spacerMany climbers are always longing for higher peaks to conquer. The beautiful Alps rise only until the 4.810m summit of the Mont-Blanc, so it is natural to look farther; and of course, no matter how far you look, the highest mountains of the planet rest on the Himalayas, the roof of the world. The Stok Kangri, with its 6.154m, is an ideal entry-level peak, “easily” conquerable by not so technical climbers.

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The Stok Kangri is technically simple, but its height makes it nevertheless challenging.

 

Facts about Stok Kangri

Difficulty: technically one of the easier peaks – but any 6k summit is by default a challenge for the body, and therefore must not be underestimated. A previous and good adjustment to height is essential.

Ascent requirements: other than the implied sure-footedness and absence of vertigo, a proficiency with crampons and ice axes is expected/recommended. The terrain is quite steep and the ridge is very exposed. Loose stones make the climb more difficult. The last 100m before the peak you will have to cross steep icy terrain.

Height: 6.154m (this is the official value, although there are many sources that point 6.120m; on Google Earth the value is instead “only” 6.060m ;))

Location: Ladakh, Indus Valley, part of the Stok chain, easily reachable from Leh.

Ascent duration: Usually 3-4 days (depending on physical condition and acclimatization). It can be combined with trekking routes of varying length in the Hemis National Park, since these also need a previous height adjustment.

Best season to climb: from June to the end of September (always depending on weather conditions).

Note! Permit: To climb the Stok Kangri you need a valid permit from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation. You can get one in Leh or even at the base camp. Currently it costs 30€ / person.

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Ascent route of Stok Kangri (6.154m) from base camp.

Ascent in 4 days

 

Day 1: Stok-Smankarmo

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Elevation Profile (Click for enlarged view)

Leh is about 15km away from Stok and the trip by car takes approximately 30 min. Stok is also the seat of the royal family of Ladakh (it is a de facto royalty, devoid of political power). The palace is worth a short visit. At the end of the village is the starting point of the tour. First, a slow walk uphill along a glacial stream. After a while, it is necessary to overcome a small but steep pass. The route goes by impressive rock formations in the Stok Valley. Then it goes downhill until the creek, which we follow all the way to the night camp in Smankarmo. Smankarmo serves the people of Stok as summer pastures for their animals.

The maximum inclination on this day is about 40%, with an average of only about 10%.

Distance: 9 km.

Walking time: 4-5 hours.

Height of the camp: just below 4.400m.

Height difference: + 900 / -125m.

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On the way to Stok Kangri. Photo: Josef Reifenauer

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The way to Smankarmo goes over a small pass. Photo: Josef Reifenauer

Day 2: Smankarmo-Basislager

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Elevation profile (click for enlarged view)

The second day is a short one. We leave the campground and say “Julley” to the shepherds of the Stok grasslands. The route goes then uphill to the high valley, and past some stone huts belonging to the shepherds. The road is steep, but after approximately 3 hours we reach the base camp, just below 5,000m. From here we can see the glaciers of Golep Kangri, the smaller brother of Stok Kangri. At the same time, one can look down into the Indus and its green oases. For a better height adjustment and as preparation for the next day, a further increase in altitude is recommended before the short night’s sleep.

Max. Inclination: 44%, with an average of 18%.

Walking time: about 3 hours.

Height difference: + 623m / -23,3m.

Sleep height: 4.970m

Day 3: Ascent of Stok Kangri

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Elevation Profile (Click for enlarged view)

The night is very short, because we start to climb again when it is still dark – usually around 2am. With clear skies and good moonlight it is possible to go on without a head lamp. The route is also a bit steep at the start. It crosses a pass and rises steadily until you reach the Advanced Base Camp (ABC at 5.300m). After that, it’s time to walk over a flat glacier. Rope is usually not a must, since there are hardly any gaps, but it may be necessary to put the crampons on. Finally, we reach the long summit slope. We climb steeply, until about 5.700m, and branch off towards the summit ridge. Then we follow the ridge over several short steep sections until the top of the Stok Kangri at 6.154m (or less ;)). For this last bit, the use of ropes and crampons is also an option. In good weather, the summit offers a panoramic view of the mountains of Stok-, Ladakh and Zanskarkette, and the peaks of the Karakoram to the north. After a short break, the route goes the same way back to the base camp.

Max. Inclination: 84%, average 23.5%.

