Trek to Base Camp

The Walk In- 10 things I learnt and loved about our 7 day trek through the Karakoram.

As far as treks go, this has been the most exciting I’ve ever done. To put it’s difficulty into perspective, there was a trekker on another team who had been to Everest BC in the past, and on day 4 here he took 15 hours to get to our lunch stop.

Out here, on the Baltoro glacier, there are few obvious paths, no tea houses, boulder fields that take over an hour to cross, wide jumps across crevasses and river crossings on slippery stepping stones. The weather varies wildly from unbearable heat to freezing cold. There is loose shale, sand and glass ice, ready to throw you onto your back at the slightest bad foot placement. Then there’s the dust. Oh, the dust. In our lungs, up our noses, all over our clothes and reddening our eyes. Couple all that with the altitude (K2 BC is at 5000m) and you’ve got yourself a serious challenge.

For anyone reading this hungry for some serious trekking, I would highly recommend that you sign up immediately. It has been the most thrilling trek I’ve ever done. 

Now, we’re at basecamp, and I’ve been reflecting on the trek and have picked out my 10 most memorable moments:

  1. Giving out Union Jack pencils on the first day to school kids in Askole village. Seeing their happy smiles and their eyes light up.

2.  Setting out at 4.30am one morning and walking alone towards Trango Towers. The sun burst through two mountains in the distance, and bathed the Baltoro valley in a beautiful golden light.

3. Braving a “shower” on our rest day, which means a bucket of icy cold mountain water and a jug. I hesitated for a moment. Embrace it. I told myself. I chucked the jug over my head and felt the shocking moment as the cold hit, followed by goosebumps and shivering. I told myself “You’re washing in fresh mountain water, thats taken thousands of years to reach you. Embrace the cold, you’re so lucky to experience this!”

4. The most fun? Accidentally ending up on the glacier with two porters. They ran across mound after mound of glassy, bullet proof ice. There’s no friction under foot. I was terrified. I was off route, my team mates nowhere to be seen. I was obviously taking a short cut, and one that I really shouldn’t be taking! Every mound we crossed, we’d drop down again, me gingerly using my umbrella as an ice axe to hold my balance, whilst the porters ran down the glassy ice in flip-flops with 25kg loads cheering each other on. I could barely keep up, but there no was path so I couldn’t risk falling behind. They stopped at every stream crossing to make sure I made the giant leaps they took to avoid falling into the fast rushing rapids roaring down from the mountains above. I was both terrified and having the time of my life. Out we popped about 10 minutes later, and my team mates were right there, having taken the “normal” route. “Where have you been?” They said when they saw where we’d come from, the look on my face, and how exhausted I was.

5. Most poignant? On day 4 sat up high on a rock above camp one night, a group of us surveyed the Baltoro glacier below and a beehive of energy in front of us as porters set up camp for the night. We made jokes and chatted about nothing, and then Michael said in front of everyone “Bonita, you had a bit of a wobble yesterday. You said this was your last ever expedition. I think you were having a weak moment, right?!” 

“Really?!” said Kari, “No, you wait and see.” 

“Hey guys” I said, “I didn't say that because I don't like climbing anymore, I said it because I want to have children.”

Everyone awed. “Well” said Kari “that is the best reason, but remember- it don’t take long to cook a baby.” Everyone laughed.

Michal turned to me and said “My children are the proudest thing in my life. I am so so proud of them… So proud” and he had tears in his eyes. It was a lovely moment sat on that rock.

6. Later that night, on the long walk back from the toilet area, I looked up and was aghast at the amazing sight before me. A full moon was illuminating the jagged peaks in a glorious yellow glow. Behind these knife edge peaks, a navy blue sky was ablaze with stars. I switched off my head torch. The darkness engulfing me made the colours of the moonlight mountains and stars beyond even brighter. It was so peaceful, so still. “Remember this” I said to myself “soak in every last moment. You are alive, on planet Earth, looking at a most precious and rare sight. You lucky thing.” I breathed in the cold mountain air, breathed it deep into my lungs, and then stole one last glance, before heading back to my tent. When I close my eyes now, I can still see that amazing panorama.

7. After managing to stay at Mahmout’s heels for 2 solid hours of super fast walking/leaping/running over a vast boulder field to Broad Peak BC he shook my hand and said to me “You very fast and young,” he said “very good. In one month time, we go to summit together”  and he pointed towards K2. “Really?” I said. “Yes, I go with you. Fast and young.” Mahmout is our Sirdar, so to know that he has chosen me as his partner for the summit is a huge honour. I have to preserve my energy though, I know I'm fast down here, but I need to be able to keep up with him on summit day.

8. Seeing K2 for the first time on the 6th day of the trek. We arrived at a point where three glaciers meet, called Concordia. In front of us is the Gashebrums, and Broad peak slightly to the left, then as we walk further up the Baltoro, K2 reveals itself up the Godwin Austin glacier beyond Broad Peak. However, we only glimpsed the summit for a few seconds before it was shrouded in cloud again. Still, it took my breath away. Even today, three days on, the mountain is a mystery to me- still protected by a barrier of thick white fog, it won’t give away its secrets that easily. I can’t wait to finally see it.

9. Arriving at Base Camp finally, and falling into my new home after dinner last night- my tent, which i’ve decorated with all my good luck cards, and have my furry cat water bottle as a home comfort. I crawled into my sleeping bag in my Dear Kate leggings, and had the cosiest nights sleep ever. I’m here, I thought. I’m sleeping at the foot of K2.

10. Having some privacy when going to the loo! Here at BC we finally have a toilet tent, and what a luxury it is to crouch over a hole in the ground behind the tent fabric, rather than out in the open for all to see!