Monday, November 22, 2010

Heavan On Earth - Deosai Baltistan

All those who take there chance to Siachin sector (via Skardu, the valleys of Shigar, Khaplu, Kharmong, Rondu and onwards), purposefully visit to see northern areas of Pakistan and or plan to have rendezvous with fairies do pass though Deosai Plains a plateau among high mountains and unique landscape in the world.

I first got acquainted with the area when Siachin sector was active. Later, when ever I visited the area, one plan that I always had in mind was to meet the fairies there.

Baikal is what I am reminded of when ever I see the Sadpara Lake situated at a short drive (an easy walk) south of Skardu. The walk along the torrent is more pleasant and shorter than following the jeep road. The lake surrounded by bare mountains abounds in fish, and is an ideal place just to sit there and think of fairies. Who wants fishing any way!
Some more shots of Beautiful Deosai see and thanks for those God gifted nature.......

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gilgit-Baltistan governor Shama Khalid passes away

ISLAMABAD: Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan
Dr Shama Khalid passed away at the age of 60 on Wednesday after succumbing to cancer.

Dr Khalid was sworn in as the first governor of the region on March 23, 2010. She was also the first woman governor of Pakistan.

She was admitted at a hospital in Islamabad, where she was fighting against cancer for the past one-and-a-half month.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Flood kill 46 in Gilgit-Baltistan

By Farooq Ahmed
GILGIT: Forty-six people were killed and 30 injured by lightning and flash floods in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan, officials told Dawn on Wednesday. Ten people are missing.

The officials said lightning struck Gais Bala, about 25km south of Chilas, on Wednesday, killing 35 people who had left their flood-ravaged village and taken refuge on a hill two days ago.

Police chief Ali Sher said the village was cut off after a suspension bridge linking it with Karakoram Highway was destroyed by the Indus surge.

Another 11 people were killed in Khinar valley. Their bodies were found on Tuesday.

The floods have so far killed over 100 people in Gilgit-Baltistan, 58 of them in Baltistan.

People of the region are facing immense hardship because Karakoram Highway and link roads are blocked for 12 days and all flights have been suspended.

There is an acute shortage of medicines in hospitals in the region.

Friday, May 7, 2010

BASHA DAM is just only for the NWFP & PUNJAB not for GILGIT-BALTISTAN

It is great issue raise for the NORTHERN areas to disperse their concentration from the basic problems of the region, it is common in Gilgit-Baltistan that "Is Basha Dam benificial for us or not?" everyone is discussing on this topic but still we have not understand its fact. The Question is simple, where is it located? is there any industry in Gilgit-Baltistan? who will get the interest from it? who will be the Owner of it? why DAM is contructed here? what will be given to the residents of the region?

Everyone (POLITITION) thinks of changing the world, but no one (POLITITION) thinks of changing himself

by Iqbal Burcha Essa Kahn President NASA - KU,University of Karachi,PAKISTAN.

The world conditions are just like the water vapors in the atmosphere which moves according to the direction of the air. We people of Northern areas are residing in the highly sensitive region of the world, where everyone has to be attentive, but this is far away from everyone. Everyone of us trying to change the world but no one try to change himself, so the world is in crises, if everybody gives up his bad means by which he or she take them away from hard work, then it will be easy for everyone to do work of their own part. But we can see work shares in all the fields. We don't think so far about the future of our region? How world is revolutionized? the political crocodiles are trying to eat the food of our people, we are still unawake in our all fields from politics to education each and everyone raise their slogan for their own interest, no one is ready to do constructive work for nation.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Are we self-responsible?

Shahid Ali Form Nasirabad Hunza
If we glance at the present situation of Pakistan then a series of problems come across our mind. Our economy is decreasing day by day, law and order situation is becoming doubtful, inflation is on its climax. These are the primary problems which give birth to several secondary problems; such as, unemployment, illiteracy and ignorance. These are the main causes to produce a threat to our national integrity, which we call "**terrorists". Let us examine our self. It is a fact that we are well aware of all these issues and there causes. We are gone through news everyday. Now we should ask question from our self that, are we playing our individual role? The answer is definitely NO! We are just blaming each others. We go through newspapers and news channels for the sack of information and entertainment but never try to give our positive opinion in the best interest of our country. Now it is my humble request to all of you please stops blaming each others and the government, show some flexibility, think for this country, come up with new ideas and play your individual roles for the betterment of our motherland.

Gilgit-Baltistan medical students’ quota increased

Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Syed Mehdi Shah called on Minister for Health, Makhdoom Shahabuddin on Saturday and discussed matters pertaining to increased quota of medical students in medical and dental colleges of Punjab. The minister apprised the Chief Minister that the federal government under direction of the Prime Minister has decided to increase the quota of medical students of Gilgit-Baltistan from 34 to 64 in the medical and dental colleges of Punjab.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Imaginary Frontier

By Mohd Hussanan

It was about three in the morning when Ali heard the rooster crowing. He was already awake. He had not slept well through the night contemplating the journey he would make today. As he looked around, he found the others still asleep. Hussain was coughing irregularly. For the past few days, Ali's best friend, Hussain, had not felt well. Ali had lived with Hussain and his family for twelve years now. They took him in as one of the family after he accidentally crossed the border and was stranded. That was the year 1971. India and Pakistan were engaged in a war over the dispute of the State of Jammu & Kashmir, which killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions as refugees. The war affected the people of Baltistan and Ladakh, and crippled local economy. Thousands of people, separated from their loved ones as a result of the war, were now waiting for the border to open. Ali was among the refugees of Ladakh who had wandered across the border into the Kharmang Valley of Baltistan.

Baltistan: Six Decades of Impasse

By Mohd Hussanan

Although it has been almost six decades since Pakistan attained control of Baltistan Region, the western part of Ladakh Wazarat of J&K, however, successive Pakistani regimes have failed to recognize it as an integral part of the country. In fact, each regime promotes a different stance regarding the status of Baltistan and Gilgit Regions, and their relationship to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Haji Ali - thoughts and hopes

By Mohd Hussanan

Last year in October when I visited Baltistan, I met Haji Ghulam Ali. Haji Ali is a celebrity from Kamangu Village of District Kharmang. Although he is 86 years old, he is healthy, physically active and looks younger in appearance. He attributes his wellbeing to earlier involvement with sports like archery and polo, and consumption of pure yak butter and roasted barley flour which he mixes together to make a snack called 'Khulak'. Haji Ali invited me to dinner at his house in Kamangu. His family prepared traditional Balti dishes of marzan, sha-chu and srub-balay. Before the meal, he took me to his personal room. He displayed a range of items, accumulated a long time ago when he was a young trader. These items included shawls made of pure pashmina, necklaces and other ornaments made of turquoise, traditional Balti boots Lham and robes Gonchas, traditional copper and bronze utensils, and several horse back saddles with embroidered edges.

Haji Ali collected these items from various parts of Ladakh, Tibet, Kashmir, Yarkand and Simla where he traveled on a regular basis to trade. As he explained, "Farm work consumed four months. For the rest of the eight months of the year, I was always on the road. Those were the days when we could travel without restrictions and hindrances. Trade earned me ten times more than farming. It exposed me to different cultures and civilizations. I learnt a lot about the world from traveling."

Rs12 billion set aside for uplift of Gilgit-Baltistan

GILGIT, Sept 29:

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani announced on Tuesday a socioeconomic package for Gilgit-Baltistan. The package includes a series of projects in education, health, agriculture and tourism.
Addressing a big public meeting at the Lalakjan Nishan-i-Haider stadium here, the prime minister said the people of Gilgit-Baltistan would have their own governor, chief minister, an independent judiciary and all institutions which came under the new system.

Investors urged to tap Gilgit-Baltistan gems

By:Farooq haidar
Gilgit-Baltistan Governor Qamar Zaman Kaira has said the area is rich in precious stones which will be tapped through introduction of modern technology and investment.
Talking to APP here on Saturday, he said a comprehensive plan was being prepared to bring investment in various sectors and develop the area to bring it at par with other regions in the country.

Mr Kaira said tourism, mining and hydel-power potential of Gilgit-Baltistan would change the fate of the region and local and foreign investors would be invited and offered incentives.

He said the best way to solve problems of Gilgit-Baltistan was political empowerment of people and a democratic system of governance had been introduced to give rights to the people of the area and ensure their prosperity.

Gilgit Baltistan prey great game

By:zara naqui
Gilgit Baltistan has remained a victim of human, social, economic and political exploitation for the last 61 years due to stubbornness of both Pakistan and India. Moreover, there is a danger to the very identity and survival of the region. With the division of the Subcontinent in 1947 the imperialist powers of the world divided the states on the basis of their likes and dislikes and the future of Gilgit-Baltistan fell prey to the great game in the region. Before 1947, this region saw small-scale wars in which the local people without difference of color, race and religion fought and defeated the invaders for the collective good of the area. But after partition of the Subcontinent in 1947, not only the newly-liberated democratic region was attacked on November 16, 1947 but also all means were utilized to convert the area into a colony by adopting a number of bogus agreements keeping the people in the dark. Besides, conspiracies were also hatched to divide the local people. The masses first demanded their basic rights and the government promised that they would be given all the rights like roads, schools, hospital etc., step by step. When the people realized that outsider bureaucrats and rulers cannot ensure their rights, they demanded that the region should be made a province. On this the rulers said it would damage the cause of Kashmir. Then the masses said give us an Azad Kashmir-type of setup. The rulers started to delay the issue on one pretext or the other. On the whole, the government had neither a program in the past nor it has it today to end the deprivations of the people. But to kill two birds with one stone, the government sowed the seed of sectarianism in the area which made the future of Gilgit-Baltistan a big question mark. Now the people are justified to ask whether constitutional packages and agreements are enough to end the over 60 years long deprivations. Can the people meet the challenges of the 21st century without having even basic facilities. Is it possible to decide the future of over two million people without their consent. These are the questions which have now developed into a lava that can any time burst out. We understand that the future of this region does not lie in construction of roads, power houses and other projects but is liked with the right of self-rule. History tells us that no nation gives sacrifices to make itself a part of others but strives to gain freedom. On the other hand, history is also witness to the fact that to enslave the people of an area they are entangled in petty issues so that they cannot come out of the mess to ask for major rights.We would like to advise the democratic government of Pakistan to understand the realities of the present-day world which has shrunk into a global village. In today's world no nation can be kept in the dark, so the rulers should transfer self-rule rights to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as a first step. Because packages cannot safeguard the future of the people and their identity. Till the resolution of the Kashmir issue the constitution-less Gilgit-Baltistan should be given a setup under which the people could run their day-today affairs. They should also have the right to utilize their resources as they wish.

