Hunza, Nagar,

Pakora Pass

Duration 5 days
Distance 46.9km
Standard moderate
Season Mid-June- September
Start Upper Naltar
Finish Pakora
Nearest Town Gilgit
Zone and Permit open, no permit
Public Transport yes
Summary A fine introduction to Karakoram trekking, this route has alpine meadows, a small glacier, a not- too- high pass, incredible scenery and it’s easily accessible from Gilgit.

 

Pakora Pass (4710m) links the Naltar Gah and Pakora Gol. Shani and Sentinel peaks attract climbers. Naltar villagers speak Shina, and Pakora villagers speak Khowar. The trek is usually done from east to west, and combines easily with the Asumbar Haghost and then either the Punji Pass or Thui An, marking superb two- week combinations over three spectacular passes (also see the Ghizar chapter).

PLANNING

Maps

The Swiss foundation for Alpine Research 1:250,000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) covers the trek. Beshgiri is labeled as Bichgari. It doesn’t show the trail going to Naltar lakes. In Pakora Gol, Krui Bokht, Uts and Kuru aren’t labeled.

Guides and Porters

Porters cluster around Upper Naltar’s few cheap hotels, but there’s little reasons to stay here other than for one or two hours to organize porters. Porters ask for a flat rate per stage, including payment for food rations. Porters also expect large trekking parties to buy a sheep or goat, but smaller parties are usually excused or, at most, have to buy a chicken. Wapasi is also paid regardless of whether porters walk back to their village or go by road. They ask for the clothing and equipment allowance, but on treks less than one week they usually settle for per person.

Lower Naltar is Shi’a, and Upper Naltar is Sunni. Sectarian differences have led to disputes over portering between the two communities. They have resolved this by agreeing that an equal number of all porters for any party are to be from Lower Naltar and from Upper Naltar. This holds true even if you have just two porters, and when releasing any porters. Unfortunately, Lower and Upper Naltar porters don’t necessarily get along well on trek, refusing to eat and sleep together and bickering over the correct trail. Any tensions would likely be diffused in larger parties, but ask carefully when hiring just a few porters. Try to convince the assembly of prospective porters to select people from just one community, and for the next small party to select porters from the other community.

Porters may be willing to negotiable the wage per stage, but not the number of stages or Wapasi. Porters may load gear on donkeys to Lower Shani and carry it beyond there. A donkey might carry two loads, but wages are still paid per porter per stage and not per donkey. Horses are also available for hire. Bring a tarp for porters for the night at Pakora High Camp where there are no huts.

Stages

It’s six stages total from Upper Naltar: (1) Naltar Lake; (2) Lower Shani; (3) Upper Shani; (4) Pakora Pass; (5) Lal Patthar; and (6) Pakora.

NEAREST TOWN

See Gilgit (p).

GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK

To the Start 

Several daily jeeps depart from the Jaglot bus stand on Gilgit’s Domyal link Rd to Lower Naltar and Upper Naltar (two hours). Special hires. The road to Naltar follows the Hunza River’s true right bank 25km north- east of Gilgit to Nomal, where it narrows and turns north- west up the Naltar Valley 16km to Upper Naltar.

The Jeep road continues beyond Upper Naltar to Naltar Lake. Most special hires only go as far as Upper Naltar. If you can convince a driver to go all the way to the lake, it costs additional. Alternatively, it takes five to six hours to walk on the road between Nomal and Upper Naltar. A plan to build a bridge over the Hunza River at Nomal, linking these villages to the KKH, is under consideration.

From the Finish   

Pakora- Gilgit jeeps depart early in the morning. Pakora- Gilgit special hires, which to organize may require walking 9km on the road to Chatorkhand. Alternatively, take the daily NATCO Chatorkhand- Gilgit busthat also departs early morning.

THE TREK

Day 1 : Upper Naltar to Naltar Lake

3- 3½ hours, 11.2km, 450m ascent

From Upper Naltar (2820m), also called Dumian, walk on the road up the Naltar Gah’s true left (east) side. In 1¾ hours, ford a side stream at the start of Beshgiri, the Shina name for the distinctive red lichen- covered (besh) boulders (giri) east of the trail. Across the valley from Beshgiri, a two- day route heads south- west over a glaciated pass beneath Khaltar Peak (5591m) and descends the Bichhar Gah to Sherqila in Punial.

Beyond Beshgiri, pass through lush forest of cedar, chir pine and birch. Ford another side stream in 45 minutes, marking the start of Bangla, an area named after a ‘bungalow’ that used to be nearby. Cross a footbridge to the Naltar Gah’s true right (west) bank. Continue 45 minutes to the first lake, Naltar Lake (3270m), at the road’s end, and the Lake View Hotel, which consists of a hut for food preparation and a large canvas tent with blankets for sleeping.

Day 2 : Naltar Lake to Lower Shani

3½ hours, 9.5km, 420m ascent

Skirt the lake and in 15 minutes cross a footbridge to the Naltar Gah’s true left (east) bank. Over a low rise, two more lakes up the western side Valley come into view, and the river ahead braids out. Cross the broad area called Shing in 45 minutes, walking along the river bed and fording a huge side stream that tumbles from the east. Where the river narrows, the Gujar settlement of Gupa sits along the river’s true right (west) side. Footbridge above and below Gupa give access to the settlement, but the main trail stays on the true left (east) side.

