The following treks are all in an open zone, except where noted.
From Gulmit, follow the road behind the village one hour to Kamaris village (2800m). A side trip goes 30 minutes north-east to the ruins of Andra Fort, built about 200 years ago to protect against Nagyr raiders. Heading west from Kamaris, follow the trail towards the Gulmit Glacier’s terminus in one hour and continue along its south margin 1km, or half an hour, then turn south and ascend 800m to the summer pastures of Rajabhil. From the ridge-top saddle above Rajabhil, the trail descends south to the pastures of Bulkishkuk and Shatubar, below the Shatubar Glacier, before turning east and south returning to Gulmit. Allow two or three days for this moderate loop trek.
Borit Sar (4105m) is the rocky ridge top between the Ghulkin and Passu glaciers (see map,). It can be done as a day trek from Passu (2400m) or Borit Lake, as an overnight trip from Passu, camping at Passu Ghar, or as a side trip to the Patundas trek from Passu Ghar. The in-your-face views of peaks and glaciers from Borit Sar make it the best day trek along the KKH for mountain scenery. The moderate trek is possible mid-May to October, and takes seven to eight hours round trip when going quickly or eight to 10 hours when going more leisurely. This stiff trek gains 1705m and descends 1705m in elevation.
The trail to Borit Sar leaves the trail to Patundas at the slate platform (see Day 1 of the Patundas trek,). From the slate platform (2865m) to Borit Sar and back takes from six to seven hours, covering 5.5km. Follow an old faint trail along the ridge line up through broken rocky sections, marked by small cairns. Continue up over open artemisia-dotted slopes, past scatted juniper trees to the level top of Borit Sar, five hours from Passu. From this high point overlooking the Passu and Ghulkin glaciers and Borit Lake, 10 7000m peaks, including distant Rakaposhi, Diran and Malubiting, are visible in a 360-degree panorama. Immediately in front of you are killer views of Shishpar, Bojohagur-Duanasir and Ultar’s north face.
An easy and popular five-to six hour day trek from Passu, locally knows as the ‘two bridges’ trek, crosses the Hunza River twice over hair-raising suspension bridges (see the Avdegar map,). The trek offers good views of the Ghulkin, Passu and Batura glaciers and peaks above Ghulkin and Passu, and is much easier that the trek to Avdegar. Follow the Day 1 description of the Avdegar trek (p) from Passu via Yashbandan over the first footbridge to Zarabad. Follow the trail that skirts the cliffs above the Hunza River’s left bank to an equally interesting footbridge crossing back over the Hunza River to Hussaini. Return to Passu along the KKH, or spend the night at Borit Lake.
The glacially formed north-south Yunz Valley lies parallel to and west of the Hunza Valley, between the Passu and Batura glaciers (see the Patundas map,). The easy 15.8km loop through Yunz Valley is a popular six-to eight-hour day trek with excellent glacier views, but lacks any big mountain views. The trail ascends 480m and descends 480m, and is feasible April to October. A guide isn’t necessary, yet every year trekkers get lost along this trail. If you’re uncertain about finding your way through unfamiliar terrain, hire someone or look for a companion. It’s two stages total: Passu to Yunzben; and Yunzben to Passu. Yunz Valley is dry and water at Passu Lake and Yunzben is Silty, so carry water from Passu.
From Passu (2400m), walk 10 minutes south on the KKH to the first building (2580m) on the KKH’s west side before the bridge. Follow a trail past a usually empty concrete water tank and follow the canal through thorny scrub. The clear trail, marked by small cairns, skirts the base of a rock buttress. Cross a flat, stony area 15 minutes from the KKH and ascend the old terminal Moraine to see Passu Lake (not marked on any map), formed about 1989 when the Passu Glacier retreated. (The old trail to Yunz Valley was destroyed by a landslide, so the only trail now is via Passu Lake.)
