IJC Snowcross to Skardu at -7 degree C, January 9-13, 2019

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IJC Snowcross to Skardu at -7 degree C, January 9-13, 2019

Post by IJC » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:59 pm

Winter, brings snow on higher ground, and this year was no different. When IJC hears about snow, we start thinking of our annual snow cross events.

Twice we have already visited Snowing Naran in last two months. Several destinations were discussed, which included Naran, Kalam, Kumrat and finally Skardu. The idea of Skardu was initially presented by Usman Umarzai, he was very passionate about his choice. His idea was tempting indeed, however most of us were concerned about how far it is and also how cold it will be.

We put up three destinations for voting, and Skardu came out top! Usman in the mean time had done his homework, negotiated some good package for our stay in snowland hotel in Skardu. Once the destination was finalized few more decided to join. In the end we were 25 people on 8 rigs. 6 rigs with 17 people joined from Islamabad, where as Peshawar team 8 members joined in two rigs.

Due to road works on Jaglot Skardu road, long discussions took place about when to leave from Islamabad. We gathered at old motorway toll plaza and after dua-e-safar we left around 8pm for our journey. Progress was steady, we moved straight thru Abbotabad and met up with Peshawar gang out of city waiting for us at a restaurant. Most had something to eat before we left, the remaining had quick dinner at the restaurant, and than it was onwards toward Mansehra and KKH. We saw plenty snow on road side at mountain passes.

We drove thru the nite, only few fuelling stops, the road beyond Besham was in poor condition, with potholes every where. We reached Chilas around 7:30 in the morning. After fuelling of rigs, it was time for self fuelling. Usual travel breakfast of Anday, parathay n Channay with hot doodh patti was had in a restaurant just out of Chilas. The broken down road and potholes continued till Raikot Bridge on KKH. By then couple of rigs developed minor issues. Usman's Cherokee's rear shock mount broke as well. We sorted those issues out in Jaglot which took under an hour. As soon as we hit the Jaglot Skardu road, we saw lots of construction works taking place, there is a big ongoing project of road widening with digging, blasting, clearing and so on!

Several times we had to have pauses at road works for 15-20 minutes for the road to be cleared after blasting, before we were allowed thru. We stopped at Astak for a quick lunch break. We were still hoping to make it to Skardu in day light, but we weren't ready for what was waiting ahead for us. Just few kilometres out of Astak, a rock blasting left the road with extra large boulders and rock pieces, which couldn't be cleared with available machinery. The engineers than ended up making 5-6 more smaller controlled blasts to reduce debris size and eventually clear the road for traffic. But this all meant we were stationary for 4-5 hours.

Lack of sleep the previous nite and fatigue from long journey made everyone extra tired and snappy. Tempers were tested when people tried to cut thru lines, even though everyone knew no body can cross thru! Soon it was dark, the evening was extremely cold as expected and it started snowing. The road was opened up for traffic after 8:30pm, but by then fine layer of snow and black ice had already accumulated on road making progress cautious n slow. Immense driving concentrations were required. We had communicated thru to the hotel about our late arrival. We eventually reached our hotel in Skardu at 11:30pm, after nearly 28hours journey!

Thankfully the hotel staff was well prepared on our arrival, hot dinner was served shortly after, followed by tea. Rooms were allocated. The rooms were nice n clean with comfy beds. Room heaters broke the freezing chill inside. Due to sub-zero temps, water pipes were all frozen so water supply was made in buckets / pales. Thumbs up to hotel staff for making sure everyone got plenty hot water to meet our needs. The gup shup continued for a short while before everyone was on to sleeping lands!
Next morning, Asad was thumping at doors waking up everyone well before 8am! With no previous nite sleep, everyone was out like a log. Took some effort to get everyone out of bed. Breakfast was served at 9:00. The hotel grounds were full of snow, which we couldn't see properly the night before. The temps were well into negative, plenty icicles below all vehicles. Some of the rigs needed good effort to start while others were almost immediate. BM's Prado had frozen slush in fuel pipe and would not rev at all, so it was towed.