Gilani announces development package for Gilgit Baltistan

By:Pakistan News
GILGIT: Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on Tuesday announced a development package for Gilgit Baltistan aimed at the socio-economic uplift of the area people.

Addressing a huge public gathering at Shaheed Lalac Jan stadium here, the Prime Minister unveiled a series of development projects in the areas of education, health, agriculture, tourism and basic needs of life.

This was Gilani’’s first visit to the picturesque Gilgit Baltistan, who got a rousing welcome by the enthusiast crowd that continued to cheer slogans in the arena decorated with the tri-coloured party flags.

To the gathering, the Prime Minister said, “You are getting your identity today. It is your right and has been your demand, and today we are fulfilling it.”

Prime Minister Gilani said Rs 870 million had been allocated for health sector of Gilgit Baltistan and announced setting up a medical college in the area. He announced for the provision of an ambulance each for all district and tehsil hospitals.

On agriculture, he said 150,000 metric ton wheat would be subsidized for Gilgit Baltistan while a research centre would be setup to study horticulture. He said cold storage centres would be established to preserve the local produce particularly some 55 unique varieties of cherries grown in the area.

Gilani directed for the appointment of District Commissioner of Hunza Nagar within one week. He said Rs 6.5 billion had already been allocated for the development of Gilgit Baltistan and Rs 5.5 billion for capacity building.

“In the budget, we will immensely increase the Public Sector Development Program for Gilgit Baltistan,” he said. On education sector, he said 540 schools had been transferred to National Education Foundation to improve their quality.

He directed for the establishment of a bureau of NAVTEC in Gilgit to teach skilled education to the youth. Gilani said the government would strengthen the tourism sector in Gilgit Baltistan and announced to give it the status of industry.

He announced for increase in number of Northern Areas Transport Corporation (NATCO) buses to facilitate the commuters. Gilani said quota would be reserved for the locals officers in foreign and national training programs, and announced fixation of basic salary at Rs 6,000.

He said the salaries of police officials would also be increased and directed to fill all the vacant posts in the area. Gilani directed the Acting Governor Qamar Zaman Kaira to allocate land for the Housing scheme for low income group, where the government would construct houses free of cost.

He also announced setting up a housing colony for the journalists of Gilgit Baltistan. The Prime Minister announced upgradation of Skardu and Gilgit airport, adding that Sost Dry Port would also be improved so as to enhance trade links with China.

He asked the Finance Ministry to consider the re-opening of regional offices of Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited’’s, National Bank of Pakistan and House Building Foundation. The Prime Minister also announced ”Gilgit allowance” for thearea people.

Prime Minister Gilani said election in Gilgit Baltistan would be held under judiciary’’s supervision in a free and fair manner, besides ensuring a level playing field for all political parties.

He said the government had given rights to the people of Gilgit Baltistan and now it was their duty to ensure good governance in all sectors.

He said Pakistan wanted to maintain friendly ties with all neighbours including India, on equal basis. He stressed the need to resolve the core issue of Kashmir in accordance with the aspirations of Kashmiri people.

Gilani said he visited Gilgit Baltistan despite security concerns as he had strong faith in the people of area who stood by him.

He called for shunning the sectarian differences and observing harmony in their ranks, besides mentioning that a few elements were trying to disturb peace in the area by fanning sectarianism.

Gilani also directed the security staff to remove the bullet-proof glass of the dais, saying that he had complete faith in the area people whom he considered his brothers and sisters. He said the decision of Gilgit Baltistan’’s internal autonomy was taken to mitigate the sufferings of the past, and to bring progress and prosperity to the underdeveloped areas.

He said the government was planning to effectively utilize the hydal potential of the area by establishing a regional grid. He said Diamer-Bhasha dam, Bunji dam and upgradation of Korakorum Highway will usher in a new era of prosperity and generation of employment activities.

He assured that the Diamer Bhasha dam affectees would get justice and their rights would be protected.

“You will witness a well-established effective communication network, attractions for tourists, massive tree plantation and an efficient and modern police force in the area,” he said.

He asked the Chief Secretary to apprise him on development plans for Gilgit Baltistan which would be implemented accordingly. He said Pakistan Peoples Party had laid numerous sacrifices for the country, adding that the government believed in the empowerment of masses.

He mentioned that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had abolished the feudal system and implemented the judiciary system which had given a fresh lease of life to Gilgit. He said the parliament has a consensus view on all issues of national importance, adding that all political parties of the countries also enjoyed complete harmony.

“Today, the parliament, judiciary, media, government, civil society and democratic institutions and political parties are working in close coordination,” he said.

Gilani said at present there was no political prisoner in the country neither the government had put any curb on media. He termed it a proof of good governance which had improved the image of country in the comity of nation.

He said, “We do not claim that we have brought a revolution inthe lives of people in just one and a half year. But we can say, with Allah’’s blessing, we have spent every moment for the welfare of masses.”

Qamar Zaman Kaira, Acting Governor Gilgit Baltistan said the government had taken effective steps for the uplift of the locals. He demanded the Prime Minister for a financial package for the employment opportunities of the youth of Gilgit Baltistan. He also urged for a ”winter allowance” and provision of ambulances to cater to the health needs of the people.

He said the government would remove the disparity between Gilgit Baltistan and other developed parts of the country.

Earlier, the Prime Minister was presented Gilgit’’s traditional cloak and feather cap. President PPP Mehdi Shah and General Secretary Gilgit Baltistan Ghulam Muhammad also spoke on the occasion. Najmuddin Khan, Federal Minister for SAFRON was also present.

Minerals in Baltistan

By Ayub
The northern and northwestern parts of Pakistan are shrouded by the three world-famous ranges called Hindukush, Himalaya, and Karakorum. In these mountains have been found nearly all the minerals Pakistan currently offers to the world market, including aquamarine, topaz, peridot, ruby, emerald, amethyst, morganite, zoisite, spinel, sphene, and tourmaline.
The question arises as to how these were explored: by the very people living in and beside the hills and not as a result of any government involvement or support, a fact that the government of Pakistan cannot refute. In the industrial minerals sector, of course, the government-owned mining corporation is effective and has been of great help to local investors. Pakistan, through its one body, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, has always recruited foreign investment in mining precious and semi-precious stones in Pakistan. But the rhetoric of the ministry is so inadequate and ineffective that no influential mining venture by any foreign institutes or individuals has taken place. One significant reason is the reputation for unreliability in the survey/analysis reports conducted by any government-sponsored institute in Pakistan.
Pakistan is home to many varieties of minerals, some of which make it prominent in the mineral world, such as peridot, aquamarine, topaz (various colours: violet and pink, golden and champagne), ruby, emerald, rare-earth minerals bastnaesite and xenotime, sphene, tourmaline, and many varieties and types of quartz.
Sphene. Northern Areas, Pakistan, 3.4 cm high.
(Photo Jeffrey Scovil; Gem: Bill Larson Collection)
Pakistan shares a long and porous border (2430 km) with Afghanistan. This has effectively resulted in a full influx of all types of Afghan minerals into Pakistan, from which they are traded. Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar serves as the first, direct, and only market for all minerals found in both these countries since 1979, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Before the invasion, Pakistan’s only port city of Karachi held the bigger market of gem minerals (only facet rough and gems) in Pakistan. Following Peshawar’s rise in prominence, Karachi’s significance and role in gem minerals was reduced to those of little significance.
A Brief History of the Mining and Business of Gemstones in Pakistan
Pakistan came into existence in 1947 after partition of the subcontinent. A review of its history before the British rule reveals that its people and kings cherished gemstones highly. The relics of the Gandhara and Indus civilisations are a testimony to this fact. After its founding, Pakistan has given little, if not negligent, attention to this sector.
Gemstones Corporation of Pakistan was established in 1979 to effectively explore Pakistan’s own share of wealth in minerals and to facilitate gemstone mining and business in Pakistan. It had some valuable influence but ultimately was liquidated in 1997 and hence abandoned. There are two bodies now working for the welfare and growth of this industry in Pakistan: Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (formerly Export Promotion Bureau) and All Pakistan Commercial Exporters Association of Rough & Un-Polished Precious & Semi Precious Stones (APCEA). Since 1994, the annual Pakistan Gems and Mineral Show has been held in Peshawar with their joint collaboration, during four days in October. It has not as yet, however, attracted any potential buyers from abroad. Its few stalls on display cannot fulfill any of the requisite needs of experienced buyers from abroad, especially the USA and Europe.

Spessartine. Northern Areas, Pakistan, 5.0 cm high.
(Photo: Jeffrey Scovil; Gem: Bill Larson Collection)

Moving Forward
Pakistan must look into this situation very seriously. It can conduct such surveys by any reputable/foreign-based institutes to attract foreign investors in this sector. But the locals who have ever ventured into such activity have only stories of failure to tell.
In industrial mining, lease by provincial/local government exists, and in the case of precious/semi-precious stones it has been observed in emerald (Swat, Frontier Province), ruby (Pakistan’s Kashmir), and topaz (Katlung, Mardan District, Frontier Province), but has resulted in loss and/or failure for venturers.

