Lawtutorscaled Himalayanpeak of6,000m
A TUTOR who normally teaches law at Bray Institute of Further Education also teaches outdoor leadership and has climbed the mountain Stok Kangri in the Indian Himalayas.
Sean Cryan was backpacking in India and in the town of Leh, discovered the Stok Kangri climb of 6,120m.
In a guidebook, he learned that it was reputed to be the easiest peak above 6,000 in the world.
‘ There was no option, this had to be investigated. This peak had to be climbed.’
Here, he tells his story from after his acclimatisation treks: THE climb would take four days. The first day was a 10 hour walk-in to a standing base camp at 5,000m.
The summit attempt began at midnight the next day so I had time to recce the start of the route over a steep spur along its ridge to meet the lateral glacial moraine and then to traverse the glacier itself which I would leave until summit day.
It was this traverse that I was not so confident about. Different mountaineering guide books gave conflicting routes across the glacier and the assurances I had been given from various trekking agencies confirming that it was not necessary to rope-up while crossing did not seem so reassuring now that I looked down on it.
By 2 a.m. on the morning of the summit attempt I made my way to the edge of the glacier hoping for some divine inspiration.
Thankfully there were lights in the darkness, climbers fumbling around on the edge of the glacier trying to secure crampons.
Other parties emerged from the darkness too and now the route seemed busy. I was a little more settled when I saw that other climbers were un-roped as well. I followed their line across the glacier, carefully checking each step with the point of my axe first before committing my full weight. After 40 minutes of nerve-racking progress I reached the moraine on the far side.
Above me there was a 30 degree snow slope that had to be climbed to gain the summit ridge.
Reaching the ridge was a relief. But this was quickly shattered when I looked along the route. The ridge was steep, exposed and airy. Moving along the ridge meant negotiating short rock steps and delicately thin ice ledges which slipped off into the void beneath.
Concentration was now the name of the game and it needed to be maintained for the two hours it took to summit.
On reaching the summit, I knew I was standing on a giant. I was surrounded by the greats. The Zanskar Range, the Great Himalayan Range and the Karakoram Range in the far north. All just hanging out. And I was part of it. Part of the stillness and part of the vastness.
The thin air gave a clear definition to even the furthest peaks and all that could be done was to stand and stare. I was on
“On reaching the summit, I knew I was standing on a giant. I was surrounded by the greats. And I was part of it.”
top of my Everest, my K2, the highest I would ever climb, and I was content with that. After a few minutes I came back to reality, readjusted my thinking and reminded myself that at 6,120m I was at extreme altitude and I needed to get down.
Returning back down the ridge, the narrow ice ledges pointed down at an angle that didn’t seem as severe on the way up. There were moments when I would have liked to have had the confidence of a rope but I ignored those thoughts and I kept moving slowly.
I reached the glacier crossing at 8.30 a.m. At this point I was too exhausted to care about its dangers and I ploughed straight across it, casually stopping to drink some melt water on the way. I reached base camp by 10 a.m. where I flaked out in the tea-tent and didn’t move much further for the rest of the day. I postponed the walk-out until the following day. After all, I was on holidays.
Back in Leh, a ceremonious returning of my rented plastics, crampons and ice axe marked the return to my life as a backpacker. I had three weeks left, so as per protocol, I had a cup of chai tea and I flicked open The Rough Guide.
Sean on his way to the summit of Stok Kangri. INSET: Sean Cryan.