|Zone and Permit||open, no permit|
|Summary||The beautiful and rarely visited Boibar Valley is the route to Jurjur Khun-e-Sar, Tupodan, Parigar Sar and Qarũn Koh base camps, with Qarũn Pass offering exceptional views of the Hispar Muztagh.|
Boibar is an east-west valley whose river descends from Qarũn Koh (7164m) to the Hunza River at Morkhun 10km south of Sost. Boibar is historically significant as the original Wakhi settlement in Gojal and the old route to Shimshal, and has spectacular old-growth juniper trees. Avgarch and Boibar are also names of places in the Wakhan Corridor, suggesting the original inhabitants may have come from Wakhan. Morkhun (2743m) receives more rain than other Gojal villages, as its name suggests (mor means ‘rain’; Khun, ‘house’). At the time of research, villagers were constructing a road to Avgarch with eventual plans to extend it to the Boibar huts.
The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research 1:250, 000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) covers the trek. It labels Jamalabad as Jukulgar, Parigar Sar as Pregar, and the Boibar River at Murkhun. The glacier at the valley’s head labeled Murkhun is locally called Qarũn Koh. Maidun isn’t named, but it’s marked by a triangle.
Guides and Porters
Porters ask for a flat rate per stage, including payment for food rations and the clothing and equipment allowance. Hire a local person to show the way, learn about the area, and support the village’s economy.
GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK
Morkhun is halfway between Afiyatabad and Passu, so jump on any vehicle heading south from Afiyatabad or north from Passu. The short ride on NATCO buses and on vans or wagons. From Morkhun, north of the bridge and south of the Pakistan Army camp, follow the Jamalabad Link Rd half a Kilometre to its end. Jamalabad (2789m), named for the late Mir of Hunza, Mohammad Jamal Khan, lies above the Boibar River’s true right (north) bank.
Day 1 : Jamalabad to Boibar
3½-4½ hours, 7.7km, 716m ascent
Follow the trail east along the canal. A shrine to Shah Shams, marked by white flags, sits on the river’s south side. Reach the first footbridge in 30 minutes and cross to the true left bank. Watch for rock fall between Jamalabad and Avgarch and avoid this section of trail in rain or high winds. Continue along the river’s edge 30 minutes passing scattered rose bushes and the herb spandr to a clear side stream, which flows from Sangar, a scenic grassy ridge descending from Jurjur-Khun-e-Sar (6055m) to the south. (It takes five hours to reach Sangar from Morkhun, making it an eight-to nine-hour round trip).
Just beyond the stream pass Bandiletk. Here red markings on the rock are said to have been made by a bilas (evil spirit) who licked the rock after having eaten people. Villagers say it’s dangerous to travel here after dark. The area on both sides of the river, with its scattered artemisias, ephedras, and roses, is also known as Lalazar (beautiful place in Persian).
Continue 15 minutes to the second footbridge surrounded by tamarisks and a thorny shrub xakh and cross to the river’s true right bank. The trail forks immediately. Both trails lead to Avgarch, but people describe the right fork as dangerous. Take the left fork and follow the trail along the true right bank downstream, backtracking for a few minutes to the base of Yasin Band. Ascend a short 35-degree scree slope, and then a steep, narrow chimney with steps made out of juniper branches, to the terrace above. From this plateau are beautiful views south to Jurjur-Khun-e-Sar and east to Parigar Sar (6200m), a prominent rocky peak (sar) known as the rock (gar) where fairies (pari) dwell.
Continue 30 minutes along a canal at the base of a rocky rhubarb-dotted slope and through level fields and wildflowers to Avgarch (3200m). This large cultivated area was the first settlement of the Wakhi people living in the five villages between Sost and Morkhun who refer to themselves as Avgarchi. It has a mosque with unique wood carvings and two forts. One sits atop the central building, a reminder of the constant battles with Qirghiz people who also used the upper Hunza Valley until the 19th century. A lone giant juniper called Baltar Yarz is nearby. Legend says a boy, Baltar, would have died, but he sacrificed a cow near the juniper tree (yarz) and lived.
From Avgarch, continue up, then cross the river via a footbridge heading south-east to reach Boibar (3505m), a barren summer settlement 1½ hours from Avgarch. Boibar huts sit in a southern side valley, which has a small glacier. Above is the dramatic north face of Tupodan (6106m), whose name means ‘the sun-drenched mountain’.
Day 2 : Boibar to Maidun
2 hours, 6km, 495m ascent
Continue one hour to a cold spring called Xunza Kuk (Queen’s spring), then 30 minutes to Pariyar (the place loved by fairies). These overgrazed pastures are the upper limit of juniper. Many junipers have been cut, but some of those remaining are older than 1000 years. Maidun (4000m), 30 minutes farther, has good water and makes a fine base camp for exploring the upper Boibar Valley. The route to Tupodan Base Camp, used by the 1987 British expedition who were the first to summit Tupodan, heads south up the Tupodan Glacier from Maidun.
Side Trip : Qarũn Pass
4-5 hours, 11km, 873m ascent, 873m descent
The original, but now abandoned, route to Shimshal village followed the Boibar Valley, crossed Qarũn Pass, and descend 2100m of treacherous scree to reach the Shimshal River at Dut. A day trek to the top of the pass offers great views and a glimpse of how difficult access to Shimshal used to be. Legend has it that Mamu Singh, Shimshal’s founder, saw the meadows along the Lupgar Glacier from the pass and so decided to take his livestock there. Shimshalis say the pass is like the legendary miser, Qarũn, because no water is available on the arduous ascent from Dut to the pass, hence the name Qarũn Pass.
From Maidun, ascend 1½ hours past yellow rock outcrops to the pasture of Zardgarben (the base of the yellow rock) from where the pass cairn is visible. Continue, passing right of the Qarũn koh Glacier’s black moraine to the base of the pass (4500m). From this point, the routes to Qarũn Koh and Parigar Sar Base Camps head across the glacier east and north-east respectively. The route to the pass turns south, ascends a scree gully, and traverses to Qarũn Pass (4873m) in one hour. Lupgar Sar, Trivor and Destaghil Sar rise in front. Return from the Pass to Maidun.
Day 3 : Maidun to Jamalabad
4-5 hours, 13.7km, 1211m descent
Retrace steps Downvalley to Jamalabad.