Expedition to Witness Snow-Lake Beauty in Gilgit Baltistan

My wife was very much happy to declare our success in our mission to reach Snow Lake along with a small group of trekkers. We, both husband and wife, were planning this trip with great happiness. So when we fulfilled our desire to reach the loftiness of Lake Snow in the Karakoram mountain range of Gilgit-Baltistan, we were a lot happy.
We decided to start our trekking from a small town of Karakoram mountains, Askole. We also made plans to cross Snow Lake and a mountain pass Hispar La. When we finally reached this mountain, it was here that nature offered before us an escape from the hot weather, which proved a breath of fresh air for us.
My romance with trekking and mountains began ten years ago. My liking for mountains also inspired my wife, and she became a very fond mountain-lover with her resolve to be with me in my adventures.

We want to tell you that Snow Lake is situated at a highness of 4800 meters. Its broadness is almost 16 kilometers. You will find it at the head of Biafo and Hispar glaciers, going down Hispar Pass in conflicting directions. We also want to tell you that Martin Conway was the first foreigner who visited it for the first time, and it was he who named it Snow Lake. Martin Conway says that he has never seen such a site. According to Mr.Conway, such a beautiful scene is not to be seen anywhere in the whole world. It is noted that reaching Snow Lake is not an easy task. You should also know that lesser than 200 men visit this in one year.

We began our trekking from Islamabad when it was sweltering. I was expecting full harsh weather, but we were entirely determined to continue our trekking despite this expectation. Since Snow Lake offers challenging trekking, we took the view of all preparations very well. All trekkers reached Skardu except one fellow who joined us from Karachi. The journey to the highway, Karakoram was a happy one. When you cross Thakot Bridge, you experience a lot of happiness. It is here that a lot of different cheerful views are offered to the eyes of trekkers to put them in a joyful mood. When we approached Jaglot, we experienced some difficulty here because of the landslide. This landslide ate up our eight hours, and we reached our destination in 32 hours. We wanted to get there in 24 hours.

We were a group of different people with the same passion for reaching Icy Lake. Please do not take us as a group of Frodo and his companions. We met our tour guide, whose name was Ali Khan Machu. He told us in detail about Hispar mountain, the situation involving our difficult but amusing journey, and all sites around the way of our trekking.
We spent one day in Skardu while shopping and photographing different sites that were close to our hearts. The following day our trekking started again. Jeeps were ready for us with all the supplies we needs. Soon we were on Shigar roads enjoying all the beautiful scenes spreading over the land of Skardu. Then our first stop was at Braldu valley, where we enjoyed some time while having our lunch. In the next 45 minutes, we were in Braldu gorge, admiring its beauty. The loudest sound of water gushing through it trembled us for a while. It was a charming village with many awesome things that caught our eyes again and again. It was here that we slept for some time.

The next day our first target was the Namla campsite in the Biafo Glacier. On our way, we observed the roaring of the Bradlu river. There was seep ascent alongside the pass. Climbing was steep for me, but I carried on in with our plans. On reaching the top, when I saw the vast Biafo Glacier, the site made me very happy. Its snout had many fissures and full of boulders, screes, and glacial pools spreading over many lands. We reached Namla after a lot of trouble because the way is leading it was a difficult one. It was around evening time that we got to Namla. After dinner, we slept so well that we knew nothing except our deep slumber.

Our next destination was Mongo located at 3,700 meters. Here trekking seemed much more comfortable when we were in the middle of the glacier. We approached it in the afternoon. Our camp was on grassy ground, which was like an oasis between hard rock and barren ice. Here we enjoyed the views of Biafo very much.
Shafong was our next stop. Here the sky was gleaming. When we started our trekking, the scenes of the milky cold glacier put us in a trance. It was here that the sound of cracking ice under our feet was a happy experience. Going on the glacier, we enjoyed watching crevasses. We came across several holes at this point.

We began to feel happier because we were going close to turning our dream of reaching Snow Lake into a reality. It was somewhat challenging to come down the Biafo Glacier to go to the Shafong campsite. We came across many crevasses here. In the opposite direction, we found one more cliff. We spent here a wonderful time. That valley was like heaven. A lot of green fields were there, and Coldwater was here running here and there.

Here heaven was in front of us. It was here also that we found Sokha Lumbu with a height of 5,650 meters and Tongu with an altitude of 5,900 meters. The cold here was reaching the highest degree. We found one more grand valley on our way to Baintha campsite. We also had a stunning view of the Latok group of mountains here. Our trekking was a bit short today, and we were given potato-stuffed bread, and they were very delicious, and soon we forgot all our tiredness.

