Sky High Treks and Tours
Climbing at Stok Kangri and Mentok I
By Rainer Schöffl   
Stok Kangri is a beautiful mountain which dominates the panorama of Leh and which is said to be easy to climb up. But to tell you right at the outset: A mountain being more than 6000 m high is never easy since the air pressure there is less than 50% of that at sea level. Even after acclimatization, one can become altitude sick, and even Ladakhis can get this sickness. However, it is worth trying to climb on this mountain!

Stok Kangri
Stok Kangri
From photos in Internet and guide books I concluded that there is almost no snow or ice on Stok Kangri, and only due to the fact that my two companions had packed their crampons I did luckily the same.

Tsering Norboo, who had already arranged and guided our Markha valley winter tour, planned for our Stok Kangri trip five days, although most people try to do it in four days. However, planning of an additional day at the Advanced Basecamp at 5340m provided us the best acclimatization to the high altitude and reduced the risk not to reach the summit. He engaged for us an experienced guide who was already fifteen times at Stok Kangri summit.

After three days of the usual acclimatization at Leh we started our tour at Stok on early October 2006. It was an easy and nice hiking up to the first campsite at 4400m altitude. Since the tourist season was already over, there were only few people at the location. The sun was shining throughout the day, and it did so during the whole tour.

The Basecamp at 4940m altitude was reached in the early afternoon of the second day. After setting up our tent, we walked up a few hundred altitude meters to adjust ourselves to the height and to watch some wild Blue Sheep.

Advanced Basecamp
Advanced Basecamp
The next day was a very short trip up to the glacier where we set up the Advanced Basecamp. We used the rest of the day for walking on the glacier and checking our equipment, especially the crampons because we had to put them on our boots in darkness the next day.

The fourth day saw us crossing the glacier before sunrise and starting the ascent. Instead of climbing on the usual route, our guide chose the direct way straight up (“Direttissima”, as mountaineers say) on the steep slope on which we had to use our crampons almost all the way up. This was really exhausting, but after a few hours we reached the summit without problems.

View from the summit
View from the summit
There was a wonderful view over the whole mountain range up to the K2 on the horizon and down to Leh. Our guide called Norboo by his mobile and we enjoyed it very much when we received his congratulations for reaching the summit. There are different figures about the altitude of Stok Kangri; our modern GPS measured 6138m +/- 1 m, and we take this number as the true altitude. After 30 minutes rest on the summit we went down to the Basecamp where we stayed for the night, and then we returned within half a day to Stok.

After celebrating the victory over Stok Kangri with Godfather beer, we went together we Norboo by car within 1 ½ days to Korzok at lake Tsomoriri. It was our plan to climb there on another more than 6000m high mountain, named Mentok I.

We started our ascent together with Norboo, a guide and a horseman and three horses hired by Norboo in Korzok, and set up the Basecamp in 5370m altitude. There was a beautiful view over Tsomoriri and the group of more than 6000m high mountains, such as Chamser Kangri and Lungser Kangri.

The night started to become very cold, and the temperature was -15°C before sunrise. Only my nephew Klaus together with the guide started to climb up to the summit but had to turn back when they realized that they were not prepared for the very steep, bare ice of the glacier of Mentok I. Therefore, we descended early to Korzok where it began to snow, and before we went back to Leh during the next two days we stayed one night at the beautiful lake Tso Kar. We saw there a lot of wild donkeys and a few cranes which had not yet started their flight to the warm South.