Continue around the lake’s north shore to its far west end. Follow cairns and ascend the Gravelly gullies amid dark, glacially polished rock. At times, the trail and the cairns are hard to find. As you ascend, Passu Glacier’s dark ice is to the south (left). Don’t stray too far left, and don’t go onto the crevassed glacier. The trail soon becomes more obvious. As the angle begins to lessen, the white-toothed Seracs of the Passu Glacier to the west and the Yunz Valley to the north appear.
Continue up the now scree-covered trail to the top of the rock formation, 30 minutes from the Lake. A clear trail angles up and to the east (right), across the face of the grey lateral moraine on the valley’s north side. Reach the base of this moraine in 15 minutes and go up the trail. At the top, turn west and enter an ablation valley with a few junipers, sage and wild rose bushes. Follow a trail through the ablation valley 10 minutes. Then turn north up a gully and in five to 10 minutes reach a slate slab bench at the top and the actual start of Yunz Valley (2775m) . After one hour, at the upper (north) end of the valley, there are two huts (3000m) west of the trail where the worthwhile side trip to Zart Sar (yellow top), a scenic overlook of Passu village, Tupopdan and the Hunza Valley, starts and finishes. The side trip to Zart Sar (labeled as Sart on the Swiss map) takes 1½ to two hours round trip, follow the trail that heads east and around the north end of the rocky bluffs that rise above the Yunz Valley’s eats side to a rocky plateau.
The main Yunz Valley trail continues north from the huts. Stay right and descend briefly to a small terrace (3060m) overlooking the Batura Glacier with some tumbledown huts, a scenic lunch spot. Descend steeply over scree and loose soil 15 minutes to Yunzben in the ablation valley along the Batura Glacier’s south margin. See Day 1 of the Batura Glacier trek (p) for a description back to Passu.
Momhil Sar Base Camp
Momhil is an enormous 26km-long glacier that flows north from Momhil Sar (7343m), east of and parallel to Shimshal’s Lupgar Valley (see the Shimshal River map,). Momhil Sar, Trivor, Destaghil Sar and Mulungutti Sar (7025m) are the prominent peaks attracting mountaineers to this valley. It’s a moderate four-day trek to the base camps for these four peaks of the Hispar Muztagh.
The trail heads south from the road, east of the bridge over the Momhil River a few minutes’ jeep ride beyond Dũt. On Day 1 reach Yazmis in three to four hours. On Day 2 reach Chikareen in eight hours, passing Khumreg and then Shilmin halfway. On Day 3, reach Momhil Base Camp (4300m) in seven to eight hours, passing Ambareen just beyond halfway. The return trip from base camp to the bridge can be done in one long day on Day 4. It’s 10 stages total round trip from Dũt: (1) Yazmis; (2) Shilmin; (3) Chikareen; (4) Ambareen; (5) Momhil Base Camp; and (6-10) five stages to return via the same route.
A three-day climb of Ambareen Sar (6175m), east of Momhil Glacier, is possible from Ambareen. Set a high camp (5000m) on Day 1, summit and descend to 5800m on Day 2, returning to Ambareen on Day 3.
Yazghil Sar Base Camp
Yazghil (sheep pen by the glacier) are the summer pastures nearest Shimshal village. From Shimshal village, you can reach Yazghil in one long day, explore the area for another day, and return to Shimshal the third day. Perched high above the 31km-long Yazghil Glacier’s south-east Margin, the huts (4500m) and pastures above have excellent views of the peaks at the glacier’s head: Yukshin Gardan, Kunyang Chhish, and the Yazghil Domes.
The trail heads east from Shimshal village, staying along the Shimshal River’s true left bank, three hours to the huts at Yazben (at the glacier’s base). Head up the lateral moraine along the Glacier’s west margin and cross to the south-east margin reaching Yazyand (after the glacier), the first hut along the Yazghil Glacier’s south margin, three to four hours from Yazben. From the ablation valley, ascend the grassy hillside steadily another three to four hours to herders’ huts and Yazghil Sar Base Camp (3600m).
A local guide is necessary to show the way across the glacier. This moderate trek totals six stages round trip from Shimshal village: (1) Yazben; (2) Yazyand; (3) Yazghil; and (4-6) three stages to return via the same route.
