This week was spent off-grid trekking to Spantik Base Camp and getting set up for our climb. I’ve written in detail about the journey in my latest trekking guide: CLIMBING SPANTIK PEAK
I’ll add the excerpts from that article to this Weekly about our journey from Skardu to Spantik Base Camp.
TREKKING TO SPANTIK BASECAMP
Day One: The time had come to begin our adventure after a lot of logistical planning and preparation. We drove the short distance from the campsite to the Arandu village center in the Jeep. This is where the trek really begins. We met a few locals and grabbed some last-minute essentials in Arandu before crossing the bridge and heading off into the mountains, waving goodbye to the local kids.
The first day of trekking leads you along the upper ridge of the glacier, avoiding the arduous, rocky undulations of the glacier itself. It was pleasant hiking with a dirt path for most of the journey. A small rain shower threatened our great start but passed quickly as we settled into a great weather window, which would last for our entire journey to base camp.
The most surprising aspect of the trek in the early moments was how lush and green the terrain was. I didn’t expect to walk through fields of wildflowers, which was a stark comparison to many other rocky, dry, and dusty treks in Pakistan.
From the first moments of the trek, we were treated to spectacular views of the surrounding snow-covered peaks. It’s a very scenic journey and the trek towards basecamp is a spectacle in itself. Small farming villages comprising of a few rock huts are scattered throughout the route. Our campsite for night one was amidst one of these villages called Chogo Balansa (3350m) with the porters using the huts to sleep in, foregoing tents or tarps.
Our first day of trekking to basecamp was 14km with 937m of incline taking us just over four hours to complete.
Day Two: An early start with clear skies was the motivation we needed to get moving towards Bolocho Camp. The total distance for the day would again be 14km with 742m of incline taking us just over five hours.
Today we traversed the ridge above the glacier again, only detouring down onto the ice to avoid a few landslide-impacted sections of the route. The hiking was quite straightforward again with a nice path for the majority of the route and only a few rocky, steep sections to navigate.
Our campsite for the night gave us spectacular views and we caught our first glimpse of Spantik Peak as the clouds parted late in the afternoon. It was a sunset special with all of the peaks, including Spantik, receiving some beautiful glow as the day came to a close.
Our guides purchased an entire leg (20kg) of locally hunted Ibex, which apparently gives magical climbing powers and would surely be our staple food for the next few weeks.
Day Three: Our final day of trekking to basecamp was a little more interesting than the mellow nature of the two days prior. We immediately dropped down onto the glacier and began traversing the ‘white highway’ directly towards Spantik. With clear weather, we were treated to views of the peak we would soon be attempting to climb.
The glacier became more and more intricate, turning into an ice maze that only the local guides had the intuition to navigate. In several sections, we nervously walked alongside huge drops into crevasses on either side. Our guides roped us up once but other than that we followed the ‘porters route’ all the way across the glacier and lived to tell the tale. I think in Europe, there would be a lot more ropes and safety implemented for this glacier crossing but not out here in the Wild Wild West of Northern Pakistan.
After passing across the last of the ice on the glacier, we had one final task for the day before reaching our new home, Spantik Basecamp. A steep climb led us up the foot of Spantik Mountain for a couple of hundred meters to the basecamp. The hill was covered in lush free grass and purple, red and yellow wildflowers. It is quite a sight and definitely an unexpected color palette at 4300m of elevation. It’s seemingly a little slice of Switzerland in the often harsh and unforgiving landscapes of Pakistan.
After 42km and more than 2000m of incline over three days, we made it to Spantik Basecamp in the early afternoon. Tents were set up, kitchens were constructed and our toilet tent was erected. We had settled in for what would likely be at least two weeks depending on our weather windows. Spantik Basecamp is one of the most scenic basecamps I’ve ever set foot upon. Perched on the edge of the cliff with 270-degree views of the surrounding peaks and directly down into the glacier, it is a phenomenal spot for both sunrise and sunset. With the wildflowers providing a pop of color to the hills behind us, it’s not hard to envision being ‘stuck up here for a couple of weeks.