Diamir, Gilgit,

Fairy Meadow

fairy meadows trek
Duration 3 days
Distance 21Km
Standard easy
Season May-mid-October
Start/Finish Jhel
Nearest Facilities Fairy Meadow
Zone and Permit open, no permit
Public Transport no
Summary Fairy Meadow offers easy access to an 8000m peak base camp and one of the world’s finest mountain panoramas with several excellent short side trips and climbs.

 

The lofty summits of the Nanga Parbat massif form a glacial amphitheatre at the head of Raikot Gah. Four major icefalls converge to form the 13km- long S-shaped Raikot Glacier, beneath Nanga Parbat’s north (Raikot) face. Beside the glacier are pine and fir forests, sparkling streams and open grasslands that have enchanted visitors and prompted the name Fairy Meadow. The glacier’s outwash stream carves a dramatic gorge that drops 2000m to the Indus River. The 7000m descent from the summit to the Indus forms one of the world’s deepest gorges. A trip to Fairy Meadow, with day hikes or side trips, has a bit of everything Himalayan trekking can offer-a hair- raising jeep ride to get there, hot and dusty trails, lush meadows, amazing glaciers and an 8000 summit. It’s the area’s best short trek.

Planning

Maps

The Deutscher Alpenverein (DAV) 1:50,000 topographic map Nanga Parbat Gruppe covers the trek. Fairy Meadow is labeled Marchen Wiese, Beyal (Which is just north of the 3710m point) is not labeled, Nanga Parbat Base Camp is Labeled Hauptlager (high camp), and camp is labeled Lager l. It labels the peak and glacier Rakhiot, which local People call Raikot.

Guides and Porters

Poters, who transport loads on donkeys, ask for a flat rate per stage including payment for food rations. Regardless of whether porters walk or ride in a jeep between Raikot Bridge and Jhel or you hire porters at the road’s end in Jhel, pay all porters for one stage between Raikot Bridge and Jhel in both directions in addition to all other stages you walk. This hardly seems fair, but it’s the fixed position of the porter’ union who view it as compensation for road maintenance.

Peak Possibilities

Buldar Peak

Accessible from Nanga Parbat Base Camp (Side Trip).

The snowy dome of Buldar Peak (5602m), which has a large bergschrund on its west face, lies directly east of the Raikot Glacier. The three- day climb involves 1635m ascent and 1635m descent. The first day cross the Raikot Glacier from Nanga Parbat Base Camp and ascend through forest to set a high camp (4500m). The second day, the rocky ascent continues north- east to Buldar Cleft (5150m), marked Buldar Scharte on the DAV map. The technical route continues north following the snow covered ridge to Buldar’s summit. Return to high camp, and the next day to base camp. Buldar peak is infrequently climbed, but is certainly doable by any fit person with basic mountaineering skills, and in the Company of a local person who knows the route.

South Jalipur Peak

Accessible from Beyal (Day 2)

South Jalipur Peak (5206m), which is west of the Raikot Glacier and south of the Khusto (Jalipur) Pass (4837m), is the peak most frequent attempted by trekkers visiting Raikot Gah. The nontechnical ascent begins from Beyal and takes two days, with 1706m ascent and 1706m descent. The first day, follow the Jalipur stream west up the rocky side valley that leads to Khusto Pass and place a high camp west of (below) the pass, three hours from Beyal. From the high camp, it takes three to four hours to reach the summit the next day, following a ridge route that crosses some glacier. Return to high camp and descend to Beyal the same day.

 

Stages

It’s six stages total round trip from Raikot Bridge: (1) Jhel; (2) Fairy Meadow; (3) Beyal; and (4-6) three stages to return via the same route.

GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK

Raikot Bridge, which spans the Indus River along the KKH 78Km, or 1½ hours, south of Gilgit and 55Km, or one hour, east of Chilas, Diamir’s administrative centre, is the jumping off point. To Reach Raikot Bridge, take a Gilgit- Chilas van that departs from the Jaglot bus stand on Domyal Link Rd every few hours. Gilgit- Raikot Bridge special hires one way/round trip. Vans or buses to Rawalpindi drop passengers at Raikot Bridge.

From Raikot Bridge, walk or organize a special hire to Jhel (one way/round trip, 1½ hours, 15km) where the road ended as of 2001. A local jeep drivers’ Union assigns drivers based on a rotational system, as everyone gets a turn. Some people choose to walk rather than make the heart- stopping jeep ride along a dramatic cliff with awesome drop offs. The tiresome 1320m climb from Raikot Bridge (1280m) to Jhel (2600m) takes four hours. It’s usually extremely hot and dry, so start before dawn when Possible.

Don’t organize Gilgit- Jhel special hires, unless the driver is from Raikot. ‘Outside’ jeeps aren’t allowed on the road between Raikot Bridge and Jhel unless you pay an additional to the union. The reason for this is the road is privately owned and maintained by Chilasis, and it’s also safer to have an experienced Raikot driver.

The Trek

Day 1 : Jhel to Fairy Meadow

2- 2½ hours, 5.5km, 640m ascent

At Jhel (2666m) just above Tato village, a few wooden huts sell cold drinks, and snacks. Rose shrubs, chilghozas, chir pines and junipers flourish in the narrow valley.

