Baltoro K2 Base Camp Treks

Bordering Pakistan and China, K2 stands tall in the Karakorum range at 28,251 feet making it the second tallest mountain in the world. Nestled deep in the Karakoram range of Northern Pakistan lies a series of legendary mountains steeped in mystery, cloud, snow and ice. It traverses some of the most spectacular mountain scenery on the planet, the most humbling of which is seen at Concordia, dubbed the “Throne Room of the Mountain Gods” by the famous mountaineer/photographer Galen Rowell, is a truly remarkable place.

Three major glaciers converge at this point, creating a natural amphitheater that offers a 360 degree panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Above, four of the world’s 14 eight-thousand meters peaks stand shoulder to shoulder, their soaring summits rising 3,050 meters/10,000 feet into the sky.

But there are other famous peaks here too: Gasherbrum IV, Chogolisa, the Golden Throne, Marble Peak, Crystal Peak, Angel Peak, Bride Peak, Mustagh Tower, and in the distance Paiju Peak and Masherbrum – not to mention the four eight-thousand metres giants themselves: K2, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum I and II. The region boasts the greatest concentration of 8,000-metre peaks anywhere in the world, and more than a 100 summits that exceed 7,720 meters/25,000 feet in altitude.

Summiting K2 is widely considered the ultimate prize for elite mountaineers. It may be second in stature to Everest, but it has a grace and symmetry that make it the most striking of the 14 eight-thousanders. It is possible to experience K2 without having to scale one of her death-defying flanks. The standard base camp approach, or trek, is in Pakistan. Karakoram has been described by Fosco Maraini as the greatest museum of shape and form on earth.

Treks into this region are undertaken ‘expedition style’ – everything needed for survival being carried in by a team of porters: food, tents, bedding, tables and chairs, fuel, cooking apparatus and personal belongings. Once you leave trailhead village of Askole on day one of the trek, there are no permanent human settlements. There are no villages along the way, and no where to collect supplies. The K2 Base Camp trek is one of the most popular trekking holidays on earth. Walking through the stunning Baltoro region of Pakistan to view the highest peaks in the world is an adventure of a lifetime and something everyone should (and can) experience at least once. While this iconic trek does not require climbing skills, you need a good level of fitness and determination. K2 base camp sits at 16,400 feet. The altitude change over the trek is spread out quite a lot as in the beginning it is slow going, walking up the valley and gaining height gradually.

The trek is challenging. The absence of proper trails and the loose moraine and scree on the Baltoro Glacier can make it slow at times. Additionally, you’ll be camping on the glacier for at least four nights, which is significantly colder than sleeping on rock or grass. Baltoro Glacier, the second-longest glacier outside of the poles, extends for 62 kilometers, and has been measured scientifically to a depth of more than a mile.

The surface of the glacier has a life all its own, with huge chunks of sharp-pointed ice (which resemble the white sails on sailing ships) ‘floating’ on top of the glacier – which is indeed a ‘river of ice’. There are also clear streams of melt-water on the surface of the glacier flowing for many kilometers through narrow channels, before being sucked down into the bowels of the glacier to join the highly sedimented water that flows at rock-bed level. This water later emerges as a fully-fledged river, that passes down the Shigar valley to the mighty Indus river, three hundred kilometers away.

When to trek

The best time for the K2 base camp trek is from June to end September with July and August being the optimum months. Before then, trekking is still possible, but until mid-June, excessive snow remains on passes and north-facing slopes, keeping any passes higher than 3,000m closed.

Most passes, including the Gondogoro La, are closed by the end of September when heavy snow returns. The mountain rescue support team near Gondogoro La departs in late September.

Difficulty Level of the Trek

This trek possible for people of all ages for teenagers to retirees. These  treks can always be modified to suit less experienced trekkers. As long as you are of reasonable fitness and not afraid of heights or rugged terrain, you should be capable of completing the hike. If you are not overly experienced in long distance hiking, make sure you communicate us. We will be able to customize your trip as to have shorter days walking and extra rest days.

