climbing Stok Kangri – Indian Himalaya

Stok Kangri 6154 m (8,812 ft) is one of our top 10 trekking peaks in the world.

Easy access from the tourist town of Leh, Ladakh.

Guest post by Carley Fairbrother who climbed in 2017:

At a Glance

  • Location: Ladakh, India
  • Distance: 20 km, one way
  • Elevation Gain: 2,686 m (8,812 ft)
  • Maximum Elevation: 6154 m (20,190 ft)
  • Hiking Time: 3 – 4 days plus at least a week to acclimatize.
  • Best times to hike: June – September

Highlights

  • An incredible sense of accomplishment
  • Amazing views
  • Easy to access (compared to other 6000+ m Himalayan Peaks)
  • Mountaineering skills not required (unless going unguided)
  • Meeting adventurers from around the world
  • Close encounter with wild blue sheep
Clay in the last few feet before the summit

Considerations

Elevation: Take time to acclimatize and consider packing acetazolamide (Diamox). Learn the signs of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and be prepared to cut your trip short or postpone it until you are acclimatized. AMS can progress into the deadly High-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE) or High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE). Also, bear in mind that the scant oxygen will slow you down a lot.

Weather: Less oxygen makes everything seem colder and the temperature felt like it was around -10 ° C (14° F) at the top. Don’t be fooled by reports that Ladakh is a desert. Bring a rain jacket. It can also get very hot, so come prepared to protect yourself from the sun.

Glacier Travel and Steep Terrain: There is a short glacier crossing followed by a lot of steep, exposed terrain. Use rope, crampons, and an ice axe, and either learn how to use them or hire a guide.

Dawn was welcomed as we approach the ridge after a long night of climbing

Dark: A midnight start is required to take advantage of the glacier while it’s hard and icy. Travelling on the aforementioned terrain in the dark carries some obvious risks.

Water: The camps provide boiled water, but bringing your own filter or water treatment tablets/drops will give you more options.

Logistics

Getting There
To get to Leh (Ladakh’s largest town), either fly or drive overland from Delhi. The cheapest way is to catch a bus to Manali, then another bus on the Leh-Manali highway to Leh. The bus ride from Manali to Leh takes 17 hours and is best split into two days. A nonstop bus costs Rs 833 (12 USD) and the 2-day trip costs Rs 2900 (40 USD).

If you don’t want to sit on a crowded bus as you go over some of the world’s highest motorable passes, you can hire a private or shared taxi from Manali for around Rs 20 000 – 30 000 (290-420 USD. Manali is a nice town and worth a few days’ visit.

Leh – Menali Highway

The road is open in the summer months and is prone to closures from landslides and flooding. It is narrow, rough, and windy – not for the faint of heart. It also contains one of the world’s highest motorable passes, and several more over 5000 m. Pretty much everyone I know (myself included) got altitude sickness going over the passes. Leh can also be accessed via the Srinagar Leh highway, but the road is longer and subject to the same closures.

Flying is the easiest and cheaper than hiring a private taxi. A one-way flight from Delhi to Leh will be around $100 – $200 USD and will take 1 hour 20 minutes. We went overland on the way there and flew out.

Getting from Leh to the trailhead at Stok Village is a quick taxi or bus ride.

Food and Accommodation

Accommodation and restaurants are plentiful in Stok Village and Leh.

There are three camps on the way up Stok Kangri: Chang Ma, Mankorma, and Base Camp. All serve food and have tents available for trekkers. The tents all have sleeping pads, but they aren’t very warm or comfortable. Bring your own sleeping bag. Also, Chang Ma only had a few tents available.

Guide or No Guide?

Most people choose to hire a guide for climbing Stok Kangri. You can hire one at base camp or in Leh, and it is fairly inexpensive. Whether you hire a guide in Leh or base camp, the cost will be roughly the same for a 4-day trek. Ask around in Leh for current costs of both, as things can fluctuate from year to year. You can also join an expedition complete with ponies, cooks, and comfortable tent.

Join an Expedition if:

  • You don’t want to waste time planning.
  • You don’t want to carry your stuff.
  • You want to be comfortable.

