Gojal,

Lupgar Pir Pass

Duration 6 days
Distance 37.7km
Standard Very demanding
Season Mid-June-September
Start Yishkuk
Finish Raminj
Zone and Permit open, no permit
Public Transport yes
Summary From the ochre landscape of Chapursan to the steep-walled, juniper-dotted canyons of Lupgar, this high pass crossing unfolds through unvisited alpine spectacle.

 

Little has been written about the beautiful route across the nonglaciated Lupgar Pir Pass (5190m). Following a route parallel to and south Chapursan Valley, this trek links Yishkuk in upper Chapursan Valley with Raminj in the picturesque and rugged Lupgar Valley. People don’t traditionally use the pass, but graze their livestock in the valleys on both sides of it. Renowned mountaineer Nazir Sabir, who is from Raminj, concurred that this book’s authors’ crossing in 1994 was probably the first since Schomberg’s initial crossing in 1934. Since the 1994 ‘reopening’ of the route, its popularity has been growing every year.

The trek can be done in either direction, but the description below is from west to east starting in Yishkuk, which allows for more gradual acclimatization. This direction entails less ascending, since Yishkuk is 300m higher than Raminj, and the west side of the pass is shorter with less scree than the east side. The route involves two nontechnical glacier traverses.

PLANNING

Maps   

The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research 1:250, 000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) covers the trek. The glaciers to the south-west and south-east of the pass are larger and in different positions from those drawn on the map. Many place names are inaccurate. Wyeen (on the west side of the pass), labeled as Wain, is between two spurs of the ridge descending from Peak 6006. People refer to the glacier south-east of Kit-Ke-zherav (labeled as Kuk-ki-jerav as the Wyeen Glacier, not the kit-ke-zherav Glacier. The trail east of the summer settlement of Lupgar is inaccurately drawn. It runs along the river’s true left bank until recrossing just above the place mislabeled Hapgurchi. Places names east of here to Raminj are inaccurate; Hoopkerch, Harkeesh, and Furzeen aren’t shown.

Guides and Porters

Route-finding beyond (east of) Kit-Ke-zherav (across the Wyeen Glacier and finding the pass itself) is tricky, so hire someone who knows the way. Most herders from Zood Khun only know the route as far as Banafshayeen where they take livestock. Herders from Raminj and Khaibar take livestock as far as Wyeen on the east side of the pass.

Porters ask for a flat rate per stage, including payment for food rations. They also ask for the clothing and equipment allowance. Only pay for stages over which porters carry loads; don’t pay when they ride in a vehicle. When you agree pay for porters’ transportation to and from their village, you aren’t obliged to pay wapasi.

Stages

The route totals eight stages. Prior to 1994, only these three stages were fixed west of the pass starting from Zood Khun: (1) Yishkuk (walking on the road); (2) Kit-Ke-zherav (with Raud being half a stage); and (3) Wyeen (west of pass). The remaining five stages from Wyeen (west of pass) are understood to be: (4) Haji Beg Camp; (5) Wyeen (east of pass); (6) Lupgar; (7) Harkeesh; and (8) Raminj.

GETTING To/From THE TREK

To the Start       

Chapursan is beyond the Afiyatabad check post, so immigration officials may ask to see your Passport. Vehicles depart Afiyatabad for Zood Khun (three hours) every afternoon shortly after the NATCO bus from Gilgit arrives. Special hires. Spend a night in Zood Khun to acclimatize. Beyond Zood Khun, either organize a special hire or walk 5.9km west-south-west along the road to Yishkuk in two hours.

From the Finish               

The canal path enters the village and becomes the Raminj Lin Rd. Walk 15 minutes through the village down to the Chapursan Link Rd. Raminj-Afiyatabad vehicles (1¼ hours) are sporadic. Special hires.

When combining multiple treks in Chapursan, you typically travel along the road between villages. Vehicles going upvalley and downvalley pick up passengers for fixed rates (eg, Raminj-Zood Khun is per person, plus per Bag). Raminj- Zood Khun special hires.

