Sonia Peak is located in the remote North Ghuzerav mountains north of Shimshal close to the Chapchingol Pass. It falls within the boundaries of the Khunjerab National Park which is adjacent to the Tashkorgan National Park in China.
Even by Pakistan's standards the Ghuzerav mountains are underexplored with numerous virgin peaks awaiting the intrepid climber. At the heart of the range is Sonia Peak, a beautiful pyramid of almost perfect symmetry. It is ideal for those looking for a technically easy climb in the outback of Pakistan's wilderness and is no more than an Alpine PD grade. Whilst the peak is relatively close to the KKH few people choose to climb mountains in the Karakoram range this far north.
Sonia Peak was found and name by Michael Beek of Germany in 1994, The peak's name and climbing route was than first introduced in the first edition of the geman trekking guide "Pakistan-Land-Geschichte-Kultur" in 1996.
However in Lonely planet it mentioned that the peak was first climbed by local Shimshali Rahmat Ullah Baig. Sonia referring to an expedition members' wife. Dispite the mountain's remoteness it has since been climbed many times with the most popular route approaching from Chapchingol Base Camp to the East. A less familiar ascent can alternatively be made from the north along an unnamed glacier which eventually leads to the KKH by way of a small river. The north ridge was first climbed by a Local Shimshali guide called Hasil Shah and resultantly referred to as the “Hasil Route”. This north route is considered safer then the south face with quicker assess.
Islamabad Airport is the internationsal gateway to the high mountains of Northern Pakistan.
Daily flights link Islamabad with Gilgit (currently Rs1590 one-way). Bad weather will ground planes from time-to-time. Buses (NATCO or Mashabrum Tours) also run daily leaving Rawalpindi's Pir Wadhai bus station between about 3 and 5pm. Book early as possible to get a good seat otherwise you'll be in for a spine crunching journey on the back seat.
Buses and HIACE vans continually ply the Karakoram highway (KKH) between Gilgit and Sost.
Sonia Peak can be approached either from the south or the north. The southern approach involves a six day trek out of Shimshal village via the Boisum Pass, 4875m. Once upon a time 5 days was required to trek to Shimshal village. With the recently built Jeep track the journey can be done in a matter of hours. Jeeps leave Passu on the KKH daily.
From the North the Peak can be approached in only 2 days from Koksil on the KKH however there is considerable asociated burocracy associated with this approach (see red tape) and private hired transport will be required.
Porters can easily be hired at short notice from Shimshal and carry a maximum load of 25kg including their own gear and food. When approaching the mountain from the north consider hiring a porter before leaving Sost as there will be none at the trail head.
In recent years permit fees have been reduced/abolished in the hope of attracting climbers to the area. All peaks below 6500m currently do not require climbing permits.
Trekking permits are not required when approaching Sonia Peak from Shimshal via. When approaching from Koksil you may need special permission from Gilgit's DC, IG or AIG. The Khunjerab Security Force (KSF) at Koksil has the discretion to allow climbers to enter from the KKH.
Please remember: Crossing of Chapchingal Pass to KKH comes under restricted zone, need a trekking permit from Islamabad before starting the trek. OrShimshal Boesam Pir Pass, Mundi Kushlaq is also restricted, need a trekking permit.
Camping and Accomodation
Shimshal has a small unmarked guesthouse that serves tasty local food. Ask local on arrival to point you in th direction. It has surprisingly clean doubles or the budget conscious climber can sleep comfortably on the thick carpets in the communal room.
There are no camping fees for camp sites beyond Shimshal. All have water sourses although some are silty.
Bring all food from Gilgit. Gilgit has enough shops to avoid the need for bringing food from your home country. There are a couple of small shops in Shimshal however however these are useless escept for biscuits and maybe replacement lighters.
Propane/Butane gas cannesters acan be picked up at the outdoor shops on Gilgit's main high street. There are usually enough for a small expedition.
Kerosine is also widely available and inexpensive although Pakistani Kerosene burns sootily. Bring a filter or strain it through a cloth.
White gas is not available and denatured acolohol is only available in Rawalpindi/Islamabad.
For 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 than other mountain ranges such as the Himalaya and Tien Shan and an early start when climbing is usually imperative to avoid soft snow in the afternoon.
When To Climb
Generally, the Karakoram's trekking and mountaineering season starts mid-May and finishes at the end of September. Early in the season snow may still be deep and cravasses still covered (although smaller). July and August are the best months for climbing in Pakistan.
When approaching Sonia Peak from Shimshal village August is the optimum month as river levels will be at their lowest. River crossings may be difficult early in the season, particularly on warm days where there has been substantial snow melt or following rain.
Trekking from Shimshal village to Sonia Peak Base Camp
Lonely Planet's 'Trekking in the Karakoram & Hindukush' gives an indispensable discription for the trek to Sonia Peak which takes 5 to 6 days to reach from Shimshal village.
Rivers wil be easier to cross in the morning so start early where crossings are necessary.
Leave Shimshal heading east along the broad valley crossing Michael Bridge to the true right side of the Shimshal river. Continue throught the cultivated area of Band-e-Sar and head north following the small Zardgarben River. The trail to Zardgarben is steep in places climbing around 1000m from the bed of the Shimshal river. At Zardgarben there are excellent camping spots as well as a porter shelter. Total walking time 4-5 hours.