Get a guide if:

  • You have no mountaineering experience.
  • You prefer being safe.
  • You haven’t had much time to acclimatize (they can help you down if you get AMS).
  • The climbing conditions aren’t great.

Consider skipping a guide if:

  • You have mountaineering experience.
  • You are confident that you are well acclimatized.
  • You like the independence of hiking alone.
  • The conditions are good.

Gear

Rope, harnesses, crampons, gaiters, and ice axes can be rented in Leh or at the base camp. It’s slightly cheaper to rent from Leh, and the gear is probably better, but that means lugging it uphill at high altitudes for two days. You can rent sleeping bags too, but I’d advise bringing your own.

Your boots should be ankle high with a fairly stiff sole so they can be worn with crampons. Mountaineering boots are not needed. Also, do not forget your headlamp and extra batteries. You’ll be climbing in the dark for most of the summit day.

Permit

Get the permit from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) office in the Mentokling restaurant for 50 USD. You need to go right into the restaurant to find the office. It is cheaper at the IMF office, but buying it at base camp might save you some money if you don’t end up climbing. You can find current permit prices here.

Our Cost Breakdown

For 2 people in 2017

Taxi from Leh to Stok Village: Rs 1900 (27 USD)
Tent stay, including food: Rs 6000 (87 USD)
Rentals of rope, harness, ice axe, and crampons: Rs 1500 (22 USD)

Total: Rs 8400 (121 USD)

Hiring a guide from base camp would have cost and additional Rs 8000 (115 USD)

The Route

We had been in Ladakh for nearly a month at this point, and had been trekking for most of that time, so we opted to do it in three days. Actually, we had planned four, but dragged ourselves all the way back to Stok Village on summit day. Despite the short days, the night at Mankorma is essential to acclimatization.

Day 1 – Stok Village to Mankorma camp

  • Elevation Gain: 823 m (2,700 ft)
  • Distance: 9 km (5.6 miles)
  • Hiking Time: 4 hours

Chang Ma Camp is at 5.5 km (3.4 miles) and makes a good spot to stop for lunch or tea

Photo: Pack ponies were more common than people along the trail.

Day 2 – Mankorma camp to base camp

  • Elevation Gain: 610 m (2000 ft)
  • Distance: 4 km (2.5 miles)
  • Hiking Time: 2 hours

Woke up to blue sheep lingering near our tent.

We took an acclimatization walk to the ridge above camp though most people opted to go all the way to the glacier.

Blue sheep at Mankorma Camp.

Day 3 – Base camp to summit and back to Stok Village

The view from the top. We speculated that the larger peak in the very pack might be K2.
  • Elevation Gain: 1,223 m (4012 ft) ascent, 2,629 m (8,625 ft) descent
  • Distance: 7 km(4.3 miles) to the summit, 20 km (12.4 miles) return to Stok
  • Hiking Time: 12 hours to summit, 16 hours total

12:00 AM departure from base camp to cross the glacier before it softens up
We planned to stay another night, but I was having trouble breathing and loitering around all day didn’t seem like fun.

You can find the whole story of our Stok Kangri climb on Review Outdoors here.

The Best Backpacking Adventure I’ve Ever Had

best hikes in Kashmir, India

India and Pakistan both dispute ownership of the Kashmir Valley, and political violence can flare up without warning. Because of ongoing security problems, many foreign governments advise against all travel, or all but essential travel, to areas outside of the cities of Srinagar and Jammu, and your travel insurance may be invalid if you ignore this advice.

Lonely Planet

For increased personal safety you could sign up for a guided trek with India Hikes:

The top question on  everyone’s mind is whether they … do the Kashmir Great Lakes trek (KGL) or the Tarsar Marsar trek. …

Which Kashmir Trek To Choose?

Andrew Skurka interview

Backpacker Radio spoke with the thru hiking legend, author, blogger, and backcountry guide Andrew Skurka.

Very entertaining. Very informative. He shares strong opinion on gear.

Andrew names Cam “Swami” Honan and Justin “Trauma” Lichter as two thru hikers he admires in 2019.

Zach and Smiles host the podcast. Listen online – Backpacker Radio #33

Andrew Skurka

related – You Think Your Winter Was Rough (Trauma’s winter PCT)

NEW – Khopra Ridge trek, Nepal

Annapurna region.

You see 23 big mountains from Khopra Ridge.

… 3 are amongst the 14 highest mountains in the world – Mt Manaslu (8th highest), Mt Annapurna I (9th highest) and Mt Dhaulagiri I (7th highest) …

It costs about $500 for 8 days to join an IndiaHikes guided tour to and from Pokhara. Everything included. Accommodation and meals at teahouses.

Sounds GREAT to me.

details

Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, Montana

Ryan Jordan:

As part of the Backpacking Light Wilderness Adventures program, Trek Director Kevin Fletcher and I led a guided trip across the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness in Montana in September 2018.

This program, dubbed the “Whitetail Trek”, was a new program for us where we gave the group a start and end point and let them plan their own trek across the range. …

WILDERNESS ADVENTURES 2018 WHITETAIL TREK (PHOTO ESSAY)

That was 2018. But a similar off trail route is planned for 2019.

September 21-28, 2019 – WHITETAIL ITINERARY ($1897) – Level 3+ – A longer-duration program (8-day program) spanning a longer traverse of the Beartooth Plateau, with significant off-trail travel.

Top 5 Hiking & Climbing Routes in Tanzania

Guest post by Marian Morgam:

Tanzania is an exotic tapestry of colors, flavors, and sights. From the vast plains of the Serengeti, teeming with Africa’s iconic Big Five, to paradisiacal islands that call for horizontal me-time on sun-soaked beaches, there is so much more to Tanzania than what you’d expect.

Jaw-dropping sights abound at every corner when you’re on a safari in Tanzania, but if it’s a killer view you’re after then look no further than the region’s heavenly mountains.

Here are our top 5 mountains in Tanzania that provide the most breathtaking views and trekking experiences. Don’t forget your best travel camera.

1. Mount Kilimanjaro

Best for: Intermediate – advanced climbers
Fitness level: High
Recommended days: 7 Days (depending on route)

Whether you’re daring enough to climb it or simply just want to take in this snow-capped mountain from the ground, stopping over at Kilimanjaro is an essential part of any Tanzanian itinerary.

The views at the top of Kilimanjaro lure thousands of trekkers to the roof of Africa each year and are completely worth the time and effort.

At 5896m, the peaks of this equatorial mountain can certainly seem imposing but that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach. Mount Kilimanjaro has six climbing routes that vary in length, scenery, and difficulty.

There is no single “best route” so when choosing a path to climb, it all comes down to your previous experience and fitness, the time of the year, and personal preference.

The Marangu route is the oldest on the mountain and often referred to by locals as the “Tourist Route” or “Coca-Cola Route” as it is the most popular (and because there is a hut that sells coca-cola along the way).

The trail begins among the ripe banana stands of Kilimanjaro’s verdant lower slopes and gradually inclines up through the dense, wet montane rainforest toward alpine meadows and moorlands before reaching the peaks.

It’s worth noting that, although this route is dubbed the easiest, it is definitely NOT for the faint of heart and only a third of the climbers on this route reach the summit, so you should definitely train your body for the trek.

The Machame route is a longer, scenic climb that takes more experienced trekkers across a succession of valleys, ridges, and barren lunar landscapes, before reaching the twin summits of Kibo and Mawanzi.

To aid acclimatization, plan on at least a seven-day round trip for a summit attempt, and budget at least USD$1700.

2. Mount Meru

Best for: Beginner – intermediate climbers
Fitness level: Moderate
Recommended days: 5 Days

Situated in the Arusha National Park, Tanzania’s second-highest peak is often lost in the shadow of Kilimanjaro, but these rugged slopes offer an exhilarating trek like no other.