K2 base camp trek is far more rewarding. The mountains in the Karakorum seem bigger and more imposing as they are unobstructed by their neighbouring ranges.

For experienced adventurers looking to escape the crowds, tackling the K2 Base Camp trek is a once in a lifetime opportunity to experience a kind of magic, beauty, and local culture not found anywhere else on our planet. K2 towers above the surrounding massif, completely unimpeded.

Weather

This is one of the world’s highest mountain ranges and trekkers must be prepared for all types of weather. Expect wind, rain and snow. During the trekking it may rain or snow once.

Where Do Groups Start the K2 Base Camp Trek From?

Trekkers flying in from overseas should arrive into the Islamabad International Airport in Islamabad. From there you will join your group and either fly to Skardu or make the journey overland by road, which takes two days with an overnight stay in between.

On the flight from Islamabad to Skardu, if you sit on the right-hand side of the plane, you may glimpse Nanga Parbat, the ninth highest mountain in the world.

Travelling from Islamabad to Skardu can be done via an overnight drive (midway included) or by a short flight combined with a shorter 4WD drive. This saves a day of driving on either side of the trek. To get from Skardu to the trail heads at Askole and Hushe, a transfer in a 4WD Jeep is necessary. Both journeys take around six to seven hours.

All groups set off by jeep from the capital town of Skardu. Jeeps are needed to reach trailhead at Askole. After leaving the small farming village of Askole, the trail enters Central Karakoram National Park, where trekkers will spend the next few days heading to the Baltoro Glacier.

A majority of the trek is spent walking on the mighty Baltoro Glacier (about 65 KM) Shortly afterwards, the Gasherbrum Range, which is a collection of five peaks over 7,000m including two over 8,000m.until it comes to the confluence with the Godwin-Austen Glacier at Concordia.

K2 Trek starting and finishing places

The trek begins in the village of Askole and ends in either  in Askole or  village of Hushe (depending upon the fitness, experience and route choice). This trek can be completed in either direction. However, starting at Askole is by far the better option as it gradual  and allows more acclimatisation.

Return Route Options for the K2 Trek

From Concordia, one has two options to finish the trek.

Option A:

Trek back (retrace the same trail) down the Baltoro Glacier to Askole. The most popular  itinerary is a simple ‘there-and-back’ route. This option starts and finishes at Askole and is easier as it avoids the high pass of Gondogoro La. It also offers more flexibility as it’s possible to take a number of detours en route including to Trango Towers base camp, as well as options to camp overnight at either K2 or Broad Peak base camps, or both. . If you don’t cross the Gondogoro La Pass, then the trek starts and ends in Askole.

Option B:

The much more exciting and interesting option is to head up the to Ali Camp (4800 m), where you will prepare to cross the Gondogoro La (5585 m), hiking through the night to do so. Gondogoro La is a high altitude mountain pass that proved to be the highlight of the trip for many. From the top (if the weather is clear) the views are second to none.

After descending the La (on a fixed rope), the trek follows the Hushe valley below for several days before arriving at the Hushe village. Travel back to Skardu from Hushe using 4×4 jeeps.

Best way to fly to Islamabad

There are several ways to get to Pakistan from Europe, Australia, Aisa, Middle and the USA all of which involve an international flight to Islamabad International Airport which is one of the main airports in Pakistan and closest to the trekking areas of Pakistan.

There are a lot of flights that fly to Islamabad through the Middle East. Like Turkish Qatar, Gulf, British Airways, Thai Air, China Airline, Emirates, and Pakistan Airline offer daily flights from Europe and the US to Islamabad, with a stopover at their central hubs. You must be careful though, as some of these layovers are very long indeed.

How to Plan the K2 Base Camp Trek

A significant amount of forethought and planning needs to be undertaken. Unlike trekking in Nepal or Patagonia, you cannot just show up and do the K2 trek on your own.

All foreigners must have a licensed guide with them. You will not be allowed to enter the Central Karakoram National Park (where K2 and the other 8,000 meter peaks in the area are located) without an authorized trek operator and government licensed guide.

