The Story of Lela's British Spantik Expedition, 2012 in photographs
IntroductionThe plan for this expedition was to make an attempt on Spantik, a mountain of just over 7000 m in the Karakoram. Support was provided by our good friends Anwar and Akbar Syed, of Lela Peak Expeditions. In the event, illness persuaded us to abandon the climb after only a couple of days at basecamp and we returned to Skardu before heading off to the village of Machulo in the Hushe Valley to stay with friends. While we were there, Clare did some work for the Felix Baltoro Foundation, interviewing teachers who had recently participated in teacher traiing courses run by the Foundation, This gave us a unique opportunity to travel the length of the valley meeting and talking with people. So not all was lost!
Skardu to Spantik basecamp
Bridge repairs en route to Arandu for the start of the trek to Spantik basecamp.
Reloading the porter‘s jeep.
Arriving at the first campsite close to the village of Arandu which lies behind the glacier in the distance. We managed to grab this jeep after portering our gear accross the last broken bridge. Miraculously it was large enough to carry us, our gear and our entire enrourage.
An uninspiring and desolate looking place from where to start the trek to basecamp!
Passing piles of freshly harvested wheat on the way in to Arandu village.
Leaving Arandu via the suspension bridge over the fast flowing river.
Clare with Hussain, first steps on the trail to basecamp.
Porters on the trail.
After six hours walking from Arandu we reach our campsite for the night at Manpikhuro. For accomodation we have a huge Coleman dome tent with room to stand up in - excellent! Thank you Lela Peak Expeditions!
Shortly after leaving Manpikhuro the trail winds up the hill passed this deserted summer village, embedded into the hillside.
Climbing up to the top of the morraine gives us a fine view of the Chogolungma glacier, our constant companion on the trail to Spantik.
Fida on the trail.
Difficult walking conditions on the morraine as Spantik reveals itself in the distant clouds.
After leaving our third campsite at Bolocho, we climb on to the Chogolungma glacier to complete the final stage of our journey to basecamp.
Andy, Ibrahim and Clare on the glacier. Ibrahim was our excellent local guide.
Climbing up from the glacier to reach the lofty perch of basecamp, we traverse through luxurious greenery. Not what we are used to - this area is a strange contrast the deserts of the Baltoro, only a few kilometres to the east.
Spantik basecamp, perched on a steep and rocky ridge a couple of hundred metres above the Chogolungma glacier.
Ibrahim in our luxuriously appointed mess tent at basecamp. We even had a cover on the floor!
The FTA team‘s goat gets the knife treatment. For reasons that are not entirely clear, photographing this event was mandatory and the results were closely inspected afterwards.
Basecamp seen from the climb up to Camp 1
The source of the Chogolungma glacier, seen en route to Camp 1.
Looking back down the Chogolumgma glacier.
First snow! Grace, a member of the FTA team, carrying a large load of equipment up to Camp 1.
Cairn at the top of the ridge, marking the end of the steep climb up towards Camp1. Beyond the cairn are easy snow slopes.
Grace on the final slopes up to Camp 1.
Tents at Camp 1. From here virtually the whole route to the summit is can be seen.
Grace, still well acclimatised from weeks on Broad Peak, showing off while hanging around at Camp 1.
Back at basecamp after the first foray to Camp 1. Clare talking with Noel, the fourth member of the FTA team.
Mackerel skies over the shower tent.
Peace and tranquility at Spantik basecamp.
Return to Skardu
Due to illness we decide to abandon plans to climb Spantik and return to Skardu. Heading back down the Chogolungma we pass this boulder precariously perched on a pillar of ice.
Clare and Ibrahim dodging crevasses on the way back down the glacier.
Sikandar, our chief porter and headman of Arando village, with Clare and Ibrahim after climbing up the morraine from the glacier. When Clare got too weak to climb the steeper sections, Sikandar actually carried her up them. An unbelievable feat given the loose terrain and the proximity of several bottomless crevasses along the way - what a guy! It would have been an impossible day without the help of our two Pakistani friends!
Back on easier ground, we continue our long walk back to Manpikhuro, stopping only briefly for green tea and biscuits at our former campsite at Balocho.
Approaching Arando once again, threshing is in progress. The cattle are tied to a post in the centre and driven round and round to separate the grain from the chaff.
Safely back on the suspension bridge outside Arando.
Our fabulous Arando porter team, Sikandar, Clare and Ibrahim infront.
On the road back to Skardu we stop to repair one of the jeeps. Despite there being little sign of any nearby villages, it doesn‘t take long for a crowd of inquisitive yougsters to gather.
Clare with her new gang of mischievous friends.
To the Hushe Valley
After a short time to recover at our favourite Masherbrum Hotel in Skardu, we depart for the Hushe Valley in Lela‘s jeep with Ibrahim and Tahir, one of the Syed brothers. On the way we stop at Skardu University to collect the exam results.
Karakoram International University, Skardu Campus.
No rest in the Hushe Valley, after meeting our friends it‘s straight down to business and off to the nearby village of Tallis to see how the area is recovering after the devastating floods of 2010 and 2011. This ‘shack‘ is on of the UN contructed emergency shelters constructed in 2011 after a huge mud slide carried away most of the village. Luckily this time they had some warning and nobody was killed, but many of the houses rebuilt by the Felix Baltistan Foundation were lost.
The green tranquility of the Hushe Valley gives no indication of the perils involved in eaking a living out of these remote places.
Plaque above the door a new home constructed with the help of the Felix Baltistan Foundation, a Basque NGO with a long history of supporting the area.
Harvest scenes around Talis.
Clare surrounded by drying wheat, Basharat Ali, director of education for the FBF in the foreground with the carrier bag.
A familiar sight around the valley at this time of year, another load of wheat being brought in from the fields.
Clare with one of the Tallis teachers, trained through the FBF‘s teacher training program.
Woodland landscape at Tallis.
The new school building.
View from the window of one of the houses currently being constructed in Tallis by the FBF.
Sacks of grain awaiting collection.
Moving on from Tallis we enter the village of Balegon and Clare interviews the local teacher, another benficiary of the FBF teacher training program. Seen here beside the Wild Frontiers sponsored school building.
Another view of the Balegone school, sponsored by Wild Frontiers.
Clare, Basharat Ali and Rustam Ali in Balegone, beside the hydroelectric pipeline.
Here‘s trouble - a young lad in Balegone.
Bright and early the next morning we are down on the river below Machulo, waiting to catch the FBF school transport jeeps going by on their way to Khaplu.
Stopping the jeeps as they pass, Clare and Basharat chat to the youngsters on their way to school. Without the financial support of the FBF, many of them would not be able to continue their education beyond primary school level.
Lads from the Khaplu school line up to be photographed. The girls are less keen to have their pictures taken, while publishing them on a website would result in complaints from the male family members - unfortunately that‘s part of life in northern Pakistan for the time being.
From the bottom of the valley we head back up, travelling by jeep to visit as many of the FBF sponsored schools as possible. Trying to cross the river to reach the village of Khane we are stopped by yet another broken bridge.
This one is not going to take the weight of a jeep, so our only option is to get out and walk. Fortunately it‘s only a short walk from the bridge to the school.
Returning back to our trusty jeep after visiting the school at Khane.
Looking back at the village of Khane and its broken bridge.
Our next stop is the large village of Khande which boasts an impressive school building. We stop here to interview more teachers, drink tea with the principals, and eventually to meet up with many of our friends from previous visits to the area. Among them our good friend Moussa from the 2010 Broad Peak expedition.
Clare with one of the teachers from the Khande school. We never stop being impressed by the dedication of these people to teach quality lessons and the willingness of the children to learn.
Last stop on our scenic tour of the valley is the village of Hushe where we interview teachers from the Mashabrum Public School.
The headmaster and teacher from the Hushe village school together with a visiting teacher from Khane village.
A heavy rain shower hits the village while we are waiting for lunch to be prepared in the luxurious Spanish owned hotel. Fortunately, no damage was done to the road back down the valley - always a concern in this region. We didn‘t really fancy a marathon walk to get back to Machulo.
Two youngsters from Hushe village.
Clare and Hassan, the accounts manager for the FBF in the Hushe Valley, in the fields behind the Spanish hotel.
Andy and Clare.
The rather luxurious Spanish hotel, completed in 2010. A great spot to recover after crossing over from the Baltoro via the Gondogoro La.
Back in Machulo we take to the rooftop for a family photo session with our friends. At the back are Hussain (left) and Iqbal.
Clare and Hussain in discussion over dinner.
Time for handing around the last of the presents.
? and Iqbal.
Hussain with his and Fida‘s mother.
Back at the Felix Inurrategi Guest House in Machulo, we are treated to a fantastic meal by Basharat and Rustam Ali. Proceedings draw to a close with the presentation of this fantastic Balti woollen hat with traditional flower decoration - fantastic!
Skardu and the Karakoram Highway
Back in Skardu, visiting Ibrahim‘s family at his beautiful house on the outskirts of the town. A far cry from the dust and noise of the centre. Clare with Ibrahim and his wife together with his younger brothers and sister.
Unable to get a flight out of Skardu we leave late at night for the two day journey down the Kararkoram Highway. Early on the second day we are stopped by a recent mudslide blocking the road a few kilometres from the town of Chilas. It takes all day for the army to organise themselves and acquire enough fuel to clear the slide.
After 12 hours of waiting the road is cleared enough to allow vehicles through and we are on our way again. More every man for himself than first come first served, but that is the Pakistan way and somehow it seems to work. Eventually we arrive back in Islamabad with some time to spare before our flight back to the UK. We spend most of the time getting to know the local pizza restaurant!