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K2 Concordia trek
with the Gondogoro La, if conditions are good
"I can really recommend Pakistan for any adventurous trekker. Absolutely lovely views and friendly people. Rough, but hey - that makes your own place feel like a palace!" - Anna Gatta, K2 Concordia 2009
"The world's greatest museum of shape and form" is how Italian mountaineer/author Fosco Maraini described Concordia in his book, Karakoram. Galen Rowell called it the "Throne of the Mountain Gods". In Concordia, four peaks over 8000m, including the horrifying K2 and countless other spectacular peaks leave you breathless.
After completing formalities in Islamabad, we fly/drive to Skardu and then drive to the trail head and meet our expedition porters. As we trek up to this other-worldly place we enter a remarkable wilderness of ice, rock and sky. By the time we reach Paiju Camp at the foot of the Baltoro Glacier, we begin to feel the pulse of creation: the ice melts the rocks roll, and the glacier creaks and groans, rearranging its icy rivers. At Concordia we are rewarded with the most incredible mountain views in the world, virtually surrounded by K2, Broad Peak (8051m), Gasherbrum IV (7925m), and razor-edged Mitre Peak. Naturally we have extra time here, to visit Gasherbrum Base Camp then we take the adventurous route out to Hushe, conditions permitting, for the best possible itinerary.
Concordia on an unusually cloudy day, looking down valley - Jamie
Our trekkers say:
Phil, Gordon, the rest of the staff and other clients were very helpful and great company. the logistics were flawless and the ATP staff handled things very well.
Bob Carney, K2 Concordia 2009
I had an interesting time in Pakistan. I had clearly underestimated the trek since I didn't know it was that much walk on glacier (joints in knees and feet got really tired). ... On another point it was interesting to be positively surprised about Pakistani men (did hardly not meet any women) and how open and humorous they were. Both me and Cassidy are kind of straight going boy-girls and we had fun, but after a few weeks we thought we knew well enough how it must be to be a Hollywood star and being stared at at all times, mostly. With or without scarf around the hair, we stood out!
Other comments on the trip: ATP are very pro! In Skardu Salman (guide) spent a full day with me and Cassidy to bargain on jewelry and carpets. Essar brought us to a very nice restaurant on the hills above Islamabad on our last night. The LO, Major Kiani, was good too. Really - they do more work than they have to and are very nice people.
Anna Gatta, K2 Concordia 2009
So far Islamabad seems safe for tourists, yes, even Americans and Brits. Skardu and the trek are also safe. We discuss and update this by email as it is important.
Note that the flight between Islamabad and Skardu is likely to be more reliable this year as the loss-making price for locals fixed by the Government has been removed. We will try to fly both ways and have added a day to the trip to cover this more fully.
Pakistan is facing multiple challenges and the security situation for foreigners could change. It would be prudent for you to take out insurance that includes cancellation insurance for your air tickets.
Crossing the Gondogoro La
Spectacular! This is one morning of real climbing, although with assistance from the rope fixing team from the nearest village. It is challenging terrain and requires the use of harness, crampons and an ice axe. A helmet is also useful as there can be rock fall. We only cross in good conditions, and if you are particularly intimidated, it may be possible to trek back the normal Askhole route.
You will need a harness set, some sort of helmet, ice axe and crampons. Note that crampons are not recommended with normal trekking shoes, but in this case if the crampons have plastic straps front and back (not clips) then they are fine for the few hours you are using them. Don't bring plastic boots for this pass crossing.
The trekking up to Concordia is TOUGH, with some very hot days when the sun shines, and if it isn't hot, expect rain or snow (bring an umbrella).
If you haven't been to Pakistan before, I suggest arriving a couple of days early; I will arrive around a week earlier and spend some time exploring.
Day 1 - arrive Islamabad
We meet you at the airport and take you to the hotel. Please look for a signboard with your name on it at the airport.
2 - Islamabad
There is some compulsory trekking paperwork that we have to take part in, and we also go sightseeing around Islamabad.
3 - travel to Skardu
Lets see how lucky we are. We aim to fly one way and bus the other; if our flight is canceled then we start driving immediately, and overnight at Chilas.
The proud owner of a beautiful truck - Jamie
4 - Skardu / drive Skardu
We are now in Baltistan, sometimes called little Tibet due to its geographic location and historic links with Tibet and Ladakh. If we are driving up then we arrive in the early evening.
