P3 - This trip is physically tough. Frequent exercise is necessary to prepare properly for this expedition. Regular walking mixed with training at the gym to build up endurance and cardiovascular fitness is key. Expect to be able to do 8 hour days in hilly and often steep train, carrying a pack of 6-10kg in weight with the occasional extra long day.
Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.
T2 - Consider this a trek, although there may be occasion to use hands for short sections of easy scrambling. No previous climbing or trekking experience is necessary.
Visit our Grading Information page for a full overview.
Date & Prices
Pics & Vids
The sky-scraping summits that line the mighty Baltoro glacier of the Karakoram make for some of the most dramatic landscapes on our planet. While Pakistan receives just a trickle of trekkers in comparison to Nepal and its classic trekking routes, the Karakoram trails of northern Pakistan are no less magnificent than their Nepalese counterparts.
The region has long since attracted trekkers and climbers looking to taste adventure in its purest form and this trek to the basecamp of the mightiest mountain of them all encompasses every meaning of the word. Not only will you be rewarded by incredible vistas, trek through immensely diverse landscapes and sleep on the back of a glacier but you’ll get a unique insight into the secluded mountain culture and traditions of its friendly inhabitants, the Baltis.
K2 is unimpeded by its satellite peaks and stands imposing, oozing mystery and challenge. K2 may be second in height to Everest but, as a spectacle, it is second to none. It’s hard to imagine an expedition where everyday something new becomes the highlight of your trip but, for many, our scheduled night in the mighty Concordia, the realm of some of the highest mountains on earth, stands out as the pinnacle of this journey.
All in all, a more fantastic few weeks trekking would be hard to imagine.Find out more
Date & Prices
For private trips or bespoke itineraries inc. different dates, please contact the 360 office on 0207 1834 360.
A monthly payment plan is possible, please contact the office to chat through the options.
A monthly payment plan is possible, please contact the office to chat through the options.
Departure & Return
Price (excl. flight)
Price (incl. flight UK-UK)
Start: 27 June 2021
End: 18 July 2021
Price without flights:
Price with flights: £4,095
27 June 2021
18 July 2021
- International and domestic airfares
- 360 guide and local guides
- All road transfers
- All hotel accommodation as mentioned
- All camp services (tents and meals etc)
- Emergency and team mountaineering equipment
- Trekking permits
- Central Karakorum National Park fees
- All accommodation based on two people sharing
- All food whilst on trek and ‘meals’ when city based as described in the itinerary
- Drinks in restaurants
- Personal gear for trekking and climbing
- Tips for local guides
- Visas where applicable
- Trip insurance
- Items of a personal nature: phone calls, laundry, room service, etc.
- Unscheduled hotel nights
- Lunch and dinner as indicated in the itinerary
- Any additional costs associated with leaving the expedition early including any airline surcharges as a result of changing return airline tickets
Pics & Vids
DAY 1 : Depart UK
We most likely meet our guide for our trek at the airport. Depart London Heathrow in the evening.
DAY 2 : Early arrival at Islamabad International Airport
We transfer to a centrally located hotel to relax and recover from our flight. There may be time for a short sightseeing excursion to Islamabad, or its twin city Rawalpindi, before dinner. It may be necessary for some, or all of, the group to visit the offices of the Ministry of Tourism to receive an official briefing about the expedition.
DAY 3 : Fly or drive to Skardu
Depending on flight permissions, today we will either fly to Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan, or start our journey to the Karakoram on the spectacular Karakoram Highway (KKH).
Weather permitting; we take the early morning flight to Skardu. The chances of flying are usually good (80% possibility) and the one-hour flight is nothing short of spectacular, with breathtaking views of the Rupal and Diamir faces of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth highest mountain. If flying, we will spend the remainder of the day sightseeing in Skardu. The town is the main trekking and expedition hub in the Karakoram. We have the chance to visit its many bazaars known for their hand-woven woollen cloth and elaborate, colourful embroidered local gowns. Otherwise, it is possible to wander up the hill to the ancient Alexandria Fort overlooking the town. The awesome sight of the Indus sprawling across the wide alluvial plain beneath is an indication of the visual pleasures that lie in store throughout the trek.
If taking the Karakoram Highway, prepare for a simply astonishing two-day journey along what was once an ancient Silk Road and is now an international highway connecting Pakistan, as well as the entire Indian subcontinent, to China. Traversed for centuries by traders and travellers alike, the route will take us into a region rarely visited by modern expeditions, allowing us to peek into the everyday lives of these hardy mountain people. The Lower Hunza Valley is beautiful of course from a scenic perspective, but we will be able to appreciate more fully the astonishing engineering achievement of this highway cut deep into the mountains. This road is, for many, one of the treasured memories of their journey to the Karakoram.
DAY 4 : Sightseeing in Skardu or continuing the drive along the KKH
Skardu is a dusty fort town of bazaars, stores and ancient polo fields grazed by an eclectic variety of livestock. Originally settled by Tibetans, it is home to the Balti people, as well as the main stop before the mountains. With nods to its shamanist and Buddhist pasts, the town is of diverse origin, and is dotted with rustic hotels and second-hand shops for climbers, usually filling with trekkers and mountaineers during the summer. The Indus River flows past the town in a wide, flat valley and the stunning snow-topped peaks in the distance give a tantalising hint of the heights to come.
A free day in Skardu might also present us with a chance to take a jeep ride up to the beautiful Satpara Lake. A prominent rock inscription of the Lord Buddha on the drive to Satpara is a reminder of the important influence of Buddhism to this area before the arrival of Islam.
DAY 5 : Drive to Askole (3,048m) Drive 6-8 hrs
Leaving Skardu, we set out by jeep for approximately a 6 to 8-hour drive to Askole. Initially, friendly Balti farmers and waving school children are likely to enliven your journey through the colourful and fertile settlements of the Shigar Valley, but once we reach the confluence of the Braldu and Shigar valley the scenery changes from green and fertile to the desert landscape more typical of these mountains. Throughout the drive snow-capped 5000m peaks rise around us, with lush oasis visible where streams run down and cross the increasingly more rugged track. At times, landslides may make it necessary to walk short sections of the road. Askole is a single street of wooden houses flanked by vibrant fields of wheat and potatoes and dotted by apricot and mulberry orchards. This drive, like its big brother the KKH, reveals a hugely human aspect to the expedition and highlights the hospitality of the Balti people.
