Karomber lake trek is one of the most diverse treks in northern areas of Pakistan and has many entry and exit points to the lake. It is also one of the most beautiful treks. Karomber lake lies on the boundary of Broghil valley in Chitral and Ishkoman valley in Gilgit Baltistan. The easy and shortest route to Karomber lake is from Chitral side (via Mastuj, Broghil valley).
In 2015 my yearly long trekking plan was to do Karomber lake trek. I had assembled a strong group of 16 members from different cities of Pakistan. All of us had done many treks together except 2 who were friends with one of the member with whom I had done K2-Gondogoro La trek in 2014.
The initial plan was to take the usual route that is to take the Islamabad to Chitral route via Lowari pass. We were supposed to start our trek on 3rd day of Eid-ul-Fitr. Unfortunately as the days of trek came close the monsoon season started picking up and then there were severe flooding in Chitral region which cut off the road communication at many locations between Lowari pass and Mastuj.
Couple of days, before the start of the trek, I decided to cancel our plan because it wasn’t feasible anymore but most of the members had taken leaves from offices so we had to do something at least. I gave few alternate options to the team members but most of them were determined to do the Karomber lake trek. We discussed the alternate routes of Karomber lake trek and decided to do it totally the opposite way of our original plan. The original plan was to explore Broghil valley up to Karomber lake and then exit via Darkot (aka Darkut) pass into Yasin valley. So now we had to start our trekking from Darkot village to cross Darkot pass into Broghil valley.
Day-1: Islamabad to Gilgit
We started our journey around 9pm from Islamabad towards Gilgit in a booked vehicle. We reached Gilgit right before the sunset. We spent our first night at “Life Adventure Guest house” hotel in Gilgit city.
Day-2: Gilgit to Darkot village
We departed early morning from Gilgit to Darkot village via a booked Hiace. From Gupis the vehicle took the right turn to cross a rider over Ghizer river to enter into Yasin valley. We made a short stop at Lalak Jan Shaheed Maqbara where we also met his elder brother. While passing through the Yasin valley we noticed a lot of apricot which was being dried on rocks and on rooftops. We requested our driver to get us some fresh apricots. Luckily after 10 minutes the driver stopped the vehicle, got out of it and went inside a home which was his own home. But before he would bring us apricots from his own garden everyone of us tried to pluck apricots from trees from another home. We ate lots of apricot over there and also carried some with us. Finally we reached Darkot village yet again just before the sunset.
Since we had just reached there and we had yet to hire guide, porters and a cook from there in the morning hence we had to prepare dinner ourselves for that night. Abdullah Saleem, who is MashaAllah a complete package, knew how to cook but didn’t know how to make Gol Roti (round bread). We didn’t even had “belna” (that thing which is used to make round bread) so it was quite fun. Some others joined Abdullah (he is good at cooking so he prepared a dish of “lady fingers”) including our only female member Zahra (she made some “paide” and helped bake bread). Usma Shah nai bhi kuch paide banae aur Zahra and Usman nai rotian pakaen. A delicious dinner was prepared that night in the lovely village of Darkot.
Day-3: Darkot village to Darkot base camp (Khambakh)
Early morning the Numberdar (that’s how it works in Darkot village) showed up with porters and guide who would take us to Chikar in 2 days. After pack-up and distribution of luggage among porters we set off on our first trekking day of the trek. Our destination for the first trekking day was Khambakh campsite (base camp of Darkot pass). The initial phase of the trek was easy until a narrow gorge came where we had to cross a flooding nullah and then steep hike started. The area after the gorge is a lush green summer pasture called Rawat, which is surrounded by touring snow capped mountains, and is one of the most beautiful valley I have ever seen.
We took a tea break in the middle of Rawat after crossing the same flooding nullah which we had faced after the narrow gorge but at this point there was no bridge hence we had to take the support of porters.
