Ghizar,

Zagaro An

Duration 6 days
Distance 57.6km
Standard very demanding
Season July-August
Start Batakushi
Finish Chapali
Zone and Permit ppen, no permit
Public Transport finish only
Summary Northern Pakistan’s most challenging nonglaciated pass traverse unvisited valleys between Ghizar and Chitral, offering opportunity for exploration and alpine climbs.

 

Zagaro An (4920m), a difficult Class 2 pass that marks the Northern Areas’ border with NWFP, connects the Bahushtaro Gol with Chitral’s Yarkhun Valley. This trek is usually done from east to west preceded by the equally difficult Naz Bar An, by which it takes three days to reach Dedero Shal (3300m) in the Bahushtaro Gol. The pass has a small permanent cornice on its west side, although it’s unglaciated. Adventurous trekkers who relish a challenging, little used route through high and hard country may wish to attempt it. The pass isn’t used by local people and is only infrequently crossed by trekkers. It isn’t recommended for novices or organized trekking parties.

Planning

Maps

The US AMS 1:250,000 topographic map Mastuj (NJ 43-13) covers the trek. The map’s scale is of little use for route- finding, particularly west of the pass.

Guides and Porters

A local guide is essential. Naz Bar men don’t know the route, so even if you have a Naz Bar porter, hire a herder to show the way. You may need to send a message to Haringol Shal (or Donjo Shal) to find someone, as Dedero Shal is inhabited by a single small family. Expect to hire someone to go to the top of the pass.

Stages

It’s 5½ stages total from Batakushi (1) Naz Bar High Camp; (2) Ano Gol Huts; (3) Dedero Shal; (3½) Zagar Shota, half a stage; (4½) Jambor Shal; and (5½) to Chapali.

GETTING TO/FROM THE TREK

To the Start

A daily NATCO Gilgit- Taus bus (eight hours) departs from Gilgit’s Punial Rd at 8am. Get off the bus at Yasin village, from where most jeeps to Naz Bar depart. Jeeps only go up Naz Bar as far as Baltaring (2682m), where the last stores are and the electrical line ends, although the jeep road goes as far as Batakushi. It takes 2½ to three hours to walk 8.5km from Baltaring to Batakushi. (If you walk from Yasin village, it takes a full day to reach Batakushi). If you aren’t previously acclimatized, avoid driving directly to Batakushi, but start walking from a lower elevation. When combing this trek with the Thui An trek, Nialthi Baltaring special hires.

For details on transport from the finish, see the Chumarkhan An trek.

The TREK

Day 1 : Batakushi to Naz Bar High Camp

5- 6 hours, 12.7km, 1050m ascent

Naz Bar An is visible from Batakushi. It’s the lowest snowy saddle between the peaks to the west. From Batakushi (3400m), follow a trail up the Naz Bar’s true left (north) bank. Many sheep and goats graze the grassy slopes above the wide valley. One hour beyond Batakushi, the Kha Bar enters from the south. Shuqan (3505m), the highest Burushaski- speaking summer settlement, is 45 minutes farther. This level grassy area with springs and willows makes a good camp site, from where the huts in upper Ano Gol could be reached in one long day.

Continue for 30 minutes to the alluvial plain (3690m) where the Yaltar Bar and Naz Bar meet. Cross the Yaltar Bar and head west. Across the alluvial plain is a small grassy area where the valley and trail turn south. The trail ascends a talus slope, climbing above the Khamit Bar’s true left (west) bank, as the stream is now called. Forty- five minutes from the Yaltar Bar crossing, reach the confluence of the Khamit Bar (3810m) with a stream coming from the west. Turn west and head up the stream’s true left (north) bank. Ahead is a rocky bluff. Two streams descend either side of this bluff and join to form this western tributary of Khamit Bar. Take the north (right) fork past the rocky bluff. As the stream rises to the level of the top of the rocky bluff, cross it and climb the grassy slope to the bluff’s top. Continue angling south- west up a trial along the red streak that leads to the top of a grassy north- south ridge well above the small rocky bluff. It takes one hour to make this climb, or 1½ hours form the confluence with the Khamit Bar. From the top of this alpine ridge, the mountains above the pass are visible, but the pass itself is not.

