REGION OF SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL AND MANY STILL UNEXPLORED MOUNTAINS IN THE HIMALAYAS. ONCE A MAJOR SITE FOR BUDDHISM, IT HOSTed MANY ANCIENT MONASTERIES, IMPORTANT TRADE NETWORKS, AND TRAVELERS BETWEEN CENTRAL ASIA AND SOUTH ASIA, AND WAS ALSO THE PASSAGEWAY DURING THE INVASIONS OF THE INDIAN SUBCONTINENT.
Name: Hindu Kush, Caucasus Indicus in Ancient Greek or "Paropamisadae" by Hellenic Greeks in the late first millennium BC.
Height: 7,708 m (25,289 ft)
Location: South-Central Asia
Climb Time: ?
Best Time to Climb: July and August
The Hindu Kush system is the westernmost extension of the Pamir, Karakorum, and The Himalayas. Located in between the Pakistan-Afghan border, this range contains 38 peaks that are above 7000 m (22965.88 ft) and most of them were climbed in 1950s or 1960s.
Some of the highest peaks over 7000 m (22966 ft) are :
- Tirich Mir - the highest peak (7708m/24.288ft)
- Noshaq (7492m/24.579ft)
- Istor-o-Nal (7403m/24.287ft)
- Saraghrar (7349m/24.110ft)
- Shingeik (7291m/23.920ft)
- Darban Zom (7210m/23.684ft)
- Shingeik II (7170m/23/523ft)
- Shakawr (Shakhaur) (7084m/23.241ft)
- Udren Zom (7080m/23.228ft)
- Nobaism Zom (7070m/23.195ft)
- Shingeik III (7050m/23.129ft)
- Urgent (Sirt-e-Urgend-e-Bala) (7038m/23.090ft)
- Akher Tshagh (Akher Chioh) (7020m/23.031ft)
- Langar (7010m/22.998ft)
Historically, this mountain range was used as a passageway during the invasions of the Indian subcontinent. It’s a region where the Taliban and Al Qaeda grew, and to modern era warfare in Afghanistan.
In the ancient Hindu Kush region Buddhism was very common, and we could see that in the artwork located at the southern and western end of the Hindu Kush. The most famous are the magnificent giant rock carved statues, called Bamiyan Buddha, but unfortunately the Taliban Islamists blew them up in March 2001.
The significance of the Hindu Kush mountains range has been recorded since the time of Darius I of Persia. Alexander the Great entered the Indian subcontinent through Hindu Kush as his army moved past Bactria into the Afghan valley in the spring of 329 BCE. He moved towards the Indus valley river region in 327 BCE, his armies building several towns in this region over these two years.
According to the ancient history of Strabo written in the 1st century BCE, after Alexander the Great's death in 323 BCE, the region became part of the Seleucid Empire, before it became a part of the Indian Maurya Empire around 305 BCE and then a part of the Kushan Empire in centuries around the start of the Common Era.
Later during the medieval era Central Asia region along the Hindu Kush was taken over by Western Turks and Arabs (8th century), and it faced wars mostly with Iranians.
After that, around mid to late seventh century, the Tang dynasty from China destroyed the Northern Turks and extended its rule all the way to Oxus River valley and regions of Central Asia bordering all along the Hindu Kush. The subcontinent side was unconquered by the Islamic armies till the 9th century.
When Mahmud of Ghazni came to power in 998 C, he started a military campaign that rapidly brought both sides of the Hindu Kush range under his rule, and thanks to his geographical position he was able to raid and plunder kingdoms in north India from east of the Indus river to west of Yamuna river seventeen times between 997 and 1030.
The Hindu Kush mountain passes connected the slave markets of Central Asia with slaves seized in South Asia. Unfortunately it was estimated that "hundreds of thousands" of slaves from India were transported during different periods of Islamic rule era.
With all of this in mind you can now see that Hindu Kush is a very diverse and historically important mountain range with a lot of interesting things to see.
If you want to climb Hindu Kush you will need visas for both countries (Pakistani and Afghanistan).
Pakistan's Ministry of Tourism has decided to maintain royalties at 10% of the normal rates for peaks above 6500m. Royalties are only 5% the normal rate for those wishing to climb in winter (December to February). Royalties per expedition are based on a party of 7. Additional persons will be subject to an additional royalty fee.
Occasionally, permits have been refused on a large scale for reasons of border security!
As for Afghanistan, there are no permits yet as they still lack any significant central administration and tribal law still reigns supreme in rural areas. In order to climb you need to have the permission from someone with sufficient importance and standing in the local community. That way, if there are any issues about you being there, they can back you up.
Permission for Wakhan region is usually a handwritten letter in Dari from the commander of the Border Security Force in Ishkashim. The letter must state specifically where you want to travel in the Wakhan corridor. You will be asked by authorities to show this letter and will be sent back to Ishkashim if you don't have it.
To request permission, first contact the Afghan Tourism Organization (ATO) in Kabul who will act as the liaison with government ministries and issue a letter that you will present at the commander's office in Ishkashim. ATO's office is near Kabul International Airport on the right-hand side of the road 100m before the roundabout when coming from the city.
As for the climbing itself, the further west you climb in the range, the mountain becomes more crumbly.
People don’t visit the Hindukush for rock but for the snow, ice and mixed climbs, which can be excellent when the right conditions prevail. Summers in the Hindukush can be hot, sometimes even at night, with temperatures not dipping below zero. This can cause obvious problems when trying to do technical routes as snow quickly becomes soft and ice is poor quality, often sugary.
To get there, you can fly from Islamabad to Peshawer, and then to Chitral. There are daily vans that can take you to the villages close to the three major peaks: Tirich Mir, Buni Zom and Noshaq.
Border areas on the Pakistani side are generally in a 'Restricted Zone' and a trekking permit is required and you must apply through a trekking agency. A guide must be hired for the duration of the trip while in the restricted area. Other areas fall within a restricted zone but require no permit. Permission to visit the area is granted by the DC in Chitral.
A trekking permit is not required in Afghanistan.
There is a wide variety of different routes you can choose from, and many are still unexplored. You can read more about the possibilities on The Hindukush Trails.
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