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Planting a glacier seed
Glacier growing, or glacier grafting, is a practice native to the Northern Areas of Pakistanmarker aimed at creating new glaciers. In order to encourage the growth of a glacier local farmers acquire ice from naturally occurring glaciers, and carry it to high altitude areas where the ice is put inside a small cave dug out in a scree-slope. Along with the ice other ingredients such as water, salt, sawdust, wheat husks and charcoal are also placed at the site. The use of glacier grafting is an old skill of the mountain farmers of Baltistan and Gilgitmarker, where it is used for irrigation purposes since at least the 19th century. This technique was described by Lieutenant David Lockhart Robertson Lorimer (1876–1962) in the 1920s. Allegedly glacier grafting also has been used to block mountain passes.


Transporting ice to the grafting site

In the Northern Areas of Pakistan water is the limiting factor of agriculture and many farmers experience scarcity of water in late fall - a period critical to the maturation of crops. Farmers living in watershed without glaciers are especially vulnerable since they largely depend on snowmelt for irrigation, in contrast to other areas where glaciers are a reliable source of water. In such communities glacier grafting is often attempted as a means to encourage the growth of new glaciers and thus ensure the existence of water resources.


Difficult transport of ingredients for an artificial glacier

Before a glacier grafting is attempted a suitable place has to be scouted. The preferred terrain, according to glacier growers in Baltistan and Gilgit, is in shadowed scree-slopes overlooked by steep headwalls. Commonly the sites are located between 4000-5000 m a.s.l. Such locations are susceptible to snowfall and avalanches during winter and spring, creating a good environment for the accumulation of ice.

Ice is transported in baskets of woven willow-twigs by teams of two and two, who take turns to carry the baskets. This usually involves ascents from lower lying valleys (around 2000-3000 meters above sea level) up to the site selected for the glacier growing.

Similar effort is carried out by Chewang Norphel, in adjacent Ladakhmarker region.


  1. Khan, S. (2005): Glacier Grafting, The Aga Khan Rural Support Programme 16, Skardu, Pakistan
  2. Tveiten, I. (2007): Glacier Growing - A Local Response to Water Scarcity in Baltistan and Gilgit, The Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Master of Science Thesis ( Abstract, pdf 65 Kb)
  3. Inayatullah Faizi: Artificial glacier grafting: Indigenous knowledge of the mountain people of Chitral, Asia Pacific Mountain Network (APMN) Bulletin 8, Nr. 1. 2007, pdf, 600 Kb)
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