Guide to the K2 Base Camp Trek
So you’re considering taking on the K2 Base Camp Trek. Smart move. The K2 Base Camp Trek is one of the greatest treks you’ll ever do.
Iconic, unforgettable and challenging, the trek’s on plenty of people’s Bucket Lists for good reason, and in this article, we’ll share everything you need to know before booking your trek.
Because, of course, it’s not quite as simple as rocking up to the Lake District with some walking boots, and if you’ve thought about this trek at all, you’ll have plenty of questions, like:
What’s the K2 Base Camp Trek cost?
What’s the K2 Base Camp Trek difficulty level?
How long is the trek to K2 Base Camp?
Is the K2 Base Camp Trek safe?
We’ll answer those questions, along with plenty more, right here in this article, so keep reading and you’ll get the answers you need.
Where is K2 Base Camp?
The setting for your K2 Base Camp Trek is the incredible Karakoram mountains in Pakistan, which isn’t quite as fashionable as some of the other, trendier trekking destinations, which means less tourists, and even more authenticity.
K2 is the highest mountain in the Karakoram, standing at a whopping 8,611m tall. It’s second only to Everest in height, and while you won’t need to scale each of those metres to get to Base Camp, you’ll still looking at an ascent up to 5,150m.
One of the best things about the K2 Base Camp Trek is the way that the K2 summit itself is visible for much of your trek, which is in stark contrast to the Everest Base Camp Trek, where you’ll only see Everest in all its glory a couple of times.
Why opt for the K2 Base Camp Trek?
As mentioned, K2 grabs far fewer headlines, but that’s likely to change over the next few years – the current Pakistani government are keen to encourage tourism, and they’ve made it much easier for people to get into the country for tourism purposes.
As a result, British Airways resumed direct flights to Islamabad, making it much easier to fly in and out (pandemic notwithstanding!).
Having said all that, if you’re thinking it’s going to be majorly touristy, think again – despite rising numbers of tourism, there are still only around 1500 trekkers going to K2 Base Camp each year, compared to the 30,000 that take on Everest Base Camp.
As a result, the trails aren’t busy, and you can really soak up the experience and enjoy peace and tranquillity as you trek.
What is the K2 Base Camp Trek like?
The trek itself takes 14 days in total, kicking off in Askole.
Day one will see you camping with the Mango Peak in view, before cracking on for the next three days, with the incredible sights of Trango Towers and Cathedral for company.
Then it’s onto the Baltoro Glacier, where Masherbrum and Muztagh Tower (both 7,000m plus) come into view, before you witness the incredible Gasherbrum Range.
Trek onwards for another day, and you’ll reach Concordia – a huge rocky confluence that really has to be seen to be believed.
It’s possible to go to K2 Base Camp from Concordia in a day, but it’s rather a gruelling trek, so generally we’d recommend hiking to Broad Peak base camp, staying for the night, and then hiking to K2 Base Camp and back again.
K2 Base Camp is far less populated than Everest Base Camp – there are no tents, flags or signs, and there are so few trekkers that make the pilgrimage that there’s every chance you’ll be alone when you get there, giving you a chance to really take in what you’ve achieved.
After getting to Base Camp, it’s back again, either heading back to Askole through the Braldu Valley of heading to Gondogoro La and finishing in Hushe, with the latter quite a bit more challenging.
How skilled do you have to be to trek to K2 Base Camp?
The K2 Base Camp trek isn’t for novices. It takes a full 14 days, so you’ll need to be able to trek for that length of time.
On the flipside, you don’t need any specialist equipment, as long as you’re not going back via the Gondogoro La pass, in which case you’ll need to use ropes and an ice axe.
The trek is also at altitude, so you should have done at least one high-altitude trek in the past.
Where do you sleep during the K2 Base Camp trek?
Tents! Unlike the Everest Base Camp trek, it’s camping throughout, and the tents are for two people, so if you’re travelling alone, you can expect to share.
The tents are pitched directly onto rock or ice, so a thick camping mattress is a must.
When it comes to toileting, it really is a ‘natural’ experience, with very few toilet facilities, so you’ll need to be prepared to dig holes, burn toilet paper and leave no trace following the doing of your business.
Will I need to carry my equipment?
Depending on the level of your trip, you can get porters to carry your equipment – cheaper treks will require you to carry at least some of your gear.
The more expensive treks will also guarantee you a comfier experience, with porters bring tables, chairs and a toilet tent, so it’s worth bearing that in mind when you book.
When’s the best time to take on the K2 Base Camp trek?
The trekking season runs from the middle of June through to the middle of September, but we’d recommend trekking in July and August, as that’s when the weather is at its most predictable.
Having said that, you need to be prepared for whatever the elements can throw at you – sun, wind, rain, cold, hot, you’ll likely get a bit of it all.
What’s the trail like?
Basic, especially in comparison to treks like Everest Base Camp, which have more investment infrastructure built into them.
You’ll be walking on the Baltoro Glacier, as well as crossing rivers, so waterproof boots are a must.
What paperwork do you need?
You need a licensed guide to get to Base Camp, as well as a No Objection Certificate from the Skardu tourism office.
You’ll also likely need a tourist visa to get into Pakistan, depending on where you’re coming from.
Is the K2 Base Camp Trek safe?
As long as you’re fit and healthy, you listen to your guide and you don’t take any unnecessary risks, this trek is pretty safe.
Yes, you’ll need to keep your wits about you and be careful, but it doesn’t require any specialist equipment (as long as you avoid the Gondogoro La pass on the way back).
More information on the K2 Base Camp Trek
Interested in finding out more about the K2 Base Camp trek, as well as understanding how you can get it ticked off your Bucket List for as little as £136 a month?