July 23rd, 2012
Today is a special day. Guess why?
On this day, last year (23-Jul-2011), I summitted Stok Kangri. It is the only trekkable 6000+m peak that I know of. Today am going to share couple of special moments during the trek.
We started from the base camp at 12 AM sharp in bone freezing cold, packed in 4 layers of clothing. Energy was at its highest for me. This was the day I was waiting for ever since I signed up for the trek. Days and days of swimming, trekking and other endurance activities were just about to pay off. I could visualize myself standing on the peak and gazing with awe at the beauty of Mother Nature, in the form of undulating peaks of the Karakoram range. With the barest of the bare essentials, we began our march.
Around 3 AM we stepped foot on a massive snow field. The milky way had opened up above us throughout the night. If not for the cold & lack of tripod, I would have setup camp and shot the stars to my heart’s content. By 4 AM we were at the mountain’s base. Right above us, piercing the night sky in all its glorious beauty stood Stok Kangri. My throat choked. I’m eternally grateful to the mountain for allowing me, a mere mortal, to set foot on her.
Around 4.40 AM, we came to a place where we had to cross an icy patch that was covered with snow. As we were wearing our crampons, the best sight of my life unfolded on the east. The eastern horizon had a thin streak of gold. So subtly thin that it took special effort to notice it properly. Few minutes later, few more streaks joined the show… and then an entire range opened up.
Nature had seduced me completely. For those few minutes, passage of time stopped. Every little cell in my body was completely alive. Transfixed. Jaw dropping. The best part? It looked like the sun was rising from below us. First showing its few rays, then moving horizontally, sliding out of the mountain & then rising vertically … as it consumed its golden rays again.
Every particle of snow and ice in our surroundings glistened as if they were covered in gold. The various views were mind-boggling to say the least. Nature was displaying the best drama that I could possibly see and remember for a very long time to come. The mountain next to ours looked so much like a gold mountain that the photo below doesn’t do any justice.
Clear blue skies were our friends that day. Impeccable weather.
Special Moment on The Peak
Three hours later, I was on the peak. The fastest ones on the trek were turning back. I met them on the way. The slower ones were significantly behind. For approximately 10 complete minutes, the summit was mine. I couldn’t take a photo of myself. So, I waited for people to turn up. The wind ruffled my hair. There was absolute silence on the top. The couple of months that led to the trek whizzed past. At 20,000+ feet, it was a thrilling place to be. On the far east, many miles away, Leh was visible like a dot. On the far North West, our guide showed the savage mountain, K2. On the South, Khardung La (the highest motorable pass in the world) was there. Best of all, a flight passed below me. As I sat next to the prayer flags, I dozed off for a few minutes until my guide came to the top and woke me up
It was lovely. I posed like Tenzing Norgay on summit cornice. What a moment that was!
View from the Peak
Here’s a panorama from the summit of Stok Kangri, on a day when the weather was impeccable, when I was in the best of my spirits & when everything in the universe came together to support me.