Edit Blog Post
Published: December 14th 2019
The previous Pakistan
blog posts are day to day events. If you don't want to bother with those then just read this one.
The photos in the blog posts are awesome though so you may want to take a look.
If there are any questions please don't hesitate to ask. Any comments? I really like to read feedback (I don't seem to get much).
Snowland Treks, Tours and Expeditions
K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La Trek http://snowland.com.pk/tripsnholy/k2-gondogoro-la-2/ Snowland's Blurb
This challenging trek gives great views of four 8,000m peaks and is thought by many to be one of the best high mountain treks in the world. Some of the wildest and most dramatic landscapes on earth are found in the vast, rugged Karakoram Range situated in Northern Pakistan. Remote and spectacular, the icy peaks and vast Glaciers of the Karakoram offer unparalleled opportunities for adventurous trekking. The 62km long Baltoro Glacier is Pakistan’s number one trekking destination. Seven of the world’s twenty-five highest peaks rise above this glacier, while the lower reaches are surrounded by some of the world’s highest granite walls and spires. The Baltoro
Glacier meets the Vigne and Godwin-Austen glaciers at the huge natural amphitheatre of Concordia. This is one of the most spectacular mountain campsites in the world. The huge pyramid of K2 only 10km distant dominates the view and creates a very special atmosphere. Our programme allows three days in the upper reaches of the Baltoro Glacier to savour the majesty of this unique place. The highest point reached on this trek is the 5,650m summit of the Gondogoro La. This is a challenging and technical route, which links the high glacial basin of the upper Baltoro with the green Hushe Valley to the south. The view from the summit is one of the most overwhelming mountain panoramas in the world, with four of the Karakoram 8,000m peaks close at hand. Our new itinerary combines all that is best in the Karakoram: a visit to K2 Base camp, a challenging ascent of a high pass, and the chance to experience two very different valleys. This trek offers variety and excitement. It is an unforgettable mountain experience." Duration: 21 Days Daily Walking: 6-8 Hours Max Altitude: 5650m Trekking: 13-14 Days Grading: Strenuous
$1500 including return flights from/to Islamabad. (- $100 as we didn't need to go back to Islamabad) = USD $1400 (+USD $60 for crampons/harness rental) My Process
I shopped around for prices quite a bit, disregarded the big companies like World Expeditions, etc as they were sooooo expensive. I also wanted a small group. Ultimately got down to quotes from Karakorum Expeditions and Snowland. Even then KE was about $1000 more expensive than Snowland. The You Tube videos and testimonials on Snowland's site were very good but very dated, a recommendation from a friend (Terry that I had met in Iran) and some discussions with future trek buddy, Lynton, who had spoken to a recent customer of Snowland from QLD, sealed the deal. Kamal (Snowland's Principal) was very
responsive to emails and the documentation provided was really useful - very comprehensive itinerary, comprehensive gear list and all of the documents required for the Pakistani Visa application (at no additional cost) were included . We had to pay a deposit USD $500 pp via Transferwise (+ AUD $23 transaction fee) on booking and didn't have to pay the rest until we were in country (this saves quite a bit of money too).
Group Size- 4-12, I was very pleased that we had 9, I was hoping for anything less than 10. Upsides-
1.The level of info from Snowland pre-departure was great
2. Juma was great
3. The food was outstanding and very generous. We actually received an upgrade on the food to the next level package without requesting it. Downsides -
1. Our guide was taken out before the trip finished, I don't think that should have happened and we didn't know about it until after the trek started by which time there was nothing that could be done about it. Our replacement, Ashan who had been with us for the whole trek in another role, was great but we wished Juma had concluded with us.
2. Emergency Equipment- the sat phone/battery issue that we encountered was not ideal, some of the other groups were clearly better equipped in this regard. More minor was that the many of the tents were past their use by dates with stains, broken zips and guide ropes, etc. I have been told that these have now been upgraded. Would I recommend Snowland?
Yes, I still would. I believe we got excellent value for money and if I went back to trek in Pakistan again I’d likely book with them again. Insurance
For this trek you have
to have fixed ropes cover, we were recommended to use World Nomads but on drilling down with the company on the phone ropes weren't covered
. I rang lots of companies with the same questions and this was the only one that I could find that was easy to organise in Australia. Some are height restricted, some don't include glacier trekking..... you have to be very specific when policy shopping. Not cheap- AUD $520.97 (but I had to take it for the duration of my entire trip of > 7 weeks and I was 54, rates much
better for a shorter duration)
See your doctor before you trek, mine uses a site called Travax that is specific for your country of travel and up to date on altitude medicine. He gave me a bunch of travellers meds for GI issues, and Diamox to help prevent altitude sickness. I followed his instructions re this and was fine, I have used Diamox on all of my high altitude trips now, and in conjunction with a sensible altitude gain schedule (which the Snowland trek had), have been fine (bar a bit of a headache)- could be psychological but that's OK with me. Only side effect was mild tingling in my fingers intermittently, some people pee a lot, it didn't seem to be a big issue for me.
