"…that this was pleasingly beautiful, while the other was sublimely grand" -Meriwether Lewis, June 14, 1805
Stok Kangri, 20,187 ft (6,153 m)
The german and I were taking breakfast at our usually agreed time, so that of course he was nearly done once I arrived late, as custom. Three young Israelis were looking worn and haggard in the corner, taking coffee and large meals. They had come down from the top of Stok Kangri the day before, making the entire 6,000 foot descent and return from Stok to Leh in one long, grueling day. How was it? A no-bullshit face hinted a story! The german always discovered the particulars. More strenuous than we ever thought, the response. Did you make the summit? Yes, but we were not sure we could. It had also grown cloudy on their summit day, and stayed that way for three days; the German and I had watched from Leh. Now we knew who was dissatisfied inside of those high clouds that we had hypothetically pitied.
At 20,187 feet, the air would be thin and AMS a reality. I’d already shared that I was looking to go up with a guide soon. Here, the Israelis had gone along alone, paying only the requisite 2000 IR fee to the Indian Mountain Foundation for a permit. And so the german and I decided that we could do it also. We’d go see Hero the following morning after breakfast.
Hero was the first man to climb the mountain, and thus recognized by India as a hero, and dubbed so by the State. A funny and carefree man, now old and accomplished. Which guide are you going with? No guides, it is us. I guide the American, the American guides me; a testing wit. Here hero laughs. He likes this german. I did a poor job of listening to cautionary and practical advice: Hero authoritative barked the suggested itinerary, the route, the time to leave camp on the morning of the summit attempt. On the summit, he draws and speaks, you’ll will find Nunkun due west 142 km, the world’s highest battlefield near Kargil, 146 km northwest, and even K2 in the Karakoram range just inside Pakistan, 224 km at 330 degrees (author estimates distances).