PES Summit 12 expedition – Ladakh
10 Sep 2015
Over the summer, budding adventurers from PES Summit 12 headed to the Himalaya for their expedition to Ladakh – the culmination of their year’s training. Emma Brass, a member of ‘South Section’ and Kit Phillips from ‘North Section’ wrote reports on their experiences of this fantastic trip.
On 19 July, 35 pupils and 7 staff members left The Perse, setting out on the start of a three-week expedition to the Ladakh region of India.
After an eight-hour flight to Delhi and a shorter flight the next day we arrived in Leh, where we were meet with stunning scenery and our first views of Stok Kangri. From the airport we travelled by taxi to Hotel Ksar, our base for the time we were in Leh.
We spent the next day performing several acclimatisation hikes, to get used to the lack of oxygen at 3500m. We walked up to a Buddhist temple as well as to Leh Palace, the former home of the royal family.
From Leh we travelled by coach up to the small village of Saspotsey, located at about 4000m. We pitched our tents on a field situated just below the village. There was a stream running next to the campsite for washing in, and three large group tents were set up for eating meals. All our food was cooked by the wonderful Sherpa from RIMO. This was the expedition company that was taking care of us throughout our time in India.
Every day, after begrudgingly taking part in morning exercises, we walked up to the main town and split into North and South section. North section spent their time building a corral for a local family to keep their animals in at night, so they weren’t attacked by snow leopards. We first had to dig down to create the foundations. The walls were then built using large rocks and cement that we mixed ourselves.
South section started off building a recycling centre; this gives visitors to Saspotsey somewhere to deposit rubbish, leading to a cleaner village. We finished this job fairly quickly, and so had the opportunity to start building a corral for another family.
We headed back to Leh a day early because several people were ill. However, we were all happy to be back in Hotel Ksar, where we could have warm showers and buy provisions in preparation for the trekking stage of the expedition.
On 30 July we started the trek; it was about 35°C and the sun was high overhead. The walk was quite short, but the heat was overbearing and we were glad to stop for lunch in some shade by a fast flowing river. It took another hour to reach our first camp at 4200m.
The next day we weren’t travelling to a new campsite, simply walking up to 4200m and back down in order to aid acclimatisation. The walk was hard but we were greeted with two amazing sun-drenched valley views at the summit. We then walked down, or sometimes slid, back to camp for a big lunch and some free time.
The 1 August marked our proper day of trekking. The walk was around seven hours long, but cooler than the day before. We were lucky enough to see a heard of ibex when we stopped for lunch at a secluded shrine.
The next day we woke up to dark grey skies and thick fog. Breakfast was followed by a brisk hike to the river to get our days water supply before we started the actual hike. This involved going over two passes, and for the first time in the trip we reached 5000m.
After several more days of hiking we reached base camp. Unfortunately we weren’t able to attempt a summit of Stok Kangri; bad weather meant lots of loose snow, reportedly up to chest height. Instead we walked to Stok glacier at 5400m, and spent a day learning to use ice axes and crampons and generally having some fun.
We spent our last few days back in Leh, buying gifts and getting henna. Our last night was devoted to the expedition meal, a full Indian feast. The next day we travelled back to England; we were sad to leave that beautiful part of India but definitely relieved to be back home again.
On 30 July we started the trek after a meandering bus journey past some large temples built into the sides of rocky mountains. It was about 35°C and the sun was high overhead as we were handed our pack lunch consisting of some toast, an egg, small rectangle of cheese and a KitKat that wasn’t completely melted. The walk was quite short, 2.5 hours, and we reached the lunch stop next to a fast but low flowing river, luckily shaded by bunches of reeds. It took another hour to reach our first camp and Team Testosterone had fully psyched themselves up for challenge to carry Steve, a 5kg jar of pickle, all the way to Stok Khangri. The campsite, 4200m, was open, next to a river and about 10m from the base of our first acclimatization peak at 4500m.
31 July began with a huge breakfast of pancakes, jam and porridge. Then the hike up the mountain began…slowly. Everyone at the beginning was struggling for breath it is safe to say but once we found a slow and steady pace we could maintain we started making some real progress and only making three stops in the 300m of ascent. It took about two hours to reach the summit and we were greeted with two amazing valley views which opened up to show themselves in the sunshine. We then trotted gracefully back down the mountain back to camp for a big lunch, free time and a relaxing dinner before bed.
1 August marked the first of the long days spent trekking with over 800m of ascent in total. The walk was cooler than the day before and ibex popped up to say hello a few times along the route. Lunch was situated at a shrine in the middle of nowhere with ibex skulls in abundance, again pancakes were on the menu as well as a diminishing amount of peanut butter. We continued on to the camp site which only took another four hours.
On 2 August we woke up to no sky, just clouds, everywhere. Breakfast was followed by a brisk hike to the river to find a spring to get our day’s water supply from before we started the actual hike. This involved going over two passes, and it was our first time reaching 5000m. We all certainly felt it on the way up, only encouraged by notes magically written on rocks in English inspiring us to carry on. The way down was a lot faster and soft mud provided much needed comfort on frail knees, leading to camp which unknown to us could not be in a better location due to a change of plan from Mr Parker.
3 August, rain howled and struck the tents continuously, up on our little hill streams ran past the tents, leading to a rather miserable breakfast followed by some vigorous games of slam, some exciting games of cards, and some rather interesting trips to the flooded hole toilets. After finally setting off we saw the camp where we would have stayed partially washed away due to a river surge. The hike to base camp began and the weather soon cleared showing an incredible drop down to the valley floor. Base camp arrived after an interesting river crossing and final ascent push.
4 August, the day of reckoning that we weren’t going to make it to the summit. Due to poor weather and then great weather, loose snow had built up, which lead to a large amount of avalanches, which meant we decided to visit the glacier instead.
5 August, we started the single journey back down to Stok village which only took six hours, two river crossings and one large, pancake lunch.