The Wakhan Corridor Journey - Afghanistan to Pakistan

The Wakhan Corridor Journey - Afghanistan to Pakistan

To the Base of the Dilisang Pass

The next morning under blue skies, we left our riverside campsite and went up valley no more than 10 minutes and stopped. In an instant we realized that we were standing right in front of the second side valley, but how could this be? The landscape was playing a trick of perspective. We thought the side valley we saw from last night's campsite was the first side valley. It wasn't just the first side valley; it was the first and second side valleys. From our campsite we couldn't see that the valley split right at the confluence with the Kamansu River. Now we could see clearly that the first side valley, almost completely hidden by a fold in the landscape, was right here. It didn't lead to Pakistan, rather to Mohammad Nazar, a side valley west of and parallel to Kamansu still in Wakhan.

Elated, we took turns riding the horse across to the Kamansu's true left bank and stepped across the trickle coming from the first side valley. A steep grassy slope led directly into the second side valley. Confident we were in the right place, we followed hoofprints along the hillside for an hour high above the deep gorge of the second side valley. We crossed a talus-filled ravine and came to a level, rocky area beneath a glacier that filled the head of the side valley. Here, along the true left bank of the glacier's outflow stream, we noticed some clear pools of water. We decided to set camp here and use the rest of the day to reconnoiter the route across the glacier to the pass. We called this place Dilisang Uween-e-Ben (4,551 meters), which in Wakhi means "the place at the base of the Dilisang Pass."

It was important to camp here for acclimatization, but also to avoid traveling on the softening snow covering crevasses higher up on the glacier. If we found a pass at the top of the glacier, the cold night would freeze the surface snow to a solid crust that would let us walk quickly and easily to the pass.

We could see no obvious pass from Dilisang Uween-e-Ben. A rock wall guarded the upper valley to the right (west), and snowy peaks with fluted slopes and obvious avalanche danger lay directly south at the head of the valley. The Dilisang Pass had to be around the corner — out of view to the left (east-southeast), the only feasible place for a pass. A midday reconnaissance trip along the glacier's margin proved our assumptions correct. Tomorrow we would start before sunrise when the snow would be firm, safely bridging any crevasses. The weather was perfectly clear; we anticipated a particularly cold night.