- An Adventure in Pakistan-K2 Trekking
- A Journey through the interior of Pakistan
- The Beginning of the Hike
- Baltoro Glacier
- Towads the Base of K2
- Initial K2 walk
An adventure in Pakistan- K2 Trekking
Mountaineers embark on their way to Pakistan to undertake the little-known Trekking to K2 Base Camp. Despite being one of the largest mountains in the world, few dare to undertake this challenging hike to its base.
For walking about 90 km over a glacier to reach at K2 base camp in northern Pakistan you have to arrive to Pakistan’s capital. Islamabad is quite different from Kathmandu. On the long journey from the airport to the hotel in the center, in relation to the capital of Nepal, Islamabad is a city that is more empty, cleaner, with a much less chaotic traffic, with straight, wide and well-maintained streets and avenues. Islamabad was planned and built to house the country’s capital in the 1960s, just like Brasilia.
At the hotel in Islamabad you will meet the unknown people who would share with you 180 km of bad paths over the Baltoro glaciers: You may also introduce to your trek guide if he is there.
The plan of this trip is usually of three weeks to arrive at the base camp of the so-called Wild Mountain: K2, the second highest elevation on the planet. The first major difficulty of this undertaking is to obtain a visa to enter Pakistan, and then to obtain permission for trekking to K2. Pakistan often appears at the top of the list of countries that most impose difficulties for issuing visas for tourists. In fact, the Pakistani government does not want tourists in the country. This process sometimes may take longer time, painful, so boring and difficult that needs patients.
To get to K2 from Islamabad, you have to cross from southwest to northeast passing through Abbottabad (the city where Bin Laden was killed), to the border with China. While travelling to Skardu, you may be stopped at different points to check the documents.
Finally, the third major difficulty is walking 182 km through the Karakorum Mountain Range, 120 km of which over the Baltoro Glacier, far from any human settlement, a mandatory path to reach K2 on the Pakistani side.
A journey through the interior of Pakistan
The walk began, in fact, in Askole, a village with no more than 70 houses, in the heart of Karakorum. It is known as the tallest and most remote human settlement in Pakistan, the gateway to four of the 14 mountains over 8,000 meters high on the planet, including K2. The first English colonists called this settlement the last settlement on the Indian subcontinent. In order to start walking, you have to travel a 686 km route between Islamabad and Askole in three long days in an old Toyota Jeep, like a bandeirantes, for the initial (or final, depending on the direction) of the celebrated Karakoram Highway.
This is a magical and eagerly awaited moment. Secretly, at the bottom of a dark, swampy portion of the mind, questioning whether the real goal on this trip is not to travel this stretch. You may have a huge fascination for riding on long, difficult and remote roads. You may have covered some of the most iconic highways in the Americas: Alaska Highway, Ruta Panamericana, U.S. Route 66, Transamazônica Highway, BR-319, Carretera de la Muerte, Ruta 40, Carretera Austral. Now, it’s the turn of the long-awaited Karakoram Highway.
You start early morning around 6 am and stop to sleep around 10 pm, 391 kilometers ahead, in Chilas: a village that, in the last population count, had 1,770 inhabitants. The next morning, continue on the Karakoram Highway for another 90 kilometers until you leave the road by a right fork. Demonstrating that no matter how bad it is, it can always get even worse, you take the S1 Strategic Highway towards Skardu.
The path became even more winding and extremely rugged. For 170 kilometers the left bank of the narrow bed of the gravel road was formed by a succession of unstable walls subject to landslides and rocks at any time. On the right, the track ended without any protection. The wheels on the right side of the jeep passed a span of huge gorges hundreds of meters away where the Indus River ran down there. [Joke ready: someone said “I hope that after K2 we will find Rio Returning.”] This is the most important river in the country. It rises on the glaciers of Tibet, cuts across Gilgit-Baltistan and runs southwest towards the Indian Ocean. In the early evening, you arrive Skardu, a big city for the region.
