|Standard||very demanding, technical|
|Zone and Permit||open, no permit|
|Summary||This classic traverse showcases the alpine splendour of the Ghuzherav Mountains as it follows cascading streams through meadows and crosses two dramatic passes.|
Boisum and Chafchingol, two high passes in the remote Ghuzherav Mountains, link Shimshal village with Koksil on the KKH 17km west of Khunjerab Pass. Traversing the South and North Ghuzherav mountains makes for a spectacularly beautiful and challenging trek. Boisum Pass is not glaciated, but the higher Chafchingol is. The approach to Chafchingol involves fording a deep, swift torrent several times and ascending Class 2 scree and loose rock. The descent is over a crevassed glacier.
Crossing the Ghuzherav and Chafchingol rivers may require fixing ropes across the rivers for safety. Descending the Chafchingol Glacier requires bringing the mountaineering equipment Necessary to fix at least 150m of rope and possibly travel in roped teams (See Mountaineering Equipment,).
The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research 1:250, 000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) covers the trek. It labels Shpodeen as Shekhdalga, MandiKshlakh, as Mandi Kushlag, and Avduzhi as Hapdija. It omits all other places names. North of Boisum Pass, the trail is incorrectly marked on the river’s true right (east) side; it’s on the true left (west) side to MandiKshlakh.
Several maps give the elevation of Boisum Pass above 5000m, and as high as 5090m. The authors have crossed Boisum Pass four times and have never gotten elevation readings as high as 5000m. As a base of reference, the pass elevation is probably closer to 4900m. This is supported by the Russian maps, which give it as 4930m. The Swiss map and other maps show extensive glaciation on the north-east side of Boisum Pass. In reality, the entire trail is either not on glacier or on very stable moraine. It’s all rock. At no time is the trail on snow or ice, nor are there any crevasses or particular difficulties.
Permits and Regulations
This trek is usually done from south to north, but if you want start from Koksil, you may need special permission from Gilgit’s Dc, IG or AIG. The Khunjerab security Force (KSF) at Koksil has the discretion to allow trekkers to enter the Koksil Valley from the KKH.
Guides and Porters
A local guide and/or porters are indispensable for the river crossings and Chafchingol Pass. Porters carry a maximum of 25kg, including their own gear and food, even though governments regulations don’t require you to reduce load weight. Negotiate a fair agreement about wages and weights of loads before starting. Bring tarps for shelter at Jafervask and Chafchingol where there are no huts.
Unfortunately, this trek suffered from 25% stage inflation in the 1990s. The multiple times this book’s authors did this trek, it was only nine stages between Shimshal village and Koksil. Shimshalis now ask for the following 12 stages from Shimshal village: (1) Zardgarben; (2) Jafervask; (3) Boisum Pass; (4) Perchodwashk; (5) MandiKshlakh; (6) Avduzhi; (7) War-e-Ben; (8) Targeen; (9) Chafchingol Base Camp; (10) Chafchingol Pass; (11) Koksil Valley; and (12) Koksil.
The three additional stages arise from these discrepancies: Jafervask to Avduzhi used to be two stages and now it’s four; and Chafchingol Base Camp to Koksil Valley used to be one stage and now it’s two. Reportedly, some Shimshalis have asked for as many as 15 stages, which unjustifiably ask for paying double stages over a pass.
GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK
To the Start
See the Shimshal Village trek
From the Finish
Unless you prearrange a special vehicle to meet you, catch whatever ride you can down to Afiyatabad. Daily Chinese buses are usually full and won’t pick up trekkers. Vehicles returning empty from Tashkurgan may stop. Local jeeps and tractors occasionally pass and may stop. No set fares exist, so be patient and negotiate.
Day 1 : Shimshal Village to Zardgarben
4-5 hours, 6.9km, 1075m ascent
Head east from Shimshal, cross Michael Bridge, and continue through the cultivated area of Band-e-Sar. Turn north into the steep, narrow canyon formed by the Zardgarben River, 1 ½ hours from Shimshal village. The trail begins along the river’s true right bank, crosses it four times, and in 1½ hours reaches Shaushau (3360m) with a spring below the trail. Shau is a woody shrub with yellow flowers used to make weaving spindles. Tung-e-Ben, a sheltered flat place, is five minutes beyond.