DAY 6 : Trek to Korofong (3,100m) 4 hrs, 10 kms
A gentle and beautiful start marks the start of this incredible trek. Leaving Askole village behind we initially walk along lanes and through fields where we’ll see friendly local Balti people going about their daily lives, but it doesn’t take long before the Karakoram begins to reveal itself; jagged peaks, stark snow-capped mountains and sheer cliff faces begin to dominate the landscape. A suspension bridge crosses the Baltoro River rushing from the glacier’s snout and we make camp on the other side in a small oasis amongst the trees at Korofong.
DAY 7 : Trek to Bardumal (3,305m) 7-8 hrs, 21 kms
From Korofong we follow the path up a side valley and cross the river on a good bridge that replaces the old trolley system or “jhola” that was previously used by both locals and expeditions alike. From here we have views of Bakhor Das (5,809m), its impressive summit a rocky fist perched above its base, often referred to as K2 by local villagers. In the distance the needles of Paiju Peak are visible. We continue from Jhola until arriving at Bardumal campsite.
DAY 8 : Trek through Braldu Valley to Paiju Camp (3420m). 7-8 hrs, 21 kms
We make an early start today along a path that is sometimes loose and occasionally flooded in places. We may need to take off our boots to wade across – sandals come in handy! Our objective today is Paiju Camp; a green oasis nestled beneath the striking granite spire of Paiju Peak (6,611m). At our high point we have jaw-dropping views of the Baltoro Glacier and the granite peaks of the Trango and Cathedral groups, and on a clear day it is even possible to see K2. Much has been done by the local Balti community to remove rubbish and human waste from both the trail and the camps ahead, in order to restore this incredible landscape to its natural splendour.
DAY 9 : Rest day / Acclimatisation day at Paiju
Today will be a rest day to acclimatise, take in the scenery, enjoy a relaxed morning stroll through alpine flower meadows and help our Balti team prepare for the next stage of the expedition. A short acclimatisation walk in the late afternoon will reward us with different views of the remarkable granite spires of the Trango and Cathedral Tower group at sunset.
DAY 10 : Ascent of Baltoro Glacier and trek to Khoburtse (3,903m) 7 hrs, 15 kms
From our camp at Paiju we walk an hour to the snout of the Baltoro Glacier where an enormous amount of meltwater pours from deep within the ice. Here, we climb up a rocky path onto its icy back and the trail then undulates as we climb over the buckling moraine-strewn surface of this permanently flowing glacier. Gradually we work our way across the glacier to its south side until we reach a side valley, donning our sandals once again to wade the numerous meltwater streams until we reach camp at Horbose. Today brings more sensational views of the Cathedral Towers, the Trango Group and the striking granite tower of Uli Biaho. This is a great day of trekking, over challenging and mixed terrain.
DAY 11 : Trek to Urdukas (4,130m) 4 hrs, 6.5 kms
A shortish day, but quite a puff as we gain height on the moraine. One of today’s highlights will be viewing mountains that feature in both climbing and base- jumping legend. We pass within striking distance the Great Trango Tower, the Nameless Tower and across the valley the immense rock walls of Cathedral Peak and Lobsang Spire. Our camp, Urdukas, is perched a hundred metres above the glacier, on terraces originally hacked by the Duke of Abruzzi’s K2 expedition of 1909. This is a truly awesome place. We should reach here in time for a late lunch and the rest of the afternoon is free to tend to camp chores or just to soak up the situation and surrounding views.
DAY 12 : Re-ascend the Baltoro Glacier to Goro (4295m). 7-8 hrs, 12 kms
Taking the trail back onto the icy back of the Baltoro Glacier, we will pass the Yermanandu Glacier, flowing from Masherbrum, along with its immediate neighbour, Muztagh Tower – an imposing monolith of rock first climbed by the British team of Joe Brown and Ian McNaught-Davis in 1956. For many, however, today’s highlight is the enormous shining wall at the head of the glacier of the stunning Gasherbrum IV (7925m), which gradually begins to make its presence felt and lures us further into Concordia, the realm of the greatest mountains on earth. We are quite high now and camping on one of the largest pieces of ice outside of the polar regions. Ledges have been levelled out on the glacier to make our campsite and we’ll notice the drop in temperature that the altitude and camping on the ice brings.
DAY 13 : Goro to the spectacular Concordia (4500m) 4-5 hrs, 12 kms
The final approach to Concordia brings us some of the most spectacular mountain scenery anywhere in the world. As our journey continues up the Baltoro Glacier there will be tantalising glimpses of the 8000m summits of Gasherbrum II (8035m) and the aptly named Broad Peak (8051m), which comes vividly into view above the ridge connecting the unique Marble and Crystal Peaks. Then, seemingly without warning, its peak towering almost 4000 metres from the valley floor, stands the mighty K2. Together, the giants of Concordia make other mountain ranges look puny in comparison and camping out, surrounded on all sides by the gigantic summits of Gasherbrum IV, Mitre Peak, Chogolisa, Crystal Peak, Marble Peak, Baltoro Kangri, Broad Peak and K2, is an experience that will stay forever etched in your memory.
DAY 14 : Trek to K2 basecamp. K2 BC (5,100m): 9-11 hours, return, Broad Peak BC (4,800m): 5-6 hours, return
Reaching K2 basecamp will, for many, be the main focus of this expedition. To reach this majestic mountain, see it up close, catch a glimpse into the life of the climbers wanting to attain its summit and to visit the Gilkey memorial for climbers who have lost their lives attempting it, is a combination of both visual splendour and incredible emotion.
An early start will see us begin the journey into K2 basecamp, and our first objective is to reach the basecamp of K2’s gigantic neighbour, Broad Peak. Our path from camp, established by porters supplying both K2 and Broad Peak basecamps, will soon become more complex as we enter a maze of crevasses and meltwater rivers of the upper Baltoro Glacier. After a few hours of tricky walking we reach easier terrain and follow the medial moraine of the Godwin Austen Glacier to reach Broad Peak basecamp.
