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Post #98: Jhula to Askole to Skardu. Last Day of the Trek Out…..but lots of complications!
Aug 15, 2013. (A10)
Jhula means ‘basket’ in Balti. Thats because at our campsite, there used to be a river crossing that was on old cables via a basket. The basket crossing no longer exists. Now you have to hike a mile up the river and a mile back down in the side-valley. It is more time consuming (and tough on the tired body when you’ve been trekking now for 4 days in a row), but at least now there is a bridge over the raging torrent of a river that comes down from glacial meltwaters.
I awoke to clear desert skies and a cool breeze for the final morning of my trek back to civilization. Three days and nearly 60 miles from basecamp has worn me down! Legs are tired, and even some soreness on the shins and tendons of the ankles and toes. A final breakfast of some muesli with eggs and chipati and I was off in the shadows of the peaks.
My Last Clif-Bar of the Entire Expedition…I’m all out!
The bonus for leaving early again was the cool shadows as well as the knowledge of getting to Askole by 10am, effectively ending the trek, but not the journey. Depending on timing, we would either wait a day to take jeeps overland to Skardu on rugged 4WD roads, or try and go the next day (Because we heard that the roads out of the area were blocked by landslides or swollen glacial creeks in many places…more on that in a bit). Anyway, I got out and down the trail with Migma and we pushed ourselves along the trail quickly, reaching Askole by 10am.
The remaining few hours to get back to Askole are pretty flat along a river, and there’s honestly not much to report here. But…. The Highlights included:
Seeing the terminus of the separate Biato Glacier…..this glacier is almost a big in volume as the Baltoro and nearly as long.
Crossing this swollen river on a bridge that would splash you and make you feel like you were gonna get swept into the Braldo! Those rapids were brutal!!!!!
Getting back to the Green Pastures of the village of Askole….and eating a tasty lunch in a shack that was infested by flies!
Decision made: After lunch we decided to go for it and try to get back to Skardu late that evening (Which meant a chance for real shower and a real bed to sleep in!!!) . I was told that the road was blocked or washed out in up to 3 places. It ended up being 4.
We loaded some old school tractors in Askole for the first 45 minutes and headed up the side of the mountains to our first crossing. A mudslide and glacial creek flow had taken the road out completely. Here some porters as well as Mingma, Arnold, Karma, Dorjee, Charlie, and I had to unload our stuff and our duffels and expedition gear and carry it across the washout to the next waiting jeep vehicle on the other side. This process continued for the rest of the day and 4 total crossings. This is actually business as usual for the Baltistan Region for this time of year….roads are washed out by landslides and glacial melt flows on a regular basis.
How many Baltis, Sherpas, and ARNOLDS? 🙂 can you fit in the back of a Jeep? Ha ha!!
It was an exhausting and entertaining process. Some of the porters were up in arms because we were carrying stuff and they wanted to get paid for carrying but we already paid them for the trek, so some refused to help….others were nicer and helped us anyway…..we did give them a good tip though. The second crossing got even more interesting later in the afternoon.
Not only was a portion of the road covered with a raging torrent of muddy streamwater, but there was a section of road completely gone. What do ya do when you have a full jeep of gear and an army of Balti Pakistani porters as well as Nepalese Sherpas?
You Spend Three hours rebuilding the missing section by hand! By 5pm once debris was cleared away in the creek and the road was rebuilt, we got the Jeep across….I took a video of the crossing and will have to post it with better internet on youtube.
Anyway, by near darkness and nightfall we hiked across our 4 and final section of a landslide to jeeps awaiting our team on the other side.
Then it was off to the nearby settlement and restaurant they call ‘Polygon’ for a dinner of Chicken Stir Fry. The road was long that night, and bumpy until Shigar, then we kicked it onto the pavement and into high gear arriving in Skardu by 1am. I must say that our awesome driver Nika didn’t get stuck once and constantly had his “No problem” attitude…he was bumping lots of Britney Spears in his jeep ll night long along with some other Pakistani tunes too….was great to get back to Skardu in one piece! He even let me download some of his best local hits for my ipod!
Now it’s time to await a flight back to Islamabad and eventually get back to the United States. IN other news…….there was a shooting of three gov’t officials near Chilas by the Taliban that were investigating the Nanga Parbat tragedy, so we have heard that the embassies are closed in Islamabad and that the Taliban is likely going to strike something soon again. Here we go again! Geesh….my timing couldn’t be better to go back through Islamabad! Will prob Stay in Skardu until my U.S. flight from Islamabad in a few more days. Thanks for your good wishes and support out there…looking forward to getting home eventually. I will post again an Expedition De-briefing with some final thoughts to wrap this expedition up.
Best, more to come !
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