Gojal,

Patundas

Duration  3 days
Distance 21.8km
Standard moderate, technical
Season June-September
Start/Finish Passu
Zone and Permit open, no permit
Public Transport yes
Summary The alpine ridge between the Passu and Batura glaciers called Patundas has sweeping mountain views in all directions, but there’s a tricky glacier crossing en route.

 

Patundas, on the ridge between the Passu and Batura glaciers, is a summer pasture used by Ghulkin villagers with a cluster of huts and livestock pens. The views from Patundas are spectacular in all directions. The rapid elevation gain of 1700m makes previous acclimatization necessary.

PLANNING

What to Bring

Mountaineering equipment necessary to travel in roped teams and cut steps in ice for safety is recommended; crampons are helpful (see Mountaineering Equipment,).

Maps

The area is depicted by the Deutschen Alpenverein (DAV) 1:00,000 topographic map Hunza-Karakoram. If you’re using the Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research 1:250,000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1), however, note that Luzhdur is labeled as Lazhdar and Mulungeen as Mulung Hil. The trail marked on the Passu Glacier’s north side between Passu and Luzhdur no longer exists, due to glacial changes. The route shown along the glacier’s north margin between Yunz and Patundas is exposed, tricky and not recommended.

Guides and Porters

A guide who knows the current route across the glacier is necessary. Patundas is the property of Ghulkin villagers, who have exclusive portering rights. When staying in Passu, organize a guide or porters by sending a message a day in advance to Ghulkin with any Ghulkin driver, or ask the owner of the Al-Rahim Hotel along the KKH, just north of Gulmit, to have a guide and/or porters meet you at your hotel. You can also organize this from Borit Lake.      

 

Warning

The Passu Glacier Known for its scenic beauty, is also known as a dangerous glacier where every year trekkers die needlessly. Its continually changing icy surface creates a maze of unforgiving crevasses and slippery seracs. Trekkers who try to manoeuvre across the glacier on their own get lost and become injured or die after falling into crevasses. Such tragedies also bring trouble to the village. Authorities in Gilgit hold villagers responsible for the trekkers’ sad fate, and pressure them to stop trekkers from going onto the glacier without a local a companion. Villagers, faced with imposing this requirement on budget- conscious trekkers, find themselves in an awkward situation. Trekkers should keep their own safety as well as the villagers’ situation in mind, and agree to hire a local person. Trying to hire someone solely for a glacial crossing isn’t likely to save money, because the rate is likely to be the same as for the entire trek. This is your cheapest insurance policy. It benefits both you and the village, and promotes safe, responsible trekking. For trekkers who refuse to hire anyone and get into trouble, self-rescue is the only option. Nobody will come looking for you.

 

Stages

It’s six stages total round trip from Passu or Borit Lake: (1) Passu Ghar; (2) Luzhdur; (3) Patundas; and (4-6) three stages to return via the same route.

GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK 

See Passu (p). Borit Lake (see Alternative Start B,) is 1Km west of the KKH above Hussaini. Most people walk up the steep road. A jeep ride takes 10 minutes. Alternatively, it’s two hours’ walk north from Ghulkin village across the Ghulkin Glacier.

The Trek

Day 1 : Passu to Passu Ghar

3-4 hours, 6.6km, 810m ascent

From Passu (2400m), walk along the KKH five minutes south of the Shisper View Hotel. The trail leaves the road 50m beyond where the canal on the KKH’s south side goes underground and the vegetation ends, before the first hairpin curve in the road.

Leave the KKH and go up 5m to a good trail heading west. Ascend gradually along a spur, then follow telephone lines, zigzagging 20 to 30 minutes to a saddle. Hussaini and the KKH to the south are visible. The rock above the saddle has many pockets, which provide nesting sites for crows. Just to the west of the saddle is a boulder with ibex graffiti low on its west side. The trail to Passu Ghar turns west and curves behind (south-west) a ridge above the Passu Glacier. The trail joins an abandoned canal that curves back to the valley’s edge. Ascend briefly to a slate platform (2730m) at the base of Borit Sar 45 minutes to one hour from the saddle. The slate platform overlooks Passu Lake at the Passu Glacier’s snout and the trails north to Yunz Valley and south to Borit Lake.

Continue 30 minutes along the abandoned canal that traverses the cliff face above the Passu Glacier to a level ablation valley. From the ablation valley’s west end, ascend steadily, climbing 240m in 30 minutes to a well-deserved rest point at the lateral moraine’s edge, overlooking the incredibly broken white seracs of the Passu Glacier to the north. Descend slightly to meet another abandoned canal through an ablation valley. Thirty years ago, the Passu Glacier extended farther downvalley and had a higher level. Then, streams flowed in these now dry ablation valleys, which enabled people to irrigate the now-arid land between Passu, Hussaini and Borit Lake.

At the ablation valley’s west end is a level area with room for several tents. At the base of the slope is a small water source that is often cloudy with glacial silt. A better camp site with five or six small, level tent sites amid junipers is above on the east facing hillside. Where junipers first appear along the abandoned canal, take a well-worn path up five to 10 minutes to a clear, small, year-round stream. A good pit toilet, with a high stone wall for privacy, is on the stream’s opposite (east) side. This camp site, and the larger one below, are called Passu Ghar (3210m).

It’s feasible to visit Passu Ghar on a day trek from Passu village, but better views are obtained on the Borit Sar and Two Bridges day treks (see Other Treks,).

Alternative Start A : Passu to Passu Ghar  

3-4 hours, 6km, 810m ascent

Villagers use an alternative, steeper, cross-country route between Passu village and the slate platform at the base of Borit Sar (see Day 1). Consider this route only when accompanied by someone from Passu who knows the way. From Passu, leave the KKH at the south side of the bridge over the Passu Glacier’s outwash stream. Turn west (right) up its true right bank towards a small hotel (perpetually under construction) overlooking the river and KKH. Continue through scrub and thorny brush, cross a low stone wall and continue through open waste land, heading towards the largest medial moraine. Ascend this moraine heap and follow along the crest until it’s possible to traverse to the ablation valley between the moraine ridge and the cliffs to the south. Walk up the ablation valley to its end and climb easy Class 2 shale to the abandoned canal just west of the slate platform. Going quickly, it takes one hour to reach this point. Continue to Passu Ghar as described in Day 1.

Alternative Start B : Borit Lake to Passu Ghar

3-4 hours, 6km, 600m ascent

From picturesque Borit Lake (2610m; in Burushaski, bor means ‘salty earth’), a wetlands stopping station for migratory waterfowl, a trail ascends north towards the ridge above the Passu Glacier and joins the abandoned canal (see Day 1) before the slate platform at the base of Borit Sar. It takes one hour from Borit Lake to this point. Continue to Passu Ghar as Described in Day 1.

Borith Lake Hotel and Restaurant, run by the cheerful Tawakal Khan, overlooks Borit Lake’s south-east shore. The dorms, and doubles/triples. The electricity is dubious, so despite the geysers in the rooms there is no guarantee of hot running water. The camping fee for a site on a grassy area in the peaceful flower garden.

Day 2 : Passu Ghar to Patundas

3-6 hours, 4.3km, 890m ascent

Ascend through junipers 15 minutes to the four huts and livestock pen, and continue five minutes to the top of the lateral moraine of the heavily broken Passu Glacier. The route across the Passu Glacier changes from year to year as the glacier shifts. Its substantial marginal crevasses are difficult and dangerous, and its seracs are beautiful, but deadly. Fix a rope along narrow ice ramps above these crevasses. Cut steps on the steep, slippery ice, or wear crampons. This dangerous section eases after the first 100m. Go directly out to the glacier’s centre, then turn west and head up the middle. When opposite the light-coloured cliffs on the glacier’s north margin, turn north and head for the cliffs. It takes from one to 2½ hours to cross the glacier, moving steadily.

Luzhdur (3660m), with its five huts and livestock pen, is in the ablation valley at the base of the light-coloured cliffs on the glacier’s north side, five minutes up from the ice’s edge. Luzhdur has water early in the season, but by late August, carry water from the glacier. Beyond Luzhdur, water is scarce, so carry all the water you need.

Zigzag steeply up a clear trail. Pause at the several rest benches to admire to the view. Reach the first ridge 250m above Luzhdur, overlooking the Passu Glacier, in 30 to 45 minutes. Continue up switchbacks another 150m amid large, ancient junipers trees, with several more rest benches along the trail. After 30 to 45 minutes reach the tumble- down walls of an old hut called Luzhdur Sar, where the angle lessens. From April to early June, water from snow melt makes this a possible camp site.

Work westward through the rolling alpine meadows of Patundas. Himalayan snowcocks abound here as do the more elusive ibex and snow leopard. After 30 minutes of steady walking, reach the huts and pens at Patundas (4100m) at the plateau’s north edge, high above the Batura Glacier. A slate viewing platform overlooks the Batura Glacier just behind the huts. From here, Kuk Sar I (6943m) and II (6925m) tower above the Batura Glacier’s head. Across the Hunza River to the east rise the snowy summits of the Hispar Muztagh; Destaghil Sar, Momhil Sar (7343m), Kanjut Sar (7760m), and Trivor (7728m). To the west at the Passu Glacier’s head, is Shishpar (7611m). A small trickle of water comes out of the rock on the north-facing cliff below Patundas huts. It’s hard to find, however, so you can’t count on it. Ghulkin villagers plan to construct a water tank at Patundas.

Side Trip : Passu Sar Base Camp

2 days

West of Patundas are the base camps for the snowy summits of the Passu massif, including Passu Sar (7478m),  Passu Dior (7295m), Shishpar and Ghenta. From Patundas, it’s enjoyable to stroll through the alpine meadows along the ridge on a day trek with no fixed destination or to spend a night at base camp. To reach Passu Sar Base Camp, follow the ridge line until it becomes necessary to angle south-west (left) and down towards the upper Passu Glacier. Camp here and get water from the nearby glacier.

Day 3 : Patundas to Passu

3-5 hours, 10.9km, 1700m descent

Return to Passu via the same route with the descent to Luzhdur taking half the time of the ascent.

Alternative Finish : Patundas to China Camp

4-5 hours, 8.7km, 1670m descent

An alternative return route descends from Patundas to Mulungeen on the Batura Glacier’s south margin. Start just west (left) of the view point, and descend precipitously 1200m. From the ablation valley, follow the main trail back to China Camp (see Alternative Day 6 of the Batura Glacier Trek,).

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