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This is a trek for those of you who are looking for something completely off the beaten track – remote, far from civilisation, and we hope because of this to capture some of the spirits of early exploration. Certainly, your trek leader, John Shipton, has inherited all his father’s instincts for choosing new treks that go into little-visited regions. Shimshal Valley must rate as one of the most remote areas of the Karakoram Himalaya. Here there are three small villages, inhabited by Ismaili Muslims, and just like parts of Tibet and nearby Ladakh, the villages appear like oases in the barren mountain landscape. Incidentally, Shimshall was once a penal colony where the King of Hunza sent the worst criminals and troublemakers. Also, the Kings of Hunza were well known to have carried out attacks on traders’ caravans by passing through Shimshal, over the Shimshal Pass, and then robbing the traders that passed between Leh and Yarkhand. It was not far from here that Colonel Francis Younghusband had his celebrated encounter with his Russian counterpart, Captain Grombtchevski. This was during the period of the ‘Great Game’ when the British Raj was completely paranoid about the Russian Empire sending their troops over the passes and down into India. Our trek over the Boeisam Pass traverses right through the Khungerab National Park where Marco Polo sheep are well known to still exist. It would be nice to think that we could spot some of these wonderful creatures with their large curly horns. There are also a wolf, blue sheep, Tibetan ass and the ever-elusive snow leopard in this region as well.
The mountain scenery is no less impressive and awe-inspiring than elsewhere in the Karakoram and the largest mountain that you will see is Distaghil Sar, 7,885m/25,869ft. The mountain was first climbed by the Austrians in 1960 and is reckoned to be the 20th highest peak in the world. As we have already mentioned, John’s father, Eric Shipton, and Bill Tilman made many explorations in this area, mapping and peak bagging as they went.
We would certainly recommend this trek to anyone who likes the idea of a tough trek where the itinerary may change on a daily basis and which takes you through very wild country.
3 Hours Before Flight Time
Rawalpindi and Islamabad are twin cities situated at the edge of the Potohar plateau. Rawalpindi was originally known as Fatehpur Boari. It was destroyed during the 14th century by a Moghal invasion and remained deserted for a number of years. Three hundred and fifty years ago, during the reign of Emperor Jehangir, a Sikh by the name of Rawal Jogi came to the deserted Fatehpur Boari and was instrumental in recreating the glory of the city. In appreciation, the town became known as Rawalpindi. Today, Raja Bazaar is the main shopping centre, where the business is carried out on a wholesale basis. The cantonment area, created by the British, is a comparatively new establishment. It has a Saddar Bazaar with modern shops and has subsequently become the hub of all shopping.
Islamabad, on the other hand, is a city that is barely three decades old. Two sleepy villages, Saidpur and Nurpur, existed here prior to the sudden sprouting of buildings. The Marala Hills (passage of the serpent) provided an ideal backdrop and the naturally hilly terrain caught the Government’s eye when they were in search of a place to construct a new capital. Islamabad belongs to the rare class of capital built entirely to plan, such as Washington, Brazilia and Canberra. Some of the world’s most distinguished architects were called upon to provide their ideas for the city; names such as Doxiaees, Ponti and Edward Durell Stone figured heavily in the final plan. Around the twin cities, there are many places of interest and recreation blended with scenic beauty and history. Overnight at the Shalimar Hotel.
After breakfast you drive to Chillas, stopping on route for lunch. Chillas was on the ancient caravan trail over the Babusar Pass into India and on the Indus trail of Besham, and many rock engravings were left by travellers in this area. Chillas is standing under the shadow of world-famous 5,000m Nanga Parbat (8,125m/26,657ft). Overnight at the Chillas Inn Hotel.
After breakfast, you drive to Passu, upon arrival you transfer to the hotel. Your drive will take you on the Karakoram Highway to Batura Bridge. From here the Chinese Border is only 100kms. En route, you will stop at Ghulkin glacier, and you can hike a short distance onto the glacier itself. Lush green fields and swirling mountain streams often break the arid landscape on the way to Passu, and the landscape provides a fascinating memory that will be captured in your mind’s eye forever. Overnight in best possible hotel.
