Karomber Lake Trek into the wilderness of Broghil Valley

Karomber Lake is one of the highest alpine and biologically active lakes in Pakistan and is definitely the biggest lake up in North. It has a max length of 3.2 km by displacement and a max width of 1.5km. It is a round trip of nearly 8km if you plan to circle around the lake.
Surface elevation is 14,077 ft ASL.

Photo : Mobeen Mazhar

Complete Guide for Karomber Lake by Experts

Karomber Lake is situated in extreme North of Pakistan and mountains on Northern side of the lake are actually border with Afghanistan. The valley that approaches from main Chitral Valley to this area is called Yarkhun Valley. It starts from Mastuj till area near Kishmanja. Ahead of this is Broghil Valley which continues till Karomber Pass. Both these sub-valleys are part of Chitral Valley and run parallel to Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan which separates Pakistan from Central Asian states. After Karomber Pass, there is a chain of lakes and eventually comes Karomber Lake which exits its waters towards Ishkomen side so technically it is situated in Ishkomen Valley.The boundary line between KPK and Ghizer is on Karomber Pass.

Darkot glacier is an approximately 13km long glacier from its snout till end on Yaseen Valley side. The highest point is Darkot Pass at 15,430ft ASL. Last village on Broghil side is Chikar (12,030ft ASL) while on Yaseen side is Rawat (10,100ft ASL). It links Broghil Valley in Chitral with Yaseen Valley in Ghizer.

Routes Leading to Karomber Lake

Karomber Lake can be accessed from following routes:

1- Chitral Mastuj Route
2- Gilgit Mastuj Route
Both these approaches end up at Mastuj which is base for all treks up along the border area. A rough jeep ride takes one from Mastuj to Ishkarwaz which is first main town in Broghil and home to Chitral Scouts border checkpost. From Ishkarwaz, Karomber Lake is nearly 40km away so a trek or 2 or 3 days will take you to Karomber Lake.

3- Gilgit Ishkomen Chitti Boi Route
This is relatively lesser but known route with couple of tough crossings like Shutargardan and Chitti Boi glacier. Trek is almost 45km and takes 3 days to reach Karomber Lake.

4- Gilgit Ishkomen Chiantar Route
This is very less explored area and is a sub-valley in Ishkoem which leads to a 16,200ft ASL Chiantar Pass and descends to Broghil on Chiantar Glacier. There are 2 known crossings and not much information available on this pass.

5- Gilgit Yaseen Route
This is reverse trek of most common route and one has to ascend 7,000ft ASL from Darkot in Yaseen Valley side to cross Darkot Pass and then descend to Broghil and continue on same route as coming from Mastuj.

6- Gilgit Hunza Sost Chilinji Route
This route was recently re-opened after closure by Pak Army due to security issues. One has to start the trek in Chaprusan Valley which is a sub-valley of Upper Hunza and ends near Sost on KKH. The trek passes through Chilinju Pass at 17,200 ft ASL and descends on Ishkomen-Karomber route.

Best Season to Explore Karomber Lake

June – September are the months to visit this area. August is known to be the best month with colors and weather drama.In August, you can see greenery, autumn colors, rain, snowfall, light and shades play through clouds all at same place in this short time span.

Duration of Trek

Different approaches have different time requirements but overall, one needs minimum 11 days Islamabad to Islamabad provided all things go as planned without any hiccups. A plan with 13 days should be suitable and more cautious to cover all uncertainties.

Difficulty Level

Option 1+2 = Easiest and can be done by anyone without any technical precautions. Horses, mules, donkeys, yaks are also available on the route for luggage and riding.

Option 3
This one is for regulars and starters or beginners should avoid this route. Two difficult crossings but do not require any technical equipment:
– Shutargardan – a path on side slope of a rock face with enough space carved out into rock face to put one foot only with a steep fall into the gushing river water below.
– Chitti Boi glacier: a tricky crossing on this glacier of couple of hours with crevasses. It requires caution and continuous supervision of guides in order to cross safely. Please do not try to attempt it on your own and make sure your guide is available to help all team members on this crossing.

Option 4:
Only for technically trained trekkers who have all mountaineering equipment. This route has steep technical ascend on Ishkomen side and crevasse filled glacier crossing on Broghil side. Only highly experienced trekkers with previous enounters with crevassed glacier crossings should attempt this.