After the tea break we started the hike towards our ultimate destination for the day. Now the hike was becoming very serious. Especially once we were out of the green pasture area then the hike was too steep. Couple of our group members managed to reach the camp site before the sunset but most of the members reached there in the prevailing darkness.
The campsite was one of the nastiest sites I have ever seen but we had no choice. There was not enough space for setting up even a 2 person camp properly so all the camps were loosely setup. But the view was nice towards Darkot village. It was like an eagle’s nest.
Day-4: Darkot base camp to Chikar via Darkot Pass
It was blowing hard in the night and by early morning our campsite was presenting a view of a war-zone where nothing was in its order. Due to thick fog and almost zero visibility we had to wait for couple of hours before we could start our journey towards Darkot pass.
Around 8am we decided to depart for the pass. After an hour we reached the glacier of the Darkot pass. After 1 hour of struggle on the tricky and steep ascend we reached the smooth surface of the pass. We were on the Darkot pass top at around 11am. After a short rest on the top we started our journey towards Chikar. We found more soft snow and less steepness on the Chikar side than the Rawat side so descending proved a little easy.
After the descend tea break was taken and everyone was feeling relaxed like they were done for that day’s trek but they didn’t know that the hard work was yet to be done.
Usually when you are coming from Chikar side to cross Darkot pass towards Darkot village then you cover this whole patch between Chikar and Darkot in optimum three days. This spot where we took tea break serves as base camp while coming from Chikar side and next day you cross the Darkot pass to reach Rawat for night stay. But we had started our plan in reverse order so we reached Darkot base camp on the descending side hence we decided to reach Chikar the same day.
Hence after wasting a good amount of time we started the journey towards Chikar through the mountainous path high above the glacier. Occasionally we had to take slides through patches of snow. With every passing hour the day started to seem longer and longer. There was no sign of camping site even crossing ridge after ridge. Eventually darkness started prevailing and the strong 16 members group got split into 2-3 members’ sub-groups. At one particular spot it seemed there was no way to go ahead but once you got close to that spot they would find that you have to walk through an arc on a very narrow patch to keep moving ahead.
Usually I try to walk at a normal speed but now it was time to switch the gears to reach the campsite so that I could send some porters back to help out other members. By 8pm I caught the forward team of 4-5 members and we reached campsite at around 8:30 pm. The guide and porters themselves had realised the situation so few them were are already on their way back to help others with the backpacks and with the route of the trek. The last batched reached campsite at around 10pm.
That night most of the members opted to rest and skip the dinner. Some of us got a little bit into high altitude sickness issue including myself. We had gained 1,700m elevation on the very first day of our trek without acclimatisation which was totally wrong.
Day-5: Chikar to Lashkargaz
Surprisingly next morning everyone got up early and started preparing for another day’s of adventure. I myself got up at the right time because sun had just started painting peaks with gold color.
After breakfast porters were hired for next stage i.e. Lashkargaz and the porters of Darkot pass had to laid off. As per local rule in Broghil valley we had to change porters at Chikar and hire new ones from Chikar till Lashkarga. That’s how it works when you trek in Broghil valley.
Today I was trekking in broghil valley and it was time to start doing what I like the most i.e. start asking for lassi, yogust, cream or milk from locals. I got the first taste of Lassi at Chikar village just after 10 minutes of straight walk. Then after crossing Chilmarabad I asked a local boy for Lassi and he brought me yogurt, lassi and dried bread. 🙂
Right after Chikar village comes Ishkarwaz where there is Chitral scouts’ check post and everyone must register himself/herself in the register. Ishkarwaz is easily accessible by 4×4 jeeps on dirt road from Mastuj but the distance is quite long and takes almost 10 hours to reach here.
Today’s trek was quite long as well but it was the easiest day as we didn’t have to gain much altitude. There was just one scary patch where you had to walk almost on the edge of Yarkhoon river because of a landsliding on your left side. Everyone reached Lashkargaz before sunset except me and two other members. We opted to rent out rooms in the only 2 room hotel at Lashkargaz owned by a very short and chirpy guy named “Sultan”. There were just two homes around the hotel, one owned by Sultan and other one owned by his cousin.