Illnesses on the trek- nearly everyone went down with gastro (luckily mine was pre-trek), not just our group, pretty much all of the groups I spoke to. Some had 2 bouts -Azithromycin is your friend out there! There’s crap everywhere; human, donkey, horse... WASH YOUR HANDS OFTEN (unfortunately you can't control everyone else's hand hygiene though). Coughing- rampant. Ankle injuries- 1 of our group sustained a significant one (and she was wearing proper boots). Blisters- one of group had serious unwalkable blisters for several days. Falls/slips/trips- multiple- poles help. Wish I had taken my mini spikes.
If you're not doing any more post trek travel it's appreciated if you can give medical supplies to the guides/porters. Trekking Level of Difficulty
Personally I’d say 10/10. Having said that, I think it also depends on your group composition (5 of our group were uberfits and very fast, I think it might have been an 8 - 9/10 level of difficulty in a slower group). Dogged determination is required, luckily I have a lot of that. I'm pretty fit and have good endurance but I wish I had done more cardio training.
I find this sooooooo hard, it's so awkward. The advice is to do it as a group which we mostly did. Snowland's dossier recommended bringing an extra USD $150 in tips. We were given advice by our guide on how much each person "might" recieve- there are multiple porters and they stay with you for different lengths of time - as the food supplies are reduced the porter numbers reduce- we had to tip a couple of groups of porters before the final "end of trek" porters tips, there was also the kitchen staff (various seniority) that were tipped at the end. We had a list of the final porters/kitchen crew so as not to miss anyone and not to have any unexpected surprises (apparently there have been occasions where random fellows have appeared at the end!!!). The drivers to and from Askole were tipped and finally our guide was tipped (he didn't tell us how much to tip him but we worked it out in conjunction with the Irish group based on salary, etc so that both guides got the same amount). We had a tipping ceremony at the end with 1 of our group making a short speech. I think we all gave a few extra tips from time to time and most of us gave various bits of clothing and gear away. Natural Beauty
- 10/10. Seriously 10/10. Breathtaking. My K2 Base Camp /Gondogoro La Trek Gear List
I have star rated and made a few comments next to the gear list to follow. I had a lot of confidence in what I had packed and on the whole was really pleased.
What didn't work?
My Kathmandu 1L bottle (about 5 yrs old) cracked at the rim and leaked. Over packed on a couple of upper body clothing items and probably 1 pair of socks. My ski gloves were too small and they were hard to get on with freezing wet hands. What were the best luxury items?
Undoubtedly my thermos and my umbrella (even with the issues as described below), but mostly my thermos. The thermos gave me a cup of tea or coffee through the day without having to rely on the porters, the restorative power of hot water can't be underestimated! I usually offset the thermos weight by not taking my proper water bottle and using a used cool drink one. On to the umbrella- obviously it was great for rain, but it was even better for keeping the sun off. I think I'd like a reflective one that you can fix to your pack but I haven't tried them yet. Items Taken Pack/Bags
Pack- Osprey Ariel 65L Womens XS (actual capacity 59L in this size, 2200g) ******excellent as far as packs go however a 35 - 40L day pack would be a million times smarter (I took my 65L as it was a long o/s trip and needed trekking gear as well as normal clothes and it all goes onto the plane easily in this size. I thought about taking the 65L as well as a 40L but it all seemed a bit much to keep track of and carry for the rest of the trip. When I bought it in 2015 Paddy Pallin staff fit it for me and I have used it a lot since. I had it well compressed for the actual trek so it wasn't bulky and it is super comfortable but it's probably a kg heavier than a day pack.
MacPac 50L Duffel (800g)
****** Great heavy duty duffel to give to the porters, lockable main zips, I removed the shoulder strap. Built in compression straps also helped to reduce volume.I put my sleeping bag, mat, extra clothes, etc in it. https://www.macpac.com.au/packs/travel-bags-duffels/macpac-duffel-50l-1.1/115379.html?cgid=packs-travel_bags_duffels#q=duffel&prefn1=brand&prefv1=Macpac&start=5
Pack Liner- Sea to Summit Ultrasil 50L ****** Perfect lightweight protection that I put inside the duffel- our porters didn't use any plastic or protection for our bags so they got wet several times- the ultrasil kept it all dry. Some people use garbage bags as liners but the ultrasils are more durable without much added weight. https://seatosummit.com/product/ultra-sil-pack-liner/
Extra ultrasil dry bags ****** for inside my pack, they're just handy. https://seatosummit.com/product/ultra-sil-dry-sack/
Pack cover- Osprey L *** leaked but I've never had one that hasn't, had to buy it as an extra as Osprey don't have it built in to their packs, it had several small tears and punctures that I had previously patched with Tenacious Tape. You could get away without a cover but they are good to reduce pack damage/dirt.
