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Wakhan First Ascents

Date: 13th July – 2nd August 2019

In July/August 2019 we will be heading to one of world’s most remote corners for a first ascent climbing expedition. Our 21 day journey will visit one of the world’s least visited corners of the Eurasian Continent, the Afghan Wakhan which borders Tajikistan, Pakistan and China. We will begin and end in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe before travelling along the dramatic Pamir Highway and crossing over into Afghanistan. We will then pass through the Wakhan Corridor to the Afghan Pamir. You will spend 12 full days attempting two unclimbed mountains, Peak 5396 and Peak 5721. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet Wakhi nomads who graze their livestock here during the summer months as well as seeing ancient tombs and Buddhist engravings, which live as a reminder of this once great section of the Silk Road.

Highlights:

  • Discover the culture of the Wakhi nomads of this rarely visited corner of Central Asia
  • Travel along the Pamir highway, one of the world’s highest roads
  • Attempt to summit two unclimbed 5000m+ peaks in the Afghan Wakhan

Start Point: Dushanbe, Tajikistan
End Point:   Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Maximum number of people: 10
Number of days: 21

Day 1-2 Dushanbe – Kalaikhum – Khorog
Saturday 13th – Sunday 14th July 2019
We head straight out of Dushanbe (800m) driving along the Pamir Highway towards the town of Khorog (2100m). We will overnight in Kalaikhum (1600m) before taking a rest day in Khorog, nestling on the banks of the Panj River. We will stay overnight at a local homestay and begin to acclimatize to the mountains and explore this typical Tajik town of the Pamirs. Please note – if we need visas for Afghanistan for any of the group we go straight to Khorog in one long day and have a rest day in Khorog. It is however strongly recommended that you obtain your Afghan visa prior to the start of the trip.
Overnight in homestays.

Day 3 Khorog – Ishkishim – Qazideh
Monday 15th July 2019
We will drive to the border town of Tajik Ishkishim and cross over into Afghanistan. Once in Afghan Ishkishim we will spend the majority of the day in town with our guide, making the final preparations and collecting our permits for the Wakhan region. After that we will continue to the Wakhi village of Qazideh (2600m). Once we have left Ishkishim we will have to be self-sufficient for the remaining weeks and we need this day to ensure we have everything arranged.
Overnight in guesthouse.

Day 4 Qazideh – Wuzed
Tuesday 16th July 2019
The road is poor and can be washed out in places but we hope to make it in one long, but scenic day of driving. The 120km from Qazideh to Wuzed (3000m) takes us along a narrow section of the Wakhan Corridor. Passing the 7492m high Noshaq, Afghanistan’s highest peak, we will follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo and Hsuan Tsang on this ancient Silk Road route. We will have to stop in the village of Khandud to process some further paperwork. Afterward we’ll drive eastward past the village of Qala e Panja and toward Sast, which is across the river from Wuzed. It’s here that we’ll acquire our pack animals and porters.
Overnight in guesthouse.

Day 5 Wuzed – Wuzed Pass Shepherd Camp
Wednesday 17th July 2019
On our way up from Wuzed to the Wuzed Pass Shepherd Camp (3900m) we may meet Wakhi shepherds bringing their flocks back to the bigger villages for the winter. Our local guide has friends amongst the Wakhi and if we are fortunate we may have time to meet and talk with them. We hope to exchange ideas about the world and to get an insight into their lifestyle and culture, living in yurts in this remote spot, high in the Pamirs.
Overnight in tents.

Day 6 Wuzed Pass Shepherd Camp – Wuzed Pass Pond Camp
Thursday 18th July 2019
We will depart from the Shepherd Camp and venture further up the valley to our main base camp at Wuzed Pass Pond Camp (4400m).
Overnight in tents.

Day 7 Wuzed Pass Pond Acclimatisation Day (4400m)
Friday 19th July 2019
You will have a free day to relax, walk and acclimatise. Doing so will ensure you are well adapted to the rigours of climbing at altitude and put you in the best position for attempting the peaks safely and efficiently.
Overnight in tents.

Day 8 Wuzed Pass Pond Camp – Recce Peak 5396
Saturday 20th July 2019
A day will be spent exploring the local area and scouting out the approach and route up to the unclimbed Peak 5396, our first objective of the expedition.
Overnight in tents.

