lies behind the act: is it really about doing good or more about looking good? This is in any case irrelevant for the recipients of the aid, of course. Better a well marketed aid than none, period.

We will continue helping wherever we can. In little ways. Less sensational. Especially in those almost invisible cases that don’t easily lend themselves to big moving stories.

 

 




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The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world.
Alexander von Humboldt

A travelling fool is better than a sitting wise man.
Nomadic wisdom

 

Walking is better than sitting by the fire.
Paracelsus

 

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
Augustine of Hippo

 

Quotes about traveling have one thing in common: when you travel, you always learn something. And with each trip you take something home. Also Ladakh can teach us a lot. I have summarized here my five most important lessons. By Daniela Luschin-Wangail

 

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5 things you can (and should) learn from Ladakh

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1 || Water is precious

zanskar glacier

The people of Ladakh can survive only with the help of the water from glacial streams.

Ladakh is a high altitude desert with barely enough rainfall to support the idea of vegetation, with the landscape going from faint green to rocky dust just a few meters away from its icy streams and rivers. So of course the people had to think of something, and built kilometers of irrigation canals that lead the glacial streams to their villages and fields. Who, when and how much water they may lead to their fields is strictly regulated. People also drink the water primarily and directly from the streams. In winter, when the rivers carry little water or dry up entirely, they often have to endure long walks to bring drinking water from a spring or a non-dried-up torrent.

 

However, due to global warming, glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, and therefore issues like water pollution and increased water consumption during the summer months are a big source of worries in Leh (the only big city in the country!). Consequently, water treatment and storage is one of the main agendas for the future. A brilliant example of forward thinking is the ice-Stupa project: artificial glaciers that provide an alternative water source.

 

When I see how water is actually wasted in Austria and other water-rich countries (for example on excessive car washes, etc.), I can’t help but think about arid Ladakh and consider again just how important water really is. Is there a greater good on earth? We are not being simply whimsical when we ask our guests to please use water carefully in their host country!

 

 

2 || Being there for each other

family ladakh

In Ladakh, nothing is more important than family

Personally, the most impressive lesson that I learned from Ladakh is that it is not the individual that matters the most, but the community, or the family. It’s quite a lesson for people from the egotistical West, which value themselves over all other things. ME and MY instead of WE and OUR. The self has all the freedom in the world and can pursue any and every dream. I just do what pleases ME and enjoy MY life. It is nice, no doubt, but what if things are not going well for ME? Who is then there to help?

Many people are so focused on themselves that it becomes almost impossible to share their lives and experiences with others. In Ladakh, the ego plays no big role – a person’s actions are (almost) always adapted to their family. Certainly, this means that sometimes one has less freedoms (arranged marriages, studies and careers chosen by parents according to needs instead of interests, etc), but in Ladakh hardly anyone complains about this state of affairs. People are not there for themselves, but for each other. And that’s beautiful.

What do I enjoy the most when I come to Ladakh? That there is always somebody ready to help you – when cooking or taking care of the children, when keeping the house clean or when one is ill in bed… there is always someone by your side.

 

3 || Less is more

(c) Josef Reifenauer

In Ladakh you can appreciate the beauty of simplicity. (c) Josef Reifenauer

In Ladakh, one must learn to live with the little that the earth gives. A tree, for example, needs many more years to grow here than what is normal at lower altitudes. For this reason alone, trees are much valued and a great contribution to the wealth of a family.

Although life has become easier thanks to the road and the connection to Srinagar and Manali, it has not changed that much, especially during winter. Winters are long, and you have to be satisfied with few food items only: all that could be dried in the summer or has a long storage life. And if you visit the people in the countryside, you will be amazed by how little one can have and still be happy. It is possible to enjoy life even without running water, 24-hour power supply and exotic, always-ripe fruits from other continents!

 

 

4|| Nature is stronger than us

walking in zanskar

We are only guests in this world, and we should behave accordingly.

Life in the Himalayas also helps us realize that we are nothing against the forces of nature. Whoever travels on foot through Ladakh and/or speaks with the local farmers and herdsmen will soon understand that the only way to live here is by accepting nature’s will, not opposing it. One has to give in and follow the rules of Mother Earth, live with them and not against them. Otherwise you are doomed to lose.

 

5|| Patience

patience ladakh

Always calm. Patience is a virtue, and in Ladakh, it is a very common one.

Patience! What a lesson! In my first years in Ladakh, I often found myself despairing. Why do we always have to wait so long! Why do people take so much time to do things, when there are faster and more efficient ways to do it! For me in particular, who has always been used to do things fast, and usually focus on two or three tasks simultaneously, this was a hard lesson to learn.

Most Ladakhi do their things in peace and enjoy doing so. Cooking in a hurry and with the sole purpose of stuffing our mouths and stomachs is unimaginable. We will cook together, with a lot of gossip and fun. The peas are meticulously peeled one by one, the dough is kneaded over and over again, the onions very carefully chopped… Two or three hours just for dinner preparation is not something special, but an everyday occurrence! Oh but the taste! Such a slow and loving flow seems to imbue the food with a lot of positive energy.

