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K2 Gondogoro La Trek: What you need to know

k2 gondogoro la trek

Trekking to K2 Base Camp is one hell of an adventure unto itself. You get views of multiple 7000 and 8000 meter peaks, the majestic remoteness of the Karakoram range, and a chance to sleep at the base of the world’s second highest mountain. 

Many trekking groups do the classic out and back along the Baltoro glacier…which is great too… but if you go for that option then you will miss the cherry on the cake of this adventure: crossing Gondogoro La. 

So what is Gondogoro Pass and why is it worth tacking onto the end of a K2 Base Camp Trek trip? Read on to find out more.

k2 base camp trek gondogoro la

What is Gondogoro Pass?

Gondogoro Pass (aka Gondogoro La in the local Balti language) is a 5600-meter semi-technical mountain pass that serves as an alternative exit route for groups doing the K2 Base Camp Trek. 

The normal route is to ascend from Vigne Glacier on the northeast; departing from a fixed camp known as Ali Camp (4800 meters). Descending the pass, you will eventually arrive onto Gondogoro Glacier. After a few days of trekking down the valley, you will reach Hushe Village and the end of the trek.  

Perhaps the coolest aspect of doing Gondogoro La is the potential insane views of all of the surrounding peaks that you get if the weather is clear when you arrive on top. 

 

k2 gondogoro la trek

Gondogoro La Difficulty

Although not beyond the reach of someone with decent fitness and no mountaineering experience, Gondogoro Pass is a challenging endeavor. 

It should be emphasized that people who have no mountaineering experience can still do the pass no problem. 90% of the people who do it every year do so without much high alpine experience. 

The difficulty comes in two forms:

1. The route is long. Groups typically set out in the dark from Ali Camp around midnight with the goal of “summiting” the pass around sunrise. By the time you descend to Gondogoro Glacier and make your way down the valley to the next camp at Kuisbang – the whole journey will be around 10-12 hours. 

2. The route is steep. Descending the La can be a bit intense in places because it is so steep. To aid with this steepness, every year the national park installs fixed rope lines for safety. Most people clip into this rope as they descend. They use the rope almost like a handrail. No rappelling is involved and you are really using your arms and upper body to descend on the rope. 

Finally, the high altitude can be a factor. Peaking at 5600 meters, the lack of oxygen can make this pass feel tougher than it actually is. 

My opinion is that if you were fit enough to do K2 Base Camp and the whole route from Askoli, then you should be good to go for the Gondogoro La trek as well if you are prepared with the right gear. 

 

k2 gondogoro la difficulty

Benefits of Doing the K2 Gondogoro La Trek

As I mentioned before, if you only have the desire to do the K2 Base Camp Trek out and back version, that trip is still going to be awesome. 

Many of the budget tour operators only offer this option; because of the extra work and logistics needed to cross Gondogoro Pass. 

If you have the extra money to tack on the Gondogoro La component of the trip, it is 100% worth it. Most likely this is the only time that you will come to this part of the world and to come all the way here and not do the pass is to deprive yourself of a truly rewarding adventure expereince (plus the crazy views you can’t get elsewhere on this trek). 

For many people too, it gives the chance to set a new personal high-altitude record and the chance to dip your toes into the world of basic mountaineering. 

Another benefit to doing Gondogoro Pass is that it saves time. Once you come up the Baltoro Glacier at the start of the trek you will be keen to want to avoid going back the same way as that route can feel quite long to do back to back.

Normally once you cross Gondogoro La, you have two nights of camping to go before the return to Skardu via Hushe. If you come back down the Baltoro, you are looking at 3 or 4 days minimum until you reach Askoli and the jeeps back to Skardu. 

k2 gondogoro la trek

Risks of Crossing Gondogoro La

Like any high alpine adventure, certain risks are inherent. The main two I would say for doing the Gondogoro La Trek:  1. the altitude and 2. the danger of rocks falling from above. 

Unless you have been at altitude before, there is no way to know how your body will feel at altitude. With our itinerary, we give everyone the best chance of feeling their best because we have plenty of days prior to crossing the La to acclimatize. Sleeping at 4000,4500,4800, and 5000 meters in the days before crossing the pass will help your body acclimatize properly before attempting Gondogoro. 

The other danger has to do with rock fall. Typically, the descent of Gondogoro Pass is done just after sunrise. The majority of snow and ice above the descent route is frozen, thus reducing the risk of rock fall significantly. We also try to time our descent so that no other groups are coming down above us so that careless trekkers from other expeditions don’t rain down rocks on us. 

