The lockdown period unlocked a dream I have had for many years. The creation of a long-distance hiking route across Tajikistan. My guidebook Trekking in Tajikistan may have made a difference in inspiring people to visit the mountains of this stunning country. The Pamir Trail, as I would like to call this route, is plotted from the northeast of the country to the Wakhan Corridor in the far south. It is designed in a way that it would benefit 30 home stays along the trail and more than a dozen local tour operators. 1022km, 67 stages, 25,000m+ altitude difference, 5000m mountain passes, glaciers, turquoise lakes and warm and welcoming people.
29 stages have been documented already. I started a fundraiser to track, map, describe, photograph and film the remaining 38 stages in the summers of 2021 and 2022. A small donation would already be a massive help in establishing this epic hiking trail that could boost Tajikistan’s rural economy. 75% of the funds will be used to finance the complex logistics. The remainder is to produce a short film and set up the page pamirtrail.org. A donation and/or sharing the fundraiser page would be much appreciated. Thanks!
I'm proud to announce that the very first printed edition of the guidebook Trekking in Tajikistan is now available. This project has come full circle after 9 years of making the decision to dedicate my time to promote trekking in the mountains of Tajikistan. I teamed up with Christine Oriol, who is one of the trainers and co-founders of Women Rockin' Pamirs, to turn the earlier published PDF into a real comprehensive trekking guide. It will be published by renowned UK publisher Cicerone Press, known for their outdoor guides and particularly walking guides. The cooperation has been great and I'm very happy to show this labour of love to the world. Book orders can be made via Cicerone Press among many other web shops and quality book stores. Cicerone ships worldwide for a very reasonable price. The self-published PDF Trekking in Tajikistan is not available anymore.
Women Rockin' Pamirs is a great initiative that aims to train Pamiri women to become a trekking guide in their home mountains, the Tajik Pamirs. This month they have launched a new website full of information about the project. They have also started advertising two exciting new trekking expeditions, guided exclusively by female Pamiri guides who have completed their training. Some of them have already worked on high profile adventures, such as guiding National Geographic explorer Paul Salopek on his Tajikistan stretch of the Out of Eden walk.
Trekkers heading up the small pass that is the gateway to Langar Valley
The next day we aim for the Langar Pass (4630m). The climb is gradual while staying on the true left (so right as you go up) side of the river. Every now and then there are little stone markers along the trail. As we approach the pass the trail sometimes fades away to appear again a few hundred metres further. On your left you can see some stunning icy peaks of over 5000 metres. After reaching the pass we descend to our next camp at 4570m on the shores of the little turquoise lake, just below the pass. The ground and water sources are not great but the views are absolutely amazing and the tents are in the sun for a large part of the day. If you still have some energy left you could go for the 3 hour return side trip to Chapdar Kul.
Our camp just below the Langar Pass
We are leaving camp with the prospect of thicker air. First we drop 200 vertical metres on our way to Uchkul, a series of three amazing lakes with the glaciated peak of Mt Kulin in the distance. We pass a massive herd of yaks, who are apparently owned by our local guide Aliq. We revisit the family I met in 2012 and they treat us to a lovely lunch of fresh yoghurt and bread. It's good to hear that the eldest son has been accepted for an education program funded by the Aga Khan Foundation. After lunch we continue walking towards the end of Uchkul where we descend a further 150 metres towards the confluence of several rivers that drain into Lake Sarez. We set up camp near another shepherds settlement.
Crossing a typical Pamiri bridge
The following morning we're moving on in the direction of our highlight of this trek. The magical Zarojkul. An easy climb takes us to a series of four alpine lakes, each of them different in colour and located in a different landscape. It takes four hours to reach Zarojkul. What a place! We are treated to snowy showers, which adds drama to the place. This will be our base for the next two days, to rest and explore the direct surroundings.
Zarojkul in all its glory. Yes, that's the real colour!
Trekkers taking in the view of a 6000m+ peak soaring above Zarojkul
To see Zarojkul at its best, try to hike up a high point so you can see it from above. A whole different perspective!
After a few days enjoying Zarojkul we geared up for the toughest day of the trek. The crossing of the 4840m Shtik Lazar pass. We backtrack our footsteps for half an hour to the foot of the pass. A steep, rocky path zigzags up the narrow valley on the left. After an hour we reach the glacier that covers Shtik Lazar. In September there is no snow, there will be in early trekking season. Crampons and axe are not required in our case, but this might be the case in other months. We keep to the right, avoiding the big crevasses that are clearly visible. The actual highest point of Shtik Lazar is just after the glacier on the moraines. The descent to the Bardara Valley is long and the walking is hard-going. Lots of loose scree, steep angles and slippery slopes. Despite this don't forget to look around! Impressive hanging glaciers and mountain faces make the trip a bit more bearable. As we finally reach the Bardara valley we cross the river (wading, this could be deep in early season) and head downstream where you can find several campsites within a couple of kilometres.
Crossing the Bardara River. From here it's down!
The walk from the top of the Bardara Valley to the village of Bardrara is long (20km) but lovely. There is only one river crossing and it's the deepest one on the trek. You might end up walking upstream to find a suitable place to cross. We used donkeys for the crossing.
Gradually trees appear in the landscape and cultivated land. When we approach Bardara it feels like we enter Shangri-La. It's such a peaceful place. We could stick around for a while!
This trip was organised by UK based Untamed Borders.