Bachor Mountain Lakes Trek

After getting out of Khorog we hit the Pamir Highway to Bachor (3300m), a small mountain village 120km east of Khorog. This is the trailhead to many mountain adventures in the High Pamirs, including Yashilkul. The last 18km is, as understated by our driver, a bad road. It took two hours to reach the place. As there was enough time to do a bit of walking we set out to the east to stretch the legs and find a good camp spot which we did roughly 5km east at the confluence of Ghund and an unnamed side river (3425m).

Murky waters meet crystal clear Ghund River

We stayed on the trail leading to the beautiful mountain lake Yashilkul Kul, only into the left river valley just before the lake. The hot temperatures and thin air (and hauling everything ourselves...) made it a tough trekking day. Remco was not very well acclimatised yet and that took its toll. We decided to set up camp after 5 hours of walking, along the stream coming from the lake Chapdar at around 3600m. Plenty of dead wood and dried cow dung enabled us to make a good bon fire.

A good whisky and roaring fire, what else do you need?

The easy path ascends gradually through the wide valley. Navigation is easy, the weather ever clear and temperatures mild in daytime and slightly chilly at night. The horse flies are an absolute pain, hasseling you from 9 to 5! The next camp we set at the valley looking towards where Chapdar would be. It was our first night above 4000m and getting to sleep proved to be difficult.

The route over the Langar Pass (4625m) is again easy. From our camp to the pass took us about three hours. A few hundred metres after the pass you´ll see a stunning translucent mountain lake which we first mistook for Chapdar. We used Marhus Hausers The Pamirs map which is scale 1:500.000. It is very easy to misjudge distances! We set up camp at the lake and I went for an excursion to Chapdar, 3km southwest of our camp. Next stop Uchkul, a 4 hour walk and again a stunning location to pitch the tent. The choi and the warm fresh naan at the shepherds family at the second lake was briliant (and very welcome after days of freezedried food and muesli breakfasts!).

Good morning Uchkul!

From Uchkul a trail descends towards a shepherds camp at a river that flows down to Sarez Lake. Here I made a crucial mistake of assuming a route without even checking the map. Instead of crossing the river before the first small lake I kept going up. This resulted in lot's of doubts about the map and the route. When I realised I made a mistake we were far up this wrong valley (in fact almost back at Chapdar...). Remco was not impressed. It took another two hours to get back on route and find a suitable camp spot. It left us drained, both physically and mentally. Nevertheless, we pitched the tent at a marvelous mountain lake.

Knackered after a unwanted D-tour

The 6th day went through stunning high alpine terrain. The path remained surprisingly, winding its way through big boulders and along steep drops. In terms of mountain lakes, this is probably one of the most beautiful routes in the world. Crystal clear waters surrounded by massive glaciated 5000m peaks. We passed Zarojkul after 3 hours of walking. Still a long way to go, we kept going (wanting to sleep below 4000m to catch a bit of sleep for a change). Our journey back south in the direction of Bachor was not as easy as it seemed. Again longer than expected because of the scale of our map and hopping many boulders with over 20kg on our backs took its toll. Remco tried to recover from a slip but instead did his back in badly. The journey down the next day was, despite the easy terrain, a true agonising experience for him. We decided to head back to Khorog to reconsider our plans. In Khorog plans were decided for us as it turned out... (see previous post)

Zarojkul, 4500m

Shortly I will write a detailed description of this trek.

Early exit from Badakhshan/Pamirs

The 24th of July Remco and I hopped in a jeep bound for Khorog, the capital of the Pamir region. Apart from the usual delays at the check points, the trip seemed to run smoothly. Until news arrived that there was a 'situation' in Khorog, involving violence with casualties. Stories along the road made clear that extreme violence broke out in Khorog between the government military and a local group and that 40 deaths were reported.

Khorog civilians building road blocks

I couldn't believe it, Khorog is such a peaceful city, with all its hospitality and relaxed atmosphere. We planned the start of our Pamir crossing in Vanj, but without knowing exactly what was going on we decided to travel further and make a decision later what to do. Hindsight, we should have gotten off earlier. But we felt we had to get information before heading into a possible hazardous mountain territory. We ended up in a Khorog guesthouse, advised to stay in. Seeing groups of foreigners leaving the centre in the hope to catch a ride near the airport we decided to pack our bags and leave again. Only to return again a few hours later, spending the night in Khorog. Gun shots and heavy artilliry kept us awake and worried about the next day. Malte, a German fellow traveler, managed to arrange a car for the next day heading eastwards to a mountain village called Bachor. We managed to get there and did a fantastic 7 day trek in the area (see next post).

Returning to Khorog (virtually all traffic through the Pamirs passes Khorog) was again insecure. Still recovering from the high altitude trek we were woken up by the Tajik security service GKNB with the request to leave Badakhshan as soon as possible. Three hours later we took off from Khorog airport on our way to Dushanbe....

Leaving Khorog with mixed emotions...

The crossing of the Pamirs unfortunately never happened. But more important is that peace returns to the region.

For more background information and travel advice there's an excellent piece on Robert Middleton's website pamirs.org.


Boot Repair...

Getting the boots through their last 20 days of mountains...


Yagnob and Fan Mountains treks completed!

The first two trekkings in the north of Tajikistan have been completed. We started deep in the Zerafshan Valley in a village called Langar. After a three day approach through rivers and over massive snow fields we went over the Tabaspin Pass (4040m). On the other side we entered the magical, almost mythical river valley of the Yagnob.

