Gojal,

Qachqar-e-Dur and Shpodeen Pass

Duration 7 days
Distance 55.5km
Standard demanding
Season Mid-June-September
Start/ Finish Shimshal Village
Zone and Permit open, no permit
Public Transport no
Summary Unvisited and incredibly scenic, this loop trek crosses a spectacular snow-covered pass and offers perhaps the Karakoram’s best blue sheep watching.

All treks beyond Shimshal village are strenuous, but the trek to Qachqar-e-Dur and across Shpodeen Pass is comparatively easy and offers the best views of the Hispar Muztagh. Whether making a fantastic loop by crossing Shpodeen Pass or just backtracking, the trek goes through the South Ghuzherav Mountains, including the seldom-visited Pamir Mai Dur (sheep valley) and stunning Zardgarben valleys. Abundant blue sheep populations in Pamir Mai Dur and upper Qachqar-e-Dur almost guarantee sightings of this mountain monarch.

PLANNING

Maps

The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research 1:250, 000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) covers the trek. Pamir Mai Dur (the east-west valley descending east from Shpodeen Pass) and Qachqar-e-Dur (the north-south valley, descending south from Mai Dur Pass) aren’t named on any maps. On the Swiss map, the Pamir Mai Dur huts aren’t marked. A trail between Pamir Mai Dur and Bipardah Pert is incorrectly marked on the Qachqar-e-Dur’s true left bank; it’s on its true right bank. The route over Shpodeen Pass isn’t marked, but the pass is marked by an ‘X’ and is labeled Shipedin Pir. Shpodeen is labeled as Shekhdalga.

Guides and Porters

No shelter is available at Bipardah Pert, Farhad Base Camp or Khush Dur-e- Gush, so provide a tent or trap for porters.

Stages

The loop trek totals nine stages, It’s traditionally two stages between Shimshal and Purien-e-Ben via the tang trail (see Guides and Porters under the Shimshal Pamir trek,). From Purien-e-Ben, the rest of the trek covers seven additional stages: (1) Pamir Mai Dur; (2) Bipardah Pert or Farhad Base Camp; (3) back to Pamir Mai Dur; (4) Khush Dur-e-Gush; (5) Shpodeen; (6) Zardgarben; and (7) Shimshal village.

GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK 

To the Start/Finish   

The signed, unsealed Shimshal Link Rd turns off the KKH just south of the bridge over the Batura Glacier’s outwash stream. From the suspension bridge over the Hunza River, the road contours low along the Shimshal River’s true right bank beneath Tupopdan’s spires and into the gorge where clear water is scarce. After 5km, it passes Jurjur, a deep cleft in the rock wall, and home to road workers, where a spring flows down the rock face just west of the actual cave-like camp.

Two kilometres beyond Jurjur the road passes Nagarmushk, an area with willows, roses, tamarisks and a clear stream, about 750m beyond which the road bridges a glacial stream. Ahead, the road crosses and recrosses the Shimshal River to avoid Shugardan (shu means ‘black’; gardan, the ‘raised or high place’), one of the valley’s many enormous scree slopes. A third bridge crosses to the river’s true left bank just before Dũt. Beyond Dũt, the road rises between dark boulders over barren ground and descends to a bridge over the Momhil River at Dikut, and ends, at the time of research, at the base of cliffs called Boi high above the Shimshal River’s true left bank. Passu- Boi special vehicles take 1½ hours. When leaving the village, send a message ahead to arrange a vehicle to meet you at the roadhead.

Walking on the road takes 2½ to three hours between Passu and Jurjur, another two hours to Dũt, and one to 1½ hours more to Boi. When walking from Passu, follow the KKH north 2km to Janabad and turn east (right) and follow the unsealed road across this cultivated plateau, then descend to and cross the suspension bridge over the Hunza River to join the link road. This is much shorter than walking on the KKH to the link road’s start. It’s 19km between this bridge and Boi.

