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Concordia Trek - , Pakistan

From Walkopedia user Dugite - Walko says thank you!

In August 2000, I joined a World Expeditions Challenging Trek to K2 Base Camp (K2 being the world’s 2nd highest mountain located in the Karakoram Mountains in north west Pakistan).

After flying into Skardu from Islamabad, the outward journey took us on a cliff-edge nail-biting jeep ride to Thungol, then on foot for ten days up the Baltoro Galcier to Concordia (passing en-route the awesome peaks of Great Trango (6,286m) and Masherbrum (7,821m)), and then via the Godwin-Austen Glaciers to the climbers’ memorial 100m up from the base of K2 (8,611m), passing more awesome peaks of Gasherbrum IV (7,925m), and Broad Peak (8,047m).

Perfect weather whilst at Concordia produced magnificent views, particularly of K2 at the head of the Godwin-Austen Glacier.

The normal and safer return route from Concordia is back down the Baltoro. However, providing everyone in the trekking group is fit enough, and weather conditions permit, there is a very attractive, but more challenging alternative for the adventurous – over the Gondogoro La (5,940m) and out through the Hushe Valley. The advantages of this exit are the magnificent early morning views of K2 and surrounding peaks from atop the pass, the different scenery, a rest day, and a much easier jeep ride from Hushe to Skardu. The downside is the exhausting high-altitude climb up to the pass, and the lack of sleep on the night you set off, having to strike out from Ali Camp just after midnight in order to get over the ridge before the rising sun causes an avalanche or rock fall on the southern side. Our Pakistani guides believed our group could make it, and the weather was ideal, so we accepted the challenge.

The adventure began Ali Camp after a midnight breakfast of soup and noodles. To provide some motivation as well as a much needed sugar fix, I handed out the dozen Snickers bars I had carried all the way from Perth. Under a crystal clear, star-lit sky, we set off with head torches beaming - firstly with an hour of boulder hopping, and then a trudge across the crunchy West Vigne Glacier for another. After reaching the far side of the valley, just as the slope was starting to be too much for hiking boots alone, we stopped to affix crampons before commencing the gruelling 600m climb up the 50° snow-slopes to the Gondogoro La. At this altitude, every step was a struggle (three steps and stop for a breather), but we gritted our teeth, cursed and pushed on, as our hardy porters, some carrying two-three times as much weight as us lowly trekkers and with stones melted into the soles of their runners for traction, zoomed up the slope like mountain goats. After two hours of hard climbing, at one point crossing a crevasse bridged by bamboo poles, with much relief and a great sense of achievement, we reached the top of the pass as dawn was breaking. Just incredible. The view was stupendous, with K2, Broad Peak and the whole Gasherbrum Range all visible to the north under a brilliant blue sky. After a brief rest, and having taken photo’s in all directions as well as of our trekking mates and crew, we began gingerly scrambling down the even steeper but snow-less 1,000m slope on the southern side into the Gondogoro Valley, dodging falling rocks kicked free by those following or loosened by the warmth of the rising sun (the reason for the midnight start). After reaching the glacier at the bottom of the valley, we trekked along the lateral moraine for another couple of hours before stumbling into Xhuspang Camp in time for morning tea, and a much needed sleep.

The remainder of the exit back to Skardu was walking via Shaishcho and the Hushe Valley to Hushe village and then days jeep ride to Skardu.

Whilst reaching K2 base camp was the objective of the trip, I think making it safely over the Gondogoro La was the highlight – one I will cherish for a long, long time.

By Walkopedia user Dugite - Walko says thank you! ()

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