So how do you climb an easy 6000 meter mountain?
Start by being sick with the stomach after returning from a supposedly easy homestay trek from Alchi to Lamayuru. But after a few days in Leh you get well, and so start thinking that you could try the mountain.
After having carried too much stuff on the previous treks, pack very lightly – in fact, it will turn out you have taken a-little-not-enough food. And rent crampons, which you won’t need to use, as all the snow and ice on the trail already melted.
And then start on August 12. The bus that was supposed to go to the Stok village (3500 m) doesn’t run anymore, but that can’t stop you – just bargain for a reasonable price in a shared taxi. Walking from Stok is quite easy, just don’t forget to get your boots wet when crossing a stream to avoid having to climb some 50 meters up a small pass.
Spend quite a lot of time deciding how far to go the first day, as even the base camp isn’t too far. But in the end just camp some way below it, at around 4600 meters. At least you’re away from all the groups with horses who carry tons of stuff for their clients.
You of course can’t avoid these in the base camp (5000 m) next day. But despite the lots of tents, people and trash around there, the place has some charm to it. And it’s nice to talk to the people who have just climbed to the summit. And you can get some expensive basic lunches and dinners (which are always too late) in one of the tents, so that you don’t suffer too much from not bringing enough food yourself. Also the stove seems to be having some problems running in the altitude.
After too much waiting, deciding about when exactly to start walking to the top (everyone is setting off crazy early in the night, some people even at 11 pm!), and bad sleep, be excited to start around 2.30 am on the 14th. Also not to freeze from the cold, walk quite fast up the first steep slope, already overtaking a few people on the way. With the almost full moon brightly shining, you don’t even need a flashlight most of the time. Around 4 you reach the glacier, about whose crossing you’ve been quite nervous – but it’s very easy, it’s all frozen and very easy to see any narrow gaps you have to jump across.
And then just zigzagging up the steep slope, seeing lights of people above you and then gradually walking past them. It must be so much more tiring, to be able to walk only so slowly and to have to spend so much longer on the climb! There was for example a maybe 60-year-old German man, walking very slowly, but steadily – all the way to the top!
Just before 6, when your fingers are beginning to freeze, the sun finally rises and you reach a ridge (5800 m) with first really beautiful views. You also meet there a guide with a Spanish guy, lend the guide matches and then manage to stop him in time before burning a plastic bag to warm up his hands a little.
And then just climb over some rocks up the ridge to reach the peak at 6153 meters at around 6.50 am. One advantage of having started to climb early is that there are no clouds yet, so you get amazing views at the whole world beneath you. And celebrate with a few others, enjoy it for maybe half an hour and go back down. That’s a little tedious, but you reach base camp after 10 and just spend the day there, eating, resting and talking to people.
The next day just go all the way back to Leh, meeting some people going up with really heavy looking backpacks. The really surprising thing is that only the next day, when you are happily in Leh, all the tiredness will fall on you and you’ll just spend the whole day sleeping and eating!
(But the mountain need not be all so easy as it was for me – the next day it snowed there and almost no one made it to the top!)