After breakfast, you drive by jeep to Dutt (2hrs) and trek to Ziarat. (4 hours walk) Dutt (means cable to cross the river) is a small hut made by the locals for rest. The winding trek carves its way through massive chunks of rocks along the roaring Shimshal River. From here you can see the Karan I and Karan II peaks. A long, hard and dry day. The last source of water is the stream draining from the Momhil Glacier.
There follow 4 hours of steep zigzagging up to the top of the gorge and 90 minutes back down across a sliding sandy slope to the river level. Across from the top of the gorge are viewed up deep, unapproachable valleys leading to the high snows of Karun Koh (23,500ft/7,164m). You climb once again for half an hour up the cliff and down another sandy slope to the river level. Here you have a choice of routes, depending on the conditions. Sometimes it is possible to stay on the south bank, where you must dash along the river, running the gauntlet of stones falling from high on the notoriously dangerous cliff above. This stretch is bombarded at all times of the day and night. It takes about 20 minutes to pass the worst part, 10 minutes after you reach Ziarat. Ziarat meaning ‘Shrine’ is surrounded by hundreds of flags. This is down from the summer pastures, where people give thanks for the summer and pray for a safe winter. The large pilgrims’ hut at Ziarat sleeps about 50. There is a clear spring about 10 minute’s walk beyond the shrine. Camp overnight.
After breakfast, you trek to Kuk. After trekking 4-5 hours you will reach Kuk – meaning Spring’ in the local language. After crossing en route a couple of side streams with views up V-shaped valleys to white, pointed peaks. From the top of the moraine, there are magnificent views of Distaghil Sar, 25,865ft/7,885m, which was climbed by the Austrians for the first time in 1960 from the other side. You can also view the other Momhil, Sar (24,087ft/7,343m), and Kanjut Sar from here. After crossing two small streams you then have to cross a small suspension bridge to the left side of Shimshal River. On the right side of the river, there is Malaguti Glacier. Camp overnight.
After breakfast, you trek to Shimshal, 4-6 hours. After half an hours walk from Kuk, you have to cross a suspension bridge on the Shimshal River. Near Malaguti Glacier. You don’t have to walk on the Malaguti Glacier. Then you will reach a viewing point, where you can view the Shimshal Valley. Shimshal is a wide open valley and its population is 1400. The village of Shimshall has been named after the famous Muslim Saint, Shah Shamse Tabrez of Multan, who journeyed from Kashgar (China) through this valley. It is inhabited by very tough yet very hospitable people who originally belonged to Hunza State. Their disciplined civilisation, very hospitable manners and rich cultural heritage bewitch and enthral the visitors from the outside world. Camp overnight.
Day at leisure to visit the local areas and for preparing for the next long part of the trek. Camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to Zardgarbin (6 –7 hrs). Here the path divides, one track going north to the Ghujerab River and the other east to the Shimshall pass. You can view the beautiful Shimshall peaks from here. We will make camp at beautiful grazing grounds, where the clear water is available and the landscape is very beautiful. You can see beautiful rocky towers. Here again, you have to cross another suspension bridge, then climb up to the campsite. Near the campsite, there is a small landslide area. You have to be careful! After crossing the bridge you can see Yazgil Glacier towards the east of Shimshal. Camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to Shapodin (3-4 hrs). There is a beautiful camping site and source of water here. From here you can see the different peaks. From the campsite you can see Shopdan, Beysom Pir peak, 19,681ft/6000m, and other beautiful rocky towers and small glaciers. There is a shepherd hut for porters where they can stay in beds. Camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to Purchudwashk (6-8 hrs). From here you can see the different peaks. Also there is water and a beautiful camp site. From camp you have to walk for half an hour along the river bed then you have to climb to the Boysam Pir Pass 15,417ft/4,700m. From the pass you can see beautiful lake, Boysam Pir Peak and some other peaks, and glaciers. The last portion of the pass about 500ft/150m is steep. Camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to Abdjee (4-5 hrs). Upon