|Zone and Permit||open, no permit|
|Summary||The classic trek along a glant Karakoram glacier passes beneath the peaks of the imposing Batura Wall and Batura Ice Floes with some of the Karakoram’s best mountain scenery.|
Batura, the most accessible and fourth- longest Karakoram glaciers, stretches west from the KKH for 56km. The trek’s exceptional scenery includes 14 peaks higher than 7000m and huge Ice floes plummeting more than 4000m from the Batura Wall to the glacier. Most of the trek is through ablation valleys and along streams. With almost no steep segments, it affords gradual acclimatization and presents no major difficulties. Even the trek’s two glacier crossings are relatively easy. Trekkers also get a glimpse into the unique way of life of Passu villagers, who tend livestock in the summer pastures along the glacier’s north margin.
The alternative route along the glacier’s south margin and glacier crossing (see alternative Days 4-5) presents a more shaded and cooler alternative to trekking along its sunny north margin on hot July and August days. Trekkers with less time or those disinclined to undertake any glacier crossings can simply trek along the south margin to Maidun and return by the same route. This makes a pleasant three-to four-day trek, but doesn’t give any views of the Batura Wall or ice Floes.
What to Bring
Wakhi people are generous and traditionally share food with visitors, but it’s unrealistic to expect food from people in pasture settlements. The herders’ huts are private property and aren’t available for trekkers’ use. Respect the people and their property; bring your own food and shelter.
The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research 1:250,000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) and Deutschen Alpenverein (DAV) 1:00,000 topographic map Hunza-Karakoram cover the trek. Other maps feature the Batura Glacier and surrounding peaks. In 1978, the Institute of Glaciology, Cryopedology and Desert Research, Academia Sinica, Lanchow, China published a 1:60,000 topographic The Map of the Batura Glacier (US$27), but it can be hard to find. Jerzy Wala published two orographical sketch maps (US$14) with text in English and Polish: the 1:100,000 Batura Wall in 1984; and the 1:125,000 Batura Mustagh in 1988.
Uzhokpirt, which isn’t marked on the Swiss map, is beneath the peak labeled Shanoz (3922m). The Werthum stream, which is labeled Wartom Nala, isn’t depicted accurately. The map shows it flowing directly into (ie, perpendicular to) the Batura Glacier at Shilmin, but it turns south-east from the side valley and parallels the glacier for 7.5km before flowing into it between kukhil and Fatima’ il Sheet. The Yukshgoz Glacier is labeled as Yoksugoz Ice Flow, and Shireen Maidan Glacier is labeled as Shelin Maidan. The DAV map does not show Werthum Nala, labels Uzhokpirt as Verzokpirt, and indicates a lake east of Yashpirt that doesn’t exist.
Guides and Porters
Trekkers often get lost trying to cross the glacier, so hiring someone is recommended. Additionally, government authorities insist that all trekkers going onto the glacier be accompanied by someone from Passu. Typically, porters are hired for the duration of a trek and aren’t released along the way. Porters may expect large trekking parties to buy a goat or sheep.
It’s nine stages total round trip from Passu: (1) Yunzben; (2) Uzhokpirt; (3) Yashpirt; (4) Kukhil; (4½) Guchesham; and (4½-9) 4½ stages to return via the same route. The traditional first stage began, literally, in Passu village. (This was before the KKH was built.) Today, it’s understood to mean starting from China Camp or Janabad to Yunzben. Unfortunately, this makes for a short stage, much to porters’ advantage. When you camp at Lupdur, it’s half a stage beyond Guchesham; it’s one stage between Kukhil and Lupdur. Despite the fact that most trekkers Only camp at Guchesham, porters often ask for five stages one way from Passu instead of 4½ stages, much to their advantage. Additionally, porters may ask for an extra stage when crossing the glacier anywhere other than between Yunzben and Uzhokpirt. Negotiate the exact stages before starting.
Getting To/From The Trek
From Passu (2400m) a tractor or jeep to China Camp (2430m), named for the Chinese road labourers who stayed here while building the KKH. It’s 15 minutes’ drive north on the KKH to China Camp, a green area on the KKH’s west side south of the bridge over the Batura Glacier’s outwash stream.
Starting from the Janabad trailhead (2430m) is 1.3km longer than from the China Camp trailhead, but you can easily walk there from all hotels and don’t have to pay for transport.
The Trek description below crosses the glacier between Yunzben and Uzhokpirt. Two longer and more difficult glacier crossings are between Piyakh Sheet and Maidun (see Alternative Day), and between Kush Bel and Kirgus Washk.
