The Tirich Mir Base Camp trek is an exciting trek with plenty of natural and cultural attractions. Less known and rarely visited, this trek offers a unique mountain scenery right in the heart of Hindukush. Tirich Mir (7708m) is the crown of the Hindukush range and the most prominent attraction of Chitral region. Standing tall among the many other 7000m and 6000m peaks, this mountain is also known as the highest mountain outside Himalaya-Karakoram region. Tirich Mir is surrounded by the highest mountains like Noshaq (7492m), Istr-o-Nal (7403m) and Sarghrar (7338m) and a number of 6000m peaks in a close cluster.
The presence of such high peaks in short geographical distance in addition to the naturally rich valleys forms almost similar mountain scenery in a smaller scale as the Baltoro-Concordia region. The major difference which makes the Tirich Mir and surrounding high altitude valleys less visited is the 8000m peaks of Baltoro-Concordia region. But for mountain lovers, the Tirich Valley contains a wide variety of mountaineering, trekking and cultural attractions.
The central jeep stand in the main bazar of Chitral is the place from where a jeep or saloon car may be hired. Both public and private hiring possibilities are available. The public jeeps are good for budget travel but it requires catching a jeep as per set local schedule. For a comparatively comfortable ride with extended opportunities to explore the en-route attractions, a private jeep is the recommended option. It is important to arrange all adventure related supplies before leaving the Chitral City.
The Chitral-Mastuj Road
The travel to Tirich Mir base camp from Chitral is an unmatched adventure. Travelling along the Kunar River on the Chitral-Mastuj Road, it’s a journey between narrow gorges, cultivated patches, Chinar trees, waterfalls, cold water tributaries and glimpse of snow-capped mountains behind the high granite slopes.
Chitral-Mastuj Road is a carpeted but narrow path enough for one vehicle at a time. Frequent towns, villages and bazars are located on this road providing sufficient availability of dining and basic supplies.
The Zani Pass
For those who are more interested in breathtaking views of some high Hindukush peaks without trekking, the Zani Pass can be a preferred destination. From Zani Pass at about 4000m, there are superb views of Istr-o-Nal, Buni Zom, foothills of Tirich Mir and many other high peaks in every direction. A steep descending trek from the Zani Pass also leads to Shahgrom Village in Tirich Valley. A mechanically fit jeep can be hired from Chitral or Booni for the Zani Pass.
The Upper Turikho Valley
At Booni – the tehsil headquarter of Mastuj, a side rough road leads to the Rich and Tirich Valleys. Both Tirich and Rich valleys are part of about 100KM long Turikho Valley. The lower part of the Turikho is called Mulkho and the upper part is known as Rich. Geographically, the Tirich Mir is closer to Mulkho but the road access to the Tirich Valley is from the Rich Valley.
Passing through the Upper Turikho Valley is all about the excitement and adventure. A continuous ascend is required to reach the top of a pass where Turikho River is flowing several hundred meters below the jeep road. From the top of this rigid and dry pass, the surrounding views are astonishing. The top edges of Tirich Mir, Buni Zom and Istr-o-Nal are thrilling while the Turikho River in the deep with cultivated patches on the edges looks awesome.
The jeep road continues through few small green villages to reach the Nishkoh. Nishkoh is the junction of two valleys where one road leads to Shahgrom in Tirich Valley and other to the Shah Jinali Pass leading to Yarkhun Valley. A beautiful wooden suspension bridge over the Turikho River is the gateway to Tirich Valley at Nishkoh. This place also offers perhaps the best views of Buni Zom. From Booni, it takes about one hour to reach the Nishkoh.
The Tirich Valley
The Tirich Valley spreads on the slopes of the foothills of Tirich Mir along the Tirich Gol. The terraced fields under the apple, nut, poplar and chinar trees add life to the overall brownish grey grandeur. Melting water from the snow covered mountains intercept the jeep road at several points. The serene and striking Zandrangram is the central village of the Tirich Valley with a small bazar, a petrol dispenser and primary school. A further one hour drive from Zandrangram takes to the Shahgrom – the last village of this majestic valley. A beautifully built suspension bridge over the Tirich Gol provides the access to Shahgrom.