THE TREK

Day 1 : Shimshal to Wuch Furzeen 

7-9 hours, 15.1km, 685m ascent, 320m descent

Follow the Shimshal River east (upstream) from Shimshal village (3000m) and fill water bottles at the spring before Michael Bridge, which is the only water for hours along this trail. Cross Michael Bridge, built in 1984 with money donated by Canadian Dr Michael Pflug, to the river’s true right bank. Avoid the trail to Zardgarben, which climbs beyond the footbridge. Instead, veer right following the wide river bed 1½ hours, or 5km, to the confluence of the Shimshal and Pamir-e-Tang Rivers.

Ford the Pamir-e-Tang River to its true left bank, marveling at the immense gorge. When the water is too high, cross via a footbridge some minutes upriver. Ascend the steep spur between the two rivers for 2km, or 1½ hours. On the ascent, Shachmirk Pass is visible to the north-east. After the initial climb from the river, round a bend and enter a basin. The climb continues steadily through artemisia steppes, passing lots of igneous rock. Just above the basin, the trail splits; take the right fork to Gar-e-Sar. The left fork is a deceptively well-established trail that leads to Nogordum Uween (Bear Pass), a junipers stand in the canyon below Yarzeen. Several cairns mark Gar-e-Sar (3502m), which means ‘top of the rock’. Here you have superb vistas of the Yazghil Glacier, Adver Sar and these hard-to-see 7000m peaks of the Hispar Muztagh: Kunyang Chhish and Yukshin Gardan.

From Gar-e-Sar, follow level galleries passing eroded cliffs on the canyon’s opposite side. Reach Shanj in 15 minutes, a scree-filled gully where an unreliable trickle of water flows below the trail in an awkward spot. Shanj are the boards uses to frame the place in a Wakhi home where you leave your shoes, which someone apparently got from this now-barren place. The trail and galleries deteriorate, although Shimshalis have worked to improve a dangerous Class 2 section here called Dhurik Purien. Traverse 450m above the river on exposed trail 1½ to two hours, then descend a steep 130m scree slope to Past Furzeen (3517m, ‘lower birch grove’). A clear side stream provides the first reliable water since Shanj, but there are no level tent sites.

From Past Furzeen, the trail climbs along the clear stream, soon leaving it to ascend the tricky section of trail known as Guldin Purien. The route climbs steadily and traverses high before descending a scree gully to Wuch Furzeen (3365m, ‘upper birch grove’). Above the Pamir-e-Tang River is a hut named Charra Khun. Just west of the hut is a small spring, which, if dry, necessitates an awkward trip down to the river for silty water.

Day 2 : Wuch Furzeen to Pamir Mai Dur

6 hours, 11.5km, 983m ascent

See Day 2 of the Shimshal Pamir trek (p) for a description between Wuch Furzeen and Purien-e-Sar. At Purien-e-Sar, the trail to Pamir Mai Dur turns north, and leaves the trail to the Shimshal Pamir, which continues east.

From Purien-e-Sar (3916m), the trail goes north-west through barren country and over talus, staying high above the Pamir Mai Dur River’s true left bank all the way to the Pamir Mai Dur huts, four hours away. In 2½ hours, pass Chashkin, a small maidan with a spring. Chashkin is the base for climbing the inviting, prominent snowy peak called Chashkin-e-Sar (5915m, not marked on the Swiss map) rising to the north-east. In another 1½ hours, reach the confluence of the Pamir Mai Dur and Qachqar-e-Dur rivers. The huts at Pamir Mai Dur (4348m) are on the river’s opposite (north-west) side. Ford the Qachqar-e-Dur River to its true right bank and camp north of the huts on a level terrace. A spring is upstream along the river bank.

Day 3 : Pamir Mai Dur to Bipardah Pert

2½-3 hours, 3.3km, 378m ascent

Head north over scree high above the Qachqar-e-Dur’s true right bank. After one hour reach a small grassy area, where small purple primulas bloom and blue sheep hours sit atop a rock. Yukshin Gardan comes into view to the south. Continue another hour over scree, traverse a Gully with a spring, and then descend talus to the river. Cross to its true left bank, often via a snow bridge, just below the confluence of several glacial streams. The black rubble of Mai Dur Glacier’s snout lies ahead, and the valley opens into an extensive alpine bowl. Cross granite moraine coming from the large glacier issuing from the cirque below Chashkin-e-Sar’s north face. Continue north to a small clear stream at the base of a large grassy hill called Bipardah Pert (4726m; the ‘unveiled hill’).

