The Cathedral Range, also known as the “Passu Cones” are one of the most striking landmarks on the Karakoram Highway. The jagged rocky peaks thrust skywards from the rest of the Karakoram Range are an arresting sight.
They first come into view from across the upper reaches of the Attabad Lake near Gulmit. The small village acts as something of a service centre for the Gojal region, or “Upper Hunza” as some call it. The newly carpeted Karakoram Highway is a smooth ride from the magnificent tunnels bypassing the lake down to the village. As one approaches Gulmit, across a long bridge, the gleaming peaks come into view – a distant fairytale, soon within reach.
The locals call it Tupopdan, the “sun swallowing mountains”, and as the day’s last rays shimmer off the golden-bronze rock, it’s easy to see why. “Tupopdan” is also sometimes translated as “hot rocks”, so called because of the way the snow and ice seems to slip off (or melt away from) the sheer cliff walls.
The clouds swirl in and around the peaks, dark cotton candy ripped apart by the craggy spires. Almost all travellers stop here at some point, to take in the vista and wrap their hands around a hot cup of chai. Word has it that the tea shop, previously across the road on the “inside” of the bend, was relocated due to a planned development; possibly the best piece of real estate in the world.