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  #1  
Old 25 Dec 2007
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Karakorum Highway - What time of the year?

Hi,

What's the best time of the year for riding the Karakorum Highway & Kunjerab Pass?
Coming from Kashgar/China, I'm planning to get into India not before October next year, so doing the KKH in September (maybe even later) would be best for me.
What's the deal with monsoon & rockfalls in the Karakorum area? Does the KKH & Kunjerab Pass close (due to snow)?

Cheers
Bjorn
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  #2  
Old 25 Dec 2007
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Originally Posted by Bjorn View Post
Hi,

What's the best time of the year for riding the Karakorum Highway & Kunjerab Pass?
Coming from Kashgar/China, I'm planning to get into India not before October next year, so doing the KKH in September (maybe even later) would be best for me.
What's the deal with monsoon & rockfalls in the Karakorum area? Does the KKH & Kunjerab Pass close (due to snow)?
Bjorn,

the monsoon does not get as far as "interesting" parts of the KKH. The KKH starts in Kashgar and runs all the way to Islamabad. Storms are fairly frequent though in the mountains and they cause rockfalls/landslides that block the road. In July last year, a one night storm caused 42 rockfalls and took out 50 mtrs of road in 2 different places... along with about 18 people and their houses and trapped us for 5 days.
Don't ride if its raining on the Pakistani side.

The road from Tashkorgan to Sust is closed in the winter.. Early Oct to May 1st (if the snow has gone by then). Everything from Tash to Sust is over 3000mtrs The Tash border post is also closed during that time.

John
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Old 26 Dec 2007
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John,

You say 1st of May they open again – have they also got 'strict' closing dates? Can't really imagine that in SE Asia, no?

I remember a mate telling me to do the KKH mid September to be safe. This goes with what you are saying.
But: According to Lonely Planet Pakistan & KKH, "the most pleasant temperatures for the KKH are in... September and October". They only mention closed passes for November to April.

What's the temperatures like in September? Also: How long does it take to get a visa for India in Islamabad. Would make sense to get it there, since the rockfalls & road conditions can impact timing & dates quite considerably.
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Old 26 Dec 2007
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Hi Bjorn

We did the KKH in early September from the Pakistani side (in a car). Apart from Chilas which was hovering around 25-30 degrees celsius, the temperatures in the main were between 10 and 15 celsius, until the Kunjerab Pass where it dropped closer to zero. We went as far as the Chinese border; for the last 5 kms there was snow about 6 inches deep and this was the only place where we had to use the heater.

Re the Indian visa in Islamabad, you need to apply between 10 AM and 12 noon and collect (I think) between 3 and 4 PM and the visa takes 5 working days to come through. In Islamabad they have this ridiculous shuttle bus system for the Diplomatic Enclave, so be sure to arrive at least an hour before closing time. You have to go to the car park, leave your bike and buy a ticket for the bus and then wait till the scheduled departure time for the bus, which goes about every half an hour. When we applied for our Indian visas, we did come across a Swiss couple in a camper van who'd driven it right into the Enclave to collect their Indian visas by telling the gate people they had an appointment at the Swiss Embassy.....when we came back 10 days later to collect OUR Indian visas we tried telling the guards we had an appointment at the British High Commission and it worked so we didn't have to mess about with the shuttle bus - they didn't even check the vehicle! However, you shouldn't bet on that ruse working. Good luck.

Mark
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Old 26 Dec 2007
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John,
You say 1st of May they open again – have they also got 'strict' closing dates? Can't really imagine that in SE Asia, no?
Hi Bjorn,

the customs/border post at Tahkorgan closes for the winter. All that's left is the military checkpoints after that.

My information is that the pass, (border?) closed from 15th October to May 1st for foreigners. It is closed to all accept trucks from December to April as thats the rainy season, (Pakistan) and the danger of mud/rock slides is too great.

Most of the town shuts down because it is generally cut off. If not by local snows, the the pass through the Pamir mountains stops you getting there (4200 metres) from Kashgar.

Cheers,
John
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Old 30 Dec 2007
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We came over the Khunjarab Pass into Pakistan on October 26, 2005. It definitely doesn't close on Oct 15 to foreigners or anyone else. Although there was snow and our bike had to go over in a truck. My impression was that the pass stays open until the trucks can no longer make it, which would probably be in late November or December sometime. There was a good 6" or so of snow at the top of the pass when we crossed. Had we traveled only one day earlier there would not have been any snow whatsoever, we missed it by a day.

We spent the last week of October and the first week of November on the KKH in Pakistan. The weather was great, and I don't imagine snow will be an issue until late November, at least below Sost. Temps around Karimibad were probably around 15C during the day and 0-5C at night. Lots of sun and very dry.

The KKH gets rockslides and blockages all the time and especially when it rains. When you see the terrain it was carved from you will understand why. They have full time road crews for this very purpose.

I would say that you could assume the KKH should definitely be snow-free from Sost southward until November 1 and possibly for a week or two after that.

I think October with all the fall colors is probably one of the best times to visit.

Top of Khunjerab Pass at the checkpoint on October 26, 2005:


Just down from Sost the next day:


Fall colors from above Karimibad:


A rock slide after a day of rain near Dassu:

Last edited by davidmc; 30 Dec 2007 at 01:33.
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Old 5 Jan 2008
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Thanks for all your replies – can't wait to get on the KKH. Hope politics in Pakistan won't affect this. I am contemplating about a China/India border crossing instead of the KKH... but maybe things will get better in Pakistan after the elections, fingers crossed.

David: Apart from the KKH, you also did the Pamirs in Tajikistan. Between the two, which one is your personal favourite?
I keep looking at images from Tajikistan, amazing scenery! But I also keep thinking about altitude sickness and bad petrol...

Bjorn
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Old 5 Jan 2008
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Thanks for all your replies – can't wait to get on the KKH. Hope politics in Pakistan won't affect this. I am contemplating about a China/India border crossing instead of the KKH... but maybe things will get better in Pakistan after the elections, fingers crossed.

David: Apart from the KKH, you also did the Pamirs in Tajikistan. Between the two, which one is your personal favourite?
I keep looking at images from Tajikistan, amazing scenery! But I also keep thinking about altitude sickness and bad petrol...

Bjorn
They were both amazing, but both very different. The Pamirs are dry, bleak and remote with little population. The KKH is dramatic with more life and a road which is an amazing feat of engineering. If I had to choose between the two it would definitely be the KKH.

As far as politics in Pakistan goes, don't get too paranoid at this point, Pakistan really hasn't had much stability in the past anyway and plenty of foreigners have passed though without problems. Even if there are problems, the Pakistanis will certainly look after you once you are in the country. Things change in this part of the world very rapidly, so you need to make your decision much closer to your entry date.

Good luck with a China/India crossing, this is probably next to impossible. The KKH is the most realistic route.

However if you are going to Central Asia anyway, you should also add Tajikistan if possible. Its truly a fascinating country and less visited than the neighboring areas. Most Central Asia itineraries skip Tajikistan because its the least developed, but this is part of the appeal.

Last edited by davidmc; 5 Jan 2008 at 15:50.
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