Crossing the Pakora Pass

Trip Start Dec 26, 2003
Trip End Mar 28, 2005

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Saturday, September 18, 2004

Day 5: dep Pakora High Camp (4230m) 0740 arr Jut (3390m) 1710; 7h30 walking, 2h rest; ascend 480m then descend 1320m

I opened the tent at 0530 to see blue sky to my amazement and delight. There were a few hints of clouds in the sky, but I could not have hoped for a more dramatic change in the weather.

The clouds that had been wisps at 0530 had grown massively and rapidly before our 0740 departure & covered the sky completely on the Naltar side of the pass. We had to give the pass a go, we could always return to the High Camp if the weather was too bad.

We slowly made our way up the 480 vertical metres to the pass along a slippy, snow covered loose stone route, following a series of cairns (little piles of stones on hilltops) that guide the way. It took us just over an hour to do this, far less than we expected or hoped for. We were delighted at how quickly we made it and that it was much easier than my very negative expectations.

As we got towards the top we could see some small sections of blue sky on the other (Pakora) side of the pass, whereas the (Naltar) side we were coming from kept its thick, greying and threatening cloud. The change in weather was rapid and dramatic, like the click of a finger.

I felt complete exhilaration as I got to the pass. The view over the snowfield and glacier was the best thing I had seen so far in Pakistan (even on the trip?), it stretched out beautifully before us, white snow contrasting with blue sky, grey moraine to one side and the red rocks across the glacier to where we would need to head. We had made it to the pass early in the day and the weather on this side of the pass was promising to be excellent. My emotions had jumped from dread to relief and great joy. There was also a feeling of achievement. I had carried up to this point my survival requirements for the trek and hadn't paid somebody else to do my lugging. I had earned this view and we stayed at the top for half an hour to enjoy it.

But there was a lot more effort required today and the next hour was expected to be the toughest, more mentally than physically. We had to navigate our way across a glacier, a first unguided glacier crossing for either of us. We crossed the snowfield over to the lateral moraine to the north leaving the only pair of footprints in the snow and then made our way down the lateral moraine.

From a viewing point above the glacier, we picked out a crevasse free route & made our way across the white glacier in less than half an hour. I am always quite edgy and nervous when I cross glaciers, I am aware of their danger and I am always pleased to get to the other side. This was no exception. There was another outpour of relief as we got to the red rocks. We had completed the crossing of the pass and the glacier by 1115 and had two potential campsites down the valley. The guidebook was very good and detailed when it really had to be.

The "undesirable" campsite was Lal Patthar and provided an easy marker for us to walk down the valley to as it was a huge bright red boulder that stood out very prominently. I was pleased to get this far by a late (1330) lunchtime.

The path to the evening's campsite of Jut was tricky to follow as it was very feint and we lost it a few times. It was a nice, green raised site, but water was far less convenient than the book had indicated. After the freezing High Camp site, it was enjoyable to be able to eat outside, some 900 vertical metres lower than the previous two cold nights.
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