August 10, 2019
Written By Kanza Khan
Biafo Glacier (60 km. long) and Hispar Glacier (61 km. long) meet at the 5151 m. Hispar Pass to form one of the longest glacial systems outside the polar regions. This highway of ice connects two ancient mountain kingdoms; Hunza in the west with Baltistan in the east.
In olden times warriors from Hunza would use this natural pathway to invade the peoples of Askolie in Baltistan. Later, the well known sport of “Polo,” a Balti word meaning ball, served as a more positive outlet for aggression between these two kingdoms and matches were played on stretches of level ground in this locality.
Because the Biafo-Hispar region is very remote it serves as the last stronghold for many animals; including Himalayan bear, ibex, markhor and the snow leopard. H.W. Tilman, an English adventurer, claimed he saw footprints of the Yeti during his trek there in 1937.
At the base of Hispar Pass on its eastern flank rests Snow Lake, a basin of ice (16 km. wide) surrounded by granite pinnacles yet to be climbed. Glaciologists have conducted various experiments on the lake and have found the ice to be approximately 1.6 km. deep. Some go as far as to say that Snow Lake represents the last of the original ice cap in the earth’s temperate zones.
The first segment of the journey from Islamabad to Askolie is identical to that of the K-2 Trek (see enclosed). We begin our walk from Askolie towards K-2 then shortly head west onto the Biafo Glacier. After trekking three to four days we arrive at Baintha Campsite located on an ablation valley below the granite peaks of the Ogre (7813 m.).
The walk takes us past glistening clear lakes, bright spots of green grass, glorious wild flowers and the ever present vertical snow covered peaks hanging above to complete this dazzling scene. The next two days take us over the white covered Biafo Glacier to Snow Lake. We then make the exhilarating walk up to Hispar Pass continuously overwhelmed by the incredible views.
Having reached the highest point of our journey atop Hispar Pass (5151 m.) we begin the descent into Hunza; a land where the language, culture and ethnic background is vastly different than that of Baltistan. We follow the Hispar Glacier past massive mountains such as Kanjut Sar (7760 m.) and Disteghil Sar (7885 m.) reaching the end of the glacier in four to five days.
The green oasis of Hispar Village awaits us signaling only another dayÍs walk before a jeep transports us to Karimabad, Hunza. First sight of the lush valley of Hunza is breathtaking and in some ways makes up for the nostalgia one feels after completing a long walk. We spend one night in Karimabad then we are off to Gilgit by way of the KKH. Depending on weather conditions we then fly or drive back to Islamabad.
Itinerary (Option 01)
|Day 02||Drive to Chilas|
|Day 03||Drive to Skardu|
|Day 04||Sightseeing in Skardu|
|Day 05||Jeep Drive to Askoli|
|Day 06||Trek to Namla|
|Day 07||Trek to Mango|
|Day 08||Trek to Baintha|
|Day 09||Trek to Napina|
|Day 10||Trek to Hisper Base Camp (4800 m)|
|Day 11||Crossing the pass to Khanibasa|
|Day 12||Trek to the Yutmaru Glacier|
|Day 13||Trek to Dachigan|
|Day 14||Trek to Hisper Village|
|Day 15||Jeep Drive to Karimabad|
|Day 16||Free for sightseeing in Karimabad|
|Day 17||Drive to Chilas|
|Day 18||Drive to Islamabad|
|Day 19||Free day in Islamabad|
|Day 20||Destination Flight|
Itinerary (Option 02)
|Day 1||Rawalpindi/Islamabad: Hotel, trek briefing. We will have ample time for sightseeing and shopping in colorful old bazaars of Rawalpindi and new markets of Islamabad. We may also drive to the huge modern Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.|
|Day 2||Skardu (2,500 m 8,200 ft): Hotel, flight. We will be on the most fantastic commercial flight in the world taking us from Islamabad to Skardu. If the weather is bad, we will drive in two days on the famous KKH to Skardu.|
|Day 3||Askolie (3,300 m 10,800 ft): Camp, jeep drive. It takes about six hours to drive from Skardu to Askolie or near Askolie. The drive through the Braldu Gorge is guaranteed to knock your socks off!|
|Day 4||Namla (3,650 m 11,800): Camp, trek begins. The walk from Askolie to Namla is on an easy gentle plain first and then becomes difficult as we get on to the snout of Biafo Glacier. This will take about 6 to 8 hours. The first sight of the pinnacles of the Paiyu Group is stunning.|
|Day 5||Mongo (3,700 m 12,130 ft): Camp, trek. This can take 7 hours or more. We walk on the moraines of Biafo Glacier as well as in an ablation valley. This is not an easy walk as we trek on rocks most of the time.|
|Day 6||Biantha (4,000 m 13,120 ft): Camp, trek. From Mongo we get on to the white Biafo Glacier where the walking is easier and then we diagonally walk across the Biafo to reach its other side near Biantha. The difficult parts here are getting on to the glacier and then getting off it. This takes about 6 hours of walking and will give us our first sight of the Latok Group. The campsite is located in a green meadow.|
