IntroductionIn July of last year I went on a lovely Trek to K2 Base Camp Concordia Gondgoro La - Askole to Hushe Route.
I hadn't posted a trip report yet but would like to share my experience for you all,if you're considering a trip like this.
It was a bit of mystery and I had always wondered what was so special about Karakoram and North Pakistan.Visiting Concordia K2 base Camp and standing in front of k2 became one of my lifelong dreams, when I could see traveler's faces light up with smiles while mentioning their experiences in Pakistan and mesmerized by the snow capped mountain photos.
After hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, Malaysia's Mt. Kotabalu and Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania my dream came true. I felt I was ready for the challenging 21-day itinerary to K2 Concordia Gondgoro La.
Arrived in Islamabad early morning. Pick-up arranged by the tour operator.. Changed money at Forex Market in Saddar Rawalpindi. No issues at all.
In Islamabad when we found that Islamabad to Skardu plane had not taken off for a number of days, so we had to go via road instead across the Karakoram Highway.
Karakoram HighwayAs we moved north From Islamabad into the foothills, then dropped into the huge Indus River gorge on the Karakoram highway. passed through few police checkpoints, we were stopped on one, after Daso as we were traveling after sunset and had to have armed military escorts in a convoy of blue flashing lights both in front and behind us with armed police, riding shotgun on the back of the jeeps, we made it through safely but were late arriving in Skardu. Flying takes about 1 hour, by road took nearly 26! As we traveled north, towns became more widely spaced, more arid, ever more precipitous smaller and the terrain more rugged. Soon the villages were the only green spaces in a brown and grey landscape.
Skardu & AskoleOn an ever narrowing paved road journey of more than a day brought us to an absolutely picturesque mountain town of Skardu. From there we had a day in a jeep on an ultra-narrow and most amazing terrain to a road block before Askole. We unloaded everything from one jeep, and the porters carried the gear around the bad section and then loaded it into another jeep that had been trapped on the other side of the landslide. While we were walking along this, rocks were still tumbling down the hillside. passing cliffs and river-crossings reached to the end of the road and the beginning of the trek in Askole village.
Trek on Baltoro Region to ConcordiaFrom Askole, at the beginning of the trail head, we walked for about a week along the raging Braldu river to the Baltoro Glacier to reach Concordia. Baltoro Glacier terrain is loose, very hilly, and riddled with crevasses and streams, where a rock layer from an inch to hundreds of meters deep covers the entire length of the glacier. From Askole we saw huge glaciers and stunningly tall peaks with striking rock faces. Many thousand vertical feet of technical ice and rock climbing must be completed before reaching to these summits. We kept asking our guide for details and he would answer," not climbed and no name yet" This seemed incomprehensible until we got into the "real" mountains a few days later.
Though there were no technically difficult parts,It definitely turned out to be a tough but rewarding trek. It required plenty of physical and mental fitness to be able to enjoy the extreme beauty and simplicity of the land.The local staff - porters, sirdar and trekking leader Raza were all supermen in comparison to us. They could hop and bounce between rocky paths effortlessly while I dragged my feet forward and upward. I reminded myself to take a break and look around, instead of getting carried away looking down at my feet. The endless snow capped mountain range and towering peaks looked ten thousand times grander than snapshots. One can only fully appreciate the juxtaposition of human and nature standing beneath Karakorum peaks. Truly a wonderland for the mind and the soul.
Halfway into my trip, my trek leader noticed that one of our fellow traveler did not eat much and looked a bit pale. After consulting we came to the conclusion that he should descend with a staff member for a few days and meet up with the next coming trip (if he could recover from a cold/flu? and altitude sickness). The trip leader Raza quickly came up with an alternate plans for him and down he went the next morning with Assistant guide Hassan and two staff members.
Gondogoro LaFrom Concordia, we walked up to the side Vigne glacier.
The high point of the trip (literally and emotionally) was getting up to Gondogoro La on a freezing morning, head-on with a blasting snow blizzard and a temperature of 16 below Celsius (around 3 F) plus windchill. Raza again looked after us and guided us step by step, scrambling to the pass onto the glacier, walking in single line to ensure safety from hidden crevasses . Better yet was having the opportunity to share the moment with my fellow trekkers who have been supportive throughout the trip. I would not have made it without the fantastic local team and my group of warm British, French, and Australian trekkers.
At midnight we were off, firstly scrambling over boulders, onto the glacier, walking in single file to ensure safety from hidden crevasses with crampons and ice axe. The ascent was not really very technical and we reached the top at the spur of sunrise (5600m). The view from the top of Gondogoro La was absolutely wonderful; Broad Peak, K2, G1, G2, Muztagh
Tower and Laila peak amongst some of the mountains dominated the horizon.
There were some fixed ropes at the descent and we continued down together. It was a long and really exhausting day, but the feeling you have when walking at 4600m again was so remarkable; it felt as if had a really strong tailwind that pushed me forward, it was truly amazing to experience the difference between 5600m and 4600m on one day. we reached our campsite at Khuspang late morning. Back in the tent I was so tired and cold I had the feeling I wouldn't never be warm again My muscles were aching from the trembling and that night I was just sitting there.
Hushe ValleyAfter a rest day at Khuspang we set off on the trek to Saicho. After a couple of hours we were off the glacier and again through greenery and at the beautiful campsite of Saicho. Next day we further descended to Hushe village and it was especially nice to walk through the trees again. we crossed many streams of beautiful meanders and natural bridges. Descending further down via Hushe valley we arrived in Khaplu and Skardu where we had a real and warm shower! I've never enjoyed a shower that much (it was the first real shower since departure from Skardu)
We were very lucky to be able to fly back to Islamabad on the day we had planned, cause the last 2 days no flights had been able to land in Skardu
due to the fact that the sight wasn't clear enough to ensure a safe landing in Skardu.
Conclusion and TipsAs resources are limited in the Karakorum, a cup of hot tea and a bowl of soup would make exhausted trekkers smile. A Trekker needs an open-mind to enjoy this trek which has rather basic conditions - absence of heated rooms or running water, far away from human settlement, just to name a few. Everything is carried up by human. No path for wheels. However, the warmth of the local people and the ever-magnificent changing mountain scenery are the core reasons visitors are attracting back. The simple Karakorumn lifestyle is a humbling and rewarding experience.
Several companies organise treks to most of the trekking areas of Pakistan. I gathered information from few Pakistan based companies. After comparison I decided on Vertical Explorers Expeditions Treks & Tours http://www.vepakistan.com/trekkingpk.php?id=2 as they offered the Trek and area I wanted to visit, at the right time of year, and the route that I wanted to do and I am very happy with their services. Shop around and take your time in selecting your trek and company as you will be spending a fair sum and will be 100% dependable on the trekking company. Book well in advance.