Obviously, it is mandatory for every member of our team to wear a helmet. 

k2 base camp trek

Training for the K2 Gondogoro La Trek

Like anything in life when it comes to physical activity, the more you put into it before the actual trek, the more you will get out of it and the less you will suffer. 

We have had people with all kinds of fitness levels join us. Some simply rock up without much training and are fine though they find the days challenging. Others will do a bit of training and they find the daily trekking and crossing the Gondogoro Pass easier. 

The best thing you can do to train for the K2 Gondogoro La Trek is… hike. Surprise, surprise. 

Your leg strength and your cardio fitness will be the two main areas you want to focus on. Getting out for a tough hike a few times a week is a great way to prepare for this trip in the months prior to departure. If a gym is all you have access to where you live, then the stair master machine, stationary bicycle, and treadmill will all be your friends. 

If you have some time and ability to get to a place of some significant altitude before coming to Pakistan, this will only help you acclimatize faster. That said, our acclimatization program is such that we assume most people are coming from sea level before the start of the trip, so getting pre-trip acclimatization is absolutely not essential. 

k2 base camp height

Caution on Doing the K2 Gondogoro La Trek with Budget Companies

In this section, I will try to be as objective as possible, considering the fact that I am also a tour operator and guide for the K2 Gondogoro La Trek myself. 

Over the years, I have witnessed some truly dangerous behavior on Gondogoro La. More often than not, the offending parties are operators from budget trekking companies – who charge very little to do this trek vs other operators. These groups can be as large as 40+ people with one guide supposedly managing the whole thing – which can work in some cases, but not when it comes to crossing Gondogoro Pass safely. 

With groups so large, it is obvious to see why it is not possible to safely manage a group doing the Gondogoro La trek. 

Oftentimes as well the “guides” have no crampons, harnesses, or helmets. In many cases, it is the first time that the “guides” themselves are doing the Gondogoro La crossing. 

When it comes to K2 Gondogoro La Trekking, you absolutely get what you pay for. 

By comparison, Epic Backpacker Tours has a minimum of two qualified guys while doing Gondogoro La and sometimes three. Our group size is kept small so that at any time, our guides are there to assist our members if need be. 

In my opinion, groups numbering 30 plus members should not even be allowed to do Gondogoro La as it makes the mountain more unsafe for everyone else. 

As mentioned previously, we do our best to time our crossing so that no other groups are there when we are going for it. 

Trek to K2 Base Camp

This is the adventure of a lifetime - be one of the lucky few and join us when we go in 2023!

Weather on Gondogoro La

Being that this is the Karakoram Range in Pakistan we are talking about, it should come as no surprise that the weather on Gondogoro La is highly variable. I have experienced the La in pretty much every kind of condition during the exact same time of the year. 

The most common months to do the crossing are June – August when the weather in the mountains is the most stable. And even then you never quite know what the weather will be like. 

The ideal scenario is little to no wind and clear skies. Expect the temperatures to be below freezing during the nighttime ascent and on top of the pass. I have not experienced it being colder than -10 C at the top of the pass. A cold,clear night will give way to a clear sunrise and one of the best views of your entire life. 

On the other hand, it is possible to get snowfall on Gondogoro La at any time of year. Cloud and fog can roll in quickly making it difficult to see much beyond the top of the pass. 

With my groups, I have experienced it both ways. The last time we had a group crossing the La we had the most perfect weather possible and had killer 360-degree views in every direction. 

It is important to remember that crossing Gondogoro La is never guaranteed.

If there is heavy snowfall at Concordia or K2 Base Camp in the days before you are meant to cross the pass – it is possible that the amount of snowfall will make it difficult or impossible to cross.

Depending on the weather patterns during the week that you are there and the future forecast, whether or not to cross the pass that will be a game-time decision from your tour operator. 

gondogoro La trek
Gondogoro La on a perfect morning
k2 gondogoro la trek

Important Gear Needed for the K2 Gondogoro La Trek

Here is a list of five things I highly recommend you bring on the Gondoogro La Trek: 

 