Beryl: Northern Areas, Pakistan, 9.3 cm high.
(Photo: Jeffrey Scovil; Gem: Bill Larson Collection)

It is important to stress here that the non-professional residents of mining areas are actually the ones who mine these jewels of earth in their hazardous, traditional way of mining. They usually form groups that initiate diggings and blastings, distributing the costs that may incur during the mining period. This process is something that the Government of Pakistan has failed to control or investigate. The resulting product is compromised in terms of quality and quantity. Mining ventures in precious and semi-precious stones are uncontrollable in Pakistan because they are undertaken by its people without any permission, support, or guidance from the government.
Pakistan, based on its potential in mineral wealth, can become a great hub of the gemstone industry, on a scale comparable to that of Brazil, provided it takes a few essential, locally effective steps that can enhance the exploration of resources and growth of business. The most useful step: full and supportive involvement of the government with its own people as well as the foreigners involved in this industry. The establishment by Pakistan of the Gems and Gemmological Institute, in Peshawar in 2001, is an investment that ultimately will bear fruit.
Mining Areas of Northern Areas
•Chilas (Diamer district) – Alluvial diopside, zircon, rutile quartz, aquamarine, and tourmaline
•Gilgi , Hunza, and Shigar (Gilgit district) – Aquamarine, topaz (golden and white), emerald (new find), ruby, pollucite, rutile quartz, morganite, apatite, spinel, and pargasite
•Shengus, Stak Nala, and Tormiq Nala (Baltistan Skardu Road, Baltistan district) –
Aquamarine, topaz, tourmaline, apatite, sphene, morganite, and quartz
•Shigar Proper (near Skardu, Baltistan district) – Apatite, zoisite, rutile quartz,
epidote, and morganite
•Childee, Kashmal, and Yuno (Shigar area, near Skardu, Baltistan district) –
Aquamarine, emerald-colour tourmaline, apatite, morganite, topaz, and quartz
•Hyderabad, Testun, Dassu, Net Tahirabad, and Goyungo (Shigar area, Baltistan
district) – Topaz (best golden colour here), aquamarine, tourmaline, morganite,
rare earth minerals, apatite, quartz, and new find emerald
•Appu Aligund, Fuljo, Braldu, Bashu, and Karma (Baltistan district) – Tourmaline,
aquamarine, garnets,diopside, ruby, pargasite, emerald, topaz, amethyst, scheelite,
and quartz
•Khappalu and near Siachin area (Gaanshai area, Baltistan district) – Aquamarine,
amethyst, and fine golden rutile quartz


Pakistan » Shengus


Pakistan » Stak Nala


Pakistan » Shigar Valley


Pakistan » Shigar Valley


Pakistan » Shengus

Gemstones of Rs. 500 mln value extracted annually from Gilgit-Baltistan.

ISLAMABAD, October 02, 2009 (Balochistan Times): Around Rs. 500 million worth of gemstones are extracted annually from Gilgit-Baltistan and more measures are being adopted to explore other precious minerals. It has been confirmed that nearly all valleys in Gilgit-Baltistan are rich with gold and base metals but the need is investment to explore them in order to change fate of the area. As per surveys conducted for gold and base metals carried by Pakistan Mineral Development CorporationThe Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation (PMDC) is an autonomous corporation attached to the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, of the Government of Pakistan. It was created in 1974 with an authorized capital of Rs.
..... Click the link for more information. (PMDC PMDC Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation
PMDC Permanent Magnet Direct Current
PMDC Pakistan Medical & Dental Council (Islamabad)
PMDC Polarization Mode Dispersion Compensator (optical communications, telecommunications) ) and on the basis of Geo-chemical and hard rock samples, around 11 prospect areas confirmed gold value ranging from 0.10 to 24 Parts Per Millionparts per million

mg/kg or ml/l; see ppm.
..... Click the link for more information. (PPM) in hard rock while 5 PPM gold is economical in the world, Secretary Tourism and Mineral Department, Naib Khan told here Friday. He said a total number of 3947 geo-chemical stream sediment samples were collected from less then one sq km to 250 sq km, covering 45,500 sq km gold anomalies alone counted over 100, ranging in content from 5 PPM to 300 PPM. Around 500 samples were collected from hard rock including river floats and out crops. A total of 50 samples pertaining to 10 areas conform gold values ranging from 0.10 pm to 24.0 pm according to laboratory reports, he said and added the gold washers still recover gold from placer deposits of Gilgit-Baltistan. Naib Khan said the area is also rich with white colour Marble deposits of Shigar (Skardu), Nasirabad (Hunza) and Gupis (Ghizer) which are considered to be of international standard. The other gemstones which are extracted from the area include Ruby, Emerald, Sapphire, Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Garnet, Fluorite fluorite (fl`ərīt) or fluorspar (fl , Pargasite, Spinal, Zircon, Topaz, Berylspar, Corundumcorundum (kərŭn`dəm), mineral, aluminum oxide, Al2O3. The clear varieties are used as gems and the opaque as abrasive materials. Corundum occurs in crystals of the hexagonal system and in masses.
..... Click the link for more information., Marganite, Serpentine, Sulpher, Moonstone moonstone, an orthoclase feldspar, found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and Madagascar (and formerly in the St. Gotthard district of Switzerland). In spite of its pronounced cleavage, it is widely used as a gem. , Amethyst. He said local administration was taking a major policy initiative to expand mineral sector of Gilgit-Baltistan and also encouraging local as well foreign investment in the sector. Accordingly, the Secretary said many exploration licenses and mining leases have been granted to national and foreign investors and more applications for licenses are under process.

(THROUGH ASIA Asia (ā`zhə), the world's largest continent, 17,139,000 sq mi (44,390,000 sq km), with about 3.3 billion people, nearly three fifths of the world's total population. PULSE)

Gilgit Baltistan to attract investments in minerals sector

APP cited Mr Qamar Zaman Kaira governor of Gilgit Baltistan as saying that the area is rich in precious minerals which would be tapped through introduction of modern technologies and investment. A comprehensive strategy is being planned to woo investment in all potential sectors of Gilgit Baltistan and make it a developed area of the country.

Mr Qamar Zaman Kaira who took oath as the first Governor of Gilgit Baltistan the other day, said that tourism, mining and hydel potential in Gilgit Baltistan can change the fate of the area and in this regard local as well as foreign investors would be invited and offered numerous incentives. He said that the best strategy to counter issues in Gilgit Baltistan is political empowerment of the people and the new democratic system of governance in GB has been introduced to give all rights to people of the area and ensure their prosperity. We believe protection of rights, creation of job opportunities and business activities are the best counter for exploitation.

Mr Kaira said that in the current financial year budget for the area has been enhanced and more than PKR 10 billion have been allocated in PSDP for development of the social sector. He said that a committee comprising senior officers and technical people has been constituted by President Mr Asif Ali Zardari president of Pakistan to plan uplift programs of GB which would forward its recommendations soon.

The governor said that the public service commission would be set up in GB to create more job opportunities and train educated people of the area through NIPA. He added that "The other thing we are planning is that officers from GB would be sent to Pakistan to get 4 to 6 months training. Also officers from Pakistan will be sent to GB for training purpose.”

Mr Kaira said that judiciary in GB is independent and we have enhanced the number of judges in Chief Court from 3 to 5 to deal with pending cases.

He stressed that elections would be held on due date of November 12 and said that the elected representatives could bring further improvement in self governance order 2009. The government has decided not to change delimitation of the constituencies of the Legislative Assembly which itself was manifestation of the fact that it was fully committed to free and fair elections. After Eid, Mr Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani PM of Pakistan would visit GB and announce an economic package for the area.

(Sourced from Associated Press of Pakistan)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Baltistan - Skardu, Nagmah Valley, and Deosai Plains

by Rachel and Philippe
After our Rakaposhi Base Camp trek, we got excited and ready to do a little more extensive trekking. We found that our tent was more comfortable than in the villages (and way cheaper, too) and eating our campfood was easier on our stomachs. So we boarded another bus for Skardu, which is the base for climbing and trekking expeditions in the Baltistan area. We know of several American and Canadian parties on expeditions there, so we have a thought in the back of our minds that we will maybe see them in their base camps.

The ride to Skardu was perhaps the scariest road I’ve been on in awhile… I’ve subsequently been told that it’s referred to as ‘the road that eats jeeps.’ Imagine Engineer Pass with class VI rapids in bottom of the gorge, a one-lane dirt road with two-way traffic, mainly trucks and buses. I was glad that we were on the inside whenever we met oncoming traffic, and even more glad to know that our plans have us trekking back across this way so that we won’t have to have the experience on the outside!
There is less military presence in Skardu than we saw in Gilgit, but just as much honking, fewer women, and generally not much tourism. Between Ramadan and the fact that we are here late enough to be considered off-season hotels are easy to deal with; but food is difficult to find - stores are pretty empty and restaurants aren’t even open).

I did have a good afternoon cleaning the viruses off of our hotel's computer… the owner said it’s all the sex sites people visit, which was funny to hear coming from him in the middle of this sex-starved country (but I concur. based on my review of his computer's history log). He fed us tea and samosas while I worked, and switched the satellite to show CNN on the television for Philippe to watch while I went to town on his virus-infected. 1990s computer. It was the first time I’ve felt really productive - helping someone else out for a change - since we started our trip!

The Thalle La / Nagmah Valley Super-Trek - recommended by hotel owners and Lonely Planet, but not the Military Police
Our next trek was awesome. Basically, we linked up four valleys over two weeks, most of it on foot and
Just another mosque...
This mosque, in Shigar village, reflects the tibetan influence in an area once held by Tibetans until the fifteenth century...almost Newari in styleall but three nights in our tent.
First, we took a bus from Skardu to Shigar, an hour or so... no big deal. This tiny, poor village was filled with mud houses and children screaming for 'one pen.' This unexpected and confusing request is a remnant from previous expeditions who distributed pens to children instead of money or candy... too bad these Westerners didn't teach them 'please.'