5 - rest Skardu
6 - drive to Askhole (Thongol / Askoli)
We leave early for the jeep drive to the end of the road, and camp here. Lets hope the road is in good condition. This is the last village in the valley and has around 50 houses.
The trail gets dodgy. Women must not wear shorts on our trek - Jamie
7 - trek to Jhola camp ~3200m
The morning is spent sorting out loads while we can explore around the end of the Biafo glacier, a tortured sea of ice and rocks two kilometers wide at this point. It takes around two hours to cross the glacier on a established trail, walking most of the time on moraine stone and occasionally on ice. Once across the glacier it is twenty minutes to Jhola Camp, close to Korofan.
8 - trek to Paiju camp ~3600m
Gasherbrum 4 greets us near Paiju. From here are occasional scrambles across the rock. Three hours walk brings us to the point where waters from the Paiju Peak divide into four rushing streams, that we jump over and wade thru, or pay a bridge fee. In the east dominating the horizon are the towering summits of Gasherbrum 4, Cathedral Towers and Broad Peak. After negotiating scree and sand walk along the river we arrive at Paiju, a campsite situated in a grove of willow and popular trees with a fresh water stream running through it.
9 - Paiju camp / Urdukas
Either we rest here or trek to the next camp and rest there. Amazing views, whatever!
10 - Urdukas ~4200m
An hour out of camp we climb onto the snout of the Baltoro glacier, a vast, turbulent sea of rocks and ice more than two miles wide and nearly forty miles long. The first stretch winds around dodging gray crevasses and cross to the eastern side, dropping off into the ablation valley. The view is magnificent: the range of Cathedral and Trango towers, rising to 6000m+, on our left. The managed camp offers great panoramas.
11 - Goro II ~4500m
We head back onto the glacier that has its own surprises for us, small streams of water rushing over clear blue ice, and mushroom like huge ice towers rising from the glacier. As we proceed Gasherbrum 2 peeps from the right shoulder of Gasherbrum 4 in the east. As we camp on thin layer of moraine stones on glacial ice, the night could be cold.
12 - Concordia ~4700m
Initially we trek on the medial moraine of the glacier to the incredible junction of Concordia. As we make our approach, Gasherbrum IV stands guard in the east. On our left we have magnificent views of Muztagh Tower on the border between Pakistan and China. Excitement mounts and paces quicken as we arrive at Concordia, lured by the classic views of K2 (8611m), the second highest mountain of the world. Concordia, the meeting place of five glaciers is named after "Place de la Concorde" in Paris. Within an radius of 15kms are 41 peaks above 6,500 metres, almost half of them still virgin and unnamed.
13 - day trip to K2 Base Camp
This is a strenuous ten hour round-trip trek over snow, rock and ice. As we start, we cross crevasses of Baltoro glacier, then walk on the lateral moraine of the Godwin Austin glacier to the base camp of Broad Peak. Chogolisa (25,110ft) now appears on the scene, standing guard in the south and hinting at the new crossing from Concordia to the Hushe valley. As we proceed towards base camp, now we walk on the medial moraine of Godwin Austin glacier; ice with thin layer of soft snow. Walking here is much more easier than first two hours' stretch on rocks. When we arrive at K2 base camp at 16,500 ft, which is normally occupied by five mountaineering expeditions during climbing season each year, we are overwhelmed by the sheer size of K2. Return to Concordia for overnight.
14 - trek Shagring
15 - trek Gasherbrum Base Camp
16 - rest Gasherbrum Base Camp
A rest day amid the glorious mountains!
17 - Ali Camp
18 - Khuispan
19 - Saicho
20 - trek Hushe
Reach the road head village of Hushe.
21 - drive Skardu
We say Khuda Hafiz to our trek crew and ride soft top 4x4 jeeps for a bumpy ride through Karakoram. This part of Baltistan appears greener and more prosperous than on our drive to Thongol. Meals and overnight and shower at resort/motel. 5/6 hours jeep ride.
22 - towards Islamabad
Inshah Allah the Skardu flight operates otherwise we drive to Gilgit and the KKH then to Islamabad, a two day drive in total.
23 - Islamabad
We could be finishing the drive, or with luck we flew and have some free time to explore the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. It is also possible to fly out this evening but there is a chance you will be delayed and flights are quite hard to change.
24 - Islamabad
This is a spare day. At least one person should visit the Ministry of Tourism for a debrief to satisfy the paperwork.
25 - spare trek day
We have an extra day built in for those what if's.
Day 26 - depart
Transfer to airport for international departure flight. You could leave in the very late evening of the 25th day after 9pm.