Before the Himalaya comes to its abrupt end at Nanga Parbat in Pakistan, a second range rises to the north in a more accentuated northward curve. This is the Great Karakoram Range which stretches north to China and west to Afghanistan. The Karakoram is not a continuation of the Himalaya but a parallel mountain chain. It is separated from the main Himalayan range by the Indus which flows westward from Tibet to Nanga Parbat where it finds, at last, a southern course toward the Arabian Sea. The Great Karakoram is further divided by the Hunza River with the mountains to the west of that river being known as the Hindu Kush.
However, despite their proximity and a common beginning, the mountains of the Karakoram are very different from those of the main Himalaya. The Monsoon which brings life to the foothills of the Indian, Nepal, and Bhutan Himalaya does not reach the Karakoram. Here is a high altitude desert of rock and sand punctuated by small, man made, oases of hard won greenery. Thus the landscape is much more prone to erosion and gives rise to fantastic towers and spires. Though the monsoon does not affect the Karakoram, the range is not devoid of all precipitation and there is a permanent snow line above 6000 metres (20,000ft.). Because of its more northerly latitude, the glaciers in the region are longer and bigger than anything in the main Himalaya - in fact they are the biggest outside of the polar regions. All this gives the approaches to the mountains of the Karakoram a very different, and much wilder aspect compared to those which lie to the south and east.
Electric Supply and Plugs
The electricty supply can be erratic with occasional (normally scheduled) power cuts. The voltage is 220v at 50Hz and the most common plug socket is the 'Europlug' which takes two round parrallel pins. Occasionally you will also see Type D sockets with an third larger round pin for earthing.
The time in Pakistan is GMT +5hours.
Urdu is the only official language of Pakistan, although English is widely spoken in the cities and is the language of business and most of the government ministries. Urdu is closely related to Hindi but is written in a different alphabet. Many other languages are spoken in Pakistan, and in the area of our trek, Balti which is related to ancient Tibetan is the regional language. Your local guide will have a reasonable knowledge of English and porters will know some words.
Dress & observances
Visitors to Pakistan should behave and dress respectfully according to local custom which does vary from place to place. In general, women should wear loose fitting clothing, covering arms and legs, and should also wear a simple headscarf whilst in towns and villages. Men should also be discreet in their dress, avoiding shorts and any tight fitting or body-revealing clothing. In the capital Islamabad, things are more relaxed and here many Pakistani men and women wear western clothes such as jeans. The consumption of alcohol is illegal for Muslims in Pakistan. Non-Muslims may consume alcohol in private.
The mountains of Northern Pakistan lie within the rain shadow of the main Himalayan chain. They are thus largely unaffected by the monsoon. From late September to April or May they are covered in a heavy blanket of snow and many of the passes which give road access to the mountains are closed. The best time for trekking here then is during the northern hemisphere summer i.e June to September. In July and August, you can expect to encounter temperatures as high as 30°C / 86°F at Skardu and 25°C / 77°F at Hushe and Askole. The weather is generally good throughout the summer season, with clear skies and little rain or snow. However, weather in mountainous areas is difficult to predict, and short-lived storms can occur at any time of the year. Above 4000m (13,000ft) snow can fall at any time of the year and night-time temperatures can drop to as low as -10°C. / 14°F.
The currency of Pakistan is the Pakistan Rupee. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com
It is not necessary to purchase local currency before your trip. Money can be changed at a reasonable rate at the airport or at authorised money changers near to the hotel. Since you will be changing the majority of your spending money into local currency soon after your arrival, we recommend that you take it in cash. US dollars, Sterling and Euros can readily be exchanged in Islamabad. Credit cards can be used to purchase many goods in Islamabad or Skardu and are particularly useful for more expensive items such as carpets. It is possible to withdraw cash (rupees only) from cash machines in Islamabad using credit and debit cards.
A passport with at least 6 months remaining validity and a current Pakistan Visa are required for the trek. You must apply for your Pakistan Visa in advance from the relevant issuing authority in your home country. An application form along with details of how you can obtain your visa will be forwarded with your booking confirmation.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. In general we recommend vaccinations against the following: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis ‘A'. Malarial prophylaxis is not necessarily required - please check with your doctor. A very good online resource is the NHS travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Additional Sources of Information
Trekking in Pakistan. Isobel Shaw.
Karakoram Highway. King.
Top Treks of the World. Steve Razzetti.
In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods. Galen Rowell.
K2 Triumph and Tragedy. Jim Curran.
1:750,000. Karakoram diagramatic map.
Swiss 1990 1:250,000. Karakoram Sheets 1 and 2. (A good general map of the Karakoram).
AMS ''U-502'' series 1:250,000.