Hunza, Nagar,

Barpu Glacier

Duration 6 days
Distance 41.9km
Standard moderate
Season Mid-June-October
Start/Finish Hoper
Zone and Permits open, no permit
Public Transport no
Summary Trails along the tree- lined upper glacier lead directly to the vertical granite north face of Spantik, or Golden Peak.

 

The Sumayar and Bar and Miar glaciers, which flow from Malubiting (7458m) and the Miar and Phuparash peaks respectively, join to form the 33km- long Barpu Glacier. The Barpu Glacier’s outwash stream flows north- west into the advancing Bualtar Glacier opposite Hoper. Trails in the ablation valleys along both sides of the Barpu Glacier offer easy, scenic walks through flower-filled meadows. This trek, however, entails five glacier crossings- twice across the Bualtar, and once each across the Barpu, Sumayar Bar and Miar glaciers.

PLANNING

Maps  

The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research 1:250,000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) covers the Trek. The Bualtar and Barpu glaciers don’t join one another as the map depicts. Bericho Kor is misplaced; it’s due west of Rush Phari (Rash Lake on the map) along the Barpu Glacier’s south- east margin.

Regulations

Per a 1994 ruling, the ex- Mir of Nagyr retains the right to collect a camping from anyone camping between Tagaphari and Shuja Basa. His watchman (chowkidar) Mr. Haider, wanders the valley with a type- written explanation letter in English and collects the fee.

Guides and Porters

A guide or knowledgeable porter is essential for all glacier crossings, especially the constantly shifting Bualtar Glacier, where the route changes Daily. In 1999, Hoper began a porters’ union to equitably assign work on a rotational basis to the people from the five villages of Hoper. This system has effectively eliminated porter disputes that plagued this area for years. The one hitch is that any trekking party hiring five or more porters must also hire a porter sirdar, who is a village representative responsible for selecting porters from his village. Porters ask for a flat rate per stage, including payment for food rations. In addition, they ask for shoes and for a goat from large trekking parties. A representative from the porters’ union finds you at either the Hoper Hilton Inn or Hoper Inn.

Stages   

This trek has suffered from stage inflation since 1986 (Lower Shishkin and Miar are relatively new stages), and today many stages are only one to 1½ hours long. It totals nine stages round trip from Hoper: (1) Lower Shishkin; (2) Barpugram; (3) Phahi Phari; (4) Girgindil; (5) Sumayar Bar; (6) Miar; (7) Hamdar; (8) Upper Shishkin; and (9) Hoper.

NEAREST VILLAGE

Hoper

Hoper refers to the villages (Hakalshal, Ratal, Buroshal, Holshal and Gashoshal) that lie along the Bualtar Glacier’s south- west margin. Hoper is also called tsindigram, which means; ‘five hamlets’ in Burushaski.

Places to Stay and Eat

Managed by Amir Hamza, Hoper Hilton Inn has singles/doubles. The camping fee, or sleep in one of the inn’s canvas tents. Hoper Inn. Its camp site is a little nicer and the camping. Both inns serve meals.

Getting There and Away

A daily wagon (4½ hours) to Hoper departs from Gilgit’s Khazana (Bank) Rd near Golden Peak Inn about 8am. A daily wagon departs Hoper for Gilgit about 6am. Special hires from Ganesh or Karimabad to and from Hoper (1½ hours).

GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK 

The trailhead is at the road’s end in Hoper.

The Trek

Day 1 : Hoper to Bericho Kor 

4- 5 hours, 10.8km, 510m ascent

Once leaving Hoper, no reliable water is available until Bericho Kor. Carry water and start early to avoid midday heat. From Hoper (2790m), descend steeply to the Bualtar Glacier’s edge. The crossing is relatively short, but the constantly moving Bualtar Glacier is icy and broken, and has no fixed route. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours to cross.