Day 1 : China Camp to Uzhokpirt
5-6 hours, 11.5km, 645m ascent
Follow the canal upstream 10 minutes to its head along the true right bank of the Batura Glacier’s outwash stream. The trail ascends along the lateral moraine, passing a cairn that marks the junction with the trail from Janabad, and in 45 minutes to one hour reaches a high point. Continue through a dusty ablation valley 20 minutes, then pass through a wooden doorway past scattered rose bushes to reach Yunzben (2880m, at the base of Yunz Valley) in 10 minutes. The hut here is called Summer House in memory of the late Summer Beg, the father of Passu guides Sanjar Beg and Safdar Hussain. Yunzben is a large level camp site in a starkly dry and dusty area. Water comes from moraine pools.
The shortest and most frequently used route across the Batura Glacier, preferred by Passu People both going to and coming from the pastures, begins a few minutes beyond Yunzben. Bits of dung and small cairns faintly mark the convoluted 2km route across the glacier (much of it across talus), which takes one to 1½ hours. Aim for the yellow rock face on the glacier’s far side with a prominent white streak on its east (right) edge separating it from a black rock face.
Near the glacier’s north margin, beneath the yellow rock face, turn north-west and continue up the unshaded narrow lateral moraine 1½ to two hours to another wooden doorway across the trail. As the first juniper appears, continue 30 to 45 minutes to a sizable silty lake. Follow the trail along its north shore and a few minutes beyond its west shore to Uzhokpirt (3075m), named for a triangular-shaped millstone (uzhok) once used here. The hut here was built in memory of Ali Dad, son of Passu guide Hunar Beg, who died in 1999. Mature willows and junipers offer ample shade, welcoming trekkers to pitch their tents and relax. A stream provides water, but by August it’s dry and water comes from the lake.
Alternative Start : Janabad to Uzhokpirt
5-6 hours, 13.1km, 645m ascent
The Janabad trailheads is on the KKH’s west side, where an old rectangular sign (between a large hotel under construction at the time of research and Passu Tourist Lodge) reads’ AKRSP Passu orchard- Funded by SWAP’. Trekkers staying at the Passu Tourist Lodge can shorten this day’s trek by 1.3km (making it 11.8km) by simply walking out the back of the property, up the hill and 10 minutes across the upper Janabad plateau to join this alternative trail at the base of the scree slope.
From the sign at the KKH, take the obvious trail past some ruined buildings 15 minutes to the base of a scree slope. Above the slope in white-painted rocks are the words ‘Long Live Pakistan’. Ascend a stable trail 15 minutes to the top of the scree slope. The trail crosses a large level, boulder-dotted plateau between Janabad and the Batura Glacier. Continue 20 minutes past numerous small livestock shelters adjacent to boulders. Head up past a rocky outcrop, then contour 10 minutes across a slope to a cairn-marked junction. Take the left fork up to the top of the lateral moraine, also marked by a cairn, offering the first views of the Batura Glacier. Descend a few minutes to meet the main trail between China Camp and Yunzben. Turn left and continue an hour to Yunzben.
See Day 1 above for the description between Yunzben and Uzhokpirt.
Kũch: The Annual Livestock
|All Wakhi villages depend upon livestock. To maintain their sheep, goats and yaks, villagers move their herds to distant upland pastures as the summer progresses and return to their villages in late autumn. The migratory until of livestock tended by village women and children is referred to as the Kũch. Kũch is a Persian word meaning ‘migration,’ and Kũch are people who do this work. Although most villages have only a single Kũch, Shimshal village (see p) has several that got to different pastures.
Women milk the livestock morning and evening in large stone-walled pens near their huts. During the day, when young women and children take the livestock out to graze, the older women are busy in their huts turning milk into yogurt, butter and cheese, much of which is stored to eat during winter. This division of labour contrasts with that of Hunza where tending livestock and making butter is men’s work. Although all Wakhi visit the summer pastures, men recognize it as the women’s zone. These flower-filled grasslands with sparkling streams beneath snowy mountains are more than just a pleasant place for the Wakhi. They’re places of renewal and contentment, perhaps the main source of their well-being.
The return of the Kũch to the village in mid-October is a time of reunion and celebration in all Wakhi villages. After the return of the Kũch to the village, livestock are then tended by Shpũn, a small group of men who take the livestock to low-elevation winter pastures. In mid-May, the Shpũn turn the livestock back over to the community and the annual cycle begins again.
