Below is an extract from an email I sent home after doing the Stok La trek in Ladakh India, photos at the end:
Some one managed to get their way and a four day trek was booked after being in Leh for a week. Spitok to Stok via the Stok La pass which stands at 4900 metres (about 16,000 feet in old money). $30US each got us a guide/cook, 3 ponies and a ponyman plus all food and transport. Our guide was a local Tibetan man called Tashi whilst ponyman (only ever known as ponyman) was a Tibetan chap in his sixties with a face that could sell post cards.
The first day of our trek followed the Indus river down stream through a stunning rocky gorge. The river was a deep shade of green far far below us. We eventually came to the camp site which was shared with several other trekking groups. We had our own tent plus a kitchen tent was set up. We were surrounded by about 20 ponies with their bells clonking away – lovely sound with the river roaring in the background. Shame that the ponies were also standing and crapping in the stream which was also our drinking water!
The next day was up up up! Following the river through a narrowing gorge we came to Rumbuk village which is meant to be the best place in the world to spot snow leopard. No such luck but we did see very rare blue sheep (half sheep half goat). By now it was like being in a national geographic film, the village was like entering a time warp. The crops were being harvested by hand and by Yak. We trudged on up to the Stok La base camp at 4200 metres to spend the night. Tents put up in a boulder field with Stok Kangri Mountain rearing up at 6000 metres plus, all covered in snow. A very cold and tough night was spent at high altitude – going for a poo was like running a marathon! Our guide cooked us Tibetan Tukpha and made us Ginger tea and then in bed by 8.00pm. Had that strange sufforcating feeling again along with very odd dreams. Both nervous for the next day.
Woken up at 6.00 am with tea in bed – nice but not at 6.00am! Then very very slowly up. Counting to four then stop – repeat. Both very breathless but no AMS so guide happy that we continued. Views getting bigger and bigger. A couple of hundred metres from the top of the pass the path vanished into loose scree and then the ponies caught up. A nervous few minutes whilst they tried to scrabble up, one nearly fell. We both felt responsible for putting them though that ordeal. Then at the top at 4900 metres (16,000 feet!). Surrounded by prayer flags and stunning views – both very very knackered. Horses also looking knackered (this made us feel miserable). Ponyman at 61 looked fresh as a daisy!
Then down down down for a day and a half. Through another gorge with huge rock spires and another campsite all to ourselves. Our guide manged to cook a six dish curry on one stove! All along we declined the salt butter tea! Toilet in the night involved finding the best spot and squatting. A scary moment when a pair of eyes get picked up in the torch beam (there are dangerous animals out there!).
The last day was easy down hill to a jeep and back to Leh.
High altitude desert
The Indus again, this time deep in a gorge
First nights camp with the ponies
The mountains are opening up
High camp at 4200 metres
Cairn just outside camp
Breaking camp with Stok Kangri 6,123 metres behind
At the top of Stok La at 4,900 metres (about 16,000 ft). Wow!
It was a long long descent!
Our final nights camp