At Lower Shishkin on the glacier’s opposite side, the trail divides. The higher trail heads south- east to Upper Shishkin along the Barpu Glacier’s south- west margin. Take the lower trail east to an obvious notch and the first views of the Barpu Glacier. The Barpu is more stable than the Bualtar, but just as bleak. Cross it on a consolidated trail in 45 minutes to the ablation valley on its south- east margin with views of Diran to the west, Spantik to the south, and Ultar Peak and Bubulimating to the north. Tagaphari is a dry, barren place in the long ablation valley. Before the Barpu Glacier retreated more than 20 years ago, Tagaphari was well watered and green. Reach Barpugram, the first huts, 30 minutes from the start of the ablation valley. Barpugram’s water source is snow melt, unreliable after May. Two trails lead up the hillside behind Barpugram: the north- west one goes to Fetingish in the Hispar Valley; and the south- east one leads to Gutens, an alternative route to Rush Phari (see the Rush Phari Trek,).

The ablation valley narrows and larger junipers and wild roses appear. One hour from Barpugram, reach the huts and pastures of Mulharai where tamarisks offer shade. Just beyond in the grassy camp site of Bericho Kor (3300m) where a porters’ shelter hugs a boulder, 5.5km from Tagaphari. Bericho are musicians, and Kor means ‘cave’. A trickle of water runs through the camp site, but its larger source is a few minutes above camp.

Day 2 : Bericho Kor to Phahi Phari   

1½-2 hours, 4.1km, 150m ascent

An easy trail follows the ablation valley to Phahi Phari (3450m), passing Dachigan one hour from Bericho Kor. A large boulder with ibex carvings at Dachigan marks the spot where local people once brought ibex for the Mir of Nagyr to easily hunt.

An alternative route crosses the broken Barpu Glacier from Dachigan to Miar in two to three hours to return along the Glacier’s south- west side.

Day 3 : Phahi Phari to Girgindil

3-4 hours, 7km, 550m ascent

Continue up the now- forested ablation valley with flower- filled meadows. In one hour, pass through Chukutans with its several huts. Girgindil (4000m) with its hut and beautiful meadows is two hours farther. From the ridge above Girgindil are great views of Spantik.

Side Trip : Spantik Base Camp

3 days, 16km, 800m ascent, 800m descent

The Burusho of Nagyr and Hunza call the peak whose vertical granite north face soars above the Barpu Glacier’s head Ganesh Chhish, which means Golden Peak. It’s more commonly known by its Balti name Spantik and is usually climbed from the Chogo Lungma Glacier (p). The base camp (4800m), known locally as Shuja Basa, is a two-day walk from Girgindil. The entire area between Girgindil and Shuja Basa is called Malunghushi.

The faint trail from Girgindil skirts the Sumayar Bar Glacier to the huts at Makhphona Phari in two hours, then continues for three to four hours to Yakhzena, at times climbing the hillside to avoid bad sections. Trekkers usually camp here. Yakhzena, with its huge boulders, means ‘a place where leopards store their kill’. The next day continue along the glacier, then ascend through meadows over a ridge to Shuja Basa (4800m). Retrace your steps to Girgindil in one day.

The route is best done July to September. It’s six stages total round trip from Girgindil: (1) Makhphona Phari ; (2) Yakhzena; (3) Shuja Basa; and (4-6) three stages to return via the same route.         

Day 4 : Girgindil to Sumayar Bar

4-5 hours, 6km, 500m descent

Retrace your steps downvalley to Chukutans and cross the Sumayar Bar Glacier in one hour to the huts at Sumayar Bar (3500m), nestled near the confluence of the Sumayar Bar and Miar Glaciers below a forested ridge.  

Day 5 : Sumayar Bar to Hapakun

3½-4½ hours, 8km, 250m descent

Cross the wide Miar Glacier to Miar settlement at the confluence of Miar and Barpu glaciers. Follow the trail along the Barpu Glacier’s south- west margin from Miar to Hamdar, reaching Hamdar in 1½ hours. Continue one hour to Hapakun (3250m).

Day 6 : Hapakun to Hoper

3-4 hours, 6km, 460m descent

The trail passes through Upper Shishkin before dropping to Lower Shishkin at the Bualtar Glacier’s edge. Cross the tricky Bualtar Glacier and return to Hoper (2790m).       

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