In addition to needing a licensed guide, you will also need to obtain a No Objection Certificate (NOC). This permit allows you to travel into the National Park, which lies in a restricted military area, as the park borders China to the north and India to the east. Then there is the Pakistani visa to apply for, which actually needs to happen before the NOC is issued.

Phone reception (or Wifi) on the trail

No. Soon after leaving Skardu  all phone reception for the duration of trek. It is possible to buy a dedicated SCOM SIM card to use in some areas of the more remote regions trail head (Hushe & Askole), but these are not smartphones and can only be used for local calls and texts.

How to Choose Travel Insurance for the K2 Base Camp Trek

If you are going on a multi-week backpacking trip in the Karakoram of Pakistan, you are going to need travel insurance. We suggest to go with a plan that will cover for damage to your personal effects and offers compensation for emergency helicopter rescues (just in case). Read the fine print and confirm that you are covered for adventure sports like trekking at altitude.

Since the maximum altitude gained on the K2 trek is around 5,600 m, you’ll need to be covered up to that elevation.

Traveling without insurance would not be acceptable. we recommend World Nomads Explorer Plan.

How to Apply for a Pakistani Visa and NOC

With the Evisa program, from the time you submit your documents to the time you have a visa approval notice is about 10 – 15 days.

Foreigners still have to obtain a Letter of Invitation to apply for a visa. We can issue the LOI and other supporting documents you need to apply for your visa. Once you have had your visa approved, we will apply for your NOC.

We wills sort out this NOC for you. The NOC is a necessary permit that allows you to enter the restricted area within the Central Karakoram National Park. Without one, you cannot start the K2 Base Camp Trek.

Obtaining the NOC can take anywhere between 3 weeks and 2 months to complete, as this is processed in Islamabad before issuing trekking permits. Once you have your visa in hand, all you need to do is send a copy of your passport and visa approval notice to us and we will start the process of applying for the NOC. You should start this process as soon as your visa is approved.

Different Ways to trek to K2 Base Camp

The classic: K2 Base Camp Trek

The classic trek through Shigar valley Baltoro to the base of Mount K2 and return the same way back. It’s our most popular guided trek to K2 Base Camp from Mid May to October.

Length: 20 days | Difficulty: Strenuous

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K2 Base Camp Gondogoro La Trek

The classic trek through Shigar valley Baltoro to the base of Mount K2 with a spectacular climb to Gondogoro La (5585m) for unrivalled views of K2, GI & GII, and surrounding peaks. It’s our most popular guided trek to K2 Base Camp with all dates guaranteed to depart.

Length: 20 days | Difficulty: Strenuous

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Go remote: Grand Base Camps & Pass

An ultimate trek that takes you to the best vantage points of the Karakoram region with exhilarating crossings of the Gondogoro and a visit base camps of  four 8000 m + mountains including K2 , Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I & II Base Camps. It’s our most comprehensive trek in the region, but it does come with its physical and mental demands.

Length: 24 days | Difficulty: Strenuous

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Short on time: Express K2 Base Camp Trek

Follow the classic trail to K2 Base Camp, and either cross the Gondgoro La Pass or return the same way in 16 days.

Length: 16 days | Difficulty: Strenuous

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Leisurely paced: K2 Base Camp Trek

Designed for the adventurer who prefers a slower pace, more rest and some greater creature comforts. Savour the classic trek to K2 Base Camp with an itinerary that allows more time to acclimatize while enjoying overnight stays in comfortable tents and scenically located campsites, featuring off the ground camp beds.

Length: 28 days | Difficulty: Strenuous

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Add a climb: K2 Base Camp & Kusre Gunge 6040 m Peak

Trek to base camp before venturing to the next level – the summit of Kusre Peak (6040m)or Kusra Gunge (6040). It’s a perfect way to step into the world of high altitude mountaineering with an ascent on a classic Karakoram trekking peak. By acclimatizing during your trek to K2 Base Camp and Gondogoro la, this will maximize your chances of summit success on a challenging yet rewarding expedition.

Length: 25 days | Difficulty: Entry level mountaineering

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