Day 2 : Uzhokpirt to Yashpirt
2-3 hours, 5.1km, 227m ascent
The easy trail between Uzhokpirt and Yashpirt meanders through pretty ablation valleys, amid substantial willows, wild roses, tamarisks and junipers. The first impressive views of the upper Batura Glacier and Batura First Ice Floe are 45 minutes beyond Uzhokpirt at Kush Bel. (Kush Bel is also an alternative place to cross the glacier to Kirgus Washk on its south margin). The place was named by a man who grabbed the tails of two oxen (bel in Urdu) in order to ford a water channel that was once here (and is now dry).
Forty-five minutes beyond Kush Bel is Yinj Gar Dur Gush (mouth of the narrow rocky valley) where an inviting clear stream flows from a cleft in the rock face to the north. Cross the stream and contour gradually up the juniper-dotted hill directly ahead 15 to 30 minutes to Yashpirt (3302m). In Wakhi, yash means ‘horse’; pirt, a ‘slopping meadow’. The huts and pastures, surrounded by a juniper forest, have spectacular views of the Batura First Ice Floe. Passu women tend herds of yaks, sheep and goats here until 25 July when they typically move to Guchesham. Camp east of, and away from, the huts, rather than between or near huts, to respect the residents’ privacy. Water flows from a small stream trickling through the pasture; its source is a few minutes’ walk through the forest above the pasture.
Passu people typically walk between Passu and Yashpirt in one day. Fit and acclimatized trekkers can reach Yashpirt in seven hours, but it’s too far for most trekkers to tackle in a day.
Day 3 : Yashpirt to Guchesham
5-6 hours, 15.7km, 328m ascent
Descend west past large junipers to the alluvial plain in the ablation valley. Follow the east trail north-west, through a lovely series of small ablation valleys, amid abundant junipers, willows and birches. An hour from Yashpirt, pass an old distinctive millstone, which was used until the late 1970s when barley was cultivated at Yashpirt and the primary summer pasture was Fatima’ il Sheet. Occasional willows line the trail along a meandering stream. In 15 minutes, reach Piyakh Sheet (3345m) where a strange stand of turugokh, a kind of poplar, grows. The terrain opens onto a broad alluvial fan called Fatima’ il Sheet (3402m). A side stream, Fatima’ il stream, flows across the fan as the trail continues north-west with the Batura First Ice Floe in Full view. The picturesque, yet largely unused Fatima’ il huts are at the plain’s west end, nestled against an Eolian fluted cliff, 30 minutes from Piyakh Sheet.
Continue up the ablation valley, passing through a wooden doorway, and reach the confluence of the good-sized Werthum Nala and the Batura Glacier 30 minutes from the Fatima’ il huts. Werthum Nala, the stream draining the Werthum Valley, parallels the Batura Glacier for 7.5km before disappearing dramatically under the Batura Glacier here. Ford the stream just above the confluence and continue along its true right (south) bank one hour to Kukhil (springside sheep pen) where a wooden footbridge leads to the hillside huts and livestock pens. Camp sites at Kukhil (3501m) are small and dusty. The best camp site is a gravelly spot along the stream’s true right (south) bank 100m below Kukhil.
From Kukhil, go along the true right (south) bank 1½ to two hours to another large alluvial fan called Shilmin (3627m), named after an abundant purple flower (shilm). It’s possible to camp in a level and slightly rocky area below (south of) the trail and above seasonal pools adequate for bathing. Werthum Nala leaves the Batura Glacier at Shilmin, making a 90-degree bend north-east. Cross the alluvial fan and descend to a ford of the Bostong stream. Climb onto a level terrace and, 30 minutes from Shilmin, reach Guchesham (gul means ‘flower’ in Persian; chesham, an ‘eye’ in Wakhi), with its 10 huts and livestock pen. A camp site is directly across the Bostong stream from Guchesham (3630m) on a flat plain at the base of a white scree slope, from where a spring emerges. The views of the Batura Wall from the moraine south of Guchesham are spectacular. In the distance to the east is Destaghil Sar.
Side Trip : Lupdur
6 hours, 5km, 240m ascent
The day trek to Lupdur (big meadow) offers great views of the Batura Second Ice Floe, the upper Batura Glacier and Kampir Dior (7168m). From Guchesham, stay along the Bostong stream’s true right (south) bank and go upvalley 30 minutes towards the obvious trail up the grassy slope. The trail eases after the first steep 100m. Follow the trail for one hour to Lupdur (3870m). Ibex and Himalayan snowcocks frequent these slopes. The views from here are worth the whole trek. Lupdur is bisected by a large ravine with a small pool at its bottom. Cross this ravine, continue through more pastures for better views of the Batura Second Ice Floe, and a view up the Yukshgoz (ibex grass) Glacier.
