K2 basecamp
Conquering the Roof of the World: A trek to K2 Basecamp
Written by Faz Ali
On 30 May 2024

Embarking on the trek to the K2 Mountain base camp is an unparalleled adventure that draws in thrill-seekers looking for an adrenaline rush. It is a once-in-a-lifetime endeavour that serves as a rigorous test of one’s determination, endurance, and resilience.

Whilst the adventure presented itself as quite tempting even for myself, I confess that I haven’t dared just yet to respond to this inner call for extreme discipline. As my collection of trekking tales is exclusively inferred from third parties, I write this article based on the shared accounts of other brave seekers of unique adrenaline-inducing adventures. 

In this respect, the following accounts are based on conversations with two intrepid explorers who have dared to tackle this challenging journey, who were eager to share elaborate recounts of their expedition commenced in July 2023.

I commenced my research into trekking to discover unexpected and enhanced preparation steps one must complete before their departure to K2, of financial planning and physical training. Financially, our 48-year-old male trekker, Haroon Mota, confirmed: “It is the trekker that covers the costs of all necessary gear, permits, guides, visas and other expenses associated with the expedition. 

“For me, to be able to afford this adventure meant that I had to save monthly for almost a decade. My family was not supportive and always criticised my desire to spend such a large amount of money on a trip, but they did not share my enthusiasm and did not understand the importance of what I was planning.”

But for Haroon, this expedition represents a lifelong voyage of self discovery and pushing his personal boundaries. “Trekking to K2 base camp has been a dream of mine for,” he says. “The grandeur of the mountains and the serenity of the wilderness are what have drawn me to this place.” 

View of K2

Additionally, Fatima Khan, a 40-year-old female trekker describes the strenuous physical preparation she undertook. One’s physical strength is crucial in being able to tackle the challenges of the K2 trek.

“Two years prior to my departure, I was a new mom and an amateur hiker, and I knew that I would fail the physical demands of the journey if I didn’t change something,” she says.

“That is when I decided to engage in a rigorous training regimen designed for people like me. My personal trainer designed a set of cardio workouts, weight training and simulated high altitude exercise to ensure that I was adequately prepared to endure the strain of the trek. “

On the other hand, Fatima approached the expedition with a mindset of introspection and a longing for solitude. Despite actively planning to embark on this journey for several years, the demands of her everyday life as a working mother consistently postponed her departure, causing her to almost abandon the idea altogether.

“As a mother balancing work and family, this trip serves as my sanctuary from the hectic routines of daily life,” she reveals. However, the upheaval of the post-pandemic era has emphasised the unpredictability of life and the limitations of control over our futures. 

This realisation has motivated her to embrace the spirit of adventure.

“I aim to challenge myself in unprecedented ways and fully immerse myself in the natural world,” she affirms.

As I continue my conversation with the two, I am told that the starting point of their destination was in the vibrant city of London, a busting urban hub that for them now feels like a world apart from the tranquil heights of the Karakoram Range in Pakistan. 

Campsite at K2 base camp

Following arduous flights spanning more than 15 hours, including layovers in several cities, the travellers ultimately landed in Islamabad, the active place of departure for their epic escapade. They also added unanimously that themselves, like most individuals who embark on such adventures, have undergone extensive mental and physical preparation and expected to have ascertained the necessary set of skills to tackle the demands of the journey.

However, their accounts reveal that this readiness is more of a façade, as no one can fully anticipate the challenges that await. 

From traversing rough terrain and dealing with unpredictable weather to combating altitude sickness and physical exhaustion, the journey inevitably presents unforeseen obstacles, and one cannot be fully prepared for.

Haroon and Fatima reached Skardu around midday, where they met with their licensed guide and obtained a ‘No Objection’ certificate from the tourism office. Following a brief break here whilst they waited for other trekkers to turn up, the official trek begins towards the secluded village of Askole, a six-hour drive via four wheel drive (4WD).

After spending a full day and night acclimatising, catching up on sleep and refuelling, the porters announce that the K2 base camp trek will commence the next morning. 

Trekking along the K2 trails

As the two departed from the small green refuge of Askole, the awe-inspiring Karakoram Mountain range quickly unveiled its magnificence. Fatima continued her narration by highlighting that the way in which the jagged peaks and immense cliffs raised on either side of the expansive valley was a unique sight that filled me with a sense of belonging.

“I felt so small and insignificant next to the imposing presence of the Mountain,” she says. 

At the end of this initial day, the hikers found themselves setting camp below the pinnacle of Rakhor Das, fondly known as the Mango Peak for its uniquely shaped summit cone. Another day of walking brings the group meandering through the majestic Braldu Valley before ascending the Baltera Glacier towards Concordia.

As the journey unfolds, this glaciated area brought them an array of challenges: “We found very rough conditions. There were no maintained trails, just rubble and moraine. The sun was burning, and we found no shade.

“The conditions were so unpredictable, it rained to cause the flooding of the rivers and the washing away of the bridges,” says Fatima.

On the other hand, Haroon recalls the journey as ‘both unsettling and intriguing’.

He says: “I was mesmerised at the way of life of the people we have seen, tending to their crops or extracting the numerous semi-precious stones scattered throughout the region.” As the contrasting experiences of Haroon and Fatima weave together, at times blending into a slightly hazy narrative that illustrates the challenges they have faced.

Through the narratives they present, it becomes evident how the two trekkers perceived the expedition differently. Haroon recalls the struggle: “I was constantly in a need to push my physical boundaries relentlessly, but I was motivated by the urge to conquer the mountain and showcase my physical powers.”

Conversely, Fatima directed her focus towards the emotional and psychological dimensions of the trek: “Every moment of physical and mental despair was comforted with moments of quiet contemplation in the presence of the splendour of my natural surroundings.”

Despite the obstacles and variations in their experiences, both trekkers have recounted numerous instances of sheer delight and contentment. The impact of the huge rocky amphitheatre of Concordia was simply described by Haroon as ‘the most unparalleled experience of my life’.

“The majesty of the surrounding 8000m peaks like K2, Broad Peak, Gashbrum  I and Gasherbrum II, visibility from this singular vintage point made me feel humbled and gave me a deep sense of connection and appreciation for the Earth’s incredible landscapes.”

Campsite view from above

They have also highlighted the enduring friendships and camaraderie that have blossomed among fellow travellers during their shared challenges. Evenings spent at the base camp are characterised by a sense of cosiness and merriment, with the group gathering to swap tales and relish hearty meals prepared over crackling flames.

Whether indulging in piping hot bowls of lentil soup or savouring plates of sizzling stir-fried vegetables, the meals on the trek may be simple, yet they prove immensely gratifying, offering essential sustenance for the days that lie ahead. 

In summary, the trek to K2 mountain’s base camp is a demanding expedition that thoroughly challenges the physical, mental, and spiritual fortitude of those who embark on it. Haroon and Fatima, in particular, have undergone a profound journey that has bestowed upon them a renewed reverence for the formidable force of nature and the unwavering strength of the human body and soul.

As they journey homeward to London, they bear with them recollections of a remarkable adventure that will be etched in their hearts and minds

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