Baltistan, Pakistan
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Baltistan, Pakistan


Page Type: Area/Bike Park

Location: Pakistan, Asia

Trail Type: Mountain, Trials, Touring

Season: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter


Page By: Afzal

Created/Edited: Dec 31, 2009 / Jan 14, 2010

Object ID: 274052

Hits: 5659 

Page Score: 79.78%  - 11 Votes 

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Baltistan, Pakistan

Pakistan’s main river, 2896 kilometers long, mighty Indus originates in Southern Tibet and flow’s North West, swollen by the cold waters and many glacier streams, flows down through Ladakh and Baltistan, carving deep and narrow gorges between the mighty mountain ranges of Karakoram and Himalayas. Baltistan, covering an area of 26000 square kilometers comprises 5 valleys, Skardu, Ghanche, Shigar, Kharmang and Rondu. These valleys are very important from Mountaineering, Trekking, Mountain Biking, and adventure, nature and cultural point of views. The Baltistan contains more than 160 peaks over 7000 meters, such as K-2 (8611-M), Broad Peak (8047-M), Gasherbrum-I (8068-M), Gasherbrum-II (8035-M), Gasherbrum-III (7952-M), G-IV( 7925-M) Muztagh Towers (7284-M), Masherbrum (7821-M) and many more. Beside these high Peaks, Baltistan contains the longest glacier on earth outside the polar region, which includes, Siachen Glacier (75 km long), Biafo Glacier (62 km long), and Baltoro Glacier (62 km long).

Skardu is the capital city of Baltistan and part of Pakistan. There is no higher land in the entire world than this once forgotten, unknown kingdom. Its highest point reaches at 8611-M/ 28250 feet and there is nothing below 7000 feet, and the altitude land is atypical and amazing. It seems nothing could live, let alone fight, within this frozen embrace where icy winds blow continuously, often demoniacally, day and night, varying snow and ice in their breath. Yet, amazingly, the valley beneath the plane as your approach Skardu is a pure replica of the Sahara, an area of shifting sand dunes. Indeed, from the air, all the land around Skardu takes on the appearance of a sea-shore visible evidence that until fairly recently the valley around Skardu itself, so fair and broad the jagged peaks surrounding it seem almost benevolent, was a lake.

Before the year 1978, with the completion of 170 kilometer long Gilgit Skardu road, did Baltistan have permanent access to the rest of the world, and even in 1980s the Balti people retained their self-reliance, aloof from the twentieth century and its wonders

Getting there

So fearsome in the scale of its colour and texture, savagery and desolation is the Indus gorge out o Skardu that not even strong Baltis ventured to cross it. The Gilgit-Skardu road is one of most impressive roads in the world, following the tapered, shadowy, miserable and spectacularly high ravine of the Indus for miles after miles. Never a blade of grass relieves the monotony of the hostile rock. Only the emerald green river, tumbling and foaming in stretches of white water, relieves the brown, grey, scree and unrelenting walls of boulders strewn rock, scree and cliffs. For centuries, traders and expeditions ventured through the gorge along a trail so narrow that in some parts it’s simply ended in the space. These were bridged with fragile timber to form a shaky foothold in the sky. A simple slip and man or beast plunged 2000 feet or more to their death. In winter waterfalls hang frozen in massive 3000 foot long icicles of gigantic thickness waiting for the summer melt to release them form their bondage of suspended animation.

Gilgit-Skardu Road
In some sections the advance parties worked on tracks where curves were so severe that jeeps had to make five or seven points turns, many failing and falling into the boiling waters below. Rock falls and landslides are in an almost daily occurrence. Winds destroy tents to shreds and worker faced summer high of more than 100 F and winter lows of minus 30 F.

Like its larger sister, the Karakoram Highway, it represents one of the world’s most important achievements of civil engineering construction and already Skardu, long a Makkah for the high altitude mountaineers, has become a major tourist resort as the coaches, cars, jeeps, buses and trucks flood down the road across more than twenty bridges to the town.

But in the 1980’s however, many visitors opted for the sixty minutes flights from Islamabad which flies along the Indus past Nanga Parbat, then banks sharply starboard to follow the Indus through one of the narrowest ravines ever flown by a civil airline, the walls rise thousands of feet above, dwarfing the puny passenger plain. Within fifteen minutes of taking off from the burning heat and extensive mass of Rawalpindi in Boing 737 airplane, we will be in a virgin world snaking through mountains passes and following emerald ribbons of rivers. Every turn brought a breathtaking new vista, and as we will left habitation behind, we will enter a forest of peaks and nature of such staggering that it is flooded one simultaneously with a soaring joy and stark realization of the absolute insignificance of man. Leaving the plane, the most immediate impression is that of disorientation. The valley and the rock and the desert have no likeness to any other landscape, as if the Sahara had been dropped down between massive walls of rock. There are no perspectives. So complete is the circle of mountains everything narrow and the eye is ever confused.

Lying within this ring of 17000 foot high mountains that glimmers through the haze in varying shade of purple, grey, and ochre, the jade river Indus snakes sinuously between the ribboned, wind blown sand dunes close beneath a 200 foot high island of massive rock, its here that Skardu straggles along the plateau.