Cross the river a final time to its true left bank and ascend a 250m steep scree slope 45 minutes to a wooden portal (3600m) called Tung-e-Sar (the top of the difficult dry area). Beware of rock fall on this tricky scree slope. A clear stream lies 15 minutes beyond. Continue 30 minutes to the broad, level plain of Zardgarben (4075m). The yellow cliffs above Zardgarben are the source of its name, which means at the base of (ben) the yellow (zart) rock (gar). This dramatic camp Site has a herders’ hut. The entire enormous valley is an old lake bed formed by a huge rock slide that dammed the valley. The cliffs frame views south to Shimshal and Adver Sar.
Day 2 : Zardgarben to Jafervask
4 hours, 8.4km, 527m ascent
Head north from Zardgarben, fording the stream that descends from Uween-e-Sar. Stroll across the maidan and, towards its far end, descend to and ford the Zardgarben River to its true right Bank. Immediately the trail climbs to traverse black moraine from a side glacier.
One across the moraine, the route diverges. When the water in the Zardgarben River is very low, you can immediately descend to the river, ford it and avoid crossing the side stream coming from the west. When it’s low, descend to the level plain formed by the side stream before descending to the river. Then follow the true right bank and ford the Zardgarben River above the side stream. Once across the river, follow its true left bank to the lone hut (4471m) at Shpodeen (place where rhubarb or shpod grows). Follow the river’s edge one hour to Jafervask (4602m, where a man, Jafer, built a stone wall around fields). When the Zardgarben River is high, stay on the true right bank and ford the side stream. Continue on the river terrace high above the true right bank, and ford the Zardgarben Rivera few minutes below Jafervask. High cliffs provide a spectacular backdrop to this grassy flower-strewn spot, home to ibex.
Day 3 : Jafervask to Perchodwashk
3-4 hours, 10.2km, 273m ascent, 295m descent
It’s takes 1½ to two hours to climb to the east-west Boisum Pass (4875m). The trail basically follows the true left bank of the stream descending from the pass, crossing and then recrossing it just before the final steep, rocky push to the pass. In high water, it requires a ford. Boisum means the pass above (sum) the caves (boi). It refers to the overhanging clefts at the base of the fissured cliff (on your right as you ascend) on the south-west side of the pass, which were the overnight stopping place on the two-day journey between Shimshal village and Ghuzherav long before any shelters existed at Shpodeen or Perchodwashk. Attractive Pir Peak (5915m) rises east- south-east of the pass.
Immediately below the west side of the pass is a tarn called Lup Zhui. Either skirt the Shrinking lake’s north-west shore or cut across the dry section of the lake bed in 15 minutes. Cross the low rise beyond the lake to Shipkadurikh, an outwash plain, another 15 minutes farther. Beyond this is another rise that descends steeply on moraine to a vast, level outwash plain. Cairns mark the indistinct route, which takes 30 minutes to follow to the shore of the smaller Dzak Zhui. Past this lake, the trail moves onto moraine rubble and descends reasonably gently one hour to Perchodwashk beneath gigantic black terminal moraine that fills the valley. Built against an erratic is the hut (4580m) at Perchodwashk (meaning ‘where the young girl got tried’) above the confluence of two streams, which are usually silty, amid pleasant meadows.
Day 4 : Perchodwashk to War-e-Ben
4½-5 hours, 14.1km, 983m descent
Between Perchodwashk and MandiKshlakh, three tongues of rocky rubble from side glaciers push into the Boisum Valley from the west. Between these obstacles are two grassy plateaus with clear streams and dilapidated structures called Qul Beg Maidan and Reza Maidan. From Perchodwashk, ford the side stream and stay close to the river’s true left bank, skirting the first side glacier. Stroll across flower-carpeted rolling hills marked by cairns and in 1km pass two possible camp sites, Shogshogeen, named for yellow buttercups that yaks like to eat, and nearby Pamireen.
Beyond Pamireen, traverse Qul Beg Maidan and cross the second side moraine. The trail crosses the two-level terraces of Reza Maidan, dotted by ochre lichen-covered boulders, and the last side moraine. Here is the first dramatic glimpse of the rocky Ghuzherav. An imposing vertical precipice soars high above the Boisum River’s true right bank. MandiKshlakh (4129m), an unattractive cluster of huts and livestock pens on a dusty, stark terrace, is two hours below Perchodwashk at the Boisum Valley’s mouth.
