Climbing and Mountaineering in Afghanistan

There are many mountainous regions in Afghanistan and prior to the Soviet invasion in 1979 it was a popular destination for climbers and mountaineers. In May 2009 the new democratic government created the Band-e-Amir National Park which it hopes will boost national tourism to the area. It should also help to encourage the international community to take adventure travel and hiking holidays in the spectacular and remote countryside of central Afghanistan.

Update 01.10.21: Due to the withdrawl of US and allied troops, and the subsequent take over by the Taliban, we no longer recommend travelling to Afghanistan.

British Climbers Summit in Afghanistan

On 21st July 2010 two British and one American climber reached the highest peak in Afghanistan. The mountain of Noshaq is located in the north east of the country in the Hindu Kush range, on the border with Pakistan. The three mountaineers summitted the 7,492 m peak via the West Ridge. Poor weather conditions and deep snow made for a difficult ascent.

Last year saw the first Afghani summit of Noshaq during the “Afghans to the Top” expedition. It was hoped that the project would promote more high altitude climbing expeditions in the region, and it seems that international climbing community has begun to take an interest. Additionally it is hoped that mountain tourism in the area will be set up with sustainability and conservation in mind.

Mountain Unity International

Information about mountaineering in Afghanistan can be obtained from Mountain Unity International.

Mountain Unity International is a social enterprise set up to promote economic development in north east Afghanistan, with a focus on mountain tourism. We are not a tour operator but can help expedition leaders to connect with local Afghans on the ground.

By co-ordinating and publicising mountain tourism, Mountain Unity aims to provide sustainable livelihoods for the local people. We will also set up small projects to assist in the building up of the local community.

The Wakhan Corridor in the north east of Afghanistan used to be a particularly popular destination for mountaineers. The Wakhan corridor is bordered by Pakistan to the south, China to the east and Tajikistan to the north. This remote area has seen little change over the past 30 years or so. The area has always been peaceful, even during the Soviet Invasion and the on going conflict with the Taliban. However, Mountain Unity’s David James, told the BBC that:

I wouldn’t suggest anyone goes with a holiday mentality. This is for serious trekking and mountaineering expeditions – people that know about working in a real wilderness environment.

You’ve got to look after your own medical emergencies and be aware of your own security. You’ve got to be responsible for yourselves in Afghanistan. But this one particular part has remained entirely peaceful.

With many unclimbed peaks, short approach routes and more or less guaranteed good weather, The Wakhan Corridor in Afghanistan could once again become favoured destination for climbers and mountaineers.

Afghanistan. View across the valley towards the Hindu Kush.
The Hindu Kush. Is Afghanistan set to become a top mountainerring destination again? Source Picasa by James Corbishley.

Have you been mountaineering Afghanistan, or climbing in other extremely remote parts of the world? Share your thoughts and experience! Click on comments below.


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