Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wakhan Corridor

After abandoning our attempt on the north face of Karl Marx Peak, we decided to do a reconnaissance trip to the Wakhan Corridor along the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.  The Wakhan Corridor is the valley in the narrow neck of northeast Afghanistan that connects that country with China.  It separates Tajikistan to the north from Pakistan to the south.

Wakhan Corridor is the valley connecting China with Afghanistan
Wakhan Corridor is the big valley separating the Pamir Mountain Range to the north from the Hindu Kush in the south
We drove south from Khorog to the Tajikistan side of Ishkashim.  Across the Panj River is the other side of town that is in Afghanistan.  We did not go into the Afghan side of the Wakhan Corridor as we did not have multiple entry visas that would enable us to come back into Tajikistan and our way home.

The north side of the corridor separating Afghanistan from Tajikistan was created by an agreement in 1873 between Britain and Russia separating the two empires.  The agreement put an end to the Great Game which was a rivalry between these two countries for control of Central Asia.  The south side of the Corridor was created by the Durrand Line agreement in 1893 that created the boundary between Afghanistan and what was British India at that time.

Historically the Corridor was used as a trade route along the silk road to bring goods from China through what became Afghanistan and destinations further west.  Adventurers such as Francis Younghusband, Lord Curzon, Aurel Stein, and John Wood traveled through the Corridor, following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, and Ghenghis Khan.  The Communist revolutions in Russia and China in the twentieth century sealed the borders and with the current war in Afghanistan and the Pakistan tribal areas, the Corridor has become a dead end.

We stayed our first night at a clean and refreshing hot springs and walked around a 2000 year old fort that was part of the Kushan Kingdom that ruled the area from about the 1st until the 19th Century.

Looking east up the Wakhan Corridor and Panj River from 2,000 year old Kushan fort

Looking west down the Wakhan Corridor and Panj River from 2,000 year old Kushan fort
Confluence of Pamir River on left and the Wakhan River into the Panj River.  I think Koh-e-Safed (6513m) is the big mountain above the Wakhan River on the right.
As a climber I was very interested in the peaks we could see along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border south of the Wakhan Corridor.  These peaks are part of the Hindu Kush and could be easily approached from the Afghan side.  This area is isolated from the war in other parts of Afghanistan and at this time it is safe to travel there.  A number of international trekking companies were crossing into Afghanistan from Tajikistan and taking clients into the Wakhan to hike up the valley beyond the end of the road.  My understanding is climbers do not need to get permits from the Afghan Government to climb peaks there and like the trekkers, access to the Afghan side of the Hindu Kush would be easy and safe from Tajikistan.

Unknown peak in the Hindu Kush on the Afghan side of the Pakistan border south of the Wakhan

Unknown peak in the Hindu Kush on the Afghan side of the Pakistan border south of the Wakhan

Unknown peak in the Hindu Kush on the Afghan side of the Pakistan border south of the Wakhan

Unknown peak in the Hindu Kush on the Afghan side of the Pakistan border south of the Wakhan
From the Wakhan we drove back to Khorog and then to Dushanbe.  From there I flew home on August 10th.

3 comments:

  1. Hey,

    The first unknown peak is Koh-e Keshni Khan. If you want to find out the names and routes for the others check the guide book "peaks of silver and jade"

    cheers,
    marcol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marcol,

      How can I get a copy of "Peaks of Silver and Jade"

      Delete
    2. Steve,

      Sorry, for the late answer. Just google peaks of silver and jade, I think even amazon has it. Unfortunately the prices are quite high, that was what kept me off getting one. Or at least until I seriously plan to go back there.
      But definitely a good guide book with lots of useful and inspiring stuff in it!

      Hope that helps!

      Delete