Baltistan,

Chogo Lungma Glacier

Duration 5 days
Distance 72.6km
Standard demanding
Season Mid-June-September
Start/Finish Doko
Zone and Permit open, no permit
Public Transport yes
Summary Traditional Balti culture, flower-filled meadows and superb alpine scenery reward trekkers who come to this seldom-visited valley and giant glacier

 

Godfrey Vigne, who essentially discovered the Karakoram for European science in 1835, called the snout of the 44km-long Chogo Lungma (big valley) Glacier the grandest spectacle that he saw on the whole of his travels. The Basha Valley is especially picturesque above Doko with terraced fields beneath granite Mango Brak, and low-angle granite slabs hundreds of metres High rising above Gon and Arandu. The trail through Basha’s villages is relatively easy, and the ablation valleys along the Chogo Lungma Glacier’s north margin are lush with trees and flowers, with excellent views of Spantik (7027m) and Malubiting (7458m).

PLANNING

Maps 

The Swiss foundation for AlpineResearch 1:250,000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) covers the trek. It labels Churzing as Churtsinks, Chogo Brangsa as Chohob Langsa, Kurumal as Khurumal and Wung as Gongon. It doesn’t show Buqon, Manfi Kuru, Gareencho, Bolocho, Skari Byanga or Sharing. It marks Spantik and Laila base camps with triangles. It labels the glacier Called Khilburi Gang as Kilwuri Gans. It shows both the Khilburi and Bolocho glaciers as being connected directly to the Chogo Lungma Glacier. They have receded, and now their outwash streams flow into the Chogo and Lungma Glacier.

Guides and Porters  

Between Doko and Arandu, hire porters from the Basha Valley’s lower villages. At Arandu, select those porters who are most fit and familiar with the route and send back any porters who aren’t. Arandu villagers are the best porters because they use the pastures along the glacier.

Porters ask for a flat rate per stage including payment for food rations. Porters want more trekkers to come, so they don’t ask for wapasi, the clothing and equipment allowance, or rest days.

Stages 

It’s 10 stages total around trip from Doko: (1) Arandu; (2) Churzing; (3) Chogo Brangsa; (4) Kurumal; (5) Bolocho; and (6-10) five stages to return via the same route. Stage inflation has affected the distance between Arandu and Bolocho, which is now four stages, but was traditionally these three stages: (1) Buqon, (2) Kurumal and (3) Bolocho.

GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK

From Skardu, the small town of Haiderabad, with its two restaurants, lies three hours north up the Shigar Valley. At Haiderabad, jeeps to the Basha Valley turn west, leaving the main Braldu Valley road, and cross the Braldu and Basha rivers. From Haiderabad it’s 35km to Doko, which has the last shop with basic supplies. The first village in the Basha Valley is Tissar, from where many men who porters up the Braldu Valley come. Beyond Tissar, landslides occasionally block the road. Skardu- Doko jeeps and special hires. Skardu-Haiderabad Jeeps. From Haiderabad, jeeps and special hires . Jeeps from Tissar to Skardu also travel down the Shigar River’s true right (west) bank, but this Road isn’t as good as the road along its true left (east) bank.

THE TREK

Day 1: Doko to Arandu

5-6 hours, 14.5km, 240m Ascent

A grassy camp site on Doko’s northern outskirts (2530m) is just above the trail under the shade of several large without trees near a clear stream. The road Between Doko and Arandu is Passable for jeeps only during spring and autumn when the water level in the Basha River is low, but it makes a good, wide walking trail. Ford a large side stream 20 minutes from Doko. Several more clear streams descend from granite cliffs along the valley’s west side. As the Basha Valley begins to turn westward, the trail climbs and then descends to the river. It finally Rounds the bend in the valley 2½ to three hours from Doko and heads north-north-west over a large plain next to the river.

Across the Basha River near the Berelter River’s mouth is Bisil village, which is reached via a wooden basket suspended from a steel cable. Up this side valley is a technical route over the Sokha La, first crossed by HW Tilman in 1937, leading east to the upper Biafo Glacier. The open-Zone route offers quick access to Lukpe Lawo, and is still occasionally crossed by mountaineers.

Continue 45 minutes to one hour to Gon. Fractured granite slabs tower above Gon and Arandu, which is 45 minutes to one hour ahead. Just west of Arandu (2770m) is a small camp site. Villagers can show you where the springs are. Otherwise, the canal offers silty water from the large glacier behind Arandu.

North of Arandu is the Kero Lungma Glacier and the technical route over the Nushik La (called Nashkura La by Arandu villagers), which leads in five days from Doko to Hispar village. The pass, first crossed in 1892 by Major CG Bruce, is heavily corniced with a steep ice slope on the north side. It descends to the Haigutum Glacier, a branch of the Hispar Glacier, which has enormous crevasses that can only be crossed early in the season before snow bridges melt. No Arandu porters have crossed this pass. Reportedly, Burusho men used to cross this pass to raid Shigar.

