OverviewGhorhil Sar is a snow and ice peak close the Pakistan’s northern border with Afghanistan. It is a relatively straight forward climb from the south with a more challenging route to the north. The north face has numerous seracs with the only safe route being by way of the col (5100m) immediately east of the summit from where an easy ridge can be climbed to the top. To the best of my knowledge the first ascent was by myself (Lee Harrison) and Peter Thompson in August 2006 and was by way of the East Ridge from the valley to the north. There have been no previous attempts that we know of. The route was soloed in an Alpine style. I have added our route here. I have also added a variant since a more direct route is possible (we used this for a descent route). The peak can be climbed in one day from base camp by those already acclimatised although there are ideal camping spots on the col at 5000m for those who want to break the climb in to two days. From the summit there are awesome views of the unclimbed Kuk Sar II (6925m), one of the most impressive peaks in the Karakoram.
Ghorhill Sar forms part of a small glaciated cirque of peaks immediately east of the the Lupgar Pir Pass in Chapursan. The peak is in a short valley on the south side of the Lupgar Valley close to a grazing spot called Wyeen (warning: there are two Wyeens, one on either side of the pass). This small valley and glacier appears to have no name according to locals we spoke to. Maps also give no name. Ghorhil is the name of the nearest shepherd settlement, which is to the east. "Ghor" means "boulder field" and "hil" means "livestock pen" in the local Brushuski language. Chapursan skirts the border of the Pakistan’s Northern Areas with the Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan being the next valley north. Beyond this is the Tajik Pamir. While geographically the mountain forms part of the Karakoram Range the valleys on her northern side have a strong Central Asia feel providing a sense of transition from one great range to another. Broad grazing areas give way to rock faces which are a kaleidoscope of colours from deep reds through to pale yellows. The base camp is only two days trek from Chapursan’s largest village, Raminj.
To the south of Ghorhill Sar is the Yoksugoz ice flow which flows to meet the Batura glacier, the fourth largest glacier in Pakistan. Here is located some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Pakistan, the Batura Wall on the Southern side of the Batura glacier contains nine prominent peaks over 7000m. The easiest way to climb from the south is via a subsidary glacier that branches right off the Yoksugoz ice flow. No maps provide a name for this glacier as it is relatively small however it is the only right hand branch. Despite this southern approach appearing easier than the north it appears to be unattempted to the best of my knowledge yet would be a good objective for a first trip to the Karakoram. The peak can also be climbed from the Yoksugoz glacier however this route appeared to be steeper.
Traverse to the Col (c.5100m)
The East Ridge
The peak can be reached on the Chapursan side from either Raminj to the east or from Zood Khun to the west. Transport leaves Sost for Chapursan mid-afternoon. Jeeps are also available, the rate to Raminj being Rs1300 one way.
From Raminj to Ghorhil Sar’s base camp it is around four stages. I say ‘around’ because the stage system up Ghorhil Sar's valley is vague since it is not a route taken by trekkers (the valley has no passes at its head). We could also have made a base camp closer to the mountain than we did. Whether it would still have been four stages if we had I cannot say for certain. Porters carry 25kg plus their own equipment. The stage rate has now risen to Rs350 which is the same as in the Batura/Passu region to the south. Rates have been increasing rapidly in the last couple of years. There are good camping spots on route to base camp. Lupgar (Lupgar translates as ‘big grazing area’) is the best spot and there are huts here for porters to stay. The trek to base camp is fairly strenuous with a gain in altitude of 1200m. The trail is well marked however sections of the trail which cross scree and may be washed away following rain. The trial initially follows a water channel before descending to the river. Be careful of rock fall from above when leaving Raminj by way of the water channel if it is raining! From the river the trail switches to the south side and climbs to the shepherd huts at Harkish. This is a good spot to camp if you have started late in the day. From here it is around six hours to Lupgar crossing the river a couple more times on route. From Lupgar it is about another 3-4 hours to BC depending on where you place it.
From Zood Khun
From Zood Khun it takes two to three days to reach base camp crossing the Lupgar Pir Pass on route. This way is harder and longer. I do not know the exact number of stages to base camp however it will probably be around seven. From Zuda Khun follow the Jeep trail west until you reach the village of Yashkuk, then head south along the right bank of the Wyeen Glacier crossing to the left side as you climb to the pass in the east. The only reason to approach from Zood Khun is to trek over the pass. For those focused on climbing the mountain start from Raminj.
From the south the peak can be reached in approximately three days from Passu following the north side of the Batura glacier. Passu is on the KKH and therefore easy to reach. The trek along the glacier is along grassy meadows avoiding the usual scree bashing that many approaches involve. The glacier route up the DEF valley is straight forward leading right to the col to around 5000m. Camping spots are plentiful on route. I am not sure of the stages asked to visit this valley from Passu unfortunately.
Travel to the Northern Areas
Islamabad is the nearest international airport with flights arriving from around the world. Gilgit is the largest town in the Northern Areas served by regular transport from the north and south.
