The world’s best mountain trek which leads to uncountable charms of Karakoram Range. This is a strenuous trek which requires energy, fitness and consistency. Acclimatization is also a very important matter of consideration here. New trekkers who do not have learnt about High Altitude Sickness, Snow Blindness, Dehydration and other health related issues must read about it first.
A jeep takes about 6 to 9 hours from Skardu to Askole, the last village of Shigar valley. Frequent landslides sometimes block the road between Apu Ali Gond and Askole. In such conditions it can take few more hours to reach Askole by any jeep across the blocked area of by trekking. The updated status of road conditions may be enquired in Skardu before leaving. If extra trekking is expected before Askole, it’s good to hire porters from Skardu to manage the load.
Travelling on the road along the wide Shigar River is an exciting jeep ride. Tea and food is available at road side hotels in almost every village of Shigar Valley. The Basha (from Chogolugma Glacier) and Braldo (from Baltoro Glacier) are to major contributors to the Shigar River. After the Apu Ali Gond; where Basha River joins the Braldo River, remaining travel is along the Braldo River till the Baltoro Glacier.
Askole is the most popular village of Karakoram. A green village with small houses made by mud, wood and stones; encircled by high Karakoram mountains. Camping site, food and tea along with few basic commodities are available here. Most of the expeditions to Biafo and Baltoro regions prepare the final back packs at Askole. It is recommended to bring all the supplies from Skardu and hire the required porters from Askole.
Askole to Korophon
An easy walk through the village houses and fields of wheat takes you to the end of village where a stones boundary is build to protect crops from animals. A fresh drinkable water spring is a further 10 walk to fill the water bottles as the next water supply is 2 hours away. After crossing a steep and careful rock and a noisy river by the Biafo Bridge, the rest of the trek is smooth. While crossing a wide leveled ground, the Biafo Glacier looks like an endless black ocean of boulders, sand and ice. It can take upto 4 hours to reach Korophon from Askole. Korophon is the name of an amazingly large stone just outside the campsite towards Jola.
Korophon to Jola
This upto 4 hours walking can be done easily. The only difficulty can be the sun if you are attempting to cover more than one trek stages in a day. In sunny and hot conditions, carry enough water and keep your head and neck covered. The trail is on the edge of a fast and noisy river with no shadow throughout the way. After crossing the only bridge on the Dumardo River, it’s a short walk to the Jola campsite.
Jola to Bardumal
Same as the previous stage, this segment can be hard only because of sun. It’s a desert like way with several muddy water crossings. It can be the best possibility to walk on the edge of Braldo river if the river is not over flown. Be careful as the wet stones can be slippery and Braldo is not a river of mercy. Bardumal is a white sandy ground. The fresh water availability makes Bardumal a good rest spot and campsite. It is recommended to trek a further 2 hours to Payiu.
Bardumal to Paiyu
Paiyu is one of the famous and traditionally important campsite of the Concordia trek. The route is straight and easy from Bardumal and the river edge is the best path to walk on. A high cliff rising directly from the Braldo River just before the Paiyu can be a threat if taken carelessly. For the fit and balanced bodies, it can be a matter of a couple of minutes to climb up and cross the cliff to the other side. But a minor imbalance, slip or twist of feet can result into a drop directly into the river.
In clear weather on the Baltoro glacier and surroundings, it is possible to have the first view of K2 from Payiu. The views of Paiyu peak right in front of the campsite are awesome as well.
Paiyu to Khaburse
The Baltoro – coming next to walk on. This will be a long day because of glacier crossing and height may take upto 8 hours to reach Khaburse.
After crossing frequent water streams, the path finally joins the lateral moraine of the Baltoro Glacier. The Braldo River is coming out of a broad ice hole in the glacier snout. It needs a steady effort to walk on the ascending surface of the glacier. This is the time when most of trekkers forget the maps and information regarding the Trango Towers! It requires looking back where the world’s highest towers touching the skies. The best view of Trango rocks is from the Khaburse and Urdukas.
There are few blue and crystal icy water ponds on the glacier. The water of these ponds is not drinkable and can cause vomiting. You have to cross the glacier to the other side to continue towards the Khaburse. After reaching at the mid, there is a steep slope through the end of the glacier. Another steady climb is required on a narrow path till the destroyed campsite of Liligo.
A couple of hour’s moderated walk on the sands and stone of Baltoro’s moraine will take you to the Khaburse Glacier. After crossing this dark glacier with no aesthetic looks, you will reach the Khaburse. A peaceful campsite with water and stone made boundaries for porters. Stunning views of Trango Towers, Cathedral and other granite rocks across the Baltoro are the rewards at the end of a difficult day.
Khaburse to Urdukas
It takes about 2 hours to reach the Urdukas. The path is easy but there is a need to avoid exertion as the altitude is above 4000 meters. A water stream and a side glacier crossing is there to tackle before heading up to the steep grassy slopes of Urdukas.
Urdukas is a wonderful campsite with magnificent views of Cathedral, Trango Towers and several other named and unnamed mountain peaks. At the feet of Masherbrum mountain and at altitude of 4200 meters, this campsite is considered as the door of K2.
Urdukas to Goro I
Get ready for the glacier days and nights. It takes about 2 hours to cross the boulders, jumping over the crevasses and reaching the mid of the glacier. This is all about the snow, ice and granite here and now on. The Goro I is another one hour walking on the stones over the thick ice of Baltoro. If possible, it’s better to keep going and camp at Goro II.
The glacier is the only option for camping from Goro I to onwards. A good quality mat and warm sleeping bag inside a reliable camp is what you will desire most of the times.
Goro I to Goro II
Keep going in a fantasy world of mountain splendors all around. The walk to the Goro II can take about 3 hours. You are reaching the Goro II when you feel stunning by finding a beautiful white pyramid with flat top. This is the Gasherbrum IV, 7929 meters high standing tall and dominating the whole scenery. Now, if you turn right and look back, 7821 meters high Masherbrum in a tilted top triangle shape is there.
Goro II to Concordia
The best mountain grandeur of the world is at a distance of 3 hours now. Keep moving on the stony and icy path under your boots while keeping the eyes on the giants appearing one by one in every direction. Gasherbrum II (8035 meters), Mustagh Tower (7284 meters), Broad Peak (8060 meters), Mitre (6025 meters), Angel (), Crystal (6252 meters), Marble (6256 meters), Chogolisa (7668 meters), Baltoro Kangri (7312 meters), Snow Dom (7150 meters) are few from the list. Finally, the K2 appears on the left with a solid impression of ‘mountain of mountains’.
The Concordia is the joining point of five glaciers i.e. Baltoro, Godwin Austin, Vigne, Broadpeak and Gasherbrum glaciers. The altitude is 4700 meters and breathtaking views in every direction are outstanding.