Khafrazdara Valley, Tajikistan
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This is one of the most beautiful treks in the Pamirs taking you to the stunning Khafrazdara Valley and Lakes.
WANT TO JOIN ME IN THE PAMIR IN 2018?
Okay, this won’t take place in the Khafrazdara Valley.. but if you’re interested in experiencing life with Kyrgyz nomads in Tajikistan’s Eastern Pamir, seeing the Chinese Silk Road cities of Kashgar and Tashkurgan and exploring the super remote Hunza Valley in northern Pakistan check out my group tour I’ll be leading with Inertia Network in June of 2018!
How to get to the Khafrazdara Valley
First you’ll need to reach the village of Pasor, just off the Bartang Highway. Most who visit choose to do so by arranging transport from Khorog or Rushon. There is a shared taxi/marshrutka that leaves from Khorog to Pasor and Gudara via Rushon, but it is irregular and you’ll have to ask around at the main taxi stand in Khorog near the bazaar. May take a few days before there are enough passengers to fill the marshrutka. Expect it to take a bit of time after the trek to arrange shared transport back to Khorog or Rushon as well. A shared taxi will cost 120 TJS each way. Taxis usually leave in the afternoon and expect a long ride- sometimes as long as 20 hours going by shared transport. Your other option is hiring a private 4×4- the advantage here is being able to leave when you want, having the driver wait for you in Pasor for your return ride, and usually a shorter journey, typically about 8-10 hours. The downside is the cost, most drivers charge between 0.60¢-0.90¢ per kilometer (the drive between Khorog and Pasor is about 270 kilometers, each way) and $20 per night they must wait for you to cover meals and board, oh and the other downside: potentially a broke down vehicle (happened to me on the way back from Pasor). So depending on how long you plan to be out there and what you can negotiate, plan for the trip to cost $400-500, but remember this is per vehicle- so if you can pack a Landcruiser or Pajero the price starts to not look so bad. Self-drivers and motorbikes can get out here if you’re confident in navigating the rough and wild Bartang Highway.
This is a great side trip off the Bartang Highway for cyclists journeying up (or down) the Valley that want a break from the bicycles.
The only other way to reach Pasor (aside from walking) would be to hitchhike, which from my experience on the Bartang Highway may be very lengthy and difficult to accomplish at all and especially beyond the trailhead for Jizeu as the Bartang Highway is not much trafficked at all.
In spring and early summer particularly the Bartang Highway may be impassible when the river is high (realistically this could happen any time of year so it is best to ask locals around Khorog and Rushon about conditions). Alternately you could reach Pasor from the north by entering the Bartang Valley from near Karakul in the north.
The altitude on the trek through the Khafrazdara Valley ranges from just below 3,000 meters (9,840 ft) to 4,200 meters (13,800 ft), and does go over 4,600 meters (15,100 ft) if you continue past the last Khafrazdara Lake to the viewpoint for Grum Grijmailo Glacier. This trek all takes place at high altitude, so proper precautions and sufficient time acclimatizing should be taken. Read up more on acclimatization here.
The trek itself isn’t super challenging, just long- 24 kilometers (15 miles) one way to the second Khafrazdara Lake from Pasor, 34 kilometers (21 miles) to the Grum Grijmailo Glacier viewing point from Pasor. The trek does involve a couple creek/river crossings (best to try and cross earlier in the morning when water levels are lower), and temperatures can be downright freezing, especially at night, even in summer. What makes this trek most challenging is the altitude it takes place at, which is why acclimatizing prior to the hike is important.
This trek involves two permits: A GBAO and Tajik National Park permit. You can apply for your GBAO when applying for your Tajik visa, as you will need this permit to travel anywhere in the GBAO region ie: the entire eastern half of Tajikistan… yes this includes the Pamirs. The other permit is the Tajik National Park permit which can be purchased at the PECTA office in the Central Park in Khorog for 15 TJS per day.
It is possible to arrange donkeys to porter gear from Pasor up into Khafrazdara Valley and Grum Grijmailo as well. Expect to negotiate a price in the range of $20-30 USD per day for a man and two donkeys (1 for his gear, 1 for yours). It would be helpful to learn to a few words in Russian or Tajik to negotiate prices.
You can purchase the Pamirs map here, or pick one up in the PECTA office in Khorog. You can also view the trek on Open Street Maps here, or on Maps.me (good camping spots and springs to fill up on drinking water are marked on Maps.me as well). You can also download a PDF of PECTA’s information flyer on the Grum Grijamailo and Khafrazdara Valley trek here.
The trek to Khafrazdara Valley and beyond
After getting a good nights sleep in Pasor (you can easily camp in the open fields near the village, or many times families will take you in in a homestay style manner, do expect to pay), head out on the trail leading north from the village. Villagers will likely see you anyways and point the trail out to you.
The trail will descend down a steep hill, where you will come to a building. This is the electrical plant. Climb up to the big pipe and cross it to the other (left) side of the river (carefully!). The trail from here is narrow and will go up high on the mountainside, and eventually drop down to the riverside where you may need to walk in the river for a few meters along a rock wall if it’s running high (possible to scale the rock wall too). Past this you’ll trek down along the river through occasional small forests and some ups and downs on the narrow trail.