Reaching Broad Peak basecamp is a fantastic achievement in itself and rewards you with the immense views for which the Karakoram are famous. Looking back into Concordia the bulk of the 7,665m Chogolisa stands out for its perfect symmetry and further back Mitre Peak and the mountains we will have come to know so well stand like sentries along the Baltoro.
Beyond Broad Peak basecamp we again enter glaciated terrain as we negotiate the swells of the glacier and more glacial streams. Crampons are not needed as we are mostly walking on the many boulders carried by the ice and after a further 3 hours we reach ‘the strip’, the traditional basecamp area for attempts on the Abruzzi Ridge, the ‘normal’ route on K2. Basecamp is not the sea of yellow tents and prayer flags found at the foot of Everest. Currently there are no iconic signs; instead a modest rockpile marks the site. Depending on the time of the season and the number of expeditions, we may well find we are alone here. At the foot of over two vertical miles of rock and ice, the second highest mountain on Earth stands proudly as reward for over a week of toil.
DAY 15-19 : Return trek to Askole and drive to Skardu
Making the most of our last few days in the Karakoram we retrace our steps to Askole via Goro 1, Khoburtse, Paiju and Jhola. Trekking this route back allows us to savour the summits from a different perspective and, as we are fully acclimatised and trekking fit, we are able to start the day at a leisurely pace and explore small side valleys and sections of the glacier we might not have had the time to see on our ascent. We will plan to arrive in Askole by midday and will be met by the vehicles and make our way directly back to Skardu, around a 6 to 7-hour drive. Arriving in the Balti capital, we check into our hotel and enjoy modern facilities, a group meal in a local restaurant and a comfortable bed.
DAY 20 : Morning flight to Islamabad or return journey via the KKH in case of no flights
Today we will plan to fly from Skardu to Islamabad, and so the day will be spent either exploring Islamabad and its twin city Rawalpindi, or on the road enjoying the scenery of the return journey along the KKH if no flights are available.
We will check in to our hotel in the centre of Islamabad and celebrate our climb and ascent with a group meal in a local restaurant.
DAY 21 : Depart
Today is a contingency day to allow for any delays due to weather – we will either spend the morning in Islamabad or finish up our scenic drive along the KKH no flights are available.
Possible night flight departing from Islamabad to your home country. Islamabad Airport transfers will be provided.
DAY 22 : Arrive UK
Possible day flight to UK (previous night’s accommodation included) or arrive after overnight flight.
These are subject to minor changes depending on flight arrival and departure times, weather, group dynamics and fitness and so on, but the itinerary outlined provides an excellent indication of the trek and what you will experience.
Bags & Packs
One or two large duffel bags of 120L or more (some climbers manage with one, others need two) to transport your kit out to Pakistan and then up to K2 Base Camp. Suitcases and wheeled bags are NOT suitable.
Approximately 70 – 80L, carrying up to 15kg.
30 – 40L for flights and road transfers. You can use your expedition rucksack instead if you do not want to take this pack. Some do, some don’t, it’s a personal choice.
Nylon rolltop bags that keep fresh clothing and other important items like passports and iPods dry in the event of a total downpour that seeps into your kitbag. Good for quarantining old socks. Please note that Pakistan is now banning plastic bags. We would always advise buying re-usable nylon rolltop bags for keeping your kit dry (and sustainability).
Small kit bag or light bag
This is for any kit you intend to leave in and could even simply be a heavy-duty plastic bag if necessary, as you will be taking it home with you. Do note that Pakistan have banned the sale of single-use plastic bags so if you have something reusable this would be preferable.
For use on your kit bag during travel and on the expedition, plus any bag you may leave at the hotel.
4 Season sleeping bag
We would recommend a 4-season bag with a comfort rating to -20° – choose a sleeping bag that functions within the comfort rating of this temperature. Down is lighter, though more expensive than synthetic. A sleeping bag liner will enhance this rating on the coldest nights.
We would recommend a full length self-inflating mat, eg. Thermarest, rather than a 3/4 length mat.
Sleeping bag liner
A liner will help keep your sleeping bag clean and provide extra warmth. Silk is best for keeping you a little warmer.
This can be a warm hat, beanie or balaclava – anything to reduce the heat loss from your head.
Wide brimmed hat
Keeps the sun off exposed areas like ears and the nape of the neck.
A Category-4 wrap around style is highly recommended. These sunglasses allow for the highest available protection against harmful UV light found at altitude and from glare from snow and sand surfaces. It’s worth spending money on good UV filters. Julbo is our preferred supplier.
Buy the highest SPF you can find, as UV intensifies with altitude.
Essential for protection from the sun and dust.
Sun cream generally does not work on your lips and they are very susceptible to burning without proper protection, so it’s important to also have high SPF lip salve.
This is the layer closest to the skin and its principle function is to draw or wick moisture and sweat away from the skin. You can also get thermal base layers for use at higher altitudes that provide an additional insulating layer while still drawing away sweat during times of high exertion.
These are typically lightweight microfleeces or similar technology that provide varying degrees of warmth and insulation without being overly bulky or heavy to pack.
Light insulated jacket
A lighter jacket such as a Primaloft or lightweight down, which can be worn at lower to mid altitudes, is a great addition to your kit and offers greater flexibility with layering.
Optional – A great low-volume additional layer to keep your core warm, whether down, primaloft or fleece
Soft Shell (optional)
Optional – These should be windproof (not all are) and insulative. They are mostly made of soft polyester and sometimes resemble a neoprene finish which makes them very mobile and comfortable to wear. Be aware that while they do offer a degree of weather repellence, they are usually not waterproof.
Waterproof jacket (Outer layer)
A good Goretex hardshell jacket, with sealed seams, provides effective defence against wind and rain as your outermost layer. This should be big enough to fit over your other layers. Hardshells that aren’t breathable will prevent evaporation, making you sweat more, and are not recommended.
These provide the best insulation and are worth every penny. They will keep you warm down to around -25C with a couple of layers underneath, the higher the ‘loft’, the better.
Consider a light polartec pair or, better still, liner gloves for lower altitudes and evenings and a thicker pair like ski gloves for higher altitudes that can be worn in combination with liners.
