A travel moment in the Himalayas


We were three days into our Himalayan adventure and our guides predicted that this day would be the toughest yet. Today we would be attempting Stok La, the highest pass we would climb before Summit Day at 4900m. The walk would be a steady climb up the valley from Rumbuck village which would increase in gradient leading to an almost 45 degree angle up and over the pass. We set out with a good pace set at the front. But, almost as soon as we reached the base of the pass, the terrain became rocky with patches of scree in areas. With every step our boots would slide through the loose stones so concentration was paramount. I was amazed at how quickly the terrain changed. We reached fat patches of snow and ice, which increased in size as we ventured further up the mountain side. As we made further up the pass I was stunned by the beauty of the view behind us, the valley now steeply sloping down to the flourishing green of Rumbuck village, edged mountains surrounding the valley with a line of snow capped peaks just visible upon the horizon, and I don t think I was prepared for the view on top of the pass. The valley itself was breathtaking, a deep basin of dusty brown, softened by cloud shadows and patch worked with small plots of lush agricultural land Before we could reach the pass, the group faced a challenge as a member of our group was affected by the altitude and went into a panic attack. A local guide had to run to our campsite and fetch a pony whilst we tried to calm the situation. The whole scene was havoc, guides and teachers bunched around our struggling team member whilst the rest of us could only offer a few soothing words. The docile pony arrived and our teammate accompanied by a friend was carried down the mountain. The remaining four of us left to trek onwards and upwards. To our right were some closer mountains, the low sun just highlighting their shapes behind them, one particularly overwhelming peak was Stok Kangri, the mountain us schoolgirls would attempt next, yet I felt if this pass was achievable, surely that would be too. We finally reached the top of effectively a pass the same height as Mont Blanc, I was speechless. From here we could see nearly the entire Indus valley, looking down on the villages of Stok and Leh. Behind them stood giants of mountains, dusted with snow, some with jagged peaks others softer wrapped in silky clouds. I remember feeling a proud sense of achievement mixed with relief and
awe; I had never tried such a test of endurance both physically and mentally and whilst we were perched I felt that we had met this challenge.

C Brown

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