Biafo–Hispar Glacial Traverse: The Karokorum range, Pakistan. Click here for a photo of the Biafo Glacier.
This trip report details an expedition which I did near K2 in Pakistan in 1998. The Biafo and Hispar glaciers join at the Hispar La pass and together they form the longest continuous stretch of glacier in the Himalayas. The trip took 11 days, 9 of which were on the glacier. The snub of the Biafo glacier is a day’s walk from the glacier that leads to K2. This report is in note form from my diary and is quite brief. I would be happy to answer any more detailed questions by email.
I was on holiday with Peter and we had completed a 5 day acclimatisation trek over the Pakora La before this trek. We joined forces with Najeeb and Simon who were travelling separately and had met each other in Gilgit. The four of us hired a guide and four porters.
Day 1. Thungole (2800) to Namla (3690m).
We started at Thungole rather than Askole because the road was damaged by a land slide. We followed the trail which is taken by parties going to K2 to a place called “Kesar’s playground”, a flat area that myth holds was a giant’s polo field. We reached the terminal moraine of the glacier in the early afternoon.
Day 2. Namla to Mango 1 (3660m). 6 hrs
It took hours to get on the glacier, once on it we walked along it for 4/5 hours and it took an hour to get off it. The problem is that it is covered in moraine and there are huge crevasses which you have to work your way around.
Day 3. Mango 1 to Baintha 1 (4000m). 6 hrs
We walked up the ablation valley before gaining the glacier and crossing diagonally to the true left-hand side. It was the first time that we reached moraine free clean ice, at this stage with no snow on it. Some of the crevasses were 100m deep and it took ages to walk around them.
Day 4. Rest day in Baintha 1
Day 5. Baintha 1 to Marpogoro (4410m) 61/2 hrs.
A long day, leaving behind the lush vegetation of lower ablation valley for the rock camp of Marpogoro. It was very cold at night and the thermarest that I bought for $5 in a market in Scardu was failing. The weather deteriorated and I was worried that we would not be able to make progress the next day.
Day 6. Marpogoro to Base Camp Hispar La (4770m)
Snow on the glacier: we roped up half way through the day. I took my best ever photo which you can see on the K2 page – it is of Peter walking on the glacier. We crossed the huge ‘snow lake’ called Lukpe Lao. It is said that the ice here is 2k deep. Steady catabatic wind during the day, cold and a little tiring! The journey was lengthened by the regular detours around the huge crevasses. We camped on the snow and had a very cold night.
Day 7. Over the Hispar La (5200m) 6 hrs
Started at 5am to get over by the time that the snow warmed up. It was a steep climb up to the col. Peter and I drank a little whisky from a miniature bottle that we had brought from the plane. The descent was made tricky due to the slushy snow.
Day 8 – 10. Baktur to Hispar Village (via Shiqan and Dachim)
On the 10th day we saw the first people since starting the trip. We spent the night in Hispar village, playing cricket with the locals, and eating a sheep that we bought and killed with my pen knife. It was great to eat meat again (even if the sheep was a bit old) and it was good to take part in village life. The next day we did a double stage walk to get to a village where we got jeeps to the Karokorum highway.
It was a great trip and I got some excellent photos. I have never been such a wild and untouched place, Pakistan is not a popular tourist destination and so it was fairly free of other trekkers (unlike Nepal). I can’t wait to go back!
Click here to read about my ascent of Aconcagua by the Polish Glacier Traverse Route.