Down mitts & waterproof mitts
Essential for higher altitudes and cold temperatures. A great addition to fit over your down mitts high up or gloves lower down for an added windproof or waterproof layer, especially as down ceases to work when it gets wet and takes a long time to dry. Synthetic fill dries much more quickly.
These tend to be polyester so they dry quickly after a shower and weigh little in your pack. Consider perhaps a pair with detachable lower legs as an alternative to shorts.
Softshell windproof or thermal lined mid weight trekking trousers for higher altitudes. Thermal leggings can still be worn underneath if necessary.
Essential thermal insulation for your legs
Like the jacket, an essential piece of kit to stay dry. Should also be Goretex.
Merino or wicking material, not cotton. How many pairs you take is entirely up to you.
Well-worn in 4-season waterproof boots, with mid to high ankle support.
Start with lighter socks lower down, working up to thicker pairs higher up as it gets colder. Single layer or wearing 2 pairs is a personal choice and lighter weight merino wool is a good option. Some people like a clean pair every day, others are happy to change every other day – that’s a personal choice.
Just in case.
Handy for days earlier in the trek when we wade through streams, but also a comfortable option if you prefer to wear them in the camps below the glacier.
3L equivalent – a good combination is a Platypus/Camelbak plus 2 x 1L Nalgene bottles. Nalgene bottles are better at altitude, and you can use the bladder on the days before the water starts to freeze at higher camps!
Although generally all water is boiled, some prefer to double up and add purification tabs as well. Always good to have in your bag.
Keep it simple on the mountain. Essentials are toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. Moisturiser is advisable, everything else is a luxury!
Travel towels from the likes of LifeSystems are perfect.
Preferably biodegradable, these are great for washing when modern shower facilities become a thing of the past.
A must have for good camp hygiene.
Provided on the mountain, but a spare in your daysack may be useful if you need to hide behind a rock between camps.
Nappy sacks or dog poo bags
Only needed to bag your toilet paper if you are caught short in between camps and for keeping your rubbish tidy in your tent.
For early stages and once back down.
Personal first aid kit
The 360 medical kits are designed to be used in emergencies and are akin rather to an A&E than a pharmacy on Expeditions, so please come prepared with useful meds for yourself. Your kit would include: painkillers (Ibuprofen, if you can take it, and Paracetamol) plus blister plasters, plasters, antiseptic, rehydration sachets and any muscle rubs you wish to use.
Keep this with you in your daysack.
We recommend Petzl head torches. Bring spare batteries.
These tend to be a personal preference, but can help with your stability and will dampen the pressure on the knees coming downhill.
Bring plenty of spare batteries. Cold temperatures deplete battery power very rapidly and recharging might not be possible at all camps. Bring spare memory cards too. The trek can be dusty, so some sort of protective camera bag is advisable.
You will be fed very well throughout the trek and given snacks daily, however we advise bringing a small selection as a bit of extra comfort. For longer trekking days and early starts it’s always good to have a few extra chunky bars for that extra boost. Energy gels and protein bars are not suitable.
Hand and foot warmers
For early starts on the longer, cold days.
Don’t forget this! Your passport should have at least 6 months validity, with your passport expiry date at least six months after the final day of travel. Your passport should also have at least two blank pages.
Copy of passport
Just in case
Passport photos x 4
Bring 4 – we need these to obtain your climbing and trekking permits.
For Pakistan, a visa needs to be obtained at least a month before travel from your nearest Pakistani embassy. Costs vary between nationalities. The 360 office crew can assist you with the various documentation that may be required for some nationalities.
Dental check up
We recommend you have a dental check-up before your trip. New fillings can be an issue at altitude if there is an air pocket left in the gap
We recommend you take around $200 to $250 onto the mountain in small denominations to tip the Balti team. Plus, about $200 for any extras along the way, satellite phone calls etc.
Copy of own travel insurance details, along with relevant contact numbers.
We recommend looking into deals offered by True Traveller, the BMC, Austrian Alpine Club or similar insurers. Team members should take out private insurance that covers against cancellation due to medical or personal reasons and it is important that the insurance also contains coverage for medical evacuations by helicopter or other means.
Many other insurance providers are available and we do recommend that you shop around to get the best cover for you on the expedition you are undertaking. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip. To include: medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip. Please contact the 360 office if you have any queries about insurance for this expedition.
Is it safe to travel in Pakistan?
The short answer to this question is yes. Pakistan has had its share of political troubles but in recent years the British Foreign Office relaxed its advice for travellers. The Balti people are some of the friendliest most hospitable mountain people in the world. Don’t expect to find the troubles of the past, gone are the famous Balti strikes and it is wonderfully clean both on the mountain and in the city.
What security measures are in place to assure my safety?
We will not be travelling in any risky zones, so no measures are necessary for this expedition. Depending on availability of flights, we may travel through certain sections of the Karakoram Highway (KKH) in which case we may require a police accompaniment, due to protocol rather than necessity.
How long do we stay in Islamabad?
We stay 3 nights in a safe, modern and centrally located hotel.
How do I communicate with my family and friends back home when in Pakistan?
While in the cities or on the main roads you will find there is mobile reception and you can use mobile networks. After that, your expedition leader will have a satellite phone and this will be the only source of communication.
Food and Drink
What will the food be like on the mountain?
Altitude can often affect your appetite, and so we aim for the food on the trek to stimulate your appetite and keep you going. The meals on the mountain are excellent – freshly cooked and nutritious, as well as varied. Local ingredients are used, and if you have any dietary requirements do let us know beforehand and the local team will do their best to cater to your needs.
The menu is designed to fill you with carbohydrate-loaded meals to give you plenty of energy for the trek, as well as being well-balanced. You’ll have tea and coffee, as well as drinking water, along with the meals and in camp.
You can expect the trek menu to consist of the following, or similar:
Breakfast: Local breads (paratha), jams and honey, porridge and/or cooked eggs.
Lunch: crackers, cheese, sardines, biscuits.
Afternoon tea: pakora, samosa, French fries.
Dinner: Soup, rice, daal, vegetables (potato, cabbage, peas, cauliflower, carrot, etc), chapatis and salad. Fresh meat, usually chicken, is generally only available towards the start and end of the trek and at other times tinned meat is used.
Dessert: custard, jelly and tinned fruit.
