Tegerman Su Valley and Eastern Sector Aq Su Valley (Little Pamir), Exploration
Asia, Afghanistan, Pamir
The far eastern part of the Wakhan Corridor has never seen many foreign visitors. During the Afghan climbing boom of the 1960s and 70s it was too remote and access too difficult to draw major attention, with high virgin peaks available two hours’ drive from Ishkashim. Now, when most peaks in the High Hindu Kush have been climbed, it’s worth re-examining this eastern region. Apart from being home to Kirghiz nomads, the area also hosts three interesting ranges: Lupsuq Hindu Kush, Pamir-i-Wakhan, and Kohe Aq Su. These mountains have remained almost untouched by alpinists, and more than 400 peaks above 5,000m await first ascents. Climbing one and gathering more information for future expeditions was my goal.
At the beginning of July I arrived in Afghanistan from Uzbekistan. After reaching Mazar-e-Sharif, I continued east through Kunduz and Faizabad. This wasn’t the safest or quickest option, as the road around Kunduz was supposedly receiving attention from the rebels (the accepted route to the Wakhan these days is through Tajikistan, but in Warsaw there is no Tajik embassy, only Uzbek, so it was easier to obtain a visa.) After arriving in Ishkashim (the “gateway” to the Corridor), I bought food and arranged a permit and transportation. Ishkashim is the last place where you can buy provisions. Permits may be arranged prior to arrival, e.g. through Mountain Unity, to reduce time spent in the town. Otherwise permits can take up to three days. A jeep is required to get to Sarhad-e-Broghil, some way up the Corridor. The journey takes one or two days, depending on the water level, and costs $400-600 per day. After reaching Sarhad-e-Broghil, I arranged for a donkey to carry my gear and set off in the direction of the Aq Su Valley or Little Pamir and the westernmost Kirghiz summer encampment of Kashch Goz. The journey took six days and crossed three passes, the highest of them being Uween-e-Sar (4,887m). Near this pass, in the Kohe Wakhan range, there are many rock faces up to 800m high, with peaks up to ca 5,700m. I reached the Kirghiz camp on July 27. It is possible to reach Kashch Goz faster, along the “low” or “river” route. It takes two or three days, but may be impossible when the water level is high (or locals view it as such).
At Kashch Goz I switched to horses. In the Wakhan, when you rent an animal, it comes with a person who takes care of its needs. That person serves as a guide (but not a mountain guide) and sometimes as a cook. The hire prices of animals are much the same everywhere, and in 2009 were $10 a day for a donkey, $16-20 for a horse, yak, or camel.
From Kashch Goz I continued east along Lake Chaqmaqtin and the Kohe Aq Su range. The valley floor lies at 4,000-4,200m, and surrounding peaks reach up to ca 5,800m. It took nine days to reach the easternmost part of the Wakhan Corridor and Afghanistan—the Tegerman Su Valley. I stopped on the way to explore the Kohe Aq Su and had to change animals three times, but if in a great hurry, one can reach Tegerman Su from Kashch Goz in four days. There are no Kirghiz encampments beyond Sayutuk, from where it is one or two days to Tegerman Su, and the point where Afghan, Tajik, and Chinese borders meet. Here there are around two-dozen unclimbed peaks up to ca 5,500m, with the valley floor at ca 4,600m.
Tegerman Su is a sensitive area: Kirghiz report the possibility of robbery by neighboring Tajiks. Keeping alert or having an armed escort is advisable. I had two Kirghiz with me, both of whom carried old Russian-made rifles. We didn’t encounter anyone, so it’s hard for me to judge if there is any real threat. Security in other parts of Aq Su Valley is better, although the Kirghiz did tell me about Tajik bandits stealing their animals at night. If that’s true, they should pose no threat to climbers in Kohe Aq Su, because the border is relatively distant. No Taliban, rebel, or warlike people exist in this area.
After spending two days at Tegerman Su and getting close to the Chinese border, we went back to the Aq Su Valley. I continued to Sarhad-e-Broghil by the “river route” and got back to Ishkashim on August 15.
Click here to download Bartek Tofel’s Google Earth kmz file, which locates many peaks in the region (depending on your browser, you may need to find the link in your downloads folder; viewing it requires Google Earth on your computer): Tofel_Afghanistan_TegermanSu_aaj2009.kmz. For more information and photographs, please visit Mr. Tofel’s website, www.tofel.eu