Option 5:
Reverse of option 1 and 2 but this start requires high physical fitness and ability to acclimatize quickly otherwise ascending 7,000ft in 2 days may create lots of problems. Beginners or starters should avoid this though can be managed.

Option 6:
Same precautions as Ishkomen side attempt. Only for regular trekkers with previous experience of high altitude pass crossings. This route is NOT for beginners or starters. The route is not technical but rope and safety equipment is necessary and must be used on final part of Chilinji ascend from Chaprusan and very steep descend on Ishkomen side

Detailed Itineraray

I will write for my attempt with Option 1. But please keep in mind that we got jeep track open all the way to Ishkarwaz which normally is open only till an area near Kishmanja when river water overflows. This adds 2 days of trek so please keep these extra days in mind.
Day 0: Night bus ride from Pindi Pir Wadhai bus stop to Chitral City.
Day 1: Arrival in Chitral through bus and jeep ride to Mastuj by day end.
Day 2: Jeep ride from Mastuj to Ishkarwaz
Day 3: Trek from Ishkarwaz to Lashkargaz 12km. One can take diversion for Darwaza Pass Lakes for additional 7 km
Day 4: Lashkargaz to Karomber Lake 27 km. If you want to divide this day into 2 then camp at Laleerabad which is 10km before Karomber Lake.
Day 5: Rest day at Lake
Day 6: Trek back to Lashkargaz
Day 7: Trek back to Ishkarwaz and then ascend to Chikar
Day 8: Trek from Chikar to Darkot Pass base
Day 9: Cross Darkot Pass and descend to Rawat and Darkot and ride to Gilgit.
Day 10: Gilgit to Naran / Besham / or NATCO next evening
Day 11: Back home

Facilities for Trekkers

The route is filled with villages after every few kilometers. So, the trek is active. Last village before lake is Laleerabad 10km before lake.
Closest security option is Chitral Scout checkpost in Ishkarwaz which is normally trek starting point. They also have basic medical facility.
Closest health center is in Lasht which is in Yarkhun Valley.

Logistics

Buses go to Chitral regularly from Pindi Pir Wadhai and Peshawar as well. Another option is Mardan to get bus, coaster or hiace.
Jeeps are available from Chitral or Mastuj for travel ahead.
LC 14 seater costs around 28K for one side ride from Chitral to Ishkarwaz and 23K if jeep track is closed due to water overflow.
Willy 6/7 seater takes 20K for Chitral to Ishkarwaz and 15K from Mastuj to Ishkarwaz.

Porters

I was extremely disappointed by the way local porters and their heads treated us and the way the system works.

First of all, the issues we faced with porters:
– Stealing of daily used items though no big loss
– wrong weight measurement with 2kg additional weight on each luggage item
– Switch of porters for every campsite
– Trying to overcharge per carrier and reduce the weight per carrier
– Asked for double rates to go to Chianter glacier which was agreed to pay but then on day of trek, refused to go
– Wanted us to pay for the same weight we paid from Lashkargaz to Karomber when we were going from Lashkargaz back to Ishkarwaz. We were 100kg less weight on return but he wanted us to pay for return same as we went to lake. Bullshit of highest class.

Beware of Sher Amin who calls himself a guide in Lashkargaz. All this happened under his supervision.

All things have happened earlier as well except the stealing part. I have read logs of people who travelled there in 1960s and even then they complained about these local porters and looks like they haven’t improved in last 50 years.
Normal rates are:
Horse around 1500 per stage with 60-70kg weight
Donkey around 1200 per stage with 40-50kg weight
Porter around 750 per stage with 25kg of weight

We couldn’t find a cook to hire in whole Broghil and i asked in each and every village So, please arrange it from Chitral/Mastuj or may bring your own cook from somewhere else if you are planning to cook fresh.

On the other hand, we found few good people as well. Thanks to Mr. Aminullah and his sons who gave us their house in Lashkargaz on our way back and the guide Sher Amin even had issue with this that why we are not camping and paying fees.

Total Cost of Trek from Islambad-Karomber Lake-Islamabad

After following, our per head cost was Rs.30 thousand
– Daewoo from Lahore to Islamabad
– Using public transport to and from Chitral or Gilgit
– Jeeps for Ishkarwaz journey and hiace for Gilgit journey
– PTDC in Mastuj, Madina Hotel in Gilgit
– Self cooking
– Porters/horses hired for trek
– Camping fees at campsites

 

Stargazing at Karomber Lake

Photo : Vagabond

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