Day 2: Arandu to Chogo Brangsa

4-5 hours, 11.1km, 552m ascent

The trail heads along the river’s true right bank towards the Chogo Lungma Glacier’s terminus. This glacier surged in 2000, threatening the village with total disaster. The glacier’s advance may change this section drastically. Ascend the terminal moraine in 30 minutes. A herders’ trail crosses the glacier in 45 minutes to one hour to the ablation valley along its north margin. The first clear stream is a few minutes along the trail in the ablation valley. Cross another stream, amid willows and wild roses and, 30 minutes after leaving the glacier, reach Churzing, where some huts cluster against the hillside. A rocky, sloping camp site five minutes farther makes a good lunch spot. Continue through dense willow and rosewood thickets in the ablation valley’s end. Contour the hillside, and in 45 minutes to one hour descend into another small, well-wooded valley to huts at Buqon.  A level camp site in front of and below the huts, amid willows. Water, however, is often scarce. Continue 45 minutes to one hour to Manfi Kuru where herders’ huts perch on a small dung-covered knoll overlooking the glacier. The large stream coming from the side valley tends to be silty. The only level ground for camping is next to the stream on sand. From Manfi Kuru are the first views of Spantik. Continue 30 to 45 minutes to Chogo Brangsa (3322m, ‘big pasture’). Level camp sites are amid willows along the clears stream. Herders’ huts cluster against the hillside farther up this pretty side valley, which overlooks the glacier with a good view of Spantik.

Day 3 : Chogo Brangsa to Gareencho

4-6 hours, 10.7km, 457m ascent

Continue up the ablation valley with its abundant flowers one hour to Shing Kuru, the highest camp site with junipers (shing or wood). The side stream here tends to be silty, and is prone to high water in the afternoon. From the lateral moraine are skirting views of the Chogo Lungma Glacier’s ice and rock, and Malubiting (pronounced locally as  Malupiting) first comes into view. Thirty minutes farther is upper Shing Kuru with its smaller, clear stream descending from a waterfall on the cliff. This would also be a nice camp site. Fifteen minutes farther, the Kurumal area starts. This wide alluvial area has a big clear stream at its east end, but no good camp sites. A silty brown pool often covers much of the flat area here. At its fair west end, 15 minutes’ walk, are four porters’ shelters and a grassy area for a few tents. Water here is slightly silty. Just beyond these porters’ shelters is a larger flat area where you can pitch more tents on sand and grass.

From Kurumal, the trail descends 15 minutes and heads out onto the Chogo Lungma Glacier to get around the torrent from the Khilburi Gang. Apparently, there used to be a moraine lake (khil) at this spot. It takes 20 minutes to detour this, and another 10 minutes to climb back to the grassy hillside. A trail continues up the ablation valley, over snow pack at times, and after 30 minutes reaches Wung.  A single herders’ hut lies against the hillside on the alluvial fan’s east end. Snow melt provides clear water.

Continue 30 to 45 minutes to the broad, grassy area of Gareencho (3779m). The water here has some sediment, which quickly settles. Excellent views of Malubiting, the Polan La and Spantik, and level camp sites on grass beside the stream, make this a nice spot for a rest or acclimatization day. When continuing to Laila Base Camp or Haramosh La, camp here. Gareencho is more comfortable than the next camp site, Bolocho.

Alternative Camp Site Bolocho

When visiting Spantik Base Camp (see the Side Trip) or heading to Malubiting Base Camp, continue beyond Gareencho and camp at Bolocho, because it’s a long walk the next day from Bolocho to Spantik Base Camp. Beyond Gareencho, the trail crosses difficult terrain. Descend over scree to the glacier’s edge. Continue along the glacier’s margin, through broken areas, where the trail is hard to find. Reach Bolocho after 2.1km and 45 minutes to one hour of toilsome walking from Gareencho. Bolocho (3800m) is a sandy area, with water from the Glacier, and many porters’ shelters. A large mineral spring lies a few minutes to the right of camp. Local people say it’s warm and they don’t drink it, even though it feels cold to the touch. Alternatively, you can slow down the pace by camping in Arandu, Buqon, and Kurumal, reaching Bolocho on Day 4.

Side Trip : Spantik Base Camp   

2 days, 23km, 500m ascent, 500m descent

Spantik (whose name derives from the Balti word span, a grassy place), is at the Chogo Lungma Glacier’s head, and is usually climbed from this glacier via the relatively easy 8km- long south- east ridge. Fanny Bullock-Workman, in her long skirt and laced knee boots, came within a few hundred metres of the summit during their 1902-3 expedition.

From Bolocho, the trail heads onto the glacier. Traversing the glacier between Bolocho and Spantik Base Camp (marked by a triangle 4300 on the Swiss map) requires travelling in roped teams. It takes seven to nine hours from Bolocho to base camp. Villagers say ibex abundant above the grassy base camp.

You can break up the hike between Bolocho and base camp by camping at Skari Byanga, a sandy place along the glacier’s north margin. Byanga means ‘sand’, and skari refers to a minuscule weight used for weighing gold or silver. Apparently, a villager once found a tiny amount of gold here. The side trip can be done in two days, but allowing more gives time to explore the surrounding area. It’s four stage total round trip starting from Bolocho: (1) Skari Byanga (not marked on maps); (2) Spantik Base Camp and (3-4) two stages to return via the same route.

Days 4-5 : Gareencho to Doko        

2 days, 36.3km, 1249m descent

Return downvalley to Doko, camping at Arandu on Day 4.

          

 

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