  1. Proper alpine boots: For the best result and guaranteed dry, warm feet, I recommend going for a double mountaineering boot like the La Sportiva G2 SM or Scarpa Phantom 6000. If those boots are beyond your budget, the La Sportiva Trango GTX is also much better than doing GG LA in only your trekking boot. 
  2. Good gloves: You’ll want gloves that are waterproof, warm, and offer good dexterity for when you will be holding the rope descending Gondogoro La. 
  3. A helmet and a harness: Under no circumstances should you attempt to cross Gondogoro Pass without a helmet. 
  4. Extra water and snacks – There is no opportunity to refill your water bottle when you leave from Ali Camp to start to trek. Start the ascent with a minimum of 2 liters of water and plenty of snacks or energy gels to keep you going all night. 
  5. Crampons: There are different opinions surrounding crampon use and Gondogoro La. After my last expereince with a ton of ice present on the descent, crampons are no longer an optional piece of gear; we made them mandatory. Crampons are essential for descending the La in icy conditions. If you have not worn crampons before, put them on and get a little training in from your guide around Ali Camp or Concordia. 
k2 gondogoro la trek

Final Thoughts on the K2 Gondogoro La Trek

By now you should have a proper idea of what the Gondogoro La Trek entails. 

Combining a crossing of Gondogoro La with the K2 Base Camp Trek is one of the best mountain adventures in the world. Period. 

Whether you are an experienced trekker, or new to the game and looking to gain real mountain experience, the Gondogoro La Trek is the ultimate adventure for those who want to reap the rewards and jaw-dropping views that the Karakoram has to offer. 

 

If you are keen to join us for the K2 Base Camp Trek + Gondogoro La next year, check out the trip page and get in touch with us to secure your spot. 

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Welcome to our Journal!

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Here at Epic Backpacker Tours, adventure is constantly on our minds. 

Our blog – or Journal as we like to call it – contains epic trip stories, photo diaries, and news about new tours. 

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PAKISTAN
K2 BASE CAMP TREK

Next trip: June 20th – July 10th, 2023

Fairy Meadows

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Our Favorite Experiences

#1 Sunrise from Reflection Lake

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#2 Hiking to Nanga Parbat Base Camp

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#3 Playing cricket with the locals

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Trips Where We Visit Fairy Meadows

Our flagship Pakistani adventure tour.  Road trip with some  hiking and cultural immersion.

A trekking-style tour that features some very remote locations, inlcuding a K2 viewpoint.

Adventure Guide

João has born in the mountains of Madeira Islands in Portugal. Nature lover, writer, musician, guide, for him, a day without contact with outdoor vibes is a nightmare.

With a degree in Cultural Studies in Portugal and a Master of Arts in Global Cultures and Creativity in the U.K.

João found out what really matters in life can be found on the trails, and in the contact with people from different backgrounds and cultures.

Guiding, crazy trekking missions, and sharing observations about the natural world, – these are some of João’s passions. 

After trekking to K2 Base Camp and exploring all over Northern Pakistan, he fell in love with the country and the local people. His experiences resulted in his desire to share these feelings with the world.

João is one of the most experienced guides at Epic and his skillset and positive mindset in the mountains is second to none

When not in Pakistan, João is  guiding and exploring in the Madeira Islands trails –  discovering some of the hidden treasures on his Portuguese Island.

João I can not thank you enough for the off the beaten paths and views you keep giving. Definitely one of the most challenging and amazing hikes we did 1200m meters all the way up to Fanal forest and circling back to the hidden village. Wow!

– Jeffery 

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Adventure Guide

Sohail is the newest addition to the Epic Backpacker Tours team and we are beyond stoked to have him on board. As a veteran of the Karakoram and a native of Karimabad in Hunza, there is not much Sohail can’t do in the mountains. 

Besides having the ability to speak more languages than we can count, Sohail has explored every corner of Gilgit Baltistan and logs more trekking miles 

in a year than most people will do in a lifetime. As of the summer of 2022, Sohail has summited Gasherbrum 1, Gasherbrum 2, and K2 – three of Pakistan’s five 8000-meter peaks. Sohail guides several trips including our annual bespoke expeditions but specializes in Hunza Valley tours.

Chris and Sohail, and the team at Epic are FANTASTIC! Highly recommend anyone to do a tour with ‘Epic’. They have the perfect balance of fun, excitement and wild adventures, tied in with being super professional and ensuring your safety/health in a foreign environment. Don’t waste a moment and book a tour with these guys as the value for money is UNREAL!

– Borgan

iran travel tour

Adventure Guide

Pedro’s been traveling all around the globe since 2009. His keen interests in documentary photography, rural life, and local people from different ethnic groups have been the focus of many of his professional projects.

Since 2012, he has developed his passion for travel and awesome shared experiences into a full-time adventure photography tour leader position.

