|Zone and Permit||restricted, US$50 permit|
|Summary||An historic caravan route through Broghil’s lake- and peak- dotted landscape crosses a gentle lake- crowned pass, traversing from the Hindu Raj Range to the Karakoram.|
The Karambar An (4320m) links Chitral’s Yarkhun Valley with Ghizar’s Karambar Valley. The trek up the Yarkhun River headwaters passes through picturesque Broghil, an area dotted with green meadows and small lakes, and populated by yak- heading Wakhi. Karambar An is, apart from the Deosai Plains, Pakistan’s largest alpine meadow. At the crest of these well- watered grasslands are several pristine lakes. Over 1000 years ago, Chinese Pilgrims travelling south in search of Buddhist teachings wrote of a ‘wild onion’ pass. This may have been the Karambar An, where wild onions abound.
The trek is often preceded by the Shah Jinali An trek (p) and followed by the Chilinji An and Qalander Uween trek (p), making a spectacular traverse of Pakistan’s northernmost borders over the passes.
The highly reliable US AMS 1: 250, 000 topographic map Mastuj (NJ 43- 13) shows the Yarkhun Valley and Broghil Pass. The Baltit (NJ 43- 14) sheet is the only readily available map showing Broghil and the Karambar An. It doesn’t show the Karambar lakes and slightly alters place names. It labels Shuwor Sheer as Shuwar Shur, Qul Quldi as Qiu Quldi, Boree Mergich as Margach, and Rabot as Ribat. It doesn’t show top Khana. It calls the river following west from the Karambar An the Ribat Bar. Local people call it Karambar Chhat (valley of Karambar Lake).
Permits and Regulations
This trek is in a restricted zone where a permit and licensed guide are required (see Trekking permits,). Police in Lasht and limit, and the Chitral Scouts in Ishkarwaz may ask to see your permit.
Guides and Porters
Chitrali porters ask for Rs 1500 per day, including payment for food rations. The constantly changing Chattiboi and Karambar glaciers are tricky and require route- finding, so hire a nearby herder to show the way.
The stages system isn’t instituted on this trek, but it’s begun to take hold. Between Lasht and Karambar Lake, each day is roughly equivalent to a stage. In Karambar, Chitralis ask for three stages between Sokhter Rabot and Bort.
GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK
To the Start
The road goes as far as Lutgaz, just beyond Lasht but, in summer, high water may block the road near Sholkuch. When it’s blocked, walk along the road. It takes two days (and two stages) to walk between Sholkuch and Lasht, so allow time for this possibility. Chitral- Mastuj jeeps. Mastuj- Lasht special hires and Chitral- Lasht. In Lasht, the Shushar Gol occasionally blocks the road, leaving 45 minutes’ walk to Lutgaz on Lasht’s north end.
From the Finish
The road goes as far as Bort, but in summer, high water may block the road at Bilhanz. When it’s blocked, walk along the road, fording side streams as needed. It takes four hours to walk between Bort and Bilhanz. One stage is fixed between Bort and Bad Swat. You may have to pay for an additional partial stage between Bad Swat and Bilhanz.
Jeeps to Gilgit from Bort, from Bilhanz and from lmit. Special hires from Bort, from Bilhanz, and from Imit. Alternatively, you can walk or take a Jeep to Chatorkhand and get on a NATCO bus to Gilgit.
Day 1 : Lasht to Kishmanja
5½- 6½ hours, 16km, 252m ascent
Delight Lutgaz (3048m, ‘big grass’ in Khowar), with its abundant springs and splendid view of the Shotor (camel) Glacier across the wide Yarkhun River, is the trek’s staging ground. Follow a good trail along the Yarkhun’s true right bank 50 minutes to the outskirts of Zirch village. Across the valley, large glaciers descend from snowy peaks. Cross a large alluvial fan and ford the Kan Khun Gol’s several shallow channels after another 45 minutes. The trail bends east as it ascends, reaching the small settlement along the clear Bazhdung Gol in 30 minutes. The trail climbs 15 minutes to a saddle, then descends for 15 minutes to the small settlement and clear springs of Romenu. The high- water trail, usually used during July and August, climbs the hillside above the river. The low- water trail stays in the river beyond Romenu, around the base of rock ridge, then along the base of scree slopes.
Reach an alluvial fan, one hour from Romenu, called Ishkore Kunj. Continue 30 minutes across this area, then 15 minutes through a large stand of trees. Beyond, skirt a scree slope at the river’s edge and reach the Wakhi settlement of Kishmanja (3300m) in 30 minutes. Kishmanja, with its spring, is run by Momin, who collects a camping fee
Day 2 : Kishmanja to Ishkarwaz
4½- 5½ hours, 12. 9km, 210m ascent
Cross the stream at Kishmanja’s east end via a footbridge and traverse a large scree slope above the river. At the base of the scree, 45 minutes from Kishmanja, are some springs and willow trees and a great view across the valley of Koyo Zom (6872m), which Broghil villagers call Ghaliyat. It was first climbed in 1968 by an Austrain expedition. Continue for another hour to a juniper- dotted plain. After 10 minutes the trail turns sharply left and climbs 10 minutes to Vidinkot, with a clear stream and several houses. A footbridge over the Yarkhun River leads to the village of Garam Chashma, called Pechugh in Khowar, and a hot spring.
From Vidinkot, stay on the trail along the Yarkhun’s true right (north) bank with great views of the enormous Chattiboi Glacier (not to be confused with a glacier of the same name in the Karambar Valley) for 30 minutes and cross the footbridge to its true left (south) side. Here you’re directly opposite the Chattiboi Glacier’s snout, which protrudes into the Yarkhun River calving off in massive chunks.