Side Trip : Kampir Dior and Pamiri Sar Base Camps
From Lupdur, cross to the Yukshgoz Glacier’s west side to another meadow called Poop Shikar Gah (grandfather’s hunting grounds). A guide is necessary to show the route across the glacier. Another day beyond are Kampir Dior and Pamiri Sar Base Camps. Alternatively, it’s possible to climb the peak above Poop Shikar Gah, marked as peak 5735m on the Swiss map, which is the culmination of a long ridge running east from Kuk Sar .
Days 4-5 : Guchesham to China Camp
2 days, 32.3km, 1200m descent
Retrace steps to China Camp, camping at Yashpirt or Uzhokpirt on Day 4.
Alternative Route : Guchesham to China Camp
Rather than returning on the same trail along the glacier’s north margin, it’s possible to cross the Batura Glacier higher up and return along its south margin.
Alternative Day 4 : Guchesham to Piyakh Sheet
4-5 hours, 12.4km, 285m descent
Retrace your steps to Piyakh Sheet. Camp here and get water from the Fatima’ il stream or, if it’s too silty, from the glacier. It’s necessary to spend the night at Piyakh Sheet from where the glacier crossing begins, because it’s too far to trek from Guchesham to Piyakh Sheet and cross the glacier on day.
Alternative Day 5 : Piyakh Sheet to Kirgus Washk
4-5 hours, 8km, 75m ascent, 420m descent
Turn south and cross moraine rubble five minutes, then descend the lateral moraine to reach the Batura Glacier in a few minutes. Crossings the glacier here isn’t easy. Toil up and down on steep moraine 45 minutes to one hour. Then reach white ice and go up and down and around crevasses 30 to 45 minutes, after which again come heaps of moraine that take another 30 to 45 minutes to navigate. Most of the rock is very loose and unstable. No trail exists, so a local guide is essential. After two to three hours on the glacier, emerge on its south margin at the five huts at Maidun (3420m), the highest pasture used by Hussaini villagers. Rising south of Maidun in is the prominent peak marked 6090m on the Swiss map.
Follow a trail down the ablation valley 10 minutes to a small stream on an alluvial fan. Twenty minutes beyond this, reach the two huts and livestock pen of Wudmull (3090m). Below Wudmull, leave the ablation valley and walk on a juniper-forested terrace well above the ablation valley. The trail grows faint as it crosses a rocky fan, which it ascends to avoid cliffs. Thirty to 45 minutes from Wudmull, a deep, narrow ravine slices through this terrace, just beyond the end of the nice juniper forest. Cross the ravine, which can be difficult in the summer when it holds a rushing stream, and descend five minutes to cross a small flat area at the base of a juniper-forested cliff. Descend gradually to a large alluvial fan covered by some snow pack, and cross it in 15 minutes. On its east side is a small stream beyond which is Kirgus Washk (in Wakhi, kirgus is a ‘Himalayan griffon’; washk, a broken stone wall’), with two huts and a livestock pen. Just before Kirgus Washk, near a small hillside and close to the stream, is a good flat, grassy camp site (3000m).
Alternative Day 6 : Kirgus Washk to China Camp
5-7 hours, 13km, 570m descent
The trail goes along the top of the southern and lower of two parallel moraines. Some 30 minutes below Kirgus Washk are two small blue Lakes, suitable for a dip. Skirt the hillside beyond these lakes, staying high above the ablation valley, passing through nice stands of juniper and wild rose. Below Kirgus Washk 1½ hours is a very large, light-coloured boulder with a cairn on top and a livestock pen underneath. This area, with its mixed grass and scree slopes, is called Landgarben (the base of the big rock). Thirty minutes below the boulder is a dry lake bed, and 15 minutes beyond that are the four huts and livestock pen at Mulungeen, where a steep trail from Patundas meets this trail. Just below Mulungeen are two helipads, built by the Pakistan Army. The trail bends slightly north-east as it descends the ablation valley, reaching Yunzben 45 minutes to one hour from Mulungeen. See Day 1 for the description Between Yunzben and China Camp or Alternative Start for the description between Yunzben and Janabad.