The Pakistani side
Unlike many of the other 8,000-meter peaks, K2 is so remote that it is
not visible from any inhabited place. The nearest village on the south
(Pakistan) side of the mountain is Askole, approximately 6-8 days from
Base Camp. The nearest town with medical supplies and a phone is another
8-10 hours (via jeeps which must be prescheduled), so it is advisable to
consider bringing a satellite telephone.
The Pakistan side of the mountain is the more frequently visited side,
but you can still expect a limited number of climbers Ė in a "low"
season there will be as few as 20, and a "peak" season will see only
approximately 40-50. This is due primarily to the difficulty of the
The trek to BC takes around 8 days and there are no tea houses on the
way. You camp out in tents and own cooking is required. The gear is
carried by porters, those - as opposite to Everest sherpas - preferring
drums to North Face bags or other soft packs. The porters allow 55 lbs
each, charging USD 8/day or USD 64/load coming in and out (plus tips
The Chinese side
pproaching K2 from the Chinese side is a huge
logistical challenge. From Kashgar, in the "wild west" Xinjiang province
of China, there is a 2 day bus ride, followed by a 2 day off-road jeep
ride through the Tashkurgan Desert (which, literally translated, means
"If you go in, you will not come back")
to an oasis called "Ilik" where you rendezvous with the camels who will
transport your gear to Base Camp. The 8-day trek with the camels takes
you through the prehistoric canyons of the Shaksgam Valley, across
rivers which are frequently so deep that you have to ride the camels, to
the base of the Qogori (K2) Glacier.
At the base of the glacier, the camels can go no further, but you are
still 2,000 feet below and 10 miles away from the base of the mountain.
At this point your 3 months of food and climbing gear (often weighing as
much as 15,000 pounds) must be extremely well organized so that you know
which loads to carry up first. After a week or so of carrying heavy
loads on loose scree for 10-12 hours per day, you may have enough gear
to start climbing. Many expeditions choose to hire porters from Pakistan
to help with ongoing task of carrying equipment from the camel dump to
the base of the mountain throughout the season.
As if this month-long approach werenít challenge enough, there is the
added element of seasonal flooding in the Shaksgam Valley. Once the
rivers flood in late June, even the camels cannot cross them. It is
effectively impossible to trek back out, and helicopter rescue or supply
drops are not an option. (Chinese airstrips are too far away, and
Pakistani helicopters cannot enter Chinese air space.) Your team will be
completely isolated until the rivers recede in early to mid-August.
The Chinese side of the mountain is the less frequently visited side,
and there are usually no climbers on this side of the mountain.
Historically, teams on this side of the team have either been very
large, or loose-knit groups of smaller international teams working
Buy small padlocks for everything. The luggage
will be left unattended at times on its way to BC. Pack everything
bearing in mind that it will be carried. Tubes with ketchup will get
jars will leak, sugar will end up in your underwear change. Keep
everything well packed and isolated in plastic bunks if you donít
want to forever remember the climb by the smell of various food
products. Potato chips should be Pringles, if not for the taste then for
the hard pack. Remember that all the foods and technical gear must
withstand extreme temperatures, both hot and cold.