Adventure Lakes Northern Areas of Pakistan Trekking

Trek to Rush lake in Nagar valley

Rush lake trek, Hopper valley, Nagar valley

I had my eyes on Rush lake trek for a long time but for some unknown reasons I never opted for this adventurous trek. I had studied about it numerous times that how dry and difficult trek is this but at the same time it offers unmatched views of some of the famous peaks e.g. Spantik/Golden peak. Not just views instead crystal clear reflections which is what makes Rush lake hot favourite trek for landscape photographers.

In 2018 for annual trekking trip I wanted to do Lukpe La trek but then I changed my mind and thought I wouldn’t do any major trekking trip in 2018. Amjed bhae and I did lots of discussion about our plans for 2018 during our Chillinji pass-Karomber lake-Darkot pass loop trek. Amjed was interested in doing even bigger trek than Lukpe La. So early in 2018 Amjed started contacted me regarding his version of trek, which was combine trek of SKAM and Sim passes, for 2018. It required a lot of funding so I tried my best to not to show any interest. With time my other fellow of Chillinji pass i.e. Mustafa Subhani also started contacting me for the same plan of Amjed bhae. Hence I gradually started taking interest in their plan and eventually gave my word that I will join them.

Now we need 1-2 more people to complete the group. We started asking in our close circle of friends whom we thought might be interested to join us. Some were interested but they couldn’t commit because it was too early and they were not sure if they will get leaves from office. Finally Amjed bhae told me that one of their Snow lake trek partners Adeel Athar from Karachi is join us and our team is complete.



The next phase was to engage with guides but since this wasn’t my plan so this time it was Amjed bhae and Subhani bhae who had to deal with all that headache. After discussions with couple of guides they finally made a deal with Fida Ali from Arandu. Fida Ali was the guide who had helped Muhammad Nayyer Qasim to cross Sim La so he was already familiar with this terrain.

When the time came close to start the trek then one day Subhani bhae informed us that his family has got visa for UK so he is going with family and cannot join the trek as planned. Actually he had told us about this even before we had started our planning so his participation was always doubtful. Then after a day Adeel Athar had informed Amjed bhae that his leaves has been cancelled so he too cannot join. Now it is was just me and Amjed bhae. We knew that if 2 still opt to go then the individual cost/head will be even bigger now which wasn’t an ideal situation for me. So I suggested Amjed bhae to do Haramosh La but he wasn’t interested in Haramosh La instead suggested me alternate plans in which I wasn’t interested (mostly for the same high costs reasons).

After lots of thinking we decided to call it off. Now I had a window and I desperately wanted to do an alternate trek of my own choice and it was a perfect opportunity to tick off this wonderful trek of Rush lake. But first I needed 2-3 people to join me, first for company and second to keep the costs down. I posted the trip on my Facebook account and Aamer Ayyub Rabbani, lover of lakes, promptly agreed to join me.

 

Rakaposhi view point, Karakoram highway

Rakaposhi view point, Karakoram highway

Day-01: Departure from Islamabad to Hopper valley via Babusar pass

At midnight on 12th of August we departed for Hopper valley in Aamer bhae’s Rav 4. We did breakfast at Balakot with Naan Kebab and continued our journey towards Babusar pass. We didn’t waste even a second at Naran but did a small stop at Lulusar lake to fly my drone. We did our lunch at Karakoram highway (KKH) after the zero point (the point where Babusar pass road joins the KKH). We reached Gilgit around 3pm but our goal was to reach Hopar village in time we skipped going to Gilgit city.

By 4:35pm we reached the first Rakaposhi view point on KKH. We stopped there for a small shoot. At around 6:30pm we had finally our first destination, hoper valley, of our Rush lake trek. We stayed in Hopar Hillton Inn lodge where I had stayed before during my basic mountaineering course in winter 2016. After dinner we went to our room for some sleep. Ali bhae who owns Hopar Hillton Inn took the responsibility of arranging guide and porters for us.

 

Barichkor, Rush lake trek

Barichkor campsite, Rush lake trek

Day-02: Trek from Hopar village to Barichkor

After breakfast early in the morning we departed for Barichkor at 7am. Our guide Ibrahim and 2 porters (Iqbal and Janu) were accompanying us on the trek.After 10 minutes of walk we were already facing the scorching sun before hitting the Hopar glacier (aka Bualtar glacier).

Hopar village is known to be the only populated place in the world which lies above a glacier. Hopar valley is a part of Nagar district but hidden but hidden deep inside the valley. It takes less than an hour to reach Hopar from Karimabad. All sorts of vehicles can go to Hopar valley. Though Hopar valley can be visited in all seasons but Autumn and Spring are best seasons to witness blossom and fall colours.