Walking time: 10-12 hours.

Height difference: + 1.130m / -55m.

 

 

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Sunrise at Stok Kangri

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The panoramic view of the surrounding mountains from Stok Kangri makes up for the hardships of the climb.

 

Day 4: Back to Stok

The way back to Stok follows the same route, if downhill and in opposite direction. After arriving in Leh, a celebration is in order (over a bottle of Godfather or Kingfisher, maybe?).

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A last look at the Stok Kangri before heading back to Leh.

 

Some of our expeditions

Of course there is more possible. These are only a few possibilites. If you intend to climb another peak, simply write to us: daniela@gesar-travel.com or tashi@gesar-travel.comspacer


Two sixthousanders in a row
Expedition with climbing of two 6000ers
If you need a challenge and want to climb not one but two six-thousanders, this is exactly the right trip for you. You will cimb two mountains in the Mentok range at Tsomoriri lake.

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(c) Barbara Esser

Stok Kangri in 2 weeks
Expedition to a 6000er
We offer you a two-weeks tour with ideal preparation for the ascent of Stok Kangri (6.154m), you get acclimatized by daily hikes and a short trek before our endeavor starts. So we are perfectly prepared and our chances are higher to summit the six-thousander at the end of our trip!

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(c) Markus Brixle

Sky of the nomads
Trekking & Expedition in Changthang
On this tour we fly at higher game: the nine-day-trek leads you through the the Tibetan High Plateau. And then you even climb a six-thousander.

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When in Rome, do as the Roman do. You do not have to adapt to everything what the Romans do, but knowing a little bit about how to behave in their country while on a visit can avoid annoyance and disrespect to the local customs and hence earning some unexpected friendly treatments. Some experiences and acquaintances might last for lifetime.

Von Tashi Wangail

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10 things you should not do in Ladakh

First of all, Ladakh is not a difficult place to travel. Most of the people will tolerate and forgive the awkward situations of a stranger quite naturally. However it is simply a noble sign to make an effort to understand and know some local customs before venturing into a new country.

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1. Tables are tables and no benches

The Ladakhi people sit on the floor in crossed leg positions and for this reason, the Ladakhi Table (Choktse) is even lower than the western chairs and therefore quite appealing to sit on it, especially people with Joint and knee problems. But sitting on a table or walking over it is considered quite unpolite. Anyone in such conditions (Joint and knee) can always ask the host for something to sit on or at least a raised platform, if a western type of chair is unavailable

(c) Roland Amon

Don’t sit on the small tables (= choktse) in Ladakhi houses and monasteries. Photo: Roland Amon

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2. Observe sitting hierarchy

It is important to note that a lay person do not sit on the seat rows meant for the monks and also refrain from sitting on the tables where food and tea are served. Lay person sit in accordance with the local custom and never above or on the seat meant for a monk unless a monk offer you to sit, which they do often, especially by a young monk running around and serving tea and food to the assembly of monks and visitors.

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3. Stepping over legs

While moving among people sitting in a raw, one must not step over a table (Choktse) or over people’s leg who are sitting in outstretched positions. Walking behind the people sitting in row to the desired place is always polite.

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4. Direct your feet correctly

Most Ladakhi sit cross-legged and solve the issue within itself of where to direct their feet. We “Westerners” often find this sitting position hard and have to stretch our legs. In this case, please be careful not to stretch your legs in the direction of a person, and certainly not in the direction of a Buddha statue.

Maitreya-Statue (c) Roland Amon

Please don’t direct your feet at a Statue of Buddha. Photo: Roland Amon

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5. Never step over books

One should never step over books, especially not when it comes to religious writings!

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6. Keep your spoon in your own plate

A Ladakhi does not like, if their food gets touched with the spoon of others. Whereas in the west, it is quite common to ask your friend or colleague: May I try your food? And dig into other’s plate. There will be always an extra cutlery for each dish to serve your plate. Ladakhis, while cooking, never taste the food with the cooking spoon. They always take out a little bit with the cooking spoon and put on the palm or on an extra plate and try it, but not directly with the cooking spoon. If you are offered Tsampa (roasted barley flour) please never wet your finger and try it that way! Take the spoon, put it on your palm and then into your mouth. If you are well trained you can also throw it into your mouth directly from the spoon – but this is only for experienced people. Ladakhi will never drink from your bottle, if your mouth touched the opening. They will always drink in such a way that their mouth does not touch the bottle at all.