Snacks of sweets, chocolate bars and nuts will also be available, but you can of course bring any of your favourite snacks with you to top these up. Choose high-energy goodies to give you a boost on those longer days!
Can you cater for any allergies on the trek?
Absolutely, please inform the office of any allergies or intolerances and we will ensure that these are taken into account on the trek and the local teams have all of the information necessary.
Where does the drinking water come from?
Filtered, bottled water is provided in the towns on your first and last days. During the trek, drinking water is sourced from streams or springs, and this glacier water, though fresh, is additionally purified by boiling and by treating the water with purification chemicals.
How often is fresh water available for replenishing during the day?
Drinking water is available at the campsites and so before leaving each morning you’ll have the opportunity to refill your bottles and bladders. There are also opportunities to replenish at stops en route during walking days at suitable streams or glacier flows. Your expedition leader will, in consultation with the local guide, determine if the water you source will need treating or boiling.
Where do we stay in Islamabad?
We stay at safe, centrally-located hotels. Our choice of hotels offer comfortable rooms, classy on-site restaurants and quiet areas just a stones throw away from the bustle of Islamabad’s city centre and many of the cultural sites which feature on any visitor’s list of things to see. We’ll arrange visits, if climbers wish, to some of these cultural highlights when in town, as well as a visit to Rawalpindi, the twin city of Islamabad.
Is all of my accommodation included?
All accommodation is included in the price of the expedition as per the itinerary.
What if I arrive early or depart late? Is there a single room option for this expedition?
We are happy to make any arrangements scheduled outside of the trek dates: these may include personalised tours, extra hotel rooms, private airport pick-ups, early arrivals and late departures. We can also arrange private rooms. Please indicate your requirements on your application form or speak to the office beforehand and we will assist with the relevant arrangements and advise on any additional costs.
Will I have to share a tent on this expedition?
It will be necessary to share a tent with one of your team members at all stages of this expedition. The primary reason for this is that most altitude related symptoms manifest themselves at night (further information is included below under ‘Health and Safety), therefore having a tent buddy to keep an eye on you is hugely reassuring.
How does tent sharing work? And how big are the tents?
Tent share is organised according to gender and, where possible, age groups, but chat to us if you have any concerns. If you are climbing with a friend or partner then you will be able to share tents and if you’re a group we’ll ask you to make your own arrangements. If you have joined the team by yourself then it is likely you will be sharing a tent with your pre-assigned room buddy unless prior arrangements have been made. We use high quality, spacious 3-man tents throughout the expedition, and these will be shared between 2 people to provide extra space for your comfort.
Will the camp be freshly set up or will we be staying at existing camps at a set site on the way up?
All of the camping sites we use along the trek are designated spaces, set up by the CKNP (Central Karakoram National Park) team, to show stages for a day’s carrying for the porters. The sites are large so there is plenty of space if there does happens to be another group in camp at the same time as us.
Your local ground crew will be setting up your tents for you along the way. On some occasions they will love to see you give them some help to speed up this process, particularly in bad weather or in case of late arrival into camp.
Will my kit be safe in my tent?
Yes, your kit is safe in your tent but we do advise to bring locks for your kit bags when flying which can be used on your bags in your tents to be doubly sure.
Health and Safety
What is the risk in trekking to the altitude of K2 basecamp?
The very nature of climbing over 5,000m is risky. Although there are risks associated with climbing any mountain, whether it is Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc or Aconcagua, the risks on a 6,000m peak are considerably greater, primarily due to extreme altitude and weather conditions. Physical, mental and technical preparation will go a long way towards a safe ascent. Furthermore, our Western guide and Balti support crew are trained in the use of medical oxygen, Gamow bags and specialised wilderness first aid – and they carry the necessary equipment and medicine throughout. We also carry satellite phones and radios to ensure proper communications with the outside world and between camps. In fact, we are often the first port of call when other teams have an emergency on the mountain!
What happens to toilet waste on the mountains?
CKNP (Central Karakoram National Park) is responsible for sanitation of campsites, plus they collect a fee from all groups to keep the area clean.
What happens if there is a problem on the mountain?
All our leaders are in communication with each other by phone and radio. (VHS and/or Motorola.) In the majority of cases of emergency rescue the problems can be attributed to slow acclimatisation or altitude and, if so, the solution is immediate descent to lower altitudes. Our 360 Pakistan crew is very experienced in dealing with any problems that may arise and our leaders have the highest standard of wilderness first aid qualifications and can handle emergencies to the highest level of competency.
What medical/emergency equipment do you bring on this expedition?
All our Guides, Expedition Leaders and High-Altitude Porters have attained the highest qualifications and training available in their respective countries to not only deal with emergencies but also to maintain a healthy expedition from day one. For this expedition we will be bringing comprehensively supplied medical kits, emergency oxygen and Gamow bags as well as state of the art communication equipment. On the mountain our Expedition Leaders carry sufficient medical equipment to deal with localised first aid scenarios and at basecamp we have sufficient supplies to deal with longer lasting medical problems such as antibiotics to treat infections.
Am I likely to suffer from altitude sickness on this expedition? Part 1
The likelihood of getting altitude related problems are dramatically reduced on this expedition due to our carefully designed acclimatisation strategy. We have years of experience in dealing with altitude and its related problems and have devised an ascent strategy which caters for a broad spectrum of individual altitude adaptation.
Still, it is important to understand there are different types of altitude sickness and that, at times, altitude related problems can happen and we must be able to recognise the symptoms if they occur.
The most common of these is high altitude sickness (AMS – Acute Mountain Sickness).
If you have a mild case, you may experience symptoms including:
- muscle aches
- nausea / vomiting
- loss of appetite
- swelling of the hands, feet, and face
- rapid heartbeat and shortness of breath with physical exertion.
This sounds quite dramatic but generally this is just the process your body naturally goes through to adjust to the higher altitudes and the reduced partial pressure of the atmosphere. For some people the acclimatisation process takes a little longer than others. For our guides this is all part and parcel of ascending to these altitudes.