Head west, contouring down to meet the stream below. Herders use these extensive alpine grasslands where you can camp along the stream. Forty- five minutes from the ridge top is a large boulder with a cairn on top and a stone shelter next to it, which is the Naz Bar High Camp (4450m), the highest possible camp site.

Day 2 : Naz Bar High Camp to Ano Gol Huts

5- 6 hours, 6.5km, 530m ascent, 1250m descent

Head along the stream’s true left (east) bank. Where two streams join to form this stream, take the right fork, heading around the base of and behind the last grassy hill, where horses and cows graze in summer. This hill rises into a ridge. Curve around and behind (west of) this ridge, entering a valley with a black moraine in its centre. To the south and west is a small glacier and snowfield. Ahead is the steep scree ascent topped by a snowy cornice that is the Naz Bar An. It’s the southernmost scree chute, reddish in colour, on the pass ridge. Continue along the black moraine towards the pass. From the high camp, it takes 1½ to two hours to reach the end of this moraine and the bass of the pass.

Cross the top of the snowfield, working as high up the snow as possible. Then ascend the 45-to- 50 degree scree slope to the pass in 45 minutes to one hour. At the top, scramble over a Class 2 rock outcrop on the north edge of the pass to get around the Cornice lying on the pass itself. On top of Naz Bar An (4980m) is a small cairn, not visible from below. Late in the season, when more snow has melted, rock- fall danger is lower. The views all around are stunning.

Descend straight down reddish scree on the west side, moving onto the easier snow-field to the left as the angle eases. Reach the level area at the base of the pass in 20 minutes, and follow a faint trail. After 10 minutes, descend to white granite talus amid sparse grass and flowers. As the valley turns south- south- west, follow a trail, with occasional cairns, 30 minutes to the junction with a black moraine- filled valley coming from the east.

Turn east (right) and continue along a rocky moraine downvalley another hour. Keep to the grassier south- east side to avoid a steep descent over scree. At the base of this grassy hill, amid scrub willow by a stream side, is a cairn- topped boulder with an adjacent small rock shelter. This is the first possible camp site, two 2½ to hours below the pass. Ten minutes farther downstream is another more open area. Another 30 minutes down a grassy hillside, the stream called Naz Bar by herders opens into a large alluvial river bed and joins the larger stream coming from Kano Gol. The confluence of these two streams marks the start of the Ano Gol. In Khowar, Ano Gol simply means the valley (gol) coming from a pass (an). Herders say it’s possible to reach Pingal village over a high pass at the Kano Gol’s head, where several 5000m peaks have attracted mountaineers in recent years. Cross the Naz Bar and follow a now- clear trail along the Ano Gol’s true right (north) bank. Ten minutes beyond this crossing is a good level camp site near the Ano Gol Huts (3730m), the first herders’ settlement.

Day 3 : Ano Gol Huts to Dedero Shal

3½- 4 hours, 12.4Km, 430m descent

It’s one hour down the Ano Gol to the confluence with the War Bar, which enters from the south. Cross the Ano Gol over a footbridge to the thriving summer huts on the true left bank of both the War Bar and Ano Gol. The trail downvalley stays high above Ano Gol. A Trail on the true right (north) bank is a longer way down, but it’s the trail to take when heading up the Mashpar Gol for climbing. Thirty minutes down the true left bank you’re high above the confluence of the Ano Gol and Mashpar Gol (3566m). Turn left and continue high above the true left bank of the Bahushtaro Gol (formed at the confluence of the above two). In 30 minutes, you’re opposite Haringol Shal settlement (3420m) and the grassy plain called Rushkot. Parties going up the Bahushtaro Gol’s true right (west) side camp in Rushkot.

Another hour down the trail, cross a footbridge over the Bahushtaro Gol and continue down the level alluvial river bed. In 30 minutes reach the huts of Deder, also called Dedero Shal (3300m), at the clear Zagaro Gol’s mouth.

