K2 - The Karakoram Range

K2 Pakistan

The Karakoram is home to the highest concentration of peaks over eight kilometres (five miles) in height to be found anywhere on earth, including K2, the second highest peak of the world (8,611 m/28,251 ft). K2 is just 237 m (778 ft) lower than the 8,848 m (29,029 ft) tall Mount Everest.

The range is about 500 km (311 mi) in length, and is the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier at 70 km and the Biafo Glacier at 63 km rank as the world's second and third longest glaciers outside the polar regions. The Karakoram is bounded on the northeast by the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, and on the north by the Pamir Mountains. The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed, west to east, by the Gilgit, Indus, and Shyok Rivers, which separate the range from the northwestern end of the Himalaya range proper as these rivers converge southwestward towards the plains of Pakistan. K2 is 500 miles more northerly than Everest, and it is far more susceptible to sudden, unpredictable storms, which over the years have blown dozens of climbers from its ridges. Its sides are steep, even at the lower altitudes. On the ascent, there are tough sections like House’s Chimney and the Black Pyramid. Then, right near the summit, climbers have to ascend a steep ice gully called the Bottleneck and cross a horizontal ice face named the Traverse. All this while they are directly below a serac, a menacing ice cliff that protrudes over the edge of the mountain and through the years has occasionally crumbled, sending blocks of killer ice over the Traverse or down the Bottleneck.  

The main Karakoram trekking season is late May to August and sometimes September. Most tours begin in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. The trip takes planning and needs to be arranged through a tour company. For a fee, tour companies will greet trekkers at the airport in Islamabad; provide hotel accommodation in the few places needed; transport trekkers to the Karakoram and back to the capital; and provide guides and porters for the trip into the mountains. All food is usually included. The tour companies accept individual trekkers, but traveling with a group cuts down the cost per traveler. Expect to pay $3,500 to $6,000 total for airfare and tour arrangements, not including the cost of gear and other travel-related expenses.The trekking company provides tents and food. You should bring a sleeping bag good for extreme cold, and several changes of clothes, a main rucksack and also a day pack to carry water bottles and other day equipment. Your rucksack will be carried by a porter, but check the weight limit; you will be charged extra if you exceed it. Bring a sun hat, warm-weather clothes and lots of sunscreen; the going is hot and dusty at the beginning of the trail. Sunglasses are important. But also pack heavy coats and other clothes suitable for the subzero temperatures later. A satellite phone is a good idea. Also important: strong, waterproof hiking boots. Consult your trekking company for a full list of necessary equipment.