Then we were off to Sarfaranga Desert, it was covered all over in decent amount of snow. We had already deflated tyres down to 16psi. Asad was the first one as expected, with his Jero in snow, Usman followed him up and rest came behind! It was straight onto dunes. The wet sand was a bit firm, so it was a different kind of fun. We could almost climb up much more easily compared to our last visit in summer. Also cresting n drifting was at a new level! Asad was testing all the rigs! :)

There pics n vdos all round, all of the fatigue of previous days long journey was immediately forgotten! Than it was back to the hotel, as hot lunch was waiting there for us. After lunch we proceeded towards Satpara Lake. Surprisingly despite the low temps, the lake itself was not frozen, but the surroundings were full of snow, making it a spectacular view. Some of us went well beyond the lake, however, as sun had gone behind mountain soon, it became fairly dark under heavy clouds, so everyone tuned around fearing the black ice on slopes from Satpara Lake to Skardu city.

The evening was spent at the hotel gathered round heaters, the gup shup and stories sharing! Special Dinner of trout fish for all was by Bakht Mir. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed and stuffed themselves up fully! Eventually after 1pm every one started heading back to their rooms.

The next morning after breakfast the gang went to see the frozen Montuka Waterfall. BM and Usman's rigs had issues so some stayed back to get the rigs fixed. It took some time but things were sorted. The gang returned back to hotel at lunch time.

Than it was pack-up time. Everyone loaded their rigs back up. After fuelling it was on to Shangrila Resort. Special mention of Major Hamid, who arranged permission for opening up the lake view area and mountain top view area for all of us to drive up to. The Lake was 3/4th frozen giving spectacular viewing. Than we were treated to a quick Hi-tea at the engineers Mess. Many thnx Hamid!

The return journey began at 6pm. On return journey the roads were clear of black ice so progress was much quicker. We stopped briefly around 10pm for a quick tea break and than it was back on the road towards KKH, which we hit around mid-night. Initial plan was to have a bite to eat on any KKH restaurant, but nothing was open, so we kept moving after fuelling stop. Soon we were on the broken down KKH section and progress became rather slow. Eventually around 4:30am we had to come to a dead stop because of a large land slide blocking KKH some 10 short of Dasu. Almost all went to sleep in the rigs. Around 7:00 the road clearing equipment came and by 8:30 we were moving again. We were lucky in some way, as we only waited 4 hours, people were there for 14+ hours!

Breakfast stop at Dasu and than straight to Besham. After some deliberation and local enquiry it was decided to do the remaining return journey via Shangla Top and swat valley, as it had heavy snowfall the nite before. Soon we were surrounded by snow all round! Mustaghese's TLC electronic 4X4 switch failed, so he needed snow chains on rear wheels, while rest just deflated tyres down again for climb up to 7000ft. Lunch break was at the top in a restaurant with some really nice views of the valley.

Progress after lunch was steady, we stopped at Takhtbai for chappal kebab dinner. Than it was goodbyes time. Peshawar team were soon heading their way back home while the rest of the gang towards ISB / Pindi. Made it safely back home around 11pm.

The return journey totalled 29 hours compared to 28 hours journey to Skardu. Total distance driven on the trip was around 1650km. We left at 8pm on Wednesday night and were back by 11pm Sunday night. All those who could not make it on this trip were missed! So many time we were just saying .................. Agar woh hota tau yeh karta, agar falan hota tau yeh hota.........etc etc.

Eternally grateful for the unending blessings of Almighty.

Thank you again to all the Gang who came along on this trip and made it extra special!

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Re: IJC annual Snowcross to Skardu, January 9-13, 2019

Post by IJC » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:04 pm

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Re: IJC annual Snowcross to Skardu, January 9-13, 2019

Post by IJC » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:05 pm

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Re: IJC annual Snowcross to Skardu, January 9-13, 2019

Post by IJC » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:05 pm

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Re: IJC annual Snowcross to Skardu, January 9-13, 2019

Post by IJC » Tue Jan 22, 2019 2:05 pm

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Re: IJC Snowcross to Skardu at -7 degree C, January 9-13, 2019

Post by nnn » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:22 am

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Re: IJC Snowcross to Skardu at -7 degree C, January 9-13, 2019

Post by nnn » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:23 am

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Re: IJC Snowcross to Skardu at -7 degree C, January 9-13, 2019

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Re: IJC Snowcross to Skardu at -7 degree C, January 9-13, 2019

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Re: IJC Snowcross to Skardu at -7 degree C, January 9-13, 2019

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