From base camp, it’s a three day-snow and ice climb to reach the summit of Yazghil Sar (5964m). Set a high camp (4670m) on Day 1, then ascend the south summit and bivouac (5180m) on Day 2, returning to base camp on Day 3.
Kanjut Sar Base Camp
Kanjut Sar (7760m), one of the hard-to-see summits of the Hispar Muztagh, is accessible from Shimshal village on a moderate five-or six-day trek that also offers close-up views of neighboring Jutmo Sar (7330m) and Yukshin Gardan. Kanjut Sar is known locally as Kunjlaksh (mountain above narrow place, referring to the narrow width of the glacier that resembles a Kunj, the narrow part of a Wakhi home near its entry).It takes three days one way to reach Base camp from Shimshal village, although it’s possible to do it in two. It’s eight stages total Round trip, four up and four back.
The route follows the Shimshal River’s true left bank south-east, crosses the Yazghil Glacier’s terminus, and continues towards the Khurdopin Glacier. It crosses the Yukshin Gardan Glacier above its confluence with the Khurdopin Glacier to Chagh Chagh (labeled as Cheng Cheng on the Swiss map). Here the route turns south-west and heads up the Yukshin Gardan Glacier, Staying near the glacier’s north-west (true left) margin most of the way to base camp (4600m). One tricky outwash-stream crossing via a cable adds a little excitement. Flowers carpet the meadow at base camp (marked by a triangle on the Swiss map), which also has junipers nearby, inviting you to spend an extra day.
Qapachpund and Chilinj Passes
Longer and more challenging routes than the standard trek (see the Shimshal Pamir trek,) exist to reach Shuwerth in the Shimshal Pamir. Two technical and extreme passes, Qapachpund and Chilinj, link the 38km-long Virzherav Glacier and Shuwerth. Virzherav is Shimshal’s most distant pasture and its name probably derives from the Wakhi word thir, which means a ‘distant’ glacial valley (zherav).
From Shimshal village, the routes head east towards the Khurdopin Glacier and branch south-east up the Virzherav Glacier. They follow the Virzherav Glacier’s north-east (true right) margin to Arjal-e- Dur. Arjal-e-Dur is a narrow side valley, named for a black and white yak, Arjal, which strayed up this side valley, which meets the Virzherav just at the letter ‘b’ in ‘Virjerab’ on the Swiss map.
The route across Qapachpund Pass (5270m on the 1:100,000 Russian map J-43 128), goes up Arjal-e-Dur and continues north towards the valley’s head. From the pass, the route descends to Zhit Badav, the extensive plain just below Shuwerth. It takes six days one way from Shimshal village to Shuwerth via Qapachpund Pass. The pass is not shown on any maps, but is on the ridge east of peak 5930m on the Swiss map.
A longer, higher and harder route crosses Chilinji Pass (5600m on the 1:100,000 Russian map J-43 140). This route also leaves Virzherav at Arjal-e-Dur, but turns north-east as Arjal-e-Dur bends in a more northerly direction. From the pass, the route descends Bhakityar Dur to the Braldu River below its confluence with Wesm-e-Dur. The route stays along the Braldu’s true left bank to Chikor, where it turns north-west to Shuwerth. It takes eight days (and 11 stages) one-way Shimshal village to Shuwerth via Chilinji Pass, crossing the pass on the sixth day. It’s necessary to place high camps on both sides of the pass, which is marked by an ‘X’ on the Swiss map.
Ghidims Pass (5486m) crosses the Central Asian watershed between Ghidims Valley, an upper tributary of Ghuzherav, and Sher IIaq Valley, Shimshal’s prized winter pastures. The existence of the pass was unimagined until the first crossing by the book’s authors in June 2000. In pioneering the route, the authors were also the first westerners to reach Sher IIaq. The upper Ghidims and upper Sher IIaq valleys have many attractive unclimbed alpine peaks, all inviting first ascents.
