Pangaea Himalayan Expedition: The Trek to Payu (Video)

Mike Horn and his team continue their expedition from Askole to Johla to the camp at Payu, where they rest before tackling the Baltoro Glacier.

June 6, 2010
The Trek to Payu

We start this morning from Johla and have a 7-hour hike ahead of us to reach the camp at Payu, which lies 3,600 meters (11,800 feet) above sea level—a change in altitude of approximately 400 meters (1,300 feet). The porters are accustomed to waking with the sun, and at around 5 a.m. we can already hear activity around our tents. We had planned to be ready for breakfast at 7 a.m. Of course, as soon as we get out of the tents, our porters are already waiting for our bags so that they can organize their loads. We quickly dismantle the tents, then head to breakfast knowing that today’s lunch stop will be a short break with only dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate on the menu.

We start our hike in the shadow of the mountains. The temperature is a bit chilly, but as we settle into our hike it becomes comfortable. After around 30 minutes we turn northeast to follow the valley that will lead us to the Baltoro Glacier. As the sun rises higher in the sky, the temperature increases quickly and we are once again shedding layers of clothing. Once again, the porters with their big loads on their backs are constantly overtaking us.

We’re still following the river along the Baltoro Glacier. The water level is so low that we are sometimes walking in what a few years ago was the bed of the river. Surprisingly, the riverbed is mainly comprised of a nice, fine-grained sand that many beaches would surely envy.

At around 11 a.m. we take a short break for lunch while enjoying our first glimpse of an 8000-meter peak—the mighty Broad Peak, surrounded by a few small, light clouds. As we had done the day before, we use our Katadyn water filters to collect drinking water from a small glacial stream. As we set out again after lunch, the sun is still shining and the wind is dropping, making it feel very hot. About an hour and a half before we reach Payu, we have to attack one last steep climb, and many of us truly begin to feel the effects of the altitude.

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There is a strong wind blowing when we reach camp at Payu, which presents some difficulties as we work to set up the solar panels. Thanks to a few stones, we finally find a solution to stabilize them and are able to recharge our ILAND batteries. After a quick soup and some biscuits, we have a bit of free time to wash some clothing, write in our journals, or meet to discuss the day’s hike. At 7 p.m. we have dinner in the mess tent. As soon as we finish, we hear the sound of drumming in the back of the camp. The porters are ending their day with drumming and dancing, and some of our young explorers join them in this traditional dance.

Payu is always an important stop for the porters, as it is the last camp before the Baltoro Glacier. It is traditional for the porters to take a day of rest in Payu before venturing further. Tomorrow we will experience another ritual that the local people perform before climbing onto the glacier.

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