|Zone and Permit||restricted, No permit|
|Summary||Broad, rolling alpine meadows and sparkling streams offer open strolling through the pass called the king’s Polo ground, or Shah Jinali An|
Shah Jinali An (4140m) is a pass linking the Rich Gol’s north end to Yashkist is the upper Yarkhun Valley. This popular and relatively easy pass parallels the Afghan border less than 8km from the Wakhan Corridor.
This trek is often combined with at least one other trek. It can precede the Broghil and Karambar An trek (see p) and the Chilinji An and Qalander Uween trek ( see p) to make an incredible west- east trek over three passes along Pakistan’s northern border. The Shah Jinali An trek can also follow an east to west crossing of the Thui An (see p).
The US AMS 1:250,000 topographic map Mastuj (NJ 43- 13) covers the trek. Shah Jinali, west of Dershal, is known locally as Jinali Ghari.
Guides and porters
Porters ask for a flat rate per stage including payment for food rations.
Porters from Phargam or Rua ask for 3½ stages from Rua: (1) Dershal; (2) Shah Ghari; (3) Siru Gol and (3½) Yashkist or Shusht.
When walking east to west, Yarkhun porters have advantageously created two stages out of one between Lasht and Siru Gol: Lasht to Shusht or Yashkist; and Shusht or Yashkist to Siru Gol.
GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK
To the Start
Chitral- Rua jeeps eight hours and Special hires. Jeeps to Rich Gol have no fixed Sarai in Chitral, so ask at the Mastuj jeep sarai just north of Ataliq Bridge or at the jeep workshop behind the petrol pump across from the PTDC Chitral Motel.
From the Finish
Walk 15 minutes upvalley to the new bridge below Shusht that crosses to the Yarkhun’s true left bank and meets the main road. Look for a ride here. Lasht- Mastuj jeeps. Special hires. If the road is blocked below Yashkist, walk downvalley as needed. It takes eight hours to walk to Sholkuch. Sholkuch- Mastuj jeeps and Special hires.
When walking down the Yarkhun Valley, it’s half a stage from Yashkist to Dobargar and one stage from Dobargar to Sholkuch.
Day 1 : Rua to Dershal
6- 7 hours, 16km, 480m ascent
From Rua (2820m), the Rich Gol’s highest village, walk one hour along the river’s true right (west) bank, then cross a footbridge to its true left (east) bank. Continue one hour to Moghlang (2926m), a possible camp site just north of a side stream, the Hazgo Gol. A cairn on a large boulder with adjacent livestock pens marks the spot. Thirty minutes beyond Moghlang, the trail turns east into the Shah Jinali Gol.
Head up the Shah Jinali Gol’s true left (south) bank, crossing a small side stream. After 30 minutes, cross the river over a natural bridge of boulders to the true right (north) bank. The narrow trail climbs loose scree 45 minutes to level terraces above, where the gorge opens into a limestone and marble valley. The trail rolls through scattered birch and juniper, and crosses several clear side streams.
After another two to 2½ hours, reach a footbridge leading to Dershal (3300m), along the true left bank. Dershal has shaded camp sites along a sometimes silty stream named for the nearby piles of boulders (der in Khowar). If the footbridge is washed out, you can camp along the true right bank.
Day 2 : Dershal to Shah Ghari
2- 2½ hours, 6.2km, 390m ascent
Follow the trail along the true left bank, crossing many birch- lined tributaries along the way. Above the confluence of the clear stream coming from the Shah Jinali An and the larger outwash stream from the Shah Jinali and Ochili glaciers, cross the stream that runs down from the pass. Shah Ghari (3690m), an old Gujar camp with some stone shelters and a livestock pen, is on the true right bank of the stream coming from the pass. If you are previously acclimatized, it is possible to continue on to the Ishperu Dok High Camp.
If the footbridge to Dershal is washed out and you camp along the true right (north) bank, continue along the true right bank and cross a snow bridge over the outwash stream from the Shah Jinali and Ochilli glaciers just above where the stream coming from the Shah Jinali An joins it to reach Shah Ghari.
Day 3 : Shah Ghari to Ishperu Dok High Camp
4- 5 hours, 7.1km, 450m ascent, 150m descent
Ascend along the true right bank one to 1½ hours to the start of the pass area. The entire area, over 3km long, offers fine camp sites with sweeping views. The actual Shah Jinali An (4140m), marked by a cairn, is three hours from Shah Ghari. Just west of the pass is the level Shah Jinali, which means ‘king’s polo field’ in Khowar.
Descend the gentle trail, bearing left from the pass, contouring around into the Ishperu Dok Gol. Reach the Ishperu Dok High Camp (3990m), a grassy camp site along the stream’s true right bank, one hour below the pass. At the Ishperu Dok Gol’s head stands the prominent white mountain that gives its name to the valley.
Day 4 : Ishperu Dok High Camp to Yashkist
4 hours, 9.7km, 1140m descent
Cross the clear stream here, or 15 minutes below the camp site via a small footbridge, to the herders’ huts of Ishperu Dok on the true left bank, where people from Shusht, Yakhdan and Yashkist bring their livestock. Another 15 minutes farther the trail enters a canyon and descends steeply 45 minutes to a footbridge. Cross it to the true right bank and descend 10 minutes to another footbridge and cross it to the true left bank. Pass the confluence with glacial Liman Gol after 10 minutes. Then five minutes farther, cross a third footbridge (before which are several springs) back to the true right bank.
Continue down the gorge 30 minutes to the confluence with the often brown Siru Gol. Head 150m up the Siru Gol’s true left bank and cross a footbridge to its true right bank. About 250m downstream is a possible camp site (3120m), which marks the end of a stage, with a small trickle of water, some porters’ shelters and a flat area for tents. (When doing the trek from east to west, camp here rather than trying to reach Ishperu Dok High Camp from Lasht).
Follow the trail High Above the river for 20 minutes, then descend 10 minutes to a well- built footbridge to the true left bank. The trail climbs 30 minutes out of the river
Valley to cross the shoulder of a ridge, then descends for 10 minutes to the outskirts of Yashkist. Continue to descend through Yashkist (2850m) on a road 30 minutes to the Yarkhun Valley’s floor which can be very hot on midsummer afternoons. Camp on an old Polo field, amid shrub, near a shallow pool.
Pass Bagging in the Hindu Kush
|Sometimes the best treks are Spontaneous. Bill Tilman, who with Eric Shipton set the standard for small, lightweight trekking expeditions in the early 20th century, wrote. ‘an expedition that cannot organize itself on the back of an old envelope is bound to suffer from the effects of too much organization’. In Chitral, with time on my hands, I planned a whirlwind solo trek, bought supplies and set out all in one morning. Seventeen days later, i returned to Chitral after crossing these seven passes: Owir An; Khot An; Thui An; Naz Bar An; Zagaro An; Gokhshal An; and Dooni An.