The Wakhan Corridor Journey - Afghanistan to Pakistan

The Wakhan Corridor Journey - Afghanistan to Pakistan

The Source of the Oxus River: Is There an Ice-Cave?

Having forded the Bozai Darya at Bozai Gumbaz, it was obvious that the Wakhjir River was the larger of the two feeding the Wakhan and Oxus rivers. From our campsite at the base of the Wakhjir Pass on August 3, we headed farther east-southeast up valley toward the snowy glacier filling the valley’s head. Within an hour, we caught our first glimpse of a black cave in the glacier's mouth. Forty-five minutes farther we were at the cave (37° 02' 27.2" N, 74° 29' 28.8" E), a dark gapping hole at the glacier's terminus whence flowed icy waters, the source of the Oxus River. We had made it! To the best of our knowledge, no Westerner had been to the source of the Oxus since Curzon in 1894. We didn’t linger at the cave (4,554 meters) as the sky darkened, winds picked up, and snow started falling. By the time we made our way back down valley to our tent, a huge storm was raging.

When we woke the next morning, the sun was out, quickly melting the snow. Before leaving the upper Wakhjir Valley, we made an excursion toward the Wakhjir Pass. We wanted to avoid going near Chinese territory, but were interested in another perspective of the upper Wakhjir Valley. Heading north, we climbed alongside the stream descending from the Wakhjir Pass itself and within 15 minutes the distant ice-cave was once again in view. Reaching the ridgeline, we startled a herd of Marco Polo sheep. From this spot, Lord Curzon, Tilman, and the others who crossed the Wakhjir Pass from China would have first seen the ice-cave.