Lashkargaz is a very plan area where polo festivals are also held. Sultan is a fine horse rider as well and have won some trophies in horse polo.
In mid night it started raining heavily and continued till morning.
Day-6: Lashkargaz to Laly Rabat
Rain started to slow down early in the morning and eventually stopped by the time we were ready for today’s trek. The initial phase of the day was through very flat area, then came a narrow gorge with multiple streams. There were two paths after the gorge, one went through a village called Showrsheer and the other one was going high above Showrsheer. Most of the members took the higher route while me along with 2 other members took the lower route.
Once again I started making deals with kids to bring me some Lassi and was successfully in securing some deals by just giving some dates and sweats to them. 🙂
After Showrsheer the hike was little steep and we had cross a couple of streams. Our target was to reach Laly Rabat which is a summer settlement of locals of Broghil valley. There were many shepherds’ huts and all of them were empty. Abdullah had already bought a goat for tonight’s dinner. We prepared two different dishes tonight and it was a very good night from food point of view. We used one of the hut as our kitchen and opted to sleep in the other huts instead of camping.
Day-7: Laly Rabat to Karomber lake
This day we had to reach Karomber lake. The lake for which we had come from far far way. Everyone was excited to see the ultimate beauty sandwiched between the valleys of Broghil and Ishkoman.
This day the trek was mostly through beautiful meadows. The trek was initially almost flat and started to gain altitude towards Karomber. Weather was very misty and light rain started after an hour of trekking. It continue in patched throughout the day.
Just before the lake I cam across 3 little boys with 1 black Yak so finally I found a chance to do some Yak safari. I did some Yaki safari and told Usman to take some pictures while I am doing Yak safari (Unfortunately my friend Usman lost his cell phone with all the trip photos, selfies and videos when we reached Gilgit city on our way back). Some of the other members also did Yak safari on the same Yak.
Most of the members reached lake by 12pm in the noon. Due to rain we couldn’t move too much around the lake. By evening the rain was in full swing and we had to face some trouble during night as such was the intensity of rain. One of our main camps didn’t stand in the way of rain so the members of that camp had to be stuffed in other camps.
Day-8: Karomber lake to Lashkargaz
Though the night was not cheerful but when we woke up early in the morning then what we witnessed was one of the best sights I have ever witnessed in my trekking career so far. There was a mighty lake engulfed by fog and sun was peaking out from behind. It was a moment to soak in. It was time to jump out of camp and do some photography.
Once I was done with photography, I went up on high point on side of the lake and found a big flat rock to get me some much needed sleep. Once again I have slept in complete wilderness, even without camps, but that sleep up there on the rock was something different. And why wouldn’t it have been such a good nap because I sacrificed breakfast for it, I don’t do breakfast on treks anyway. 🙂
When I came down then we had some discussion regarding our return journey and majority voted to leave on that same day. We left the lake by 11am for Lashkargaz (which means we had to cover two days of trek in single day on our way back).
Day-9: Lashkargaz to Kashmanja
Today we departed early to reach Ishkarwaz. When we were going to Lashkargaz from Chikar then I had requested the Chitral scouts that we will be coming back on 30th of July so they should help us to get a 4×4 jeep. We can back on 29th of July as we didn’t spend 2 nights at Karomber lake as per the plan. When we reached Chitral scouts’ post, they informed us that lots of landsliding has occurred and road infrastructure has been severely damaged at various locations. Now we had no choice but to either cross the same Darkot pass or take the dangerous road towards Mastuj. We decided to opt for the second option and our first target was to reach Chitral scouts’ post at Kashmanja.
