The K2 Base Camp Trek is the best multi-day trek the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan you can find. If you are thinking of doing the trek to K2 Base Camp, you probably have read about the Everest Base Camp Trek as well. Is it the same? No. If you have ever gone trekking in Nepal and are thinking of going trekking in Pakistan, you can make yourself ready for a completely different experience. In this blog post, we tell you all there is to know about K2 Base Camp, find an interactive map and we speak to Adeel Mirza about the difficulty of tackling this fantastic trek.
On the K2 Base Camp Trek you won't find any teahouses, batthis or other comfortable places to stay. On this legendary trek, you will spend most of your nights in a tent. There is hardly any infrastructure on the route to K2 Base Camp and that makes this trek an adventure for the intrepid trekker. If you want to see, mountains, mountains and even more mountains, K2 Base Camp is calling you. You must go.
What and where is K2 Base Camp?
K2 Base Camp is the base camp for climbers of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. You can find K2 in the northwestern Karakoram Range in Pakistan, partly in the Kashmir Region at an altitude of 5,117 m or 16,785 ft. As is the case with many high peaks, there are different names for K2. In Chinese K2 is known as Qogir Feng, and locally they call the mountain Dapsang or Chogori. Another English name for the mountain is Mount Godwin-Austen, after Henry Haversham Godwin-Austen a British topographer who surveyed the area around K2 in the late 19th Century. Of course, there are also nicknames for K2. Besides nicknames like The Mountaineers' Mountain or the King of Mountains, K2 is best known as the Savage Mountain. Why, we hear you ask? That is because George Bell, who climbed the mountain in 1953 explained to reporters that the mountain is so savage that it tries to kill you.
The trek to K2 Base Camp Trek is not savage, but it is definitely wild. This trek allows you to experience an expedition without having to climb any peaks. Unlike at Everest Base Camp, there is not much at K2 Base Camp. As a matter of fact, outside the trekking and climbing season, there is absolutely nothing at the location of K2 Base Camp. Tents will have to be carried in and out when you want to go to the base of the Savage Mountain.
Why the K2 Base Camp Trek?
Why not? No, seriously. If you are looking for a long trekking adventure, one that is completely different from other treks in the Himalaya and the Karakoram Range, the K2 Base Camp Trek ticks all the boxes. We speak to Adeel Mirza of 100 Adventures, organizer of the K2 Base Camp Trek, and other treks in the Karakoram. "On the K2 Base Camp Trek, you will definitely get to know yourself. It is a trek that is much rougher and more authentic than some other treks in the world. Because there are no permanent settlements along the trail, you really feel as if you are one of the first ones to ever hike here. It is so unspoiled."
Unspoiled also means that the trek has to be done expedition-style. "Correct," Adeel agrees. "The K2 Base Camp Trek comes with some logistics. All our gear, all our food and every single little thing that we need along the way have to be carried and out. This means that we need a lot of guys to travel things. The food, for example, only gets arranged at the last settlement before we leaving civilization. Goats and chicken travel with us, so we we can eat protein-rich and fresh food in our camps. The K2 Base Camp Trek is cooler than the Everest Base Camp Trek, that's for sure."
K2 Base Camp Trek vs Everest Base Camp Trek
Comparing the K2 Base Camp Trek to the Everest Base Camp Trek is like comparing apples to pears. Nonetheless, everyone compares the two. Everest and K2 are the two highest mountains on the planet and that makes the two base camp treks also very interesting. A lot of people who do the K2 Base Camp Trek, have compared it to the Everest Base Camp Trek at some point. In the below table, you will see that there aren't too many differences. That is because one big difference can not be explained in numbers.
Unlike on the Everest Base Camp Trek, you don't have the comfort of teahouses on the K2 Base Camp Trek. The K2 Base Camp Trek is a proper expedition. You need to carry everything you need on the trek in and in the end, carry everything out again. If you prefer to stay under a roof every night and sleep in a bed, the K2 Base Camp Trek is not for you. Go for the Everest Base Camp Trek and spend the nights in comfortableteahouses instead.
