Well, this is more for the serious mountaineerer, as it involves some technical skills: Tajikistan and the Pamirs offer many possibilities of some of the highest peaks to climb and very much remote and challenging hikes to walk.
Among the hikes is the one to Lake Sarez, a rather “new” lake, which was created early 20th century following an earthquake. Rocks and debris “closed” Murghab river and formed the lake. It is said to be quite unstable, at least if another earthquake might happen, the new formed dam in the east might break again and lead to a huge wave flooding Murghab valley and eventually Murghab.
However, the scenery must be breathtaking. It can be approached via Bartang Valley, which is east of Vomar (or Rushan) at the Pamir Highway north of Khorog. It is not possible to use mules or horses for this approach, as all is too rocky. Consequently, all luggage must be carried by oneself,as the porter business is unpopular to the Pamirs. Other approaches, like from Murghab along Murghab river or from the south, i.e. western side of Lake Yashikul, are also possible. But they require navigational skills and an extensive knowledge about the local weather. So it is highly advisalbe to plan this only with an experienced local (Pamiri) guide. In addition, a special permit must be obtained by Badakhshan government.
See Pamirs.org Website for recommended guides and information about this hike.
Equipment: Full hiking and mountaineering gear is highly advisable. Bring all from home - not that it is not possible to rent things there, but which mountaineerer wants to use rented equipment ?
Another fascinating climb must be along Fedchenko Glacier. Approachable also from Bartang Valley and also best with a local Pamiri guide.
I’ll describe this more in detail on my writings about the Pamirs, so here only in brief: Badakshan is a paradise for trekkers who look for unspoilt regions and the most warmhearted and hospitable people. But Badakshan has been separated into several countries after some disputes and wars over the years: Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan was founded in mid last century, and the Great Game conflict between Russia and British in the last half of 19th century led to the creation of Wakhan Corridor between the disputing countries. Ethnic groups have been divided by these interactions, and that’s why the people of Wakhan still have strong bonds to their relatives in the Pamirs.
It seems to be possible to travel to Afghanistan’s Wakhan Corridor without the need to go via Kabul. John Mock and Kimberley O’Neil describe this on their website, however it seems to be subjected to constant change.
A possible route for visiting Wakhan Corridor seems to be:
Flying into Tajikistan = Dushanbe, then continue to Khorog, and by car down south to the Pamiri Ishkashim, where a bridge is crossed to the Afghan twin village of Ishkashim (see GE screenshot). I plan to travel to Wakhan Corridor in 2009, so after this trip I can report more.
Equipment: For more amazing photos and descriptions pleas see:
* Agustinus Wibowo, a young Indonesian guy with the most magic photos;
* NG about Georg Schaller’s project to save the Marco Polo sheep (Georg Schaller is famous for his project Snow Leopard Society);
* Juldu – for trekking in Wakhan;
* satellite view of Wakhan, from Ishkashim.
The possibilities for hiking in these marvellous landscapes are countless. Western Tajikistan waits with the Fan Mountains to be explored. And eastern Tajikistan or the Pamirs are just the best. If you want to do serious hiking, you must get the best map available, which is the Hauser map . For excellent hike descriptions, please check the trekking section of Pamirs.org website (both I already described in one of my general tips.
For readers who have been in northern India, Pakistan or Nepal: be aware that the porter service is not common, thus not available at all in the Pamirs. All luggage needs to be transported by oneself.
Be also aware that the trails are not marked as such, so navigation skills and excellent map reading are essential and life saving. Mostly, there is no one around if something happens. Many trails are far out of reach of civilisation.
So I highly recommend to read the note on safe hiking and trekking on the Pamirs.org website. They describe here how sudden weather and the resulting mudslides, flash floods or blockings can change the whole areas.
Equipment: Generally, also for experienced trekkers or hikers who want to leave the area around Pamir Highway, I can only highly recommend to book with a realiable agency. They are widely distrubuted in the Pamirs. Just to name some:
Pamir-Adventure, of which I heard good reviews,
Goulya Petrova and her team, of whom I also heard good reviews and had contact with before I went. This was about a hike to Lake Sarez (see below), and as I decided not to do this hike due to not appropriate fitness, I cannot report myself,
META, which are based in Murghab.
These are all local agencies and operators with very fair prices and reliable service (as opposed to…. well, you know what I want to say already, so no need to repeat myself all over).
It is better to bring your own gear with you. Not that the agencies won't rent things needed, but ... well, I only speak for myself, but I won't do anything outdoors without bringing my own stuff.
Equipment: I researched the market for mountain sports gear in Khojand and Dushanbe, and my report is disappointing; there is not much. So bring your own gear for mountain hiking and sports activities, unless you team up with a group that provides the necessary equipment, like climbing gear and bikes etc.
Prospekt Ismoili Somoni 26/1, Dushanbe, 734026, Tajikistan
Good for: Couples
str. Lev Tolstoy 9, Dushanbe, 734003, Tajikistan
Good for: Couples
22 Shotemur Ulitsa, Dushanbe, 734001, Tajikistan
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo