A two-hour drive from Leh takes
you to Martselang (11,200 ft / 3,414m), above the Indus river and close to the
famous Hemis monastery. Descending from the village, enter the gorge of the
Indus valley. The trail criss-crosses the river through the narrow gorge.
Houses in Shang village cluster on a slope with the trail passing a little
below. A visit to one of the mud houses is interesting. Whatever be the
economic conditions, travellers are welcome in a Ladakhi Kitchen.
The climb to the village is
rewarded with a good view of the stone-walled fields and irrigation channels.
Going down to the trail, start climbing slowly as the valley narrows. The
trail becomes steeper as you make your way to the shepherd's camp of Shang Phu
(13,900 ft / 4,237m.) A clump of juniper trees with a small shrine marks the
pasture. This is a typical Ladakhi pastoral setting with small stone-huts
called phu-lus that serve as summer dwellings.
Take the valley on the
right from the junction where you had pitched camp the day before. Climb up
past scrubs and wild rose bushes. Leave the stream to climb up the side of
the valley, to the top of Shang La (16,300 ft / 4,968m.) The ascent takes
around three and a half hours. From the pass, the views open up, with the
Stok and Matho Kangri peaks in front and the summit of Parcha Kangri behind.
The trail stays high on the hilside. A three
-hour walk on an incline, crossing side streams, leads to the base of the
Matho La (14,100 ft / 4,297 m.). As this has been a short day, you can go on
a hike on the east slope of the Matho Kangri Massif. A steady climb can take
you as high as 19,000 ft / 5,800 m as you do not encounter any ice or snow.
Across the valley are the Ladakh range and the Khardung La and beyond that the
lofty mountains of the eastern Karakorams.
The step climb to the Pass begins just
aftercamp. On the Pass (16,100 ft / 4,907m), the Stok Kangi looms up.
Descend from the Pass to the pastures of Myungkirmo next to a stream. Leave
the main valley and climb up westward to the Stok Kangri (16,077 ft / 4,900m).
Take a much-needed rest before you try the
summit of Stok Kangri. In mountaineering parlance, a trekking peak is the
name given to a summit that does not require any technical knowledge for
climbing or any equipment for the ascent. But 20,506 ft / 6,250 m does require
fitness and stamina.
A long, arduous walk awaits you. Start
before the sun is up. Climb up, switch backing to the top of the ridge in
front. A tough ascent on the mountainside for an hour from the ridge top
takes you to the moraine coming down from the glacier. A gruelling
ninety-minute climb takes you to the summit. If you go in August or later,
you will encounter no snow except on the summit. From the top you get a
magical 360-degree view of the whole of Ladakh - the twin peaks of Nun (23,400
ft / 7,132m)) to the east, the Karakorams to the north.
Turn left from the Mungkirmo pastures to
follow the Mankyarmo river to its confluence with the Stok river. The trail
follows the Stok river down to the Stok village. After the creditable feat of
scaling a peak, you may want to look at some local history at the Stok palace.
Important Facts of This