Head north crossing the stream that descends from Uween Sar. Descend and cross the Zardgarben river to its true right bank then climb and traverse the black morraine. Once across the trail splits. Depending on water levels you can either imediately descend and cross the river else you will need to cross the side stream coming from the west first before crossing the Zardgarben river above the side stream. Once across the river folow the river's true left bank to Shpodeen where there is another porters shelter. Another hours walk brings you to Jafervask. Total walking time 4 hours.
Cross Boisum Pass in east to west direction. The pass is unglaciated, non-technical and Shimshalis are able to cross with yaks. The trail to the pass follows the true left side of the stream crossing to the right then returning to the left towards the top. Descend and skirt a small lake along its north-west shore and follow cairns to reach another small lake within the hour. The lake the trail descends across morraine rubble beyond this lake to reach Perchodwashk in another hour. Total walking time 3-4 hours.
Ford the side stream and stay close to the true left bank skirting a side glacier. Walk across rolling hills following cairns passing through ideal campsites. Cross second side morrain, follow trail through two level terraces and cross the last side morraine. Two hours below Perchodwashk is Mandikshlakh, an unattractive cluster of huts and livestock pens. The route turns west into the Ghuzherav valley.
When the Ghuzherav river levels are low, the trail stays along the river's true left bank to reach Avduzhi in one hour. When levels are high ford the broad river twice returning to the true right bank to bypass a section under water. One hour beyond Adduzhi along an easy trail is the main suttlement of Ghuzherav, War-e-Ben. Total walking time 4.5-5 hours.
When the water is high cross the Ghuzherav by an existing steel cable, else wade accross the river. Enter the arid Chafchingol Gorge. Anything up to 5 river crossings is necessary when water levels are high and rope may need to be fixed for safety. Beyond the gorge the trail thins, rises above the river to cross scree slopes then descend to the solitary hut at Targeen. Ford the western stream beyond Targeen and continue to Chafchingol Base camp in two hours.
Follow the Chafchingol river's true right bank west Sonia Peak's base camp at the head of the valley.
Trekking in Shimshal Valley
List of Government of Pakistan recognize trek in Shamshal Valley:
(Restricted Zone - means require a trekking permit to trek, Open Zone - means no trekking permit is require)
Trek #24. Shimshal Valley Route - Restricted Zone: Gilgit, Hunza, Sost, Chillnji Pass, Ishkomen, Gilgit or vice versa.
Trek #25. Shimshal Valley Route - Open Zone: Gilgit, Passu, Shimshal, Yazghil Glacier, Yukshin Gardan Glacier, Khurdopin Glacier, Virjerab Glacier & return to Gilgit by the same route.
Trek #26. Shimshal - Chapchingal Pass - Restricted Zone: Gilgit, Passu, Shimshal, Boesam Pir Pass, Mundi Kushlag, Chapchingal Pass, Karakoram Highway, Gilgit or vice versa.
Trek #27. Shimshal Pass - Open Zone: Gilgit, Passu, Shimshal, Shimshal Pass, Yazghil Glacier, Virjerab Glacier, Shimshal Pass, Shuijerab, Shimshal Village, Passu & return to Gilgit.
Trek #28. Karun Pass - Open Zone: Gilgit Passu, Karun Pass, Beihar, Merkhun, Sost, gilgit or vice versa.
Trek #29. Shimshal - Braldu Glacier - Snow Lake - Restricted Zone: Gilgit, Passu, Shimshal village, Shuijerab, Braldu Glacier, Lukpo-La, Snow Lake & to Nagar Via Hispar La & Shispar Glacier or to Askole & Skardu via Biafo Glacier or vice versa.
Mountains in Khunjerab Group
Unlike the neibouring mountains in China the peaks north of Shimshal do not bear the most rememberable names!
Chapchingal Sar 6483m (6465m);
Unnamed Peak 6318m (6296m);
Unnamed Peak 6184m (6296m) - Shop Dur area;
Unnamed Peak 6138m in Chapchingal Glacier area;
Unnamed Peak 6117m in East Chapchingal Glacier area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6100m - East Chapchingal Glacier area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6100m in Gidims River North of Mai Dur area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6100m - Khunjerab Pass area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6100m in Chapchingal Glacier area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6100m Khunjerab River and Ghujerab River area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6100m in Khunjerab River and Ghujerab River area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6100m - North Mai Dur and Didms River area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6000m East Chapchingal River and Ghujerab River area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6000m Gidims Glacier area;
Unnamed Peak Ca 6000m Gidims glacier area.
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 uncomon 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.
Maps will merely label Sonia Peak as '6340m' or equivelant estimated height.
Swiss Alpine Research Map - Sheet 1 (1:250,000)
In English. Despite the scale and some inaccuracies this is the de facto map for the Karakoram. The map labels Shpodeen as Shekhdalga, Mandikshlakh as Mandi Kushlag, and Avduzhi as Hapdija. All other places are omitted. The trail is incorrectly marked north of Boisum, and contrary to the map, follows the river's true left (not right!).
Tsuneo Miyamori, “Mountaineering Maps of the Karakorum and Hindu Kush” Karakoram Sheet No. 7 - Hispar glacier and Shimshal (1:150,000)
This map is in English. I have not seen the map although I am trying to obtain a copy as it claims to mark every 6000m peak.
Jasmine Tours - Pakistan We always try to introduce some things new Sonia Peak is among the dozens of small peak we are offering to adventure lovers.
There are a lot of companies which can offer you a package deal for Sonia Peak.
Hushe Treks & Tours
Local organizer which has been around for a long time.
Karakurum Treks & Tours
Another company with lots of experience and good reputation.
Useful addresses and information.
Alpine Club of Pakistan
Pakistan Sports Complex,