The well- established trail rises steadily along what is the future road to Fairy Meadow. Halfway, a stream meanders through pleasant forest, offering welcome shade, and the trail becomes more level. The gentle walk continues up the Raikot Gah to Fairy Meadow (3306m), which overlooks the Raikot Glacier to the south- east. Herders’ settlements around Fairy Meadow are worth wandering through for a glimpse of village life. In May and June, they harvest the morel mushrooms (Kuchuli) that grow here and sell for as much as Rs 15,000 per Kilogram. The herders keep dogs, so exercise caution in their territory.

Camp at either of two designed grassy camping grounds, each fenced to keep livestock out. Raikot Sarai is in a picturesque setting overlooking the glacier. Tent rental for one person and for two, and small huts are available. The Camping sight is available on a fee. The compound has toilet facilities, a Kitchen and dining hall. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also organize treks beyond Fairy Meadow; contact Rehmat Nabi at Fairy Meadow Tours on Gilgit‘s Chinar Bagh Link Rd. For reservations, contact the office , F-7/2, Street 15, Centre- One, Islamabad, visit Fairy Meadows Tours in Gilgit, or write to Raikot Sarai, PO Gonar Farm, Raikot Valley, District Diamir, Northern Areas.

Green Land Camping Side, adjacent to Raikot Sarai, offers welcome shade, but without glacier views.

Side Trip : Susuru Bush

3-4 hours, 4km, 694m ascent, 694m descent

Susuru Bush (4000m), which is named for the flowers (Susur) that grow here, is the rocky ridge (bush) to the west. From the former Fairy Meadow Cottage and Camping Site, a trail leads through a marshy meadow and lovely birch forest. It climbs steadily to a mountain viewpoint above the tree line.

Day 2 : Fairy Meadow to Beyal

1½ hours, 5km, 194m ascent

The trail to Beyal hugs the edge of the terrace above the Raikot Glacier’s terminus, overlooking the valley and glacier. Initially, the trail may seem a bit confusing; stay to the left at a vague fork. The trail passes through lush chir pine and fir forest with birch- lined stream for 30 minutes. For the next 30 minutes, it stays along the stream’s true left bank, parallel to the glacier, but gradually moves away from the terrace’s edge. Cross to the stream’s true right bank, now lined by juniper and a few chir. The valley opens up as you reach the wildflower- filled meadows of Beyal (3500m) with great views downvalley of the Indus Valley and Rakaposhi. Beyal, which means ‘cave-like’, is named for the rocks on the opposite side of the stream. Herders stay in sod-roofed huts. Late in the season, Beyal becomes dry when snow melt ceases to feed the Jalipur stream. Beyal is typically less crowded than Fairy Meadow, so it’s worth moving your camp to this welcoming spot.

Camping is available at two fenced camping grounds, Jalipur Inn, with its year- round spring nearby, and Parbat Camp higher upvalley. The rates are the same at both places.

It is Possible to climb south Jalipur Peak from Beyal (see the boxed text Peak Possibilities,).

Side Trip : Nanga Parbat Base Camp

6- 7 hours, 8km, 467m ascent, 467m descent

Nanga Parbat Base Camp is between the Ganalo and Raikot glaciers, just south of their confluence. Fit hikers can visit the base camp on a day hike, but those wanting to savour its beauty or planning to go farther need at least two days.

From Beyal, an easy trail continues south 30 minutes through scattered junipers and birches to an obvious huge boulder, topped by a cow’s skull balancing on a pole, at the lateral moraine’s edge. People aptly call this place View Point (3667m). The breath- taking close- up views to the south- east include the four major icefalls coming from the Chongra peaks (ranging from 6448m to 6830m), Raikot (7070m) and Nanga Parbat’s north face that converge to form the incredibly serac- covered Raikot Glacier. To the north are impressive views over the Indus Valley, and far to the north- east is the 7000m Rakaposhi- Haramosh Range.

From the boulder, the trail stays to the right. Don’t take the lower still visible to its left, which has been abandoned because of surges by the Ganalo Glacier. Passing through stands of birch and pockets of the fragrant Sojo punar, a primrose revered by local people, the trail climbs 125m in 45 minutes to the top of a moraine. The whole massif forms a sweeping glacial amphitheatre. If you only go this far, you won’t be disappointed.

The trail continues 30 minutes through rolling upland to a cairn at the moraine’s edge, descends to cross an outwash stream, and reaches the Ganalo Glacier. A cairn- marked route across the rubble- covered Ganalo Glacier leads from here in one hour to Nanga Parbat Base Camp (3967m), three to four hours from Beyal. A large spring flows from under a boulder here. Nearby is the Drexel Monument to German climbers killed on Nanga Parbat.

From base camp, more adventurous trekkers can continue two hours to Camp l (4468m) for more big vistas, ascending steeply 500m over the Great Moraine (4500m), which is usually snow- free in July and August. At Camp l you’re right under Silberzacken (7597m), Raikot and the Chongra peaks. It is also possible to ascend Buldar Peak from Base Camp (see the boxed text Peak Possibilities,).

The stages are: Beyal to Nanga Parbat Base Camp; Nanga Parbat Base Camp to Camp l; and two stages to return via same route. When porters go above base camp, they carry only 15kg and get a wage increase per stage.

Day 3 : Beyal to Jhel

2- 2½ hours, 10.5km, 834m descent

Retrace steps to Fairy Meadow in one hour, and Jhel in another one to 1½ hours.

 

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