Balitistan - a month in Little Tibet

Base camp at Bondit peak under a full moon

Base camp at Bondit peak under a full moon

It’s been a busy two weeks since I arrived back from Pakistan and sorting through the mass of photography has been keeping me busy as well.

 The five plus weeks away –  1 week travelling and a little over 4 in Baltistan itself  proved very successful  – the one blemish being almost constant illness plaguing the 4 of us throughout. The younger two members , Kadin and Elliot were particularly afflicted been bed ridden more than once. In all the years of travel  I would have to say this was the worst trip illness wise I have experienced.

The filming went well – better than expected although I had no way of knowing that whilst up there and was only when I watched video on the computer back in New Zealand I realized how much good film I had. Of course good film largely depends on good subject matter and in filming the Balti’s I had an inexhaustible source of good material. Not only whilst watching them working on the glaciers or mountains but filming kids at school or watching shepherdess's running about steep  mountain slopes  after goats and cows- not to mention all the other great film occasions, the Balti’s never failed to deliver more than anyone wishing to make a documentary would hope. Their energy and good humor was a constant source of admiration for us all.

The journey was really several trips , one up to Askoli – all in bus’s and jeeps but a mission in itself, than hiking up the Baltoro glacier over the Gondogoro La into Hushe valley where we joined 5 Spanish trekkers who proved tougher than there physical dispositions and ages belied , before doing our mountaineering mission to Bondit peak. At the end we threw in a short trek to the Nangma valley before I rushed off to meet up with my old friend Khurram in the Kaghan valley and drive up to Babusar pass  to check out routes for  the mountain bike race we plan there for next year. 

 I have made a photo journal as below to cover the trip chronologically with the intention in later blogs to cover individual subjects in more detail.

The Gondogoro La trek starts on the left hand side of the map at Askoli (outside the picture) , heads via Urdokas and Goro 2 to Concordia before visiting the K2 Memorial outside K2 Base camp. Than it heads south over the Vigne Glacier, up over the pass at 5630m before heading down to Hushe valley. Kandi - just below Hushe out of the picture was our final destination - from there we headed up to Bondit peak in the West for 2 weeks before going east for a quick 3 days trip to the Nangma valley.

The Gondogoro La trek starts on the left hand side of the map at Askoli (outside the picture) , heads via Urdokas and Goro 2 to Concordia before visiting the K2 Memorial outside K2 Base camp. Than it heads south over the Vigne Glacier, up over the pass at 5630m before heading down to Hushe valley. Kandi - just below Hushe out of the picture was our final destination - from there we headed up to Bondit peak in the West for 2 weeks before going east for a quick 3 days trip to the Nangma valley.

The drive from Islamabad to Skardu - and than to Askoli is a mission in itself.

The drive from Islamabad to Skardu - and than to Askoli is a mission in itself.

dwarfed in the Baltoro Glacier

dwarfed in the Baltoro Glacier

the Trango towers

the Trango towers

Masherbrum at dusk

Masherbrum at dusk

Guide Ejaz , center in the blue cap jokes with porters at Concordia.

Guide Ejaz , center in the blue cap jokes with porters at Concordia.

Campsite on glacier from vertically above.

Campsite on glacier from vertically above.

On the way to Gondogoro pass , looking back to Concordia with K2, Broad Peak , Gasherbrum’s 4 - G2 and G1 all in the picture, the greatest concentration of major peaks in the world.

On the way to Gondogoro pass , looking back to Concordia with K2, Broad Peak , Gasherbrum’s 4 - G2 and G1 all in the picture, the greatest concentration of major peaks in the world.

on top of Gondogoro pass 5630m the next morning at 4.30am - all the same peaks appear on the Norther horizon.

on top of Gondogoro pass 5630m the next morning at 4.30am - all the same peaks appear on the Norther horizon.

south from Gondogoro looking down the Glacial valley of the same name.

south from Gondogoro looking down the Glacial valley of the same name.

camping below Laila peak.

camping below Laila peak.

After days on rocky moraine and ice the porters finally hit easier trails

After days on rocky moraine and ice the porters finally hit easier trails

raging torrents

raging torrents

Chefs Ali and Muhammad are flanked by Abbas on the left and Sher Muhammad on the right. Despite being the oldest porter at 55 years Abbas was one of the strongest and believes he can go onto 70 years old. Sher Muhammad was the strongest , 27 years old , carrying 40 kilos over the Gondogoro and leading the young porters by virtue of his strength.

