My trek up to K2 base Camp was incredible; I spent a huge amount of time on TripAdvisor before my trip because it was the only place I felt I could get honest advice about the hundreds of trekking companies with a huge difference of prices. Anyway, here are some thoughts about my experience that I hope you will find helpful. Here we go....
My research took forever but it really worked out. First, as I say, there are just hundreds of trekking companies (and you must use one, you can't trek alone). That is clear from the Internet, and let me tell you, when you arrive at the base of the mountain, you simply won't believe how many different companies and guides (and porters!!) are massed there. I learned that the most expensive trekking companies. These are excellent but golly do you pay for it - like 2-3 times what other companies pay. Most trekking companies are based in Pakistan, but many of those actually work under contract for foreign based high end trekking companies. Vertical Explorers, https://vepakistan.com the one we used, does that. But they also sell direct, which is how we booked with them. I liked vertical Explorers’ price, and I saw so many positive reviews about them that I decided to contact one of the reviewers to be sure he was the real thing and not a fake reviewer. Did that by asking some insider questions about Colorado mountains since he was from Colorado, and he passed - and in fact we've corresponded many times since. So I recommend you do that if your life and health depends on a good choice of outfitter, which it might.
I was nervous about dealing with a less expensive local firm for all kinds of reasons - first, my wife thought I was crazy going cheap to K2. Maybe you get what you pay for, maybe you just get a bad guide, or a bad tent, or heaven knows what. Maybe they take your money and close up shop. Maybe you get into a dispute and they won't refund your deposit. Maybe the US dollar dives in value and they raise the price for the final payment - the risk made me shiver. So like I said I spent loads of time on TripAdvisor (as well as many blog sites), and like I also said, after checking some references, settled on Vertical Explorers.
Our guide was Ahsan and he was simply fantastic. spoke English well, were fun, were extremely knowledgeable about medical issues, trekked at a safe speed, and were just a delight to be around. We saw few other guides were (literally) dragging and carrying their clients up and we just felt lucky we were under such good leadership.
Many times on the trek I thought about whether our relatively low price was resulting in lower quality, but I don't think I would have wanted anything much different than what we experienced. The tents were, the dining tent was fine, although it could have been bigger and would have been more comfortable. The food was very good. It wasn't 5 star cuisine - and I do think some of the really expensive tours do have some amazing food - but it was really good, and plentiful. The hot porridge in the morning, followed by a different breakfast every day....the delicious soup, the pasta, the chicken, or whatever at dinner....always choices of tea, coffee, anytime you want it.....you just won't be hungry. And these folks know what kind of calories you need to get you up the mountain. So count on starches and vegetables and maybe a little different blend of food groups than you might normally have, but I always felt satisfied and ready for the day with the meals we had.
The number of porters you get depends on the price you pay and the company you choose - we felt the number we had was entirely adequate. These guys are amazing, and I won't go on and on about it because everyone talks about it, but anyway you really appreciate them and I really enjoyed the tipping ceremony at the end because whatever you think about the wages.
By the way, one tip about giving tips - although we decided on the amounts ourselves and put them in envelopes as recommended in the guidebooks, we did this after a conversation with our guide about being sure we knew who we would be tipping, what their names were (to write on the envelopes), and how to distribute it ourselves. This was really important. While I felt like the hardest working people (the porters) should get first choice, that is simply not the way it works in Pakistan and would have caused some real discomfort, especially among the folks at the bottom. There is a very clear pecking order and also path to the top - nearly every guide started as a porter - and the money, was in order of rank. whatever amount you are giving the porters, be sure to give the tent crew about $10-15 more" - it was really good to have that sort of cultural input because tipping is important but it can be awkward and you don't want to mess it up.
As I mentioned, there is a reasonable concern you can have about sending money to some firm in Pakistan you've never heard of until recently - and as far as I can tell, all the trekking companies require a down payment. But of course if I were to use them again, I would just wire them the money and save the huge fees.
VE handled all aspects of our trip in Pakistan other than the visa. We got our visa through the email before leaving. They picked us up at the airport in a van and took us to the hotel. All in all, we had a great experience with Ahsan on our K2 base camp trek. We successfully reached to K2 Base Camp and cherish the memories. Baltoro region has amazing mountains!
To help anyone planning to do the trek, my 'little nuggets of advice' are given below:
Have two 1 litre Sigg type bottles for water, and ask the staff to give you them back each evening when they have put boiled water in for the next day (put them inside socks, and use them as hot water bottles).
Drink the recommended amounts of fluid (5/6 litres a day). Bear in mind that a flask full of tea/coffee at breakfast, lunch and dinner counts towards this – which means that 2 litres of water in the morning and 2 litres in the afternoon should suffice. Accept the fact that you will be constantly going to the toilet – and remember that taking on all this fluid increases your chance of getting there.
When packing your equipment for your personal porter to carry, make sure it is in a large heavy duty polythene sack, which can be tied securely. It is also worth putting your clothes in small polythene bags inside this large sack (e.g.: tops in one small bag, bottoms in another, etc.) This will increase the chances of everything staying dry in a downpour.
Take woollen gloves, and thermal mittens.
Waterproofs must be waterproof!
Make sure your rucksack is fully waterproof – or have a good Poncho to wear over it.
Sleeping bag must be of the recommended type (three-season bag is too cold).
Take something to flavour the drinking water (in powder form).
Good walking sandals are ideal for the first and last days..
Bamboo walking socks are superb.
Take two toilet rolls (good quality).
Diamox can not be bought from chemists in Pakistan – it is worth taking from home country just in case you are someone who is susceptible to altitude sickness (don’t wait to find out when it is too late).
Check with you G.P. about Diamox if you are on other medication, or have a medical issue.
Including an acclimatization day is highly recommended to increase your chances of making it to the K2 Base Camp.
Decide before the last day how much you are giving in tips – put them in individual envelopes, and make sure you give them out before the porters etc. disappear (some companies take the tips off you, and distribute them to the staff themselves – which means that the amount you give is known to others, and not personal between you and the individual staff).
Feel free to ask if you have other questions!Edited: 1 year ago