Pamir Mountains-The Roof of the World in Pakistan

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Pamir Mountains-The Roof of the World

The uninhabited mountain region with its hazards of sudden blizzards, avalanches, rockfalls, crevasses, accidents, sunburn, frostbite and all forms of high-altitude illness?” The question was asked rhetorically by the Russian academic and mountaineer Vladimir Ratzek in 1980. Ratzek himself certainly knew the answers, which quickly become apparent to anybody who ventures out into the mountain fastness of the Pamirs.The Pamir mountains of Tajikistan are, without doubt, the least visited mountain range in the world, yet one which offers some of the most magnificent landscapes, picturesque rural scenes, exhilarating trekking and genuine hospitality to be found anywhere on the planet. Summers, and thus the standard trekking season, are short, winters long; locally available supplies, transport and maps are limited; a lack of even the most elementary Russian or Tajik languages can leave the visitor floundering in frustration; the internal security regulations of the Vazorati Amniyat (the Ministry of Security, the Tajik successor to the Russian KGB), or the Russian and Tajik Border Forces (who patrol the external i.e. Tajik-Afghan and Tajik-Chinese borders) can prove to be the final insurmountable obstacle; but the rewards outstrip the time and energy invested in organising a trip on the Roof of the World.
Pamir Mountains-The Roof of the World

Despite the lack of apparent interest shown by outsiders, the Tajik Pamirs have played host to a series of illustrious travellers and explorers, notably the famous Buddhist pilgrim-explorer Hsuan Tsang (c.640 AD) and Marco Polo, who describes passing through Ishkashim in c. 1271. The Pamirs lay astride the Silk Road, connecting China to what is now the Middle East, though the actual routeways meandered north and south of the Pamirs, through Ferghana and what is now the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan.
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Pamir Mountains-The Roof of the World

 The real heroes, the true pioneers, are of course the Tajiks and Kyrgyz who settled the valleys and high pastures of the Pamirs and withstood the winters year in, year out, for centuries, irrigating the land with thread-like channels running many kilometres across rocky mountain slopes, subsisting off meagre grain harvests and their livestock, building their own houses and making their own clothes, occasionally trading with distant markets in Afghanistan, Kashgar, and Bukhara. These were communities that were truly isolated and dependent on their own ingenuity for their survival. Foreign exploration was focused largely on areas to the north, west and east of the Pamirs and it wasn’t until Anglo-Russian military rivalries forced the pace in the mid-nineteenth century that the Pamirs became the focus.
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