Shimshal Village
Duration5 days
Distance62.8km
Standardeasy
SeasonApril-October
Start/FinishBoi
Zone and Permitopen, no permit
Public Transportno
SummaryWalk through a spectacular river gorge, past impossibly huge scree slopes and the might Mulungutti Glacier flowing from Destaghil Sar, to reach Gojal’s most remote and traditional Wakhi village.

 

Shimshal is the only village in Gojal not yet linked to the KKH by road. In 1985, Shimshalis began building their own road through the polished limestone gorge of the Shimshal River. Their effort garnered government support to build bridges and blast difficult sections through the gorge. As of summer 2000, the road reached Boi, 4km beyond Dũt- a little more than halfway between Passu and Shimshal. By 2001, the road should be open another 4.9km beyond Boi to Uween-e-Ben, leaving just 26.5km to reach Shimshal village. This last stretch could optimistically be done by 2002. Trekking to Shimshal village gets shorter and easier year. But the trail and ever- lengthening road cross massive scree slopes and raging torrents, and are prone to dangerous rock fall. Trekkers always need to be prepared to walk in and out of the village. Rainfall and strong late afternoon Katabatic winds frequently start rock slides. Watch carefully for falling rock, and wait until in subsides before attempting to cross a slide.

Shimshal incorporates three separat settlements; Aminabad, Centre Shimshal, and Khizarabad. Occasionally Aminabad and Khizarabad are referred to by their former names, Shulalaksh and Chukurth Dasht respectively. The Adver stream, which separates Aminabad to the west from Centre Shimshal to the east, rushes down from snowy, unclimbed Adver Sar (6400m, marked on the Swiss map as Shimshal White Horn). Chukurth Dasht is the plateau above and east of Centre Shimshal. Chukurth-e-Dur is the glacially fed stream flowing into Chukurth Dasht, named for a triangular (chuk) millstone (werth). Centre Shimshal has a Jamat Khana, an Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Middle School for girl’s a government boy’s school and cultural museum. The dispenser for the Aga khan Health Services, Farman Ullah, appreciates any donations of medicine or medical supplies, which are always scarce.

PLANNING

Maps

The Swiss Foundation for Alpine Research 1:250,000 orographical map Karakoram (Sheet 1) covers the Trek. It doesn’t show Jurjur, the road jeep bridges or footbridge Kuk and the trails leading to and from Kuk, by passing the Mulungutti Glacier, aren’t shown either.

Guides and Porters

It’s fun to travel with Shimshal who can provide essential help through the rugged terrain and welcome you to the village.

Stages

Traditionally, it’s five stages one way to Shimshal village from Passu: (1) Jurjur; (2) Dũt; (3) Ziarat; (4) Kuk (or Mulungutti); and (5) Shimshal village. Pay only for stages over which loads are carried. As of 2000, the road ends at Boi, between Dũt and Ziarat. Shimshalis don’t accept payment for partial stages so, until the road is completed to Ziarat, you pay for a full stages even though you only walk a portion of a stage. This totals three stages one way, or six stages round trip, between Boi and Shimshal village.

GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK

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 : Boi to Kuk

5½-7 hours, 18.6km, 180m ascent, 190m descent

From Boi (2850m), the trail climbs galleries constructed across the cliff face and crosses several scree slopes, where it’s only a faint line across the ever-shifting scree. This is how all trails throughout Hunza used to be. Reach Uween-e-Sar, marked by cairns, in 30 minutes.

From Uween-e-Sar, the trail levels out high above the river and crosses several scree slopes for one hour. Ascend a short series of steep, loose switchbacks to Kampir Uween (the highest place the old woman, or Kampir, reached). Ahead lies an enormous and dangerous scree slope. Stop and look carefully for any rock fall before venturing onto the scree. Once on it, keep moving steadily. Descend in 45 minutes to Uween-e-Ben (2720m, ‘the base of the high place’) the sandy wastes along the Shimshal River. At the river’s edge, an intermittent spring flows from beneath rocks.

About 250m ahead, the trail crosses, and then in 2km recrosses, the river over footbridges to avoid the 1000m-high and 2km long Shams slides on the river’s true left bank. These constantly active scree slopes rain rock on the old left bank trail. Even before the footbridge were constructed in 1993, the previously existing cable crossings were preferable to the dangers of Shams.

Just beyond the second footbridge on the river’s true left bank, the two huts at Ziarat (2760m) sit on a small terrace above the river bed. The huts are stocked with utensils and blankets, but beware sleeping inside, due to omnipresent bed bugs. If you or your porters use these communal huts, leave a donation in the wooden box inside for continued maintenance. You will also receive the blessing of the saint, Shams-e-Tabriz, whose grave site lies across the river, high on a narrow terrace, and is marked by a tiny white flag. Ziarat means ‘saint’s tomb’. The huts are technically the lanagr, or kitchen, for the actual shrine. The area for prayer lies behind the huts and is marked by numerous coloured flags. A few tents can be pitched near the huts, but larger parties camp below. A small spring, marked by cairns, is near the river’s edge. A more reliable source of clear water is along the trail a few minutes’ walk east of Ziarat. Many trekkers stay here, but it’s worth camping at Kuk for the impressive perspective on the Mulungutti Glacier’s terminus and the sunset and sunrise views of Destaghil Sar.

