Thursday, August 23, 2012

the happy hiker pt 1

Well the trek is over!  

It will surely remain the pinnacle of my travel experiences. As an avowed montophile (I think I made that word up...) I cannot imagine I will find anything to surpass it.  

It was really arduous (Wikipedia puts the Gondogoto La pass higher than Kilimanjaro at  5940m) with the usual high altitude breathing difficulties but made worse by a chest cold I developed in Skardu, the small dusty town we all met at in North Eastern Pakistan, which stayed with me the entire trek!

It was really dangerous. At various times we had to jump/cross crevasses, rapid flowing glacier streams, and sidle around crumbling dirt tracks along mountain paths barely 20cms wide with almost vertical drops of up to 150 metres.  

The high pass was difficult with parts so steep it was necessary to use the guide ropes to help haul onesself up. But this was not the most difficult or dangerous part. It was heading down the other side.  

A drop of over 1200m to the valley below, the first 700 or more metres was at times at a 50 -60 degree angle. At this stage we were still wearing crampons (spiked ice shoes) which was fine for the ice and snow sections. But these areas were interspersed with sections of naked slate and rock which meant you were sliding over them like you were on ice accompanied by the awful sound akin to nails scraping a blackboard!!  

Fortunately most of this treacherous descent had fixed ropes which meant you could partly absail (well...I did at least!) but a lot of your movement depended on what others who were also holding the rope were doing. If people holding the rope behind you suddenly decided to change direction the rope would go with them and you were suddenly forced to pick a new path because the rope dictated you do!  

This was surely in that grey area between trekking and mountain climbing! We were not kitted with any formal climbing gear (bar the crampons) and were not clipped to the ropes (as were a Spanish couple before me who brought their own harnesses and clips.) One of our group was hit in the head by a dislodged rock. (She was fine).  

At times my entire weight was supported by my hands gripping the thin fixed climbing rope (about finger thickness) and a fall would have been unquestionably fatal.  

The scenery before the pass was spectacularly rugged, icy, cold and dauntingly beautiful. Once over the pass the scenery gave way to a softer greener aspect with grass and wildflowers appearing amongst the glaciers and moraine.   The weather was cloudy and cool for the first two days of the trek but that gave way to a brilliant extended spell of hot sunny weather until the end of the trek.  

On a sombre note - so as to emphasise the difficulties of this trek - a few days before we arrived at Concordia (the spectacular 'arena' like confluence of the Baltoro, Godwin-Austen, and Vigne Glaciers and the halfway point of the trek) a German trekker lost his life.  

You've been very patient so far reading this - so onto the pictures!! (I will upload them in three posts to minimise download times.)   They start at Skardu and continue until the village of Hushe which signalled the end of the treking.

The team consisted of myself (Australia), Miles (UK), Nick (USA), Ayeleen (Pakistan), Nam (Hong Kong) and Carola (Germany). Our guide was a wonderful Skardu local called Akbar. We were accompanied by initially 15 porters and three horses which dwindled to 12 porters at the time of the high pass crossing.

skardu fort

sand dunes near skardu


setting off

another bridge

mountains looming

scree crossing


camp cook

near trango group

afternoon camp near trango

near trango panorama (click to see large)


kuburtse rock

early morning kuburtse

kuburtse sunrise panorama

glacier terrain

self and mountain

ice ridge

team on ice ridge

(*first 9 photos by Miles as I accidentaly deleted mine...D'oh!!)


Ginny said...

Amazing and totally astounding, rather you than me however as defying death not quite on the agenda at the moment I hope.

peter maloney said...

looks amaaaaaaazing..and I'm w Ginny...better you than me...but the pics are nice