 

Day 4 : Dedero Shal to Zagar Shota

1½- 2 hours, 3.1km, 500m ascent 

Climb the steep hill behind the huts at Dedero Shal on a trail. Contour high above the Zagaro Gol’s true right (south) bank, continuously working up the slopes on livestock trails. Reach a hut by the stream after 45 minutes, and continue upvalley. The valley opens and 1½ to two hours from Dedero Shal, reach Zagar Shota (3800m), a small hut and a livestock pen by stream. This short day is necessary in order to reach the first possible camp site on Day 5.

Day 5 : Zagar Shota to Jambor Shal

7- 9 hours, 12.2km, 1120m ascent, 1140m descent

Leave the stream after 15 minutes and climb steeply to the shoulder of the grassy ridge ahead. Go around the shoulder of the ridge, to the right of a rock outcrop, following a faint trail. Behind the ridge is a valley with grassy slopes, one hour from Zagar Shota. Continue upvalley to a small bowl, marked by a cairn, where wild onions abound. Turn right, up grassy slopes, and 45 minutes after rounding the ridge see the Zagaro An, the obvious low point with a scree slope beneath it. Continue up a series of hillocks with grass, herbs and flowers amid rocks, switchbacking steadily. In 30 minutes, reach the highest vegetation at the base of an old terminal moraine (4410m). Work right around the moraine’s northern base, on easy scree below talus slopes for another 20 minutes. Follow the moraine’s base as it turns back west and south. Reach a small snowfield and head along its west edge 20 minutes to a scree slope coming from the base of a yellowish rock outcrop. Traverse right across the scree to reach the rock rib on the south (left) side of another scree slope coming from the pass itself.

Ascend this Class 2 rock rib to avoid rock- fall danger on either side. When the rock rib becomes too steep to continue, exit right and climb the 45- to 50- degree scree slope coming from the pass. Keep close to the rock rib, the occasional protrusions of which provide solid footing. This is Class 2 scree, and a trekking pole is essential for balance. Near the top, the angle lessens and the scree becomes more stable. It takes 1½ to two hours to ascend the pass. From the top of Zagaro An (4920m), Tirich Mir dominates the view west. There is no cairn.

Descend left down scree one hour to a level basin and the first water, looking straight at Buni Zom’s dramatic summit. Looking back, the pass is the low point with the jagged snowy cornice in it, between two dry hills; the one to the north rounded and the one to the south more rocky. Continuing down the stream 30 minutes, the valley opens into a large bowl with some grass and flowers. An emergency high camp is possible.

Keep to the south (left) of the stream, and cross pleasant, rolling hills of ungrazed grass and flowers for 30 minutes. As they end, traverse left over and around the west edge of an awkward slate talus slope 30 minutes. Then descend a short scree slope 20 minutes to the level grassy area along the stream and to the north (right) of the enormous moraine that fills the entire valley. Follow the stream all the way past the moraine to the alluvial fan below. If the stream has too much water to make this possible, continue on the moraine’s talus, working down its tedious slope to the alluvial fan below, and then cross the stream from the pass. On this more level area (4110m) find a trail along the main stream’s  true right bank, which flows on the valley’s south (left) side. One hour downvalley, reach a grassy area to camp. Across the stream, on its true left (south) bank is the well-built hut, livestock pen and small spring at Jambor Shal (3780m).

Day 6 : Jambor Shal to Chapali

4- 5 hours, 10.7km, 1230m descent

Cross the footbridge and follow the livestock trail above the Zagaro Gol’s true left bank. Reach Dok Shal (3600m), with many abandoned huts and a clear stream, in 45 minutes. Alternatively, stay on the Zagaro Gol’s true bank and continue past abandoned huts and once- irrigated fields to cross a footbridge at a level area before Dok Shal. A lone herders’ hut is in use at Dok Shal, perched on a small spur. Continue 30 minutes on the main trail to more abandoned settlements at Kulam Shal (3429m). Meet the main trail from Chumarkhan An after another 30 minutes. Continue 2½ hours down a good trail to Chapali (2550m); Follow the road 30 minutes past the water supply house through the village to the Yarkhun Valley jeep road. At this intersection is a sign Reading ‘Water Supply Scheme Chapari’ and a store on the opposite side of the road. The shopkeeper lets trekkers camp in the field behind the store.

 

 

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