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August 3, 2008 / calebdresser

Stok Kangri Journal – Day 1

July 24th. Breakfast today was wholly appropriate for the beginning of a mountaineering expedition. I munched yak cheese and brown rolls while watching Ladahki women herd cattle across the clanking iron bridge in Changspa. Early light filtered through a grove of river-side trees, little oval leaves shimmering and fresh. Beyond the town, desert peaks rose toward cloudless blue. I chewed in time to the gentle ping-ping-ping of a prayer wheel on the far bank.

We’ve made camp in an arid valley an altitude of around 13,000 feet (4300m), hoping to acclimate a bit before we ascend to Base Camp tomorrow. Getting here actually took a bit of effort, despite the fact that there was a decent trail and we have six donkeys carrying most of the gear – I’m carrying nothing but a light pack stuffed with chocolate bars, army surplus cold-weather gear, and Ladahki woolens. Its all about the altitude. Walking up these sloping eroded valleys is akin to long-distance running in slow motion – heavy breathing and racing heart, but only a little distance gained.

I suppose I should mention who “we” is. Niels is Danish, a fourth-year medical student in Copenhagen. He is calm and friendly, with the appreciation of relative risk and attention to detail common in people of his profession. Like so many other Scandinavians I’ve met, he is spending a few weeks of his summer vacation meandering about in India. Charles, on the other hand, has been here six months, traveling the country from end to end before he returns to Canada. He drinks local water and bargains hard; he came to Leh on an Enfield motorcycle he bought in Manali. Of the three of us, he is the only one who will reach the summit, but that comes later. For now we are eating dhal and rice with a Tibetan vegetable dish, trading stories and peering up the valley toward the really high country to the west.

Left to right: Neils (Denmark), Caleb (USA), Charles (Canada)

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One Comment

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  1. Becky / Aug 4 2008 11:53 am

    I love the pink flower photo! Caleb, thanks for continuing to post stuff!

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