Chefs Ali and Muhammad are flanked by Abbas on the left and Sher Muhammad on the right. Despite being the oldest porter at 55 years Abbas was one of the strongest and believes he can go onto 70 years old. Sher Muhammad was the strongest , 27 years old , carrying 40 kilos over the Gondogoro and leading the young porters by virtue of his strength.

the village of Kandi in Hushe valley - Masherbrum dominates the Northern skyline.

the village of Kandi in Hushe valley - Masherbrum dominates the Northern skyline.

Kandi - horizontal oasis in a vertical desert.

Kandi - horizontal oasis in a vertical desert.

The team before heading to Bondit peak relax on Ibrahim’s rooftop , L-R Dairmuid, Elliot, Kadin and Ibrahim.

The team before heading to Bondit peak relax on Ibrahim’s rooftop , L-R Dairmuid, Elliot, Kadin and Ibrahim.

Aerial shot of Kandi.

Aerial shot of Kandi.

Children at the local private school missed a day of their holidays to give us a cultural performance - they proved to be excellent singers. Kandi boast’s that 100 per cent of primary school children are at school either in the Government school or this private school where girls fees are subsided fully and boys only have to pay %10 to encourage parents to send the kids to school. This compares very favorably to the national average which is only about 50 per cent.

Children at the local private school missed a day of their holidays to give us a cultural performance - they proved to be excellent singers. Kandi boast’s that 100 per cent of primary school children are at school either in the Government school or this private school where girls fees are subsided fully and boys only have to pay %10 to encourage parents to send the kids to school. This compares very favorably to the national average which is only about 50 per cent.

trekking towards Bondit - the smaller peak to left of picture was what we attempted when we gave up on Bondit.

trekking towards Bondit - the smaller peak to left of picture was what we attempted when we gave up on Bondit.

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Bodit icefall in detail , very broken !

Kadin and Diarmuid relaxing near camp 1 on Bondit

Kadin and Diarmuid relaxing near camp 1 on Bondit

our gear dump at the base of the climb.

our gear dump at the base of the climb.

The little climbing we did was challenging , even enjoyable but for the very real threat of succumbing at any moment to blocks of rocks and ice been launched out of the mountain far above us.

The little climbing we did was challenging , even enjoyable but for the very real threat of succumbing at any moment to blocks of rocks and ice been launched out of the mountain far above us.

looking down to our tent at camp 1 (the spot on the snow ridge center picture)

looking down to our tent at camp 1 (the spot on the snow ridge center picture)

view over the ice falls to the rock walls that would provide Kadin and myself with a frightening display of aggression about a week after this photo was taken.

view over the ice falls to the rock walls that would provide Kadin and myself with a frightening display of aggression about a week after this photo was taken.

view to east from a glacier in a mountain cirque above Base camp

view to east from a glacier in a mountain cirque above Base camp

heading up the snow field to camp 1

heading up the snow field to camp 1

camp 1 on the unnamed peak. we found an isolated spur well away from cliffs but even this seemed threatened by rockfall.

camp 1 on the unnamed peak. we found an isolated spur well away from cliffs but even this seemed threatened by rockfall.

our tents with a view!

our tents with a view!

Departing view of Bondit - and its un- named sidekick.

Departing view of Bondit - and its un- named sidekick.

Last descent - the photo tells it all - we never really got beyond the outer defenses of the 2 peaks behind me!!

Last descent - the photo tells it all - we never really got beyond the outer defenses of the 2 peaks behind me!!

dinner time in the Nangma

dinner time in the Nangma

Nangma valley a Rock paradise.

Nangma valley a Rock paradise.

Relaxing with Karim the cook and Akbar. our support staff at base camp. These guys spent 2 weeks looking after the show - always in good humour and full of interesting stories.

Relaxing with Karim the cook and Akbar. our support staff at base camp. These guys spent 2 weeks looking after the show - always in good humour and full of interesting stories.

bumping along again!1

bumping along again!1

a hectic schedule saw me travelling almost 4 days straight - with a brief stopover in the Kaghan valley to meet Khurram. It was 20 years ago - 1999 that we first meet. He was a young fella back than - I haven’’t changed much!!

a hectic schedule saw me travelling almost 4 days straight - with a brief stopover in the Kaghan valley to meet Khurram. It was 20 years ago - 1999 that we first meet. He was a young fella back than - I haven’’t changed much!!