Leaving the Boisum Valley, the route turns west into the Ghuzherav. When the water level in the Ghuzherav is low, the trail stays along the river’s true left bank to Avduzhi. When it’s high, you must ford the broad river twice-across and then back to the true left bank-to bypass a section under water. One hour west of MandiKshlakh is Avduzhi (3871m) with its huts and a clear stream. Beyond Avduzhi, along an easy trail, lies War-e-Ben (3597m), Ghuzherav’s primary summer settlement. Because yaks can’t cross Chafchingol Pass, they don’t go beyond War-e-Ben.
Side Trip : Dih Dasht and Spesyngov-e-Desht
From War-e-Ben, you can continue north-west down Ghuzherav through junipers to the summer settlement of Dih and Spesyngov. From Dih, a side valley rises south to the pastures of Dih Dasht where ibex and blue sheep are reportedly plentiful. From Spesyngov, another side Valley leads south to Spesyngov-e-Desht beneath Quran Koh’s snowy summit (7164m). Beyond Spesyngov, a low-water route, passable between November and May, follows the Ghuzherav to its confluence with the Khunzherav. Another route to Sost over high, extreme passes is definitely inadvisable for trekkers. It’s two days and four stages one way between War-e-Ben and Spesyngov-e-Desht, and half that to Dih Dasht.
Day 5 : War-e-Ben to Chafchingol Base Camp
4-5 hours, 10km, 487m ascent
Cross the Ghuzherav by an existing steel cable when the water is high or by wading when it’s low, and enter the Chafchingol gorge. The country here is high desert with crumbly, desert-varnished granite and junipers. When water in the Chafchingol River is high, typically three and possibly as many as five difficult fords of the river are necessary. It may require fixing rope of safety.
Once through the gorge, the trail thins, rising above the river and crossing scree slopes to descend to Targeen (where tamarisk grows,) where a small cramped hut sits by the stream (3870m), two to three hours from War-e-Ben. Beyond Targeen is the confluence of a stream from the west and another from the glaciers at the Chafchingol’s head. Ford the western stream and continue to Chafchingol Base Camp (4084m), a site with some low stone wall shelters, two hours from Targeen. Clear water is near the river. It is possible to climb Sonia Peak from Chafchingol Base Camp (see the boxed text ‘Peak Possibilities’).
Day 6 : Chafchingol Base Camp to Koksil River
6-7 hours, 6km, 1016m ascent, 680m descent
It’s a long, arduous day, so start early. The ascent over scree to the permanently snow-covered Chafchingol Pass (5100m) takes four hours. It’s steep Class 2 near the top with loose rock. The pass, marked by a large cairn, is glaciated on its north side. The descent is steep. Early in the season, snow covers a large bergschrund at the glacier’s west margin and the route goes down the snow and requires fixing a rope for safety and probing for crevasses. Late in the season when the Bergschrund is open, the route descends the rock cliff on the glacier’s west side. The rock route may require a short rappel (abseil) or fixing as much as 50m of rope for safety.
Once off the glacier, cross to the Chafchingol stream’s true left bank. A small rocky area provides a spot to make tea or camp if it becomes too long a day. From this spot, follow the Chafchingol stream down to its confluence with the Chap Dur and Koksil rivers (4420m) and camp along the Koksil River.
Accessible from Chafchingol Base Camp (Day 5)
West of the Base Camp, towards the Chafchingol Valley’s head, rises Sonia Peak (peak 6340m on Swiss map), first climbed by Shimshal Rahmat Ullah Baig. The three-day technical climb of 2256m ascent and 2256m descent is gaining popularity. The first day, follow the river’s true right bank three to four hours from Chafchingol Base Camp to Sonia Base Camp, the high camp. The second day is a long ascent on glacier to the snowy pyramid’s summit, returning to Sonia Base Camp. The third day, return to Chafchingol Base Camp.
Day 7 : Koksil River to Koksil
2-3 hours, 4km, 10m descent
From the confluence, it takes two to three hours to reach the KKH, the KSF check post and herders’ huts at Koksil (4410m).