Sat. Dec 7th, 2019

Bagrote: A Surpassingly Beautiful Land (I)


By Syed Shamsuddin

With the mesmeric landscape, Bagrote – the fairlyland, with its magical aura – spawn serially miniature valleys inside its north and north-east. The uppermost fringes of each can be described superbly splendid and splendidly superb for the kaleidoscopic panorama. Unlike any other place so close in proximity to the provincial metropolis of Gilgit-Baltistant,this valley assumes great significance for myriad natural phenomena to be witnessed. A few of the sub-valleys or to be called the miniature valleys are Gaggooh, Gotumi, Bujoban, Sat-Gusonar, Barchi while, Khama ahead Bulcheh on Diran peak side.

NESTLED AMIDST mesmeric geological settings and consequent panoramic view of glaciers underpinned by innumerable glacial stocks, glacial pockets and the snowy hollows up the awful mountains, Bagrote Valley ipso facto is sandwiched between the awesome Dobani Peak, Diran and the grandeur of Rakaposhi – all the three standing sentinel over the treasure trove as veritable guardian of the vale stupendously contributing to an amazingly quiescent and tranquil environment.

Put in all brevity, the sedateness, and serenity and the wonderful ecology unfailingly generative of genii loci of the land that otherwise could be the attribute of paradise alone, hold one quite spellbound. This seldom explored virgin part of Gilgit region thus beckons tourists of all hues from within the country and abroad. With its western face towards lower Bagrote and the northern ridge on the upper Bagrote side, the awful peak of Dobani (6143m) lay perched 29 km east of Gilgit city can be seen from here while a splendid view of the majestic Rakaposhi too can be had from Jutial in Gilgit city.

To the north-west, is the Rakaposhi towering superciliously whereas Diran peak abuts the same. There is the vantage point in upper Bagrote called Darejah that offers a vivid panorama of the tall heights of Diran, Rakaposhi and Dobani peaks in one sweep of the eye.  In the mountain range, upper Bagrote Valley runs along Dubani’s western flank. Dobani or Bilchar Dobani (6143 m high) is located only 29 km east of Gilgit city glimpses of which can be had from the city itself. The very first ascent of Dobani peak was made by two Japanese mountaineers Isao Ikeuchi and Masaru Hashimoto from the west face and the northern ridge on 9 June, 1979. This was, however, preceded by an aborted attempt in early sixties, by a Belgian lady whom Hidayatullah Akhtar in his book “The History of Dardistan” names Miss De Grum. Unfortunately, the attempt to summit the peak failed and the courageous lady fell into a crevice during ascent.

The second lofty peak in the Karakoram Range here is Diran (7,266m) in upper Bagrote behind which to the west, lay Pissan and Minapin villages of Nagar Valley. This peak pyramidal in shape, abuts Rakaposhi (7,788m). Thus both Rakaposhi and Diran peak make a mighty and insuperable wedge in between Nagar and Bagrote beckoning summiteers from either side.The maiden ascent of Diran was made by three Austrians namely Rainer Goeschl, Rudolph Pischinger and Hanns, in the year 1968 after earlier two consecutively aborted attempts – one by a German expedition in 1959 while the other made by an Austrian expedition in 1964. As regards climbing the Rakaposhi, a Cambridge University team, led by Alfred Tissieres, attempted the peak in 1954 up the south spur but had to abandon on reaching 6,340 m while very recently, a two Japanese mountaineers Kazuya Hiraide and Kenro Nakajima set a new record by scaling Rakaposhi on 2 July 2019, by making a successful ascent along a new route on the south face id est from Danyore side in an Alpine style. It is worth mentioning that Rakaposhi is said to be the most famous peak with its huge massif in its parent Range of the Karakoram mountains, dominating the area with an elevation: 7788m. Though straddling Bagrote-Nagar as afore-said, it can also vividly be seen from Hunza as well that is what prompted Erich Shipton to call Hunza Valley “the ultimate manifestation of mountain grandeur.” To put it plainly, Rakaposhi, Diradn and Dubani peaks together form literally the genii locorum of Bagrote Valley.

It may be said that he chief characteristic of Bagrote is, of course, its close propinquity to Gilgit city thereby easing an unhindered accessibility as it can be reached merely at an hour-and-a-half hours or maximally two hours’ drive.

Geographically, the valley gets halved into upper and lower Bagrote – making it a unique fascinating land where there is much to be seen yet in terms of its virginity albeit the vast potential inexorably has to be harnessed in a sustainable manner not to harm the fragile ecosystem.

Admittedly, the picturesque Bagrote Valley – quite unexaggeratedly to be called veritable piece of haven if there could be one earth. It still remains an unexplored land vis a vis its vast potential it offers. Promotion of tourism in this land strictly in keeping with environmental diktats alone is to transform it into a hub of trekkers, hikers, mountaineer, nature-lovers and general tourists alike, obviously because of its close proximity to Gilgit city abounding in beauty. Put in all brevity, it owes its fame, doubtless, not less to the wild grandeur of the mountains which surround than to its own intrinsic loveliness. Its soil surpasses in fertility with the abundance of water, variety and plentiful fruits and vegetables albeit the tillable land is now seems to become horrfically scarce.There are rich meadowy spots inclusive of Barcheh, Gotomi, Khama and Asareh to name a few whilst the broad meadow of Gargoo attaches prime significance as gets singled out as the mainstay of those tending goatherds, sheep and cattle for its flat, undulating and verdant for its having immense herbaceous and grassy expanse. It is because of this that droves of livestock and goatherds can be seen here.