THE TREK

Day 1 : Yishkuk to Raud

30 minutes-1 hour, 1.4km, 150m ascent

Yishkuk (3450m) is a well-watered meadow with some willows. A good spring flows along the road just as you reach Yishkuk where zolg (Berberis), with its edible blue berries, and wild rose bushes abound. Leave the road before it begins to climb towards the wooden bridge over the Yishkuk torrent. Walk south upvalley, over moraine rubble, with the Wyeen Glacier’s outwash stream below to the west. Sparse junipers grow along the trail. The trail bends south-east and after 30 to 45 minutes reaches a level area, mostly stand, next to a large, very cold, clear stream. The stream comes from a spring at the base of a south-facing scree slope. This spot, Raud (3600m), makes a wonderful camp site. To the west, across the 20km-long Yishkuk Glacier is the unusual red rock called Sekr, at the base of which is a summer settlement. This is a very short walk, but most trekkers need to acclimatize before ascending farther.

Day 2 : Raud to Wyeen

4½-5½ hours, 7.2km, 500m Ascent

Cross the clear stream and walk five-minutes along its true left bank to cross the two- part wooden footbridge over the large glacial torrent. Ascend 30 minutes above the river’s true left bank amid junipers, on a small, clear herder’s trail to the huts and livestock pen at Kit-ke-zherav (3690m). Reach the small Kit-Ke-zherav stream from the south in five minutes. Cross it and Continue up the narrow, rocky ablation valley 45 minutes to a side stream called Shot Dur (3780m; ‘avalanche valley’). This is the last water until on the glacier. Continue up the valley, eventually climbing out of it to contour the green hillside, and reach a black talus slope in 45 minutes. Cross the greasy black talus called Charva Shui (3990m) in 15 minutes. Return to the ablation valley, ascending steadily 30 minutes until the valley curves south.

Across the Wyeen Glacier to the east is a side valley marked by red rock. Wyeen camp, south of it, is the grassy area visible between two small ridges. Cross the glacier in two hours. The rock on the glacier is mostly stable and the crossing is easy. Stay to the north (left) of two enormous White and tan rubble mounds in the middle of the glacier. At Wyeen (4100m) only one or two tents can be pitched next to the huts and a couple more on rooftops. Larger trekking parties May prefer to camp by the glacial stream, which comes from Banafshayeen. Clear water is just above the livestock pen.

Day 3 : Wyeen to Haji Beg Camp             

4-5 hours, 5.4km, 630m ascent

Cross immediately to the Banafshayeen stream’s true left bank. Go up Wyeen Glacier’s lateral moraine on loose boulders one hour. Leave the moraine and walk along the stream’s edge. Cross to its true left bank just below the mouth of the Banafshayeen Valley (4200m). A possible camp site for large trekking parties is across the silty stream in an open area next to a small moraine lake. Ascend east up the grassy slope 30 minutes to the level Banafshayeen Valley (4410m). The view of Kuk Sar (6943m) and its unclimbed 3000m vertical face is extraordinary. Banafshayeen, which means ‘the place where banafsha (Primula macrophylla) grows’, is the highest pasture used by Wyeen herders.

From this point, no trails or cairns exist. Continue steadily up the stream’s true right bank. One hour above the Banafshayeen pasture is the terminus of an unnamed glacier (4650m) that fills the valley. This glacier isn’t shown on the Swiss map; it shows two small glaciers higher in the valley. These glaciers have merged and descend to below where the confluence of their outwash streams is shown on the map. Skirt the glacier on the slope high above its north margin. Walk on black lateral moraine 45 minutes to a small side valley, where a clear stream comes down. Continue another hour high above the glacier to a second side valley with a larger, clear stream tumbling down. Ascend along this stream five to 10 minutes to a large flat area where the remains of a square enclosure next to a large, prominent boulder indicates that others have been this way. This is Haji Beg Camp (4680m), named in 1994 by the authors after their travelling companion who embodies the spirit of these mountains. The views are remarkable and the pass is visible at this side valley’s head.

Day 4 : Haji Beg Camp to Wyeen

4-5 hours, 4.1km, 510m ascent, 660m descent

Follow the stream north-east one to two hours to its head (5100m), then east-north east 30 minutes up steeper scree to the Lupgar Pir Pass (5190m). The pass is usually snow-free by mid-July. Pamir Sar (7016m) is visible beyond Kuk Sar to the south-west, a view Schomberg described as ‘a series of superb peaks and glaciers’.