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7. Dress appropiately

Dress appropriately especially when you visit a monastery: Please avoid shorts and shirts that do not cover your shoulders. The most monks will not say a word if you don’t dress correctly, but still why one should invite dislikes when it is not such a hard work. For the ladies: Also avoid to show too much of your cleavage and other distracting parts.

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8. Bend while entering a room

When you are about to enter a room take care not to hit your head. Sometimes this is difficult as a lot many doors in ladakh are really low. In many monasteries, especially at the entrance to certain temples, you will often find a note “Mind your head! In this case you show your respect to the sacred space by lowering head while you avoid your head against a good chance of hitting one of the door frames. Although Many Ladakhis do believe if you hit your head it is an obstacle forbade, of course not by intention.

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9. Kissing forbidden

Please don’t kiss in public. This is something uncomfortable and causes uneasiness. Even holding hands between different sexes is something you will hardly see. Whereas you will see many of the same sexes holding hand in hand or walking hand around shoulders. Do not perceive them as you might do at home. So if you come with your partner to Ladakh, simply keep your signs of love strictly to yourself and when possible away from public places.

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10. Don’t urinate in/next to water

Ladakhi do believe in lhu (serpent spirit) or spirits living in the water. So peeing in water or next to a water body is considered polluting which will cause wounds and sickness onto yourself and the people living nearby. So please – even when you think this is superstitious – don’t do it! You generally do not pee in water as people drink from the streams rivers.

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News: India declares 500 and 1000 rupee notes worthless
The Indian government withdrew all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes on 09th november 2016, essentially leaving millions of people with invalid cash in their wallets. The move is designed to combat corruption and the black money economy. The old notes can be exchanged for cash or deposited into accounts at banks and some post offices in India until Friday December 30. Customers can exchange any number of notes but will only receive up to 4,000 rupees in cash. Any value above this won’t be issued in cash – it’ll be paid into a bank account.

Instead of the old notes Indian government issued brand new bank notes of 500 and 2,000 rupee denominations.

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For your planned travel this will be of not much effect. The new notes will be soon available. But please be aware and check the notes you are getting to avoid getting invalid old ones. If you still have old notes at home you better travel quickly to india or check within your country if there is a possibility to change it there. Elsewise you can burn them as they will be worth nothing. As at 11.11.2016

 

Whoever goes on a trip also needs money. Even as the most frugal backpacker you still have to pay for various things, from food and accommodation to souvenirs and tips. But how much is appropriate? How much money should you plan on spending? How much should you take in cash? When and where can you pay with credit or debit card? Many of the questions you should ask yourself before traveling to India.

The first thing to consider is the manner in which you will travel. Are you on your own, focusing on one issue at a time, taking care of things on site as they happen? Or do you have a trip already booked and planned from home? Both ways have its advantages: the backpacker can often (but not always) arrange cheaper accommodation – rooms are generally cheaper if you negotiate locally and point out to the owner that a cheap room is better than an empty one. On the other hand, the tourist who has booked in advance, if at a higher cost, doesn’t have to waste time wandering from hostel to hostel looking for a room to spend the night. At the same time, arranging things locally usually means spending a little more money with small things, because booked tours usually include everything from airport transfers to hotel breakfasts (please always read thoroughly the services provided!).

 

Cash or card?

We would advise you to rely on both. Take some cash with you for emergency cases or spontaneous purchases, but don’t leave your credit card at home, because now most businesses in big cities accept payments with it, and also there are ATMs everywhere. Attention however when retrieving money from an ATM, especially with a debit (instead of a credit) card: normally it will be accepted in any bank, including India and other non-member countries, but there can be extra fees and withdrawal limits. The daily limit for withdrawals amounts generally to 20,000 rupees, but some banks allow a maximum of 10,000 rupees per ATM use … so you’d have to make two withdrawals of 10,000 each. In any case, like in every place on Earth, machines sometimes fail, so a little cash is always good.

Rupees can’t be changed abroad, so you must always enter the country with foreign currency. However, it is no longer necessary to carry US dollars: the Euro is often taken anywhere. Of course the British Pound and even the Swiss franc are popular currencies!

Traveler’s checks have the advantage that you have a certain degree of security in case you lose your wallet, so this is an option to be considered.

