It all started in August of 1997, at the Shalimar Hotel in Rawalpindi. It was the hottest and most humid day you could possibly imagine. Ah, summertime in Pakistan ... Our group of ten would-be adventurers had all assembled in this haven of air-conditioned bliss. Actually it wasn't a bad place.We met our guide Rex, and were given a briefing on the trip to come.
Here's the route our trek would be following:
The next day we flew to Skardu, which was like the old West without the cowboys. The last we would see of civilization as we know it.
View from the K2 Motel
We settled into the K2 Motel, which was a much nicer place than it sounded.
The setting was fantastic, with a sweeping panorama of the Indus River Valley from the lovely gardens in the back. The rooms were spare but spacious, and had everything a trekker could ask for: beds, clean linens, a shower with water pressure and hot water, and electricity (sometimes).
Early the next morning we set out in a caravan of jeeps and trucks to the starting point of our trek, which was to be Askole, a town at the end of the road.
Jeeps hit the water
Unfortunately, because we started out late (one jeep failed to appear) one of the roads we needed to navigate was under water when we arrived (the river rises during the day as the glacial ice melts).So we had to set off on foot, across the river, which required a bit of tricky rock scrambling and caused (more than) a bit of trepidation about the days ahead for Rona.
View from the truck
After this diversion we loaded into the gear trucks; we were perched on top of all the gear in the back, accompanied by a few live chickens. The road was a series of hair-pin turns along a huge drop into a gorge, and particularly treacherous.
We camped further along the gorge after an enormous wind and rain storm left us soaking and muddy. What a way to start!
Gear is divided
The next day we boarded jeeps that took us the rest of the way we should have gone the day before. There the porters were gathered and the gear was divided among them.
This is where we first met Nabi, our superb Pakistani mountain guide. For our group of ten trekkers, plus Rex and Nabi, we had a staff of 53: 48 porters, a cook (the very talented Mohammed Khan) and his kitchen staff of four.
We were on our way, and after about an hour we reached Askole, the last village outpost in this valley, and the last vestige of civilization that we would see until our return from the trek.
The place was pretty primitive, but beautiful in its own way.
After we passed Askole we took the time out to pose for a group photo.
Field of Boulders
Next we passed through a valley with a massive cliff hovering over us on our left. The valley floor was littered with giant boulders that had obviously fallen off the side of the mountain, and we wondered when they had fallen, and if there were more coming this way soon ... so we moved as quickly as we could to get past that area.
Mark finds some shade (note the fashionable socks under his sandals)
Next was the lunch break where Mark found a way to keep out from the noontime sun, which was roasting hot. The temperature changes were dramatic from day to night, and got even more so when we got to higher altitudes.
We spent most of the afternoon walking along a narrow path high above the Braldu River, which looked like liquid cement as it was comprised of glacial run-off.
Looking down at the Braldu River
Late in the day, about an hour before we got to camp, we came upon our dramatic moment for the day. A rope bridge over this river spanning two giant boulders.
This was something straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Fortunately, crossing it was not as difficult as it might look, as there were "railings" to hold onto -- albeit very low ones so that you had to stoop to hold onto them.
But we crossed it without a problem and soon arrived in our camp for the night. The next day was to be one of the most traumatic of the trip. At camp, as we were getting organized, Rex can be spotted giving Rona a “talking to”
about dealing with the next day's difficult terrain.