https://www.osprey.com/il/en/product/ultralight-raincover-medium-ULRCMD_514.html Sleep Stuff
Sleeping Bag - S2S Trek3 regular (1190g) ****** well used since 2012 and kept me warm, didn't use a liner until Goro I https://seatosummit.com/product/trek-sleeping-bag-tkiii/
S2S Thermolite Reactor (300g) ***** great extra warmth from Goro I
Pillow- S2S Aesos ultralight large (70g) ***** bought in 2016, I like it.
Mattress- Women's Thermarest Neo Air Xlite (360g) ***** R 3.9, Love it, as a side sleeper my hips didn't touch the ground. https://www.thermarest.com/ie/sleeping-pads/fast-and-light/womens-neoair-xlite-sleeping-pad---classic-valve/06072.html?srd=true Carrying in Pack, On Pack or On Person
Trekking Poles- Black Diamond Distance FLZ 105-125cm (445g) ***** essential, packable.
Gaiters- S2S Quagmire Event ***** Excellent durable gaiter (I normally wear shorts/gaiters combo)- for this trek I didn't get to use them at all as there was no deep snow to walk through. https://seatosummit.com/product/quagmire-event-gaiters/
1L Kathmandu polycarbon bottle (144g) * fail for this trip, cracked and leaked. I do like a bottle system though rather than a bladder which I find takes too much effort to suck from, needs too much cleaning and you can't guage how much is left https://www.kathmandu.com.au/bottles-and-bladders/drink-bottle-bpa-free-tall.html
Empty 1.25L cool drink bottle ***** really light
Lonely Planet 450ml foldaway water bottle *** I like being able to clip this onto my front and decant into it when I stop for a break but over time the plastic where you clip will rip, current one has lasted 2 years https://www.ezyshoponline.com.au/lonely-planet-water-bottle-foldaway-lime
Thermos- Oasis brand 750ml (420g) ************************************* > than 5* see above
Travel tissues -10 little packets
Antibacterial wipes- 1 pkt
Hand gel- generic- essential
Compass*- didn't use as didn't need to, should have left it at the hotel, especially as I didn't have a trekking map anyway
Umbrella- Kathmandu mini (140g) **** it was invaluable in the sun, not so much if you needed to use both trekking poles (which was often)
Mini lighter ***** bought in Skardu for about 10c, had a little torch on it too! Better than matches for tissue burning
Seat Pad ***** bought on ebay for about $1, good for sitting on on a wet glacier, etc
Eagle Creek dry bags/cubes- ***** combo of the bags below, perfect compression. Kept day clothes layering system in 1 cube bag, night stuff in a cube, toiletries in sac, medications/first aid in a sac https://www.snowys.com.au/pack-it-specter-cube-set-xssm https://www.snowys.com.au/pack-it-specter-sac-set-sml
** I had various bit of kit in and out of the backpack and duffel bag depending on the day** Food
Didn't need my usual cooking/food system as this was a fully supported trek.
Snacks- chocolate, apricots, cheese/cracker packs. Gen had almond M&M's- great idea- my chocolate melted to liquid in the first 3 days , the m&ms were indestructible.
Instant coffee/tea/milk powder
Cup- Light my Fire Cup 260ml (52g) ******super compact and light (new model below is eco, my old one wasn't, it lasted 4 years before recently splitting at the join of the hard plastic and soft part)
Spork- Light my Fire (11g) *** conceptually good, the tines can break if under pressure, the new eco range link is below, I have an old one
Micropur tabs ***** I don't mind the chlorine taste, purification is essential, especially when you see how much crap is lying around. One of our group had a Sawyer filter the rest used a combo of boiling and tablets. I put the tabs into the boiling water too just to be sure.
Pocketknife * didn't really need it for supported trek
Dry bag for food/teabags/coffee/powdered milk, etc- Kathmandu 4L dry bag***** well used, well patched after mice attack on the Bibbulmun Track, Western Australia's premier long distance track
Ziplocs ***** weigh nothing, reasonable durable Clothing
Trek Boots- NOT my Salomon older style ultra 3 gtx titanium/ blue
***** my preferred brand for a number of years, no, they died about 2 weeks before leaving so I had to go buy some replacements- got a Salomon gtx mid boot (can't remember the model) *** they were ok, however weren't crampon compatible and my trek buddies told me I should have bought crampon compatibles. Given that we didn't go over the pass it was a non-issue but it would have been if we had. If you do the K2 Basecamp Trek without the pass you can actually get away with the trekking shoes (not boots) and the mini spikes if necessary. My personal opinion on Salomons has changed- they are now much narrower and no longer fit like they used to- on the lookout for a replacement- any thoughts gratefully accepted!
