I had done just a few Himalayan treks before, namely Triund and Hampta Pass (max altitude 4300m). So when a friend of mine invited me along for Stok Kangri (peak altitude 6153m), I was both excited and intimidated. Eventually booked the trek and flight tickets and started preparing for the trek by jogging regularly.
The flight to Leh from Delhi is a short one. Only 1-1.5 hours. The view of the mountains below leaves you breathless. The landscape changes quickly, from the green mountains of Himachal, to snow covered Dhauladhar range and then finally the barren mountains of Ladakh.
The barren mountains of Ladakh are unlike any other. Ladakh is a cold dessert. Most of the rain is blocked by mountain ranges further south. You can see green valleys where a river might be a source of water.
Arriving in Leh in the morning, we had to rest the entire day. Delhi is almost at sea level, while Leh is at 3500m (11,500 ft) above sea level. We reached our guest house where the tour operator gave us a briefing of the expedition and laid out the next steps.
By evening, almost all of us could feel the effects of the sudden change in altitude. Symptoms of altitude sickness are headaches, drowsiness, nausea, lost apetite and tiredness.
The sight of Stok and our difficulty acclimatizing to Leh's altitude revealed the magnitude of the challenges that lay ahead.
Well rested and acclimatized to Leh's altitude, we decided to make the best of the spare day we had. Obviously we rented bikes... And I got to try out my new wide angle lens too...! Renting a Royal Enfield at that time cost us 1500 (Classic 350) to 1800 (Himalayan) per day.