The K2 base camp trek is a stunning journey to the foot of a legendary mountain in the Pakistani Karakoram.
The K2 base camp trek through the mighty Karakoram mountains of Pakistan is one of the world’s finest high-altitude treks. Earlier this year an opportunity arose to join Lost Horizon Tours and Treks on a trek to K2 base camp combined with a technical crossing of the Gondogoro La Pass.
With over 25 years of experience guiding in the mountains of Pakistan, Lost Horizons were the perfect partner for an expedition of this kind. After completing the Everest base camp trek earlier in the year, I couldn’t resist the chance to trek to this infamous mountain too.
At 8,611m (28,251ft), K2 is the second highest mountain on Earth, one of just 14 eight-thousanders and a member of the seven second summits. A mere mention of the legendary mountain is enough to make one’s blood run cold. K2 is known as the ‘Savage Mountain’ due to the extremely difficult ascent and one of the highest fatality rates among the eight-thousanders.
K2 is the only eight-thousander which has never been climbed in winter. Unpredictable avalanches mean that one in four summiteers die on its lethal slopes. K2 may be second in stature to Everest, but it demands significantly greater technical climbing skills. Known as the ‘mountaineer’s mountain’, it is often considered the ultimate challenge in high-altitude climbing.
Pakistan is open for business
The K2 base camp trek is a journey to the Himalaya less visited. Although technically a separate system, the Karakoram Range adjoins the ranges to the southeast and is loosely grouped into the ‘Greater Himalayas’ of Asia spread across Bhutan, China, India, Pakistan and Nepal.
While the mountains of Nepal continue to attract more and more visitors (over a million in 2018), Pakistan’s trekking industry flatlined during the years following 9/11.
Recently, tourist numbers have started to rise. Imran Khan highlighted tourism as one of his main objectives in his “100 day agenda” following his 2018 election victory. Initiatives have included increasing the availability of tourist visas, developing an online e-visa system, inviting the Royal Family for a state visit and recommencing direct flights to Islamabad – Briti
K2 base camp trek logistics
The below is the itinerary we followed, although it should be noted that all schedules come with a certain degree of flexibility. Some members of our group wanted to ensure we had ample acclimatization so we built in three rest days.
As we were trekking late in the season we didn’t know for certain that the Gondogoro La Pass would still be traversable. Our guide used the final rest day at Ali camp as a recce day to ensure the pass was still safe to cross.
Enter the Karakoram
During the short flight from Islamabad to Skardu, I caught my first glimpse of the mighty mountains of Pakistan. The distinctive shape of Nanga Parbat appeared out of the window as we descended. At 8,126m (26,660ft), it is the ninth highest mountain in the world.