Mazeno Pass at 5390 meters is a technical pass that connects Astore with Chilas. Although it can be attempted from both sides, generally this pass is done from Astore side to avoid the steep climb from Chilas face. First documented account of this pass and attempt to cross it comes from Captain J. Barron in the Himalayan Journal article here which was originally published in 1930.
The road journey to Astore from Islamabad can take 16-18 hours. The other option is to reach Gilgit by air from where Astore can be reached in 5-6 hours.
A highly recommended side trip from Astore is that to the forested and picturesque Rama valley. Rama meadow comes after 30 minutes jeep drive from Astore where a beautifully built PTDC motel is also available for accommodation. Road to Rama lake takes further an hour. This side trip at above 3000 meters altitude is also a good option to spend a night in order to get a little acclimatized before starting the trek Mazeno trek.
Trek for Mazeno starts from the village Tarashing which is the last village where jeeps can take you. Both public and private jeeps are available readily at Astore bazar. The road continues along the Astore river till a little ahead of Gerikot from where the four wheel road turns right towards Tarashing . Total travel time from Astore to Tarashing is around 2 hours.
Trashang is a beautiful village at around 2900 meters altitude. There are two small hotels available in the village where apart from small rooms, gardens are available for establishing campsite with very nominal charges. Porters must be arranged at this village in coordination with the local village committee. Total number of required porters must be determined beforehand and communicated to the local committee and they are to handle them between Tarashing and Chorit villages.
Most important point to learn about this trek is that you have to arrange two separate porter parties. Astori porters would go only till the pass from where Chilas porters must take you forward. These Chilasi porters must be arranged beforehand and communicated the day you plan to reach high camp so that they can come and receive you there.
At minimum, this trek can be done in 5 days and should not take more than 7 days at max. I will recommend it as a 6 days trek with the itinerary mentioned below…
DAY1: Tarashing – Latobah
Trekking Time: 6-8 hours
After leaving Tarashing village, the trek ascends steeply for sometime before descending into the Rupal glacier. It takes around 30 minutes to cross this small glacier that leaves at Rupal village. Rupal is the summer settlement of people from Chorit. After around couple of hours trek from Rupal comes Herligkoffer basecamp named after a German doctor who attempted Nanga Parbat from this side. From HK basecamp, the trek ascends steeply for around 20 minutes before the Bezhin glacier. Crossing Bezhin glacier takes around 1 hour. Like after every glacier, this glacier ends with an ascend to climb that takes one to a beautiful meadow known as Top Meadow. From Top meadow, trek passes through a nice juniper forest before reaching Latobah. This day can also be divided into two days with a camp at Herligkoffer basecamp.
DAY2: Latobah – Mazeno Base Camp
Trekking Time: 3-4 hours
A little ahead of Latobah is a bridge that takes one to the other end of river where Shigiri will come after around 60- 90 minutes. The campsite is marked by a big white boulder. Shigiri is named after this boulder which in the local language means white stone (Shai for white and giri for stone). From Shaigiri there is a gradual ascend with views of Laila and Rupal peaks at the left.
DAY3: Mazeno Basecamp – Mazeno High Camp
Trekking Time: 4-5 hours
From Mazeno basecamp, there is a very steep ascend that after sometime becomes gradual. Water is available in abundance during this stretch. The last leg before high camp on boulders followed by glacier is tough but not technical.
DAY4: Mazeno High Camp – Upper Loiba
Trekking Time: 10-12 hours
This is definitely the toughest and longest day of trek. It is recommended to start the day as early as possible preferably before the first light. This allows one to avoid soft snow. From high camp, it takes around 3-4 hours to reach the pass. Descend from pass is extremely technical and difficult. Ropes must be fixed at 2-3 places depending upon the snow conditions. There is also a risk for rock fall on loose boulders so one must be very cautious. There is a campsite available after Loiba glacier at a place known as Kai. It is not very attractive however and is recommended only if the day has already become too hectic . Otherwise, one can camp at Upper Loiba after walking for further couple of hours.
DAY5: Upper Loiba – Airal
Trekking Time: 4-5 hours
The walk from upper Loiba to Loiba village takes 2-3 hours. Loiba village is the home of Chilasi people who look apparently hard and ferocious but are very hospitable. A few hours ahead is a village known as Airal which is also called as little Fairy Meadows. It is a beautiful village and highly recommended for an overnight stay. People here too are very hospitable. In most of the literature and online itineraries, the mentioned path from Loiba goes through Zangot that ends at Halaley bridge. However, that trek is not scenic and also gets extremely hot because of low altitude. I will therefore highly recommend this alternate path which is very scenic and passes through dense forest.
DAY6: Airal – Thamaros
Trekking Time: 4-5 hours
From Airal, the trek ascends gradually and passes through the dense pine forest and a couple of small settlements before reaching Dammi, Dammi is a stretch of vast lush green meadows. This could have been an ideal campsite if water had been available here. The only water source is 1.5 kilometers before meadows. A very extreme steep descend takes one to the Thamoros village which is the end of this trek. From Thamoros, jeeps are available for Bunar Farm and Chilas.
This trek was done in July 2012. A small video clip of this trek can be watched here.