Snow Lake


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The Walk In - Part 2

Day 4
This turned out to be (for me) the most enjoyable day on the walk-in.  For the only day in the walk-in the weather was completely clear and we got stunning views of some of the Biafo peaks, in particular The Ogre (Baintha Brakk) and the Latoks (these are very famous peaks). We were starting to get a bit further up the glacier and, for the first time, it was feeling like we were in the mountains.

Superb view up the Biafo. The peak on the right is Uzum Brakk, first climbed by Mick Fowler and Victor Saunders, and described by Saunders in his book Elusive Summits.

After the usual ups and downs getting across moraine ridges, we got onto an excellent "ice highway" which led up the glacier as far as could be seen. Excellent travel, not that we did it very fast. Beth was again feeling very ill and needed frequent stops as stomach cramps and waves of nausea passed by. Again, she got through the day on sheer determination and a handful of boiled lollies.Trudging across the morraine towards Baintha campsite

We just about overshot our next campsite, Biantha, as Arif, the local, showed a rare moment of geographical confusion. This time it was 5 or 6 moraine ridges / valleys to get to the side of the glacier. Biantha was a superb spot on another delightful moraine terrace. The others were having a rest day and welcomed our arrival. We got there early enough that we were able to have a decent rest before dinner. Though for the third night in a row Beth couldn't eat any food. 

After dinner, the locals put on a "cultural show", with many of their traditional songs and dances. This was a real highlight of the trip (and was repeated a few times later). After this we were asked to show them our "national dance". Ummmm!!  The men did a very creditable haka, which is more-or-less a dance, and a huge achievement at 4000 metres. Duncan did a great job leading this with the traditional challenge. As the haka line advanced rapidly, loudly and fiercely towards them, applause and appreciation changed to apprehension. Some of the porters scrambled to their feet for a quick retreat. Once the threat evaporated the cheering was so great that an immediate encore completely used up any remaining energy.

Baintha - a gorgeous campsite What's this man doing with that ski pole??

Day 5
This was the hardest day of the trip, as it was a very long way to the next campsite Napina (also known as Karpogoro). Not that we knew it was going to be such a long day before we started. The guides were often very vague, if not downright misleading, about what was in store for us during the day. Karim later admitted to deliberately lying about how far a day's walk was, so the clients would not get discouraged. I find this completely despicable, although it may be one of the examples of cultural difference that surfaced.Fantastic ice ridges on the glacier

Most of the day was again following a good section of glacier. Though there were more uphill bits which took a while to get up. Despite Karim insisting the group stayed together, we soon ended up in the back with the others small dots in the distance. Only poor Arif, delegated by Karim to look after us, faithfully stayed back with us.

For the first time we got into crevasse territory. Luckily we were still in bare ice, so they were all visible and easy to cross - it would be a different story if there had been snow around. This is about the first time that Beth had been in amongst serious crevasses and it took her a while to get used to stepping across such big crevasses. While they weren't all that wide, they did go down for a long way; definitely not a place to make a mistake....

Many hours later .... boy this terrain is deceptive. Distances are so much bigger than they seem. Some time back I thought it would take us about an hour to get to Napina (which we could see) - after about 2 hours the scale became clearer so we could now see that it was still a long way to go. 

At the bottom of the last slope it started to become apparent that we weren't going to get to the camp before dark. We still had a big hill to get up, and Beth (in her weakened state) wasn't going to get up it very fast. Now why didn't I think of this beforeArif now showed us how awesomely strong he is - by carrying Beth most of the rest of the way. Talk about beyond the call of duty. And we aren't talking about easy terrain here - we were still amongst crevasses and Arif jumped over a few that I wouldn't tackle. Beth found it surreally terrifying to be looking straight down into the depths of a crevasse. Then we got onto the morraine and boulder hopping. I could hardly keep up. A very impressive display of coordination and strength.

We got to camp just on dusk. We were now beyond the vegetation level (4500 metres) and the campsite was very bare and rocky. We were pleased to hear that the others had found it a hard day too, in fact some of them had gone on strike saying that they thought it was an unreasonable distance (makes a change from the porters going on strike).

Day 6
Our final day to Snow Lake. Amazingly, this turned out to be a very short day - we were at Snow Lake by 11am. From Napina it wasn't far to the glacier, and not long after this we were in the snow. This was quite a relief - with it being a very light snow year I was worried that there may in fact be no snow at Snow Lake (just glacial ice). This would certainly have put a damper on the plans for ski touring in the area.

Once into the snow, we immediately roped up to avoid disappearing down a crevasse (as they were now mostly hidden). The porters all "roped up" too - what a farce. The ones at the front and back were tied on - the 20 or 30 porters in the middle just hung onto the rope with one hand. Even our "guides" had very basic appreciation of glacier travel - Karim tied the rope onto his pack waist belt, saying this was quite adequate!

Not long after this we started to get into terrain familiar from all the photos we'd seen of the area. On the right we could see the huge Sim Gang glacier coming in and on the left the impressive spires of the Salo peaks. Once we were in the general area, we spent a while deciding where we would camp for the next 3 weeks. Not an easy decision when you have many square kilometres of  flat snow and one place looks just like the rest. The porters decided on a spot by dumping all their stuff there and going no further. As it turned out they chose a very good place. Over the next few weeks the snow "ablated" (eg. melted out) uncovering large crevassed areas just about everywhere else. We had camped in one of the few crevasse-free spots.

Well, we were amazed and relieved to be there. At times during the walk in we wondered if we would ever make it. Now that we had, we would at last have a chance to properly recover and acclimatise. Little realising what the next 3 weeks had in store for us.


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