Biafo and Hispar Mustagh Karakoram Himalaya
The Biafo and Hispar Mustagh is located in the Karakoram Mountains of Gilgit Baltistan. The Biafo Glacier is a 67 km long glacier and meets the 49 km long Hispar Glacier at an altitude of 5,128 m (16,824 ft) at Hispar La Pass creating the world’s third longest glacial system outside the polar regions. This highway of ice connects two ancient mountain kingdoms, Nagar, in the west with Baltistan in the east.
The traverse of the glacier of the Biafo and Hispar Mustagh is a challenging trekking route passing beneath numerous spectacular rock towers and fine cliffs offering some of the most challenging rock climbing to be found anywhere in the world. In addition to the crossing of the Hispar La the journey includes the traverse of Snow Lake, or Lukpe Lawo, and its tributary glacier Sim Gang, a vast and highly crevassed high-altitude glacial basin located at 4,877 metres (16,000 ft) above sea level. The name ‘Snow Lake’ was afforded to it in 1892 by Martin Conway, the first foreigner to visit here. Conway described Snow Lake as “beyond all comparison the finest view of mountains it has ever been my lot to behold, nor do I believe the world can hold a finer.”
In 1899, the husband and wife team of William Hunter Workman and Fanny Bullock Workman came and speculated that Snow Lake might be an ice-cap like those in the polar regions, from which glaciers flowed out in all directions, and estimated its total size at 300 square kilometres.
Snow Lake can be very difficult to reach, however, and far fewer travellers pass this way than along the neighbouring Baltoro Glacier. Campsites along the Biafo are located off the glacier, adjacent to the lateral moraines and steep mountainsides. The first three are beautiful sites with flowing water nearby. Mango and Namla, the first two campsites, are often covered in flowers and Namla has an amazing waterfall very near the camping area. Baintha, the third camp site, is often used as a rest day. A large green meadow, it has a few running streams near the camp and many places to spend the day rock climbing or rappelling.
Directly above Baintha stands the peak of Baintha Brakk, 7,285 metres (23,901 ft), the highest and one of the hardest to climb in the region. Also known as “The Ogre”, Baintha Brakk is exceptional in its combination of altitude, height above local terrain, and steepness. It is a complex granite tower, steeper and rockier than most other Karakoram peaks. Its South Face rises over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above the Uzun Brakk Glacier in only 2 km of horizontal distance. It is because of this steep, rocky nature that Baintha Brakk has been both so difficult to climb and so attractive a target for extremely high-level mountaineers. The peak was first climbed by two Britons, Doug Scott and Chris Bonington, in 1977.
Access to the Biafo Glacier is from Askole along the same route that is used to reach the Baltoro Glacier and K2. The initial stages of the approach to the snout of the Biafo Glacier are to be found in the Baltoro Mustagh Karakoram Himalaya section of these galleries.