Am I likely to suffer from altitude sickness on this expedition? Part 2
Symptoms of severe altitude sickness may include:
- chest congestion
- pale complexion and skin discoloration
- inability to walk or lack of balance
- social withdrawal
Our leaders assess each client’s personal situation carefully. By carefully observation throughout the course of the day our leaders are able to quickly determine the probable cause of discomfort. Apart from a gain in altitude, further factors which contribute to the development of AMS symptoms are an insufficient intake of water or ascending too quickly. Our leaders understand the compounding effects of dehydration brought on by excessive vomiting and loss of appetite and how to best allow a client to recover from exhaustion.
AMS might sound frightening, but our leaders are fully trained (and highly experienced) in helping to relieve your personal symptoms and provide advice on how to best proceed.
What can I do to help prevent AMS?
To help avoid AMS, following the below rules can be simple but effective:
- pay attention to the advice given to you by your Expedition Leader
- drink lots of water
- walk slowly
- stay warm
- eat well
We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the various affects that altitude can cause. During your pre-climb briefing we will describe altitude sickness to you in detail, and advise you how to cope with it.
The most important thing is not to fear it, but to respect it and to know how to deal with it and, more importantly, tell your leaders how you feel.
Is there a risk of getting HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) and HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) on the mountain?
The severe forms of altitude sickness, HACE and HAPE, are extremely unlikely to occur on this expedition. However, our Leaders and Guide team are fully trained in recognition of the onset of these problems and will deal with them at the first sign of their development.
You advocate taking a small first aid kit, what should it have in it?
We advocate a little bit of self-help on the trek. If you have a blister developing, for example, then please stop, take off your boot and treat it before it becomes a problem.
We would recommend your own first aid kit should contain:
A basic blister kit, plasters, antiseptic, sun-protection, your own personal medication (sometimes your porter might get to camp after you and if he is carrying your medication you may not be able to take it according to the regime you are used to), basic pain relief (aspirin and Ibuprofen,) a personal course of antibiotics if prone to illness etc.
Generally, the best approach to packing your first aid kit is to include such basic medications as if you would on a family or personal holiday.
Your 360 Expedition Leader and/or a local porter (we call the ambulance man!) will carry a very comprehensive first aid kit which contains a wide range of supplies and medications. They are fully trained to use whatever is needed for any emergency that may arise. We advocate keeping this in mind when packing your own first aid supplies and keeping your own first aid kit as compact and light as possible.
What vaccinations do I need?
None are currently required for entry to Pakistan, but the following vaccinations are recommended for travel to the country:
- Hepatitis A
This list is not absolute and it is important you should see your GP or local travel clinic for the latest recommendations and to ensure you are up to date on necessary vaccinations. A health certificate regarding COVID-19 may be required.
What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?
If a trekker needs to leave early for whichever reason, medical or personal, the Expedition Leader and guide team will deal with the matter with utmost competency and discretion. Further arrangements will be made with the assistance of our 360 teams in Islamabad and Europe to arrange every detail of the journey back off the mountain. Additional costs (transport, hotels, flights etc.) might be incurred by the climber but our 360 team will be able to assist in every detail of your departure.
What will I need to bring?
Please review the kit list for this expedition. While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the gear list may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The lists are created by the guides to so that climbers are prepared for in any conditions. The equipment list will also advise our recommended brands to consider using, based on our experience. Give the 360 office a call if you have any questions!
Your guides will check your clothing whilst in Skardu / Islamabad and will advise as to what is suitable or not. A quick trip to the local gear shops may be needed to buy or rent any last essential items.
What clothing should I wear at the start of the expedition?
Our leaders usually start the trek wearing long, lightweight trekking trousers and wicking (non-cotton) shirts. Long trousers are recommended to act as sun protection. Shorts can also be worn on the initial few days of the road trip as the temperature can be warm. Ensure that you apply sun protection frequently. Sunglasses are worn for most of the trek into BC as well as sun hats.
The prevailing conditions on the trek will dictate what you will wear. If it is cold when you leave the camp in the morning or when setting off for higher camps then wear your base layer plus soft shell. As things warm up take advantage of the zipper system which most trekking clothing has to adjust to your own preferred temperature. If you get too warm, take a layer off.
Waterproofs should be to hand, especially during the acclimatisation phase of the expedition. The Karakoram creates its own weather system and it is not unusual to be caught out in an afternoon snowstorm low down on the mountain. Waterproofs should be Gortex material or similar and be carried with you at all times.
What do your guides and porters wear on the mountain?
On longer days it can get cold and temperatures may be as low as -25°C. Typically, our guides wear 2 sets of base layers (long johns), a fleece mid layer (top and bottom) and a thin down jacket on the torso. Over the top of this they wear a down jacket. In windy conditions a Gortex shell could be considered.
On their hands they’ll wear a thin layer of fleece or silk gloves over which a thicker set of gloves are worn. Over the top of these two layers a large set of mittens (down recommended) are worn. Hand warmers inside the mittens are also advised.
Their heads are covered by a thermal “beanie” hat or a thick balaclava and the hood of their down jackets. On their feet the guides wear one pair of thin inner socks and one pair of thick. Foot warmers recommended.
What is the best type of footwear for this expedition?
Your boots should be sturdy, waterproof, insulated against cold temperatures and offer adequate ankle support. In addition, it is highly recommended that your boots are well worn in to prevent the formation of blisters. A range of suitable boots are on the market and further advice as to which brand names are available and their relative pros and cons can be found online or at your local gear store. If still stuck then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our 360 office for advice.
Are down jackets necessary?
They are essential and are worth their weight in gold on cold days and when sitting in camp. A 4-season down jacket is necessary for this expedition. We recommend a down jacket with at least 800 grams of down fill.
How much weight will I be carrying on the climb?
The weight of your pack will usually not exceed 15 kg. We carefully scrutinise every item carried on “carry days” between camps and encourage a minimalist approach. Our porters will be moving camping, kitchen and group equipment between camps.
What type of rucksack should I use for this expedition?
A rucksack is worn by the climber at all times during the trek. A good all-round size is around 70 L capacity. An enormous array of rucksack types and models exist on the market today. It is worth considering expedition specific rucksacks rather than travel rucksacks. Expedition rucksacks tend to have fewer frills and are of more durable construction and are lighter in weight. It is important that your rucksack has an adjustable waist belt to transfer the weight of your daily load onto your hips and from here onto your legs so that the strongest muscles do most of the carrying and that the shoulder straps are sufficiently padded for extra comfort. Another handy feature would be a compartment in which to fit a Camelbak or water bladder.