A note on credit cards: in the larger cities you can often also pay directly with credit card – but for traveling to Ladakh or other remote regions of India one may very well leave the plastic currency at home.

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Daily expenses: 100, 1000, 10,000? How much money do I need?

We are often asked by our guests how much extra money they should bring, per day. Our travels usually consider, for the big cities, just breakfast or half pension; but anywhere else (small towns, rural areas, etc) a full pension is expected. So how much money should be calculated for food, when some important meals are not included in the reservation? This is a difficult question, because it is highly variable.

Do you eat meat, or are you a vegetarian? Do you usually drink alcohol when you eat? Do you enjoy eating at a local Dhaba, or do you prefer a chic restaurant in Hauz Khas in Delhi? If you eat locally and simple vegetarian, even 100 rupees are enough. But for those who prefer to go to restaurants that “promise a more hygienic” preparation, 100 rupees will be too short. Whoever wants to eat meat in such restaurants should expect to spend at least 250 rupees. You want a beer with that? Then the bill quickly raises to 500 rupees (alcohol is generally very expensive in India!). If the plan is letting oneself go and enjoy the experience at a trendy restaurant in Delhi or any other big city, the budget, including drinks, shouldn’t be less than about 1,000 rupees. As you can see, there is a wide range: 100-1,000 rupees / meal / person. But we just want you to get a taste (pun intended) of what to expect when paying for food in India. Likely, you will also have a coffee with a piece of cake at the end, so add some rupees to the sum. As a tip you should give as much (relatively) as you are used to do at home (for example, if the bill makes 370 rupees, leave 400 rupees).

 

Souvenirs, Souvenirs

Well, that’s the other thing. And even more difficult than the food question! So, what do you want to bring home? A silk carpet? A real Pashmina? Or just a few prayer flags or a small wooden elephant? Sure, you can find enough cheap souvenirs, but also at least as many luxury items that (sometimes) are also worth the money. And one thing to remember: bargaining is almost always a must – because the price can quickly drop to a half (or even less) of the originally stated. But I said “almost always” for a reason – Ladakhi sellers for example often do not listen to reason and stay with their fixed prices, no matter how high they could be.

Tipping etiquette

And the question of all questions concerning the money is: the tip. How much should you give? What is appropriate? What’s too little? What too much? Our experience over the years has led us to recommend, for trekking / tour packages (mostly in Ladakh), a tip of 4-6 Eur per guest per day (4-6€/guest/day). This is an average and can (and should) of course vary, because ultimately the amount to tip depends on the performance of the team. That is also the reason why we did not include tip expenditure in the tour price. Where else is the incentive for a particularly good performance?

The tip should be given to the team members at the end of the travel / trekking journey – don’t give it all to the guide and hope that he distributes the tip fairly (which he would probably do, we are not insinuating the opposite). If everybody in the group had a similarly good performance, the tip is to be divided according to the team hierarchy – the guide is always at the highest, followed by the cook, then the helpers and the porters/horse men.

For examples of how to distribute the tip, you can check the entry “What about the tip? Does anybody expect anything? How much?” in our FAQ section.

In many hotels, many employees expect a tip for every service. To avoid a daily endless whipping out of 10-rupee notes, you can also point out friendly that you will leave the tip at the end of your stay, in the tip box on the front desk (in this way the money will also reach all those who work “behind the curtains”, eg. the kitchen staff).

 

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How, when and where to change?

The best exchange rate is always found in banks, but the opening times are often very unfavorable (from 10:00 to 16:00, minus lunchbreak) – exactly when you’re most probably traveling. Therefore you won’t visit them often. It is worth to compare a few money exchange offices before taking a decision, as prices often vary greatly. Be aware of moneychangers that promise a good rate at first glance, but then pile charge after charge until the end result is ridiculously high. A tip: do not change your money at the airport in Delhi, or do so with only very small amounts – the exchange rates are terrible there and several exchange offices earn a fortune with their fees. It’s much better to get a few rupees with your card directly from the ATM.

And when changing money, remember always to ask for a few notes of small denomination – especially if you intend to spend a long time away from larger cities – because a rural shop owner on the countryside may not have change for your 1,000-rupee note when you just want to buy a small bottle of water!

Last but not least: 1 EUR = about 70 rupees (as of November 2016)