Descend steep, loose scree, bearing left to a scree knoll, then continue over the Knoll left and down to a glacier. This 300m descent takes 15 to 30 minutes. Head out on to the white glacier, zigzagging to avoid crevasses. Work across and slightly down the glacier’s 15- to 20-degree slope 30 minutes to a narrow black medial moraine. Follow it onto terminal moraine with a few pools. About 500m below the glacier’s snout, more pools are visible. Rather than descending towards the mouth, stay high and traverse right on scree, well above the river 30 minutes to a clear stream and another 15 minutes to a grassy yak pasture called Wyeen (4530m).

The upper Lupgar Valley features striking red, yellow and brown rock formations. Climber may be interested in the snowy 6000m peaks at the valley’s head, which appear to be straightforward ascents.

Day 5 : Wyeen to Hoopkerch

5-6 hours, 12.3km, 830m descent

Descend to the main river bed and pick up a faint trail. In 15 minutes, reach the large outwash stream from the big glacier to the south. Ford its several Knee-deep channels. Across the stream, continue one hour to Ilga (4380m), a pasture with some unused huts. The water from a hanging glacier is especially silty in the afternoon. On the valley’s north side with spectacular snowcapped spires with scree cascading from their base to the river. On its south side are fantastic red crags.

Descend 20 minutes to Ghorhil, a natural livestock pen (hil) amid the boulder field (ghor). The water is silty. Descend 15 minutes through sharp boulders to a river from the south. Cross the river and continue to Lupgar (4140m, ‘big rock’), the main summer settlement for Khaibar and Raminj herders who share pastoral rights in this valley. A tiny spring is at the base of a cliff to the south. Keep close to the cliffs leaving Lupgar. Cross a southern side stream via a stone footbridge, 15 minutes from Lupgar, then descend along its true right bank 30 minutes to the Lupgar River. A huge spring the last reliable clear water until Raminj, is on the left, two- thirds of the way down.

Cross the river over an interesting footbridge and follow the trail along the true left bank through Khuda Khair Charjeshan, the ‘God help us slides’. Rock fall along this section is deadly in wind or rain, and the trail is very narrow and exposed.

Forty-five minutes later, the trail comes to a natural footbridge. The gorge is so deep and narrow here that you can’t see the river below. Cross the true right bank and continue on a thin loose trail with tricky footbridge. Continue downvalley, crossing two side streams. The water in one is reddish, and the other is whitish. Descend one hour to a sandy area along the river, passing through a birch grove, then ascend and enter a juniper forest. Ahead and below 15 minutes is Hoopkerch (3700m, ‘seven hunters’ huts’), where a glacial side stream comes in from the south. A small spring is below the livestock pen.

Day 6 : Hoopkerch to Raminj             

3½- 4 hours, 7.3km, 30m ascent, 605m descent

Cross the footbridge over the muddy stream and continue through beautiful ancient juniper forest one hour to Harkeesh (3489m, the ‘place cultivated with a plough’). Harkeesh is the valley’s only Burushaski place name, named by Burusho from Raminj who tried to farm here. The Wakhi name for Harkeesh is Kishtazod. The well-built hut and livestock pen are surrounded by a broad, open grassy area that makes a perfect camp site. The canyon walls rise to cliffs crowned by monumental, multicolored rocky peaks, spires and towers. The route from the Werthum Pass comes out here (see p). Water from the side stream can be silty.

From Harkeesh, descend steeply 10 minutes and cross a side stream via a footbridge. Birches roses, tamarisks and junipers flourish in this area called Furzeen (Purzin on the Swiss map). Five Minutes farther, cross a sturdy footbridge to the Lupgar River’s left bank. The trail from here to Raminj is considerably better, although it’s still exposed in places. For the next 1¼ to 1½ hours to the Raminj canal’s headworks, the trail traverses high above the river gorge occasionally dropping closer to the river. Midway, pass a footbridge to the Lupgar River’s true right bank above the confluence of the Lupgar and Dior rivers leading to the Dior hut.

Follow the path along the willow-lined canal one hour to Raminj, passing several gushing springs en route. The canal, begun during the reign of Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan and Completed in 1978, is a marvel of construction. Several tunnels, built through the cliff, carry the canal under scree slopes that the trail crosses. Raminj (3095m), which lies above the confluence of the Lupgar and Chapursan rivers, is a beautiful, well-tended east- and south-facing village.

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