|Day 7||Biantha (4,000 m 13,120): Camp, rest day. Wash up, relax, read, climb on a steep ridge for outstanding views behind the camp, sing and dance with the porters!|
|Day 8||Marphogoro (4,400 m 14,430 ft): Camp, trek. Six to eight hours of walking. Getting on to the glacier is tricky. Once on it, the walk is pretty straight forward on the white glacier. However, we are careful to avoid crevasses here. The greenery of Biantha campsite is only a memory now. We are in the dramatic and awesome expanse of the Biafo with its jagged pinnacles. The Ogre (7,813 m.) towers high above us on our right. There is only snow and rock now.|
|Day 9||Snow Lake (4,800 m 15,750 ft): Camp, trek. The trek takes about 6 to 7 hours over ice and snow. Once again we are careful to avoid crevasses along the way. Snow Lake is a magical place. Be sure to get out of the tent to experience the stars in the night. It is an unforgettable experience!|
|Day 10||Snow Lake (4,800 m 15,750 ft): Camp, rest day. We stay at Snow Lake one more day to acclimatize and explore this unique area of the Earth. Be careful of crevasses.|
|Day 11||Hispar La (5,151 m 16,895 ft): Camp, trek. A 6 to 7 hour walk on slopes of about 30 degrees take us to the top of the pass. Once again, we are careful to avoid crevasses. Even though the climb is on gentle slopes, we find it difficult due to the rarefied air. When on top we see a panorama described by an early explorer: “Beyond all comparison the finest view of mountains it has been my lot to behold.” On one side the Biafo lies and on the other side we look towards the Hispar Glacier and the peaks above Hunza valley. The view of sunrise from the pass is another sight to behold.|
|Day 12||Kani Basa (4,500 m 14,760 ft): Camp, trek. This is a long day’s walk and can take more than 8 hours. We want to make sure that we leave the pass early before the snow becomes soft. On the way down, once again, we are careful to avoid crevasses. We will have to cross the Kani Basa Glacier before we can camp on a green campsite, which is a welcome sight and site after being on snow for the last few days. On the way we can see the famous Kanjut Sar (7,760 m.) towering high above the Kani Basa Glacier.|
|Day 13||Kani Basa (4,500 m 14,760 ft): Camp, rest. A well needed day to relax after a tough walk through Hispar La and snow.|
|Day 14||Jutmal (4,200 m 13,780 ft): Camp, trek. This will take about 7 hours and on the way we will cross the Jutmal Glacier. It is tricky here as the route through the glacier is like a maze with high ice walls. After crossing it, another hurdle that we face is the climb up on a loose cliff face. Once up the face, we now enter a beautiful campsite with lovely views across the Hispar Glacier. Some streams have to be crossed on the way.|
|Day 15||Bitanmal (3,600 m 11,800 ft): Camp, trek. This section takes about 8 hours. On the way Pumory Glacier is crossed and also a stream. The crossing of Pumory is not that difficult as the Jutmal. However, once again, we have to descend on to the ablation valley and once again we have to climb the cliffs on our right to get to the campsite. This is an exhaustive process.|
|Day 16||Falaling Chhish (3,600 m 11,800 ft): Camp, trek. One more glacier to cross! This is Kunyang Glacier. The walking does get a little easier. However, crossing the Kunyang is tedious and the climb on rocks on the other side can be difficult. This is a short day consisting of about 4 hours. Our camp is in a shepherd’s meadow where villagers from Hispar bring their yaks for the summer. The view of Makrong Chhiish (6,607 m.), on the other side of Hispar Glacier, is outstanding.|
|Day 17||Hispar Village (3,400 m 11,150 ft): Camp, trek. Another short day of about 4 hours. Some streams have to be crossed on the way, but the walking is relatively gentle. A bridge over the Hispar stream has to be crossed and then a climb on a good path brings us into the village proper. It is strange to see habitation as the villagers gather around us!|
|Day 18||Huru (3,000 m 9,840 ft.): Camp, trek. This takes about 5 hours of walking on a jeep road. The road is marked with a few broken bridges and land slides that have resulted in jeeps not coming all the way to the Hispar Village. Our campsite is high above the noisy Hispar River in a tree-shaded spot. There is also a cool pool nearby. Here our epic trek ends.|
|Day 19||Karimabad (2,440 m 8,000 ft): Hotel, jeep. Our jeeps will transport us back to Karimabad, Hunza. The first sight of this lush green valley surrounded with huge white peaks will remain an imprint on our minds for a long time.|
|Day 20||Gilgit (1,500 m 4,900 ft): Hotel, drive. We drive to Gilgit in about three hours and have ample opportunity to visit the Central Asian bazaars and do some sightseeing.|
|Day 21||Rawalpindi/Islamabad: Hotel, flight and trek debriefing. Here we go again and find ourselves looking forward to being on this world famous flight. One can never get enough of the sight of Nanga Parbat, which is so huge that the plane takes about ten minutes to cross its northern face!|
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