See Days 1-4 of the Boisum and Chafchingol Passes trek (p) for a description between Shimshal village and Mandikshlakh where the route leaves Ghuzherav, and discussion of these stages. From Mandikshlakh, allow a minimum of nine days round trip for this 68km very demanding and technical trek to Arab-e-Dur-e-Gush, Sher IIaq’s main herders’ hut.
Head north-east up the Ghidims Valley to Laili Camp (4475m) at the confluence of the North and south Ghidims valleys. The route leads up the South Ghidims Valley to the second eastern side valley. Ascend the side valley first along the outwash stream’s true left bank and then on scree along the unnamed glacier’s true right margin to Sarwar High Camp (5150m). The next Day, cross the glacier and ascend scree to an obvious notch left of a yellow-and-brown rock band well before reaching the glacier’s upper basin. Three obvious cols at the glacier’s head are not the pass. The nonglaciated Ghidims Pass has steep 40-degree scree on both sides, and is Snow-free late in the season.
Descend scree to the North Rost-e-Dur Glacier, and cross the crevassed upper glacier to its true left margin. Follow the ablation valley downvalley to grassy Mirza Camp (4642m). The next day, head down Rost-e-Dur, passing the Chap-e-Dur hut, to the confluence of Sher IIaq and Arab Khan-e-Dur. Blue sheep and brown bears live in Sher IIaq, and the likelihood of seeing them is high. On the return, set a camp on moraine below the pass on its east side, called Fazal High Camp (5060m).
Mountaineering equipment necessary to travel in roped teams on the glaciers on both sides of the pass is required. It’s 11 stages total round trip from Mandikshlakh. It’s 1½ stages one way between Mandikshlakh and Laili Camp. It’s eight stages round trip from Laili Camp to Sher IIaq, four stages each way: Sarwar High Camp, Fazal High Camp, Mirza Camp and Arab-e-Dur Gush.
The northward flowing Braldu Glacier, not to be confused with the Braldu Valley in Baltistan, offers a technical and extreme route across the Lukpe La (5650m), first crossed by HW Tilman in 1937, linking the Shimshal Pamir and Lukpe Lawo. From Shuwerth in the Shimshal Pamir (see Day 3 of the Shimshal Pamir trek, p), the route descends to the Braldu River, turns south, and begins the difficult ascent along the heavily crevassed 36km- long Braldu Glacier. The Wesm Mountains, named for ibex trails where animals Knock rocks down, rise to the east. Crossing Lukpe La, at the valley’s head, requires travelling in roped teams and possibly fixing Ropes for Safety. The 500m descent over 3km from the rounded saddle guarded by gaping crevasses heads south-west on the Sim Glacier to its confluence with the Biafo Glacier, from where you the descend the Biafo Glacier to Thungol (see the Hispar La trek,). Depending upon who you ask, it ranges from five to seven stages between Shuwerth and Lukpe La. Everyone agrees that it’s one stage from Lukpe La to the confluence of the Sim and Biafo glaciers. This extreme technical trek is in a restricted zone where a permit and licensed guide are required (see Trekking permits,). Due to its remoteness, self-rescue is the only option in the event of accident or injury.
The technical Khurdopin Pass (5790m) is an extreme mountaineering route that links Shimshal village with Lukpe Lawo. Although Tilman reached the pass from Lukpe Lawo in 1937, it was first crossed in 1986 by Canadian Cameron Wake with Shimshalis Shambi Khan and Rajab Shah. Accomplished mountaineer Stephen Venables, who crossed the pass in 1987, rates it an alpine Grade III suitable only for experienced mountaineers.
From Shimshal village, follow the Shimshal River south-east, crossing the Yazghil Glacier, and continue along the river towards its source at the Khurdopin Glacier’s terminus. Traverse the 37km-long Khurdopin Glacier below its confluence with the Yukshin Gardan Glacier, exiting above its confluence with the Virzherav Glacier. Now along the Khurdopin Glacier’s east margin, which flows from Kanjut Sar I (7760m) and II and Lukpe Lawo Brak, the toilsome route heads south along this vast river of ice.