What should I carry inside my daysack?
Depending on the day, the content of your rucksack will include: a fleece or light down jacket (for when taking breaks or weather changes) a full set (top and bottom) of waterproofs, sufficient water for the day, snacks, camera equipment, personal medication, mini first aid kit, sun hat, sun-cream, sun glasses, a warm hat and gloves and a head torch. Your day-to-day rucksack will weigh no more than 4-6 kg. For the trek the rest of your gear can go in your kit bag and/or larger rucksack to be carried by the porters.
Your rucksack can be filled to the brim with extra stuff (socks, down jackets etc.) before checking in at the airport to save weight and space in your hold luggage.
How warm does my sleeping bag need to be?
Sleeping bags should be rated from -20 to -40C. From the first camp upwards it is not unusual to experience frosty nights and a good night’s sleep is important to giving you the best chance to climb this mountain. And ensure you get a sleeping bag that has this temperature rating at this comfort zone rather than as its extreme zone.
Our guides take sleeping bags rated to well below -20C to ensure that they are warm at night. A 4-season sleeping bag can be enhanced by using an inner silk or fleece bag (or similar).
It is important to remember that down sleeping bags work by your own body heating the down that’s inside the bag.
Once you have warmed up the bag its down will retain the heat and ensure that you sleep at a temperature that’s your own body temperature. For best results it is best to wear as little as possible when inside your sleeping bag. Our guides will often only wear a set of thermals in their bag. It is important for the bag to trap the heat. By wearing multiple layers of clothing your clothing will trap this heat and your bag will not function properly.
Is it possible to rent equipment before I go?
The cost of equipment can be a major deterrent for people coming onto trips in the first place, so we want to help with that – things you don’t currently have can be hired cost effectively from our partners at Outdoor Hire or sourced cheaply through our reliable contacts in Islamabad, though do be aware that only a limited size may be available. However, we do advocate the use of personal equipment whenever possible. This is particular important for the use of boots.
What clothing is suitable for when we come back from the mountain?
Pakistan is a conservative Muslim country. Your guide will likely dress in light cotton long sleeve shirts and trousers during the city and trek phase of this expedition to observe local custom.
Why choose 360 Expeditions for this expedition?
One of many reasons to choose 360 Expeditions lies in the experience and competence of the team joining the expedition and managing the expedition on the mountain with you. Your Expedition Leaders are professionals and want to ensure that you get the best possible chance of reaching basecamp. Plus, you will have continual support right from the word go from a seamless, professional and hugely dedicated office crew, which means that you can concentrate on the climb without distraction and loss of time. Our entire 360 team work hard to make sure that you reach the summit.
When comparing expedition companies, it is important to look beyond the price and consider the inclusions. We offer a K2 and Concordia expedition package which contains many more than the expected inclusions and there are no hidden costs. We don’t compromise on the quality of our service by skimping on added luxuries which enhance the expedition experience.
As standard, we provide experienced and qualified western guides, a dedicated world-class Balti team, seamless logistical management both in country and prior to departure, small group sizes, modern climbing equipment and safe client to guide ratios. Beyond this, it is the host of additional inclusions and services, such as our unique individualised ascent strategy, which makes this expedition truly a life-changing experience.
I notice that some itineraries include an additional few day to ascend the Gondogoro La on the return to Skardu, why not this one?
For a majority of trekkers the reason for joining this trek is to reach the basecamp of K2 and camp in Concordia. Our most experienced trek leader working for us in the Karakoram has trekked the Gondogoro La version of the K2 basecamp trek over a dozen times and, on his advice and that of the local Balti team, we decided not to include the Gondogoro La extension for the following reasons.
- The Gondogoro La extension adds an additional 4 days to the itinerary and is therefore more costly and time consuming. Keeping the itinerary in a relaxed 3-week (return) trek makes getting time off work easier and more affordable.
- There is no guarantee that you can ascend the Gondogoro La. Snow conditions, the weather and technical difficulty might all make crossing the pass impossible. At times, there is only around a 50% chance that a crossing can happen.
- Our Concordia/K2 basecamp trek has no scheduled contingency day. Apart from one necessary acclimatisation/organisation day at the very pleasant camp at Paiju on day 9, we do not need to add time consuming (and costly) contingency days to accommodate for the possibility of bad, weather or dangerous conditions on the pass.
- There is a high possibility of missing your international flight if you cannot cross the Gondogoro La. Using up a contingency day at Ali’s camp to allow for conditions to become good enough to cross the pass, and then finding it is still not possible, does not give you enough time to return to Skardu/Islamabad to catch your international flight unless yet another contingency day is built into the itinerary.
- We minimise unnecessary injury to our Balti porters and trekkers.
- No need to buy or bring specialised mountaineering equipment such as crampons and ice-axes.
- Reduced risk of altitude problems and injury occurring in a remote location.
Who is the guiding team composed of?
The expedition leader (also one of 360’s directors) assigned to join you on our high-altitude expeditions have a world class background in leading expeditions of this nature. Rolfe, who is leading this expedition, has lead expeditions to four of the 8,000m peaks: Mount Everest in 2007 (North Col), 2015, 2016 and 2019; Manaslu in 2013, Cho Oyu in 2016 (two summits in 24 hours) and 2018 and Lhotse in 2016.
He has also been an Expedition Leader on 5 unsupported, technically difficult 7,000m peaks and has guided more than seventy expeditions to 6,000m peaks. The key word here is guided. Leading an expedition of this calibre demands a thorough familiarity not only with the mountain’s unique complexities but also a complete understanding of a client’s individual requirements. With almost 30 years’ experience in this leadership role, it is safe to say that Rolfe has what it takes to confidently deal with the demands this career entails.
How fit do I need to be for this expedition?
To trek to K2 Basecamp, it helps to be as fit as possible. Hopefully by the time you book you will have a good understanding of your level of fitness and how you cope with altitude. This expedition will be physically demanding. Please check our fitness chart and recommended training regime.
What is the best time of year to climb in the Karakoram?
