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  #1  
Old 21 Aug 2013
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Pamir Highway: Shortcut Kara Kul-Rushan possible?

Dear Pamir lovers.... we are wondering if anyone has crossed from Kara Kul (M41 east) to Rushan (M41west) on the shortcut recently?
Same question for Bulunkul near Alinchur to Savnob (north west)?

Thanks
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  #2  
Old 22 Aug 2013
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It looks an awesome track on satellite images and contour maps. Just off that track (via another track) is the famous landslide dam, 300 metre high natural dam (highest in the world) caused by a landslide 100 years ago ... Usoi Dam / Sarez Lake

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Old 25 Aug 2013
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Hi
Take Markus map and you have an answer, sarez is strictly off limits and you can only go by foot, cross to Bardara.
Bartang has a road, but it is allways destroyed in summer at hot weather, you know the weather of this beginning august. People went through earlier this year on cars, but with the hot days middle and upper Bartang were cut off as told us Pecta, just phone them before you go.
Pictures during flood can be found on our blog bike-pamir.blogspot.com just look for the entry gemeinsam durch die Flut, Bartang bei Hochwasser.
We met your group in Ishkashim 3 weeks ago

Regards

Christian
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  #4  
Old 26 Aug 2013
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well looks like they made it through ... looking fwd to the pics on this one...
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  #5  
Old 27 Aug 2013
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Just did it two days ago from west to east. Definitely not for heavy bikes or inexperienced off road riders...

Will upload a few pics etc later today or tomorrow, once I sorted them out.
Did it in once day, but you need to count two (three would even be better).

Patrik/Muztoo already got a live report from me about the track two hours ago since I'm in Osh right now...
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  #6  
Old 29 Aug 2013
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This is what I just wrote for my blog, so it's a copy/paste:

First of all I need to explain that I had zero knowledge of this valley, other than that it looked as there should be a track going all the way through the Pamir mountains back to the North East of Tajikistan to Lake Kara-Kul and the Pamir Highway where I was a few days before. I also only found one report of a guy on a motorbike who did it and who had a lot of problems. I met two Austrian guys on bicycles and at least one of them said it would be impossible on a motorbike and the other said that only a really skilled rider could maybe make it. So this sounded like something I could do or at least try! I looked on the map and saw a few ‘points’ that should be villages, so I thought it would be ok and that I could find some food and water. I would learn that this was not the case…

Right from the beginning it is clear that this would be a special and magnificent ride:





The whole way consists of a track that is mostly hard gravel with rocks and stones, but there will also be river crossings, sand, bigger stones, washed out track, bigger rivers etc. you get the point: it’s definitely not for beginners or anyone on these beautiful heavy bikes that are advertised as being the “ultimate adventure bikes”. They’re not. But anyway it’s not about that, it’s all about riding in the Bartang valley.



I slept the first night on a ‘beach’ near the river only 30km inside the Valley and had some company of the moon:





All along the valley there are bridges in all kind of forms, for people or for vehicles:





The track is not always in good condition, and the water has washed away some parts of the track but these parts were not a problem actually:











After that there are some sandy sections but it’s also perfectly doable as it is river sand and not desert sand. I was also happy to see that someone past there a few days ago or so:



The track is also in some places really ‘rocky’ so I started to slow down a bit as I didn’t want to end up in the river.



Actually I’m glad I slowed down as a few turns later I had to brake hard for this:





The road was completely blocked as a part of the mountain came down on the track; no way to pass it but I really did not want to turn around so I started to work… and remove as much as I could to make a small passageway to try to pass with the bike:





It took me some time but I managed to get through!

Next part again lot of rocks and water, but nothing I couldn’t handle on the DRZ:



But the views are stunning and worth it all:







The next part is more tricky. The river washed the road away completely. You know where you need to go, but it was a pain in the ass to get through. You just don’t know how deep the water is and I was too lazy to walk it all first so I just went for it…



The first part was ok, 30cm deep and sand and small rocks to ride on until I came to a little island for a break.