You will eventually have to cross a pretty fast moving creek that feeds into the main river than can be waist deep or more depending on time of day and year (trekking poles are handy for this crossing, especially if carrying a heavy backpack). After crossing continue on the trail through the little forests, the trail will go up soon after up onto a rolling mountainside. You will soon reach a stone shepherd camp near some pools along the river where herders from Pasor bring animals to graze in the high pasture. This is a great spot to set up camp.
From the shepherd’s camp follow the trail north where you’ll walk past (from a distance) the first Khafrazdara Lake, and soon begin climbing up a steep hill and onto a boulder field with views of that first Lake below. Do be careful up here as you are actually crossing glacial ice beneath the rocks you’re climbing over and you can at times hear some cracking and groaning below. The trail can get hard to spot up here on top of the rocks, there are occasional rockstacks marking the trail by shepherds.
Just beyond this crossing the second and much larger Khafrazdara Lake (the first photo you saw in this post) will come into view! It’ll likely be freezing cold up here with relentless winds. The trail continues along the left (west) side of the lake. From here you can opt to continue to the far side of the lake to set up camp, and the following day do a day trek to the viewing point for Grum Grijmailo Glacier spending the third night at the camp at the far side of the lake again and then pack out back to Pasor the next day. If not hard pressed to see the Glacier or short on time treat the second Khafrazdara Lake as a day trek and return back to that first camp to spend the night again and completely pack back out to Pasor the next day.
What to pack, handy Gadgets and gear
Bringing layers is smart, down in the bottom of Khafrazdara Valley in the summer you’ll likely be in a t-shirt midday, but having a long sleeve or two to layer on and a windbreaker is a good idea as you gain elevation and the temperatures cool at night. Hats and gloves will make you more comfortable, and of course hiking boots/shoes are a must. My personal favorite is the Merrell Moab hiking boot.
One of my all-time favorite travel gadgets is the Delorme Inreach. Not only is it an SOS beacon, but it also can send and receive text messages and is a GPS. Delorme offers some good monthly plans when in use. A Solar charger can be a great way to keep your electronics and batteries charged when trekking out here. An External battery pack can also help you out in a pinch when batteries are dead and you’re in the middle of nowhere. If you aren’t confident in finding clean drinking water yourself from springs, a water filter would be a good idea, I use the Katadyn water filter.The Lifestraw or chlorine tablets are useful as well.
A good backpack is a must, I use the Osprey Ariel 65L Backpack, shop backpacks here. A tent will make sleeping more comfortable out here with the wind and all. I use the MSR NX Hubba 1-man tent and love it. MSR also sells the same tent in other sizes: 2-man, 3-man and the 4-man Mutha-Hubba. If you don’t carry a tent you could sleep inside the walls of the sherpherding camps to keep protected from wind. With the cold night temperatures a sleeping bag is a must have. I recommend the Northface Sleeping Bag cold rated to 20ºF/-7ºC. For meals get a travel stove for cooking and a Lightweight Cooking Camp Set, just remember that you can’t fly with Propane canisters, but you can pick them up in Dushanbe or Osh, Kyrgyzstan and usually in Khorog as well. Trekking poles can be helpful on some of the river crossings and spots where the trail is a little loose. And don’t forget a headlamp will come in handy at night time.
Handy books for general travel in Tajikistan and the Pamirs
‘Tajikistan and the High Pamirs’ by Robert Middleton & Huw Thomas. This is a huge book, but it has so much good info on Tajikistan from the history, great-game stories, travel and more!
‘Central Asia’ by Lonely Planet. Handy to have with you, although don’t treat it like a bible. Many times information is out of date as things change rapidly here. The ‘Central Asia Phrasebook’ by Lonely Planet. I found to be a handy item.
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WANT MORE POSTS TO HELP PLAN YOUR TRIP IN TAJIKISTAN?
I’ve spent a good chunk of time exploring Tajikistan in 2016 & 2017, so check out these posts to help you start planning your trip!
Pamir Travel Guide- Everything you need to know before setting out into the rugged and wild Pamir Mountains.
The Pamir Highway Guide- A helpful planning guide for the World’s most epic road trip.
Fann Mountains Guide- Wanna visit the Fann Mountains, Tajikistan’s premier trekking destination? Look no further.
How to get to Lake Sarez– What you need to know from guides to permits and more.
Tajikistan Travel Guide- The ultimate guide to traveling Tajikistan.
Solo Female Travel in Tajikistan- What it’s like and what you need to know before you ladies out there travel solo to one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
NEED MORE INSPIRATION TO GET YOU TO BOOK THAT TICKET TO TAJIKISTAN?
Here’s some click bait for you…
10 Reasons to Visit Tajikistan- Who doesn’t love a generic ‘10 reasons‘ posts? At least it’s not a generic destination…
Walking Among Giants in Beautiful Tajikistan- A little about my first time trekking in the Fann Mountains.