Day 6: Nagyr Valley & Hoper Glacier

While “Hunza” is used to refer to the local region, in reality it is divided into two: Hunza on the north side of the river, and Nagyr on the south. Our plan for today was to head up the namesake Nagyr Valley to the village of Hoper next to the massive but accessible Hoper Glacier.

Given mild concerns about the security situation in Nagyr we drove in a convoy of five vehicles, with a couple of policeman armed with AK-47s riding in the lead vehicle. Nagyr is predominantly Shia (unlike Hunza which is Ismaili, and the rest of Pakistan which is mainly Sunni), and some young troublemakers have recently been trying to stir things up. It didn’t feel that unsafe on the drive up, all the locals were just as friendly as we’ve come across elsewhere in Pakistan. The only sign of any unrest were a few of the ubiquitous “Down with USA” signs graffitied onto the sides of buildings, as well as many signs imploring the locals to “Join ISO (Islamiat Student Organization)”. My particular favorite was some graffiti that said “America Dog, Israil Pappi” – if you’re going to incite some hate, at least spell it right!

Our drive took us from Karimabad, back down to the KKH and over the river, and then onto some rough dirt and partially sealed roads into the Nagyr Valley. The road quickly gained altitude as we got out of the valley floor and up onto the greener terraces where the villages are. It took about an hour of driving through some pretty spectacular scenery to get to Hoper, where we pulled in to the entertainingly named “Hoper Hilton”.

It was a brief two minute walk from there to the edge of the cliffs which looked down onto the glacier 150m below. After rattling off some photos of the glacier pouring down from the shoulder of Diran, I was keen to be a bit more active so I took the opportunity to hike down to the edge of the glacier. A steep trail led down underneath the cliffs and terminated at the lateral moraine. I soaked up the views and the silence (no wind, just the clatter of small rockfalls every now and then) before turning around and hiking back up. After a gut-busting 20 minutes I was back with the group for lunch at the “Hilton”.

I took another quick stroll along the cliff top before we left, and came across some children picking apricots off their trees and drying them on flat baskets in the sun. I gave a boy one of the clip-on koalas I carry around for small gifts and I made an instant friend: in return he gave me a quartz crystal he had in his pocket, scooped up a handful of dried apricots off one of the baskets, and also offered to pick me some fresh fruit off the tree.

We were back in Karimabad by mid-afternoon, and I was keen to use the time until dinner to do some hiking. One of the locals suggested the Queen Victoria Monument on the hillside above the village so off I went. It took me an hour and a half to get up there, walking past the Baltit fort, through the old mud brick village and along narrow alleys, through the terraced fields and orchards following one of the water channels uphill, and eventually onto the steep hill slope to the top.

I had a lovely interaction with an elderly man on my way up. I had to ask a few locals for directions as the path was difficult to follow, and when I asked a farmer he offered to walk with me to show me the way. His English was quite good and he was curious to know where I was from, my family, my job, etc. He didn’t seem overly pleased with my answer to his “what religion are you” question (answer: “I have no religion”). We eventually parted ways after around 15 minutes in which he easily outpaced me up the path, and I offered him some money as thanks for going out of his way. At first he declined my offer, but then changed his mind. The smallest denomination bill I had in my wallet was US$5 and when I gave it to him he didn’t quite know what to make of it. When I explained that it was worth around 500 rupees (more than a day’s wages) his eyes opened wide and he was effusive with his thanks! He said goodbye telling me that he will “pray for me a long life”. Nice…

The Queen Victoria Monument was nothing special (nothing more than a pile of stones) but the views over the Hunza Valley and up the glacier towards Ultar made the hike worth it.

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Mountaineering Seasons

I’ve spent some time recently thinking about taking on a couple of “big” outdoor pursuits in 2015, and have started researching some commercial expeditions.  I structured all of the information I gathered in a table which highlights the seasonality of various trips and destinations by location and month.

Mountaineering Seasons

Leading contenders at this early stage are climbing Denali (Alaska), climbing Ama Dablam (Nepal), crossing the Greenland Icecap or skiing to the South Pole.  I’d love to do an 8,000er – Broad Peak in the Pakistan Karakoram is my pick of the bunch – but I’d want to build up to that by doing something technical in the 6,000-7,000m altitude range first.

Hopefully the Last of These Sorts of Posts!

The blog has suffered from even more neglect over the past year or two, but I’m determined to start being more diligent!  For the time being I’ll capture the travels I’ve done from the last post until now, so at least I have it documented:

  • Australia: Business trip to the Gold Coast and Melbourne to see the fam
  • Cuba: Havana, Pinar del Rio, Cayo Levisa
  • Iceland: Reykjavik, Snaefells, Jökulsarlon, Golden Circle, Blue Lagoon
  • Ireland: Dublin, County Wicklow, Glendalough, Eoin & Sally’s wedding in Tinahely/Aughrim
  • Netherlands: A couple more business trips to Amsterdam
  • Norway: Winter visit to Oslo to see my sister, Christmas 2013 with the family in Oslo, skiing and ice climbing in Beitostølen, Tromsø for Aurora Borealis and a half-marathon
  • Peru: Cusco, Ausangate trek & climbs with Sky High Expeditions, Machu Picchu
  • UK: London over several visits for work, Skipton (Yorkshire), Edinburgh
  • US: SF Bay Area, couple of weekend trips to Yosemite NP, SXSW @ Austin TX, Hawaiian island of Kauai for Thanksgiving 2013, Houston TX to see my sister, Big Sur/Monterey

Now I just need to work out what service to use to get my photos in the cloud – Flickr, Picasa, iPhoto…?

Yet More Updates to Come

Yet more travels, and not a blog update in sight.  Sigh…

  • France: Bordeaux, Medoc, Cognac, Provence, Avignon, Arles, Corsica, Dordogne (Rocamadour, Domme, Monpazier), St Emilion, Chamonix, mountaineering week around Mont Blanc massif
  • Spain: Barcelona, Andy & Laura’s wedding, Montserrat
  • Germany: Munich
  • Netherlands: Amsterdam x 2
  • Switzerland: Zurich, Baden, Lausanne, Berner Oberland, Grindelwald, Muerren, Oberwallis, Zermatt, various klettersteigs, Matterhorn preparation and ascent, Geneva
  • Costa Rica: Guanacaste
  • Bahamas: Sailing trip from Miami to the Bahamas, Bimini Islands, New Providence, Nassau, Eleuthera Island, Spanish Wells
  • USA: San Francisco Bay Area, Berkeley MBA 5-year reunion, Yosemite National Park, Miami, Houston
  • Vietnam: Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hoi An
  • South Korea: Seoul
  • Australia: Melbourne, Sydney, New Years Eve 2011, Mum & Dad’s 40th Wedding Anniversary
  • New Zealand: Rugby World Cup 2011, New Plymouth, Mt Taranaki, Lake Taupo, Wellington
  • Peru: Huaraz, trekking & alpine climbing in the Cordillera Blanca (including ascents of Ishinca and Pisco mountains), Lima
  • Turks & Caicos: Sailing trip around the islands
  • Dominican Republic: Punta Cana beach R&R
  • United Kingdom: London business trips, Yorkshire countryside, Edinburgh
  • Norway: Oslo to visit family

Happy to provide information on any of those places if someone is looking to travel there sometime!  Drop me a line or write a comment to this blog post and I’ll answer back.

At the helm of the “Tariro” on the crossing from Miami to Nassau in the Bahamas, October 2011.

Still Dragging My Feet!

So much for promises!  I sadly STILL haven’t updated this site since I last promised it waaaaay back in April 2009.  I’ll blame it on the fact I’ve been a busy boy (as always), but I have to admit that I’ve become more likely to post photos on Facebook than here.  I’ve now set things up so that any blogs published here will also be posted on Facebook, so that should incent me to continue my postings here.

Since I last wrote I’ve done a bunch more travel (again, as per usual), and hope to get some photos up from these adventures:

  • Afghanistan: Kabul city and surrounding area, Panjshir Valley, Salang Pass & Tunnel
  • UAE: Dubai
  • India: Delhi, Gurgaon, Goa, Panaji, Kerala, Kochi, Cherai Beach, Kashmir, Leh, Manali
  • New Zealand: Auckland
  • Cook Islands: Rarotonga, Aitutaki
  • Mexico: Oaxaca, Tulum
  • Switzerland: Zermatt, Baden, Zurich, Flueli-Ranft, Melchsee-Frutt, Berner Oberland, Bern, Klausenpass
  • Germany: Munich (Bain World Cup)
  • China: Beijing, Great Wall
  • North Korea: Pyongyang, DMZ/Panmunjom, Kaesong, Mount Myohyang
  • Malta: Valletta, Rabat/Mdina, Marsaxlokk, Gozo, Victoria, Dwejra, Comino
  • Spain: Madrid, Camino de Santiago, Santiago de Compostela
  • Panama: Panama City, Bocas del Toro, Isla Bastimentos
  • USA: Maui, San Francisco, Rugby (Olympic Club), Russian River Valley, Houston Thanksgiving with Family, Tomales Bay, Seattle NYE, Lake Tahoe, Boston, NYC

Updates to come soon… (hopefully)  Cheers!

