PAMIR MOUNTAINS

by usto

The greatest, mysterious, which lost in the wilds of Asia – the Pamir Mountains have always excited the minds. Sharp peaks seemed unattainable, deep rocky gorges were impregnable, winding roads leading into the clouds were unreliable. The mountain peaks rising to the sky remember the Persian kings, the mysterious Bactria and the troops of Alexander the Great, here the path of Tamerlane and Bobur, Marco Polo and dozens of pioneer explorers of glaciers and mountains lay. And along the roads laid over the abyss, caravans carried Chinese silk, lapis lazuli and rubies obtained in local mines. Today we know much more about the Pamirs, but we never cease to be amazed at its beauty and diversity. Before the widespread development of the Himalayas, the Pamirs were referred to as the “roof of the world”. Around it, the gigantic mountains of Asia join in a tight ring: the Himalayas, Karakorum, Hindu Kush, Gissar-Alai, Tien Shan and Kunlun. The Pamir Mountains are separated by Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. And everywhere they appear to travelers different, but invariably – exciting.

PAMIRO-ALAY – ASIAN PATAGONY

The high mountain ranges of the Pamir-Alai mountain system adjoin the Pamir from the northwest, separating the Pamir from the Hissar mountains. The Pearl of the Pamir-Alai Fan Mountains – located at the junction of the Gissar and Zarafshan ranges, there are picturesque – the edge of blue peaks, crystal lakes and turbulent rivers, resting against the sky.

TURKESTAN RIDGE

          The Turkestan ridge frames the Fergana Valley from the southwest. The border of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan runs along it. These little-explored rocky areas are compared with South American Patagonia, noting that the local climate is much warmer and more pleasant, and also with American Yosemite, but larger and higher. From the east, in the mountain knot of Matcha, the Turkestan ridge connects with the Alai ridge, and in the west it rests on the Samarkand plain. The gentle northern slopes are buried in juniper forests and woodlands, and the short and steep southern slopes are bristling with rocks and talus.

The highest points are Skalisty Peak (5621 m) and Pyramidalny Peak (5509 m). The crest of the ridge, especially from the east, is covered with eternal snow. The largest are the Tolstoy, Shurovsky and Zeravshans glaciers. The Dushanbe-Khujand highway passes through the Shakhristan pass at an altitude of 3378 meters. On the northern slope is the mountain lake Ay-Kel.

More and more tourists and outdoor enthusiasts come here every year. The Lyaylyak (Aksu) and Karavshin gorges are being actively developed. Laylak Gorge (Aksu) is an ideal ground for practicing bouldering and free climbing on the most difficult rock routes. The tops of the Laylak gorge are a rocky barrier, a horseshoe around the glacier. From west to east, five-thousanders Iskander (5120 m), Admiralteets (5090 m), A.Blok (5229 m), Aktyubek (5125 m) and the most difficult one – Aksu (5355 m) soar into the sky. In the upper reaches of the neighboring Karasu gorge, there are peaks of 5011 m, named after the 50th anniversary of Moscow Spartak (4690 m), the northern spur from Vizbor peak (4655 m) to Dalniy peak (4457 m). To the west, in the Uryam gorge, the picturesque Sabakh peak (5283 m) rests against the clouds. From here it is easy to get to the neighboring Karavshin gorge. It is also becoming more and more popular among those who are looking for an extreme vacation, develop their own climbing style, or seek the glory of a pioneer. Climbers go to the highest peak of the Turkestan ridge – Pyramidalny peak (5509 m), as well as to smaller giants – 1000 years of the baptism of Russia (4810), Asan (4230 m), Usan (4378 m).

Locals tell a beautiful legend about the rocks of Asan and Usan. Allegedly, an old man lived nearby with two twin sons. He loved them very much, but he was strict and attentive to them – he raised soldiers. The heroes matured to the delight of their father. But the war took the lives of the heroes. Upon learning of their death, the elder was distraught with grief. Falling to the ground, he asked Allah to exchange the remaining years for the lives of his sons. The prayer was answered. Gigantic broad-shouldered peaks rose from the ground. Since that time, two rocks opposite each other in the upper reaches of the Karavshin River are called like those twins – Asan and Usan, from a distance they seem to be watched by the Pyramidal Peak, whitewashed with gray gray hair.

ALAI – REALM OF SNOW PEAKS AND DEEP VALLEYS

On the border of the Alai, Trans-Alai, Gissar, ridges and the Pamirs, there is an amazing Alai Valley. It is a belt of tall grasses and lush pastures, squeezed, it seems, in the very heart of an impregnable mountainous country. The Alai Valley is a kingdom of contrasts: behind flat meadows, stone walls of mountains rise, severe glaciers end in pearls of crystal lakes. It gives a respite to travelers before the road to the whitewashed peaks of the Trans-Alai and Alai ranges, the Central Pamirs. The road from the Kyrgyz Osh to the Tajik Khorog passes here, and through the Irkeshtam pass leads the way to the Kashgar mountains in China.

The northern and southern spurs of the Alai Range create a wide network of valleys and gorges. Thanks to this, teams of climbers and groups of outdoor enthusiasts can easily select the most suitable mountain route, based on training and experience. In the east, the valleys are wide, in the western and southern parts of the region – narrow. The foothills are hot and dry. The valleys are covered with varied greenery. In the lower reaches, cherries and apricots grow, higher there are tugai, birch groves and juniper thickets. Trees grow to impressive sizes under the protection of mountain peaks.

ISMOIL SOMONI PEAK (COMMUNISM PEAK)

Ismoil Somoni Peak (at different times named Stalin Peak and Communism Peak) (7495 m) is the breathtaking most famous peak of the northwestern Pamirs. It is considered the highest point of the former Soviet Union, and today – Tajikistan. The first to climb the peak in 1928 were members of the Soviet-German scientific expedition. Until 1962 it was called Stalin Peak, and then it was renamed into the Peak of Communism. After Tajikistan gained independence, in 1999 it received the name of Ismoil Somoni peak, in honor of the founder of the first Tajik state. Locals call the peak “uz-tergi”, literally “dizzy”. The peak covered with eternal snow is located at the intersection of the Academy of Sciences and Peter I ranges. Today it is in the 50th place among the highest mountains in the world.

In addition to endless peaks, there are many more interesting things in the Pamirs. Take, for example, grandiose glaciers or alpine lakes. The longest glacier in Eurasia is located here – the Fedchenko glacier (77 km), slightly to the east from the slopes of the Revolyutsii peak (6940) the Grumm-Grzhimailo glacier (37 km) descends.           In the eastern Pamirs, tourists are welcomed by many large lakes with a crystal surface. On the Central, North-West, West and South-West, most often there are small lakes in the pockets of moraines, and less often – larger lakes. The invariably beautiful turquoise mirrors vary in origin. Many appeared due to the melting of glaciers. Saline and drainless lakes occupy tectonic basins. Lake Sarez and Yashilkul were formed due to the descent of glaciers and mudflows. By the way, Lake Sarez is the deepest lake in the Pamirs. The reservoir is 505 meters deep and located at an altitude of 3263 meters. It was formed in 1911, when, due to a 9-point earthquake, a landslide came down and blocked the Murgab River, creating a rocky dam more than half a kilometer high. Overnight water flooded the village of Sarez, which gave the name to the lake. The alpine lake Karakul is the largest in the Pamirs – 402 sq. km. A number of scientists, having studied the geological structure of its bottom and satellite images, put forward a hypothesis that it filled the impact crater from a meteorite that fell 230-190 million years ago.

For a long time, the Pamir Mountains were the source of lapis lazuli and ruby for the entire ancient world. Local gems are even found in the burials of Egyptian pharaohs. Nevertheless, the life of the ancient Pamirians was far from world politics until the II century. BC It was then that caravans from China and India began to go through the Panj valley to the major cities of Central Asia and further to the Mediterranean Sea. It was here that the southern section of the Great Silk Road was formed. The first written information about the Pamirs appears in ancient Chinese chronicles. Pamir is an amazing world full of mysteries. An ideal destination for sophisticated lovers of Asia, multi-day mountain hikes and ethno tourism. It is fanned with numerous legends and traditions that will forever remain with this place and which will never be lacking.