OverviewThe Pute Towers I, II and III are sub-peaks of Hachindar Chhish (7163m), lying just to the south of that mountain. They are located in the Batura Muztagh which is a sub-range of the the Karakoram.
In July 1996 Pete Thompson, Johannes Gouws, Tom Goodwin, Pete Scott and Sam Stacey made the first ascent of Pute Tower III by the East Face and South Ridge, acclimatizing for an ascent of Batura I.
The 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. Buses leave in the afternoon and arrive around mid morning the next day, but can be delayed if the road is washed out or blocked by landslides.
The Karakoram Highway was damaged in the floods of 2010 but as of September 2010 people were travelling between Islamabad and Gilgit on the highway. See www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree for a travel forum and the latest on travel on the Karakoram Highway.
From Gilgit get a Hiace van up the Karakoram Highway to Aliabad (3 hours drive) in the Hunza Valley. Aliabad is the closest village to the start of the trek up the Muchuhar Valley to Base Camp. Otherwise, get a Hiace van to nearby Karimabad which is a pleasant place to stay.
The Karakoram Highway continues north of Karimabad up the Hunza Valley to Passu and over the Kunjerab Pass to Kashgar in the Xingjiang Province of China. However, since the Hunza landslide of 4th January 2010 (see below) a newly formed lake makes travel to upper Hunza and China difficult, although a boat can be taken across the lake.
Trekking to Base Camp
Porters can be hired in Aliabad. Pay will be per stage. On trekking routes there are established stages representing a day's walk, although sometimes more than one stage is walked in a day. Stages tend to be based on the best places to camp. Rates per stage are governed by the Ministry of Tourism, but will vary according to local conditions.
The trek up the Muchuhar Valley starts at Hassanabad, a few kilometers from Aliabad. There is a good track as far as the snout of the Hassanabad Glacier. Climb onto the glacier and cross to the west side. Follow the edge of the glacier, then an intermittent trail on the rubble-strewn glacier itself which becomes the Muchuhar Glacier. Climb steeply up to Base Camp at 3750m in an ablation valley below the East Face of Pute Tower III and the Southeast Face of Hacindar Chhish.
Hunza LandslideOn 4th January 2010 a huge landslide swept away the village of Attabad, about 10km upstream of Karimabad. Although the landslide had been predicted since a fissure appeared in the hillside above Attabad, at least 13 people lost their lives. The resulting dam blocked the flow of the Gilgit River forming a lake. The level of the lake crept up until 29th May when the water began to overflow into a spillway which had been created. By now the lake was 18km long and many homes and fields had been inundated. Meanwhile many people had been evacuated downstream. See www.daveslandslideblog.blogspot.com for the latest on the situation.
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.
No peak fee is payable for peaks below 6500m in the Pakistani Karakoram. A liaison officer is not required. An agent can provide a guide and Base Camp staff if required and assist with hiring porters.
Good agents I have used are:
1. Adventure Tours Pakistan
2. Himalaya Trek and Tours
Base Camp is in a pleasant, wooded ablation valley with good water. There might be cattle here and food needs to be well protected when you’re away from camp.
Kerosene is available in Gilgit and other towns but it is not very clean 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 after climbing. The cheap guesthouses around Zero Point are a good place to stay. I like the Haider Inn.
Base Camp was established at 3750m above the Muchuhar Glacier. A long, narrow snow gully above Base Camp led to a small col at 5340m. After a bivi here, the rocky South Ridge was followed to the top, with some roped pitches but no major difficulties. A few abseils were required on the ridge in descent.
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 be.
Batura Mustagh Orographical Sketch Map 1:100,000 by Jerzy Wala.
An excellent and accurate map which also includes topo-diagrams of some routes on the higher peaks.
Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research Karakoram 1:250,000 Orographical Sketch Map. Sheet 1 shows Batura.
Popular and useful maps which are generally accurate.
Chronik der Erschließung des Karakorum by Wolfgang Heichel. Teil I – Western Karakorum. Wissenschaftliche Alpenvereinshefte, Heft 36. Gemeinsam herausgeben vom Deutschen und vom Österreichischen Alpenverein. München 2003.
This is the first volume of what is intended to be an exhaustive chronicle of the climbing history of the Karakoram range. It contains stacks of useful information and excellent maps by Jerzy Wala. Volume I covers the mountains west of the Hunza River including the Batura Muztagh. Volume II is intended to cover the Rakaposhi Range and Volume III the Hispar Range. Only available in German.
Karakoram: Mountains of Pakistan by Shiro Shirahata (1998) ISBN: 093856725X
Stunning photos including Hachindar Chhish.
www.climbmagazine.com for Mountain Info, probably the best and most comprehensive record of world mountaineering.
www.americanalpineclub.org for online American Alpine Journal expedition reports.
www.alpineclub.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.