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Terich valley of Chitral- A Tourist's Paradise

Prof. Rehmat Karim Beig

Terich is a side valley of Chitral drained by the Terich River, which originates from the glaciers of Terichmir, in the heart of the Hindukush. This valley begins at Soorwaht , where Terich River meets Torkhow River from the west, up to Shagrom- the last permanent settlement of the valley and from there onward there are summer grazing pastures and huts of shepherds up to the snout of lower Terich glacier and goes further up to Terich Concordia where glaciers from seven sub valleys slide down and join at the Concordia. This valley is about 90 km long with 4 other side valleys that also drain into the main river from the upper Terich glacier popularly known as ATAHK. The river is also called Atahkogh. The other valleys above Shagrom are Udren and Andren Atahk. The former is a long valley with the longest glacier of HinduKush called Darband glacier. The second valley is Andren Atahk that joins the main river at the end of Atahk Ghari- summer pastures. It also joins Bindu Gol of Gohkeer.

Below Shagrom at Zondrangram another valley branches off the Terich valley is known as Roshgol. This is also a long valley that takes two to three days to the end of the valley. There are also summer pastures here and flora of this valley as well as the Udren valley, mentioned above, is highly rich. The Zondrangram commune has grazing, fuel rights in this valley. It is also rich in wild life. All the valleys had good birch forests in the past, but due to shortage of fire wood they have been cut and only a small number of them stands live. Dead wood is no more available in the valleys.

The 4th side valley is Longol which is at the beginning of the Terich valley starting from Lonkuh village. It goes up to hanging glaciers but is a short one. It also has good wild life, including Ibex. Lon Gol is famous for its Orpiment mines that were a good source of income of the Mehtars of Chitral.

The Terich valley is now a Union Council, which also includes Zezdi, Madak and Nishku. Total population of the valley is around ten thousand. There are three government high schools for boys and one high school for girls at Zondrangram. The number of primary schools is more than a dozen. There is a basic health unit, a veterinary dispensary, a police post, a sub post office and a Government run utility store in the valley. There is only narrow dangerous shingle road to this valley which goes up the Shagrom and in winters it comes under avalanches that block traffic for months. There are five mini hydel power houses for light purpose only though the rivers from Atahk, Roshgol, Udren, Longol have good sites for building hydel power houses of better generation capacity.

This valley lies at high altitude and bears single crop a year. The main crops include wheat, barley, corn, potato and some vegetables. Alfalfa is grown in great quantity and gives double crop a year which has good demand in other valleys like Kushum, Madak, Warijun etc. and is a cash crop. Another cash crop of this valley is abundance of poplar trees that grow well and this crop is also in great demand outside the valley as timber wood. It brings good income to the farmers.

This valley is entirely peopled by Khow people, further divided into a large number of tribes who claim to have come here from various places. The following tribes live in the Terich valley:
1. Mazhe: live in the upper Terich with majority.
2. Khoja: have good number in lower Terich.
3. Dashmane: are present but in small numbers.
4. Atam Bage: some 40-50 families of this clan live here.
5. Riza Khel: about a dozen families.
6. Katoore: about 7 families.
7. Begale: who claim to be closely related to the tribe of the same name living in Reshun.
8. Other Yuft tribes like Qule, Qubile, Zondre about ten families or so.
9. Other Yuft tribes like Qule, Qubile, Zondre Mosinge, Zone, Bule, Gujale, beside other smaller ethnic groups who cannot give any info about their ancestors or their abodes.

Terich as Gateway to the Heart of HinduKush:

The Valley leads to almost all important peaks of the Hindukush Range. All expeditions to any of the seven thousanders of Hindukush traverse this valley before coming close to their destination. Europeans, when they first came to Chitral were much fascinated by the sight of such a great number of peaks concentrated in a small area. With the advent of mountaineering as a sport, expeditions started pouring in and the valley became a hub of tourist activity.

But the first Europeans to come close to the mountains were not mountaineers, rather they were explorers and surveyors. According to records the first Eropian who came into this valley was Cockerill in 1892/93 who went into Roshgol valley but could not reach the highest part of the valley due to heavy snow. It was in June. He returned to Mastuj and made another trip in the summer to survey Terich mir via Arkari but could not see it and instead saw Istoro Nal and was amazed to explore another high peak. Then there is no record of the travelers till the German expedition in 1935 and then the US expeditions. The same year Schomberg also travelled in the Atahk, Udren, Roshgol, Ziwar gol and Ujnugol valleys. No more records available till the Norwegians came in 1949 for reconnaissance. The next year they made another trip and summitted Terich Mer. This is a valley wise list of the peaks > 7000m.
1.Atahk valley: Terich Mer, Nowshaq, Istoro Nal, Shingeik Zom,
2. Udren valley: north faces of Istoro Nal, Nowshaq, Shingeik Zom , Nobaisun Zom, Darband Zom, Udren Zom west face.
3. Roshgol valley: Saraghrar, Udren Zom east face, Shakaur, Langutai-e- Barfi, Langar Zom, beside <7000m unclimbed peaks.
4. Ziwar valley: east face of Saraghrar, Urgand, Kohe Tez, Akher Chioh.
All the these are above 7000m peaks. The 6000m. peaks are numerous and carry no importance in the presence and proximity of these giants. Some of these are Gumbaz e Safe, Koh e Mandaras and Nohbaisuno Zom.

Apart from mountaineering expedition, Terich valley is a heaven for treckers too. The most popular rout is up the Atahrk valley to the confluence of upper and lower Terich glaciers and then onto the base camp grom whierew one can see most of the giant peaks. From here we could see the mountains Ghul-LashtZom, Aspesufaid, Noshaq and Istoro nal. The camp has been named 'Babu Camp' after the renowned Chitrali tour guide Babu Muhammad.

Mountaineering and trekking have been good source of employment for the people of Terich. Expeditions employed local people as porters, high altitude porters, guides and interpreters. They also made some local purchase supplies from the villagers. This triggered some pretty economic activity in the Valley during the summer months. In the past large number of expeditions came to part of the world every year, but since 9/11 tourism in general, and mountaineering in particular, has dwindled to almost nonexistent. Now it is the need of the hour to revive mountaineering at all costs.

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