Summer hiking is amazing- the sun shining on your face, warm air blowing on your face creating tans on several exposed parts of your body but wintertime creates its own magic within the mountains, especially when there’s snow on the ground.For travelers who have just started hiking and trekking in the North of Pakistan, Miranjani Peak is a good option for a beginner. Not that it is easy, but it serves as a good booster for one’s stamina. Trekking in summers is easier comparatively, where the trek is neither hidden with snow nor slippery due to wetness. In winters, every object seems cladded with snow and although the scenery is beautiful, yet it is tough to drive on the slippery roads.
Miranjani Peak is the highest peak at 2960 meters, of Abbottabad District in KPK Province of Pakistan. The base area from where Miranjani Peak is reached, is easily accessible on car. You can reach Nathiagali from Lahore or Islamabad. It takes 2-3 hours from Islamabad and 7-8 hours from Lahore depending on the speed and breaks you take on the way. On reaching Nathiagali, you can start your hike to the peak which is located in the NamliMaira Area, in Ayubia National Park, 80km North of Islamabad in the western Himalayan range.
I hiked to MiranJani Peak with a local adventure group. We were about 22 youngsters from Lahore who set off Friday night in the end of February of 2014. After reaching Mushqpuri Top on Saturday and a day’s excursion, we began our hike to Miranjani early morning on Sunday.
It was cold and windy and all the members of our group had scattered. It seemed as if I was lost in woods all alone. Unafraid, I felt solitude and serenity around me. With all the wilderness, vastness of area and closeness of nature, not for a single moment did I feel alone and scared. The sun was shining but the wind was cold and blowing across my face reassuring how cold the weather was. Soon, after some while member of the group could be seen. Everybody was trekking on his/her own pace. That’s very important when you’re hiking. You cannot just take up the speed of any other hiker and you need to identify your own pace of moving and keep that up. That’s the key of keeping yourself going. In this way, you also have the chance of getting lost, so you need to keep track of the right directions especially if there’s no experienced person along with you who could guide you.
I had covered myself with a jacket, scarf and gloves, as covering oneself is also important. It’s better to wear a wind breaker jacket or dress up like an onion in layers that serve as insulating clothing. Apart from clothing and hiking pace, another important factor is your choice of shoes. For hiking on mountains, it is always good to invest on a good hiking gear. We were instructed to wear proper hiking shoes and were carrying gaiters too as the snow was fresh and ample. Our tour leader was making way for all of us to walk through snow.
Some basic necessities while you’re off to hiking include a good sunscreen lotion, sunglasses, a water bottle, and chocolates or sweets to energize yourself when you feel low on energy. A raincoat or waterproof jacket just in case it rains or snows. It is highly advisable to check the weather conditions before traveling. Other than that, a good camera helps you capture memorable moments that you could cherish later.
Having crossed half of the trek, soon the steep elevation for the peak began just when the peak was near. It was the month of February, when its winters in Pakistan, thus, the wind at the top was extremely cold and unbearable. I’d confess I couldn’t reach the top. There was snow all around and it was slippery too. I had slipped a couple of times and only the branches stuck in the mountains were my last resort that saved me. Had there been no branches or nothing to hold on to I would’ve slipped into the deep ditch below from where it seemed there would have been no escape. Meanwhile, while I was trying and thinking to take the risk to go further, our team mates returned and we had to trek back to where we had started from. The member who reached the peak informed of how severe the temperature was up there and how pinching the cold and the wind was that had made it bearable for them to stay any longer and they returned back too. Our tour leader advised not to go any further as we had to set off for our return journey. I once read this somewhere that “The Mountains have been here for a long time, and they’ll be here for a long time still. Don’t hesitate to turn around if you run into conditions that look dangerous. Reaching the summit of a peak is just half the journey, and you must have time and energy left over for the descent. Focus on the entire trip, not just the ascent.” This is exactly what I did and followed. After all, we had to follow the instruction of our tour leader. He then guided us down and we came back to our starting point. Although not reaching the top and returning back from slight distance from the peak left a feeling of incompleteness yet the whole struggle itself was worth the views I had seen from the top.
Pakistan is blessed with some of the amazing places, some are famous and some are not very popular but they’re worth seeing. There are plenty of places to visit in Pakistan, only if you really wish to explore its beauty.