Best Season for the K2 Base Camp Trek
There is only one distinct trekking season for the K2 Base Camp Trek: Summer. The months of July, August and September are the best to undertake the trek. However, it is als to possibel to the trek in May, June and October. Also, although Pakistan is an Islamic country, it will be fine to do the trek during Ramadam. Just don't expect food and beverage to be served at the Chaikhanas, the Pakistani teahouses.
Is It Safe to Travel to Pakistan?
Doing the K2 Base Camp Trek means that you will have to travel to Pakistan. Pakistan is a country that has reached the headlines many times in the last few years. Is it safe to travel? We speak to Adeel about safety in Pakistan. "Whilst it has become incredibly difficult to predict where in the world is safe and where in the world is not these days, from our experience of traveling year after year in northern Pakistan, I would say that the regions we go to, in the manner with which we travel, are safe for western visitors," says Adeel.
"We believe the situation has improved radically since the appalling events of December 2014 when a school was attacked in Peshawar and several children were killed. Since then, the authorities – the army, the politicians, and the people in general – seem to have galvanized their opinion against the militants and marginalized them. So to answer the question, in our opinion, yes, this region is safe for international travelers."
"Back in the day, northern Pakistan was one of the most exciting adventure travel destinations in the world", Adeel says. "There were rafters, trekkers, paragliders, horse riders, mountain bikers, all traveling the region for its immense natural beauty and fascinating and hospitable population. The people you’ll meet in Pakistan, in the true traditions of Islamic hospitality, are among the most hospitable and friendly you’re ever likely to meet."
K2 Base Camp Trek Difficulty
The K2 Base Camp Trek is no walk in the park but when you know what trekking at high altitude entails, you will respect the trek, but you won't find it necessarily difficult. With the right physical fitness and a just mindset, anyone can do this trek. The point when doing a trek like this one is to take it easy, to stick to the itinerary and to trek high and stay low, ensuring that your acclimatization is on point. People of all ages have done the K2 Base Camp Trek, you are not the first one to do it and let's hope you will also not be the last. It will help to do some epic before you undertake the K2 Base Camp Trek. Think of climbing Kilimanjaro or like doing the Everest Base Camp Trek or the Annapurna Circuit Trek.
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Is the K2 Base Camp Trek Safe?
Reading about Savage Mountain, about a lack of infrastructure and about having to stay in a tent for over two weeks may not really ease your jitters when you are thinking of doing this trek. "The K2 Base Camp Trek is definitely safe," Adeel continues. "Our guides have been selected on the basis of their technical competence, proven safety performance, impeccable judgment, friendly attitude, and ability to provide useful and expert instructions.
They are also very professional and well trained in first aid and personal protection equipment. First aid kits are available on all treks. In addition, the routes are ideally designed to give you enough time to acclimatize. While the intention is to stick to the described route, a certain degree of flexibility is built-in. In some cases, it may be necessary to change the route here and there. The mountains are full of surprises, and the weather in Pakistan Mountains is unpredictable. The guides continuously carry out risk assessments throughout the expedition. It is, therefore, best to plan a number of extra days in Pakistan for possible unforeseen circumstances."
K2 Base Camp Trek Itinerary
You will need at least 14 days to complete the K2 Base Camp Trek. Sensible and professional tour operators will always schedule a few extra acclimatization and rest days. They do this to make sure that there is a safe margin for error and for bad weather. The weather in the Karakorum is unpredictable and therefore one must never push too much. This K2 Base Camp Trek itinerary is based on the one of 100 Adventures, the company of Adeel Mirza, mentioned in this blog post.
Day 1: Islamabad
On arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel, in Islamabad. You will meet your guide in the afternoon at the hotel for a trip briefing and gear check. If the flight lands late night the briefing will be held the next day.
