Highlights from the Ladakh trip
Stok Kangri: The highlight, of course, was Stok Kangri, which I was hoping to summit. Rains, uncharacteristic for this time of the year, weren't making my plans easy. For three days I stayed at the base camp hoping each day that the rain would let up. It did, but in favor of snow! On the third day it looked hopeless but I didn't want to go back without one attempt at the peak. I tagged along with a group from Kolkata who also had run out of spare days. We started at midnight, walking in the light of our head torches, trusting our guide to know where he's going. By the time we reached an altitude of 5650m the snow was falling hard and covering our tracks in minutes. The slope was increasing too, and our guide reminded more than once that the descent would be much harder. Eventually, at around 4:30 we decided to head back. It was disappointing, but when dawn broke the whole landscape had been transformed by the snow. The view at the advanced base camp (at around 5450m amsl) was worth all the trouble.
Hospitality: One family made this trip special for me. Zia, my guide, who hosted me at his beautiful family house in Choglamsar village, and let me stay in a room with a beautiful view of the Stok Kangri. Later, he put me up at a homestay owned by his cousin. At the end of my stay my host there, the hostess, gave me presents for me and my wife (whom she hasn't met) and profusely apologized for not picking something up for my son.
Independence Day at 5km abmsl: August 15th was a cold and wet day at the base camp, apart from portending the disappearance of any prospects of making it to the summit. The only memorable moment from that day was when a bunch of trekkers put up the Indian flag on a tent pole, convinced all the other Indians in the camp to join them in singing the national anthem, and then crawled back into their sleeping bags to wait out the rest of the day.