|Zone and Permit||Open, no permit|
|Summary||Traversing wild Hindu Kush country, this rugged trek follows an old route over a high pass, skirting the south and east shoulders of Buni Zom.|
Phargam An (4975m) links the infrequently visited Golen Gol with the Laspur Valley at the western base of Shandur Pass. This route was used regularly in summer before construction of the Chitral- Gilgit road. It passes between Buni Zom and Ghuchhar Sar, offering glimpses of these peaks. Crossing the steep Phargam An involves several hours of Class 2 scrambling up huge talus on an obscure route where route- finding skills are useful.
The US AMS 1: 250, 000 topographic maps Churrai (NI 43- 1) and Mastuj (NJ 43- 13) cover the trek. The British Survey of India 1: 63, 360 topographic maps 43 A/1, 42 D/4 and 42 D/8 cover the trek in more detail.
Guides and porters
A guide or knowledgeable porter is essential for this tricky route. One trekker, a ‘Jungly’ veteran of long solo journeys, spent several days looking for the pass before finally making it over. The trek involves two nights at high camps above the tree line on either side of the pass, so equip anyone going with you adequately.
When doing this trek after the Lohigal An trek, detour down Golen Gol to Istor since Madaglasht men don’t know Phargam An and you can’t count on hiring someone at Chakoli Bokht, the highest summer hut used by Golen people. Other summer settlements in Golen Gol are used by Gujars, who aren’t familiar with Phargam An.
Getting TO/From the TREK
To the Start
Chitral- Istor jeeps two hours, departing in the late morning. The staging area is a small teashop, the Kohinoor Hotel, across Chew Bridge, just north of Chitral town on the road’s east side. Hakim Khan, who also runs the adjacent store, can help you find the right jeep.
Jeeps only go as far as Istor, a steep 8km above Izghor, but the road continues beyond Istor to Chhatar Ghuni and Dukadaki. Chitral- Chhatar Ghuni special hires, shortening the trek by one to 1½ days.
From the Finish
Harchin- Mastuj jeeps for the 20km ride. It’s easy to catch a Mastuj- Chitral jeep, but it may require spending the night in Mastuj. Prearranged special hires can meet you at Phargam village.
Day 1 : Istor to Chhatar Ghuni
5½ hours, 7.5km, 300m ascent
Istor (2700m), Golen Gol’s highest village, means ‘horse’ in Khowar. Across the river from Istor is a spring and a grassy, shaded camp site. The trail up Golen Gol narrows and continues 5km to Romen, a level place with huts, fields and clear springs. Another 2. 5km on is a broad, grassy plain with clear streams, a few huts and some fields. This is called Chhatar Ghuni (3000m) on maps, but Jungal locally. Lohigal Gol branches south from Jungal to the Lohigal An.
Day 2 : Chhatar Ghuni to Jeshtanan Camp
5 hours, 16km, 1050m ascent
An easy 5km beyond Chhatar Ghuni come to the Gujar huts of Dangari Kuru (3150m). From here, a side valley, Sachiokuh Gol, leads south over a pass and then east via the Bashqar Gol to Sor Laspur. The U502 Churrai (NI 43- 1) map inaccurately depicts this unnamed pass. The pass is higher (5070m) and completely glaciated. It involves a steep glaciated ascent and descent with serious crevasse, and isn’t feasible for trekkers.
One kilometer beyond Dangari Kuru are the Gujar huts of Dukadaki. The U502 Mastuj (NJ 43- 13) map shows a route north from Dukadaki over a 4633m pass to Reshun along the Mastuj River. Neither villagers in Golen, nor those in Reshun, are familiar with this steep route, which seems to be no longer used. Some 5km beyond Dukadaki, in a stony barren area, are the huts of Chakoli Bokht (3600m), where the Golen Gol villagers tend their sheep and goats. Springs flow from the base of the cliff here, and a bit of grass is surrounded by talus- covered hills.
Beyond the last grass at Chakoli Bokht, cross the talus fields and two side streams from the north, and head for the cliffs at the base of the Golen Glacier. Reach the three small stone shelters against the cliff known as Jeshtanan camp (4050m), 6km from Chakoli Bokht. There is good, clear water near to this picturesque, although sometimes windy, camp. Local people tell that a this place jeshtan spirits are sometimes seen. They are small beings, the size of Children, and wear only a small, pointed hat the colour of juniper wood. The name is cognate with the Kalashamun term jestak and derives from Sanskrit jyestah, which means eldest or first.
Day 3 : Jeshtanan camp to Phargam High camp
8- 10 hours, 9km, 925m ascent, 1075m descent
Ascend the lateral moraine along the true right (north) bank of the Golen Glacier’s outwash stream. Some sparse grass grows on the moraine, but it’s mostly talus and the route is steep. Reach the top of the ascent 1½ to two hours from camp. Where the route levels off with a black moraine ahead and a grassy hillock on the right, turn left 40 degrees and head up an unlikely seeming talus slope. Ascend huge Class 2 granite blocks one to 1½ hours to a lovely grassy area where wildflowers bloom in profusion and snowcocks abound. From here, ascend more gradual talus towards the pass. You may find the remains of an old trail, built for a past Mehtar of Chitral to ride his horse over. On the final steep climb to the pass, the old trail is obliterated until close to the top, where water and the trail are again encountered. It takes from 4½ to six hours to reach Phargam An (4975m). On a cairn at the top is a metal plaque commemorating an Austrain mountaineering casually, Gorge kronberger, who sleeps forever in the glacier’.
Expect to find a fair amount of snow on the pass through mid- August, and a small cornice on its north side. The descent is across talus, where the old trail is occasionally encountered, until you reach grassy, flower- stream ibex habitat. No doubt snow leopards are also about, although rarely seen. You can camp here (and still reach Harchin in a long day by starting early the next morning).
Just beyond this spot is a rocky hill. Leave it on your left and head right and down a scree slope. Below you can see the old trail and clear streams. Flowers and low willows abound, and the stream is cool and clear on a hot day, inviting you to wash the dust out of your hair under a waterfall. Descend into the upper Phargam Gol with its steep, jagged cliffs. On your left to the north, a spectacular waterfall blooms off the Khora Bort Glacier from Buni Zom. On summer days, the river from this huge waterfall can be crossed only in the morning. In the afternoon, large boulders roll down the river bed, and it’s impossible to ford. Camp before the river at Phargam High camp (3900m) in a grassy area among clear streams three to four hours from the pass. Enjoy the sunset on the cliffs and mountains of this lovely upper valley.
Climbers attempting Buni Zom, first climbed in 1957 by a New Zealand expedition, make their base camp here. A steep narrow gully near Gulabmali with loose rocks leads to the Khora Bort Glacier and Khora Bort Zom (5850m), as well as the route to Buni Zom. Wearing a climbing helmet is prudent. Beyond the gully, steep moraine leads to a snowy basin where you can camp. Above the basin, the route splits and is confusing, so a local guide is necessary. Less ambitious climbers can get excellent views from nearby Panorama peak (5690m).
Day 4 : Phargam High camp to Harchin
6- 8 hours, 20km, 900m descent
In the morning, the river is no longer muddy brown, but a cool, milky white, and is easily forded. Descending, cross another glacial side stream and pick up the trail downvalley, passing awesome hanging glaciers on either side of Phargam Gol. Above Phargam village is a small spring, and an unsealed road leading from Phargam to Rahman. Jeeps are infrequent, so walk on the road to Rahman on the Laspur River’s true left (west) bank, and cross the bridge to reach Harchin (3000m) on the Gilgit- Chitral road.