It took us less than an hour to cross Hopar glacier. Then it was the start of the driest trek I have ever done in my life. After another hour we were at Barpu glacier. We found a small glacial pond and decided to do a small break there. We had bought some mangoes so we did a little over there. We restarted our journey and after zigzagging through Barpu glacier for couple of hours we exited it to the other side of the valley. Now we were on a relatively flat stretch of the trek. There was very little ascend but very dry trek till our campsite. From the start Janu left us and was soon out of our sight. He had found a donkey which he used to carry his load to our campsite and then called our guide Ibrahim and told him about the donkey. So when we exited Barpu glacier then Janu came back with that Donkey which was again used  to carry loads of Ibrahim and Iqbal.

We reached our campsite by 4pm, pitched our camps and rested for the rest of the day. A group of young boys from Nagar Khas were also on the trek but they didn’t stop and went towards lake. Being locals and young I am sure they must have made to the lake that quick. A little later a father-son due with a guide also arrived at the campsite.

We did an early dinner and went to camps for night.

 

Sunrise at Rush lake

Sunrise at Rush lake

Day-03: Trek from Barichkor to Rush lake

In the morning the father-son due left for Rush lake than us. But we didn’t take much time and departed ourselves after quick breakfast.

From Barichkor it is a very steep climb of almost 700 meter while you hardly move 500 meters and that too backward. It took us almost 3 hours to reach the top of the mountain ridge from where further ascend is gradual.

On our way we me our friend Kashif Manzoor who was descending back with a small group. He did Snow lake trek in 2016 with me and Aamir bhae.

We did a short break and took some energy snacks. After the break we were once again on the track upwards. I found some sheep coming down so I spent sometime to capture landscape shots with having sheep in them. Another couple of hours trek took use close to that that father son due. They were taking too many breaks. They had left their camp at Barichkor because they want to touch Rush lake and then go back to camp for night.



After taking couple of more short breaks we at Rush lake by 2:30pm. After setting up camps we had hot noodles. The weather was little overcast but I was looking forward to sunsets and sunrises because that’s when the light creates magic in the sky.

The father son due reached lake but the father wasn’t feeling good so they didn’t even spend an hour there and went back. I don’t know if it was there personal choice to do this hiking in 1 day or it was their guide who had misguided them. If wants to enjoy wilderness then he/she must go with the plan which should him/her that enjoyment. I really don’t like these touch and go approaches on treks. I want to spend time to experience places.

Due to cloudy weather we didn’t get the sunset we wanted. There was a wall of rocks in circular shape where we prepared our dinner, to avoid strong winds, and went to camps for night after setting alarms for early morning wake up.

 

K2 view point at Rush Phari Peak

Rush Phari peak from where one can see K2 on a clear day.

Day-04: Trek from Rush lake to Rush Phari peak

Me and ammer bhae woke up at 4:30am because we wanted to capture mountainscapes during sunrise. It proved a little too early as the runrise took time but it helped us go across the lake and find our spots for the shoot.

It was a beautiful morning. Sunlight created some magic on the mountain tops. We spent sometime shooting landscapes and then we went to our camps. Today we were supposed to go to Rush Phari peak to see K2 (8,611 m) from there. After breakfast at 8am we start our hike towards Rush Phari peak. The hike was quite steep especially the last hour was through big loose boulders.



As we went up the views on our left, right and back got wide and amazing. On our right there were famous peaks like Malubiting (7,458 m), Spantik (7,027 m) etc. On the right left side there were towering peaks of Hisper and Shimal. While in the back we could see central Hunza from the trek.

Just in 2 hours were already at Rush Phari peak. Rush Phari peak is actually the continuation of the ridge which I mentioned in day 03 trek and further goes up towards an unknown peak.

We were very lucky that day that we found clear weather and we could see K2 and some of the adjacent peaks. I could see Broad peak (8,047 m) and Muztag tower (7,276 m) as well as Hisper pass. It was time both to shoot K2 from up there and also to celebrate our little effort of reaching Rush Phar peak summit.

At 10:45am we started to descend towards our campsite at Rush lake. We had plenty of time so took long breaksand finally reached our campsite by 1pm. Janu went crazy and took dips in Rush lake. It was daring act as we were feeling cold outside camps and he took dips in the lake. We spent rest of the day at Spantik view point (next our campsite). After witnessing sunset from Spantik view point we did our dinner and went to camps for night.

 

Hamdaar, Rush lake trek

Beautiful Hamdaar village with Spantik peak in the background

Day-05: Trek from Rush lake to Hamdaar campsite

Once again I woke up early in the morning to capture more sunrise shots. Aamer bhae decided to remain asleep. We did our breakfast at 6:30am. At 7am we were already on the trek.

Our destination was Hamdaar campsite and we had to follow alternate route for descend than the route which we used for ascend. This alternate route is much steep and difficult than the usual route. It took me 3 hours to descend and then had to wait for Aamer bhae for an hour.