After one hour, ford a major side stream from the east, which leads to the glaciated Chaprot Pass between Snow Dome (5029m) and Mehrbani (5639m). The hanging glacier on the west side of the pass and even larger one on its east side prevent anyone from crossing this pass. Beyond the stream 15 minutes, high above the river, are huts at Lath and the first view of the Shani Glacier’s terminus.

Junipers dot the hillside and the trail becomes faint as it skirts the Shani Glacier’s north- east margin, reaching Lower Shani in one to 1½ hours as Pakora Pass comes into view. In Shina, shani means ‘a pure place where fairies dwell‘, and fairies are attracted by flowers in meadows like this. A stream and grassy area marks Lower Shani (3690m), with herders’ huts near the glacier. Beware of the herders’ dogs. South- west across the Shani Glacier is the formidable Shani peak (5887m), a very serious mixed snow and ice climb.

Day 3 : Lower Shani to Pakora High Camp

2- 3 hours, 4.4km, 540m ascent

Rhubarb and junipers cover the hillside, and the trail continues past huts in 45 minutes, marking the start of Upper Shani. Go over a rise above these huts and descend immediately into the ablation valley. Just above where the river goes under the glacier, cross a footbridge. Do not continue traversing above the true left bank, because the river is too wide and deep to ford higher up. Walk 15 minutes along the river bed’s true right side, with the pink and orange rock of the Shani Glacier’s lateral moraine to your left, to the upper end of the flat alluvial ablation valley.

This is Upper Shani (3797m), which is well- situated in the shelter of the lateral moraine one to 1½ hours from lower Shani. If you aren’t yet acclimatized, camp here. To continue to Pakora High Camp, cross the small side stream and ascend the steep, grassy, flower- carpeted slope where horses and yaks graze. Continue through rockier terrain to where the slope levels out. Follow the true right bank of the large clear stream a short way to Pakora High camp (4230m), marked by a few dilapidated stone shelters, one to 1½ hours from Upper Shani. You can also camp just before the stone shelters on either side of the stream in this very pretty area.

Day 4 : Pakora High Camp to Jut/Uts

6- 8 hours, 12.1km, 480m ascent, 1320m descent

Behind the high camp at side stream flows from the west, south of a large rock outcrop. An indistinct trail follows this stream up steep, loose rock one hour, passing a few cairns. The east side of the pass has several small snowfields and a large crevasse- free snowfield just below the top. Cross the snowfield in 30 minutes and reach the obvious Pakora Pass (4710m). North of the pass is Sentinel (5260m), a moderately difficult alpine climb.

The west side of the Pakora Pass is glaciated, but any crevasses are lower down. Descend across snowfield, working to the north (right) onto the obvious grey lateral moraine in 15 to 30 minutes. Follow a faint trail down the lateral moraine 30 minutes to its end, where it abuts the Pakora Glacier (gomukh in Shina). Cross the width of the icy glacier in 30 minutes, heading towards reddish rocks on its west margin.

Once across the glacier, there are two routes. The main trail goes downvalley to Pakora. The other route crosses the seldom- used, glaciated Hayal Pass to Chatorkhand. From the Pakora Glacier’s west margin 3km west of, and 450m below, Pakora Pass at 4230m, head west (left) ascending the rock along the Hayal Glacier’s north margin. The route is incorrectly drawn on the Swiss map as splitting off at Pakora Pass itself.

To continue to Pakora, walk down the lateral moraine high above the Pakora Glacier’s south- west margin, which fills the upper valley. Continue two hours on a faint trail to Lal patthar (3690m), named in Urdu for the huge reddish boulder amid a few junipers. It’s called Krui Bokht in Khowar. The boulder provides shelter for porters and a few possible tent sites are nearby, but the sloping hillside and distant water make this an undesirable Camp.

Beyond Lal Patthar, cross a side stream in a steep ravine. Continue downvalley one hour through beautiful, dense forest of birch, pine and juniper on a pine- needle- blanketed trail and cross a footbridge (3750m) to the Pakora Gol’s true right bank. The footbridge cannot be seen easily from the trail. Where the trail is level with the river continue along the river bed and walk a few minutes to the footbridge. (Don’t ascend the obvious trail that climbs some 50m.) Once across the river, the narrow trail follows the river and then climbs onto a forested plateau to the Gujar huts as Jut/Uts (3390m) where horses, cows sheep and goats graze, 1½ hours from Lal Patthar. Jut means ‘grassy place’ in Burushaski, and uts and means ‘spring’ in Khowar.

Day 5 : Jut/Uts to Pakora      

3½- 5 hours, 9.7km, 1170m descent

The descent from Jut to Pakora gets progressively steeper as the canyon narrows. The Pakora Gol can be hot and dry on sunny days, so start early and carry water.

From the pasture’s far end, descend and cross the river on a good footbridge. The trail is in poor condition and stays on the true left (south) bank, low along the river bed one hour, passing beneath the Gujar settlements of Gujarshal and Roghshal high above. Kuru, a settlement above the confluence of the Kuru An Gol and Pakora Gol, is visible across the river. A route leads up this side stream to the Kuru An (see Ghizar’s Other Treks,).

The trail downvalley stays on the Pakora Gol’s true left side, contouring an artemisia- covered hillside on a wide donkey trail. It stays high above the raging river, often on exposed galleries. The river falls into a deep gorge with waterfalls tumbling down both sides. Reach a side stream and a large, solitary willow in 1½ hours. Cross a plank footbridge to the true right bank in 30 minutes to reach the first cultivated fields of Pakora. In 15 minutes reach the jeep road and centre of Pakora (2220m).

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