OverviewShimshal is a relatively remote Wakhi village in the Northern half of the Karakoram that has a rich history in mountaineering like no other (see below). The village is located in the Gojal region and significantly East of the Karakoram highway, connected to the village of Passu via a long Jeep track.
The village is excellent as a staging post for climbing and adventurous trekking and locals are particularly friendly and welcoming. Immediately south of the village is the Hispar Muztagh which contains the biggest Karakoram peak away from the Baltoro Muztagh in the form of Distaghil Sar (7885m). Elsewhere are other mammoths such as Kunyang Chhish (7852m), Trivor (7720m) and Pumari Chhish (7492m). To the north are the Ghujerab Mountains which are some of the least explored in the Karakoram extending to the Chinese border. This was the region referred to as the 'Blank on the Map' by Shipton. Even today, many maps still do not survey the peaks of this area properly.
By far the most popular trek in the Shimshal region is to the Shimshal Pamir. The Shimshal Pamir is not to be confused with the Pamir Range of Central Asia as 'Pamir' means 'highland' in the Persian languages (to which the local Wakhi language belongs). The best aspect of visiting the Pamir is the village of Shuwert, which is the main summer herding settlement occupied by the Shimshali women. It's best to visit this area with a Shimshali as you will likely be invited to their family house in Shuwert. I have some good photos of this area that I will upload in a few weeks when I have my hands on them.
Other great treks are over the Shpodeen, Mai Dur, Boisum and Chapchingol Passes and rank as some of the most adventurous in the Karakoram. There are also some rarely attempted possibilities in the the Hispar Muztagh to the south. The Khurdopin Pass leads to Snow Lake but is tough and really only suited to mountaineers. Further East, the Lukpe La at the southern end of the Braldu Glacier is another remote crossing.
MountaineeringPossibilities are excellent for all abilities. Mingalig Sar (c.6000m) above the Shimshal Pass is probably the easiest peak for its height in the Karakoram. Further north in the Ghujerab Mountains is Sonia Peak, which is another easy climb although harder to reach. Rock is very poor quality in this part of the Karakoram so only suited to snow and ice climbs.
South of Shimshal are seven major glaciers. West of the village, running south of the Passu-Shimshal Jeep track are the Lupghur Yaz, Momhil, amd Malangutti Glaciers, with the Yazghil, Yukshin Gardan, Khurdopin and Virjerab Glaciers to the East. From these glaciers nearly all the north faces of main peaks of the Hispar Muztagh can be accessed. Compared to glaciers to the south and west, fewer ascents have been made from the north due to the objective dangers of many of the faces. Directly above Shimshal is the village's most famous peak, Shimshal Whitehorn (Adver Sar), 6303m. Some of the easier peaks in the Hispar Muztagh that are accessable from Shimshal are Yazghil Sar and Amberin Sar.
Shimshal's Mountaineering Legacy
Twenty men from Shimshal have summited one of Pakistan's 8000m peaks. 3 have climbed K2, 5 have climbed Nanga Parbat and Broad Peak, 4 have climbed GI and a staggering 14 have summited GII.
Shimshal's long mountaineering history is partly due to shimshal's remote location. Long before the Shimshal's access road was bulit travel to the KKH from Shimshal was by way of the Qarun Pass, 4873m, which involved an ascent up 2100m of treacherous scree. Today locals still rely on the Uween-e-Sar (4650m) and Shachmirk (4560m) passes in order to move yaks to the summer grazing pastures around Shuwerth making it one of the toughest non-glacial day treks in the Karakoram. Further, it is not uncommon for the 50km trip from Shuwerth to Shimshal via the two passes to be completed in a day by locals. As a result of the lie of the land around Shimshal it is not surprising that one village has produced so many strong climbers.
Getting ThereDespite the remoteness, the village is relatively easy to visit. The Jeep track to Shimshal was completed a couple of years ago and it is now possible to travel from Passu on the KKH in a couple of hours. From Passu on the Karakoram Highway there are daily passenger Jeeps (public transport) that travel to Shimshal. These do not seem to leave at regularly times in my experience so some patience is required. Jeeps leave from the Shimshal restaurant which is over 1/2 kilometre north of the centre of Shimshal just past the Batura Inn. The fare is about Rs200 (I forget the exact figure). Short-wheel base Landcruisers can be hired between Passu and Shimshal for Rs2500. From Shimshal the Jeeps leave around 6am from a spot near the newly built school however locals will help you find this spot.
Red TapeThere is no red tape associated with visiting Shimshal village however some of the surrounding areas are in restricted zones. Mountains south of Shimshal in the Hispar Muztagh are 100% open for people to visit. The Shimshal Pamir to the East is also open as far as the summer settlement of Shuwert. Beyond this a permit is theoretically required due to it falling in a restricted zone (due to the close proximity of the Chinese border). This includes the Braldu Glacier for example. Likewise, peaks north of Shimshal towards the Shaksgam River and Karakoram Highway are also technically restricted. The reality is that you will be able to visit these areas if you start from Shimshal and are accompanied by Shimshalis. If finishing on the Karakoram highway, then you will need to have arranged a Jeep to pick you up or have plenty of time for hitching. If you however plan to do a long distance trek from Shimshal to the Baltoro region then you will need a permit. For details on how to acquire a restricted zone permit please refer to my Karakoram page. It's wise not to cross the Chinese frontier. A friend of mine did it many years ago and had the joy of spending time in Gilgit and Kashgar jails as a result.
Climbing permits are no different to any other part of the Karakoram. Most peaks north of Shimshal are below 6500m and therefore require no mountaineering permit at all. Again, please refer to my Karakoram page for specifics on climbing permits.
Accommodation and CampingThere are currently two places to stay in Shimshal. I have always stayed at the Sifat guesthouse, which is located just south of the newly built school on the northern edge of the village. The guesthouse is run by a friendly man by the name of Ferman who prepares good food and is very helpful with respect to arranging porters for guests. He also has good knowledge about the area.
The second accommodation option is a newly built small hotel (and still being built as of June 2006) also near to the school. It is run by a Shimshali who has previously climbed Nanga Parbat. I have not stayed at the hotel however I have met the owner who has an excellent knowledge of the mountains in the local area.
Camping is possible around the fringes of the villages. The best bet is to ask locals. You'll need to find somewhere with safe water.
SuppliesBring everything you need to Shimshal if you intend to trek or climb. There are a couple of small shops in the village however they sell little of use. Kerosene will likely be available however I did not personally enquire.
External LinksMatthieu Paley has produced an excellent brochure on Shimshal for Pakistan's Ministry of Tourism. It is available online here.
There are also some excellent photos of Pakistan's Northern Areas on Matthieu's own website here.
This site has some nice photos