Day 2: Fly to Skardu (45 min flight / 10-12 hour drive to Chilas)
a) Weather permitting, we take a spectacular flight to the high mountain region of Baltistan in the northeast. On a clear day, we should be able to see Nanga Parbat (8124m) and K2 (8611m) towering above all other mountains. (adverse weather in Islamabad or Skardu may affect our flight plans and make it necessary to drive by the Karakoram Highway to Skardu, a journey of approx two days).
b) In case of cancellation of flight drive. 10-12hrs by air-conditioned coach/car to Chilas (480km) on the Karakoram highway. Overnight at hotel
Day 3: Drive to Skardu from Chilas / Rest Day (2340m / 7677ft)
a) Overnight Hotel. Preparations for our trek and depending on our time of arrival into Skardu, there may be time to visit the town and possibly an excursion to Kachura Lake situated at the edge of the valley. Skardu is the regional capital of Baltistan, lying at the edge of a broad floodplain that is the confluence of the Shyok, Indus and Basha Rivers.
b) If we are driving the road journey today will be 7-8 hrs to Skardu (275km). On route are spectacular views of Nanga Parbat (8125m) overnight Hotel.
Day 4: Drive to Askoli (3000m / 9842ft) Approx 7-8 hrs 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. Overnight in tents.
Day 5: Trek to Jola (3200m / 10498m) Approx 6-8 hrs After the considerable organization of equipment, supplies and porter loads for the journey ahead, we commence trekking towards Jola. The walk from Askoli to Jola 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. Overnight in tents.
Day 6: Trek to Paiyu (3450m / 11318ft) Approx 7-8 hrs
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. The Masherbrum Group may be glimpsed to our right via the Xiangang Valley. The range is a vast array of peaks that extend almost the full length of the southern side of Baltoro. Walking conditions are hot and dry and care must be taken to prevent sunburn.
Day 7: Paiyu - Rest Day (3450m / 11318ft)
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.
Day 8: Trek to Kurbutse (3930m / 12893 ft) Approx 6-8 hrs
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.
Day 9: Urdukus (4050m / 13287) Approx 3-4 hrs
A short 4 hour plus walk on the rocky moraines and ablation valley of the Baltoro. We will cross a couple of icy side glaciers on the way and may have our first sight of Broad Peak and the Gasherbrum. 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 at the beginning of this century.
Day 10: Trek to Goro II (4380m / 14370 ft) Approx 6-7 hrs
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 7 hours to get to Goro II. We walk right up the center moraine of the Baltoro. As Masherbrum emerges on the right, it takes our breath away and so does Gasherbrum IV right in front of us. Goro is a cold campsite! It has a great view of the Muztagh Tower.
Day 11: Concordia (4650m / 15255 ft) Approx 4-5 hrs
A special day today as we trek into Concordia and enjoy our first views of K2 (weather permitting!). This location must be considered one of the world's most spectacular camps as it is surrounded by stunning peaks. As we leave Goro II, the Biange Glacier to the north provides a superb view up to Mustagh Tower (7284m), one of the most difficult mountains in the Karakoram to climb. The trail continues along fairly easy rolling slopes of moraine marked by cairns and then passes among ice towers or seracs as we approach the colliding glaciers at Concordia. Mitre Peak (6030m) rises to our right, with Golden Throne (Baltoro Kangri) (7312m) beside it, while the Gasherbrum Group is directly before us. The expanse of Broad Peak (8050m) is to the left and finally, K2 (8611m) looms above the ridge towering over the Godwin Austen Glacier twelve kilometers away.
Day 12: Concordia - K2 Base Camp - Concordia - Approx 4-5 hours each way
Our schedule is somewhat flexible according to the prevailing weather conditions and group preference. One of our objectives is to visit K2 Base Camp (approx 5150m) and the Gilkey Memorial, a spectacular full-day trip from camp. The most exciting day of this trek as you walk past Broad peak and get nearer to K-2 and arrive at the strip which is the most popular camping area for nearly all the expeditions to K-2. Here some of the top climbers of the world can be seen busy in preparations for the challenges ahead. Return to your camp at Concordia for overnight (K-2 base camp is too high and trekkers can get seriously ill from altitude if they stay for the night at this altitude, therefore the group must return to Concordia).
Day 13: Hike to Goro II (4380m / 14370 ft) Approx 4-5 hrs
We begin the return trek descending first to Goro II where we have magnificent views of the surrounding granite spires and towers. Camp.
Day 14: Trek to Urdukus (4050m / 13287) Approx 3-4 hrs
We continue our descent of the Baltoro glacier, today reaching as far as Urdukas where we make camp off the glacier for the first time in several days.
