The Karakoram range, though highly underrated, is an exceptionally beautiful region, which hides in itself a magnitude of gifts, trails and treks. Situated exceptionally close to our favourite Himalayas, the trails of Karakoram are still a mystery due to the sheer lack of information and experiences that are available.
So, if you have been a trekking enthusiast who wants to try a slightly different terrain and landscape on their next excursion, then here are some easy, moderate and extremely challenging paths to get you excited.
1. Fairy Meadows – Nanga Parbat Base Camp (3,300 m)
Joot or Fairy Meadows is an angelic piece of grassland situated near the base camp site of Nanga Parbat. The Nanga Parbat is an iconic mountain that represents the magnificent grandeur of the Karakoram range. The meadow, lies in the Diamir district of Gilgit-Baltistan and was given the name 'fairy' after a few German climbers found it and saw it as something out of the world.
The meadow lies 5km from the Tato village, which is easily accessible from the Karakoram highway. It takes upto three to four hours to reach Fairy Meadows, which is located in the Raikot valley.
Route: Chilas – Tato – Fairy Meadows – Base camp – Tato
2. Drifak Peak (6,660 m)
A peak located in the Kharidas and Nagma Valley in Khanday village, Drifak is a mildly challenging, yet absolutely scenic climb in the Karakoram. The mountain has two faces, which fall in different valleys. The south face, which is a more favourable climb, is in the Nagma Valley and the north face falls in the Kharidas Valley.
Due to easy accessibility to the base camp, climbers prefer the south face. The ascent also involves steep rock climbing and occasional rappelling. Since Drifak is a rock peak, an ascend here provides a gorgeous view of other rock peaks, such as Amin Braq, K6, Amin Nawaz and Braq Zang in the valley.
Route: Skardu – Mungoloo Broq – Amin Braq Base Camp – Summit – Kanday – Skardu
3. Cigarette Peak Base Camp (6,300 m)
The Cigarette Peak gets its name from the smoke-like appearance of snow as it is blown by the hot western winds on the tip of the mountain. The sight in its ethereal glory, has to be seen to be believed. The trek to the Cigarette Peak base camp gives a view of the mighty Karakoram mountains, such as K2, Broad Peak, G1 and G2 amongst others.
Situated in the Humbroq Valley of Hushe village in Ghanche Baltistan district, the base camp can be reached in three to four hours. The trek gives access to high-altitude meadows that foster unique flora and fauna.
Route: Chilas – Skardu – Hushe Village – Humbrek – Cigarette Peak base camp – Hushe – Skardu
4. K7 Peak (4100 m)
The Hushe Valley, home to Karakoram's greatest mountains, has an abundance of treks and hikes. From here you can access five major glaciers: Aling, Masherbrum, Gondogoro, Choglisa and Tsarak sa. The trek to the K7 base camp is on a beautiful scenic trail, though getting to the K7 peaks requires some technical efficiency.
The trek to K7 is open from the north side of the Saraksa River. The distance between Spangar and K7 is called a trekker's paradise because of the many gorgeous sights and dangerous patches it introduces to trekkers.
Route: Skardu – Hushe – Shaicho – Spangser – Base Camp – Saicho – Hushe
5. Nanamgma Valley Trek (4,000 m)
Nanamgma is a valley blessed with trees that change colour with season (the transition from bright yellow to dusk orange is divine), rock pinnacles that date back to the creation of the Karakoram and a clear blue tributary river that feeds the holy Indus.
The trek to this paradise starts at Kanday village and takes you to the Amin Bark base camp. This walk is through lovely pastures and meadows of wildflowers that are unique to the valley.
Route: Skardu – Kanday – Mingulu Broq – Amin Braq Base – K6/Changi Tower – Kanday
6. Biafo Hisper Trek (5,000 m)
The trek on the Biafo glacier leads to the Hisper glacier, at the high altitude of 5,000 m (16,404 ft). The trail takes you to a frozen lake, which lies nestled between the two dangerously located glaciers. Skiing enthusiasts trek to the lake for the unique experience of sliding on real ice.
The trek to Biafo glacier starts from the south of the Baltoro glacier and is a strenuous hike to the lake. The famous frozen lake lies around 500 metres behind the pass and takes the climber to a high-altitude range of 5,500m to 7,300m. Beginning at the Hisper village, this route provides a panoramic view of the mountains and valleys of Karakoram.
Route: Skardu – Askoli – Manogo – Baintha – Napina – Hisper Base camp – Hisper Laa – Khani Bassa – Yutmaru Glacier – Yutmaru – Marpo – Bitanma – Hisper village
7. Bondid Valley/ Iqbal Top Trek (5000-m)
Bondid valley is an undiscovered gem cradled in the lap of the Karakoram. Located in the Kanday district of Gilgit-Baltistan, the Bondid Valley opened up for travellers just several years ago. In the few years since its unveiling, Bondid is quickly becoming a favourite for mountaineers who aspire to summit virgin and treacherous peaks. Bondid and Rustak (both above 7,000 m) are the tallest peaks of the valley and are yet to witness a successful summit.
On this trail you trek through the Bondid Pass to the Iqbal Top. Given the higher altitude, this path gives a panoramic view of all the high Karakoram mountains, including the mighty K2, Broad Peak, GI and GII. In fact, the Iqbal Top is popularly known as the "view point of the Karakoram ".
Route: Skardu – Kanday – Khotit – Bondid – Bondid –Iqbal Top and back to Bondid – Kande
8. Masherbrum Valley Trek (4,200 m)
The Masherbrum Peak at 7,280 m is the 27th highest peak in the world and stands tall next to other famous mountains, such as K6, Laila Peak and Gondogoro La. The Masherbrum Valley is also home to the historic base for mountaineers who dare to climb the K2.
On this trek, you get to go through lateral moraines of the Masherbrum glacier, after climbing through the gateway and crossing to the northern side of the Shyok river. Although an easy trek, the route to Masherbrum has patches of rocky and icy ascends that can prove challenging to beginners. But as you climb to the glacier, high 8,000 m peaks and glistening meadows will keep you company.
Route: Chilas – Skardu – Hushe – Parbisan – Brumbrama – Masherbrum – Dumsum – Hushe – Skardu
9. Thalle La Trek (4,000 m)
If you wish to avoid glacial trails but still not miss out on the views of magnificent snow peaks, then a trek through the Thalle Pass is ideal for you. This short excursion provides an isolated trail, which is dissimilar to the glaciated passes. Starting from Skardu, the Thalle La route takes you to mountain settlements that provide an unadulterated vision into the 'Balti' culture.
The trek begins from Thalle village and in a short while takes you to the varied terrains of Karakoram. From high altitude sand dunes to lush green meadows along crystal blue water streams, the valley is divided into the Tusserpo La in the north and Thalle La in the south connecting Skardu to Khaplu.
Route: Chilas – Skardu – Thalle Village – Broq – Brangsa – Shaqyol Shaqyel – Bangma Harl Pass – Shigar – Skardu – Susar Lake – Deosai plato
The images here are not of the exact peaks and places mentioned in the points (except point one). Due to the lack of information and coverage available about the Karakoram range, it is easier to find general, instead of accurate, pictures of the Gilgit Baltistan region. All pictures (except number two) are clicked by the Lahore based photographer Zeeshan Choudhary, who you can follow on Facebook and Instagram.