How to Prepare for Stok Kangri Trek
The fight in Stok Kangri Trek in India is on 4 key fronts: oxygen level, steep incline, weather, and long distance. This expedition is particularly challenging in the last stretch. Winter trek with added snow needs pro skills. But, be it any weather, experienced trekkers only should attempt it.
Experience Level: Stok Kangri Trek gradient is ‘difficult.’ Ideally, you should have done minimum 2 high altitude treks of up to 15000 ft-16000 ft. For this trek, you should be adaptable to Leh climate and weather. If you feel any discomfort, attempting Stok Kangri trek can very much lead to Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS). This can be a problem for you and in turn the group. In fact, even if your acclimatization duration is longer than the standard, it may not be cohesive with the trek’s needed pace. Listen to your body, prioritize your fitness and only when you feel aligned with the region, should you try it.
Expert Guidance: Go with a professional adventure travel operator and strictly adhere to their instructions. The good ones help you guide with the preparation too.
Sleep Cycle: On the summit day, you start trekking at around 2 am for some 11-12 hours to reach the peak in the morning. The wind, might make you feel sleepy and will take away your mental alertness. And ascending or descending, you cannot afford one misstep here. The trick is to catch sleep during the day time on the rest day. For that, when preparing, 10 days ahead of trek, practice sleeping for 4-5 hours during the day. For a rested body and mind, you need to ‘genuinely’ fall asleep. This practice may ensure that on the summit day.
Fitness: You should be a fully fit trekker for Stok Kangri Trek. Preparation begins 4 months before the expedition. Train 6 continuous days a week with 1-day rest. More than speed, endurance, stamina, & leg strength building, are critical for this hike. Before the trek, you should be able to walk 6 km in 35 minutes with 15 kgs backpack.
Train on 2 sets on alternate days.
- Stairs: Climb up stairs with 15 kgs backpack for 3 minutes continuously in 2 rounds with 1-minute break in between. A total of 400-500 stairs a day with weight is helpful.
- Push Ups: 10 sets of 10 pushups each with 1-minute interim break.
- Crunches: 10 sets of 10 crunches each with 1-minute break between each.
- Sit Ups: 15 sets of 10 sit ups each with 1-minute break in between. A total of 150 sit ups a day. Besides stamina, it helps strengthen your hamstrings too. Strong thighs are a big help in climbing the sharp inclines.
- Jogging or Swimming: To start with, for 15 minutes, keep a combination of 60 seconds of jog and 90 seconds of brisk walk. Alternatively, 60 seconds of fast swimming and 90 seconds of slightly slower swimming. Graduate to 1 hour of jogging in maximum 2 weeks of starting off the preparation. Alternatively, 2Kms walk and 5 KMs running in 35 minutes is also a good target for endurance building. Nothing like it if you can upgrade it to 2 KMs walk and 7KMs running.
- Pranayama: A set of 7 Pranayamas daily for 15-20 minutes considerably help train your breathing cope at different inhalation and exhalation pace. Practice holding breath for 40 seconds.
You need to be flexible too to carry all the weight uphill. Adaptable muscles help you before as well as ‘after’ the trek. Therefore, around 1.5 months before the trek, do 20 minutes of stretching exercises for shoulders, neck, elbows, lower back, and legs (hips and knees especially). Besides joint and muscles flexibility and strength, stretching improves your posture and helps reduce the possibility of low back pain during and post trek. 15 sets of Surya Namaskar must be a part of the 20 minutes’ routine.
Things to Pack: Right equipment and ample hiking clothing are indispensable here. Here is a list of all that cannot be compromised on:
- Backpack: A 55-65 liters sturdy and supportive backpack with strong strap and frame. Rain cover too.
- Tools: Torch, trekking pole, headlamp with spare batteries, whistle, Swiss knife
- Footwear: Ankle support hiking boots are a must. Half size larger helps with the 2 layers of thick socks. Use the shoes well to know and adjust before the trekking. You cannot afford bites, blisters, corn, and foot pain issues on this trek. High quality crampons help you fix in the snow quite well, if you step right that is.
- Clothing: 2 sets of woolens and thermals; windproof & padded jacket, 4 layers of each top and bottom clothing, fleece layer for top; raincoat; 2 oversized full T-shirts, lightweight trek pants, 1 poncho, and 1 full rain coat & pants set
- Wearable Accessories: Ear covers, mufflers, woolen head scarf, sun caps, 1 set of both inner and outer hand gloves, 8-10 pairs of military/woolen/thick Turkish socks. You can find military socks at Leh. They are the most preferred for this trek. Sunglasses can be black, brown or green. The curved ones covering the eyes fully are the best.
- Other Essentials: Rain covers, plastic waterproof bags, a light fast dry towel, wet and dry tissues, toiletries (including moisturizer and sunscreen), a couple of cutlery, water bottles, metal glass/mug, tiffin box, plastic covers, and comprehensive First Aid Kit
Hydration: 3 days prior to trek triple your water intake. Keep yourself well hydrated throughout for smooth acclimatization and combating AMS.
Mental Grooming: Watch lot of Stok Kangri videos and read blogs to set your mind to what you are heading for. Eventually, you will come to the point of several mental recces. This goes far in preparing you mentally. Because, despite all the preparation, just 100 m before the peak, you ‘will’ realize that summiting Stok Kangri trek is a mind game from thereon!