Sunday, June 29, 2008

A trip to heights of Ladakh

Ever since my EBC unsuccessful attempt, I keep thinking about different ways that trip could have been different. A extra day at pheriche would have made a difference. probably should have listened to the Nepali guide when he said
"I have 14 yrs of hiking experience, so would advise you to stay at pheriche for a day. while coming down from EBC you go in a single day, no problem, but be careful going up"

Well, I had my own reasons and ambitions and gut feeling, which didn't turn out be right. As Dan Sanford has said "Experience is what you get when you don't get what you want".

With that experience I cannot afford to take Altitude lightly, 14000ft is about the highest I would ever think of climbing in a single day, anything more than that would require lot more respect from my side.

Couple of weeks back when I was browsing through Bangalore Mirror, I came across a article on Stok Kangri, one of the Trekking Peaks in Leh, Ladakh. Height 6120M. That was it, it is going to be my second trip to Himalayas(also Karokoram) and a chance get over my EBC DNF. After about 2-3 weeks of researching around travel plans, acclimatization schedule, training plan, COST and other trip reports I came out with a following 13 day schedule. A raft, bike , hike and a climb Trip.

End Point

Max Altitude(mtrs) Night Stay
1 Land at Leh

3505 Hotel
2 Acclimatising(visit bazaar)

3505 Hotel
3 Bike to Hemis and back

4000 Monastery/Hotel
4 2 Day hike: Leh to Rumbak

3800 Home stay
5 Rumbak to Gandala Pass to Nimo

4970 Hotel Leh
6 Leh to Stok village to Mankarmo

4500 Camp
7 Mankarmo - Base Camp(BC)

5000 Camp
8 Base-Advanced BC(Acclimatize )

5300 Camp
9 Summit day

6120 Camp
10 Extra summit day - BC

6120 Camp
11 BC-Leh

3505 Camp
12 Spare day/Raft in Indus

3505 Hotel
13 Fly back/back to work

3505 Pune

Unlike my previous trip, my main focus this time is to properly acclimatize before reaching base camp. It was interesting conversing with a Travel agent in Leh. I called up and asked about Stok Kangri, and it goes as follows:

Guide: You come over here, we will fix a trip.
Me: how long will the trip be?
Guide: You are Indian right? Then 5 days you can do it?
Me: what?? 5 days
Guide: Yes , if you were foreigner (referring to westerners) you could in 3 days.

I laughed and told him OK, will come there and decide.

Well If not for my EBC misadventure, I would have landed up in Stok Kangri ready to climb 20000ft + in 5 days round trip :). Ridiculous. Again "experience is what you get" better at EBC than at a dangerous mountain. I had considered some packaged tour options as well, but decided against it as it makes the trip too predictable and leaves little room to explore in your own terms.

The trip mainly will consist of following adventures:
1. Bike ride to Hemis and Back:
Mainly enjoying the high altitude desert and rolling hill ride to Hemis. And visit world famous gompas in the region. Gompas are mainly is a monastery, this was built in `7th century by king
Singe Namgyal.

2. Trek and Climb:
As part of acclimatization I plan to do a 2 day hike covering Hemis National park loop, passing one of high passes gond-La pass and returning back to Hotel at Leh.

With about 5 days in Leh and higher altitude, I should be in good shape to hike towards EBC which will be a total of 5 days round trip to summit of Stok Kangri. I am hoping to join some group once reach Leh.

3. Raft Indus river:
Finally if time permits, a 1 day raft trip in Indus; one of the oldest and longest rivers in the world which has seen plethora of civilizations in her lifetime. This should be a unique experience.

Now except for starting day everything else is decided :). Following sites were a great reference in planning trip so far.


vikram said...

Hi Anil,

Great to hear about your planned trip to Leh. I'm sure you've read a lot about altitude acclimatization and now have first hand experience too. However, here is another site

which talks about altitude. What I like about this site is that it provides an intro to the physiology of altitude - what exactly is happening inside your body, why do you feel short of breath, how does the body react to decreased oxygen, why the suggested times to acclimatize, how different people differ in their rates of acclimatization, what do medicines do, what is actually happening in HAPE and HACE.

Just as recovery weeks make you stronger in sports, climbing high, and sleeping low helps your body acclimatize. (Its the stimulus which helps your body cope - not the fact that you've climbed high) (There are a number of things happening inside your body like an increased haemoglobin count, ability to cope with increased alkalinity inside your body being a couple of them).

Lastly, while plans are good, as you've experienced, it is perhaps far more important to take it a day at a time and pay attention to your body. Everyone's body is different and will take a different amount of time to adapt. Your body in this case (more than your mind) will give you 100s of signals as to whether it is ready to climb. So, pay attention to it.

(I suspect your guide says westerner - 3 days and Indian - 5 days because westerners tend to eat meat, and hence tend to have a higher haemoglobin count, which perhaps helps them adapt faster).

All the best for the trip. Look forward to reading more interesting experiences and checking out some photos of Leh.


Peter Lubbers said...

Sounds like a great adventure, Anil.
Good luck!

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