Day 7: Day of Realization and DisappointmentI woke up with a slight headache. Not realizing or taking it lightly I went around the campsite in just a t-shirt. 1st big mistake. That apart I didn't keep myself hydrated well, 2nd big blunder. I went to Raj bhai and told him about the mild headache. He brushed it aside, and showed confidence that nothing can happen for I've been very healthy and active throughout. Until now i.e. We had some sad news from the other side of the camp as well. The health of Shilpa, Hemanth, and Harish had deteriorated a bit, and would be extremely unwise to stay back instead of descending back to Stok village. They quickly packed their bags, and with a support staff walked back to Stok village.
Day 6: To Stok Base CampOur task today was to reach Stok base camp. Although everyone looked fine but few of us were struggling a bit and was of a minor concern, at the moment. Again, today's trek duration should be within 4-5 hours for a fit trekker. Mind you, the Stok Kangri peak was still allusive but we could spot other snowy peaks. We started off at snail's pace. The sun was harsh, everyone were walking in a single layer of clothing. The support staff with their mules overtook us right in the middle of our destination. We took rest in middle, while Raj bhai spotted one of the dog that was accompanying us had mauled a marmot. I had never seen a marmot, so hopped across the stream to see how it looks.
Day 5 (Mankorma to Base camp)Elevation: Mankorma 14200ft - Base camp 16300ft.Difficulty level: Moderate to HardThis was slightly tough and critical day with decent amount of elevation gain over short distance. Usual strategy for ascending is to go slow and to let your body adjust automatically with gain in altitude as oxygen becomes lesser with every meter of elevation gain. Some guys in the group did not realize the importance of going slow despite continuous reminders from route leader and our 18 member group got split into pieces. Sun was high on this day leading to thirst so I drank good amount of water from flowing stream throughout the ascent. Last 2 kms to base camp had a lot of uphill with a very steep approach in final section just before the camp site. I did struggle a bit on this day mainly due to lack of oxygen and my heavy backpack. Reaching base camp was not a good feeling as it was over crowded with over 100 tents already pitched in and us struggling to spot a flat place to pitch a tent. I was dead tired after reaching camp site and headed to the only dhaba (parachute restaurant) at the site to load up some calories (tea, soft drink and maggi). It was a well equipped place in terms of menu serving beer to 10 types of teas, not something you would expect at this altitude atleast!Here my body oxygen level (through oxymeter reading) was low at around 70% so I started sipping water. Water is a great source of oxygen for body as oxygen in air is less at this altitude (about 55% oxygen as compared to sea level). Rested in afternoon chatting with team mates while enjoying sun at basecamp and in evening we headed for an acclimatization walk which felt like a race where we gained steep 150 meters altitude in just over 20 minutes. As per our guides this was our litmus test for the summit and he said roughly 90% of this group will be able to make it to summit. During our acclimatization hike we got a closer look of Stok Kangri summit which looked scary to me in golden shades of sunset with wind picking up rough speeds. And I kept sipping water throughout that day, having sipped total about 8 liters of water till dinner time. My stomach got bloated due to excessive water with my body oxygen level still down at 75%. This night's dinner was important for carbohydrate loading for anyone aiming for summit next day. I could barely eat dinner as there was no space in my stomach. I walked after having little dinner but felt overstuffed. I felt terribly sick and I puked! After throwing out my dinner and water I removed some burden but I still felt extremely sick. I had never felt this terrible and sick since long and having these feelings at 16000 feet was a daunting experience. There was no way I was going for summit attempt next day if my condition did not improve. I headed to sleep in my tent but all I did that night was run out of tent to pee after every hour!