Day 15: Trek to Paiyu (3450m / 11318ft) Approx 8-10 hrs
Crossing the Baltoro to its north side beneath the towers of Uli Biaho we finally climb down its snout to reach a good trail back to the spring oasis of Paiyu.
Day 16: Trek to Jola (3200m / 10498m) Approx 6-7 hrs
Following the Braldu River downstream, we make the detour into the Panma Valley to the bridge across its tributary to reach Jhola or Korofon.
Day 17: Trek to Askoli (3000m / 9842ft) Approx 3-4 hrs
The final day of trekking to the village of Askole. Here we say goodbye to our porters who will return to their villages.
Day 18: Drive to Skardu (2340m / 7677ft) Approx 5-6 hrs
Making an early start we drive to Skardu through the relatively verdant Shigar Valley. We check into the hotel and the afternoon is free for sightseeing.
Day 19: Fly to Islamabad or drive to Chilas
a) Weather permitting we will fly to Islamabad today, on arrival transfer to the hotel for overnight.
b) In case of flight cancellation, it is necessary to drive to Chilas and overnight at the hotel on the banks of the Indus.
Day 20: Islamabad
Extra 'cushion' day! *Note: Day 20 will be used as a 'cushion' day in case of delays in travel due to weather, route change, health, acclimatization issues during the trek, etc.
Day 21: End of tri pin Islamabad
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight.
K2 Base Camp Trek Map
The following interactive map will help you to get an idea where the K2 Base Camp Trek will take you.
Packing List for the K2 Base Camp Trek Trekking in Pakistan requires decent gear. Especially the basics like an 80-90l backpack and quality trekking socks. Read here what to bring with you.
- Passport with visa
- Travel insurance
- Boarding passes for flights
- 2 passport photos
- Driving License
- Dollars in cash
- Credit card (make sure you have $500 available on your card in case evacuation by helicopter is required)
- Sleeping bag
- Extra sleeping bag lining
- Mountain shoes: 3 or 4 season lightweight
- Slippers or sandals for the city
- Aircraft shoes (optional)
- Make sure you have non-cotton clothing for during the trek
- 2 t-shirts with underlayer (e.g. running t-shirts)
- Fleece / softshell jacket
- Waterproof jacket
- Travel and citywear
- Trousers for underlayer (optional)
- Waterproof pants
- Trekking pants
- Trekking shorts (optional)
- 2 thick trekking socks
- Lightweight and breathable trekking socks
- Gloves and woolen hat
- One backpack: 35 liters
- A duffel bag or backpack with straps to go over your back (Max - 8kg weight for the porters to carry)
- Drybag or waterproof cover for your backpack
- Water bottle/thermos: at least 2 litres.
- Sunglasses - Sunscreen
- Personal medication
– Inhaler, blister plasters, etc.
- General toiletries, contact lenses, spectacles (if necessary)
– Headlight, travel adapter, phone & charger - Lip balm - Book
- MP3/Music and headphones
- Hand disinfectant, biodegradable wet wipes
Accommodation during the K2 Base Camp Trek
On most K2 Base Camp Treks, you will be traveling from Islamabad to Skardu first. Here you will typically stay in comfortable hotels with full board. During your trek, you will stay in campsites along the trails. The porters will take care of all the camping equipment. Comfortable members tent, mattresses, mess tent, kitchen tent, store tent, office tent, shower tent, toilet tent, table, chairs & kitchen utensils are coming along on your way to the K2 Base Camp.
Where To Book Your K2 Base Camp Trek?
There are several websites where you can book your K2 Base Camp Trek. Important to consider is that the cheap providers are probably not very good for their staff. The income is relatively low in Pakistan and some organizations like to exploit this.
At Bookatrekking.com we try to make a selection of providers who have everything in order, take good care of the staff and nature. However, they are obliged to indicate their lowest price on the internet. Here you will find all our offers for the K2 Base Camp Trek.
If you have any questions about the K2 Base Camp Trek or any other trek in Pakistan, why don't you get in touch with our trekking experts? They are keen to help you out!