The Wakhan Corridor is a fascinating combination of history mixed with diverse cultures and stunning vistas. It is a place that has hardly changed since Alexander the Great’s army came close to the region in 326 BC.
Following the success of our 2011 expedition to Lake Zorkul and our 2012 expedition to the Little Pamir, we can’t wait to return to the Wakhan to undertake a new challenge of linking the Little and Big Pamir with a pioneering trek.
Mission: The aim of the expedition is to travel from the Little Pamir to the Big Pamir in the Wakhan Corridor, Afghanistan, via the Showr Pass.
The Wakhan Corridor is a finger of land pointing eastwards from Afghanistan towards China, sandwiched by Tajikistan to the north and Pakistan to the south. The mighty ranges of the Hindu Kush, Karakoram and Pamir converge at the eastern end of the corridor, called the Pamir knot. In the Afghan Pamir steep valleys open up to form wide high altitude valleys, the Big and Little Pamir, where nomads take advantage of lush grazing.
The Pamirs refers to the large Central Asian mountain range that runs through Tajikistan into China and Afghanistan. They are characterised by large U-shaped high altitude mountain valleys that provide abundant grazing grass during summer, but are covered by snow for six months of the year. In the Wakhan, two such large areas of grassland exist, the Big Pamir (Pamir Kalan or Pamir-e-Buzurg) and Little Pamir (Pamir Khurd or Pamir-e-Kochak). These valleys are used by the semi-nomadic Wakhi for summer grazing, who return to the main valley in winter. The hardy Kyrgyz spend their time here year round, suffering the cold and brutal winter. The Little Pamir is actually larger in area than the Big Pamir, but the higher altitude of the Big Pamir gives it its name.
The Little Pamir: We will set out and travel on horseback and foot as we tackle two high altitude passes on the first day. Moving up through huge, sweeping glaciated valleys we travel through Wakhi summer encampments up to the foot of the Showr Pass, the border between the Little and Big Pamir.
The Big Pamir: After crossing the Showr Pass we will move down to Lake Zorkul, claimed by John Wood to be the source of the Oxus (the source is still disputed today). We also now encounter the Kyrgyz; hardy mountain Nomads who originate from the steppes of Siberia. Ethnically and culturally different, their ancient way of life has been unaffected by the modern word. We will move through temporary villages of yurts as we move through the large, open plain of the Big Pamir before crossing back into Wakhi territory. Here, we enter large U-shaped glaciated valleys as we push deeper into the mountains themselves. We pass into the Shirkirga Valley, famous as a hunting ground of the Shar in the 60’s and 70’s and now a protected area and home to Ibex and Marco Polo sheep. We cross over a 5000m pass into the head of a valley surrounded by lakes and home to one of the highest semi-permanent settlements here, Asan Kitich (4500m). Our final day rewards us with stunning views of the Hindu Kush as we descend 1800m to the valley floor, and the hot springs at Sargaz.
Name: Glen Downton
Occupation: Software Developer
Secret Compass’ expedition to the Wakhan Corridor in July 2011 was an incredible experience. We trekked in some of the most remote, spectacular and unspoilt mountains in the world; experiences local cultures which are so radically different from our own; and of course track the Oxus all the way to Lake Zorkul. Not to mention we made some great friendships with like-minded explorers, and had endless amazing photography opportunities! I consider all of this an incredible privilege, and I’m desperate to spend more time in this part of the world.
Responsible Travel: OXFAM
Secret Compass have partnered with OXFAM for this expedition. If you would like to travel through the Afghan Pamir with us to raise money for OXFAM you will receive a 10% discount on the cost of the expedition. Please get in touch and we can discuss sponsorship options and assistance. OXFAM GB is a globally renowned aid and development charity with 70 years of experience, working and campaigning with partners in 98 countries worldwide. Oxfam is a registered charity in England and Wales (no 202918) and Scotland (SC039042).
Read about our previous expedition to the Wakhan in Time Out
Will be in a basic guesthouses in Tajikistan and the Wakhan Valley. These often have communal rooms where everybody sleeps. We will be camping as we move off on the trek, and may be invited to stay in yurts at times.
There are few frills up in the mountains, but what you will witness in these breathtaking valleys will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression upon you.
Is usually kebab- and bread-based in Tajikistan! In Afghanistan it is based on rice and bread, with occasional yak-milk yoghurt. While trekking we will have a cook who will make rice, potato and pasta dishes, basic but good.
Will involve bumpy rides in 4WD vehicles, trekking and horse and yak riding. Don’t worry if you have limited riding experience, the animals are usually well behaved!
SUITABLE TEAM MEMBERS
Team members should be willing to be part of a team working together to achieve the goal of the expedition. They should have an adventurous and robust spirit. They should be fit and healthy as this trip involves 12 continuous days of strenuous trekking (approx 25km a day) and riding in remote areas at altitudes of up to 5,000 metres.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
We assess the security threat in the Wakhan to be low, due to the following reasons:
History - there have been no incidents in the region for the at least the last 10 years. The Taliban never controlled this region in the 90′s.
Geography - the Wakhan is a one-way street, surrounded by international borders and high mountain ranges. There is only one way in or out for malign elements; through the heavily policed town of Ishkhashim.
Culture - The people of the area have nothing in common with malign elements in the region.
Economics - The Wakhan is a particularly poor region with no economic resources (poppy etc), so there is no reason for malign elements to go there.
We would be happy to speak further about safety and security in the region.
Responsible Travel: AFGHANAID
Secret Compass have partnered with Afghanaid for this expedition. If you would like to climb Mount Noshaq with us to raise money for Afghanaid please get in touch and we can discuss sponsorship options and assistance. Afghanaid is an international humanitarian and development non-governmental organisation (NGO) which has worked alongside Afghan communities for nearly three decades. They currently work directly with over one million adults and children focusing on long-term sustainable development in some of Afghanistan’s poorest rural areas.