The Shahgrom Village
Shahgrom is an amazingly beautiful village with lot of vegetation encircled by the high peaks and rock walls. Some partial but thrilling views of Tirich Mir and its foothills are inviting. People speak Khowar language, as most of population throughout the Chitral region but Urdu is also easily understood and spoken. The simple and welcoming locals of Shahgrom make it an ideal hang around in the Hindukush. Constructed closely, the village houses are simple built with stone and mud. A couple of small shops with very basic grocery items are just to meet villagers’ primary needs.
A rest house is available in the Shahgrom for food and night stay. Rightly named as ‘Tirich Mir Rest House’ this properly built accommodation is a luxury in such a remote village. With two comfortable rooms furnished with beds, floor mattresses and carpets, this rest house can accommodate about 12 persons for a night stay. A spacious grassy and flower strewn lawn may also be used for camping. The rest house owner is a kind and cooperative person is passionate to offer traditional Chitrali hospitality. The rest house owner may help to find porters for any expedition to surrounding heights and treks. Porters in this region usually charge on per day basis which can be negotiated only a little.
Shahgrom to Bandok or Sheinyak
From Shahgrom, the trek towards Lower Tirich Galcier may take three days with three or four stays. It is a gentle walk for about 45 minutes through the wheat fields and small trees to reach a pedestrian bridge over the Tirich Gol. There is a good availability of drinking water throughout this trek but carrying a filled water bottle is recommended. The valley gets narrower after the bridge and restricting the views to the Tirich Mir but several high rock walls keep up the trill. The path starts rising up a little after an hour of walking before reaching the Atrak. Atrak is a green pasture after 2-3 hours walk containing bush like trees, clear water stream and sandy floor. It can be a good campsite but usually trekkers continue to Bandok or Sheinyak which are further 2 to 3 hours away.
A couple of snow crossings may be required till the mid of the season to reach the Bandok. Bandok is a magnificent summer settlement with few temporary stone houses, wheat fields and crystal clear water streams. It is a recommended campsite as compared to the traditional Sheinyak due to better availability of water, vegetation and surrounding views.
It takes another hour to reach Sheinyak by crossing the Tirich Gol and reaching to a small bunch of bush like trees and a side glacial moraine. The Sheinyak is located at an altitude of 3500 meters under the Istr-o-Nal which is hidden behind a remarkable and massive rock wall rising upto 5700 meters.
To Shogor Biasin
The next stage is Shogor Biasin which is also known as the base camp of Istr-o-Nal (7403m). It can take upto 5 hours to reach Shogor Biasin at an altitude of 4038 meters right before the Lower Tirich Glacier. Walking along the Tirich Gol and climbing on an unclear path full of sand and stones is challenging. A steady walk while keeping eyes on the white and shining wall of mountains across the Lower Tirich Glacier is fascinating. In the mid of the season, applying sunblock lotion on the exposed body areas may be required to protect the skin from harsh sunlight and ultraviolet rays.
Lower Tirich Glacier and Babu Camp
The final stage of the trek is to climb up and cross the Lower Tirich Glacier to reach the other side before arriving at Babu Camp. The Lower Tirich Glacier is widely crevassed but later in the season most crevasses are visible. It may take upto 7 hours to cross the difficult crevasses, boulders and terminal moraine of the glacier and to reach the Babu Camp. The area beyond Shahgrom is a favorite hunting ground for locals. A variety of wildlife including Snow Leopard, Ibex, Chakor and Pheasants are inhabitants of this region.
From the Babu Camp, a great panoramic view of the high peaks including Noshaq, Istr-o-Nal and foothills of Tirich Mir is the reward of the entire excursion. The Tirich Mir is not visible from the Babu Camp as some 6000m peaks are towering above this glacial junction preventing the views behind. The breathtaking views of less known Hindukush peaks include Asp e Safaid, Gul Lasht Zom, Dirgol Zom and Atak Zom etc. Adventurers with climbing skills may attempt the Upper Tirich Glacier for richer views of the Tirich Mir and entire cluster of this splendid part of Hindukush mountains.