Pamir - "The Roof of The World"

Pamir - one of the interpretation of the origin of the word is "The Roof of The World" is one of the world"s biggest and highest (up to 7,495 m - Communism peak) mountain land on the south of Central Asia where virtually all kinds of mountain outdoors are possible - from medium trekking to extremely difficult mountaineering. The entire area keeps ecological purity and untouched wild nature so far because of practically absent of industrial development and very rare population.
Communism Peak (renamed to "Ismoili Somoni") - the highest mountain of Tajikistan and former USSR - is located in Akademii Nauk (Academy of Sciences) Range. Discovered by Tadjik Complex Expedition (leader - N.P. Gorbunov) in 1932. First ascent (East Ridge) - Sept. 3, 1933, Eugeny Abalakov and Nikolay Gorbunov.
The mountain"s name has an interesting and very politized history. The 1st name was Pik Garmo until 1933, then it was changed to Stalin Peak after the current leader of Soviet Union. If you take a look at the area"s map, the surrounded names are suited the Uncle Joe: NKVD and Beriya (after the predessor of KGB and it"s bloody leader) glaciers and so on. In 1962, after Nikita Khrustcev took over the ortodox stalinists in Politburo, it was renamed to Communism Peak. After the collapse of USSR, in 1998 it was next time changed to Ismaili Somoni (Ismail Samani or Ismoil Somoni), but so far the peak is widely known as Communism "cause not very much people know who the great guy Somoni is (in fact, it is believed he was the foundator of ancient Tadjik state).
Communism Peak is a huge mountain looks like a giant heavily glaciated wall, despite it rising above a dry, barren region. The common way (via Borodkin Spur and Dushanbe Peak) lays through interesting natural phenomena: Pamirskoye Firnovoe Plato (PFP, Pamir"s Neve Plateau)- neve and snow-covered flat ground of a size of few football stadiums, rised to the altitude of about 6,000 m! Climbing Communism peak is real mountaineering adventure involving full set of mountainering (mostly ice) gear and it needs good acclimatization and previous mountaineering background. It is good idea to climb Lenin or Korjenevskoy peak as a preparation for Communism peak (see corresponding chapters).
Pamir is the highest alpine chain in the South of the ex-SU, these days the territory of the Kirghizia (Kirgiztan) and Tajikistan. It occupies the area of approximately 60 000 square kilometers and presents the extensive network of eversnow- covered ridges and vast intermountain valleys which form Pamir plateau.
Mountaineering Pamir exploration began together with the first research expeditions of Soviet Academy of Sciences on Pamir in the 1928 - 1933ths. Tourist expeditions on Pamir were firstly made in 50ths and for the time being Pamir is the most popular outdoor mountainous region among those of CIS. In mountaineering practical experience Pamir"s boundaries are accepted on the basis of ridges" orography and their trek"s resources. From the East Pamir is limited by Sarykolsky ridge on the axis of which there are borders of ex-USSR and China. The southern border passes along the river Piandge separating Tajikistan and Kirgizia from Afghanistan and the northern one is limited by the river Kyzyl -Soo (Kyzylsoo), consecutively adopting the name Sourhob and then Vakhsh. In the West Pamir finishes with the ridges outskirts - of Peter The Great and Darvazsky. The highest ridges and massive glaciers are clustered in the western part of Pamir. Most ridges" peaks are more than 6000 meters high and sometimes rise over 7000 meters high. There are 3 of 4 peaks above 7000 meters high on Pamir including the highest mountain of ex-USSR - Communism Peak in Akademii Nauk range (recently this peak is re-named to "Ismoili Somoni peak"), and Lenin peak (7134 m) - popular peak for those who"re trying their 1st attempt of high-altitude climbing. The highest top of the whole Pamir area however situated in the Chinese part of the East Pamir - it is Muztag Ata peak (7546 m). The plateau of 4000 meters high and more occupies the eastern part of Pamir and stretches from its north to the south, being only once separated by Muzcol ridge.
The natural conditions of Pamir"s western and eastern parts are very different. From one side, there is a sharp unevenness of the relief, from the other side, the gently sloping plateau, at times going to an alpine desert. Biologists and climatologists divide Pamir into regions with rather general and stable physics-geographical characteristics such as ridge character, type and capacity of icing, vegetation, air dryness, etc. With such division one part of the ridge is often in one region, and the other one is in the other region which makes more difficult to classify the information about routes.
Generally speaking, Pamir"s division accepted in trekking and mountaineering practice doesn"t contradict with the one of the geography and reflects the history of Pamir"s mountaineering exploration. It also helps you to reach the required information very easily. As a rule, Pamir is divided into 5 regions: North-Western, North-Eastern, South-Western, Central and Eastern. Central Pamir has the least clear boundaries, so many people also include here eastern parts of the North-Western Pamir ridges.
