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SNOWLAKE – Biafo – Hispar La Trip Report July 2011

I thought I’d share my experiences of the Snowlake trek in Pakistan‘s Karakoram mountains. It traverses the Biafo and Hispar Glaciers - the worlds’ longest glacial corridor outside the polar regions. It starts at Askole – the same starting point for the Baltoro – K2 trek and is about 120km long and takes around about 2 weeks. 

The Snowlake trek is breathtaking in beauty – being surrounded by 6000 and 7000m peaks. I did this trek during July 2011 and I went with Snowland Treks & Tours. This trek has a lot less crowds than the Baltoro – K2 – Concordia trek and the scenery is outstanding, what the early explorers – Francis Younghusband and HW Tilman called*’*The Finest Mountain Scenery in The World**’. Crossing Snowlake was one of the highlights of the trip, its one of the worlds largest glacial basins at the head of the Biafo Glacier covered in snow.

The company I went with – Snowland Treks and Tours were very professional in how they conducted the trip and were easy to deal with from my very first enquiry, right up to dropping me off at the airport at the end of my trip. The guide knew his stuff and the cook was great, and the guys managing the company have set themselves up to have an efficient operation. The head of the company – Kamal is in Islamabad and you can ask all your questions to Kamal before you depart, and his brother Karamat is in Skardu. Skardu is where all the final preparations are made before the trek, they purchase all the food and arrange the 4wds to Askole.

There were only 3 of us in my group which made it for personal service and more one to one interaction with the guide for asking questions, etc. I don’t think you would get better service from any of the other companies, especially for such a competitive price! The food was delicious and they catered to a western taste, the cook prepared all the meals for us – the evening meals were 3 course meals! (soup, main and dessert) . We even had pancakes and corn flakes or porridge for breakfast most mornings! I’ve never had french fries while camping before but we did on this trek!

Here’s a link to my photos from my trip, it includes some photos of my trek in the Deosai Plains prior to the Snowlake trek:

My Pakistan Photos

The trek was not easy, I’d only recommend it for experienced trekkers, as its pretty tough walking, but its certainly rewarding. Going down the Hispar was probably harder than going up the Biafo, as on the Hispar you have to stay on the side moraine most of the time, there’s a lot of up and downs, and there’s several side glacier crossings. Going up the Biafo was great, higher up was a lot of crevasses but most of them were easy enough to jump across and the glacier smoothed out so it was pretty flat. The ice had enough grit which meant we didn’t need to use crampons.

I haven’t done the Baltoro – Gondogoro La trek but one of the guys in my group had done so. From what I’ve heard Gondogoro La is pretty dangerous – even with the fixed ropes and the fast ascent (to 5800m) you need to make to cross the pass means that many people experience headaches and altitude related ailments. Crossing the Hispar La is not so steep to be technical, and the more gradual ascent meant we had a good chance to acclimatise to the 5100m.

My group finished the trek in only 9 nights, as we had good weather and we were able to move fast. We only had 1 day of poor weather where we stayed in camp.

If you’re worried about the security situation in Pakistan, I’d say take a detailed look at where most of the trouble is occurring in the country – mostly on the Afgan border and down south. On this trek you’re far enough away from these areas to not be worried. I didn’t feel concerned for my security for the whole time I was in the country. In fact you’ll find that the people are very friendly and hospitable.

If you’re considering where to go for your next trek, I’d definitely recommend contacting Snowland Trek & Tours and asking them about the Snowlake Trek!  I know I’ll be back again to see some more of the mighty Karakoram Mountains!

Matthew Ross

Griffith New South Wales