From Ziarat, the trail follows the river’s edge beneath 10m-high cliffs. Fifteen minutes from Ziarat, a stream from a side glacier may present a broad, brown, Knee-deep obstacle. Beyond this stream 50 minutes is a willow grove at the base of a talus slope. A stream here, although clear in the morning, is usually muddy in the afternoon. The area is called Shikar Zhui, or hunters’ lake, but the lake where they once hunted ducks is now dry. Continue beyond this pleasant shady spot 30 to 45 minutes to Perk Zhirek, a larger glacial tributary that usually must be forded. It name means the place where a vole (perk) got stuck (zhirek).

Follow the river bed one hour beneath riverine terraces carved by glacial outburst floods to the faint junction of the trail to Mulungutti (in Wakhi, mulung means’ middle’; di, a ‘village’). The old route across the 22km-long Mulungutti Glacier has been largely abandoned in favour of a trail to Kuk that opened in 1994. The old trail forks right at the trail junction and ascends the loose, steep sandy slope to the western ablation valley of the Mulungutti Glacier where a small, clear stream flows near a hut. Beyond the hut, the old route descends onto the immense Mulungutti Glacier. The route across this glacier has no cairns and is tricky, so local assistance is recommended.

The substantially easier trail to Kuk forks left at the junction and continues along the Shimshal River’s true left bank 15 minutes, then crosses a footbridge to its true right bank. Cross a black rock outcrop, following cairns and in 30 minutes reach Kuk (2840m), a delightful oasis with a warm spring (kuk) amid tamarisks, roses, willows and some junipers just east of Kuk’s two huts. Kuk is directly across the river from the advancing Mulungutti Glacier’s terminus with dramatic views of the 7000m peaks at the glacier’s head, including Destaghil Sar’s unclimbed north face.

Day 2 : Kuk to Shimshal Village

3½-4 hours, 12.8km, 160m ascent

The trail heads east and fords a side stream, sizable in full melt, and in 30 minutes passes a lone hut. Fifteen minutes beyond the hut, cross a footbridge to the Shimshal River’s true left bank. Follow the trail along the river as it climbs steadily one hour to Buland Sum (the place high above) and the junction of the trail from the Class 1 powdery chute in the terrace wall called Kuth Dur and the Mulungutti Glacier. Qalnaderabad, formerly called Tang-e-Gush Dasht, is a pocket of cultivated land across the river.

Descend to the river bed and the first cultivated area, Rezgeen-e-Ben (2880m) in 30 to 45 minutes. Rezgeen-e-Ben gets its name from rezg, a white clay used to plaster the fireplaces in Shimshal homes. It’s a level but long, 7.5km or 1½ to two hours’ walk on a wide trail to the broad cultivated area of Shimshal. Forty-five minutes from Rezgeen-e-Ben is a small cold spring (which may be dry early in the season) just below the trail and east of Mazar Sheet (plain of tombs). Two tombs marked by white flags give this plain its name. Beyond the spring, the herb spandr is abundant. Forty- five minutes from the spring, ford the Adver stream. On rare occasions when the water is too high to ford, climb to Aminabad on the terraces above and cross the Adver stream via a footbridge and then descend to Centre Shimshal (3000m).

Day 3 : Shimshal Village

A few families make their orchards and spare rooms available for trekkers and may offer to cook Shimshal-style meals in their homes. Clear water flows seasonally at springs below the cluster of original houses in Centre Shimshal, along the river’s edge towards Centre Shimshal’s east end, and west of Michael Bridge, a 15- minute walk east of the village. When staying for a few days, it’s helpful to bring a 10L or 20L plastic container to haul water. Bathe and do laundry along the stream west of Michael Bridge. All treks beyond Shimshal village gain elevation quickly, and hence trekkers should spend at least one day in one village for acclimatization.

Side Trip : Gar-e-Sar

6-8 hours, 16.3km, 500m ascent, 500m descent

Gar-e-Sar is a view point with superb vistas of the Yazghil Glacier, Adver Sar and hard-to-see 7000m peaks of the Hispar Muztagh. Although strenuous, it’s by far the best day trek from Shimshal village with views superior to those seen from Yazben (see Yazghil Sar Base Camp under Other Treks,). See Day 1 of the Shimshal Pamir trek (p) for a description.

Days 4-5 : Shimshal Village to Boi

2 days, 31.4km, 190m ascent, 340m descent

Retrace your steps to Boi, camping at Kuk or Ziarat en route.

Ritual Rue

Peganum Harmala (wild rue) is an aromatic, perennial herb, known as spandr in Wakhi, its five-petalled white flowers bloom in late June. The seeds inside its berries are harvested from late September by early October. Once dried, Wakhi villagers burn the seeds as a purifying incense on ceremonial occasions. Burning spandr is a widespread Iranian folk custom that may go back to the ritual consumption of a hallucinogenic blend of rue and ephedra in the ancient Zoroastrian Haoma divination ceremony.

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