Day 9 Summit Attempt Peak 5396 – Wuzed Pass Pond Camp (4400m)
Sunday 21st July 2019
A very early pre-dawn start will see you make your attempt on the virgin summit of Peak 5396. After summiting you will return back to your base camp at Wuzed Pass Pond Camp.
Overnight in tents.

Day 10 Wuzed Pass Pond Camp – Yurt Camp for Peak 5721.
Monday 22nd July 2019
From Wuzed Pass Pond Camp we’ll move over to a Wakhi yurt camp (4150m) in the vicinity of Peak 5721.
Overnight in tents.

Day 11 Yurt Camp for Peak 5721 – Recce for an ABC or rest day Tuesday 23rd July 2019
On this day there will be the option to rest for the day whilst others in the group go for a recce of a suitable advanced base camp (ABC) for the following day.
Overnight in tents.

Day 12 Yurt Camp for Peak 5721  – Peak 5721 (ABC)
Wednesday 24th July 2019
After breakfast you’ll head for Peak 5721’s ABC (4800m) and prepare the following two days of climbing.
Overnight in tents.

Day 13 Peak 5721 (ABC) – Recce above ABC for route to summit
Thursday 25th July 2019
You’ll venture out with the team above ABC to search out for a potential route to the summit the following day.
Overnight in tents.

Day 14 Summit Attempt Peak 5721 – Peak 5721 (ABC)
Friday 26th July 2019
Today is another big day as you make your attempt on the first ascent of Peak 5721 and then return to ABC for the night.
Overnight in tents.

Day 15 Yurt Camp Peak 5721 – Foot of Sargaz Pass
Saturday 27th July 2019
We will pack up our camp and begin our two-day journey out of the mountains to Sargaz (3100m), first stopping for the night at the foot of Sargaz Pass (4800m).
Overnight in tents.

Day 16 Foot of Sargaz Pass – Sargaz Pass – Sargaz
Sunday 28th July 2019
In the morning we will ascend over Sargaz Pass and then make our descent down to the village of Sargaz, which is further east of Wuzed. If the weather is clear you may be able to see peaks on the other side of the valley (along the Pakistani border), as well as other unclimbed peaks further into the interior of the Wakhan near the Tajik border.
Overnight in tents.

Day 17 Sargaz – Qazideh (2600m)
Monday 29th July 2019
Return from Sargaz to Qazideh by road.
Overnight in guesthouse.

Day 18 – 20 Qazideh – Ishkishim – Khorog – Kalaikhum – Dushanbe
Tuesday 30th July 2019
The drive back to Ishkishim should be relatively smooth at this time of year as the river levels are low after the summer snow melt. Once back in Ishkishim (30th July) there will be time to rest and say goodbye to our Wakhi guides. We cross back into Tajikistan and head back up the Pamir Highway. Khorog will seem like Las Vegas after nearly three weeks in the Pamirs. The drive back will be broken up at the small town of Kalaikhum (31st July) before arriving in Dushanbe (1st August)
Overnight in homestays.

Day 21 Dushanbe – End
Friday 2nd August 2019
You will be dropped off at Dushanbe airport.

The trip includes:
All accommodation
All food in Afghanistan
Breakfast in Tajikistan
All transport
2 x international mountain guides
Local guides
Cook
Freeze dried mountain food
Mountain tents and cooking equipment
Group climbing equipment (radios, ropes, petrol stoves, protection)
Pack animals
Permits to visit the Wakhan region
Visa support

The trip does not include:
Any necessary visas
Insurance
Flights
Entrance fees
Drinks
Tips
Personal climbing, camping equipment or clothing
Lunch and dinner in Tajikistan

Cost
US$5300 per person.

A deposit of US$400 per person is required to reserve your place on this trip.

If you have any questions regarding this itinerary or about Afghanistan in general, please contact us.

Fitness/Experience Requirements:
Our outdoor trips are designed to be physically engaging and provide a
level of challenge for most people. Given the demanding nature of this
expedition you will need to have prior trekking, rock climbing* and
basic mountaineering/alpine experience**.

For the walk in to base camp, please ensure that you are capable of
walking with a 10-15kg day pack for up to 8 hours over 5 or more
days through uneven and varied terrain (and weather); ranging from
hard-packed earth, tussock grass, boulder fields, scree slopes, soft
snow patches, and knee-deep rivers.