If you’re after no traffic and a great wildlife experience, Mount Meru is the perfect mountain to climb! Because Meru is lower than Kilimanjaro, a trek can be done comfortably in four days and three nights. But, do not underestimate the mountain

While it is generally considered a “warm-up” to Kilimanjaro, its steepness, terrifying drop-offs on the final ascent, as well as the effects of altitude make it challenging climb. It is the second highest mountain in Tanzania and the fourth highest on the continent, but the rewards are unparalleled.

The ascent starts in a savanna, taking intrepid travelers through lush forest on the mountain’s lower slopes, rising up through picturesque glades and finishing with an exhilarating walk along the knife edge of Meru’s (dormant) volcanic crater rim.

The treks are geared more toward hikers than climbers and the paths lead travelers over an array of landscapes, brimming with elephants, giraffes, and buffalo!

2. Ol Doinyo Lengai

Best for: Beginner – intermediate climbers
Fitness level: Moderate
Recommended days: 3 Days

Have you ever thought of yourself as brave enough to climb an active volcano? If so, Ol Doinyo Lengai, aka the “Mountain of God” is one worthy adversary and can be completed in three days.

You can climb the volcano all year round, but during wet seasons (March to May, October and December) the roads to Ol Doinyo Lengai make it horrible to travel.

Thanks to its prime location in the eastern Rift Valley, this fiery peak offers amazing views. This impressive mountain, which dominates the whole plain, represents a great beauty due to its peculiar, almost perfect conical shape of about 1,600 m base diameter, and with the summit at 2,768 meters above sea level.

Its slopes have been formed by compacted ash for thousands of years, and its deep ravines, cracks and white lava flows are clearly visible from any spot, giving it an inhospitable and majestic appearance at the same time.

Because it is an active volcano, it’s very hot there, so make sure you bring enough water. To get a unique, breathtaking view of Tanzania, climb Ol Doinyo Lengai before sunrise.

4. Usambara Mountain Range

Best for: Beginner – intermediate hikers and climbers
Fitness level: Moderate
Recommended days: Routes range from 1 to 10 days

The Usambara mountain range is one of Tanzania’s most underrated attractions, home to a plethora of wildlife, verdant tea plantations and numerous scenic viewpoints.

Usambara is a vibrant, diverse location to admire and is often said to be the pinnacle of beauty in Tanzania and a true gem of Africa.

Although the mountains are known for their comfortable climate all year round, the best time to visit is a between June and November, the dry season.

While not on the main Tanzanian northern tourist circuit, these glorious mountains offer a unique African experience, where hikers can spot exotic wildlife in Magamba forest or take in jaw-dropping natural scenery such as the Mkuzu Waterfall.

There are many varieties of hikes in Usambara and if you happen to have more time there are options of longer multiple day treks in the Usambara Mountain region. This is a great way to see the local area and experience the hospitality of Tanzanian people.

5. Udzungwa Mountains

Best for: All hikers and climbers
Fitness level: All
Recommended days: Routes range from 20min hikes to 5 day treks

The Udzungwa Mountains National Park is a paradise for both hikers and backpackers. It is an impressive destination covering a massive area of 2000 sq km of wild East African forests.

Although Uzdungwa is not usually listed in the catalogs of Tanzanian routes, it can be a great destination for those who love hiking. It provides an excellent network of forest routes, among which is a half-day walk to the Sanje waterfall that plunges 170 meters through a mist to the forest valley below.

Because of such a wide range in altitude and habitat types, Udzungwa National Park has one of the highest numbers of species worldwide. Six species of primate are found here, including the Iringa red colobus monkey and the Sanje Crested Mangabey, which are native to the area.

The plateau also supports a diverse, large mammal community including elephants, buffaloes, lions and leopards.

Udzungwa has the richest forest bird habitat in Tanzania. The dry season takes place from June to October, and that is when it is best to visit.

Each mountain is an earthly treasure, and there will be no regrets whichever one you choose. We wish you safe travels as you embark on your next adventure!

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself and reach new heights. Go on an epic mountain safari in Tanzania! It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marian Morgam is a travel blogger from Minnesota. She has traveled to almost 50 countries and spent two years living and working in Europe as well as volunteering in Tanzania. Currently, she is working on a book about tips for backpacker travelers around the world.

This article was originally published in bookallsafaris.com.