In a recently held meeting of the concerned authorities, it has been decided that India’s most famous ‘Trekking Peak’ Stok Kangri, is to be closed for climbing for a period of 3 years: 2020, 2021 & 2021. An official notice of the same will be issued soon by the authorities.
Standing at 6154m, this peak is the tallest in the Stok region in Ladakh. Over the years, this peak has garnered the name ‘Trekking Peak’. During the peak season, of July-August when the snow conditions along the route are bare minimum, the peak is relatively easy to tackle. But make no mistake, like any other mountain, even this one has been unforgiving with those who have taken her lightly.
The peak has gained so much popularity due to one reason: accessibility. The nearest large town is Leh and within an hour one can drive down to Stok Village, the point where the trek begins. Over the years, operators have made the trails very accessible and the ‘Ghodas’ (mules) go all the way to the base camp at 5000m, making it a very ‘luxurious’ camp. As a result, more number of people climbed this peak. Stok Kangri became the got to peak for every climber who wanted to scale their first ‘Big Peak’. Certain operators took the advantage of this want and each season over-populated the region during the peak season. In order to make a quick buck, these operators made itineraries as low as 6-days, promising them a ‘Summit of 6k Peak’. While the standard safe itinerary for a mountain like Stok is not less than 10-Days!!! Couple this with the ignorance of the general public, who most often take the term ‘Trekking Peak’ quite easy. Practically put, a majority of the route up to 5500m is ‘Trekkable’ indeed. But from there a steep climb on the ridge, all the way to the top is by no means just trekking. And not to forget, the descent!
Due to this over-crowding, apart from the obvious dangers to human life, the entire eco-system of the area took a severe beating. This includes contamination of the glaciers by human waste, which are the only source of water for the people of Stok. In addition, this area has been so upset the human presence that has directly affected the territory of the endangered snow leopard. To top it all off, the omnipresent trash. In the last few years, certain organizations have spearheaded the initiative of cleaning up the mountain. In July-2018, a clean-up drive conducted by a popular organization brought down a massive 2100 kgs of trash from the mountain!
On a positive side, Stok-Kangri has been the ‘training’ peak of many experienced and successful mountaineers. The peak is a huge challenge to ascend in winter and every major 8000m expedition team has used this peak to train in the unforgiving cold! At Transcend Adventures, we welcome this news and hope the eco-system around this season flourishes during the closure. As for the future, we wish the mountain to be open for climbing, with limited number of climbers each season.