Although there is no permanent habitation in the Upper Yagnob we did encounter several goat herders with their herd of goats. In July there were still enormous snow bridges that allows trekkers to cross the Yagnob. Downstream daytime temperatures started rising (it ws HOT!), and the slopes become more and more bleak. At some point we decided to start at 5am and had a siesta around noon to avoid the heat. After spectacular passages like the gorge below, and some challenging passes we arrived in Magrebi Poyon after 8 days.

We hitched a ride to Anzob and arranged a taxi to Iskander Kul for about 400 TJK. Another (mad) ride took us to the trailhead for the second leg through the Fan Mountains.Very different landscape, much wetter (we had a little bit of rain, which was very welcome!) and trees. Steep ascends and sections of nice gradual incline brought us in two days to the Upper Akhbashir Valley, where the approach to the Akhbashir (also called Sarymat) Pass starts.

The approach to the 4160m high pass is long. It took us 6,5 of ploughing through wet soil and soft snow to get to the summit. But the view was absolutely worth it!

The descent was definitely top three most horrible descents in my trekking "career". Traversing steep scree most of the descent, slushy snow and aggressive shepherd dogs worn us completely out (1300m down on horendous terrain). No path whatsoever. I really wonder why the crossing of this pass is mentioned as an existing route. Not recommended unless you like the kind of terrain described earlier.

In September I will update this and the coming route on this site with proper descriptions and more photographs. Off to the Pamirs in two days!


Packing Mayhem

Tomorrow I'm off! I'm flying Turkish Airlines and will meet up with my buddy Pete at the whisky shop at Istanbul Airport. Everything fits in the backpack, with 30kg allowance no worries about excess baggage. 40 degrees Celsius Dushanbe here we come!


Training sessions

The past 1,5 month I have been able to get out for a few good walks in preparation of Tajikistan (I would have done them anyways!...)

The Overland Track, Tasmania

Dreadful conditions during a climb of the volcano at Kolombangara Island, Solomon Islands

The last walk in my local hills before heading out to Tajikistan in the Pentlands just outside Edinburgh, earlier today with Pete Wooding.


Route maps Zerafshan and Pamir treks

This is the intended route crossing the Zerafshan Range (Northern Tajikistan), starting east end finishing at the 7 lakes south of Penjikent.

After the Zerafshan we will be travelling to Vanj, the trailhead for the Pamir traverse. The trek finishes in the Tajik part of the Wakhan Corridor, at the border with Afghanistan.


Support from Adventure Food

Manufacturer of freeze dried meals Adventure Food has been so kind to support my research trip in Tajikistan with their meals. I can't wait for their Goulash (I ordered quite a few), my favourite!! Thanks Marcel and Ivo!!


Security situation worsens in Badakhshan/Wakhan

Mountain Unity has posted an article on an extremist attack in the Badakhshan Province, only a few hours from Ishkashim which forms the gateway to the Wakhan Corridor. Mountain Unity, a charity that promotes tourism in the Wakhan, can no longer do so. This is what they say on their Facebook page:

"Wardoj is only a few hours from Ishkashim. Mountain Unity no longer promotes the Wakhan as a safe destination because we have no presence or insight into the situation on the ground."

Anyone planning a trip to the region, keep an eye on the MU Facebook page for the latest.


6 weeks of Tajik Mountains ahead

The summer is approaching and with that my second leg of the research of my trekking guide “Trekking in Tajikistan and the Afghan Wakhan Corridor”. Today I got my 2 months visa!

In July I will travel to Tajikistan with my friend Pete Wooding, to start the first 10 day trek in the northern part of the country. We’ll be doing an east to west traverse of the Zerafshan Range, with several passes over 4000m. The starting point is at a small village called Langar, on the Zerafshan River. This is the entry point of the Tabaspin Gorge leading to the 4040m high Tabaspin Pass.  After that it’ll take four days to reach the road. By following the river Yagnob downstream and climb the Khishertob Pass (4011m) we hit the M34 at Takfon. The second stage starts near Iskander Kul, in the village Sary Tag. A three day trek via the less known Sarymat Pass (4160m) and the Tavasang Pass (3300m) takes us to the famous and stunning 7 Lakes at Marguzor Lake. Here we take a bus or hitch a ride to the “metropolis” Penjikent for some cold beers.

The third week of July the north-south crossing of the Pamirs is on the program. Together with Remco Vriend, a friend I met on the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal (and is funny enough from the same Dutch village as me) we will do a 25 day trek from Vanj to Vrang (Tajik Wakhan Corridor). On route we’ll be passing the foot of Pik Revolution, cross a part of the better known trekkers routes in the Bartang Valley, camp on the shores of Yashkul and get close up views of the magnificent jagged mountains Pik Karl Marx and Pik Engels. All this while crossing five passes of over 4500m! An attempt of one of Pik Engels side peaks over 6000m is planned. Straight after that the hot spring at Baba Fatima in the Wakhan is waiting for us (as well as a few more cold beers and decent food in Khorog).

From September 2012 I will start writing, designing and producing the guidebook that is planned for publication in 2013!

Article in Dutch Magazine on trekking in the Afghan Wakhan Corridor

Dutch mountain magazine "Bergen Magazine" published a 4 page article of the 2010 trek in the Wakhan Corridor. For Dutch readers, enjoy the read!


Vote for the Trans Pamir Expedition 2012 @ Berghaus Adventure Challenge!

I have been short listed for a Berghaus grant scheme, called Berghaus Adventure Challenge. Votes needed to win! Go to http://www.berghaus.com/en/adventure-challenge/shortlist and vote for Trans Pamir Expedition 2012. Thanks!