Snow Lake


Intro The Walk in Walk in Part 2 Base Camp The Walk Out Email us

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The Walk Out

The Pass

Despite worrying about this for the last couple of weeks, this actually went very well. We were on skis (unlike the others) and the easy rhythym of skinning is less strenuous than walking. Also, as the others had told us on numerous occasions, it wasn't that difficult. A gentle angle for the first couple of hours then a short steep section, and we were on top by 7:30am. A much better time than we expected, and Karim was delighted. I think he was worried he might have to carry us over. 

The weather had held off, but wasn't too bright. White-out and snowing, with no real view. At 5150 metres (17,000 ft)  it was Beth's height record. The porters, who had left a couple of hours after us, arrived a few minutes later. Those guys sure are fit and strong. And hardy - a couple of layers of cotton clothing (certainly no waterproofs) and ridiculous $2 plastic shoes (we had worn crampons to get through the steep bit). In the bad weather they weren't hanging about and quickly disappeared. With visions of being marooned in the fog, we hurridly tried to keep up. This destroyed the plans we had made to "pick up" Duncan and Matt (who were camped on the pass) but they, not being ready, got left behind. This created a bit of bad feeling, but I won't go into this whole episode!!

The pass is quite flat and wide (2 kilometres) and it was a real drag going across it, especially as our skis were "balling up" (snow sticking to the bases) which made forward progress almost impossible. Eventually this ended and we were on the steep slope leading off the pass. We had now dropped below the cloud and got excellent views down the Hispar, our journey for the next week. Sure looked like a long way. 

Beth showing how it is doneWe now, for virtually the first time on the trip, were able to do some skiing. This was the best moment of the trip. The first couple of hundred feet had good snow and we managed to do quite a respectable job. Despite (in my case) having very floppy climbing boots. Beth followed behind and figure-eighted my turns. The HGP staff, just in front, watched with fascination and admiration. I don't think they had seen skiing before. A round of applause as we stopped beside them. At this point we got into deep pug and the skiing was reduced to kick turns and snow ploughs, but this still received enthusiastic applause every few minutes. I think this was the only time on the trip when the HGP staff were impressed by anything any of us did. Being brought up in this mountainous area, they were all awesomely strong, fit and capable. The strongest of us were weak by comparison. But this impressed them. Even a week later, as we wereIt was good to relax once we were down on the flat apologising for how slow we were going, we would be told "but you have a major skill. You have much style. You should be proud of yourselves". The other NZers, following us, were also impressed - by the wafer-thin snow-bridges we had skied over!

By 11am we were down off the pass and time for a relaxing lunch, delighted that the pass had gone so smoothly after worrying about it so much over the last few weeks. After this the rest of the day was just a trudge. A couple of hours down the smooth ice of the upper glacier, before we got into a disgusting section of morraine. Coming at the end of a long day, this was very tedious and Beth was quite unamused.  However all things come to an end and we eventually rolled into camp at 4:30pm. It was a barren, rocky spot, but seemed like paradise to us. Our first non-snow campsite for three weeks. We could revel in the novelty of such things as sitting in a chair without it digging into the snow and tipping you out. Mind you we were only there for about 5 minutes before all our gear and clothes were covered in a layer of dust, but I guess that's the break.

Our first non-snow campsite for 3 weeks
Down the Hispar

The next 4 days walking down the valley all merge together. They were all quite similar. The route followed down the flank at the side of the glacier, following a series of morraine terraces. The only interruption to this was when we had to cross a side-glacier. Every day we had one of these. It became a bit of a routine; another day, another glacier. These side-glacies varied from being short (30 minutes) to long (2 hours+) of very rough travel, often with hideous walls of steep unstable morraine to exit. These glaciers were a stark contrast to the terraces with were very pleasant, if not idyllic. But enough words, time for some photos.....

When it's good, it's very good. Note: Hispar Pass a long way behind. It wasn't all fun and games. Here a brief but violent storm is sweeping up the glacier.
Some of our campsites were idyllic Typical travel crossing the glaciers
The walk out was the best part of the trip for me. For the first time I was healthy and back to my normal self, albeit a lot skinnier. Beth found the first day very hard, but after that came right. Maybe we had dropped below a critical height, but after this her breathing improved and she was able to get enough oxygen to walk at more-or-less normal speed. 

We also had generally good weather, and were able to enjoy the spectacular surroundings and, at times, pleasant travel. The further we got down the greener the surroundings got. After spending so long in the snow it was a huge pleasure to get see vegetation again; and every day bought new delights as we dropped down into richer vegetation. 

The highlight was our last campsite, Bitanmal, which was a glorious large paddock of deep grass.  We had a pleasant relaxing, afternoon in this delightful spot. We challenged the locals to a game of cricket but, true to NZ tradition, we were completely outclassed. This was followed by the normal signing and dancing. 

The other highlight of the walk out, if not the trip, was getting to know the HGP staff members better. I have climbed in many parts of the world, employing local porters and guides, and I'll have to say these guys were the best. A class above all the others. They were, to a man, very capable people, strong, hard-working, helpful and friendly. What's best, they talked to us and treated us as equals. It really annoys me when the locals won't talk to you because they think you are a class apart. 

Approaching Bitanmal Beth knows how to be comfortable.....
Watching the cricket This is how people have fun when there is no alcohol
Our final day took us to the village of Hispar. The greenery around us gradually disappeared as we got into the dry countryside which is the norm in this part of the world. This day wasn't without it's exciting moments; all the way down the valley we had to cross a succession of side-streams which seemed to get bigger the further down valley we went. The last one was the biggest (see the photo) and this caused a certain amount of adrenalin to flow. What made these streams particularly difficult was that we tried to cross them with dry feet. Dave Duke managed to leap over this one but only a quick grab by Samueli stopped him slipping back in. Would have been messy.

We spent a day in Hispar while transport was organised then travelled by jeep to Karimabad. While it was a rough ride down the Hispar valley, it was relatively tame compared with the journey we had done to Askole.

The last steam was exciting Hispar Village, the greenness a rich contrast to the barren surroundings
Just before Hispar village we cross the Hispar river, an awesome torrent. We tried not to notice that the water had obviously come over the bridge... Driving down the Hispar valley to Karimabad

Karimabad was civilisation. It is a delightful town, spread up a hillside amidst apricot trees, and surrounded by a number of very spectacular peaks, including Rakaposhi. Not surprisingly it is a major tourist destination. We checked into the delightful Hilltop Hotel and were hit by quite severe culture shock. Any climbers reading this will know what I'm talking about; the sudden contrast between living in extremely rough surroundings, to total luxurious surroundings, is almost too much to cope with. We would have felt more comfortable bivvying out in the vacant lot behind the hotel. Quite suddenly, the trip was over. 
though it didn't take us long to get used to this.....

After this it was another long drive back to Islamabad. A couple of days later, it was back to Singapore and NZ and definitely the end of the trip.