The 2015 Trek & Mountain/Peak Mountaineering Stok Kangri expedition is fast approaching and we couldn’t be more excited. The sights and sounds of Delhi and Agra, the tranquility of Leh and the Indian Himalayas, a chance to climb the highest mountain in the Stok range and the opportunity to use some of the finest equipment available. It’s certainly going to be an incredible adventure and we’ve got two places left!
We’re often asked questions by potential team members, so we’ve grilled Paul (the expedition leader) over coffee and crumbly cake down at the local café and list the answers to the most common ones below.
How would you sum up this expedition?
This is an expedition that has it all: the frentic pace of Delhi, the tranquility of the city of Leh, the spectacle of the 6000 metre mountain – an achievable goal even for those new to Himalayan mountaineering and the majesty of the Taj Mahal.
Why did you select it as a Trek and Mountain expedition objective?
I first climbed Stok several years ago while guiding in Ladakh. By then I’d climbed a number of big mountains yet Stok maintained its place on my favourites’ list. I vowed we’d run this as a guided trip and true to my word, Peak Mountaineering has now run a number of trips to Stok Kangri.
What is Ladakh like?
Fantastic! One of the most remarkable places I’ve visited, it’s part of India yet feels more like an extension of Tibet (also known as ‘little Tibet’). It sits in a huge bowl nestled between stunning mountain peaks (Stok Kangri is clearly visible from Leh). The landscape around it is arid and yet Leh is very green and well irrigated. It’s a capital city – but not as you know it!
But what makes a place is, of course, its people. And for that reason Ladakh can’t be topped. Gentle, welcoming, warm, helpful, humble and fun loving – the people of Ladakh are amazing ambassadors for their country.
I see team members will be receiving some equipment, please tell us more.
We’ve teamed up with Rab Equipment for a brilliant selection of clothing much of it features high performance Polartec fabrics. We’ve worked closely with Rab for a while: their heritage of equipping climbing and expedition teams makes them a perfect match.
Rab uses many innovative and high quality fabrics produced by leading manufacturer Polartec. Polartec NeoShell – a waterproof breathable fabric – and Polartec Alpha, a woven insulation are both in the kit bag. For more information a review of Rab’s Neo Guide jacket [similar to the Myriad hardshell the team will be using] is here. The ground- breaking insulation, Alpha, [we’re just finishing a review of the Alpha insulated Strata Hoodie which the team will also be using] will be live soon too. There are also garments using Polartec Power Stretch and Power Shield. Polartec and Rab will keep us very well protected!
The team is also benefiting from the support of legendary rucksack and luggage manufacturer Lowe Alpine who is providing a rucksack and duffel bag for team members. Nikwax has provided some great leather and fabric care products too.
Do I need to spend lots on other equipment?
No! Most of what you need is fairly standard hill going kit and, combined with the amazing sponsorship package [worth around £1K] there’ll be little to buy. For many people the main possible expenses on this trip will be suitable cold weather boots [although these can be hired in Leh], a three-season sleeping bag capable of keeping you warm during the mountain nights. Other technical details like crampons , ice axes, harnesses and helmet are included in the price. Check out equipment list here.
Is it hard to operate at 6000 metres?
Straight from sea level to 6000 metres would likely cause problems: the body needs time to acclimatize. Our itinerary is carefully planned to minimise altitude problems. For example, after flying to Leh [3505 metres] we’ll have several relaxing days with some short acclimatisation walks. Our trek is then carefully planned to allow the body to adapt. We can’t guarantee success as everyone is affected by altitude differently – but we try very hard to make it possible.
How technical is the route?
The route is technical enough to be interesting and easy enough for relatively inexperienced mountaineers. Starting with a steady walk out of basecamp, we drop down to the glacier. Once crossed, we climb the lower slopes in the shadow of a vast hanging glacier before weaving across to a stunning ridge which we follow to the summit.
How fit do I need to be?
It isn’t beyond the scope of everyday adventurers: anyone that has reasonable fitness levels, puts some time into training before leaving and can cope with trekking for a number of days on the run will manage just fine.
Can I do the climb for charity?
Of course. Stok Kangri would be a great charity challenge.
What will the weather be like?
The traditional trekking season in Ladakh is mid June to mid September. In Leh the typical summer maximum temperature is 30°C and minimum 12°C. At higher altitudes on the trek temperatures can range from about 20°C to -5°C. Delhi is typically hot and humid at this time of year with temperatures in July and August ranging from 24°C to 34°C with high humidity.
What’s the make-up of the team likely to be…?
The team is looking like a great mix of men and women with different professions and of different ages. There are a couple of people that know each other but the rest are individuals who have signed up separately.
I see that I’ve missed the training weekend. Does that matter?
The training weekend is certainly a useful part of preparing for the expedition but we had several team members who couldn’t make it so we’ve been sending information to them by regular expedition newsletters and emails. Not having attended the training weekend should definitely not put people off attending the expedition.
What in-country support will there be?
We have a very experienced, ultra-reliable and very friendly agent who’ll be sorting out a lot of the in-country logistics. The agent will also appoint our pony handlers, arrange cooks and local guides to support us.
What safety back up is available?
Satellite phones are banned in India but the team will carry an emergency beacon and Inreach communication device. We’ll be in regular contact with our UK office, Leh has good medical facilities and a comprehensive medical kit will be carried by the team.
How easy is it to stay in touch with home?
In Delhi and Leh there are lots of internet services and international phone calls can be made quite cheaply. It is also possible to buy a local SIM card for your existing mobile (please check your mobile will work from India though). In an emergency we can also be contacted on our Inreach device.
Do I need a visa?
Citizens from most countries require a visa to visit India. The procedure for obtaining tourist visas has been outsourced to VFS Global and their website is very informative. They usually don’t take too long but please leave plenty of time as delays have certainly been known to occur!
DO I need vaccinations?
Yes. You will need some vaccinations. Please obtain professional advice from a travel clinic or your local GP about which vaccinations you need to have.
What’s the itinerary?
It’s all set out for you here.
I’m keen. How long do I have to decide if I’m coming?
We really need to finalise the team by the middle of July. This allows us to sort out all the overseas arrangements. If you’re interested and want to speak to us in more detail please feel free to give us a call. We’d really love to have you along.
I am keen but can’t make those dates. Any alternatives?
Of course – please get in touch and we can discuss various options.
I’ve got other questions that haven’t been answered here. Who do I ask?
Please feel free to give us a call and we’ll answer it for you….and probably also add it to this list!