K-2, “mountain of mountains,” as referred to by Reinhold Messner in the account of his 1979 ascent of this giant, is 8611 m. high.
K-2 is located in the heart of the Karakoram Range and can be seen in its entirety from Concordia. This sublime pyramid sits at the head of the Godwin Austin Glacier which unites with a second glacier at Concordia to form the mighty Baltoro Glacier.
Galen Rowell described Concordia as the “throne room of the mountain Gods” after viewing the exceptional mountain needles ripping open the clouds in blue expanse from the 5000 m. floor. Four peaks above 8000 m. sit within a radius of only 21 km. from Concordia, honoring this site with the largest concentration of the highest peaks on earth.
The journey to the second highest mountain in the world begins with an overseas flight to Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. One night is spent in Islamabad to obtain trekking permits and then it’s off to Skardu. Weather permitting, we will fly to Skardu; otherwise, we will travel by road.
The mountain flight offers fantastic views as the plane follows the Indus River Valley and brushes past the ninth highest mountain in the world, Nanga Parbat. Looking out the aircraft window one sees a vast ocean of peaks stretching endlessly into the horizon. This area exemplifies “continents in collision” with four of the world’s greatest mountain ranges (Himalaya, Karakoram, Hindukush and Pamir) emerging below.
Don’t fret if bad weather bars this magnificent plane ride for the drive to Skardu over the famous Karakoram Highway (KKH, the old silk route) is just as spectacular. The drive takes two days with an overnight near Gilgit.
Skardu (2500 m.) is the capital of Baltistan and gateway to the high peaks of Northern Pakistan. After purchasing supplies and an overnight rest in Skardu we will proceed by jeeps as far as the track is passable towards Askolie. Askolie is located at 3300 m. and is the last village before reaching K-2.
Beyond Askolie is complete wilderness consisting of glaciers spouting the beginnings of rivers with mountain guards of unimaginable heights lining their beds. From Askolie we begin the walk taking two to three days to reach Paiyu Campsite (3666 m.) situated under the majestic Paiyu Peak (6660 m.) with the tip of the 58 km. long Baltoro Glacier visible in the distance.
The next stage of our journey takes us over the Baltoro Glacier to our destination, Concordia. The walk on the Baltoro provides one with ultimate mountain scenery with such well known mountains as Masherbrum (7852 m.), Uli Biaho Tower (6190 m.), Trango Towers (6300 m.), the Grand Cathedral (5228 m.) and Muztagh Tower (7273 m.) shooting up from this immense highway with sheer vertical lines that defy reality.
After four to five days we will reach 4691 m. at Concordia. Here one is encircled by Marble Peak, K-2 (8611 m.), Broad Peak (8047 m.), Gasherbrum Group, Golden Throne (7312 m.), Chogolisa (7654 m.) and Mitre Peak (6038 m.). Indeed, this is “Throne room of the mountain gods.” We will spend two to three days at Concordia and then begin our return to Askole via the same route. Upon reaching the lush green fields of Askolie a walk ends and a new way of viewing our earthly existence begins.
Arrival at Islamabad Airport. Rest day
Hotel, flight. We will be on the most fantastic commercial flight in the world taking us from Islamabad to Skardu. If the weather is bad, we will drive in two days on the famous KKH to Skardu.
Camp, jeep drive. It takes about six hours to drive from Skardu to Askolie or near Askolie. The drive through the Braldu Gorge is guaranteed to knock your socks off!
Camp, trek begins. The walk from Askolie to Korofong is on an easy gentle plain and can be done in 6 to 8 hours. We cross the snout of the Biafo Glacier on the way. The first sight of the pinnacles of the Paiyu Group is stunning.
Camp, trek, river crossing. We follow the Braldu and the Biaho rivers to a river’s edge campsite. On the way we have to cross the Domurda River coming out of Choktoi and Panmah Glaciers. This crossing is done on a ‘garari’ or on a bridge upstream. Depending upon the time it takes for the crossing, the walk can take 8 hours or more.
Camp, trek. This takes about 6 hours of walking and will give us our first sight of the mighty Baltoro Glacier and the Trango and Cathedral Groups. Paiyu is the last campsite before the Baltoro. Efforts are underway to clear out the pollution and there has also been a recent plantation of many trees in the area. The walk follows the Biaho River all the way to Paiyu. The campsite is perched high above the valley with excellent views.
Camp, rest day. Wash up, relax, read, climb on a steep ridge behind the camp, sing and dance with the porters! Depending upon the size of the party, goats or a goat will be sacrificed and meat will be distributed to the porters as a form of thanksgiving and to bring us good luck on our next day’s walk on the Baltoro.
Camp, trek on Baltoro Glacier. Six to eight hours of walking. A tough day as we climb on the rocky moraines of the Baltoro, but the sight of Baltoro pinnacles and Paiyu Peak is astounding! An earlier alternative campsite is Liligo, but there is no water there. We will cross some gushing streams on the way.
Camp, Baltoro Glacier. A short 4 hour plus walk on the rocky moraines and ablation valley of the Baltoro. We will cross couple of icy side glaciers on the way and may have our first sight of Broad Peak and the Gasherbrums. The historical campsite is located on a grassy slope high above the Baltoro and commands one of the most intense mountain views in this world. The campsite was prepared by the Duke of Abruzzi in the beginning of this century.
Camp, Baltoro Glacier. This is a tough day’s walk on the undulating Baltoro. However, the footing becomes easy as the rocks become smaller and smaller as we move up the Baltoro. It takes about 8 hours to get to Goro. We walk right smack up the center moraine of the Baltoro. As Masherbrum emerges on the right, it takes our breath away and so does Gasherbrum 4 right in front of us. Goro is a cold campsite! It has a great view of the Muztagh Tower.
Camp, Baltoro Glacier. An easy 4 hour plus walk. As we enter the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods and see K2 emerging on our left, we feel that we have arrived at a very special place on the planet. For many, it is lifelong goal and a pilgrimage to come here. A place of superlatives and without any parallels!
Camp, rest, explore base camps. You can just sit and watch K2 all day long and sip tea; which many have done and have still not been able to fully get K2 in their system! Or you can go on a long whole day tiring trip to K2 Base Camp (4,800 m.); or go the other way towards the Gasherbrum peaks.
Camp, Baltoro Glacier. Return to Goro camp site.
Camp, Baltoro Glacier. Return to Urdukas camp site.
Camp, trek. We return to Paiyu camp site not stopping at Khobrse on the way down. We are now well acclimatized and the walk down is not as hard as going up and much quicker.
Camp, trek. We stop at Julla which is the place of crossing the Domurda River. We do not stop at Bardumal on the way down.
Camp, trek. We return to Korofong camp site after crossing the Domurda River.
Camp, trek. We return to the ‘metropolis’ of Askolie! Well, at least it feels like one after being on the Baltoro.
Hotel, jeep drive. We return to a hot shower and a warm comfortable bed!
Travel to Besham, stay at hotel
Besham to Islamabad Airport