We registered with the local police after we were met by a 'special policeman' in town. We were unsure of his credentials or motives, but decided to follow his advice anyway. This turned out to be perhaps the most amusing detour of our entire trip. After wandering the streets just to find the police station, we met one man after another, each one with a longer beard, a few more years under his belt, and less English. They didn't seem to know what to do with us... don't think they'd seen a trekker before, and certainly not one who'd listened to the special policeman before. Some kid finally came in with a fax (a fax!) detailing the process for handling pesky trekkers. It didn't take long to figure out would be expected to register... listing our name, passport information, occupation, entry/exit plans, etc... but the time for them to create said form, draw our information onto the form (read letter by letter from one of the younger guys to the old man). None of these guys really spoke English. and for sure none of them read English. I am not known for my poker face... and yet again, I failed the straight-face test, finally bursting into laughter as they tried to copy passport information that they couldn't read onto a form that they would not be able to read. It made me wish that my video camera had a secret mini-camera that I could use to share the moment.

Finally on our way, we hiked up from the Shigar Valley, over the Thalle La pass, and into the Thalle Valley. Good walking, okay weather, and the highest and (thankfully) easiest pass we crossed in our trip so far (15,000 feet... higher than any point in the lower 48). We had snow the morning we crossed the pass, but it abated - it was just enough to add to our sense of adventure. Oh, learned on that trip that
Jen, Leila and Rachel enjoying a cuppa with sublime surroundings, Amin Brakk in the left foreground....why arent they climbingit stinks (literally) when you camp downwind from a dead cow. Seems obvious, I know; but there's a lot of competing objectives when you're looking for a campsite - clean running water, level ground, shelter from wind, enough space to spread out.... well, you can add 'no dead cows upwind' to the list.
Next we walked down the Thalle Valley to the Shyogar River. We planned to hitch a ride since we were now hiking a road, but the only traffic on this 'road' was a tractor. For two days. A lot of walking, which seems silly to mention, seeing as how we were trekking... but nothing spoils the wilderness experience like pavement (pavement, now that would be an overstatement, but you could have gotten a Land Rover up this thing if you were so inclined). People were friendly and we camped in their grazing space... I think we provided entertainment to their 5am commutes (funny, these paths and roads are all empty at sundown, but full of traffic between 5 and 6am).

After another police registration post at the bottom of the valley, we hooked a left at the Shygor River. Our plan was to walk/hitch the road on the north bank to get to the Hushe Valley, which was an hour or a day away (different sources). We had a bit of a time finding this road, wandering through a standstorm on the river bank, but eventually found it. We did manage to hitch a ride on a cargo jeep, which included a stop to help back a wheat thrasher into a garage (it was blocking the road). This was on par with our episode delivering cement to the Tajik enclave.... but this time Philippe actually helped out while I (like a good woman) stayed in the car so that the village men could look in the window at me. At one village, we were told we couldn’t drive it further because the road was ‘closed.’ Unsure what ‘closed’ actually meant, we kept walking. The kids in the villages chimed their choruses of ‘one pen,’ ‘hello,’ and other small phrases (did I mention the generation of kids who beg for pens… there are always consequences of our actions, however good our intentions). We get caught in another sandstorm and take refuge on the porch of an abandoned building, waking up at 6am to find rush-hour foottraffic on our sandy path. (again, we were in this totally out of the way place, only to discover a mob traveling along the same trail at 5:30am the next morning). We chatted with a local kid, who informed us we'd just slept on the porch of a mosque (oops... pretty sure this is a no-no, but the staring throng of shalwars didn't seem to mind).

So the trip was a full day's walk, not the hour promised by our hotel operator in Skardu. Perhaps that was if you drove the whole way, but we figured out that 'closed' referred to the sand covering the road making it impossible to travel and a section of road that was missing, which would be impossible to cross for even the motorbikes. Foot traffic, no problem.

Once we got into the Hushe Valley, we combo’d walking with cargo jeeps and a ride from a friendly tour operator, reaching Kande (not Kanay or Kunde, these villages are further down valley.... you'd think they'd use a little more variety... it was comical, 'you go to khane? no Kande. Kunde? No Kande. Oh, yes. New Kande?... it could go on New Kande.... thanks to three landslides in the past decade, which raises the question of why you choose to rebuild in the same place landslide after landslide. But then, everyone's back in New Orleans and last time I checked, it was still below sea level.
there... but it could also be the zoe we ate for dinner (yak/cow combo, tastes like beef), or a zillion other things we ate, or maybe it's just exposing your body to new surroundings and cooking.... I suspect a lot of expeditions have some issues on this front.)

Anyway, I digress.... bottom line is that we are up for one last trek in Pakistan. Although the Deosai Plains are just north of Indian-administered Kashmir (i.e., troops, fighting), the whole zone is an open zone requiring no permits or guides. (This time we're a little more certain of this, although it's also possible that the next military checkpoint will have our names on some wanted list... we're hopeful that if this is the case, our names will be spelled incorrectly or that no one will be able to read them). Additionally, we will trek a jeep road, so we expect navigation to be pretty easy (turn left for India, right for Pakistan... seriously, this is the beta we were given). Basically, we're trying to stack the odds in our favor.

I should probably mention that against us is the season.... we're late for this trek according to the guidebooks and hotels.... who say that early September is 'late season' (and it's now early October). Stubborn to the hilt, we arm ourselves for cold weather and call it good.

We walked for a day up a valley (that would be really cool for ski touring if not for the avalanche shoots everywhere) and then a couple of days walking on the plains themselves (high elevation, 12,000' and above the whole way). Along the way, we enjoyed tons of food (including backpacker meals donated from Gulam Abbas cache of left-over expedition food), beautiful scenery, the wonders of CIPRO (the bug in my belly remained, but two CIPROs and all was well again), and intermittent snow throughout the days and nights.

We met a couple of Pakistani soldiers on the first day as we walked the plains, who were super-friendly and offered us a ride (maybe they knew they needed to make up for their counterparts in Khapalu). While they didn't arrest us on the spot for our previous travels, they asked where we were going. Philippe replied, "India." While I was quietly thankful that we didn't immediately get arrested, Philippe was disappointed that his sense of humor fell flat. These guys were a lot nicer than the last military we met, but they still weren't a very sophisticated audience for Philippe's comedy.

As we headed down the Astor Valley (Day 4 of what was supposed to be a 6 day trek), we hit - a paved road. This one was really paved, wide enough and graded for tank travel (nothing like ongoing military conflict to improve your country's infrastructure). Needless to say, the sense of adventure was completely knocked out of us. We decided to eat food until we busted, and hitch as soon as the opportunity arose.

Within six hours of deciding to get off the trekking program, we found all of the rides necessary to get back to Gilgit and we ate most of the food we brought along well ahead of schedule (once the CIPRO works, the appetite comes back!)

Last stop in Pakistan... Islamabad

We plan to get to Islamabad just in time to watch their elections. This country hasn't figured out two-lane roads for two-way traffic, but they are planning to pull off presidential elections on 24 hours' notice. We're curious and excited to see Islamabad and figure out how to get to Thailand, as now we are starting to crave the little things you miss in a Muslim country - 'Beer, Pork, and Porn' (Andrew Mueller, I Wouldn't Start From Here... another recommendation).

A 12 hour bus ride is all that stood in our way.... except that the bus actually took 22 hours, including a stop near Swat for radiator repair (Philippe went out to watch, being a man and all.... came back and said that the problem would be fixed once they poured the water into the radiator instead of onto it). We read in the paper the next day that another bus had been commandeered by Taliban (all passangers freed, but the article didn't explain how they made it the rest of the way), so I started counting my blessings after that.

Hotel was more expensive than all the others in Pakistan - and lacked, among a variety of other things, hot water. The best was the surprise on our hotel operator's face that we expected hot water (despite the hot water faucet and the fact that we were in the nation's capitol city). I spent two days dissing our hotel, but I must admit that once we got the cable turned on and we figured out how to stem the ant parade on our ceiling (not that I mind ants on the ceiling, but they kept falling onto our bed... now this I DO mind), I settled down.

We found a ticket to Bangkok,... direct and just as cheap as we expected. So, leaving a week early - before the Supreme Court has their chance to certify the electability of the newly elected President. Oh, we figured out a little more on the elections front... it's not a popular election, citizens don't vote. Funny that no one explained this to us when we asked at length about the elections. We learned a lot about the politics and logic behind the corrupt politicians' choices (i.e., outgoing assembly, which wasn't really democratically elected back in 2003). So this sort-of democracy has a way to go on how they run their elections.... inexplicable voting rules and boundaries, no popular vote election, supreme court challenges to the election results .... sounds familiar, doesn't it?

So we are Thailand-bound... Heading to the land of humidity for the end of their rainy season!

thanks for reading!

rachel and philippe

Election : Gilgit-Baltistan - 8 Languages, 10 Ethnic Groups, 6 Districts, 4 Religious sects - 24 National Assembly Seats !

With almost 2 million inhabitants Gilgit-Baltistan is a very diverse region of Pakistan. The population of this new autonomous region is divided in 4 of the Islamic faith - Shia's constitute 35%, Sunnis 35%, Ismailis 25% and Noorbukshies are 5%. Gilgit Baltistan will have 24 constituents seats in the National Assembly plus 6 Women seats and 3 Technocrat seats.

Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into six districts called Hunza-Nager, Gilgit, Koh-e-Ghizer, Ghanche, Diamir and Skardu.

