Hunza, a remote mountain kingdom, may have been the inspiration behind James Hilton’s “Shangri-La.” The area opened up in the 1970s following the completion of the Karakoram Highway (KKH); an engineering marvel tracing the old silk route from Pakistan into China.
The fair skinned and light-eyed Hunzakuts claim to be descendants of soldiers lost from Alexander’s army as he invaded India. Their language, Burushaski, provides linguists an enigma as it is unrelated to any other language known to man.
The beauty of this mountain paradise is matchless; from the soft blossoms of the apricot trees to the dark snowcapped rock monuments of Rakaposhi (7788 m.) and recently climbed Ultar (7388 m.) jabbing a vivid blue backdrop high above.
We begin our journey with a plane flight from Islamabad to Gilgit. If weather does not permit the flight, we will travel via the famous KKH. From Gilgit we proceed over the Karakoram Highway to Karimabad (2440 m.), capital of Hunza. En route Rakaposhi appears with its sheer ice covered walls to awe passersby.
One night is spent in Karimabad before we begin a brief, but strenuous walk to the base of Ultar Peak. We camp for two days on the high meadows overlooking Hunza valley and then return to Karimabad ready for our next adventure.
A short drive on the KKH takes us to Passu where we begin our trek on the Batura Glacier (63 km.). We spend about a week on the Batura; walking over rocks and sand laid between jagged peaks, through pine strewn hills with occasional wild roses, to high shepherd meadows with staggering views of the Batura massive and the largest ice fall in the world. The people in this area are of Persian/Turkish origin and speak a language with ties to Persia. The Wakhi people are very hospitable with bright pink cheeks topping a ready smile.
The last segment of this journey begins with our return to Passu or Gulmit village. After an overnight rest there, we drive on the KKH to the Khunjerab Pass (4833 m.) on the border between China and Pakistan. After enjoying the rolling green highlands, we return the same day to Karimabad. An overnight stay in Karimabad and then on to Gilgit by means of the KKH.
The last leg of our trip takes us back to Islamabad by plane or road depending on the weather. The Hunza adventure is a grand introduction to the mountains of Pakistan. The traveler follows the most spectacular segment of the ancient silk route through an enchanting mountain kingdom to Pakistan’s border with China. The Batura Glacier provides a glacial excursion with less difficulty than either the Baltoro or Biafo-Hispar glacial traverse.