Think of a place that looks like Antarctica, has enough rocks to fill the earth’s deepest canyons 5x over, and requires the challenging logistics of a full-on expedition. The name “Snow Lake Trek” simply does not do this trip justice. In fact, we planned to cross TWO of the largest glacier systems outside of the polar regions.
In August 2022 Epic Backpacker Tours set off to tackle this complex route. What we were to discover and encounter along the way would prove to go down as one of the greatest raw adventures I have ever had the pleasure of leading or being involved in.
We became the first team out of 28 other teams this season to cross Hispar La pass via the Biafo Glacier, descending onto Hispar Glacier and we did so in a total white-out blizzard, through vast crevasse fields.
This years’ Snow Lake trek was a WILD ride to say the least.
This journey reminded me why I started Epic Backpacker Tours, what it means to push the limits of real adventure, and how rewarding being part of an awesome community truly is.
What is the Snow Lake Trek?
Many of you have probably never heard of the Snow Lake Trek.
It is one of the least trafficked long-distance routes in Pakistan, yet it is one of the most scenic and offers some of the craziest Karakoram views I have personally ever seen. Here is some background info on Snow Lake for context:
The “Snow Lake” region is a high-altitude glacial basin over 16km wide located at the head of the Biafo and Hispar glaciers. These glaciers meet at the Hispar La – the epic mountain pass we were to cross.
This makes this system the greatest concentration of glacial ice outside Antarctica.
These rivers of ice connect two ancient mountain kingdoms. There is Hunza in the West and Baltistan in the East. As this region is so remote it serves as the last stronghold for many large animals. This is the home of the Himalayan bear, ibex, markhor, and the snow leopard.
This region has long fascinated explorers of the Himalayas. The first foreign visitor, Martin Conway, gave Snow Lake this name in 1892. He described this area as “beyond all comparison the finest view of mountains it has ever been my lot to behold.” The mountaineer, Eric Shipton, described this region as ‘the last blank on the map’.
Towering high above these glaciers are high peaks of the Karakoram. These include Kanjut Sar (7,760m), Distaghil Sar (7,885 m), and Makrong Chhish (6,607m).
Notable peaks in the area: Latok group (Latok I: 7,145m, Latok II: 7,108 m, Latok III: 6,949m, Latok IV: 6,456m) and Baintha Brakk/The Ogre (7,285m). The Ogre was first climbed in 1977 by Britons Doug Scott and Chris Bonington. They had an epic descent with Scott breaking both of his legs and took a week to reach Base Camp.
Now that you have some background info on the Snow Lake / Biafo Hispar Trek, let’s dive into the expereince of our team this season…
You are only as strong as your team
This trip defined what it means to be a team and to work towards a common objective.
From the kitchen boys to the porters to our cooks to the lead guide staff and our team members – everyone had their part to play and our collective mission could not have been achieved without everyone keeping a positive mindset and working towards our shared goal: crossing Hispar La in whatever conditions we could, as long as it could be done with reasonable risk and group safety as the priority.
This was trip was made that much more fun and special due to the fact that my fellow trip leaders on this exped happen to be a couple of great friends. Cheers to Jackson Groves and Sohail Sakhi for all that you both contributed to this journey.
If our trip to Snow Lake could be arranged into a collage of moments or woven into a patchwork quilt, it would have the feel of something like this:
Laughs were had until our facial muscles ached. Card games were so numerous we lost count. Crevasses so deep there was no end were crossed. Rocks. Rocks. Rocks. Blisters were earned and healed. Many cups of tea were shared. For 3 1/2 days we were storm bound. 128 kilometers were racked up. One large section of road was wiped off the map. One member of a different expedition tragically passed away. Digestive systems were tested. Gear was tested. Mental strength was tested. More laughs. Books. Journals. Early morning coffee. Smiles. Tired eyes. Motorcycle taxis across boulder strewn landslide paths. White out conditions, more crevasses.
End result: A taste of accomplishment that will remain with us forever.
Snow Lake Trek: Scenes from Another World
Below is a collection of some of our favorite images from the trip.
Photographs were taken by Chris Lininger and Jackson Groves.