Gilgit-Baltistan :

On September 7, 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan signed what was called the Gilgit- Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order 2009 granted self-rule to the people of the former Northern Areas, now renamed "Gilgit-Baltistan," by creating, among other things, an elected legislative assembly

Gilgit :
Gilgit which is known as Dardistan and it includes 4 Districts Astore, Diamer,Gilgit and Ghizar. Major cities are Gilgit, Chilas, Hunza and Gahkuch

Baltistan :
Baltistan includes the districts of Skardu and Ghanche. Major cities are Skardu and Kaplu.

People in Gilgit :

The people belong to the Dardic race and are closely connected with Chitralis in race, culture and language. They are mostly followers of Ismaili sect headed by the Agha Khan (Muslims).

History :
This region was conquered by Maharaja Gulab Singh’s son, Maharaja Ranbir Singh between 1846 and 1860. Thousands of Dogra soldiers lost their lives in the campaigns that led to the conquest of this inhospitable but strategically very important region. The whole Dardistan including Gilgit has been merged with Pakistan and is governed by the Pakistani Central Government. This area has not been included even in the so called “Azad-Kashmir” (literally means Free/Liberated Kashmir)

Neighbours :
Gilgit-Baltistan borders the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the northwest, China's Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang to the northeast, the Indian-controlled state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south and southeast, the Pakistani-controlled state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south, and Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province to the west.

Population :
Gilgit-Baltistan population is very diverse. 35 per cent Shias, 35 per cent are Sunnis, 25 per cent Ismailis, and 5% Noorbukshies .

Elections :

The Legislative Assembly will have 24 members, who will be elected directly and in addition, there will be six women and three technocrat seats. In order to empower the Council and the Assembly on financial matters there would be a consolidated fund.The budget of the area would be presented and approved by the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly.

Voting Pattern :
The voting pattern is yet to be determined but Sunnis, Shias and Ismailis have divergent voting trends. None of them are in allied to each other in any way.
Shias generally support the PPP and Ismailis in Karachi support the MQM. 35% Sunnis with this diverse of a group might vote in all directions including the PML-N, MQM, PPP and maybe PML-Q. Its yet to be seen where Noorbukshies would swing towards. 25% of Baltistan constitutes of Noorbukshies.

Judges :

The Chief Judge of the Appellate Court will be appointed by the Chairman of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council on the advice of the Governor, and other judges will be appointed by the Chairman on the advice of the Governor after seeking the views of the Chief Judge. The number of judges will be increased from three to five. A Gilgit-Baltistan Public Service Commission, a separate Auditor-General and an Election Commissioner will be appointed.

The judiciary of the Northern Areas consists of district courts and a chief court, whose decisions are final.

Gilgit-Baltistan Districts and Division :

The Gilgit-Baltistan is divided into six districts called Hunza-Nager, Gilgit, Koh-e-Ghizer, Ghanche, Diamir and Skardu. These districts are grouped into three agencies or Divisions called Diamir with headquarters at Chilas, Gilgit with headquarters in Gilgit Town and Baltistan with headquarters in Skardu Town.

Population (2008) 1,800,000 (Estimate) Density 20.7/km² Area 72496 km²

Ethnic Groups :
There are eight ethnic groups : Baltis, Yashkuns, Moghal, Kashmiris, Pathans, Laddakis and Turks.

Languages :
The Shina language (with several dialects) is the language of 40% of the population, spoken mainly in Gilgit, throughout Diamer, and in some parts of Ghizer.
Balti dialect, a sub-dialect of Ladakhi and part of Tibetan language group, is spoken by the entire population of Baltistan.
Wakhi, spoken in upper Hunza, and in some villages in Ghizer.
Khowar is the major language of Ghizer.
Burushaski is an isolated language spoken in Hunza, Nagar, Yasin (where Khowar is also spoken), in some parts of Gilgit and in some villages of Punyal.
Domaaki is spoken by the musician clans in the region.
Pashto is also spoken by a small minority.

People who live in Gilgit Baltistan, despite that region's being referred to as part of Kashmir, do not speak Kashmiri or any of its dialects.

Sects and Religious diversity :
The four major religious sects are Sunnies, Shias, Ismailies and Noorbukshies. Sunnies are mostly in Daimer, Astore and Gilgit districts. The majority of Shias are in Skardu. Ganche Division has majority Nurbakhshi (80%), Sunnis and Shias are evenly divided with 10%. The Ismalies are mostly in Ghizer district and in Hunza sub-division of Gilgit district.

The sect-wise breakdown of population :

Population Demographics :

Gilgit District :
Gilgit Capital :

Gilgit city and division – 60% Shia, 40% Sunni;,
Nagar II : 100% Ismaili
Nagar I : 100% Shia
Gojal : Sunni, Shia and Ismailis
Aliabad : Sunni, Shia and Ismailis

Ghizar :
Capital : Gahkuch

Hunza –100% Ismaili; ,
Punial – 100% Ismaili;
Yasin – 100% Ismaili;
Ishkoman –100% Ismaili;
Gupis – 100% Ismaili;

District Daimer :
Capital Chilas :

Chilas – 100% Sunni;
Darel/Tangir – 100% Sunni;

District Astore :

Astor – 90%Sunni, 10% Shia;

Baltistan – 55% Shia,20% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshies
Divisions :

Shigar (Captial Skardu)
Gultari : 45% Shias, 30% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshie
Kharmang : 45% Shias, 30% Sunni, 25% Noorbukshie

District Ganche :
Kaplu : 80 % Noorbukshies, 10% Sunnis, 10% Shias
Mashabrum : 80 % Noorbukshies, 10% Sunnis, 10% Shias

Ethnic Run Down of the Gilgit-Baltistan area :
There are eight ethnic groups:
Laddakis and

Interesting Facts :
Demographics of Baltis as an ethnic group: Shia' denomination (13%), Nurbakhshi (80%) and Sunnis (7%).

Noorbakshi : An order of Islamic Sufism. The core message of Nurbakhshism are complete elimination of all evil desires and immoralities of human nature from one’s self; total submission of one’s wills before God (by following the Qur'an Sunnah and Ahlibeit) and finally love and peace for the whole mankind. Nurbakhshis inhabit Baltistan and Ladakh regions of J&K, as well as a large number of Noorbakshis are native to Iran, Kurdistan and Central Asia.

Terrain :
Each district can boast of at least one lofty peak. Out of 14 over 8,000 meters high peaks on earth, 4 occupy an amphitheater at the head of Baltoro glacier in the Karakoram range in Northern Pakistan. These are; K-2 or Mount Godowin Austin (8,611 m, world's second highest), Gasherbrum-I (8,068 m), Broad Peak (8,047 m) and Gasherbrum-II (8,035 m). There is yet another which is equally great, Nanga Parbat (8,126 m), located at the western most end of the Himalayas. In addition to these mountains, there are 68 peaks over 7,000 m and hundreds others of over 6,000 meters.

The Northern Pakistan has some of the longest glaciers outside Polar region; Siachen (72 km), Hispar (61 km), Biafo (60 km), Baltoro (60 km) and Batura (64 km)

Geography :
Division- Baltistan :
District, Ghanche, Area (km²) 9,400 ,Headquarters Khaplu.
District, Skardu ,Area (km²) 18,000 ,Headquarters Skardu

Division - Gilgit :
District, Astore, Area (km²) 8,657, Headquarters Gorikot. Gorikot lies on the historic junction where roads link to Rattu axis and Tarisheng Base camp-Nanga Perbat and other axis leads to Gudai - Chilum & Deosai Plains linking Astore to Skardu.
District , Diamir, Area (km²) 10,936, Headquarters Chilas
District , Ghizar, Area (km²) 9,635 ,Headquarters Gahkuch
District, Gilgit ,Area (km²) 39,300 ,Headquarters Gilgit.

Books and Resources :
Sectarian War: Pakistan’s Sunni-Shia Violence and its links to the Middle East.
Demographics of Pakistan.
Languages of Pakistan.

China to help Kyrgyzstan join Pakistan via Karakoram Highaway !

ISLAMABAD (APP) - Kyrgyzstan is working on possibility to establish direct road links with Pakistan through Karakoram Highway to further improve bilateral trade and economic relations between the two countries.
Negotiations to this regard are in process with China, said Bektur Asanov, Ambassador of Kyrgyz Republic during his visit to ICCI. He expressed the hope that with the development of direct communication channels, bilateral trade will increase by 10 times between Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan .
He said both countries have signed a Total Taxation Agreement to protect mutual investments and expected that it will boost the confidence of investors and enhance bilateral business and investment activities between the two countries.
He said Pakistani textile products were very popular in Kyrgyz Republic and called upon Pakistani businessmen to look for setting up textile industries in Kyrgyzstan .
He said Kyrgyzstan has now shifted its focus from Western world to South Asia as it perceives for itself great business and trade potential in this region.
He said that in a bid to promote two-way trade, an exhibition dedicated to Pakistani products is being arranged in Bishkek in January and invited Pakistani businessmen to ensure their maximum participation in that exhibition.
The concept of this exhibition is to attract attention of Kyrgyz customers to the high quality and vast variety Pakistani products, he added.
Zahid Maqbool, President ICCI said that although Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan enjoy friendly and cordial relations and are tied together under the umbrella of Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) and Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), but the business and economic relations between the two countries do not correspond to their respective potentials.
He said that joints efforts were needed to improve trade relations between the tow countries to exploit the existing potential for mutual benefits.
He said Pakistan was a highly profitable investment destination as it offers unlimited investment potential in different sectors of its economy which he said are supported by good incentives for investors including a liberal trade regime, full protection of investments, unlimited repatriation of profits, an educated workforce and direct access to state authorities.
To take advantage of these opportunities, Kyrgyz businessmen should redouble their efforts to explore investment opportunities in Pakistan , he emphasized. He identified textiles, oil and gas exploration, hydropower generation, light engineering and financial sectors as potential areas for mutual cooperation between the two countries.

Why I have to go to the mountains – an attempted explanation or better a declaration of love!

