10
Jul
12

I see K2

Some photos published at Express Tribune

After talking about it, planning, and looking forward to the trek for years – our group finally set out on the 2 week adventure to Concordia. As with everyone else’s experience our flight was cancelled and we drove to Skardu from Islamabad. Our jeeps came to a halt in Askole after a few hard days of driving and we decided to spend 2 nights there in order to acclimatize before setting out. In hindsight 2 days in Askole is not essential but it proved beneficial for us since we did not go through a tour company and had not arranged for porters ahead of time.

Remnants of religious extremism in Chilas on the way to Skardu

Our “guide” came highly recommended but he turned out to be dead weight – he hadn’t been to the area for over 10 years and had no idea about anything. Hence, he earned the nickname of “anti-guide”. It is certainly possible to arrange this trip by oneself, but hiring a sensible guide will definitely have its advantages.

Finally after weighing our goods and determining the number of porters necessary to haul everything, we set out for Concordia. This part of the trek started out flat in the beginning and then turned into a trail of dust and cobble. The weather was hot and sunny but we all had our CamelBaks filled with water to ensure we stay hydrated.

We took over the planning responsibilities from our guide and decided to hike to the camp at Paiju on our second day because we felt we should make up ground lost during yesterday’s easy 3 hr trek. Day 2 turned out to be a total of 32 km and took us around 13 hours including breaks. The terrain varied between narrow dirt trails by the river and sandy flat lands with rocks. Increased glacier melt has caused the rivers to be too dangerous to cross thus adding more time to this already long segment. It took an extra hour and a half to hike up the valley to a suspension bridge and back to where people used to cross the river on foot.

Liligo

Happy to have made up for the first day – on the third day we followed the trekking guide on our K2 maps and trekked to Liligo camp. After Paiju, the Baltoro glacier begins and the scenery is beautiful when the Trango Towers are visible. Baltoro didn’t match what I had imagined a glacier would look like. Most of the ice and snow is covered with dirt and loose rocks. However, there were slippery spots in between where the ice had started to melt. The weather was cool and it drizzled on us throughout the day. Liligo sits at roughly 12,200 ft and is situated off the glacier on the side under huge rocks. According to porter lore, the camp derives its name from a girl named Lily who disappeared at this spot after wondering off for a walk and so it came to be known as Lily go. Our porters sacrificed the goat in the evening and celebrated by singing songs and playing their drums.

The next day we headed out at 5:30am sharp for Urdokus, this 10km stretch is the most strenuous according to our K2 maps. The first half of the trek was pretty easy but the second half consisted of hiking up and down the glacier covered with loose rocks. The trail was so narrow at certain spots there was barely room for the width of my small foot to catch hold. Hearing rocks and chunks of ice falling down into glacial pools was common too. We reached our destination in about 6.5 hours (including breaks) only to be faced by one final 500ft vertical climb of switchbacks to get to our campsite! As soon as we made it to the top the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to rain.

Snow storm at Goro

On the 6th day we made our way to Goro campsite. This was the day when the elevation started to affect most of us and we were all struck with headaches after a little physical exertion. However, short frequent breaks provided enough relief to push on. The following morning we
were engulfed in a snow storm. Our tents were covered with snow and our porters recommended we wait for the weather to clear up before heading out to Concordia. At 10 am there was a break in the weather and we were on our way. About a quarter way through we got caught in another blizzard and it showed no signs of letting up. According to our maps the trek from Goro to Concordia takes about 3 hours and is only 8 km but our porters got lost due to poor visibility and we walked in knee deep snow for 6 hours (13km) before reaching Concordia. K2 was nicely tucked away behind a dark grey wall of clouds when we made camp.

Luckily in the weather cleared up entirely in the evening and there stood K2, immaculate and proud. I’ve heard some people have waited for over a week to get a clear shot of K2 and we were lucky enough to see it the first night! Three Frenchmen came over to greet us from a nearby camp. They had been in the area for a month and were preparing to climb Gasherbrum 4.

After an early dinner we went to bed all excited to be sleeping at 15,000ft and so close to K2. The next morning, however, another snow storm was in full effect. We waited in our mess tent all day hoping to catch another glimpse of the savage mountain but K2 didn’t make an appearance at all. In the evening we went to chat with the neighbouring Canadian camp and learnt that they had climbed Mt Everest last year!

We woke up at 4am to begin our journey home. Most of K2 was visible and we managed a few parting shots before the clouds came rolling in and covered it up again. We left camp at 5:30 am and it lightly snowed on us all day. We reached Askole in 4 days and never strained ourselves too much since we were dropping elevation and our bodies had become accustomed to walking 8 to 10 hours per day on average.

After living in the wild for nearly 2 weeks I realized there are many things I took for granted like hot showers, clean dry clothes, food free of sand, and warm weather! However, getting away from civilization has its own thrills. K2 was stunning and the entire trek was an experience of a lifetime. I would definitely recommend it to those with an appetite for adventure.

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