If you’re considering whether to opt for an Everest Base Camp Trek or a K2 Base Camp Trek, you’re in the right place.
In this article, we unpack the pros and cons of both iconic treks, helping you decide in your own mind which trek is right for you.
So, without further ado, let’s do it: Everest Base Camp Trek vs K2 Base Camp Trek.
If you’re here, you’ll probably know that Everest and K2 are two of the most iconic mountains in the world, and for good reason – Everest is the highest mountain at 8,848m, and K2 takes the runner up spot at 8,611m.
As well being similar heights, the treks to both basecamps are pretty similar – it takes 14 days to reach Everest Base Camp, with the highest altitude being 5,545m, and it takes 15 days to reach the K2 base camp, with the highest altitude slightly lower at 5,300m.
Okay, so there are some similarities, now for the BIG difference:
Trekking to K2 Base Camp is a LOT harder. Here’s why:
1. The K2 trails are more rugged
As you might expect, the Mount Everest Base Camp trek is more popular than the one to K2 Base Camp, and as a result, more money and attention is spent on maintaining the EBC trail, in comparison to the K2 one.
This means that walking on the K2 Base Camp trail is more taxing on your body – you’ll take in dusty trails, glaciers, loose rocks, ice fins, ice humps and ice hills, so you’ll need to be prepared for very diverse terrain.
It’s also a lot more ‘rough and ready’ – there are no signposts, with the path only indicated by a few cairns, which aren’t consistent throughout the trail.
While most of the trail is covered in rock, there are likely to be times where you’re walking directly on ice, which can obviously be pretty slippery, so crampons and trekking poles are definitely worth packing.
In contract, the Everest Base Camp trail is pretty sophisticated – you’ll even find stone steps in some places, which means that a less experienced trekker can still cope with it.
2. You’ll have to cross rivers on foot on the K2 Base Camp trail
When you’re trekking in Pakistan, you’ll find that not all rivers have bridges over them, which means you’ll have to be able to cross on foot.
Adding to the challenge is the fact that the glaciers feed the streams, so if it’s a sunny day and the glaciers have melted considerably, they’ll flow extremely fast.
In order to cope with this challenge, we ensure that we keep river crossings to a minimum, and cross streams early in the morning when there’s a lower flow of water.
Poles and sandals are key parts of the kit list, and for good reason – they’ll help keep you safe on your river crossings.
The Everest Base Camp trek is a different kettle of fish. Following on from the previous point about maintenance, the EBC trail features solid suspension bridges, constructed from steel and supported by concrete pillars.
One thing to bear in mind is that these bridges are a long way up, so if you’re afraid of heights, this might not be the trek for you!
3. The weather on the K2 Base Camp Trek is more extreme
There’s no two ways about it, the Karakoram mountains in Pakistan get very hot in the summer, and you can expect temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius during the first few days of the trek, before you get high enough, and it starts to cool down a bit.
With not much shade, it’s critical to be prepared – lots of people bring umbrellas to help protect themselves from the sun, and of course, suncream, water, and cool clothing that still covers you up is vital.
As well as the sun, there’s also quite a lot of rain, so you’ll need to bring waterproofs and fold dry bags.
Once again, Everest Base Camp is a lot easier from a weather perspective – it does get hot in September or May, but not on the same level as the K2 Base Camp trek.
4. The accommodation on the K2 Base Camp Trek is more basic
If you like camping, you’re in luck, because that’s what you’ll be doing on a K2 Base Camp trek.
Rather than the teahouse lodges built to cater for the high demand on the Everest Base Camp trek, tents will be your accommodation if you choose a K2 Base Camp trek, which are obviously less comfortable, but for the right person, camping really adds something to the experience!
5. K2 Base Camp Trek is very remote
The K2 Base Camp trek really is extremely remote – a rugged landscape, without many passers by, and after the second day, you won’t pass any villages until your return to Askole on the last day.
Everest Base Camp is a different story – Sherpas have used it for generations, and with plenty of infrastructure in place, the whole experience will feel a lot more connected – you’ll get WiFi at the lodges, phone signal in lots of places, whereas you’ll get none of that on the K2 Base Camp Trek.
From a safety perspective, air lifts to safety are much more complicated in Pakistan, with only the military permitted to fly in helicopter, whereas there are plenty of commercial helicopters in Nepal, so if you did need to get back to Kathmandu it’d be pretty straightforward.
Okay, so we’ve established it’s tougher. But the K2 Base Camp Trek differs from the Everest Base Camp trek in a few other ways:
#1 Different Culture
Nepal is a very different place to Pakistan. Head to Everest Base Camp, and you’ll meet the Sherpa ethnic group, and come close to plenty of Buddhism – since that’s the main religion in the Everest region – as well as Hinduism in lower altitude areas like Kathmandu.
In Pakistan, the main religion is Islam, and it’s a key part of their culture which will be interwoven throughout your trek.
#2 Different Landscape
The Himalayas is the setting for your Everest Base Camp Trek, while the Karakoram mountains are where you’ll encounter K2 in Pakistan.
Both of these areas are very different – the Karakoram mountains are dramatic; steep, dizzying and intimidating, with plenty of ice, snow and not much foliage.
On the other hand, the Himalayas feel completely different – there’s much more greenery, and you’ll see huge variety on an Everest Base Camp Trek, from jungles, to snow, to local villages and more.
#3 Different Season
We’d recommend you avoid the monsoon season in Nepal, which happens during the summer, so your trek is likely to be in spring or autumn.
On the flipside, the best time to trek to K2 Base Camp is in the summer – July and August are when we run our trips, but obviously only one trekking season per year gives you less choice than the two on offer in the Himalayas.
#4 Different Travel
Both trips involve internal flights to the start point – for Everest Base Camp, you’ll fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, and for K2, you’ll fly from Islamabad to Skardu.
As local flights, they aren’t hugely reliable, and if the weather isn’t great, then the planes won’t fly.
Going by car is an option for both destinations – driving to Skardu to Islamabad will take you two days, while driving and then trekking from Kathmandu to Lukla will take four in total.
Having said all that, once you get to Skardu, you’ve still got another day of jeep driving to reach the beginning of the K2 trek, while the Everest Base Camp Trek starts as soon as you get off the plan in Lukla.
#5 Different Requirements
Generally speaking, it’s easier to get stuff done in Nepal than it is in Pakistan – Pakistan has more bureaucracy, more forms, more Government involvement.
But whichever trek you decide on, we’ll hold your hand and help you through it, completing plenty of the paperwork on your behalf to make it as easy as possible.
So there it is – Everest Base Camp Trek vs K2 Base Camp Trek; which one is right for you?
We can’t answer that. What we can re-state is that K2 is the tougher trek, and if you don’t have experience of trekking at altitude, you might be better of kicking off your altitude experience with Everest Base Camp.
Whatever you decide, we’re here to help – we run trips to both locations, can provide all of the guidance you need, and offer monthly instalments on all of our trips.
Click here to see our adventures, and when you’re ready to talk, give us a call on 01769 309007 and we’ll help you decide!