Our next target was to go to the middle of the glacier. It was a bit difficult. But soon, the way was easy. We did not see any grass here. Just snow and rocks were to be seen here and there. The usual time required to go from Baintha to Marphogoru is almost seven hours. It was here that even our guide was struck with some panic. Because we were out of his view for some time and the temperature too had started to drop here continuously. So we decided to go back to the general direction of Baintha with the hope that people would see us with the help of the light of our headlamps.

We did trekking in darkness here. It was a life-and-death situation. Our guide missed the chosen campsite because of which we had to continue our trekking towards Karfogoro. Porters came to rescue us around eight at night. Then we started marching towards Marphogoro. We safely returned to our campsite.

Our trekking from Marphogoro to Karfogoro was very easy. It seemed we were trekking on bare ice, experiencing no difficulty at all. Here we avoided a lot of rifts. It was also here that we were able to see Snow Lake, our ultimate target. But before we could get there, we planned to approach Karfogoro, which proved challenging to visit. Here many breakages came in our way. Small loose stones and rocks were to be found in many places. Here we also found many steep ascents and descents to reach there.
The campsite on the Karfogoro was at the edge. Where strong winds were blowing there, leaving just rocks and narrow spaces on the glacier. We were now only one day away from our trekking to Snow Lake. Its view from the Karfogoro put us in a trance. Getting off of the mountain proved quite a nightmare. Reaching back to Biafo glacier, we roped up. Due to its highness, snow falls on Snow Lake all year. There is always a risk of losing these cracks of the mountain that are not visible due to snow present on them.

All people here fastened themselves to just one rope to avoid the risk of falling any of the individuals among us. Our guide led us along with the soft snow. He was conscientious and would use his stick wisely before raising a step on the icy surface of the mountain. Our bodies were wet with cold, sweet, and heartbeat-like drums while we were stepping behind our guide. We were on the beautiful icy land after arduous trekking. Every site was to be absorbed by us every minute of our presence in this wonderland of snow. It was just here that we thought that we had come to a place that belonged to just stories of the imagination of the best writers.

After 6 hours of trekking on awe-inspiring heaven, we were at the Hispar Base Camp. The snow was to be seen here and there to amuse us. We had reached the impressive wonderland that had inspired us to take an arduous journey to this land of beauty. We spent afternoon time here while flying kites and exchanging gossip outside the camp. We were amused by having scenes of adjacent mountains. The setting sun made the scenes on the top of the hills very worth seeing.

The snow was found to be more beautiful than our imagination. No words are enough to describe its beauty and prettiness. The following day clouds came into the sky, and soon snow began to fall on Snow Lake. We spent some time in the kitchen and sometimes inside the tent. We drank hot tea and told different stories to each other. We also prayed for the weather to become apparent. But Mother Nature was a bit angry, and the weather turned terrible contrary to our desires and prayers. Snow continued to fall on us most of the time, and finally, we decided to start our trekking the following day, irrespective of the weather conditions. The snow stopped at midnight, and then we looked outside. I walked a few steps out, and there was darkness where ever I looked. It was a lot of cold here. So, I did not go out too far.

On the following day, we started our journey back. Snow has stopped, but there were piles of snow on top of mountains hiding fissures. There were many dangers, and it wasn’t easy to maintain balance over the rope as I made my way out of the hole. Here my leg was in sub-zero water, but the clothing of my leg helped it a lot, and it did not even get wet. We showed some speed here as we wanted to go further as much as possible. The falling of snow once again started, making it necessary for us to trek speedily. After three hours, we approached the edge of Snow Lake.

As we reached the edge of Snow Lake, the snow started to fall once more, but we were happy that we had already covered much distance. When we descended on Karfogoro, it started to rain because we rested at a campsite there.

In the evening, we reached Marphogoro, not tired. Soon I slept here because sleep overcame me. The next day, we had our lunch at Baintha and camped at Shafong. The next day, we reached Biafo Glacier. While sitting on the bank of the Braldu River, I was thinking about the prettiness of the majestic Snow Lake. The following day we were on Askole and had breakfast there. It was here that I had beautiful memories of Snow Lake. I was pleased that we had reached Snow Lake; getting was almost impossible for most people. I recalled the words of my guide. He said it was not child’s play to come there. I was delighted because we were among the few people who witnessed the beauty of Snow Lake. The dangers we faced added to our experience and showed new heights of human determination.

*The article was extracted from the Dawn News written by Zaigham Islam

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