It was March of 2015 – snow was still out there on the higher altitudes and we wanted to do some excursion in the winter. Kumrat and Jahaz Banda areas had long been in my to-dos list so we started exploring the possibility. Initially, we planned to go up to Jahaz Banda lake from Jandrai with the understanding that trek will be snow bound. But then when we looked at Google Earth we found out there is an apparently jeep-able road going to Gabral, Swat from Thal, Dir. We didn’t know about this route before and it certainly looked very tempting. We later came to know that this pass is known as Dudeer pass or has also been referred as Badwai pass at some places. We had done the Pir-Chanasi winter trekking the previous year in Feb and liked the concept of walking over the snow road which is partly less strenuous than trail breaking in the un-marked wilderness.
Dudeer pass is the pass on jeep-able road that connects Thal in Dir to Gabral in Swat. This 3475m high pass only gets opened for a few months during summer when the snow melts. What only takes a few hours of jeep ride on a fine summer was definitely going to become a long and strenuous walk. I have found a very useful picture of the route from web shown below.
We left Islamabad on Friday night around 8 PM from Pirwadhai. Plan was to reach Dir around Fajir and get the first available public transport for Jandrai. Surprisingly, we were at Dir before 3 AM and we still had a part of cold night to face. We decided to search for some hotel near the adda to straighten our backs and avoid cold. What we found was a bad option to stay from any standard for Rs. 500 per night. But when it comes to a cold night with sleep deprivation, trekkers don’t mind resting for a few hours and so did we. Next morning, we jumped on to the local jeep heading towards Jandrai where we were supposed to meet Taj Muhammad and see his museum before going for Dudeer pass winter trek. From Dir, it takes around 4 hours on the jeep road to reach Jandrai. At Jandrai, Raja Taj Muhammad has got this beautiful museum built showcasing old guns and stuff belonging to his forefathers. After visiting Jandrai, we hired a jeep and asked the driver to take us as far as the jeep road can take. Not sure about the road conditions ahead, we hoped that jeep road will take us to the rest house mid way from the pass. However, the snow started appearing much earlier and we decided to spend the night there. Luckily, we were invited to spend night at one of the local’s hujra and that was a real treat with a carpeted room with bukhari set-up in the middle and a delicious dinner.
Next day, we left for the trek along with two porters at around 6 AM. We were able to reach the rest house in an hour but the pass was still far far away. This is an interesting walk as apparently the pass looks very near but the path has long turns and loops making the way much longer. It was almost 1 PM when we finally reached the pass. Scenery around was amazing with thick white mountains everywhere. As the sun was out, walking on soft snow was becoming more and more difficult. Trail breaking at snow is specially a tedious job and our porters did a tremendous job there. The sun was gradually going down and we still had a lot of distance to cover. However, we decided not to camp on the snow rather to continue descending towards Utror, Gabral. It was eventually 11 in the night when we hit the road and village. We were hungry, wet and tired to the bones. Our porters helped us in finding a local mosque so we didn’t have to open our tents for another night. Next morning, after we offered Fajir, local imam and villagers greeted us and didn’t believe at first we have crossed the pass in snow. After a while, one of the local kids came with home-made parathas and tea prepared. He was followed by another and soon there were people coming in from their houses with their respective share of breakfast prepared for us. This was an amazing gesture of hospitality from people we had never met before. This hospitality is the key characteristic of the people of this region and together with the landscape makes the area a fantastic one to explore.