Hat- Knock off Northface cap***** bought in 2012 in Thamel, although quite faded it remains useful as it is quick dry fabric
Sunglasses TOMS polarised ***** the model is no longer stocked but they have the mirror lens- you know those ones that the cool kids wear on remote high peaks
Zip off pants- Kathmandu Clark ***** I've had these since 2013, high waist, they just work for me. People rubbish Kathmandu but a lot of the stuff I have bought there (on special of course) has lasted forever and has done what it needs to do https://www.kathmandu.com.au/clark-women-s-zip-off-pants-v2.html
1 x Kathmandu hiking shirt *** saved me from that sun on the first couple of days, super quick drying and has lasted for 6 years but... the fabric is hot, I want a really light cotton replacement. This one is now officially dead- the wash in the dirty glacier pool killed it- it's turned a weird tie dyed brownish colour , stupid idea having a white hiking shirt anyway....
3 x LS merino T- icebreaker siren sweetheart***** tried and tested, 2 for day time, 1 for night. Great base layer. Could have taken 1 less for day use but I like alternating.
2 x SS merino T- Kathmandu ***** as above
1 x Macpac merino thermal long johns 220 ****** good thickness for this trek https://www.macpac.com.au/womens/base-layers/merino/macpac-220-merino-long-johns---womens/114762.html?cgid=womens-base_layers-merino#start=3
1 x Kathmandu Saddle Merino hoodie ***** great midlayer, warm, no smell, no fade (no longer available)
1 x Kathmandu Altica Fleece Zip up ***** lighter weight fleece, could have gotten away with having either the fleece or the hoodie, if weight is an issue, leave one behind (no longer available)
Down jacket- Montane Featherlite *****new purchase for this trip, previously haven't had a hooded down but I really liked it- very, very warm https://www.trekkinn.com/outdoor-mountain/montane-featherlite-down/136174497/p?utm_source=google_products&utm_medium=merchant&id_producte=3723084&country=au&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIuNugkqq05gIVwR2PCh2C1gYMEAYYAiABEgJb0PD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
Rainpants- Berghaus Deluge ***** I was the idiot who had them in the porter bag and not my pack when I needed them, based on previous trips experience they are good. https://www.berghaus.com/womens-deluge-overtrousers%!C(MISSING)2%!A(MISSING)0/432908.html?cgid=womens-trousers&dwvar_432908_color=B50&dwvar_432908_size=8%!S(MISSING)HT
Gortex jacket- Mountain Design***** fantastic water repellant, good length .
Buff ***** handy
Sarong/Scarf ***** always handy- so multipurpose
1 x Sportsbra- Berlei Electrify***** tried and tested, awesome
4 x Socks- 1 x Macpac, 1 x Teva, 2 x Mountain Design***** 3 for day, 1 for night
4 x Undies- Jockey Boyleg Parisienne ***** no ride, quick dry, comfortable
1 x light gloves, 1 x snow gloves
Keens Hiking Sandals***** camp and water crossing, heavier than crocs but better on the glacier at camp and more stable in the water than crocs Communications/Tech
Iphone, battery pack/ charging cable
Headtorch, 3 batteries- Black Diamond Revolt***** https://www.mountaindesigns.com/equipment/electronics-navigation/light-power/black-diamond-revolt-headlamp-300l/BP90116608-black
Batteries AAA (spares) I changed my batteries once as the torch dimmed- the porters asked for them anyway
Luci Light ***** great to hang in tent and in dining tent https://lucilights.com.au/pages/frontpage Assorted Toiletries, First Aid Kit, etc
Repair Kit- tenacious tape
Paracord- handy washing line, and other stuff as required- use your imagination
Carabiners- S2S , handy to string up socks, undies, etc
Toothbrush/paste - travel size
Daily disposable contact lenses
Lip balm ******
Chux ***** weigh nothing, great for washing self, wiping tent inner, etc
KTM XS (tiny) travel towel*****
Small vial of teatree oil***** I put a couple of drops into the water in my dry bag that I used to wash myself
2 x V bags from work - ****** excellent pee bags
Snowland supplied harness and crampons
Non stick gauze
Meds- Diamox, Panadol Osteo, Immodium, Phenergan, Ondansetron (anti-nausea), Anti-inflammatory, Azithromycin, Tinidazole, Cephalexin, Oral rehydrating sachets
Tot: 0.152s; Tpl: 0.031s; cc: 10; qc: 27; dbt: 0.0112s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb