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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Trip Report for K2 Base Camp treks in Pakistan led by Ade Summers in August '16

Photo: K2
In 2016 we decided to run two treks to K2 Base Camp in Pakistan at the same time: our K2 Base Camp & Concordia and our K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La. The plan was for both groups to walk together to K2 Base Camp then one group would return back down Baltoro and the second group from Concordia would follow Vigne glacier and ascend over the Gondogoro La pass to Hushe village. After the trek both groups were scheduled to meet back up again in Skardu then travel together back to Islamabad. These K2 treks were led by Ade Summers and supported by Pakistan guides Javeed and Wahab.

Our K2 Base Camp & Concordia is a non-technical walk however for a large portion of this trek follows a moraine covered glacier. The feedback received is this trek is more challenging than similar treks such as Everest Base Camp in Nepal. We recommend K2 Base Camp to experienced trekkers who have trekked to high altitude in the Himalaya on a previous occasion and experience in the outdoors such as regular walking and hiking in home country.

Whereas if you plan to join K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La trek then mountaineering skills are required to cross this technical pass. At The Mountain Company we have a process of reviewing pre trip applications sent in through our website before providing feedback on suitability and whether any further training is required. I have noticed from having led K2 Base Camp trek many times over the years that often other groups underestimate the challenge of crossing the Gondogoro La. It is important for safety to have mountaineering skills and experience of previous high altitude treks before considering this trip.

Our K2 Base Camp groups arrived to Islamabad on July 30th and were lucky to fly to Skardu on 31st. It is worth pointing that in the past this flight has been unreliable and often cancelled. If the fight is cancelled then we drive the Karakoram Highway (“KKH”) and spend the night in Chilas along the way. At the moment Foreign & Commonwealth Office ("FCO") to Pakistan advises against travel on the Karakoram Highway (“KKH”) and therefore at point of booking we require a signed FCO Awareness Disclaimer from all clients. This document confirms that person joining the trip assumes and accepts the risks associated with travel against FCO advice.

Since we last organised a trek in Pakistan back in August 2012 the flight to Skardu has become more reliable as there are more planes flying the route from Islamabad to Skardu so these days the chances of having to drive KKH are reduced (although of course still possible). Our K2 Base Camp groups were lucky as they also flew back to Islamabad after the trek too.

As the group flew to Skardu at start of the trip they had two nights staying at K2 Motel before starting the trek. On this extra day in Skardu the group enjoyed exploring the town and bazaar as well as walking up to the fort located on a hill overlooking the Indus river.

On August 2nd the group drove in local jeeps along the rough road to the road head at the village of Askole. On August 3rd they started their trek following the fast flowing Braldu river. Unlike treks in Nepal on K2 Base Camp trek there are no villages once one has left Askole. The trek to K2 Base Camp passes through rough and rugged terrain with impressive peaks flanking the Baltoro Glacier. As there are no villages in this area the trails are less well travelled and there are fewer bridges over the rivers so you must be prepared for river crossings.

We have carefully designed our itinerary for gradual acclimatisation and unlike most other companies we decide not have two nights in Paiju (3,383m) as this is too low to benefit from acclimatisation. Instead we continue onto Urdukas camp (4,130m) where we have two nights as this more beneficial at this altitude.

We made one change on our itinerary for summer 2016 as we now have one night at Concordia on the way up and then on next day we shift camp up to Broad Peak Base Camp. This works much better as one can walk up to K2 Base Camp from Broad Peak Base Camp then back down to Concordia. Whereas in the past we walked from Concordia to K2 Base Camp in a day and this is a very long way on rough moraine covered glacier. In practice this day walk is too far for most people and it is disappointing if group cannot reach their objective of K2 Base Camp.

I gather from Ade the first few days of the trek the weather was very hot and then they had rain at Urdukas followed by cloudy conditions for Concordia and trek to Broad Peak and K2 Base Camp. However luckily the group did see the mighty pyramid of K2 however not as clear as our groups have enjoyed in the past. The weather had been unstable in Karakoram from last week of July and this had fallen as snow that had accumulated on Gondogoro La.

One of the main risks of crossing this pass is rockfall and mudslides especially when fresh snow starts to melt. As a result the local Hushe Rescue Team were not in place to help teams over the pass. Therefore Ade made the decision that it was not safe to cross the pass and sadly our Gondogoro La group descended Baltoro with our K2 Base Camp team. The good news is that all eleven members of this group successfully made it to K2 Base Camp. Well done and congratulations!

We used SPOT gps tracker for this group, for each night on trek Ade checked in sending a gps signal to us so we could track this group's progress: click here to see the way points overlaid onto a map for K2 Base Camp

Thanks very much to Ade, Javeed and Wahab plus the rest of the Pakistan team for their hard work in leading this trek.

I have copied some feedback below from one of K2 Base Camp group:

"This is a great company that provides point by point communication and attention to details. The head guide was well chosen to blend the needs of all the clients. The food and food preparation was excellent. Attention was paid to care and cleanliness to avoid illness on the trek. The local support crew was excellent and was also on target with camp preparation and helping the clients. The camp sites provide great views of more 7 and 8000 meter peaks than most any place in the world. The timing of the trip length was excellent to help with acclimatization. The whole package from start to finish makes this group and this trek one of the best treks on the planet." Doctor Phil (USA)

The Mountain Company is promoting both our K2 Base Camp & Concordia and K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La for July 2017. We decided to organise these treks one month earlier compared to 2016 as there may be better chance of clearer weather and for crossing Gondogoro la in July. There is already interest in these departures so I am confident this will run as planned.

Please get in touch with us soon if you like to join one of our K2 Base Camp treks in July 2017.

Roland Hunter

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