Wakhan Corridor is located in Afghanistan’s extreme Northeast in the province of Badakshan. It is a 210 kilometers long but a very narrow patch that connects Afghanistan to China. and also borders Pakistan and Tajikistan. During the times of The Great Game, this corridor was created as a buffer between the British empire in the sub continent and the Russians.
Trekking community in Pakistan is familiar with a trek known as “Along the Wakhan Corridor”. It is called so because it runs inside Pakistani territory almost in parallel to the Wakhan corridor. Some people call this area as Wakhan which is incorrect as the actual Wakhan area is in Afghanistan. This is one of the most amazing treks in Pakistan’s North because it offers everything that a trekker encounters during different trekking expeditions i.e. lush green meadows, high passes, glaciers, rivers, and some of the most beautiful lakes including the magnificent Karomber.
The trek connects Yarkhun valley in Chitral to the Chapursan valley in Gojal(Hunza) and can be done both ways. As we did the trek in west to east direction starting from Chitral, I will describe it in the same. There are some other possibilities to undertake this trek that I will mention in the last.
To reach Chitral, one has many options. See Travel options for Chitral for the details on these options. The trek starts from a small village of Kishmanja which is the last point where jeeps can take you. From Chitral, one has to reach Mastuj first which is a small town on the Gilgit-Chitral road. Booking of a jeep from Chitral to Mastuj can be done in somewhere between Rs. 3000 and 4000 and Rs. 150 per person if one doesn’t book the whole jeep (rates as of summer 2010). There is a PTDC hotel and a couple of rest houses available in Mastuj for accommodation. From Mastuj, Kishmanja can be reached through a long and rough jeep ride of 8-10 hours. A jeep would cost between Rs. 10000 to Rs. 12000 for this part. If you are to book a jeep for this journey, do confirm if the bridge at Kankhun is jeep cross-able or not and fix the rates accordingly. We had to abandon our land cruiser jeep because of the bridge instability and had to hire another one on the other side for last one hour of the journey. This jeep road ends a kilometer before Kishmanja which is a very small village of few houses. This is also the last point where electricity is available in this region.
In the whole of Broghil valley, people speak mainly Chitrali language but can speak Urdu and can also generally understand Persian and Shina.
Below are stage by stage trek details as how we did it…
Stage1: Kishmanja – Ishkarwaz:
Duration: 4-5 hours
From Ishkarwaz, cross the flowing stream through a log foot bridge and continue south along with the river bed to reach Garamchashma. From this point, one leaves the river bed and turns left. The path ascends very smoothly till one reaches a small pass. From this point, there are two options to reach Broghil. One can climb right to reach Chikar which is the base of Darkot glacier from where one can reach Showrsheer the other day bypassing Ishkarwaz. If one continues towards southeast, the valley opens up with vast stretches of different small but colorful flowers. The stage ends at Ishkarwaz where there are posts of Chitral scouts and police where one has to register.
Stage2: Ishkarwaz – Showrsheer via Lashkargaz
Duration: 7-8 hrs
A couple of hours walk away from Ishkarwaz is Garhil. Inhabited by a few households, Garhil is one of the most beautiful spots of the whole area in terms of landscape. After crossing Garhil, one walks beneath the Darwaza Pass and reaches Lashkargaz (or Lashkargah Goz). Darwaza pass is another way to enter into Agfhanistan’s wakhan area. Before Lashkargaz, the main attraction of this day is a series of small but beautiful lakes with changing colors. In total, these are five different lakes just adjacent to each other. Every few kilometers on this path, one comes across a new pasture which is used as the grazing land for yaks. Lashkargaz is the place where traditional polo festival is held each year where wakhi people from the whole region participate.
Stage3: Showrsheer – Karomber Lake
Duration : 4-5 hrs
It is a very gentle walk up to Karomber that climbs very smoothly. One passes through small settlements of Rabat and Lale Rabat before reaching the Karomber Pass at 4200 meters. Karomber lake is further half an hour away from the pass at 4160 meters. There are some camping sites maintained along the lake. Porters normally stay in open sky small huts built above the lake. They must be provided a water proof sheet as a protection against snow and rain.
Stage4: Karomber Lake – Swinj
Duration: 3-4 hrs
This is the easiest day of the whole trek with a very gentle walk of few hours. One enters into the Karomber valley after crossing Karomber lake which does not enjoy the greenery and beautiful landscape of that of Broghil valley. Swinj is inhabited by the Gujjar people. They come from Imit during summer months with their livestock. They are not as friendly as the wakhi people and must be treated with caution.
Stage5: Swinj – Sohktarabad via Chittiboi Glacier
Duration: 7-8 hrs
This is one of the longest day of the trek included with it is the crossing of Chittiboi glacier. Glacier crossing takes around 2 – 2.5 hours. The crossing itself is not very technical however donkeys with load struggle on it. At Sokhtarabad, a campsite is maintained along with the police post where one must register. The post comes under the jurisdiction of Ishkoman police station.
Stage6: Sokhtarabad – Virgoth
Duration : 5-6 hrs
Soon after leaving Sokhtarabad, one has to cross the Sokhtarabad glacier. Virgoth which is the destination of this day is undoubtedly the best camping site of the trek but it comes with a price which is “Shuttargurdan”. It is the name of the difficult mountain one has to cross with very narrow, steep and scary path. The original path used to go along with the river however in year 2007, glacier blocked the way of the river and there is no apparent way to cross it. One has to be very careful on this narrow path as any wrong step can take one down to thousands of feet down into the river.
Stage7: Virgoth – Pekhin
Duration: 4-5 hrs
If one starts early, it is also possible to reach Mitramdas the same day however Pekhin is the other option if one can’t. It is probably the worst of campsites of the whole trek and feels more as one is coming from the campsites of Virgoth and Sokhtarabad. After leaving Vrgoth, one has to cross the glacier that takes 30-40 minutes and ends at Yasin village (not to confuse with the Yasin Valley in Ghizer) which is another pictersuqe village and is very much similar to virgoth.
Stage8: Pekhin – Borth via Mitramdas
Duration : 3-4 hrs
An hour walk from Pekhin takes one to the river. One can cross the river on foot if water is not high or there is an alternate route available over the cliff on the left which is not very difficult however is narrow where donkeys with load struggle..Although there is a jeep road till Mitramdas, jeeps are generally not available there unless already arranged. One has to walk further couple of hours to Borth to find one. From Borth, the jeep can be taken to Gahkuch which is the capital of Ghizer and is a big town. Regular transport is available from Gahkuch for Gilgit.
If one intends to end the trek at Chapursan valley after crossing Chilinji Pass (5200 meters), one must cross the river before Virgoth to camp at Jungle Camp instead of Virgoth. From Jungle Camp, with one night at Chilinji base, one can cross the pass to reach Biatar. This trek can be done other way around from Chapursan valley as well however the biggest challenge this route presents is crossing the Chilinji pass on the second or third day of trek while one is not fully acclimatized. If there is a spare day or two for acclimatization, this is a better option to cross Chilinji as from the base camp on the other side (from Jungle camp), the ascend is very steep and is mostly scree.
Another option to reach Broghil valley is via Darkot Pass (4675 meters) from Yasin valley in Ghizer. Jeeps go all the way to Darkot village which is at 5-6 hours drive from Gilgit. From the Darkot village, one can reach Chikar village in Broghil valley with one night at Darkot base camp and crossing the pass other day.