PIA fly daily between Islamabad and Gilgit tickets can either be booked via their ticket offices or via their website. One-way fairs are currently Rs1590 with little discount for return trips. During bad weather planes may be grounded at short notice. Availablity is also a big problem. There are also daily flights to Skardu which operate a higher percentage of the time.
Buses run daily between Rawalpindi's Pir Wadhai bus station and Gilgit, and vice versa. Buses leave throughout the afternoon and arrive mid-morning next day. Book tickets in advance if poosible to avoid a bone jarring, sleepless ride on the back seat. Travel along the KKH is anything but predictable and landslides, mudslides, rock fall and even avalanches can sever it for hours, days or weeks at a time. Due to Tribal tensions in the Kohistan buses were travelling in convoy for a significant stretch of the journey further lengthening an already long journey. NATCO and Masherbrum both run buses daily with a limited number of seats available at student discount.
The Northern Areas can also be reached from China with the trip from Kashgar to Sost taking 2 nights with an overnight stop in Tashkurgan. Hi-Ace vans ply the route between Sost and Gilgit throughout the day leaving as soon as they are full. There is now a direct bus between Tashkurgan and Gilgit, however, if travelling from China, it is better to buy a ticket to Sost only then take local transport to Gilgit as the international bus sits in the customs yard at Sost for a couple of hours while luggage is checked before continuing to Gilgit.
No permit is required to climb the mountain as it is under 6500m (see table below). The peak is not in a restricted area and no permit is required to visit Shimshal. Consequently there is no need to be accompanied by a guide unless so desired. A liaison officer is also not required. For higher peaks the following royalties are payable. Current royalties are 10% normal for the Gilgit region (excluding Spantik) which includes Chapursan. No Chapursan peaks require a liaison officer.
|Elevation||Normal Fee||Fee for 2009|
|Expedition royalty||Additional royalty per person||Expedition royalty||Additional royalty per person|
|7501 - 8000m||$400||$50|
|7001 - 7500m||$250||$40|
|6501 - 7000m||$140||$20|
|Up to 6500m||No fee||No fee|
Royalties per expedition are based on a party of 7. Persons additional to this number will be subject to an additional royalty fee.
A valid visa is required. Visas are NOT issued at the airport and must be obtained prior to arrival. Some embassies such as those in Central Asia are reluctant to issue visas and advise you to obtain them from your home country. A single-entry tourist visa is valid for 3 months from the date of arrival in pakistan and for 6 months from the date of issue. Some visas are only valid for 3 months from the date of issue so check if necessary when applying. Visa prices vary. Americans pay the most for their visa whilst Japanese get theirs free! Visa extensions and reentry stamps used to almost impossible to obtain however the process has become remarkably easier in the last few years. Gilgit DC is a good place to try.
Climbing ConditionsFor many people visiting Pakistan's Northern Areas for the first time the warm summer's take time to adjust to. In Gilgit time temperatures regularly stay in their 30s during the summer and whilst it is cooler in the mountains it can still be uncomfortable at times. On days where there are no clouds a single layer will surfice and measures need to be taken to prevent sun burn. Weather can change quickly with fresh snow falling at any time in the year or heavy rains at lower altitudes. Come prepared for a range of climates.
Nights are generally warmer during the climbing season compared to destinations such as the Pamir, Tien Shan or Napalese Himalaya and an early start when climbing is usually imperative to avoid soft snow in the afternoon.
Surrounding Peaks from Summit
Camping and Accomodation
There is no accomodation in Ramin however there is an excellent homestay guesthouse in Zood Khun known as the Pamir Serai run by the friendly Alam Jan Dario. Accomodation is plentiful in Sost and Passu.
Lupgar and Harkish are excellent camps on route base camp when trekking from Raminj.
We made BC in a small ablation valley east of the glacier to the north of Ghorhill Sar. It meant making a further bivi at the start of the route but we preferred to be off the glacier for comfort. It is perfectly feasible to set a base camp up at the start of the described routes.
Kerosene is widely available in bazaars and can often be found in smallers villages. Pakistani kerosene burns sootily so be prepared to clean your multi-fuel stove regularly. White gas is not available and denatured alcohol is available only in Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
Gas stove cannisters are sold in the outdoor shops on Gilgit's main high street. They are often refilled so don't expect the usual butane/propane mix. They are generally available in sufficient number for a medium sized expedition.
There is no need to bring food supplies from your home country as sufficient provisions can be found in Gilgit and Aliabad. Grocer shops sell staples such as pasta, dal, rice and porridge. Fresh fruit is of poor quality in Gilgit and likely to turn to mush in your rucksack before even reaching base camp. Dried apricots and mulberries and readily available and make for a good snack. The selection is Sost is comparitively poor. It is just about possible to buy enough food in Passu although this this be a last option.
External LinksMatthieu Paley has produced an excellent brochure on Chapursan for Pakistan's Ministry of Tourism. It is available online here.
There are also some excellent photos of Chapursan and Pakistan's Northern Areas on Matthieu's own website here.