By: schmid_th
I can´t live without the mountains and when I´m not next to them I get an unbelievable aspiration…
So consecutively I tried to find the reasons for this…
This is a little funny attempted explanation or maybe better a declaration of love and I guess that you also feel similar to me…
I´m sure that after reading this article you will have that magic smile on your face and the feeling that you must soon get back to the mountains – independent of all concomitants!

As ordinary mortal employee I just have 6 weeks of holidays per year so I have to allay my longing for the mountains during holidays and several weekends.
When I want to go climbing at a weekend I have 2 possibilities:
Either sitting in the car at Friday evening after work and with full speed into traffic jam at the Autobahn A8 so that I arrive in the mountains late at night, nerved and tired or starting at early Saturday morning 4 o´ clock, sleep-deprived and tired but with bright eyes and full speed directly to the Alps.

But it doesn´t matter – the reunion with the mountains compensates the efforts!

Who can understand this – standing up at a time when you never would get up voluntarily for your job!
I ate some morsels apatheticly as my stomach normally sleeps at that early time. Even a strong coffee doesn´t get me awake completely. Outside it is cold and dark and when I get out I put my headlamp on and ask me why I can´t sleep late like most of the normal men, taking some buns at the bakery and enjoy a coffee in a summer dress about 1.000 m below.

So I start walking, freezing despite of my Gore-Tex jacket, monotone, step by step. The backpack is heavy, when I don´t use it for a few days I am unaccustomated to it immediately. But it looks really silly to carry it in the office! I don´t want to explain it to my boss then…

I put my crampons on and swear as the crampons are so cold for my fingers… But soon the sky turns from black into pink, enough light for switching the headlamp off. I can see the contours of the mountains, sharp ridges and needles. My heart palpitates – caused by effort or caused by the wonderful morning impression?
I feel how energy flows into my body. How things can change within minutes!
Then the sun looks shyly over the far distant mountains. Now it is time for a short break for taking some photos. I enjoy the silence, a gently sough of the wind, the panorama and the warming power of the sun.

Now I can see my object of today, the summit is just shining in the brightness of the sun – a virgin white in a wonderful light! The longing to be there soon pushes me on.
So I take a drink of my hot tea and eat a little bit and then I go on with the feeling that my backpack is much lighter now.
Now I leave the glacier and reach the rocks, ascending step by step. The sun is shining and the glacier deep below reflects the sunlight. Perspiration is running over my face. A great mixture of perspiration and suncream reaches my eyes – wonderful! Then I put my handshoes of to have a better contact of the rocks but soon snowmelt runs into my sleeves – shit! Why am I doing this?!?

But then only a few more steps and then the rocks gets flat, I can see the summit cross, my heart beats faster! I walk faster now and then I stand at the summit!
Panoramic sight in all directions, deep views to the valleys, a great satisfaction about the managed efforts and a great happiness to stand on the top! To be unique with the nature, feeling inner peace – and no questions about why I made all those efforts.
I make some photos to hold on this memories, then I only sit there on the summit and enjoy the moment and absorb the impressions.
Then I drink some tea again, eat a little bit and then I start my descent.

Climbing down concentrately, strenuously step by step, then continuing at steep firn fields. It is quite far till the hut and me knees hurt. My tea in my backpack gets empty and there is this question again: “Why am I doing this?”
I am walking monotonously above firn and boulders and even if I can see the hut it doesn´t come nearer to me. But despite of this feeling the smoking chimney of the hut revives me.

At any time I reach the hut. Pulling my shoes off, I go inside the hut into a smelly cocktail of food, mountaineers socks and body odour. Ufff! But then I order a drink and it always tastes like the best drink in my life! Live is back in my veins!
The hut is completely full. Crimped at the corner seat I soon come into conversation with other mountaineers. We are talking about mountains, routes, conditions and we don´t find an end. Those topics are insatiable!
Then we are stopped by the hot and reeky lunch: Goulash with noodles! WOW! Everybody shoves it into his hungry mouth. And it is really a wonderful feeling when you are hungry, had a hard and challenging day and then you get something warm and well-cooked to eat.
While some people are refilling their dishes others leave the room and go to their sleeping places.

When I go to my sleeping place later with the light of my headlamp I start swearing. 10 sleeping places, 12 persons inside, 30 cm place for me, bad air and at least 4 persons are snoring. I start thinking of my home. A bed 1m wide, no snoring, fresh air and I ask me again “Why?”

From both sides a snoring man blows his consumed air into my face and falling asleep is so difficult. And when I started sleeping relatively well I already hear the wake-up call. It is like a fire was breaking off - hecticness starts, somebody stands at my backpack. During dressing myself I feel the elbow of somebody in my back. Oh, wouldn´t it be nice in my sleeping room at home…

Even if it is the second early breakfast in succession my stomach isn´t get used at this time – too early! I eat a little white bread with marmalade and drink a cup of tea. Then I leave the room and want to pull my shoes on. P A N I C ! ! ! Somebody seems to mistake his for my shoes! I don´t know how long I was cursing but then somebody brings my shoes back, he voices words like “interchanged” and “sorry” under his breath, takes his shoes and leaves.
I am totally relieved that I can continue climbing with my shoes which fit perfectly.
I can see all the lights of the headlamps and I see that they run into several directions. This means a little bit more silence again and less traffic. Thanks God!
Then the same procedure: Silence, coldness, some pains, the question “Why”, enjoying the sunrise, the warming sun, summit happiness, a never ending descend to the valley, hurting legs and finally I breathe a sigh of relief when I reach my car again. Then the happiness about the completed efforts, the impressions and the summit fulfils me! During driving home I can´t stop thinking of those magic moments I had during those two days. The little traffic jam doesn´t matter, it gives me even more time so dream of those wonderful impressions at the mountains. And it gives me time to think about the next climbing possibility…
Nevertheless I long for my bed at home. The hot shower is wonderful and brings back live into my body. And after eating a really big mountain of noodles I feel wonderful!
In bed I think back again… The sunrises, such a peace, such a happiness… Was there anything else? Well, I can´t remember any more!!! You know – Love is blind!!!

Mountains – you make me happy, you give me inner peace, to be agree with you is an unbelievable satisfaction. I don´t ask any more for the concomitants. And then I sleep with a very big smile in my face!

Mountains – I come back to you because already at this evening it is back: the desire to see you and to be with you! And I promise we will meet soon again!

Gilgit-Baltistan package termed an eyewash

The Dawn
GILGIT/SKARDU: Public representatives, nationalist and progressive political groups and activists on Saturday rejected the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-governance Order, saying it is gimmick of words to perpetuate the bureaucratic rule over the region. Labour Party Pakistan Gilgit chapter chief Advocate Ehsan Ali rejected the package and said that it would increase the sense of deprivation among the people. ‘The real powers rest with the governor, who is President’s appointee and not answerable to Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly,’ said Mr Ehsan. There is no constitutional protection to the provincial setup. Talking to Dawn Hafizur Rehman, member Northern Area Legislative Assembly and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president declared the package mere a gimmickry of words and said once again the centre was throwing dust in the eyes of people. He said a powerful governor, who would be appointed by the President, would enjoy absolute authority. He criticised that other political parties were not taken on board nor any consultation was done in formulation of this package, which was not desired by the people of the region.Chairman of his own faction Nazir Khan Naji bashed the centre and said Gilgit-Baltistan were again deceived in the name of package. He said the so-called packages could not heal the decades-old wounds of the people of this region and they need only their identification. Advocate Fidaullah, member Nala, said Islamabad and PPP-led government won hearts of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by giving them autonomy and this would ensure that people were governed through their elected representatives. He said independent judiciary was longstanding demand of the people. The PPP member said that the new setup would strengthen democracy. Advocate Aftab Haider, PPP member of Nala, stressed the need for observing a thanksgiving day for this historic package and said the federal government had once again fulfilled the demands of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who had introduced remarkable reforms. Mr Aftab said that the package would usher in the area into a new era of prosperity. He was of the view that now Gilgit-Baltistan would be hub of economical and political activities as the package was guaranteeing social, political and economical uplift. Member Northern Area Legislative Assembly Ghulam Mohammad, also secretary general of PPP, said that the package was complete reflection of the aspiration of the people and the government had taken all members of the society on board before finalising it. Safdar Ali, spokesman for Balawaristan National Front, said his party totally rejected the package, which was mere eyewash. ‘It’s meant to detract the international community from the violation of human rights in this region,’ he added. Local journalist and political analyst, Imtiaz Ali Taj, said the package contained nothing for the people and it would only benefit the representative of the federal government who would enjoy the authority and powers. Shujaat Ali, a nationalist leader, said the centre should allow the people of Gilgit-Baltistan to govern their region. ‘The so-called provincial setup aims at concealing the human rights violations and continue the colonial control over the region,’ said Manzoor Hussain Parwana, chairman Gilgit-Baltistan United Movement Said that the so-called empowerment order was illegal and held no ground at all because Gilgit Baltistan didn’t fall under the constitutional ambit of Pakistan. He demanded an independent judiciary and constitutional assembly until the resolution of Kashmir dispute. He said the government did not take the public representatives and political leadership on board to formulate the packages while the people were expecting and demanding Azad Kashmir like setup. Zulfiqar Ali Khan adds from Hunza The nationalist parties in Hunza-Nagar termed the package ‘old wine in a new bottle’. They said through such cosmetic measures the government was playing with the legal and constitutional rights of the people. They however welcomed renaming of the region as Gilgit-Baltistan. Talking to this correspondent, Baba Jan, chief organiser of Progressive Youth Front, demanded an independent and constitutionally protected governance system for the region. He said the federal government through such packages wanted to justify and prolong its illegal occupancy of the region. The Hunza chapter of Pakistan People’s Party has appreciated the new package however shown their concern for not giving additional seats for Hunza in the Assembly. Karimullah Baig, general secretary of the local chapter of PPP, said the party would issue detailed statement after convening a special meeting regarding the package. Public opinion leaders and representatives rejected the empowerment and self-governance package and said that nothing new had been announced rather old win had been poured into a new bottle. The package was criticised and it was declared as designed to strengthen the bureaucracy and unelected forces which ruled the people of Gilgit-Baltistan.