Pedro has found himself continuously going back to the Middle East, with his likely favorite destination being Iran. Pedro will be leading his 11th tour in Iran with EBT this coming spring 2020

When Pedro’s not traveling the world with Epic Backpacker Tours, you’ll find him based in the western south of Portugal planning he’s next adventure missions, logistics and working out his photos in local exhibitions.

 I loved the combination of hiking, camping around breathtaking scenery mixed with the cultural aspects. The guide (Pedro) is knowledgeable and work very hard to make the trip as memorable as possible. All in all an epic adventure with some extremely epic individuals! Go for it, you won’t regret it!

– Saisun

Touring Iran with EBT in May 2022 was way above our expectation: itineraries well planned and carefully executed, perfect mix of sights and trekking, delicious food, nice accommodation, great guides and wonderful fellow travellers. Trekking can be handled by anyone physically fit. Highly recommended for those who want to experience the real Iran.

– Sumera

Diane Bouvet

Adventure Admin / Marketing

After fleeing from the corporate fashion world in Paris towards the start of 2020, Diane has been working as a web developer and graphic designer remotely from various bases across the globe

She brings all of her incredible design and organizational power to Epic Backpacker Tours and is responsible for many of the beautiful behind-the-scenes design elements. 

Diane has been to Iran and to Pakistan twice including all over Gilgit Baltistan and KPK.

k2 gondogoro la trek

Head of Operations | Guide

A veteran of Pakistan travel, Ralph is an experienced guide, photographer and writer who specializes in documenting remote locations. 

Not one to simply go where everyone else does, he insists on exploring new and lesser-known areas.

Together with Epic Backpacker Tours, he shows people parts of Pakistan that most other operators don’t even know about. He is particularly fond of the village of Barah, which he believes will become just as famous as Hunza one day.

Just got back from EBT’s Trekking Amongst Giants 15 day tour. The experience was first class. Ralph, our head guide, ensured that the entire trip ran smoothly and relatively on time (a bonus for anyone travelling in Pakistan). We had so many unforgettable days on the tour and the trekking was well-planned, safe but also a rewarding challenge. 

– Calvin


Traveling to a non-tourist destination can be a little intimidating but EBT takes all of the worry and trepidation away. From the pre-trip call to meeting the wonderful staff in person you can tell that you are dealing with a company that has a passion for what they do each and every day. Ralph, Zahid, and Khan were supportive, kind, and always willing to go the extra mile to make sure that everyone on the trip was getting what they wanted out of the experience.

– Katrina 

adventure tours pakistan

Founder | Adventure Guide | Director

For the last eleven years, Chris has been seeking out every shade of adventure in various parts of the globe and had visited more than 65 countries along the way. 

Since 2011, Chris has logged more than 6300 trail miles across five continents and climbed multiple 6000 + 7000 meter peaks in Pakistan and Nepal.

In 2017, a distant dream and a deep passion for the mountains and people of Pakistan led Chris to found Epic Backpacker Tours at a time when foreign adventure tourism in Pakistan was almost nonexistent. Since then, Chris has guided more than 15 expeditions to various parts of Northern Pakistan.

Chris believes in using photography and powerful adventure experiences to dismantle negative stereotypes regarding what mainstream media considers “dangerous” countries while facilitating unique and meaningful memories in the mountains for countless people from around the globe. 

Long-distance hiking, learning languages, meaningful conversations, all things Turkish food, mountaineering, and making tasty coffee above 6,000 meters rank among his favorite things in life. 

For him, an ideal start to the day begins with a steaming cup of good coffee, the beam of a headlamp, alpine boots, and a camera in hand.

When he is not leading or planning tours, Chris works as a writer and photographer on his blog Off the Atlas – an adventure travel blog all about Pakistan. 

Read this interview our staff did with Chris to learn more about him!

Chris believes in Pakistan and its people, and he believes in the value of journeys shared with others and family cultivated on the road. Honesty and integrity are at the heart of what he does, and this really shines through in his work as a guide. He also makes great coffee – whether at 5am in an empty guesthouse or half way up a Himalayan peak.”

– Will De Villers

Pakistan is a magical country! Had 3 of the best weeks of my life thanks to Epic Backpacking Tours with owner, and one of our awesome guides, Chris. From detailed itinerary, preparation with an equipment list, and visa assistance. To amazing food, great porters, helpful guides, and great accommodations. Epic really hit home run after home run. […]

Their desire for adventure and amazing trip is just as high as yours. Bring a good pound of coffee for the trip. French press coffee every morning and no average tin coffee, plus you’ll be in your guides good books.

– Clark Tyler

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