|Zone and permit
|open, no permit
|The rediscovered class high-altitude route across Mai Dur Pass has one of the best pass views anywhere in the Karakoram, and visits virtually unknown territory.
The glaciated Mai Dur Pass (5700m), first crossed in 1925 by Dutch geographer Philips C Visser and his American wife Jenny Visser-Hooft, who were seeking the source of the Hunza River, had been neglected until this book’s authors’ crossing in June 2000. This exciting loop trek through the South Ghuzherav Mountains has excellent scenery with fantastic high mountain views and a good chance of watching wildlife. Crossing the pass, although technical, is relatively straightforward. It’s easier when less snow is present. The trek offers a challenging and longer alternative start to the Boisum and Chafchingol Passes trek (p) and finish to the Shimshal Pamir trek (p).
What to Bring
Mountaineering equipment necessary to travel in roped teams and rappel (abseil) up to 75m is required; crampons are advisable for everyone, including porters (see Mountaineering Equipment,).
Refer to the Maps section for the Qachqar-e-Dur and Shpodeen Pass trek (p). Additionally, the Swiss map shows an inaccurate route on the Mai Dur Glacier. The route is mostly on moraine along the glacier’s west margin. The glaciation north-east of the pass appears to depicted somewhat wrongly; the actual side glaciers seem to be much larger than what’s drawn.
Guides and Porters
It’s imperative to go with at least one person who has previously crossed the pass: Farhad Khan, Fazal Ali, Mirza Khan or Sarwar Ali. Undoubtedly, more local men will learn this route.
The trek totals 13 stages. It’s three stages between Shimshal village and Pamir Mai Dur via the tang trail (see Stages under the Qachqar-e-Dur and Shpodeen Pass trek,). It’s five stages one way from Pamir Mai Dur to MandiKshlakh: (1) Farhad Base Camp; (2) Mai Dur Pass; (3) the Mai Dur Glacier’s moraine (4) Yazmis; and (5) MandiKshlakh. It’s five more stages one way Between MandiKshlakh and Shimshal village (see Stages under the Boisum and Chafchingol Passes trek,).
GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK
To the Start/Finish
See the Shimshal Village trek.
Days 1-3 : Shimshal Village to Farhad Base Camp
3 days, 31.2km, 2312m Ascent, 320m descent
See Days 1-3 and the Side Trip described in the Qachqar-e-Dur and Shpodeen Pass trek (p) for details of these days.
Day 4 : Farhad Base Camp to Yazmis
6½-8 hours, 8.1km, 708m ascent, 960m descent
Farhad Base Camp (4992m), named after Farhad Khan, who in 1998 was the first to cross the Pass since 1925, is rocky and cold. Get an early start when the snow is still firm. Try to depart base camp by 4am to be on top of the pass by 7am, finish the rappel by 8am, and exit the glacial basin below by 9am. A late start guarantees a tedious slog across sun-softened east-facing slopes.
Follow black medial moraine north-east, then move right onto glacial ice and continue up the snow-covered glacier. Travel in roped teams where necessary. About 1½ hours from base camp, the glacier turns east towards the pass, which is the obvious notch in the ridge line and the only place to cross. The 10-to 15-degree snow slope steepens to 30 degrees on the final 100m to the pass. Reach the top three to 3½ hours from base camp. Mai Dur Pass (5700m) is corniced on its east (Ghuzherav) side with a 10m vertical head wall and a 45-degree slope below, and requires lowering loads and making a 75m rappel. Some early-season avalanche danger may be present. Late in the season, the descent can be substantially snow-free.
Descend and cross the crevassed glacier basin below to the Mai Dur Glacier’s north margin in 1½ to two hours. Once off the glacier, descend loose talus and scree along its true left margin. The glacier turns northward and is joined by another sizable glacier coming from the south-east. One hour farther is a level area (4850m) near the glacier that could be a camp site in a pinch. After another hour, reach Yazmis (glacier’s mouth) directly beneath the imposing Mai Dur Glacier’s snout. Chilling winds blow through the camp site (4740m), but there’s ample clear water.
Day 5 : Yazmis to Mai Dur-e-Gush
3½ hours, 8.1km, 548m descent
Follow along the Ghuzherav Mai Dur River’s true left bank as it bends north-north-west, and in one hour reach Meem-e-Goz (Memsahib’s grass), named for Jenny Visser-Hooft. Flower-carpeted and ungrazed by domestic livestock, these well-watered meadows support a good blue sheep population, and invite those with time to stop. A good flat, sandy spot by a clear stream lies 30 minutes farther.
From Meem-e-Goz’s far end, climb flower-dotted moraine, then described to another grassy area near the river in 45 minutes. Continue downvalley, at times traversing high on scree and moraine from side glaciers, and at times close to the river. Cross a glacial tongue, finally reaching a grassy boulder-dotted plateau one hour from the previous grassy area. This area marks the start of Mai Dur-e-Gush and the upper extent of livestock grazing. Descend 15 minutes to a ford of the river, and walk across the flood plain another 15 minutes to the hut (4192m) at Mai Dur-e-Gush (mouth of the Mai Dur) at the confluence of Ghuzherav Mai Dur and Ghidims rivers and the beginning of the Ghuzherav River. Camp anywhere in the vast open Plain. Clear water is scarce, but look at the river’s edge several minutes’ walk away.
Day 6 : Mai Dur-e-Gush to Perchodwashk
3½ hours, 10km, 388m ascent
Ford the Ghuzherav Mai Dur River above its confluence with the Ghidims River, then follow the Ghuzherav River’s true left bank over story and sandy ground to the confluence of the Boisum and Ghuzherav rivers. Head a short distance up the Boisum River’s true left bank to a log footbridge and cross to Mandikshlakh (4129m), one hour from Mai Dur-e-Gush. Walk 2½ hours south up the Boisum Valley to Perchodwashk (4580m); see Day 4 of the Boisum and Chafchingol Passes trek (p) for a description in the reverse direction.
Days 7-8 : Perchodwashk to Shimshal Village
2 days, 23km, 295m ascent, 1875m descent
See Days 1-3 of the Boisum and Chafchingol Passes trek (p) for a description in the reverse direction. On Day 7, it takes about two hours to reach Boisum Pass (4875m), 1½ hours to descend to Shpodeen, and another 1½ hours to Zardgarben (4075m). On Day 8, it takes 2½ to three hours from Zardgarben to Shimshal village.