Posted in kashmir Tagged: abdul Hamid, America, Azad Kashmir, baltistan, china, european, gilgit, human rights, India, kashmir, KP, Pakistan, poltics., sakrud, world.

Treks in Baltistan

By Afzal

Askole- Concordia, K-2 B.C, Gasherbrum B.C, & return by the same route, or cross Gondogoro Pass or Vigne Pass, K-7 B.C, Skardu or vice versa
Restricted Zone: Trekking Permit is required from Ministry of Tourism Islamabad.

Skardu-Askole-Concordia, K-2 B.C, Gasherbrum B.C, Masherbrum Pass, K-7 B.C,-Hushe-Skardu or vice versa
Restricted Zone: Trekking Permit is required from Ministry of Tourism Islamabad.

Skardu-Panmah Glacier-Chring Glacier-Drenmang Glacier-Nobande Sobande Glacier-Simgang Glacier-Chaktoi Glacier-Sim Pass-Simgeng Glacier-Snow Lake& down to Askole via Biafo Glacier or to Nagar via Hispar Glacier, or vice versa.
Restricted Zone: Trekking Permit is required from Ministry of Tourism Islamabad.

Skardu-Askole-Biafo Glacier-Snow Lake-Hspar Pass-Hisper Glacier-Nagar-Gilgit or vice versa
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Skardu-Askole-Biafo Glacier-Snow Lake-Simgang Glacier-Lukpo Pass-Braldu Glacier-Shimshal Pass-Shimshal village-Gilgit or vice versa
Restricted Zone: Trekking Permit is required from Ministry of Tourism Islamabad.

Skardu-Askole-Biafo Glacier-Snow Lake-Sokh La-Sokh Glacier-Sosbun Glacier-Hikmul Pass-Hoh Lungma Glacier-Arandu-Skardu or vice versa.
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Skardu-Arandu-Chogo Lungma Glacier-Haramosh La-Dache-Sassi-Gilgit or Skarduor vice versa.
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Skardu-Stak-Stak Pass-Ganto Pass-Arandu-Chogo Lungma Glacier-Hramosh Pass-Sassi-Skardu or Gilgit or vice versa.
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Skardu-Chakpong-Ho-Sosbun B.C,-Sosbun Brakk B.C,-Hoh Lungma Glacier-Hikmul Pass-Doko-Skardu or vice versa.
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Skardu-Askole-Skoro Pass-Shigar-Skardu or vice versa
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Skardu-Shigar-Thalle Pass-Bukma-Doghani to Hushe or Skardu or vice versa.
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Skardu-Hushe-Masherbrum B.C,-Shaicho-Gondogoro B.C,-K-7 B.C,-Hushe-Skardu or vice versa.
Restricted Zone: Trekking Permit is required from Ministry of Tourism Islamabad.

Skardu-Hushe-Aling Glacier & back to Hushe via same route
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Skardu-Deosai Plateau-Chillim-Astore-Gilgit or vice versa
Open Zone: No Trekking Permit is required.

Peaks in Baltistan Pakistan

By Afzal
S.No Name of the Peak Height in Meters
01 K-2 8611
02 Gasherbrum-I 8068
03 Broad Peak 8047
04 Gasherbrum-II 8035

S.No Name of the Peak Height in Meters
01 Muztagh Tower 7284
02 Muztagh Tower 7279
03 Baintha Brakk (M) 7285
04 Latok-I 7145
05 Latok-II 7108
06 Latok(I-W) 7100
07 Skyang Kangri (I) 7357
08 Skil Brum 7350
09 Skyang Kangri (II) 7345
10 Summa Ri 7286
11 Broad Peak (N) 7387
12 Gasherbrum-III 7952
13 Gasherbrum-IV 7925
14 Gasherbrum (E) 7772
15 Gasherbrum (N) 7500
16 Un named Peak 7310
17 Gasherbrum (V) 7133
18 Gaserbrum (V-MD) 7120
19 Gasherbrum (SW) 7069
20 Gasherbrum-VI 7004
21 Sia Kangri 7422
22 Sia Kangri-II 7325
23 Sia Kangri-IV 7315
24 Sia Kangri-III 7273
25 Spantik 7027
26 Masherbrum (E) 7822
27 Masherbrum (W) 7806
27 Yermand Kangri 7163
28 Mandu Peak (E) 7127
29 Mandu Peak (W) 7081
30 Chogolisa (SW) 7668
31 Chogolisa (NE) 7654
32 Baltoro Kangri 7300
33 Baltoro Kangri (II) 7270
34 Baltoro Kangri (IV) 7265
35 Ice Dom 7150
36 Saltoro Kangri (I) 7742
37 Saltoro Kangri (II) 7705
38 K-6 (W) 7100
39 Link Sar 7041
40 Link Sar (N) 7000

S.No Name of the Peak Height in Meters
01 Baintha Brakk (SE) 6960
02 Latok-III 6946
03 Baintha Brakk-II 6600
04 Baintha Brakk-III 6500
05 Latok-IV 6456
06 Latok (IV-SE) 6450
07 Uzun Brakk 6422
08 Bullah 6294
09 Choricho (M) 6756
10 Choricho (III) 6643
11 Choricho (II) 6631
12 Payu 6610
13 Uli Biaho (I-SW) 6417
14 Uli Biaho (I-NE) 6408
15 Choricho (IV) 6400
16 Uli Biaho-II 6353
17 Uli Biaho Tower 6109
18 Haina Blak Tower 6000
19 Unnamed Peak Paiyu Group 6000
20 Unnamed Peak Payu Group 6000
21 Kruksum (S) 6650
22 Kruksum (N) 6600
23 Trango Ri (II) 6545
24 Trango Ri (I) 6452
25 Kruksum (E) 6300
26 Trango Ri (III) 6300
27 Trango Ri (IV) 6300
28 Great Trango (I) 6286
29 Nameless Tower 6239
30 Great Trango (II) 6237
31 Great Trango (III) 6231
32 Munk 6150
33 Biale 6729
34 Black Tooth 6719
35 Biange 6431
36 Lhunkgka Ri 6307
37 Unnamed Peak 6300
38 Biange Peak 6271
39 Lobsang 6225
40 Un named Peak 6100
41 Un named Peak 6085
42 Un named Peak 6050
43 Un named Peak 6050
44 Un named Peak 6040
45 Un named Peak 6024
45 Un named Peak 6020
46 Un named Peak 6007
47 Un named Peak 6001
48 Un named Peak 6000
49 Un named Peak 6940
50 Un named Peak 6859
51 Angel 6858
52 Un named Peak 6820
53 Un named Peak 6800
54 Un named Peak 6700
55 Un named Peak 6640
56 Un named Peak 6406
57 Nela peak 6394
58 Un named Peak 6379
59 Un named Peak 6350
60 Moni Peak 6300
61 Marble Peak 6256
62 New Cristal Peak 6252
63 Cristal Peak 5913
64 Un named Peak 6100
65 UN-named Peak 6060
66 Steste Peak 6001
67 Un named Peak 6934
68 Un-named Peak 6913
69 Un named Peak 6806
70 Un named Peak 6806
71 Un named Peak 6805
72 Un named Peak 6700
73 Un named Peak 6450
74 Un named Peak 6444
75 Un named Peak 6394
76 Un named Peak 6984
77 Gasherbrum(V-NW) 6980
78 Gasherbrum (V-N) 6950
79 Un named Peak 6936
80 Gasherbrum Twins 6912
81 Gasherbrum (V-E) 6900
82 Un named Peak 6753
83 Un-named Peak 6600
84 Un-named Peak 6550
85 Un named Peak 6218
86 Ganchen 6462
87 Susban Brakk 6413
88 Hikmul 6300
89 Un named 6123
90 Un named Peak 6066
91 Gama Soka Lumbu 6282
92 Un named Peak 6000
93 Khoser Gunge 6401
94 Mango Gusor 6288
95 Biarchedi (I) 6810
96 Biarchedi (II) 6781
97 Biarchedi (III) 6710
98 Biarchedi (IV) 6650
99 Serac Peak 6614
100 Hunch Back 6400
101 Biarchedi (V) 6362
102 Un named Peak 6350
103 Urdukas Peak (I) 6320
104 Un named Peak 6300
105 Urdukas Peak (II) 6280
106 Un named Peak 6279
107 Un named Peak 6251
108 Un named Peak 6250
109 Biarchedi (VI) 6236
110 Un named Peak 6200
111 Un named Peak 6170
112 Urdukas Peak (III) 6130
113 Un named Peak 6100
114 Un named Peak 6095
115 Biarchedi ((VII) 6010
116 Un named Peak 6030
117 Mitre Peak 6025
118 Un named Peak 6000
119 Kaberi Peak 6950
120 Khumul Gri 6851
121 Kondus Peak 6750
122 Khumul Gri (II) 6706
123 Un named Peak 6700
124 Khumul Gri (III) 6674
124 Tasa Brakka 6600
125 Un named Peak 6600
126 Un named Peak 6600
127 Pioneer Peak 6550
128 Khumul Gri (VI) 6350
129 Laila 6096
130 Dansam 6666
131 Un named Peak 6450
132 Honboro 6459
133 Un named Peak 6100
134 Un named Peak 6000
135 K-7 6934
136 Un named Peak 6858
137 Un named Peak 6568
138 Kapura 6544
139 Un named Peak 6500
140 Changi 6500
141 Drafey Khar (Drifka) 6444
142 Un named Peak 6400
143 Un named Peak 6325
144 Namika 6295
146 Lakpe Lawo Brakk 6593