At 12pm we started crossing Sumaiyar Bar glacier which is a grey glacier and relatively easy to cross. Sumaiyar Bar glacier which comes out of Malubiting peak joins Barpu glacier. Barpu glacier is a white glacier. The exit from Barpu glacier was little tricky but we eventually made it the other site of the valley.



Next up was a long walk on a trail which would lead us to Hamdaar. Just before Hamdaar comes a glacial stream. We reached that glacier stream by 3pm and it was already in full swing. Aamer bhae and Ibrahim took there time to reach that stream so we waited for them there. Around 4pm we were all together and went to Hamdaar.

We pitched our camps at a nice flat grassy patch from where we could see Spantik peak on our right and Ultar Sar peak on our left side. Hamdaar is a small village where there were hardly 4-5 homes but they had plenty of herds. An old man from village brought us Lassi which is what I love on these treks. For next 3 hours we listened to whistles of shepherds who were bringing down their herds from meadows.

Witnessed beautiful sunset at 7pm with golden light on Spantik and Ultar Sar peaks. As usual we did our dinner and went asleep because we had 1 more day left to trek back to Hopper.

 

Hapakun, Rush lake trek

Hapakun with Ultar Sar in the background

Day-06: Trek from Hamdaar to Hopar village and Drive to Gilgit

It was 16th of August 2018 and it was last day of our Rush lake trek. We were already on trek at 7:30am after doing quick breakfast. Just after 30 minutes of walk on the trail we reached another beautiful little village called “Hapakun”. The view of Utar Sar peak was one of the best from this village.There was a clean water stream so did our first stop there before moving forward.

First an hour was straight walk on a trail without losing any altitude. In couple of hours of trek through dry section of our trek we reached Boultar/Hpper glacier. Me, Iqbal and Janu took another hour to reach Hopar Hillton Inn. There were lots of foreigners which was a welcoming sign for growing tourism of Paksitan.

Once Aamer bhae and Ibrahim reached Hopar Hillton Inn, Iqbal plucked some apricots for us. After doing lunch and clearing the dues we were ready to start our road journey back home.



We wanted to spend today’s night in Gilgit so that we could reach Islamabad next day. Everything went to our plan and by evening we were in Gilgit. We stayed in a hotel next to the Gilgit Bus idea. It was time to take shower not only that we were for last 4 days but also that Gilgit was too hot. After doing early dinner we went asleep.

 

Karakoram Highway

Beautiful morning at Karakoram Highway

Day-07: Drive back to Islamabad

We woke up early in the morning because we had a long journey way back home. We skipped the breakfast and hit the road. We did breakfast near Jaglot.

After breakfast we resumed our journey and reached Babusar top by 9:30am. It was a smooth journey till Burawai and then we came across a flooding stream which had damaged the road. We wasted almost an hour getting out of the traffic jam. We did our lunch at Naran bazaar. By evening we were in Islamabad.

The end.



It was a great adventure with Aamer bhae and that too for the reason that my earlier plan got cancelled at last minute. For more photos from my Rush lake trek please checkout my Instagram account at @sheraliphotography.

If you have a question regarding Rush lake trek then the best place to ask is the comments section.

Note: I wouldn’t recommend Rush lake trek for beginners. And I would highly recommend for experienced trekkers to go for this trek after doing 1-2 days short hikes so that your legs are already stretched. Margalla hills and Galliyat region is bust for stretching your muscles before going on Rush lake trek. But if you are regular runner then no need to do short treks as a prerequisite.

  • If you plan to do to Chillinji pass trek then checkout travelogue of my Chillinji pass trek here.
  • If you plan to do Karomber lake trek then checkout travelogue of Karomber lake trek here.

P.S. subscribe to my mailing list because more travelogues are coming your way. Next up will be travelogue of my last year’s Thallo pass and Bashkargol lake trek.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Faryal Siddiqui
    May 3, 2019 at 1:15 am

    Enjoyed reading about your trekking trip, and the sunrise picture at Rush Lake is awesome.
    I had a couple of questions about the trip, 1 why did you choose to start at midnight?
    2. you mentioned cost more than once, what is the biggest expense on the trip? 3. are there companies that can organize a trip for families?

    • Reply
      The Silent Traveler
      May 3, 2019 at 8:34 am

      Thank you for the kind appreciation!

      Here are the answers to your questions:
      1- Because it takes around 17-18 hours from Islamabad to Hopper valley so leaving at night means we will save 1 day.
      2- Usually 3 things cost the most on trips i.e. accommodation, food and transport. Since this was camping trip so accommodation was not issue but we had to hire guide and porters. When you do these trips as individual then you bear all the expenses yourself but when you travel in group then costs are divided so individual costs remain low.
      3- Yes many companies organize trips to northern areas. If you need a trip get organized for your family then you can get in touch with me through contact form.

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