Side Trip : Farhad Base Camp

2½-3 hours, 2.6km, 266m, ascent, 266m, descent

Wander up the hill 30 minutes to its top for excellent views of the Hispar Muztagh, where Kanjut Sar and Jutmo Sar now join Yukshin Gardan. Blue sheep droppings dot the flower-covered slope as you traverse the crest of the hill for another 30 minutes. Cross onto the Mai Dur Glacier’s black moraine, and continue another 30 minutes across the glacial rubble, past a white rock deposit, to the stone shelters and tent platforms near moraine pools at Farhad Base Camp (4992m). Here you’re in the centre of a stunning glacial amphitheatre ringed by unclimbed snowy 5000m summits. To the south, Destaghil Sar and the other highest peaks west of K2 march along the skyline. Return to Bipardah Pert in one to 1½ hours.

Day 4 : Bipardah Pert to Pamir Mai Dur     

2-2½ hours, 3.3km, 378m descent

Retrace your steps back to the Pamir Mai Dur huts.

Day 5 : Pamir Mai Dur to Khush Dur-e-Gush

3-4 hours, 6.3km, 581m ascent

Climb the hill behind the huts and continue west well above the Pamir Mai Dur’s true left bank. Reach a mixed rocky and grassy area with a spring called Rana Kuk after one to 1½ hours. Cross a side stream in 45 minutes, then traverse the black moraine rubble coming from the north. Occasional cairns mark the 30-minute route over the shale-like rock. Staying along the true left bank, pass well above the confluence of a tributary joining from the south. The trail grows faint as you enter into a gorge. Cross to the Pamir Mai Dur’s true right bank after crossing a side stream coming from the north and before the confluence of two streams. The valley divides here and the route to Shpodeen Pass, which remains hidden from view, is upvalley to the south-west (left). Ascend along the true right bank of the left branch to grassy Kush Dur-e-Gush (4929m, ‘mouth of the happy valley’), reaching it within an hour of entering the gorge.

Day 6 : Khush Dur-e-Gush to Shpodeen

5-6 hours, 3km, 417m ascent, 875m descent

Work up the slope to bypass to the south (left) of spectacular cascades and a gorge. Shpodeen Pass becomes visible ahead. Above the cascades, cross the braided stream and continue up to where the stream emerges from a snowfield. Ascend the snowfield to reach Shpodeen Pass (5346m), two to 2½ hours from Khush Dur-e-Gush. From the pass, Adver Sar, Destaghil Sar, Momhil Sar and Lupgar Sar are visible. Shpodeen Pass can be snow covered and corniced early in the season, but there’s no glacier on either side.

Steeply below and 2km to the west is Shpodeen in the Zardgarben Valley. The west side of the pass is dry, but the route can be icy early in the season. The descent is over extremely steep scree ranging between 25 and 35 degrees for two hours until the angle lessens as you reach the valley floor. The Class 2 route down a limestone and shale gully (slightly to the left) is preferable to avoid a Class 3 limestone rock face (a little to the right). Jenny Visser-Hooft, who crossed the pass in 1925, described the descent thus:’… on all sides the rocks rose in superb structures with beautifully sculptured, bold outline and dolomite colours’. Continue another 30 minutes, following the stream, and then another hour to the flat,  grassy expanse of Shpodeen (4471m) above the Zardgarben River’s true left bank. Water comes from an intermittent clear stream or tiny springs along the river’s edge.

Looking back to the east, the Shpodeen Pass cairn is distinguishable, but barely visible on the ridge. The route lies between the golden spur and black side spur.

Day 7 : Shpodeen to Shimshal Village

4-5 hours, 13km, 1471m descent

See Days 1-2 of the Boisum and Chafchingol Passes trek for a description in the reverse direction.

Alternative Route : Pamir Mai Dur to Shimshal Village           

2 days, 26.6km, 1668m descent, 320m ascent

For those not wanting to cross Shpodeen Pass, it’s one day shorter to retrace your steps. Return to Purien-e-Sar and head down the Pamir-e-Tang River to Shimshal village, camping at Wuch Furzeen on Day 5.

 

 

 

 

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