Baltistan, The Land of Highest Peaks on Earth

By: Afzal

Baltistan covering an area of 26,000 square kilometer, comprises 5 vallys: Skardu, Khaplu, Shigar, Kharmang and Rondu. The Baltistan is the part of Northern Areas of Pakistan. These vallys are very important from the mountaineering, trekking and mountain related adventure activities. The northern territory of Baltistan contains four peak above 8000 meters, such as K-2 (8611-M) (Second highest mountain in the world), Gasherbrum-I (8068-m), Broad Peak (8048-m), and Gaserbrum-II (8035-m), and many other above 7000 meters peaks, such as Masherbrum, Gasherbrum-IV, Muztagh Towers, Latok, Baintha Brakk, Chogolisa, Baltoro Kangri, and many more.
Since time began, Baltistan has remained isolated from the rest of the world. It was first mentioned in the annals of an AD 747 Chinese military expedition to aid Ladakh against a threatened invasion from Tibet. Fascinated, the ancient Chinese geographers named it the “Tibet of the Apricots”, because of the abundance of this fruit that grew there, and still does. Long a Buddhist country, Islam was embraced in the fifteenth century and during the Mughal era it was annexed to India. But when Aurangzeb died it soon reverted to its isolated, independent ways, only to come under a succession of local rulers, Dogra, Sikhs and Afghans, finally coming into the Kingdom of Kashmir. At independence in 1947, Howeve, Baltistan chose to join Pakistan, and now the Baltistan is the Part of Pakistan.
Within fifteen minutes of taking off from the Islamabad Airport, in PIA scheduled flight, we will be in a virgin world snaking through mountain passes and following emerald ribbons of rivers, the plane will be often lower than the level of the treacherous road. Every turn will brought a breathtaking new vista, and as we will leave habitation behind, we will enter a forest of peaks and nature of such staggering perfection that it flooded one simultaneously with a soaring joy and a stark realization of the absolute insignificance of man. Leaving the plain, the most immediate impression is that of disorientation. The valley and the rock and the desert plains have no likeness to any other landscape, as if the Sahara had been dropped down between massive walls of rock. There are no perspectives. So complete is the circle of mountains everything narrow and the eye is ever confused. Lying within this ring of 5000 meters high mountains that glimmer through the haze in varying shades of purple, grey, and ochre, the jade river Indus snakes sinuously between the ribboned, wind-blown sand dunes close beneath a 200 feet high island of massive rock. It’s here that Skardu straggles along the plateau.
From Islamabad most of the Climbing expedition teams, trekking parties and other visitors like to travel on Karakoram Highway. Not until 1978, with the completion of the 170 kilometers long Gilgit-Skardu Road, did Baltistan have any permanent access to the rest of the world, even in 1980s the citizens retained their self-sufficiency and independence, aloof from the twentieth century and its wonders. So formidable in the scale of its colour and texture, savagery and desolation is the Indus gorge out of Skardu that not even Balti’s ventured to cross it. The road to Skardu is one of the most dramatic roads in the world, following the narrow, dark, bleak, and stupendously high ravine of the Indus for mile after mile. Never a blade of gross relieves the monotony of the hostile rock. Only the jade green river, tumbling and foaming in stretches of white water, relieves the grey, brown, sere, and unrelenting walls of boulders- strewn rock, and cliffs. Like its larger sister, the Karakoram Highway, it represents one of the world’s major feats of civil engineering construction and already Skardu, long a Mecca for the high altitude mountaineers, have become a major tourist resort as the coaches, cars, and jeeps flood down the road across more than 20 bridges to the town.
No diminutive this, though Baltistan, crowned by the Majesty of K-2, at 8611 meters the world’s second highest mountain, sit an average high of 4500 meters. No relief map or guide book can lead you through this wilderness of lost horizons. There are none. The horizon merge in a tumultuous maze in which west and east, north and south, lurch giddily from one side of the eye to the other in utter confusion.
The Skardu is the capital city of Baltistan. Its real attraction is as gateway to the grandest sight in all nature, Concordia, the amphitheatre of the ten of the world’s thirty greatest mountains, the adjacent glaciers and peak, and its closeness to Lake Satpara, one of the hidden pearls of Baltistan.
At 2314 meters and due to confluence of the Indus and Shigar rivers, this is the capital town of the Baltistan. It has a pleasant climate has been the capital for a long time. In summer dusty winds frequently arise during the afternoon and continue till evening. Scattered among the apricots trees, poplars, willows and bushes are the residences, Government Offices, Banks, hospital, mosques, places, shops, markets and hotels. The shops and markets sales the food items, camping equipments, fur toques, Karakul fez, turbans and flowing togas of rough wool worn by the local inhabitants. Mountaineering and Trekking parties arrive here, stay for a short period and leave as quickly as possible for the mountains. The airport is situated 16 kilometer south-west of the Skardu. The most important monuments in the region is the rock carving of Buddha, some one and half kilometer south on the road to Satpara. It dates back to the 10th century AD. The entire surface of the rock, 8 meter high and some 5 meter wide, is carved with great imagination and skill. At 15th century aqueduct located in the town is an interesting feature to see. The fort of Kharpochu, which stands high up on the rock of Skardu, overlooks the streets of the town. Hotels for tourist are available, as there are many hotels. International/domestic telephone calls are available. The internet facilities are also available.

While waiting for a flight, bus, jeep or car, worthwhile diversions include. Going around the eastern end of the Skardu Rock, you come to village of Narsok, where a pure spring emerges from the base of a monolithic rock. The ascent of Skardu rock is quite tough. From Skardu fort there is an extended view over cultivated fields and the Indus River below. Lake Satpara is about 6 kilometers south-west of the Skardu.


At 2355 meter, this historic town lies on the south side of the Shyok River, among innumerable trees on a fertile alluvial plain. The Khaplu is the District Headquarter of the Ganchee District. Facilities include a rest house, shops, and a few hotels and telephone. It is about 103 kilometers east of Skardu and can be reached by bus, van, jeep and car. The ever changing landscapes follow the sandy valley floor, black mountains reflecting in the waters of the Shyok River. On the slopes, little communities have carved their terraced fields and homes out of the mountainside, diverting the waters along a network of ancient irrigation aqueducts.

The capital of this valley, distinctively Tibetan in its people and architecture, is spread out along the greenest and broadest bowl of the valley, an arena that for the non-trekker is the key point to of the entire visit to Baltistan. For only in Khaplu, so high and close together are the regions other valleys, do you catch sight of “raison d’ etre” for any visit to Baltistan, its mountains. Here, in the early morning, as the sun slopes above the eastern horizon, its rays burst in a dazzling shower of diamonds on the scintillating peak of mighty 7821 meters high Masherbrum.

Khaplu town is the historic base of many voyages of exploration to the mountains in the region of the Karakoram. G.T.Vigne, after whome one of the glaciers south of Concordia is named. had ascended the Saltoro valley from Khaplu in 1838 in his search for the Saltoro Pass. Some 70 years later the great Tom Longstaff, accompanied by Arthur Neve and A.M. Slingaby, repeated the journey and found the pass at the head of Bilafond glacier; they then crossed and descended to the Siachen glacier. And it was from Khaplu that James Waller in 1935 with John Hunt and four others reached the Kondus valley and made an attempt to climb Saltoro Kangri (7742-m). Waller returned in 1938 with Graham Brown and two others, ascended the Hushe valley and pitched a base camp at the junction of the two torrents draining the Masherbrum and Gondogoro Glacier, from there they attempted to ascend Masherbrum (7821-M) from the South. These valleys and glacier areas had also benn visited from Khaplu by the Workmans in 1911 and 1912.

Khaplu today is still the gateway to many adventurous treks, most of which lead to the north side of the Shyok River. The river is crossable from Khaplu by a jeep. The other bridge is located some 10 kilometer east of Khaplu, a little beyond Surmo where the Shyok valley floor narrows down considerably. The walk to Surmo along the river bed is quite easy. The Saling Bridge and Surmo bridge are the only other ways to approach the valley of Hushe, Saltoro, Dansum, etc. It incorporates many famous passes such as Masherbrum La and Gondogoro la.
At 2316 and some 32 kilometers from Skardu, Shigar is picturesquely set in a lush green valley and enjoy a pleasant climate. The town is not only greener and richer than Skardu, but it has appearance of being older. Shigar was once the capital of a strong local Raja and its fortress was a symbol of his power. Games of Polo and archery were frequent. One can still see several old houses with beautiful architectural designs. There are a few mosques built in Tibetan style, which carved panels round the wooden doors. A few shops built of wood comprising the bazaar are found near the mosque. The houses of old Shigar are build distinctly in Tibetan style. The modern buildings, such as hospital, rest house, government staff quarters, etc are built round old Shigar. Ancient Buddhist settlements dating back to the 8th and 10th centuries have been discovered here recently; they contain a monastery and thousands of inscriptions and rock carvings. The discovery of a Chinese pagoda with inscriptions indicates friendly relation with China in olden days.

Shigar is the gateway to many adventurous treks that lead over famous glaciers and the base of numerous high peaks. The wide Shigar valley is formed by the confluence of the Braldu and Basna rivers, about 33 kilometers upstream from Shigar. It is watered by several great glaciers such as the Baltoro, Biafo Chogo Lungma, Panmah and Chogtoi; and this vast region contains 5 of the world’s highest peaks, K-2, the Gasherbrum group, Broad Peak and Masherbrum are some of them. It incorporates many famous passes such as, Sokha La, Skam La, Hisper Pass, Naushik La, Braldu La, Sim La, Muztagh Pass and Gondogoro la. Once frequented by local people and traders. Some of passes have become strictly technical ascent or have gone out of use due to the melting, cracking or other changes in the pattern of the glaciers.

The best way to reach the town from Skardu is to hire a Car, Jeep or va. There are clean and comfortable hotels, rest house and camping site for stoplovers.
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