Around 4 PM, I was at the advanced base camp with some Israeli guys and was preparing myself for the gruelling ascent to the summit. We were all contemplating on the best time to start again and a lot of people were planning on starting by night. Trekking by night is done usually to avoid crossing streams that turn troublesome during the day due to melting of snow. After a long discussion, we decided to leave the base camp by 1:15 AM. I went to the bed early at 8 PM after having a fulfilling dinner and got up around midnight. Tashi, the owner of the camp served me some hot porridge and asked me if I needed any packed food. I decided that 2 bars of snickers should be enough though later it wasn’t.
I woke up to see a lot of activity outside. It was 1:13 AM already and I had to rush up. After doing my final checks, I started walking with the an excitement to explore. The temperature must have been below 0 degrees. It felt like I was in a neverland to see the beautiful trail of lights flickering and disappearing behind the mighty mountains. It was a full moon night and the glaciers glowing in the moonlight was one sight that would be forever etched in my memory.
Suddenly, the temperature plummeted to around -10 degrees. I realized what a big mistake it was to have left my chunky gloves at Leh. I took out the hand warmers which heats up when reacting with oxygen. Now the issue was that I was already at an altitude of 5500 metres, the availability of oxygen was less and the warmers weren’t much effective.
After four hours ofwhat seemed like a never ending struggle with cold, the sun came out at 5.30. It took an hour for it to warm up because the sun is weak in the first hour. Anyway, I have never been this elated about a sunrise. Apart from bringing life to my blue hands, it was also very beautiful to see a big ball of fire behind the icy mountains – like a song of fire and ice! I was able to see the summit, the high peak. But it seemed to me like I would never be able to get there. The air was so thin and every five steps forward seems like a big achievement. The view was already looking so breathtaking. For some self-motivation, I was just imagining how it would look like from the peak.
At around 8 AM we were at the top of this amazing mountain. The weather was kind to us and it was bright and clear. I could see the mighty Karakorams from here and so many other beautiful peaks. This feeling cannot be described, it can just be felt.
Rightly said, “Its not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves!”. I just sat for a moment and tried to absorb what I went through to get here. The people I met along, the moments I shared with them, the things I saw and felt. It was about everything. It was on top of the summit that I decided I am coming back for more next year. The memories that Stok Kangri has given will stay with me forever.
(Ravindra Charan works with Decathlon Shamsabad. He loves escaping to the outdoors and never misses an opportunity to do the same. He went on a trek to Stok Kangri to find out what customers actually will go through and to get a first hand experience of the products by testing them)