Stoked about Stok Kangri

The Himalayas have held sway over the ambitions and imagination of generations of hikers, mountaineers, and dreamers alike. Be it the lofty Mt Everest, glacier lakes, forests of rhododendrons or the spirituality that imbues the mountains, there is something about the world’s most majestic range that calls out to humanity. Novice hiker or experienced mountaineer, within the adventure-seeker in each of us is an irresistible pull towards this fascinating region. We sit down with Changjiang Chen (aka CK), to find out what it is that draws him back time and again.

On the tenth anniversary of his first visit to the Himalayas, CK reflected on his journey, one that mirrored his growing fascination with the mountains. From car to hiking boots, culminating in the memorable 2018 Stok Kangri trip with Wildfire Expeditions, below are the excerpts of CK’s story:

WF: How many times have you been to the Himalayas?

CK: Stok Kangri was my 4th trip in 10 years, the first 3 were in Tibet and Nepal. This was a trip of firsts – the first visit to India, and my first summit of a 6,000m mountain!

WF: Tell us more about these trips.

CK: I first experienced the Himalayas on a road trip in Tibet in 2009. The mountains were more majestic than any I had seen to that point. In 2011, I decided to challenge myself on a high-altitude trek and did the Everest base camp trek from Nepal, returning in 2013 for a New Year trek to Annapurna base camp. Both experiences were among the best in my life. So when my good friends, Patrick and Meiqi – incidentally the founders of Wildfire Expeditions – invited me on a scouting trip to Stok Kangri last July, I seized the opportunity. After years of progressively doing higher and more challenging treks, it seemed right to attempt my first ever 6,000m peak where my love for the mountains began.

WF: What were your considerations before the trek?

CK: I consider safety a cornerstone of any mountain attempt. In all my hiking trips, I have been selective in my choice of operators, safety consciousness and record being key criteria. I was also concerned about my ability to deal with altitude. Stok Kangri is the highest mountain in the Ladakh region in India and the summit at 6,154m would be the highest I have ever attempted. I was not sure how my body would react.

WF: What was your impetus for joining Wildfire Expeditions on this Stok Kangri trek?

CK: This would be my second trip with Wildfire Expeditions. The first, back in 2016 when the company first started, was a 5-day trek along the Holy Ridge in the SheiPa National Park in Taiwan. It was one of my most memorable, most challenging and ultimately most satisfying experiences. My body surprised me by taking on more than what I thought it could and showed me that the limits I applied to myself were arbitrary. I was excited about where Stok Kangri with Wildfire Expeditions could take me.

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WF: How did you prepare for the trek?

CK: I understood that endurance would be the key in a multi-day trek with packs, at high altitude. Living at sea level, there is not much I could do about acclimatizing. Patrick (Wildfire) has laid out an acclimatization plan which included rest days at Leh (3,500masl) to explore the city and allow our sea level bodies to adjust to the altitude, and easy day hikes to gradually warm up the muscles. At home, I upped my distance training to improve my endurance and intensified sessions at the gym to build up the core. On weekends, we also hit the trails at Macritchie as a team.

WF: What was the most challenging aspect of the trek?

CK: Summit day was definitely my most challenging day. Thanks to the effort put into training back home and Wildfire’s acclimatization schedule, the initial days were fortunately easier than I had expected. We were blessed by clear weather on summit day. However, it was a long one. Starting out from our camp after midnight, we didn’t see it again until almost 13hours later. Trekking in ice and snow at that altitude slowed us quite abit. I must say though, watching the sun rise and the sky change colors while hiking above the clouds was quite an unforgettable experience!

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WF: What was your best memory of the trek?

CK: Crossing the glacier, gaining my highest summit yet beside my good friends. Hoisting the Wildfire Expeditions flag as Patrick flew the drone was a proud moment. Looking across the snow, I could see our footprints marking the trail along which we have come. Once I was up on summit I saw how far we had come and the realization that I was standing more than 6,000m above the world was just astounding.

WF: What would your next adventure look iike?

CK: I enjoy the mountains for its majestic scenery, so I will be gunning for another trek with even more beauty!

WF: Mongolia perhaps, one of the world’s few remaining frontier countries, one of its most untouched…

Want to experience some of that magic for yourself? Join us on our 2019 Stok Kangri adventure  departing in July and August for 10 days! Limited slots available!

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