Slowly, Slowly (What's Urdu for That?)... Skardu, Pakistan

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August 6th 2019
Published: November 7th 2019
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Sleeping Altitude 2230m or maybe 2310m depending on your info source

Day 8

0512 sunrise across the mountains, open up the door to let in some cool air. We don't have much of a plan for today as it's mostly for the company to get the permits finalised, organise their porters and cooks and purchase food supplies. Still feel slightly subpar in the gut so decide to hit up my drug stash- Azithromycin, Lomotil, Buscopan and Ondansetron pre breakfast ought to finally knock it on the head. No idea when breakfast is so after a hot bucket and ladle "shower" wander down to the restaurant area. There are several tables occupied - the large French group (actually all svelte, just large in number), a Spanish group (animated), an Irish group (slightly animated- probably less so than normal as there is no Irish whisky or guiness available here, and maybe because it's breakfast time) and some of us (not so animated). Breakfast consists of cornflakes, milk, toast, jam, chappati, vege curry and eggs- a pretty good spread really, plus lots of boiling water that you can help yourself to through the day- I have my trusty thermos and some pilfered tea bags so I'm happy. Have a little chat with one of the Irish who are heading off for their trek this morning (they are also booked with Snowland) and will be a day ahead of us for the duration of the trek (well that's the plan... it's not to be though).

Hang around the hotel deck area with my thermos (and stolen tea bags) and a book in the shade for a few hours, I don't get many pages read though as the view is too stellar and every 15 mins I have to move my chair back to stay in the shadows (until I can't get any further back and decide against baking in the boiling hot sun). Damn hot. Skip lunch. Unpack and repack my gear a couple of times - we can leave a bag at the hotel with non trek stuff. Juma finds us to try on crampons and harnesses (USD $40 hire fee). Kamal, the big boss of Snowland, finds us and one by one we pay the trek balance (crisp $100 USD bills, current series as instructed).

So, to introduce the impending trek (as per Snowland's brief):

"Snowland Treks, Tours and Expeditions K2 & Gondogoro La Trek
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

All set for our afternoon training walk into the dunes
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

COST- USD $1500 (- $100 as we didn't need to go back to Islamabad) = USD $1400

*** I shopped around for prices quite a bit, disregarded the big companies like World Expeditions, etc as they were sooooo expensive. Ultimately got down to quotes from Karakorum Expeditions and Snowland. Even then KE was about $1000 more expensive than Snowland. A recommendation from a friend (Terry that I had met in Iran) and some discussions with Lynton who had spoken to a recent customer
Local Kids Playing SoccerLocal Kids Playing SoccerLocal Kids Playing Soccer

We were an object of interest as we walked through increasingly narrow streets and across a school oval, an impromptu soccer game sprung up with Anthony taking centre stage
of Snowland from QLD sealed the deal.

And, to introduce the trek participants:



Lynton- from NSW, retired outdoor ed teacher

Danny- friend of Lynton, from Darwin but Welsh, floor layer and entrepeneuer (has recently invented a floor laying tool)

Anthony- from Victoria, freakishly fit, plant science research doctor, supervisor of PhD students

Ian- Chinese, American citizen living in Kuwait, engineer

Chisato- Japanese, living in Spain, married to Fernando, classical pianist

Fernando- Spanish, forestry worker, mountaineer who has scaled Shishma Pangma in Tibet (8027m)

Gen- Japanese Canadian, teaching in Japan

A diverse group.

Late afternoon as the sun is supposed to be going down we assemble for an acclimatisation hike. Off we go up College Rd dodging trucks, bikes, motor bikes, chooks, kids, etc before turning off into quiet back streets. The locals are friendly and inquisitive. I love being out in places like this - cows, goats, little kids. Houses, green fields and sunflowers emerge before random sand dunes appear from nowhere. Somewhat breathlessly climb up them trying not to look too breathless. An hour later in the middle of nowhere a camping spot appears- it is a new venture- Glamp Katpana, it is billed as luxury camping in a Cold Desert (defn- an arid ecoregion with cold winters), and as luck would have it we are invited for chai.

Magical end to the day, wonderful beginning for our trek as a group. The walk back to the Mashabrum was brisk and cheerful (I was very cheerful- it was dark and cool).

Early night- very big day tomorrow- excited.

Additional photos below
Photos: 25, Displayed: 25


Washing Drying On a FenceWashing Drying On a Fence
Washing Drying On a Fence

The houses were more spread out as we walked further

Top Of The DunesTop Of The Dunes
Top Of The Dunes

Photo cred to Ian

Tea at SunsetTea at Sunset
Tea at Sunset

Photo Cred to Ian

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