For the approaches to advanced base camp and whilst climbing, you
will need to be able to carry up to 15-20kg on snow/glacial terrain
sometimes exceeding 50°. You will also need to have basic
competency walking in crampons, belaying, rappelling, front-pointing
on ice, descending with crampons, be comfortable with height/exposure, ascending a fixed rope (if required)*** and experience using both a single axe and two technical axes.

The itinerary is what we hope to achieve on this trip. As this is a
climbing expedition involving first ascents on unclimbed peaks, we
cannot guarantee that the summits will be reached as it is dependent
on local weather and the conditions on the mountain at the time.
Please be prepared to fully embrace venturing into the unknown and
be ready to adapt to any changing circumstances whilst in the
mountains.

*Ideally you should have some experience of seconding up to 5.4/IV/Severe on rock
**Ideally you should have some experience of seconding up to PD/II/WI2 in the mountains
***If certain sections of the route are beyond your comfort level we
will have 50-100m sections of static line available for each team which
will be fixed by the mountain guide. However, you will need to be able
to ascend the rope comfortably using 2 x ascenders or prussiks.

Lastly, for all participants with a serious interest to join, you will need to provide us with a basic CV of your previous climbing/mountaineering/trekking experience. One of the international guides for this trip will arrange to have an informal chat with you beforehand to share with you more about the trip and answer any questions you might have regarding the required level of experience.

Flights:
We do not directly arrange international flights to Tajikistan. We run our Wakhan trips to coincide with the regular Turkish Airlines flights from Europe to Dushanbe, which is the most practical route into Tajikistan.
You can also contact the Untamed Borders dedicated team at Flight Centre for other suggested routes.
Mail: untamedborders@rtwexperts.co.uk
Phone: +44(0) 844 560 9966

Visas:
You will need a double-entry Tajikistan tourist visa with GBAO permit and an Afghan visa for this trip. We will assist with advice on how best to obtain these visas as visa requirements vary from country to country. We recommend you apply for the Tajikistan e-visas as this is the fastest and most efficient method. If a double-entry Tajikistan visa is not available at the time, you can apply for 2 x single entry tourist e-visa, provided they each have a different ‘valid from’ date.

Insurance:
The Wakhan and Afghan Pamir regions are both very remote areas in one of the least developed countries in the world. Please ensure that your insurance covers you both for visiting Afghanistan and for rescue in the Wakhan region of Afghanistan. If you have any questions about which insurance company to select please contact us.

Food:
Outside of Dushanbe options will be limited and once we are on the trek we will only be able to eat what we bring with us, or barter for from the nomadic people. Any specific allergies or dietary requirements can be accommodated if we are given prior warning. If you have a particular preference for snacks to eat whilst climbing (such as protein bars), we strongly suggest you bring your own personal supply.

Accommodation:
We do not and cannot offer a uniform accommodation standard on our itineraries. We consider comfort, location, design, character, historical interest and whether the money we spend will go into the pockets of the local community when we make our choices of where to stay.

The accommodation will be based on 2 people sharing a room when that is available. When we are in the Wakhan area we will be staying in tents and in local guesthouses that sometimes only offer central communal areas to sleep in.

Transport:

We always check the vehicles we use thoroughly before each trip. In Afghanistan we aim to use four-wheel drive vehicles and take with us a satellite phone should the vehicle develop a fault.

When we choose our vehicles and drivers we take into consideration the road conditions, the length of journey and the competence of the man behind the wheel. Your comfort, enjoyment and safety of the journey is the first priority.

Guides:
For this trip we use team leaders from Untamed Borders who have experience of guiding in the Wakhan and Greater Ranges. In addition to these experienced leaders we will be working with local Wakhi guides and porters.

Security:
Trips to Afghanistan do create dangers all of their own and whilst we want you to have as much freedom as possible we must state that the tour leader has the final word with regards to changes in the itinerary for safety reasons. Whilst the route we have chosen passes through areas that we consider to be relatively stable things can change and we may have to alter the route or cancel sections of the trip at short notice.

 

 

Successful First Descent of Iraq’s Highest Peak

Last month we guided a group of US veterans in Iraq who completed a successful first ski descent of Iraq’s highest peak, Mt. Halgurd. A documentary film is currently in post-production by the team. If you’re interested to find out more about their trip and the upcoming film then check out their Facebook page. In the meantime a few taster shots are below which are taken by Jan Bakker, our main guide for the trip. You can view an album of his images from the trip on our Facebook page here.

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