We reached Kashmanja by evening and were welcomed by Chitral scouts there. They spared 2 rooms for us to stay for a night. We had our own food, kitchen stuff and a hired cook so preparing dinner/breakfast wasn’t an issue but getting a place for night was a blessing. After such a long trek and uncertainty ahead of us nobody would have opted to camp unless we had no option. Of course our only female member had no choice but to camp. 🙂
Day-10: Kashmanja to Powar
The day began with the first real adventure of the whole trip when we had to cross a huge but a very fresh landsliding on the edge of flooding Yarkhoon river. We had hired new porters with the help of Chitral scouts at Kashmanja to help us cross the landsliding area and take us to a point where there were 2 jeeps ready to take us few kilometers towards Mastuj side. After covering around 10-12km of distance we reached a point where road was washed out by rain so from that point we had to backpack and continue the journey on foot until we would find jeep(s) somewhere. Finding porters at that point was a nightmare but eventually we managed to get 2 donkeys from nearby settlements.
After couple of hours of trekking on the road we found a jeep in a village which took us further 15km until we hit another landsliding. Once again we had no choice but to backpack and use our own tires to reach next Chitral scouts’ check post which would help us get jeeps. Next Chitral scouts’ camp was in a place called Dobargar. When we reached Dobargar, the Chitral scouts informed us that there is a chance of a huge flooding few hundreds yards ahead so we should cross the nullah and after nullah a jeep will be ready for us. We did so and crossed the huge flooding nullah after which there was a jeep ready to take us to our final destination of the day i.e. Chitral scouts’ post in Powar.
Just before Powar we faced another huge landsliding area at Sholkoch so yet again we had to trek on the road to reach our destination. There was a flooding Nullah at the mouth of Powar where the bridge was damaged so due to intensity of the water only 2 members of our team managed to cross the nullah, rest had to stay in a hotel just before the nullah.
Day-11: Powar to Gilgit city via Shandur pass
In the morning the flow of water had receded so we crossed the nullah and reached Chitral scouts’ post to join our 2 members who had stayed there. We continue our journey on foot until we found a jeep to take us few kilometers more ahead before we would hit another road block. This time the landsliding was small and locals were busy to repair the road but it wasn’t ready yet so had to load off and 2 of our members went to find a jeep for us. There were lots of jeeps parked at homes but the problem was shortage of fuel. Finally after couple of hours of wait the 2 members came back with a jeep. In the meantime the locals had cleared the road and the previous jeep was ready too. When it is your bad luck then you cannot do anything except to go through all of this. 🙂
This time we had to reach Brep which would be last road block in our way back home. By mid day we reached the landsliding area. We loaded off the jeep and crossed the landsliding area. A relief camp was setup by locals for the people of Brep village which was completely destroyed. Some of us donated some money. Finding jeeps wasn’t an issue because there so many of them there due to the relief camp. We booked a vehicle till Mastuj which brought us to Mastuj bazar by afternoon. After some failed negotiations we switched to a 14 seater vehicle which would take us to Gupis to switch to another vehicle.
Day-12: Continued Journey towards Islamabad
We continued our return journey through the night to reach Gilgit city early in the morning where we switched to yet another booked vehicle which would bring us back to Islamabad. We wanted to come back via Babusar top. Initially we were not allowed to take the Babusar route as some high ranked official was on the visit but our driver was clever enough so he took us to Chilas bazar for dinner and came back to zero point to take the Babusar route. This time we were allowed and we were all so happy.
In this all adrenaline rush we lost almost all of our kitchen stuff, majority of it was lost while crossing the nullah after Chitral scouts’ post in Dobargar. Then we lost rope of worth Rs. 18k while we were switching vehicles at Gupis in the middle of the night. But the good thing is that we all reached safely back home without any mishaps.
One thing which I really regret about Karomber lake trek is that we didn’t spend 2 nights up there. But I plan to go there in 2017 via Chillinji pass and exit via Darkot pass, hope everything goes right till then.
Photos from Karomber Lake Trek:
Who wants to join me in 2017 to explore Karomber lake? Let me know about your willingness to join and your past trekking experience in the comments section below.
Traveling is living!