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Cycling the Pamir Highway in early winter

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 12:53 pm
by andrzej.brandt
hi fellas,

went through the forum and found some infos about the conditions on pamir highway (especially the tajik part of PH) during late autumn, but really cant find anything about the november - early december.

Im planning to cycle the highway - starting from bishkek at late october. im experienced tourer and have been in tough winter conditions several times, so dont concider me the nuts ;)

my questions regard the level of snow, the temperatures, actually all kind of infos regarding possible climate challenges. is it dry this time? is the road open for traffic during winter? i would appreciate really any advice.


btw. enormous kudos to steven and saule - cant even imagine going to central asia without caravanistan ;) made a small donation this morning - i highly encourage everybody here to do the same.

Re: Cycling the Pamir Highway in early winter

Posted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 4:48 pm
by mazeno
it depends on the year.
i had never been in pamirs during winter (was twice during september), but i was in karakoram and pakistani himalayas (winter 1996/7, diamir, gilgit, hunza), and the conditions are similar. in 96/97 it was unusual winter - very dry, there was no snow till the end of january (and there were heavy snowfalls in february). but the temperatures were still heavy freezing: -20C (day) to -30C (night).

i keep on eye the conditions in hunza and pamirs: usually every winter - even if not snowy - is very cold with temperatures below -15C (remember about perceptible temp, windchill). the snowfalls start usually in end of december (which is dry). earlier, in november (even in october) there is snowing, but not too much. because of strong winds there will be less snow in central pamirs (geographically, it means eastern tajik pamirs - alichur, little pamirs, great pamirs etc.) than in western (pyanj valley, rushan, yazgulem, darvaza). of course we are talking about regular snowing, not a short-lived blizzards with the snow disappearing after next 30 minutes - they take place all year round. i suppose the pamir highway is kept passable all the year, short term blockades may occur after heavy snowfalls (big snow avalanches usually are in march/april). and i think you will find much more snow in kgz than in tjk (humid fergana valley and issyk kul).

the worst, i think, will be very strong winds, so windchill may give frostbites even if body is working all the way on the bike. good hands and face protection is essential. and of course good sleepingbag for the nights. the cold and dryness gives another problem - lack of water on the way (of course not if there is snow).

you start from bishkek - remember about aclimatization before you cycle toward kyzyl art pass (then you stay about 4500m for long time). there is taldyk pass 3600m on the way from osh to sary tash, but it is so high only for a moment (sary tash is on 3000m). this is good idea to sleep on taldyk in a yurt (if there are any in november/december).
kyrgyz customs in bor dobo are low (3200m), then you climb up to 4280m across no-mans-land for next about 25 km.
tajik soldiers and customs on kyzyl art are usually hospitable and they can offer you sleeping place and hot tea (free of charge of course). sometimes if there is a fresh staff (they change every 2 weeks) they can also have a headache.

andrzej, you can mail me - juz po polsku ;) - for more (contact is on my website below), but after sep 12th i'll be out of internet for one month.

Re: Cycling the Pamir Highway in early winter

Posted: Mon Sep 07, 2015 2:12 am
by steven
Thank you Andrzej for the kind words and Mazeno for the great reply! If anyone else finds this, more info in this topic: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1167&p=3827

Advice - Cycling Pamir Hgw during winter ?

Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 8:55 am
by Nemo73
Hi everybody !
I'm preparing my tour through asia by bicycle and it appears my starting date from Istanbul should imply my arriving in Dushanbe mid-january or mid-february. That would mean I cycle Dushanbe-Khorog-Vrang-Murghab-Kyzyl Art pass-Sary Tash-Osh-Djalalabad-Kotchkor...from mid january to end of march or from mid february to end of april.

Well, I already know temperatures are very cold (-20 C in some parts), but with the proper gear I think there is no problem. Although my worry rather concerns the practicability of the roads by bicycle during that period. I think it's possible with winter spike tires but even so, may be it stays unrealistic !!!? Second interrogation is about the passes like Kyzyl Art. Is it open or closed in some parts of the year ?

May be I should postpone a little my departure from Istanbul in order to expect cycling the Pamir region during spring ??? What do you think about ?

Re: Advice - Cycling Pamir Hgw during winter ?

Posted: Tue Jun 13, 2017 9:54 am
by Nemo73
Sorry, I had not seen the subject was already covered like here for example ! viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1167&p=3827