Anzob Pass is a high mountain pass, at an elevation of 3.372m (11,062ft) above the sea level, located northwest of Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe. The pass is located between Dushanbe and Samarkand and there’s a weather observation station located at the pass top. The climb is a series of narrow zigzags, with some impressive drops to the valley below.
The road to the summit is gravel, dusty, bumpy and dangerous. Your wheels will be astounded at the wonderful views of the mountains spread out before you! They are terrible for drivers who are prone to vertigo. The road is very steep (20km averaging 7-8% in gradient), narrow, muddy and without a safety rail. You'll feel like leaning into the car and away from the edge, even with the safe experienced hands of your Pamiri driver behind the wheel. In many places the road is bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails.
The Anzob Pass is usually open from May through November. The wind is usually quite strong at mountain areas. High winds blow here all year long. Even in summer you can confront with snowy days. The pass is one of the most treacherous mountain passes of Central Asia. On October 23, 1997, an avalanche killed 46 people, burying 15 trucks and cars. The avalanche was so large that it took two weeks for the would-be rescuers to reach the victims. Some road sections may require a high clearance 4WD vehicle, in four-wheel-drive, driven by a driver experienced in 4WD drive techniques to drive the road without getting stuck. From the top of the pass there are stupendous views of the Zarafshan mountain range.
Located in the Fan Mountain range, the pass links Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, with the northern Fergana valley and the country’s second city, Khujand. Do not travel this road in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. The pass can be blocked in summer too, when rock falls have been known to block the pass for several weeks due to their severity, and rescue is difficult. It’s a real challenging road and a true test of your vehicle and your stamina because the road abounds in twists and turns with wheels sometimes hanging above the precipice.
On 2006, the pass was bypassed with a dangerous tunnel below the summit called Anzob Tunnel, or "The Tunnel of Death", with a length of 5km. The tunnel floor is a maze of deep, seriously deep, potholes hidden under a constant stream of water, the tunnel is strewn with abandoned construction machines and filled with the noxious black smoke of clapped out lorries. The poisonous air in the tunnel is barely shifted by one solitary fan somewhere in the middle of the tunnel, which gives some, but not sufficient movement to the air. There are no traffic lights to regulate traffic through this section, nor is there an ordered tidal flow of traffic being allowed to enter the tunnel, instead anarchy prevails in the darkness. The tunnel was completed in 2006. Also known as Tunnel of Fear, the tunnel can be a disturbing experience: no lights, ventilation or road markings, and it is liable to flooding. It's long, it's dark, it's really dusty and if you are claustrophobic, just be prepared to be uncomfortable. Even in good weather conditions the tunnel is flooded, turning the giant pot holes in the unfinished road into invisible death traps. Unmarked drainage channels waiting to swamp your bike. The tunnel lacks proper lighting and ventilation, breathing is hard and painful due to the thick mixture of exhaust gases.
Pic: Suhrob Niyozov