K2 (28,251'), the second highest mountain on earth, is a magnificent pyramid of rock and ice flanked by giants including Broad Peak (25,414'), Gasherbrum I (Hidden Peak; 26,509'), Gasherbrum II (26,362'), and a host of granite towers that are formidable summits in their own right. On this special WT Expedition with veteran Trip Leader Gary McCue, we approach both K2 and Gasherbrum I from the north by way of China’s great desert province of Xinjiang. Our 21-day trek is an incredibly spectacular journey following trails alongside the Yarkand and Shaksgam rivers, milky white with silt from the Karakoram’s mighty glaciers. As we make our way through dramatic mountain valleys, a caravan of shaggy, two-humped Bactrian camels carries our gear. At K2 Base Camp at 12,900 feet, we leave our camels behind and backpack to the Italian K2 Advance Base Camp (15,350’) on the K2 Glacier, a strenuous 4-day hike round-trip. We have an Exploration Day here to hike up through ice seracs toward the sprawling glacial amphitheater at 17,075 feet below K2’s immense North Face. It’s a strenuous trip but well worth it. After returning from the Advance Camp, we then follow the Shaksgam River to reach the base camp of Gasherbrum I (also known as Hidden Peak due to the difficulty in having views of the world’s 11th highest summit), and the chance to hike further up the glacier toward the Advance Base Camp —join us for a rare chance to explore two of the greatest mountain sanctuaries in the world!
This trip lived up to my expectations of an incredible, once in a lifetime experience.
— Elise E., Toronto, Ontario
Beijing, China / Kashgar
We fly to Beijing, then on to Kashgar via Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang Province. Kashgar was once a fabled oasis on the Great Silk Route. We explore Kashgar’s photogenic Sunday marketplace, one of the largest in Central Asia.
Yarkand / Trek to K2 Base Camp
We head up into the mountains to a Kyrgyz village at 11,500 feet. Meeting with our camel drivers, we hike along the Shaksgam River through a stunning desert canyon, cross Aghil Pass (15,825'), and descend into the Shaksgam Canyon. Our route turns higher as we ascend a ridge crest to 14,495 feet, enjoying impressive views of K2’s northern face as we hike further to K2 Base Camp (12,900'), a sprawling oasis of stunted willow trees in a broad plain adjacent to the terminus of the K2 Glacier
K2 Advance Base Camp
The camels cannot cross the moraine and ice of the K2 Glacier, so for this section of our trek, porters and donkeys carry our camping gear and food and we carry our own personal clothing, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad in a backpack. We hike up steep scree to K2 Advance Base Camp (15,350'), with an Exploration Day for hikes to the upper glacier and ice seracs. On Day 15 and 16, we hike back to K2 Base Camp, and on Days 17 and 18, we trek along the Shaksgam River back to our camp below Aghil Pass.
North Gasherbrum Base Camp
We trek up to North Gasherbrum Base Camp, camping at the foot of North Gasherbrum Glacier. An Exploration Day gives us access to a fantastic hike among the towering ice pinnacles of the glacier, conditions permitting. On Days 23 and 24, we retrace our steps back to the mighty Shaksgam River to camp below Aghil Pass or at Lake Camp, where famed British explorer Eric Shipton camped in 1937.
We descend down the valely to Karasum, then through the Surakwat Gorge to Yilak, where we bid farewell to our camels and camel men.
We drive from Poskom back to Kashgar, then fly to Beijing on Day 28. After a day of independent exploration in Beijing, depart on Day 30.