K2 Pakistan: What to prepare before scaling the second-highest peak on Earth

K2, Pakistan.
PHOTO: Unsplash

The K2 mountain, also known as Mount Godwin Austen, is the second highest peak on Earth after Mount Everest.

The mountain is situated in the Karakoram Range, lying partially in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and partially in a China-administered territory of the Kashmir region included in the Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County of Xinjiang.

The K2 base camp trek is one of the most popular and prestigious trekking destinations in the world. A hike to the basecamp of K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, is one of the most breathtaking hikes in Pakistan.

The trek to the base camp leads trekkers through a rocky terrain that winds up Baltoro and Godwin-Austen Glaciers, traversing seven of the 19 highest peaks on Earth.

However, certain preparations have to be made before setting on the trekking journey to the K2 base camp trek.

Here is everything you need to know before trekking to the second highest mountain peak on Earth, the K2 mountain:

The K2 Pakistan news

PHOTO: Unsplash

The K2 mountain in Pakistan received a record-breaking number of climbers for the year 2022, amidst a post-pandemic surge of summit fever.

According to the official reports around 207 permits were issued for climbing the K2 mountain.

This is because July is considered the best time of the year to climb the K2 mountain, as the weather is usually stable and the skies are clear, during this time of the year.

Furthermore, another element that added up to this record was the pent-up demand of the climbers that grew during the pandemic.

The Covid-related border closures have made some of the world's highest peaks inaccessible or challenging to climb.

For the past two years, climbers have been saving money and preparing for their return to the mountains.

Moreover, even though the K2 is more difficult to ascend than Mount Everest, it is also remarkably cheaper than the highest mountain in the world.

This has also contributed to the unprecedented number of climbers for the year 2022.

K2 Pakistan weather & temperature

PHOTO: Google Maps

The weather and temperature in the K2 mountain is usually snowy and cold, and the temperature can go beyond the freezing point, up to -10°C, at any time of the year.

However, during the months of July and August, the temperature is expected to be clear and stable, and hence, it is the best time of the year for trekking to the K2 base camp.

Any passes above 3,000 metres remain closed outside of these months due to excessive snow on passes and the north-facing slopes. Hence, hiking during this period is not possible.

Please note that the mountain conditions are always unpredictable, and there can be unexpected rainfall, snowfall, strong winds and plunging temperatures at night, during any time of the year.

K2 Pakistan height

The height of the K2 mountain is 8,611 metres above sea level. It is the second-highest mountain peak on Earth, after Mount Everest, the height of which is around 8,849 metres.

How long does it take to trek to the K2 base camp?

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It usually takes around 14 days to complete the K2 base camp trek, and it starts from the village of Askole.

However, some of the itineraries for the base camp trek might be longer than 14 days, as these might include sightseeing and meetings with the hiking group and the guide.

Moreover, the unpredictable weather conditions in the mountain range also have a huge impact on the long itineraries, as bad weather might cause a delay in the trek.

When is the best time for trekking to the K2 base camp?

The weather you will be experiencing on your hike to the K2 base camp will usually depend on the weather conditions and the time of the year you choose to travel.

Although the trekking season in the Karakoram Range runs from mid-June to mid-September, the best time for trekking to the K2 base camp is during the months of July and August.

This is because the weather is usually assumed to be stable, and the skies clear during this period.

Any passes above 3,000 metres remain closed outside of these months due to excessive snow on passes and the north-facing slopes.

Hence, hiking during this period is not possible. Given Karakoram Range's changing seasons and the return of heavy snowfall, Gondogoro La and many other passes usually close by the end of September.

Please note that hikers should always be prepared for anything, as the mountain conditions are always unpredictable, and there can be unexpected rainfall, snowfall, strong winds and plunging temperatures at night, during any time of the year.

Things to know before travelling

Even though, the K2 base camp trek is one of the most popular trekking destinations among hikers around the world, a lot of preparations have to be made before setting on the trekking journey.

The following is everything you need to know and prepare for before travelling to the K2 mountains:

Apply for a trekking permit/trekking visa to Pakistan

All foreigners planning to trek to the K2 base camp must apply for a trekking permit or trekking visa from the official visa portal of Pakistan, Nadra.

Furthermore, foreign travellers must also have a licensed mountain guide for the K2 base camp trek and must make sure to obtain a NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the tourism office in Skardu, Pakistan.

The NOC will allow travellers entry into the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP), as it is located in a restricted military area bordering China and India.

Make sure to consult your tour operator or tourist guide regarding the NOC application process.

Please note that most foreign travellers will additionally require a visa to enter Pakistan.

Travellers eligible to apply for the Pakistan e-visa can obtain the visa online from the official visa portal of Pakistan, Nadra. For more details regarding the Pakistan e-visa, visit the following article:

Camping as the only accommodation for the trek

The trekkers will get camping as the only option for accommodation available throughout the K2 base camp trek. The tents are usually made to accommodate two people and are pitched on rocks, ice or both.

Make sure to carry a warm thick mattress to beat the cold, a sleeping bag, a duffle bag, and other essential equipment as necessary to make your stay more comfortable.

For solo trekkers, to make sure you do not get bored during your stay in the camp, carry a book to read and enjoy your stay at the camp.

Make sure to carry essential trekking equipment

Your tour operator or the company providing essentials for the trek will usually hire porters to carry your personal stuff.

Make sure to pack essential trekking essentials such as trekking poles, headlamp, harness and locking carabiner, hiking boots and alpine boots, trekking shirts, hiking pants, a first aid kit, crampons, sunblock, sun hat and beanie etc.

Stay healthy and fit

The most important thing trekkers need to keep in mind before setting on their hiking journey is to have a healthy and fit body which allows them to cover the long-distance and high-altitude walking experience.

The K2 base camp trek is quite difficult, long and tiring. Hence, a healthy and fit body is a must to take on this risky yet adventurous experience.

This article was first published in Wego.