High on the East Khurdopin Glacier, the dangerous route stays to the east, crossing the heavily crevassed base of an icefall before ascending the huge icefall with steep, loose rock in a snowy gully. The route near the pass requires fixing ropes over classic wind slab with avalanche danger. The 600m descent from the pass to Lukpe Lawo is a 50-degree ice wall acute avalanche danger, returning fixing ropes. From Lukpe Lawo, you can descend the Biafo Glacier to Thungol (see the Hispar La trek,). Allow up to six days between Shimshal village and Lukpe Lawo.
East of Sost is a very demanding six-day near-loop trek that accesses the isolated valley formed by the North Qarũn Koh Glacier’s outwash stream where more than 300 blue sheep reportedly roam. From Sost, the route heads up the Shikarzherav for the first night’s camp, passing beneath the rocky south face of Sost Sar (5200m), and then along the glacier’s north margin. At the valley’s head, it crosses a ridge (below 6000m) and descends along the river’s true left bank. Camp three nights heading upvalley, watching for wildlife. Leaving the valley, the route turns west, ascends a side valley and crosses a 5774m ridge. The descent from this ridge follows a drainage leading to the Khunzherav near Kilik IIga on the KKH just north of Sost. Hire a local guide who knows the way.
Pamiri is the summer pasture used by Zood Khun herders. The moderate four-day walk to Pamiri starts from Yishkuk and heads south-west along the Yishkuk Glacier’s north-west margin. This trek is good for additional acclimatization before crossing either the Lupgar Pir Pass or Chilinji An. The trailhead (3450m) is on the west side of the bridge spanning the Yishkuk River. As the road bends to the right near old lateral moraine, climb along the river’s true left bank. Continue past the glacier’s mouth along the ablation valley on its west side to Kuk Chesham, a herders’ settlement with a reliable spring. The next day pass Sekr (labeled Lal Mitti on maps), the prominent red rock, just beyond Kuk Chesham. Continue in the ablation valley to Dush Zhui, a small lake with clear water in an open green area. The trail continues up the ablation valley, ascending gradually to Pamiri, a lovely place to rest and enjoy the views. The stream is called Pamiri, locally referred to as Banafshayeen because banafsha grows here. From Pamiri, either retrace your steps back to Yishkuk or cross the Yishkuk Glacier and walk back along the glacier’s opposite side, crossing the low ridge to join the trail down from Kit-Ke-zherav. It’s six stages total round trip from Yishkuk: (1) Kuk Chesham; (2) Dush Zhui; (3) Banafshayeen; and (4-6) three stages to return via the same route.
Chapursan to Misgar
Two passes link Misgar’s Dilisang Valley, the westernmost of Misgar’s valleys, with Chapursan (see map,). Kermin Pass links Kermin village with the lower Dilisang Valley just above Kalam Darchi. It’s an easy five-hour day trek across this pass.
Another unnamed demanding pass links Zood Khun with Wergisht Khun in the upper Dilisang Valley; contact Alam Jan in Zood Khun if you’re interested in tackling this pass.
Obscure and little known parts of the Karakoram are still out there. Wodwashk, the glaciated pass linking the Hapuchan Valley, the western tributary of Kilik Valley, and Wodwashk Bar, a northern tributary of the Dilisang Valley, is one (see the Kilik and Mintaka Passes map,). The demanding route is reportedly easier when starting from Dilisang. It heads up the well-watered and green Wodwashk Bar, staying on its true left bank. The pass involves 30 to 60 minutes of glacier travel, and the descent is along into Hapuchan. Bring an ice axe and rope for safety; crampons aren’t necessary.
Anyone interested in attempting this pass can contact Misgar’s nambardar Ataullah who knows the unmarked route and pass area called Tung-e-Tuk. Correspondence can be sent in advance of arrival to PO Misgar, Village Misgar, District Gilgit, Northern Areas. No stages are set in the Dilisang Valley or across Wodwashk Pass.