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Gasherbrum II 8035m - Pakistan
We had a team of nine climbers for the GII expedition and a team of seven
trekkers up with us to base camp.
The Karakoram and Gasherbrum II
The mighty Karakoram range of mountains may be less famous than the Himalaya, but if anything, it is more daunting, and is more of a mass of mountains than a chain. See the picture above, a panorama from high on Broad Peak (the mountains are not GII).
Pakistan has four of the 8000m mountains on its border with China (Xinjiang Province), K2 8611m, Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak; 8086m?), Gasherbrum II 8035m and Broad Peak 8046m, and Nanga Parbat 8167m? is completely in Pakistan. Jamie was the first New Zealander to climb Broad Peak, in 2004.
This year is "Visit Pakistan 2007" but it seems that nobody has told their overseas embassies—or told them something different—all the Spanish expeditions had real trouble even getting visas. Even with mine from Kathmandu, they have placed unusually severe conditions on it, such as not visiting border areas (we do), that I will have to waste time sorting this out in the next day or two.
In general Pakistan expeditions have far more paperwork challenges than Tibet or Nepal.
Our expedition start
We meet in the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad, a planned city less than 60 years old, and one that is hard to initially discover the soul of. In contrast its twin city Rawalpindi, around 15kms away, is the real Pakistan with a huge market well worth exploring. We have to visit the Ministry of Tourism to meet our Pakistan army liaison officer, who will accompany the expedition, and to complete other formalities. In contrast to the corrupt ways of Nepal and the unfathomable ways of Tibet, here they take their rules very seriously and consider every mountaineer a spy to be watched. Individual travellers, with freedom to travel the country are not watched at all—work that out!
We get to the mountains by driving for two long days, the first up the Karakoram Highway that goes to China, then turn off to go to Skardu, a sleepy town that is the gateway to the Karakoram. There we spend a day while our Liaison Officer registers us with the intelligence authorities, and then we can begin the trek into Base Camp.
It is six days trekking, including a rest day for acclimatization, up to Concordia, the famous viewpoint where two glaciers meet and the mountain panorama is huge. After a couple of days here our trekking team leaves, heading either over the Gondogoro La or if conditions are not perfect, back to Askhole.
For us it is another day to the base camp for Gasherbrum I and II at around 5100m. So we should arrive at the mountain rather fitter than in Tibet, where we sit in a Landcruiser for five days to get there.
Let the expedition begin!
Mitre Peak from Concordia, a coming storm - Jamie