The next part though, was only like 35 meters or so but it took me almost an hour to do that. I started from the little island trying to stay as close to the left as possible (mountain side) but after like 10 meters I hit a big rock hard, the bike stalled and I had to use all my strength to keep the bike from falling over and going completely under. Because the rock made me stop abruptly my chest hit the GPS on my steering bar and the GPS went over the bike, into the river… nothing I could do about it! So when I finally stabilized the bike (and hurt my arm with this) I could get of and push it a bit further to be able to put it on it’s side stand as the bike wouldn’t start again. Time for a picture:



So I’m there, no help, haven’t seen anybody for the whole day (except some locals in their farm) with a GPS that is somewhere in the river and a bike in the river that won’t start anymore… Time to sit down for a minute and overlook the situation. Tried to push the bike out of the river, but as said, the riverbed is made of sand and small and larger stones and I was pushing uphill. After making a passage with my hands in the water (removing stones etc) I finally got the bike out! But still no GPS. So I went back into the river and started to look for it on hands and knees. After what looked like an eternity there it was! A few meters away from where it fell down into the water. And it was still working! Thank good for a real waterproof GPS, it was for 15minutes completely submerged into this ice cold river at 3000m altitude and still works!

So after some eureka moment I continued my way to find out that a few km further there was just absolutely no way to get through so the locals pointed me in the right direction of going up the mountain and around the river to rejoin the track a few km further.



I was certainly not disappointed, as the scenery was once again breathtaking:



In the next village the track was once again not driveable as locals were restoring the only little bridge, so I had to go around. They all stopped working and were looking at me if I came from Mars or something, but really friendly people, they all tried to invite me for some tea, so in the end I just said yes and stayed for an hour with these three guys:





After the tea and some bread (that I wasn’t allowed to pay for!) I continued my journey since there are absolutely no shops whatsoever in the whole valley and I had nothing anymore with me (no water and no food) so I was hoping to make it back to Kara-Kul where I knew there was a homestay. Locals told me I would never make it. Again, breathtaking arid scenery:





Then a lot of bad sections came, stones, water, water and stones, but I was in the mood for it and the sky was the limit. The bike did everything I wanted it to do and I was really glad I was on a light enduro bike.









Again the scenery is superb, for me the Bartang Valley and the Wakhan Valley are the two highlights of the Pamir. Pamir Highway is good, but you can do it on any vehicle or bike and this beats it by far! Reason why to travel on a light (enduro) bike!



I’ll try to give you an impression of what it is, the first picture is looking straight forward, the second down to the left. The difference in altitude is at least 300m or more. There’s no way you survive if you make a (riding)mistake here.





Offroad hairpins with an inclination of 12 to 20%, a dream (or nightmare?):



By the end I reached a plateau, again let the pictures speak for themselves:





And the last part was something I hate when being on a bike, wet marshland. Zero grip, mud and lots of small water crossings. But I made it without dropping the bike even once and when there is a bridge it is in doubtful conditions:



I made it back to Kara-Kul 12 minutes before sunset. This was my biggest victory of this trip (along maybe with Yana’s track in the Altay) as I did the "impossible" according to some, doing the Bartang Valley on a motorbike in one day all alone.

In my opinion it would be almost impossible to do the track on a (let’s say) GS. At least not if you are alone like me. I will also confess that the track would make more sense for at least two riders, 3 would be even better. I was not comfortable being here all alone, as there’s no cell phone reception and if something happens, you just know it will take days before somebody will find or be able to help you.

The track is best ridden in two days, three would be better and safer so you really have time to take it easy, certainly if you are not comfortable riding at higher speeds on these kind of tracks. The difference between ascending and descending on this track was more or less 9400m on a 280km stretch. It was a blast!!!
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  #7  
Old 29 Aug 2013
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Wow stunning views!
I will add this to my list of things to do
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  #8  
Old 29 Aug 2013
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Great Stuff Seb ... think you just documented a soon to be popular new route !
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Old 29 Aug 2013
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I hope so, it's worth it.

Just curious to know if Steffen ('survivor' of Yana's track) is going to do it alone on his XChallenge and if Muztoo will do it next week... Would be nice to also have feedback of some other on this as well.

I think the Bartang can be great fun (as I experienced it) but also a nightmare depending on conditions (bike-rider-weather).
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Old 29 Aug 2013
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Just realised Adam Lewis (JediMaster) did it earlier this year too ...