North-Western Pamir"s ridges are: Peter the Great ridge, Darvazsky, Vanchsky and Yazgulemsky before the place where the Academy of Sciences ridges cross. North-Western Pamir connects the eastern part of the Zaalaysky ridge and Zulumart ridge before the pass Zulumart. Central Pamir includes the Academy of Sciences ridge, Tynymas and the eastern part of the Yazgulemsky ridge (mountains of the southern group of Fedchenko glacier).
Easteren Pamir"s ridges are: Muzcol, Pshartsky and North-Alichursky ridges.
South-Western Pamir"s ridges are: Rushansky, Shugnansky, Ishkashimsky, Shakhdarinsky and South-Alichursky ridges.
The western part of the Zaalaysky ridge (to the West of the pass Tersagar) has not be normally included in the North-Western Pamir. That"s why the valley of the river Muksu is the powerful natural border separating these two regions. At times the Academy of Sciences ridge is considered to be the part of the North-Western Pamir (you should mind that the regions" borders are highly conventional). Such a division helps to classify the information about Pamir better when preparing for trekking and expeditions, which are hold usually in one region. Above this, such division based on the directions of the sides of the World reflects the natural trek"s and transport peculiarities of certain regions which are also important for the visitors.
Pamir differs from other alpine regions of ex-USSR by comparative stability of the weather during summer months. More changeable weather is observed near Lenin"s peak. More stable weather is in the North-Western and Central Pamir, exceptions are the regions before Communism and Revolution peaks.
Dryness of air and high solar radiation are typical for all Pamir, but in Central, Eastern and South-Western parts this feature exceed other regions.
Every ridge and region of Pamir has its passes" set of any complication category.
In this case, passes from 2B and higher prevail, the number of passes with 1A and 1B complication is not great. The height of passes in the whole is in the limits from 4000 to 6000 meters. The height of general mass of passes is about 5000 meters, the number of passes exceeding this height is also considerable.
Thus treks and expeditions on Pamir are connected with a long continuous staying on the altitudes of over 4000 meters, it happens that the time of a continuous staying on the altitudes over 5000 meters sometimes reaches its highest value (about half of a month).
As a rule, passes and mountains of Pamir require long up and down approach with getting through water obstacles, glaciers, snow- capped ice slopes and rocky areas. Passes and interesting to climb are mainly located in remote, difficult-to-access regions (the Lenin"s Peak from the North is an rare exception). The approach to many of them is possible only from reserved areas where you can run only through complicated passes or by using helicopter. For more complicated passes the passage of the main passing obstacle with neighboring up approaches takes 4-5 days. Passes 1A and 1B being inside the region often takes one-two days walk. During passes" walking often happen overnight stayings on the stone moraines, on the snow, on the ice, on the slopes and saddle of passes, sometimes arises necessity to build neve blocks walls and in digging of snowy caves. Getting over passes requires the usage of complete set of climbing gear, technical means and tactical methods which are practiced in mountaineering.
Pamir is characterized by 4-6 categories of complication for the trekking and pass-hopping routes. The elaboration of rules for logical treks of less complication with running through the everlasting snow zone is difficult. Objectively, this fact is caused by rather small number of low difficulty passes, and also its scanty comfortable combination passes of other complication. So, Pamir is more suitable area to mountaineering. Natural-climatic conditions of Pamir and characteristics of passes requiring high physical, technical, tactical training of trekkers make from tour safety point of view the organization of the treks of 3 and less complication category is too problematic. Climbing routes are mostly ice, snow and neve, less rocky, that"s can be considered as common for high mountain areas. Administratively Pamir lies mainly on the territory of Tajikistan. Only the northern outskirts of Zaalaisky ridge descending to the Alaiskaya valley belong to Kirgiziya.
The main means of communication on Pamir is automobile and aviation transport. The basis of automobile connection here is the Cross-Pamir road which begins from the town Osh in the Ferganskaya valley. This road crosses Alaiskaya valley from the North to the South, stretches to the South on the Pamir plateau along the river Piandge to the North and then to the West towards the city Dushanbe (the capital of Tajikistan, which is connected by air to the Moscow, Novosibirsk and some of the Central Asia states). From this main road, roads of the local importance are constructed to the South and to the East along Piandge, there are small parts by the valleys of rivers Shahdara, Bartang, Yazgulem, Vanch, Obi-Hingou. Near the lake Kharakul truck road goes to the valleys of rivers Khokhuibel and Tanimas. The city of Dushanbe is connected with such small towns as Murgab and Horog, with district centers Rushan, Vanch by local airlines. There is also an airline to the towns Tavil-Dara and Jirgatal situating on the western borders of Pamir. The start and the finish points of treks belong to this transport network.

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