K2, also known as Mount Godwin-Austen or Chhogori, is located on the border between China and Pakistan.
At 8,611 metres, it is the second highest mountain in the world, after Mount Everest and the is highest point of the Karakoram range.
For those who want to tackle the toughest mountain on the planet but lack the skills, time or expertise to make it to the summit of K2, trekking to Base Camp is the perfect option.
The route to and around K2 Base Camp and Concordia is considered to be one of the world’s greatest treks with breathtaking scenery unsurpassed anywhere else on Earth.
The route is lined with rugged mountains all the way from the starting village of Askole to Concordia in the mountain peaks.
En route, hikers get to see the Baltoro glacier, the Trango Towers, Masherbrum, K2 and Broad Peak amongst others.
Although the trek is not in the same league of difficulty or terrain technicality as the summit climb, the route still involves steep ascents and descents, high altitudes and the possibility of snow and ice underfoot – even in summer.
As a result, it is recommended to go with a guided group to make sure the route you follow is the most suitable.
A round trip to Base Camp and Concordia with a mid-level tour package will sit somewhere in the range of $3,000 to $5,000 USD, with all camping equipment and food being provided.
- One of the most beautiful mountain areas on Earth
- Towering peaks and spectacular views
- Concordia is often referred to as the ‘Throne Room of the Mountain Gods’ for 360-degree panorama of surrounding mountains and its impressive views of K2.
Wherever you are coming from, everything will start from the capitol of Islamabad. Fly into Benazir Bhutto International Airport and factor in a day to get trekking permits.
If the weather is good you can fly to Skardu on a small plane, taking 45 minutes, otherwise you will need to travel by road on the famous Karakoram highway.
This journey can take up to 30 hours due to poor road conditions.
Skardu is the gateway to the high peaks of northern Pakistan for all climbers. From here you need to take a 4×4 jeep towards Askole, the last village before reaching K2.
Beyond Askole is complete wilderness and glaciers and so the journey from here is on foot.
Depending on the route taken, the trek covers around 200 kilometres over the course of three weeks.
This means trekking up to seven hours per day, often starting around 6am or 7am.
It is very possible to complete the round trip in two weeks if you are in an athletic group and the weather conditions are favourable.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
Regardless of the time of year it is possible that you will experience snow and ice underfoot at various points so a good pair of boots is crucial.
The distance covered each day is tapered according to how steep the sections are, with some rocky climbs.
The Base Camp & Concordia trek is a high altitude walk but no technical skills are required, but you should have completed a number of practise walks at home and also spent time acclimatising along the route.
Due to its location away from civilisation, the expedition-style trek to Base Camp requires everything you and your team of porters to carry everything you will need for two or three weeks on the mountain.
After Askole there are no permanent settlements, so you must be fit enough to complete the required mileage whilst carrying up to 10 kilograms on your back.
All foreigners must have a licensed guide with them and cannot enter the Central Karakoram National Park (where K2 and the other 8,000 meter peaks are) without one.
On top of this you must have a visa for the country you are entering through.
To climb K2 from the Pakistani side, you will need permission from the Ministry of Tourism in Islamabad.
The peak fee for south side expeditions is $7,200 USD for a team of up to seven climbers.
To climb K2 from the Chinese side, it is necessary to apply for permission from the Chinese Mountaineering Association in Beijing.
The permit fee is around $1,000 USD per team on this side but the miscellaneous expenses will add up to much more.
The permit fee for Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak, and Gasherbrum II is $5,400 USD for a team of seven and $900 USD for each additional climber.
In addition to the peak fee, climbers need to pay a $10,000 USD rescue bond that is refunded if not used plus a $68 USD environmental fee.
A reasonable budget for trekking to Base Camp is $3,500 USD per trekker, not including the rescue bond.
Guided or Self-Guided
Most people choose to trek to Base Camp as part of a tour group, with guides and porters that know the mountain well.
The key draw of going with a tour is that each guest is given a 12-kilogram porter budget.
The company will also provide tents and food, along with recommendations for exactly what to bring and help you choose the best itinerary for your abilities.
If you are a seasoned pro, it is possible to do this trek without a guide and many people do so to practice and acclimatise for the K2 summit.
June through to September is the best window to trek to Base Camp.
July is the most favourable as the weather is stable, skies are likely to be clear and there is less snow at the higher elevations.
