Trekking Among Snow Giants in Pakistan
Most people—aside from mountaineers and geography geeks, anyway—don't realize that 5 of the planet's 14 highest independent peaks (aka the Eight-thousanders, as they are over 8000 meters, or 26,247 feet, above sea level) are found in Pakistan. Four of them can be seen while standing at Concordia, an incredible spot created by the coming together of the Baltoro Glacier and Godwin-Austen Glacier and nicknamed "Throne Room of Mountain Gods." Trekkers use Concordia as the base for the final hikes into the base camps for K2 (the world's highest mountain after Everest) and Broad Peak (the world's 12th highest mountain), among others.
I've led expeditions to K2 and Snow Lake in Pakistan at least six times in the past, and I'm really looking forward to returning to K2 and Broad Peak this summer with a group of GeoEx trekkers. It's a very hard trek—the trail is rough, the camps are cold, and sadly, there is trash left by other expeditions—but the scenery is spectacular and we have a great team that makes it as comfy as possible, with good tents and warm meals. I've been lucky enough to trek all over Asia, including to the Kanghsung Face of Mount Everest 11 times and to the K2 Base Camp from the north (via China), and I can honestly say that the approach of K2 from the Pakistan side and the views of K2 and Broad Peak from Concordia are second to none. While my photos below don't do the beauty justice and can't convey the incredible sense of solitude and solemnity you feel on this trek, I hope they give you a taste.
Approaching the Baltoro Glacier from the trailhead on the first day of the trek.
Looking down the Baltoro Glacier, which spans an impressive 39 miles in length.
En route to Concordia, the pointy apex of Crystal Peak towers above, reaching 20,512 feet above sea level.
My tent at Concordia.
Moon rising over Concordia.
Approaching the revered K2, which rises to an astonishing 28,251 feet above sea level.
Porters moving expertly across the gravel and chunks of ice, making the expedition possible.
On the way to Broad Peak Base Camp and K2 (on the left).
Crystal Peak and K2 in the moonlight.
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Vassi Koutsaftis is one of our best-loved and most-experienced leaders. He has been traveling in Asia for more than 35 years and has been leading treks since 1986. He has been named Best Cultural Guide by Outside magazine and Top Travel Specialist for Tibet from Condé Nast Traveler. More of his photography can be found on his photography website.