Faroling Chhish (also known as Daltanas Peak) is situated north of the Hispar Glacier in the Hispar Muztagh, a subrange of the western Karakoram. It was first climbed in 1988, by Pete Thompson solo (photos on this page).
The Hispar Glacier is 50km long, running in a straight line east to west, with an array of fine peaks on either side. The highest of these are Distaghil Sar (7885m), Khunyang Chhish (7852m), Kanjut Sar (7760m) and Trivor (7728m). Each of these mountains has had very few ascents. Other significant peaks are Hispar Sar (6400m)and Makrong Chhish (6607m), both unclimbed after a number of attempts.
Getting ThereThe nearest international airport is Islamabad. PIA flies daily from Islamabad to Gilgit, the biggest town in the Northern Areas. The flights are sometimes cancelled at short notice due to bad weather.
Gilgit can also be reached by bus along the Karakoram Highway from Pir Wadhai bus station in Rawalpindi, not far from Islamabad. Buses leave in the afternoon and take about 18 hours, but can be delayed if the road is washed out or blocked by landslides.
From Gilgit get a Hiace van up the Karakoram Highway to Karimabad or Aliabad in the Hunza Valley (3 hours). Jeeps to Hispar village, the start of the trek to Base Camp, can only be hired in Nagar. Public jeeps go from Aliabad to Nagar and leave when they are full. Otherwise hire your own jeep to Nagar in Karimabad, or in Gilgit. From Nagar hire another jeep to Hispar village (2 hours) where the trek to Base Camp starts. However the Hispar road is frequently blocked by landslides and the trek may have to start at Huru, which is half way to Hispar village.
Beyond Karimabad, the Karakoram Highway crosses the Khunjerab Pass into China. Buses between Gilgit and Kashgar used to take three days. However, since the Hunza landslide of 2010 part of the road has disappeared under a lake (see below). Now the journey is rather more difficult, involving taking a boat across the lake.
Trekking to Base Camp
Hire porters in Hispar village. On trekking routes there will be an established number of stages and pay will be per stage. Typically stages are based on the best camp sites and represent a day’s walk, but sometimes more than one stage is completed in a day. Usually half pay per stage will be paid for the un-laden return journey from Base Camp. Rates per stage are governed by the Ministry of Tourism but are typically open to negotiation. The Hisparis are known to strike a hard bargain.
Our Base Camp in 1988 was at Daltanas, at the junction of the Khunyang and Hispar Glaciers at 3900m. From here the approach to the cirque below the peak was arduous. Base Camp would be better situated on a small grassy area with a stream in the cirque at 4700m which could be approached directly from the pastures called Farolingkish just before Daltanas. It is one day’s walk to Farolingkish and another into the cirque. Porters can be hired in Hispar village.
On January 4 2010 a massive landslide occurred 14 km upstream from Karimabad at Attabad village killing twenty people. The flow of the Hunza River was blocked for five months creating a lake 21 km long and 100m deep known as Attabad Lake. 6,000 people were displaced from inundated villages and 19 km of the Karakoram Highway were destroyed.
A major flood downstream was feared as the water level approached the top of the dam. This did not happen as water began flowing over the dam in June 2010. In 2012 the spillway was blasted twice and the water level of the lake was reduced by ten metres.
The Karakoram Highway over the Kunjerab Pass to China remains open and boats can be taken along the lake. In winter it freezes over and people walk along it.
There are good camp sites in Hispar village, at Farolingkish pastures and in the cirque.
Kerosene is available in Gilgit and other towns but it burns very sooty so be prepared to clean your stove. White gas is not available. Gas canisters left by previous expeditions are available in Gilgit. Canisters are said to be refilled, but they have always worked for me. Otherwise canisters will need to be freighted from abroad or bought from your agent.
A good selection of food is available in Islamabad, Gilgit or Karimabad. The only food you might consider bringing with you is special mountain food.
This can be cheap in Pakistan. In Gilgit the Madina Guesthouse is recommended. Karimabad is a good place to relax before or after climbing. The cheap guesthouses around Zero Point are a good place to stay. I like the Haider Inn. There is a basic rest house in Hispar village.
Red TapeA visa is required and must be obtained prior to arrival. A single entry tourist visa is valid for three months from arrival. It is possible to extend visas in Islamabad.
Peaks below 6500m do not require a permit or a liaison officer in Pakistan. A guide as provided by an agent could help with porter negotiations which can be difficult in Hispar village.
Good agents I have used are:
Adventure Tours Pakistan
Himalaya Trek and Tours
In July 1988 Walter Phipps and I bivied on the glacier below Faroling Chhish. Our first attempt up the left side of the South Face ended at about 5900m. A few days later from a bivy at 5100m I soloed a direct line on steep ice up the middle of the South Face to the summit at alpine TD. Starting at midnight, ice conditions were good. I descended by the Southeast Ridge.
When to Climb
The climbing season is from June to mid September. The monsoon from the Bay of Bengal moves westward and reaches Pakistan in late June through to September. The Karakoram is in the Himalayan rain shadow which limits the effect of the monsoon. However when the monsoon breaks down country it’s usually stormy in the mountains. The weather can change very quickly with snow fall higher up or heavy rain at lower altitudes. Climbing in the Karakoram requires considerable patience. There can be extended spells of good weather; the difficulty thing is predicting when they will happen.
The Karakoram summer is hot. Mid summer temperatures in Gilgit at 1494m are around 40 degrees C dropping 6.2 degrees for each 1000 metres. It can be hot even at altitude in the full glare of the sun. At lower altitudes around 5000m there is often not a good freeze and alpine starts are necessary. Avalanches and rockfall are common particularly in gullies and on faces.
Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research Karakoram 1:250,000 Orographical Sketch Map. Sheet 1 shows Hispar.
Popular and useful maps which are generally accurate.
Himalaya Alpine-Style by Andy Fanshawe and Stephen Venables (1996) ISBN: 0898864569 An inspirational book with a section on Khunyang Chhish.
www.climbmagazine.com for Mountain Info, a record of world mountaineering.
www.americanalpineclub.org for online American Alpine Journal expedition reports.
www.alpine-club.org.uk for the Himalayan Index, a useful starting point to determine what has been climbed on peaks 6000m and above.
http://blankonthemap.free.fr/default.htm is a website in French and English devoted to the mountains of Northern Kashmir i.e. the Karakoram, Nanga Parbat, Hindu Kush and Hindu Raj.