When there is no ice on the Gondogoro La descent the need for crampons is removed. August is equally nice but slightly busier.
Before June there is a risk of poor weather, snowfall, limited views and lots of snowpack above 4,500 meters.
Bear in mind that the beginning of the trek can be hot, dusty and exposed to the fierce sun, so you need to pack for a range of temperatures.
Whether you are going self-guided or as part of a tour, you should allow two or three weeks, with flexibility for unforeseen situations.
A typical three-week itinerary would be:
Arrive in Islamabad
Fly to Skardu
Preparation day in Skardu
Jeeps to Askole – elevation 3,048m
Trek to Korofong – elevation 3,100m
Trek to Bardumal – elevation 3,305m
Trek to Paiju – elevation 3,383m
Trek to Khoburtse – elevation 3,566m
Trek to Urdukas – elevation 4,130m
Acclimatising day at Urdukas
Trek to Goro 2 – elevation 4,250m
Trek to Concordia – elevation 4,600m
Trek to K2 Base Camp – elevation 5,150m – and then back to Broad Peak Base Camp – elevation 4,960m
Trek to back to Concordia – elevation 4,600m
Trek to Goro 1 – elevation 4,300m
Trek to Khoburtse – elevation 3,566m
Trek to Paiju – elevation 3,383m
Trek to Jhola – elevation 3,170m
Trek to Askole
Drive back to Skardu in jeeps
Fly to Islamabad
Depending on your tour, once at Concordia it is possible to take one of two options to finish the trek.
The first is to hike back the way that you came, down the Baltoro Glacier to Askole over the course of five days.
The second and slightly more interesting option is to head up the valley to Ali Camp at 4,800 metres, where you will cross the Gondogoro La – a high altitude mountain pass with outstanding the views.
After descending the Gondogoro La on a fixed rope and harness, you will trek a route down through the green valley below over three days before arriving at Hushe village. From here 4×4 jeeps will transport you back to Skardu.
During the trek to K2’s Base Camp and back, groups stop off at a series of seasonal camps, set apart at intervals with reasonable elevation gains. Unlike Everest, which offers some huts and lodges, all accommodation along the K2 Base Camp Trek is in tents, which the porters carry, set up, and break down daily.
Depending on the time of year, multiple groups will share the campsite, with up to 150 people at any one time – including trekkers, porters, guides, cooks, etc. Although at first it might seem busy and as though it would detract from the wilderness, camps take on a sort of festival atmosphere. People swap adventure stories over cups of chai, building a feeling of camaraderie.
At lower elevations, fixed camps have individual toilet ‘cubicles’ and a source of running water (though this water should always be treated), whereas at the higher camps, things get increasingly basic.
Concordia is home to one of the best campsites in the Himalayas, with 360-degree views of almost every major peak in the area.
Pakistan is often viewed as dangerous but there are plenty of areas that are perfectly safe for tourists. Spend some time at the start or end of your trek to explore this stunning country and Pakistan will reward you with your best experience ever.
The main destinations of choice for tourists to Pakistan are the Swat, Lahore, Khyber Pass, Peshawar, Karachi and Rawalpindi.
Take a drive on the highest road in the world – the Karakoram Highway. This high-altitude road connects Pakistan to China and goes straight through the heart of the mountains, offering unrivalled views of Rakaposhi, the Passu Cones and the Khunjerab border, all without leaving the car.
Throughout the country you can appreciate the Mughal Architecture. As one of the greatest dynasties of the Indian Subcontinent, the Mughals are to thank for the Taj Mahal and Red Fort in India, and Lahore boasts some of the empire’s most incredible architecture. The Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort are regularly noted as two of the most impressive buildings in Asia.
If you have a couple of days to play with in Skardu, take a visit to the Kharpocho Fort and Buddha roc, walk through the chaotic Skardu bazaar or head to the large, colourful Jamia Imamia Mosque.
|Skills Required||Hiking, Walking|
|Difficulty||3/5 - 4/5|
|Finishes at||K2 Base Camp 5135m|
|Length of route||190 - 200Km|
|Average time to complete||20 - 25 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||No|
|Highest point||5135 metres|
|Equipment needed||Camping equipment, Professional mountaineering gear, Trekking gear|
|Countries visited||Pakistan, China|