Pakistan: a Fantastic Mountain Scenery
When Jonas, my best friend, visited me on my trip we decided he’d rent a motorbike and travel together up north into the Gilgit Baltistan mountain range. Having never ridden a motorbike before, let alone in the hectic traffic of Pakistan AND on the other side of the road, could be argued as not the smartest idea. Nevertheless, we both were stoked to travel together so I give him a crash-course “how to ride a motorbike” in the basement of our hotel in Islamabad. And there he was: Jonas baptized as a bike rider, ready for the crazy Pakistani traffic and horrendous road conditions in the mountains!
Trying to get out of a city with four million people, on your first day riding EVER, in a foreign country riding on the other side of the road, ended up a bit slower than expected. Three hours, one broken mirror, a bent handlebar and a few bruises later, we make it out of the hectic city and its slums. Through the heavily polluted air we can finally see some mountains rising from the horizon. Calmer roads, stunning valleys and picturesque villages emerge.
The second day on the road goes way smoother and we both start enjoying the ride. Two best friends driving through one of the most beautiful and impressive mountain ranges on earth is hard to not enjoy. We ride in a valley with superb views of the Rakaposhi mountain (7788m). Rakaposhi means “snow covered” but it is also known as Dumani “mother of mist”.
Negotiating with the police
Arriving in Gilgit, we prepare for our three-day trek to Rusk Peak (5100m) and continue towards Hopar Valley. The night before we depart we meet the local police officer in the hotel’s kitchen and tells us that we are not allowed to go alone on the mountain and should hire a mountain guide. We were not prepared for that so started negotiating with the officer and eventually found a solution for it. If we wrote down on paper that we were “capable mountaineers” and will be fine on the hike, he was ok with it!
We leave early, scramble over the moraine and go down onto the first glacier. The Bualtar Glacier is an easy glacier so no crampons and ropes are needed. It is about one kilometre wide and the path is fairly easy to follow. Crossing the glacier felt more like walking over solid ground and rocks with the odd piece of snow or ice but actually we are standing on several hundred years old ice which is frosted with some rock fall. The second glacier we cross is a bit more adventurous with big blocks of ice and some crevasses but still very comfortable. We hike another eight kilometres and arrive at a beautiful oasis with some spectacular views! Setting up camp in such an idyllic place is always very satisfying.
Perfect weather, camp spot, mountain views, a little creek for water & washing and your best friend! What else can you ask more?Camping at the tree line means one last time for a bonfire before we go into the colder and higher mountains. So, we enjoy it to the fullest!
After a very long second day of hiking, and Jonas suffering a bit from altitude sickness, we finally arrive at Rush lake (4600m) and set up camp. Another gem with beautiful views on several +7000m peaks, a mountain lake and wild buffalos. From there on we will go to Rush Peak (5100m) leave our camping gear at the lake. We both had a bit of an odour that even the yaks went out of the water and left us so we decide to go for a skinny dip ourselves and dive in the 4ºC lake!
Seconds later our beloved fertility instruments regretted our decision deeply and begged us to go out of the water immediately! Some good dinner later we felt completely revived and Jonas is feeling better. We go for a small hike to check out the “Golden peak” or “Spantik” (7027m) and it hasn’t stolen his name! Its northwest face features an exceptionally hard climbing route known as the “Golden Pillar” which can be seen on the pictures. It is pretty impressive to have a bedroom with these views.
Early in the morning we leave for Rush Peak and make it at the top around 8am. In the far distance we can spot K2, which is with 8611 meters the second highest mountain in the world. Seeing it from about 160km away is pretty impressive!
We head back to Rush Lake, pack up our camp and enjoy our breakfast. Now comes a long way down….
A desperate descent
We feel pretty energetic and descend about 900m in 1 hour (which took us 3 hours to climb up).
Arriving at our first overnight stop, we make lunch and recover a bit. Unfortunately, Jonas is starting to feel sick again and throws up all his lunch, which he ate minutes before. He takes another rest and 20 minutes later we’re back on track. But not for long…
He throws up again and again and again…. Every time he tries to eat or drink even the slightest bit, his stomach instantly refuses. We take a small rest, I take over half of his luggage and we slowly continue our descend. The sun is high and burning and we have still a fair bit to walk. Jonas is starting to look like a character from “The walking dead”.
Several hours later he is completely dehydrated. We still have to cross the two glaciers and climb back on the moraine so I decide to carry his whole backpack on mine in an effort to make it a bit easier for him. Step by step in 5 minutes walking, 5 minutes resting we go further and eventually make it long after dark back at the hotel. Jonas didn’t have any food or liquid for over 7 hours and we walked in the burning sun so he desperately needed some medications to suppress nausea and throwing up. I ask the hotel owner for help and he tells me there is a pharmacy thingy one village back. We jump on his scooter and go down the valley. “Low fuel” he said, we start rolling in neutral, without lights, down the rocky track. Luckily the moon just came up.
A lusch lake
The next morning Jonas wakes up reasonably and manages to eat and drink something proper. He is still feeling very weak but it is manageable and we slowly pack our bikes to go down the valley. We decided to drive towards Naltar valley and camp a bit higher at a nice lake so we can relax a bit. The Valley is known for its fantastic mountain scenery and at the end of the valley there are three lakes which are locally known as: “Chimo Bari” (fish Lake), “Chakar Bari” (Multi Ends lake) and “Bodolok Bari” (Turbid Lake).
The road towards the lakes is quite hard, with a lot of loose rock, river crossings and steep slopes. Especially for someone who only drove a motorbike for one week… He drops the bike a few times, swears a few times more, drops it again… Some slopes went better than the other, some slopes I needed to give him a hand but he keeps on pushing and eventually we make it!
Naltar Valley has 3 lakes and they are absolutely stunning! We had never seen such saturated and deep colours in lakes. The water was clear and intensely blue. On the bottom there was an abundance of lush green and yellow water plants which made it absolutely magical. We quickly set up camp and jump in the blue-green-yellow crystal-clear water. The experience was just breath-taking (due to the view but also the extremely cold water). We take a cruisy day at the lakes and enjoy the spectacular views.