The trail divides 10 minutes beyond the footbridge. The right fork leads in one hour to Chikar and the trail south- east to Darkot An (see the Karambar An and Darkot An trek,). Take the left fork, following the Yarkhun River 15 minutes to a house and fields, with a small trickle of water. Another hour leads to the Chitral Scouts post at Ishkarwaz. Camp in the grassy area (3510m) with a small spring above the river, just east of the footbridge spanning the gorge. From the ridge above Ishkarwaz are views of the Broghil Pass to the north, and the Darkot Glacier and Chattiboi icefall to the south.
Side Trip : Broghil Pass
3- 5 hours, 13km, 90m ascent, 90m descent
Ask at the Chital Scouts Post in Ishkarwaz for permission to visit the Broghil Pass (3600m) for a day. You can rent horses in Chilma Rabot or Ghari.
Day 3 : Ishkarwaz to Tir-e- Dasht
6- 7 hours, 17. 9km, 180m ascent, 210m descent
Cross the footbridge and climb gently 30 to 45 minutes to Chilma Rabot (3570m), a south- facing village, spread out amid open, terraced fields with the Broghil stream passing through the middle of the village.
Continue through grasslands above true right bank, as the river runs through a gorge with two watchtowers perched high above the opposite bank, one hour to picturesque Garhil (sheep pen by the rock), a settlement with a spring by big rocks north of the trail. From Garhil, the Darwaza Pass leads north into Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor and is closed to foreigners, Although Wakhi riders regularly cross the pass during summer.
Continue along the level trail one hour, skirting, peat bogs. A newer trail carved from the river terrace parallels the river and leads in another hour to Thin Yupk (3690m, ‘hot water’ in Wakhi), where a hot spring flows into a small warm lake. (In low water, you can proceed from Garhil up the main river valley to Thin Yupk, but in high water avoid this route because of the seven or eight difficult fords.) From Thin Yupk, the trail goes over a low hill 30 minutes to a grassy swale with a clear stream. Continue 15 minutes past two picturesque ponds, then 15 minutes more onto the plain below Lashkargah Goz (3660m), where 22 Wakhi households are spread out along the hillside. Lashkar means ‘army’, gah, a ‘place’ and goz, ‘grass’, and the plain is a perfect place for an army to camp and graze its horses. This is the winter home of Broghil’s nambardar Umar Rafi, son of the late Mirza Rafi. The Wakhi in Broghil are sadly much Habituated to opium. On their plentiful grasslands, they produce surplus livestock. With the money they earn from selling it, some buy opium to while away the cold winter months.
Continue along the base of hills on the valley’s north side to a mill house along a stream. Head up a short narrow defile along a clear stream, passing a large spring. The defile opens onto a large peat bog and the grassy camp site of Tir-e- Dasht (3480m), 1½ hours beyond Lashkargah Goz.
Days 4- 5 : Tir-e- Dasht to Karambar Lake
5½- 6½ hours, 16. 9km, 840m ascent, 60m descent
Ascend the rolling hills for 45 minutes to three summer settlement: Shuwor Sheer (3690m), the first and largest; Yirgot Maidan (bearded vulture’s plain), higher on the eastern hillside; and Top Khana, 10 minutes’ walk beyond Shuwor Sheer at the base of a rocky hill. A level, grassy camp site by a clear stream lies between Shuwor Sheer and Top Khana. Top Khana (cannon house) is named for the crumbling hill- top fort, which once commanded the entrance to Karambar Chhat. Across the broad valley from Top Khana is the Zindikharam Glacier. Wakhi people here speak Khowar as their second language with a smattering of Urdu and Persian. Dairy products are abundant.
The beautiful Karambar lakes lie 10km up the gentle Karambar Chhat. Clear water is abundant from streams and springs along this good trail. In one hour reach Qul Quldi, a Wakhi settlement with a Turkic name, situated atop a rock outcrop south of the trail above the river.
Shortly beyond Qul Quldi, pass the huts of Lale Rabot, which perch on the northern hillside high above the trail, and cross a clear stream just beyond. The huts at Thur Mergich (3990m), a large summer settlement, are almost hidden from view south of (below) the trail along a clear stream one hour from Qul Quldi. Boree Mergich lies beyond another stream one hour from Thur Mergich. Rabot’s two crumbling huts lie beyond another stream one hour from Boree Mergich.
This entire valley is considered mergich by the Wakhi, a term that means ‘a pure, clean place where female fairy spirits (pari) dwell’. Thirty minutes beyond Rabot, a large cairn marks the Karambar An (4320m). The western, smaller lake lies 15 minutes farther on and is considered to the much larger lake by a stream that flows through another small lake. Follow the stream another 15 minutes to a large boulder with a cairn over- looking the largest lake. Several stone porters’ shelters Cluster around the boulder’s base. Several excellent camp sites lie near the west end of the enormous blue Karambar Lake (4260m).
Enjoy a rest day at this remarkable spot. It takes 1¼ hours to walk along the lake’s north shore. Above its south shore is Zhui Sar, a snowy peak with a glacier that falls into the lake itself.
Days 6- 10 : Karambar Lake to Bort
4 days, 62km, 1532m descent
To head to Gilgit, descend the Karambar Valley, camping at Shuyinj, Sokhter Rabot, Waraghut and Maturamdan en route to Bort ( for details, see Days 1- 6 of the Karambar An and Darkot An trek, in the reverse direction).