As alluded to elsewhere, the unique geology of Bagrote Valley on the whole, offers a great opportunity to botanists, geologists and archeologists to whet their enthusiasm over the innumerable natural phenomena in carrying out research and exploratory work while relishing the luxuriant vegetation, wooded scenery, giant as well as small glaciers of varying magnitudes awaiting exploration in addition to the grandest peaks that beckon the summiteers and climbers to be on their mettle. Those who have neither hobbies nor inclinations and simply want but rest and amusement in the wilderness too may take their fill out of Nature’s bounty Bagrote offers so munificently.

What makes it a Land of Glaciers:

The kaleidoscopic panorama here is in sum, that Diran peak looks on from snow-covered sierras surrounding it and the rugged grandeur of glaciers like Barche, Gargooh, Yuneh, Rakaposhi, Dodoormal and myriad other smaller glaciers like Gotomi, Dodi Rung, Baru Gamuk (from Chirah to Hinarchi), Hinarchi Gamuk, Chi Sho Bai Gamuk (from Hinarchi to Rakaposhi), Sorgain Khama Gamuk, Boe Faray Gamuk (from Bejobin onward), Barchi Gamuk, Gargo Gamuk, Dirani Gamuk (the second largest in Bagrote). This landscape makes Bagrote a land of glaciers as well. Setting out early in the morning, one can reach Bai Bari Jut in the afternoon where camping can be done. Spending night there, start ascent the following morning to reach Hinarchi Harai (shepherds’ hut)  by afternoon. On the other hand, one setting out early in the morning from Farfo can reach Gargo by noon and even can return the same day to Farfoo albeit late in the night.

Crossing over Rakhand at Gargo, Famereo Harai of Khalto can be reached. Beyond this is Darchin Harai, Khaltaro to be followed by Khaye – a hamlet type opposite which is a small habitation called Homal and beyond  is Khaltaro – a rich alpine area abounding in yaks. A glacial terrain from the sheer glacial terrain, a host of streams flow towards Chirah-Khama glaciers and converge there giving the visual prospect a truly kaleidoscopic character; albeit during winter, transform the spectacular panorama with the freezing of all of them save the Bagrote nullah feebly gushing forth from Chirah-Khama glaciers as its roaring flow and tempestuousness dying down from autumn onwards..

June, July and August offer the best and the pleasantest for trekking or a general tour d’horizon as the area then can have clear, bright but fairly cool days and bracing climate conducive to and instrumental in enabling one to get to every nook and cranny of the valley quite unhampered. Of late, a festival is reportedly being arranged annually at Gargoo – the famed meadow in July every year as the area before it gets chilly from August onward.  Winters here as alluded to earlier are snowy and severe with water courses freezing. However, there has been a horrific decrease in the snowfall overtime especially during the preceding four decades which obviously points towards the virulent effects of climate change.  This paints a deplorable picture and calls for utmost care to be taken in order to attune to and restrict all human activities to the environmental imperatives so that no further harm is done to the fragile ecosystems.

Starting from Gilgit city on an epic trail and having an easterly tour d’horizon across Danyore, the twin-villages of Jalalabad and Oshikhandas can be reached in about two hours march on foot. In case of opting for an epic trail into upper Bagrote, one has to trudge along the recently paved road up the nullah. Gircheh – a place which remains enshrouded by a mound and hence becomes barely visible and conspicuous at the upper fringe is reached on the very first leg in about half an hour trek up. This a la an immediate outpost of upper Bagrote can aptly called a picket as does the beautifully situated hamlet called Hamaran just across the nullah abutting the lower Bagrote in a like manner. Hamaran straddles both the halves of the valley and as such is the confluence of both upper and lower Bagrote nullahs beneath. Hamaran, as it is said, was once a picturesque and bewitching village but the ceaseless soil erosion and recurring slide on its south-westerly fringe dwindled to its present ramshackle hamlet size and shape. Had this recurring sliding not been the phenomenon here, a paved road could have been built beneath it to extend all along the roaring Bagrote nullah right upto Chirah to help more convenient access to upper Bagrote. Gricheh on the left of Bagrote nullah while a march half-an-hour up Jalalabad on way to lower Bagrote emerges ‘Hamaran Chalah Thalee’ meaning the resting place for those travelling on foot at the point where Hamaran becomes visible on the opposite side, a spot commanding a fine view of the splendid settings of that hamlet that sits tight over the mouth of lower Bagrote.

To be continued……

The writer is a Gilgit-based freelance contributor, blogger. He can be reached at email: shamskazmi.syed@gmail.com

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