Hiking above Zermatt with the majestic Matterhorn across the valley, Switzerland, August 2010

Olympic Club Rugby End of Season Banquet

With both the 15s and sevens seasons complete, the rugby club held the annual End of Season Banquet at the Olympic Club this weekend.  The O-Club put on a great spread, and after the awards and speeches we hit up a nearby bar to continue into the small hours of the morning.

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The Olympic Club Dining Room.              Dom, Sherman, AA, Limbros, Carl.

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The beautiful 100-foot swimming pool at the clubhouse (reminiscent of the thermal baths in Budapest).

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Party Boy and Carl.                                  Doug, Allison and Jack.

Sloane & Mitch’s Wedding in the Canadian Rockies

I traveled to Canada in early August for Sloane Hunter and Mitch Wegmann’s wedding in Canmore, in the Canadian Rockies.  I hadn’t seen Sloane, a close friend from my European backpacking travels in ’99, in around eight years since I visited her in chilly Alberta over Christmas 2000.  I’d never met Mitch either, so I was really excited to be there for their big day.

I arrived into Calgary late on Thursday night after a delayed flight, and once I’d unearthed my lost baggage and waited for the rental car it was past midnight.  After an uneventful 1.5 hour drive west into the mountains I eventually found my hotel and collapsed into bed around 2am.  Even though I was exhasted I woke up at 7am on Friday as I wanted to get out and enjoy my “free” day in the mountains.  I originally planned a strenuous day hike, but a quick glance out the window at the unsettled weather made my change my plans.  I switched gears from a hike to a mini road trip.

I drove north past Banff and continued along Highway 1 to Lake Louise.  By the time I got there it was raining heavily, and without even being able to see across the lake to the mountains and glaciers beyond I instead settled down over a cup of tea in the hotel.  With the weather not looking to lift, I changed my focus and tracked down a couple of waterfalls (a guaranteed winner on a wet and rainy day) in some side valleys near the town of Field.

 

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(L) An elk by the roadside.  (R) Sadly not much to see at Lake Louise….

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(L) Gushing Takakkaw Falls.  (R) A raindrop-laden fir tree at Emerald Lake.

With the hint of finer weather to the north, I wrapped up the day by driving up part of the Icefields Parkway – a world-class highway drive up the Continental Divide between Banff and Jasper with views of turquoise lakes, green forests, towering mountains and numerous glaciers.  While I didn’t have time to drive the whole length of the road, I was able to hit up some of its highlights.  Even better, the sun did indeed come out, and I was able to enjoy some incredible vistas.

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Now that’s more like it!  Magnificent Peyto Lake along the Icefields Parkway.

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Lake Peyto
Panorama of Lake Peyto.

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On the morning of the wedding I decided to hike nearby 2450m Ha Ling Peak.  This mountain holds special significance to Sloane’s family, as her brother Chris died rock climbing on its steep face in 1999 as Sloane was returning from Europe.  I’d heard so much about Chris but never had the chance to meet him, so it meant a lot for me to climb the peak.  I woke up at 7am and drove to the base of the mountain; it was a cool, crisp morning, but sunny with some clouds – perfect hiking weather.  I hoofed up the steep forested slope, and after a scramble across some scree above the treeline near the summit I reached the peak in a little less than two hours.  I found I’d beaten the crowds and had the whole mountain to myself.  I had a quick breakfast at the summit enjoying the expansive views, shot off a quick text message to Sloane, and then raced back down to the car to get back to the hotel and get ready for the wedding.

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Ha Ling Peak at far right.                         Looking north along the ridge.

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Reflections in a canal at the base of the mountain.

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Above the treeline and nearing the summit.

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View looking north from the summit.         Canmore down below.

The wedding itself was lovely, set in Riverside Park by the river, with an incredible backdrop of towering mountain summits (including Ha Ling Peak).  The service included a mix of First Nation and Celtic traditions, which suited the location perfectly.  After the wedding, and following some early evening cocktails back at the hotel, the reception was held in one of the hotel ballrooms where we partied until well after midnight.

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Who ever thought a chance encounter in a Salzburg hostel would lead to this nine years later!  Stephanie, Andrea, myself and Sloane at the reception.  It was fantastic to catch up with the girls again after so long.