DIY Trekking in the Fan Mountains
The rugged, glaciated Fan Mountains are one of Central Asia’s premier trekking destinations. Studded with dozens of turquoise lakes and burnished with wind-blown, high-altitude vistas they beg to be walked, hiked and climbed. It is feasible to drive up to any of the hamlets that cling to the mountainsides and strike out unaccompanied along the shepherd and goatherd tracks that lead into the rugged wilds; for longer, more ambitious treks, however, a guide is strongly recommended. With a lifetime of experience in surviving in these mountains, guides not only help negotiate the terrain, aiding with stream and ice crossings, but they also introduce the human story into the landscape of their ancestors.
As with all high mountain adventures, hikers need to watch out for signs of altitude sickness and be prepared for the extremes of heat and cold that can occur at any time of year and almost without warning. Beautiful by day, the mountains are altogether more lonesome at night in the knowledge that only limited and largely ad hoc search and rescue is available.
Detailed maps of the Fann Mountains are available for sale online from EWP (www.ewpnet.com/fannmap.htm). Another good resource is www.trekkinginthepamirs.com which includes photos, timings, route notes and some GPS waypoints marked on trails.
Routes from Artush
Kulikalon Lakes A two-hour (7km) uphill walking trail leads to the alplager (mountaineers camp; 2200m). From here, a tough three-hour trail leads further uphill into the Kulikalon bowl with a dozen deep-blue lakes. Camping is possible near Dushakha Lake, at the foot of Chimtarga (5489m), the region's highest peak. There are two high-pass routes from here to the beautiful Alaudin Lakes.
Iskander-Kul A three-day trek from the Zitmud village homestay southwest of Artush that crosses the Dukdon Pass (3810m) to Sarytag and Iskander-Kul.
Routes from Shing & Marguzor
Archa Maidan Valley Trails of between two to four days thread between the sixth and seventh lake of Haft-Kul (Seven Lakes) to the Tavasang Pass (3300m). This is a gateway to the Archa Maidan Valley, which descends to Zitmud.
Iskander-Kul A tough hike cuts across the Munora Pass (3520m) and Dukdon Pass (3810m) to Sarytag and Iskander-Kul, taking between three to five days.
Routes from Veshab
Yagnob Valley A series of little-promoted trails links the parallel valleys of Zerafshan and Yagnob. These are rough trails in a particularly remote region and each take around a week of wilderness trekking and camping in the territory of bears and elusive snow leopards. One trail leads from Veshab via Shamtuj-Bedev to Hishortob. Guides or considerable experience and self-reliance are required for hikes in this area.
A range of accommodation is available in the Zerafshan Valley area, from reasonable midrange hotels in Penjikent to homestays in Fan Mountain villages. ZTDA helpfully lists all the homestays in the region, including those at Shing, Nofin, Padrud and Marguzor which form some of the most useful bases for hiking.
Good restaurants can be found in Penjikent and most smaller towns, such as Ayni, have at least one chaikhana for simple Tajiki dishes (10TJS for wholesome soup), kebabs and burgers. Drivers stop at popular garden 'canteens' (usually open between 9am to 10pm) along the M34 and A377 which break up the long journeys. In the eastern part of the Zerafshan Valley meals are only available if requested in advance from a homestay.