The first sight most Headrush Expeditions clients see when arriving in Leh in Ladakh is the Stok Kangri, the highest peak in that region of the Himalayas, a massive and brooding mountain covered in snow. But the Stok Kangri, more than 20,000 feet (more than 6,000 meters) high, has a secret: it’s relatively easy to climb, and at its base is an attractive valley filled with monasteries and ancient Buddhist culture.
The Stok Kangri, and the Stok valley at its base, are to the south of Leh, where most treks in Ladakh start in earnest. The entire region has a base altitude of around 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level, and so a week-long trek through Stok valley helps to acclimatize our aspiring Stok Kangri climbers to the high altitude, a critical safety requirement before a Headrush Expeditions plan.
The stunning vistas of the Stok valley are a major draw to the region. In particular, Stok La, a high pass connecting Stok and Rumbak valleys, offers stunning views of sheer mountain cliffs and wide empty plains. All of our treks through Stok La are taken slowly, not because of physical difficulty, but because of sheer altitude. The pass is 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) above sea level, enough to cause some discomfort if taken too quickly.
The Stok valley itself is home to a number of remote villages still largely following a traditional way of life. The most notable of these is the village of Stok itself, where Ladakh’s former royal family still lives. Their residence, a museum, shows off their ancient crown and ceremonial garments.
Headrush Expeditions’ treks through Stok valley focus on the region’s colorful and ancient Buddhist monasteries. The Stakna, Matho, and Stok monasteries are all in easy trekking distance of Stok village, and each belongs to a different sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Hemis Monastery, the richest and largest monastery in Ladakh, is somewhat south of Stok Kangri, but its historical importance and sheer beauty makes it worth an overland trek through Hemis National Park.
Lastly – our treks across Stok Kangri itself. Ascending Stok Kangri is relatively easy, especially along the Stok Chu approach option that we have. Stok Kangri is the highest nontechnical climb in the world – no ice picks or vertical ascents. It’s just steep and high, so it’s a perfect mountain for newcomers to Himalayan climbing. And once you reach the top of the Stok Kangri –
Well, let’s just say the view is incredible.
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