To The Extreme - Report 3 - 4/4/2002

Well, it’s taken some doing but we’ve finally managed to arrive at a makeshift base camp. It took us three days trek to get here, with a rest day in between to help to acclimatise. We’ve come to 4500m in less than five days, and everyone is feeling it a bit, so we’re resting up.

It was almost a miracle that I got here at all, after arriving at the domestic airport and passing all the excess baggage through the check-in It immediately emerged that they wouldn’t accept any money other than rupees (the only airline I’ve ever experienced to not accept US$ or £UK. So I rushed off with our agent to all the terminals, domestic and international, and five star hotels, but all were shut, or wouldn’t change the amount we needed, and Jet airways wouldn’t budge to accept pounds or dollars, of which we had plenty. So I got back to the domestic terminal to find the plane loaded, the gate shut, and luckily with the quick decision making of the team, just Carol left at the terminal, and the three others and the LO on the flight to Leh.

To cut the story short, Jet airways were not at all helpful and more very heated debates emerged with abusive language being hurled at the manager.
Either way, we got to Leh the next day, which was Sunday, we spent a day at leisure there and a cold night, preparing for the trek up to base camp.
The whole process from there has been relatively easy, we trekked 12 kilometres up the valley from 3400m to 4200m, Myself and Chris being quite ill, moreover from exhaustion than just purely altitude.

The trek up a river, which was frozen solid is quite an experience, especially when your crampons are with the pack horses 2k’s ahead of you. We set up the first camp, with very little participation on my part, as soon as the first tent was up I fell inside and slept 14 hours. We rested the next day, with Chris asleep in the tent all day, Myk, Carol, and Paul trekked the upper river to just below base to help acclimatise, and I climbed a nearby peak to 4400m to get some pictures and help acclimatise.

We set off yesterday, and climbed for a long 3 hours, in 35 degree weather on ice, but fell short of base camp by 1 hour because of very soft and very deep snow. The horses could go no further, and so now we’re stuck in a low base camp, and out of sight of Stok Kangri. We did get a very good view of it on the trek, with heavy snow on the face, but with luck no clear avalanche or cornice risk. Gulup Kangri, on the other hand, well over 3 K’s away from where I’m sat has a huge cornice, which casts a shadow indicating over 50ft cornice hanging over the northwest face.

So we’re staying here for two day’s rest to acclimatise. We have 22 days to climb Stok Kangri, and the new route seems to of been abandoned, with the huge distance through waist high snow to be covered. It seems now to us that the true meaning of a Himalayan winter isn’t just the cold. It hasn’t been that cold, minus 12 the lowest so far, and indeed the sheer volume of snow means the first winter ascent of Stok Kangri is going to be enough of an achievement for this mixed team.

All are well, very tired, and suffering from different ailments, some the runs, some the heat, and some the height. The next report will be in about 5 days with a roundup of events.

Take care all, and keep listening in

Ross