Ak-Baital Pass is the highest road pass in the former Soviet Union

Ak-Baital Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4.670m (15,321ft) above sea level, located in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan. At this elevation, it’s the highest road pass in the former Soviet Union.

Ak-Baital Pass

What’s the highest pass of the Pamir Highway?

Set high in the Pamir Mountains, the road to the summit, also known as Pereval Akbaytal, is the defiant M41 road, informally and more commonly known as the Pamir Highway. At this altitude, it's the highest point of this infamous route, sometimes referred to as “The Road from Hell”. This part of the Pamir Highway (M41) heads to Murgab through the Muzkul Mountains, and it is the highest pass in the former USSR.

When was the road through Ak-Baital Pass built?

The road through the pass was built during Soviet times to connect parts of their imperium in this region. Since the breakdown and Central Asia’s independence, not much coherent maintenance has been done to the road, only in spots where damage has been caused by flash floods or scree.

Is the road through Ak-Baital Pass unpaved?

The roadway is paved in some areas but is mostly unpaved. This section of the road is barely passable. Throughout the area, the land is typically rugged and dry. Construction and maintenance levels vary substantially along the highway. This is a hard climb even for 4-wheel-drive vehicles and can produce a headache and difficulty breathing. The dusty roads and constant wind mean that you get a bunged-up nose which makes it harder to breathe, and just getting in and out of the vehicle is hard work. The road is heavily damaged in places by erosion, earthquakes, landslides, and avalanches.

How’s the road through Ak-Baital Pass?

The pass will get you closer to the moon than perhaps you’ve ever been, and not just because of the head-swimming altitude–the landscape is lunar barren and otherworldly, though a little wetter than the earth’s orbiting rock – beautiful blue water lakes bejewel the area, the best being the haunting deep of a lifeless Lake Karakul. Traveling through here is like a trip to a parallel world, where the landscape is bigger, bolder, and infused with the eerie, all under the high, wide presence of a brilliant blue sky. Along the way, you may be lucky to see a few yaks wandering around by the road.
Pic: Gareth Williams