And so it is with almost all things in Ladakh. The crops are not swiftly reaped in one laborious go – there are plenty of long tea breaks, and stories and songs are told and sang while working. No wonder then, that there have been no cases of burn-out reported in Ladakh so far. 😉

 

Now, just because the people of Ladakh are patient and do things quietly, it does not mean that our guides are unpunctual or irresponsible. They will serenely but securely lead the way and, hopefully, their calm confidence will infect you a little bit. 😉 They will tire our bodies and lift our spirits!

 

By the way, I don’t want to give a false impression: I still have a lot to learn, especially in the lessons regarding patience and management of the ego. For that I still need a few more years in Ladakh 😉 And for that I’m grateful.




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Many tourists travel with a bad conscience and think that travel, in general, brings more harm than good. It destroys the environment, the traditions and the culture of the host…  And yet they travel, hoping to be the exception.

Every traveler leaves traces. Every step does, even at home. It is the nature of a step to leave a footprint. But it is up to us to decide what shoes to wear and how to act. If we put the shoes with spikes on, and trample carelessly through the neighborhood, the footprints will be very different to those we would leave while walking softly with leather slippers. The choice is yours!

There are several arguments for staying home. Let’s take a closer look to some of them:

Argument 1: Tourists destroy traditions

Tourism is hastily blamed when mobile phones, televisions and Co. suddenly appear in formerly idyllic places, changing or downright replacing old traditions and outdated ways of communication. Let’s take Ladakh: How easily is the tourist made responsible for the way in which, nowadays, the local girls and boys prefer to don jeans instead their traditional Gonchas, or the monks ride colorful mopeds, take selfies with their smartphones, and would rather look at the world through trendy Ray Bans than from a Buddhist perspective. It is quite obvious that things have changed, and that today’s Ladakh is very different from that of the 70s. But isn’t that true for the whole world? Many cultures have also changed, sometimes radically so, without the intervention of tourists. In Austria, with the exception of special holidays and festivals, people no longer wear Lederhosen and Dirndl or go around yodeling. Therefore, we claim here that Ladakh would have changed even without tourism, because no region of the world is completely secluded from the rest. Even centuries ago, during the apogee of the Silk Road trading routes, it was practically impossible to remain completely isolated and avoid intercultural exchange. And so it is now that every corner of the Global Village is just a mouse click or a touch-screen tap away.

On the contrary, we say: Tourists are strongly interested in ancient cultures and traditions, and so their interest promotes and revives old customs and rituals, bringing new life to what would otherwise, maybe, be lost to the local youth.

Gochak – a buddhist ritual

 

Argument 2: Tourism destroys the environment

Yes, they do exist: the littering-prone tourists who leave garbage everywhere and do more harm than good. That is undeniable. Let’s use Ladakh again as an example. Leh has become a “big” city thanks to tourism, hotels and guest houses sprouting all around like mushrooms, with barely a thought given to sustainability and environmental impact.

And yes, the solar energy hot water system has taken roots, plastic bags are banned, and the sewage network is growing steadily, but there are still many shortcomings and a general disregard (mostly ignorance-fueled) for environmental protection. But let’s see more closely! Who throws carelessly his garbage away? Most waste is naturally caused by the Ladakhi and the Indian guests themselves, and cutting tourism completely would have a negligible effect on the problem. In societies such as India, in which just a few years ago non-biodegradable trash was basically unknown and then, suddenly, faced a sudden invasion of plastic packaged goods, you have to start at school… just as we did back in the 80s. Subject: Environmental awareness. Those who don’t see the problem, will continue to throw plastic bottles carelessly out of the car window, or leave chips bags everywhere for the wind to lift up and carry away. Also on the trekking routes, seldom are the European and American tourists the ones leaving their trash behind – rather, it is the accompanying trekking crew that is to blame, always reluctant to bother to collect the garbage and bring it back to Leh.

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Trekking in Ladakh (c) Roland Amon

And again, just like we said about the local traditions: it is usually the (Western) tourist that demands an ecologically gentler way of life, and thus, many local agencies and administrations are forced to make a change.

 

Argument 3: tourists have no respect for the hosts of their travel destination

Constantly putting their monstrous camera lenses in the face of their photo subjects, sitting on the tables of the praying monks, speaking disparagingly of their hosts, repeatingly disrespecting the values ​​and traditions of the country they are visiting: this is the 3rd category of tourists in our prejudice-list. We have seen (and silently condemned) many. And we have also dealt with people expelled of their staying place, because they have simply gone too far. Often, the transgressor isn’t even aware of what rule or norm he or she has broken. That’s why it is so important to inform yourself beforehand. We always recommend to put yourself in place of the people visited. What wouldn’t I like if it happened in my own home? Would I enjoy someone entering my garden and taking a close-up picture of me? Would I feel happy if a horde of loud, fast-clicking people would disturb my herd, drive my clients away or interrupt the Morning Prayer while scurrying from one corner to another?
For more about respecting localtraditions in Ladakh, read: 10 rules forLadakh

Leh (c) Roland Amon

 

There are many arguments against it, but like so many things in life, tourism has two sides. It is important that all parts of the golden triangle (the guest/traveler, the host/local, and the tour operator/organizer), find a common solution as balanced as possible, giving everyone what they want, while respecting what they need.

 

So put your light shoes on and watch your step – we’re together in this!