Chapter 32 – Silk Roads to Siberia Pt II – ‘The Roof of the World’ | Short Way Round

So a great new track to ride.. Awesome !
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  #11  
Old 29 Aug 2013
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I knew he did it, so that's why I also went since I was in the area...

He's the one I was referring to in the text...
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Old 29 Aug 2013
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the DRZ mafia .... you, Adam, Wesley ...
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Last edited by colebatch; 2 Sep 2013 at 09:24.
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Old 30 Aug 2013
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Well done Seb, looks a good route and I bet the locals you met don't see many tourist is this area also so pretty cool!

I ride alone and it is all fun and games until you get the bike stuck and if you are miles from anywhere then it gets more interesting, I read your blog and when the bike was stuck for awhile must of been interesting, great report

I saw you on the *pamir (had a quick go on your bike) and a Dutch guy who rented a XT from Osh Was not far behind me but he turned up in Osh Aday later as he told me he took another pass in Kara-kul which was to the lake and very bad tracks so maybe you passed him also?

He did not ride the whole route just towards the lake and then got invited to a ongoing wedding and headed back the next day to Osh

He went from Holland to Bishkek in 6 days on his bike, real crazy guy

Also around the same time you was in the Pamirs did you pass that guy who is on the Ducati 951, ever one I passed has met him, not sure how he will get on with his off road tyres there ?!?
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Old 30 Aug 2013
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Originally Posted by WesleyDRZ400 View Post
I ride alone and it is all fun and games until you get the bike stuck and if you are miles from anywhere then it gets more interesting, I read your blog and when the bike was stuck for awhile must of been interesting, great report
I was alone also for this stretch, as you met my wife in Osh... thanx again on her behalf btw for the Iphone cable!

Quote:
Originally Posted by WesleyDRZ400 View Post
I saw you on the *pamir (had a quick go on your bike) and a Dutch guy who rented a XT from Osh Was not far behind me but he turned up in Osh Aday later as he told me he took another pass in Kara-kul which was to the lake and very bad tracks so maybe you passed him also? He went from Holland to Bishkek in 6 days on his bike, real crazy guy
Yeah I met him on the highway. I don't think he is crazy, I have another word for it but that's my opinion, which I clearly told him. There's no achievement in riding 1100km a day on a highway on a comfortable bike from EU to Kyrgyzstan. It's just boring and not interesting, other than to be able to brag that you did it. Ten years ago I also did stupid things like that. Did not see anything from a place except the highway and the highway fuel stations and the highway restaurants. What's the point...?! But that's my opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by WesleyDRZ400 View Post
Also around the same time you was in the Pamirs did you pass that guy who is on the Ducati 951, ever one I passed has met him, not sure how he will get on with his off road tyres there ?!?
It was a Duc 996 and I saw the bike in Osh with the TKC's on it. (I have a pic of it btw as it was my first bike many years ago) As you know, you don't need them (offroad tyres) if you stay on the M41. I unfortunately did not meet the guy as I wanted to ask him if he went for Wakhan or other places than the M41, as that would have been interesting to know/see.
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Old 30 Aug 2013
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Originally Posted by Oo-SEB-oO View Post
I hope so, it's worth it.

Just curious to know if Steffen ('survivor' of Yana's track) is going to do it alone on his XChallenge and if Muztoo will do it next week... Would be nice to also have feedback of some other on this as well.

I think the Bartang can be great fun (as I experienced it) but also a nightmare depending on conditions (bike-rider-weather).
Still contemplating this. Just talked to the girl at the Khorog Info. She said a car made it through this week. So, they must have cleared the rockfall. She was also very nonchalant about it and after I mentioned that she should probably give more realistic info to riders, she said, "Oh, but they all love it." Hmm?

Talked to some knowledgeable local drivers and they say they do make it through a few times a year.

I also ran into the two Austrian cyclist you talked to. We talked quite a while about the track and they claim they never said it shouldn't be done on a bike :-)

There is definitely something funny about the water levels here. Water is pretty high right now, even here in Khorog. Something you'd expect in spring and early summer elsewhere. I guess it makes sense that snow melts very late in the summer in the very high mountains.

Pamir is awesome and I plan to make best use of my visa :-) Everything I expected and much more.

Cheers,
Steffen
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