arrival at Abdjee you will pitch camp. From here you can view the Moidor River, Ghidmiz River and Gujrab River. From the campsite you have to go down to near Gujrab River. The campsite is a plain grazing ground with shepherds’ huts. Spring water is available near the river. From the campsite you can see Chaskin Peak, 19,534ft/5955m. Camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to Warbin (4-5 hrs). From here you can view Sonia peak. After one-hour walk you have to walk on an old glacier moraine. After crossing moraine you have to go down to Warbin near Gujrab River. Camp near shepherds’ huts in grazing ground. Spring water is available near the river. Camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to Targin (5-6 hrs). After crossing the Gujrab River by a steel cable, you have to walk by a rocky cliff to go down to Chapchingal river. Here you have to cross the Chapchingal river 4 times by foot or by rope (Dut) Cable. Targin is a green campsite with spring water and shepherds’ huts. Camp overnight
After breakfast trek to Charpchigal Base Camp (4-6 hrs). From here you can view the Sonia Peak, Chapchingal Pass and some other peaks. From Targin after one-hours walk you have to cross another small stream. Water level can be high in July, and if there is rain then you have to walk on another route which is above the river bed. Camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to Sonia Peak Base Camp. Drive back to base camp and camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to near Chapongal Pass. To the pass from base camp is quite steep (4 hours). From the pass there are beautiful views of Sonia Peak, Laila Peak and Dastigal Sar. After pass go down on a Glacier by the help of rope. Camp at Koksil near Koksil River. Camp overnight.
After breakfast trek to KKH (2-3 hrs) and then drive to Karimabad. Upon arrival transfer to the hotel. Overnight hotel. (See Trek Notes at end of this itinerary).
You will be able to visit the Baltit Fort, now a museum. The Baltit Fort was the old palace of the Mirs of Hunza and was inhabited until 1960. It is about 400 years old. Baltit is a curious rambling old place, 4 storeys high, sturdily built of stones, sun-dried mud and timber. Baltit is built on a cliff edge; behind it is a ravine and then the Ultar glacier glinting in the sunshine. The architecture here, as at Altit Fort, reflects a Tibetan influence. The local people say that a Princess of Baltistan married a reigning Mir and brought with her Balti masons, carpenters and craftsmen to build Baltit and Altit as part of her dowry. In the ‘museum room’ are coats of mail, weapons and the warning drums that sounded the alarm in an attack. The view from the top of the fort is well worth the climb.
Altit Fort is even more impressive and is probably 100 years older than Baltit. It is perched on a huge rock cliff that falls 1000ft/300m sheer into the Hunza river. A 3km jeep ride or 2km walk from Karimabad. The road passes through an arch in the aqueduct feeding Karimabad just above the Mir’s new house and winds, in a series of terrifying hairpin bends, over a frail suspension bridge, across a polo ground to Altit village. The fort has a maze of small rooms, the whole place is guarded by a watch tower dated 909AH (1531AD) with carved doors and windows and surmounted by a Picasso-like wooden goat with ibex horns which has a naked light bulb suspended under its chin. The view from the top is rewarding especially that up the Hunza river towards China and down over the ‘battlements’ into the river. Overnight hotel.
After breakfast you drive to Gilgit, upon arrival you transfer to the hotel. In the afternoon there will be a city tour. You begin at the serene Chinar Bagh, where trees as much as 300 years old haughtily overlook the Gilgit River. You will then drive through the bazaar in order to familiarise yourselves with the customs of the Gilgitis, a stop at the co-operative store, where Chinese goods are brought on the barter system will allow you to glance at Chinese treasures. You will then take a hair-raising drive across Asia’s longest suspension bridge –600ft long and wide enough only for one jeep at a time. Overnight at the PTDC Motel.
After breakfast transfer to the airport and fly to Islamabad, upon arrival transfer to the hotel.
Full day free to sightsee and explore. Lunch, dinner on your own. This is also a ‘buffer’ day in case we have to drive from Skardu to Islamabad. Overnight at the Shalimar Hotel.
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to Home.