The next day or day after begins the journey for the last “road” section of the party. And again, history repeated itself, the road is dark and frightening to head for Askole, the trek’s gateway.
The road is as rugged as the days before. Only it rains a lot, all the time. Water and mud flows down the slope on the left, cross the path and feel like a waterfall through the precipices on the right, towards the Indus River. You arrive Askoli, mostly the late afternoon with a skilled driver and set up camp here.
The beginning of the hike
From Askole (3,000 m) onwards there is no support village. You have porters, mostly residents of Askole region, who transport food and tents to on their donkeys and mules. On the first day of trekking, you have to walk 20 km, until reached the Jhula Nala camp (3,159 m) 8 hours later by crossing the Biafo Glacier across its southeastern tip, a torment of ice and rock two kilometers wide that consumed three hours of walking.
The next day, another 8 hours to spent walking another 22 km to the Paiju camp (3,600 m), where you spend an extra day to rest and, mainly, for acclimatization.
From there, you walk on the Baltoro Glacier and travel longitudinally all its 60 km in three strenuous days. The Baltoro is a river of chaotically mixed rock and ice. You sleep at the Urdukas (4,011 m), Gore 2 (4,273 m) and Concordia (4,600 m) camps. For those who like to be surrounded by mountains, this path is an UNFORGETTABLE SHOW, where the streams formed by the thaw, the rocks rolling down the hill and the crack of the immense glacier accommodating its ice blocks do not let us forget that the soil is alive and in constant transformation. Possibly, these are the most incredible 60 km you have to cover in your life. And the beauty goes unmatched here. On the first day on the glacier, the majestic Trango Towers (gallery below) appear, pointed granite formations with more than 6 thousand meters of altitude.
On the second day the Gasherbrums, Broad Peak, K1 start to be seen here and there (gallery below). The latter, known for centuries by local people as Masherbrum, a highly technical mountain and rarely climbed, was the first high mountain (7.891 m) cataloged by the English in the Karakoram Range, hence the name K1 (guess what was the second…).
And on the third day, at the end of the Baltoro Glacier, the climax of this whole hike is reached, an absolutely unique place on Earth, one of the most spectacular high mountain camps in existence: Concordia. This is a confluence of Baltoro with three other glaciers forming a gigantic and immense amphitheater, a veritable open-air museum of contours, lines and shapes. Within a 15 km radius of Concordia there are 41 snow-capped peaks above 6,500 m, half of them unnamed and not yet climbed. Among these, almost within reach are four of the highest mountains on the planet: K2, Broad Peak and Gasherbrums I and II.
Mountains are simply accumulations of rock, sand and ice. But chance here produced a set of forms that the best of architects would not conceive of.
On the third day in Concordia, You start hiking at 5 am towards the K2 base camp. The sun shall not have risen, but it is already day at the beginning of the walk. You leave Concordia up a snowy slope heading north, which give access to the Godwin-Austen Glacier. At its end, 12 kilometers ahead, is the base of the K2, 5,050 m above sea level.
Towards the base of K2
The further you walk, the more the mountain loomed in front of us. Reach at the Broad Peak base camp around 8 am just in time to have breakfast and at noon you arrive at K2 Base Camp. Emotionally, it is the climax of this entire trip. Finally, after so much planning and effort, you will be at the foot of the Wild Mountain, one of the most beautiful places in world of mountaineering.
The return to Concordia is a bit tense. The snow is very soft due to the sun since the early hours of the morning. Routinely, the legs sank knee-deep in the snow as you walk back. Sometimes up to the middle of the thigh. It is very tiring.
The next six days walk back to Skardu the same way if you are not crossing the technical pass known as Gondogoro La (5690m)
After the journey in Pakistan, A tear in the eyes and a strong hug said it all. You return to Islamabad and on the same day take the Airbus back to homeland.