The best weather is found during the period June to August when it is usually quite fair, dry and stable. Daytime temperatures are pleasantly warm in the valleys (20-30°C) but cool to very cold (especially with wind chill) high on the mountain. Night-time temperatures are cold (possibly as low as -25°C) and you should make sure you have a very warm sleeping bag. A good down jacket and good quality mitts are highly recommended.
How cold can it get?
The coldest night time temperature might get as low as -25°C with windchill. You will not be climbing in these low temperatures but remain inside your sleeping bag inside your tent.
What is the best air route to Pakistan?
Detailed flight information will be sent to you upon registration. We are ATOL bonded and ensure the most direct route with a reputable airline. 360 Expeditions carefully consider weight restrictions imposed by various airlines for mountain expeditions.
On some occasions, trekkers prefer to take responsibility for their own flights. If this is the case than we are more than willing to assist you with every detail of the journey to Pakistan. Please let us know when booking if you wish to make your own travel arrangements to and from Islamabad or if you wish to travel on different dates.
Where do I meet my Balti guides?
Your guide will meet you at the airport on your arrival.
What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?
Anyone who leaves the trip earlier will have to bear any costs incurred thereafter, however any travel and accommodation requirements will be arranged by the 360 office team.
Tips on how a climber can maximise their chances of success - Part 1
The 360 Expedition training programs have been devised to be expedition specific. Use these as a guide, but also feel free to contact us for individual advice on how to incorporate the best fitness program with your own lifestyle.
High altitude mountaineering is about slack days of low activity followed by long days where every grain of stamina you have is called upon and every ounce of determination you possess is necessary to reach your goal.
The essential idea in order to prepare for trekking to basecamp is to increase the intensity of the exercise you do by small increments over 8-12 months before you leave for the expedition. Concentrate on cardiovascular workouts during the initial weeks by taking short runs when time allows and try to spend at least 2 weekends a month going on long duration walks (longer than 8 hrs) carrying a rucksack of around 15kg and aiming for 800-1000 meters of ascent. As you get stronger, increase this rate of exercise and the duration by walking every weekend and running 5km every second day, for example.
Tips on how a climber can maximise their chances of success - Part 2
A focused regime will not only prepare your body for carrying minor loads but will harden your body against the big days on the mountain itself. In addition, the weekend walks will help break in your boots and get you used to your equipment for the trekking during this expedition. In combination, this will pay dividends when you reach base camp because even though you can’t train for altitude your body will be ready for arduous days and you will be familiar with how to best use your equipment, both adding to you being able to enjoy and appreciate the mountain all the more.
Contact the 360 office for further details and to discuss your individual background. This helps us to formulate a training strategy that best suits the demands of your daily life. Additionally, ask our team about pre-acclimatisation on smaller mountains prior to your departure for K2 basecamp.
Several excellent training plans can also be found online to prepare you for this ascent. Check the thorough advice offered by Joe’s Basecamp.
Do I need special travel insurance for the trek?
You must carry individual travel insurance to take part in the expedition. We cannot take you on the mountain without proof of insurance.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the appropriate insurance for your intended trip. To include medical evacuation and coverage up to the maximum altitude of this trip.
Your insurance details are requested on the booking form, however this can be arranged at a later date. 360 Expeditions will be requesting your insurance details 8 weeks before your departure.
When is the money due for this expedition? What kind of payment do you accept?
Generally, deposits are due when you book as we need in turn to book the international flights and permits well in advance. The full balance should be paid four months prior to departure. However, having said that, our aim is to get you to the top of this mountain and we understand that personal financial situations can vary. Please contact our friendly office crew to discuss a suitable payment plan should you find raising the funds to be difficult. We have been in your shoes after all and go by the motto of ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’!
What is your cancellation and refund policy?
Please read 360 Expeditions’ Terms and Conditions carefully before you depart. 360 Expeditions highly recommend trip cancellation insurance for all expeditions. Due to the nature and heavy costs of government and operator permits, 360 Expeditions must adhere to a stringent refund policy.
How much do we tip our local crew?
Our local crew work extremely hard to ensure that your expedition runs well. While tipping is not compulsory, once someone sees the hard work the crew provides, tipping will seem the least one can do to say thank you. Tipping recommendations are provided with our joining notes but as a general rule we suggest around $200 -$250 per client for the entire local crew to be shared amongst them. Tipping the 360 Leader is entirely at your discretion.
Am I correct in thinking we only need to take US Dollars with us?
The local currency is the Pakistani rupee but the rates to the dollar can be unstable and, in the past, have fluctuated widely. American dollars are readily recognised and are easily converted to the local currency. Upon arrival there will always be a bureau de change at the airport and generally these provide a better rate of exchange than your hotel. For most situations when buying gifts or small goods such as drinks or snacks the use of small denomination US dollars is not a problem, but getting change for a $20USD bill when buying a $1 USD can of drink may be a challenge. Larger bills are good for tipping your local crew at the end of the expedition and a sufficient amount should be carried with you. Your 360 leader will advise you in the pre-expedition brief as to what is the correct amount to take on the trip with you.
What additional spending money will we need?
The amount of money you will need depends on how many presents you wish to buy or if you want to purchase soft drinks or snacks on the trek or in town. As a basic rule of thumb, US $100-$200 should be more than adequate for any expedition spending.
Pakistan is a relatively cheap place and, when indulging in the local custom of haggling, goods can be bought for excellent value for money. Your 360 leader will be happy to point out the relative bargains, suitable prices and where to get the best value for money. The only other cash you’ll need to consider taking with you on this expedition is the local crew tips.
Communications and Electronics
Can I contact the other trekkers joining the expedition? How about the leader?
You can always call our offices and one of our guides will contact you to discuss any aspects of the expedition. Generally, about 1 month before your trip departure we mail a list of other team members to you. We will also set up a group chat on social media for the group to ‘meet’ before the expedition.
What is phone coverage like?
Reliable phone coverage only exists in towns and on the KKH. Beyond that, we rely on satellite phones which will be available for your use, but will have a charge attached to them.
Who is your point of contact? How can my family follow my progress?
Your 360 Leader will be sending regular updates to the 360 offices to allow your family and friends to track your progress on social media. The best place to reach a loved one is through our main 360 office. We try to organise a daily satellite call with the 360 Leader on the mountain to allow communication between the outside world and to keep our team updated with important developments occurring at home.