How difficult is crossing Gondogoro La pass on K2 Base Camp trek?

At The Mountain Company, we carefully screen our trekkers for K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La to ensure they have the technical skills and experience to safely cross this challenging high pass. This blog is based on my personal experience of crossing Gondogoro La six times with trekking groups since 2006. During these treks I have seen many other groups crossing Gondogoro La being underprepared with many trekkers encountering serious issues along the way. This pass is often underestimated and is very different in nature to crossing passes on the classic circuit treks in Nepal like Kanchenjunga Circuit, Dhaulagiri Circuit and Manaslu Circuit. Gondogoro La requires technical mountaineering skills and also has significant objective risks such as rockfall and mudslides.

Image

What is the route like for crossing Gondogoro La high pass?

The ascent of Gondogoro La pass is on a snow slope with glacial ice underneath. The route varies slightly year to year however usually the angle is moderate and there is fixed rope placed for one or two sections. It is worth noting that in 2007 there was a glacial surge making the ascent far steeper and a deep crevasse opened up making this too hard for trekkers so no groups were able to cross over the pass.

The harder part of crossing Gondogoro La is the descent from the summit of the pass at an elevation of 5,560m. This side of the pass has slopes of loose rocky scree and usually does not have any snow when our trekking groups cross in early August.

Image

What are the objective risks of crossing Gondogoro La?

There is an objective risk of rockfall and mudslides on the descent of the Gondogoro La later in the day. It is key for everyone's safety that people can move efficiently and get over the pass and down to camp before the sun warms the slope. Our groups leave Ali Camp in the early hours of the morning to arrive at top of Gondogoro La at first light so, inshallah, the rocks on the descent slope are still frozen in place. 

Further down the valley you will find a trail and this takes you along the lateral moraine to Khuspang campsite. After one night here we descend on a trail that is rocky in places and includes several river crossings without bridges to the campsite at Shaisho. From here you follow an easy trail to the village of Hushe at the roadhead where there are jeeps for the drive to Skardu.

Image

What experience and skills do I need to cross Gondogoro La on K2 Base Camp?

The key for a safe crossing of Gondogoro La is having the right skills and experience so that people can move efficiently in order to cross the pass before the sun warms the slopes on descent from the pass.  

The ascent of Gondogoro La requires use of ice axe and crampons plus a jumar for ascending the fixed rope. The climb follows a moderately angled snow slope to the summit of Gondogoro La and most groups do not find this too difficult from a technical mountaineering perspective. However even if you are well acclimatised from walking to the Base Camps at Broad Peak and K2 it will be physically hard work given you are climbing above 5,000m.

The most challenging section is the descent down the Gondogoro La. This requires multi pitch rapels (also known as abseils) at an angle of around 40 to 45 degrees. At this gradient one can walk back down the slope with weight on the feet rather than hanging on the rope. However one has to be careful not to kick and knock rocks down to trekkers on the ropes below. Lower down on the slope after three or four rapels the angle eases off and you can use the rope as a handrail as you carefully walk down the rocky slope.

What equipment do I need to cross Gondogoro La on K2 Base Camp trek?

It is also important for trekkers to have the correct personal gear and equipment including harness, ice axe and crampons. Please take a look at our kit list for K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La (under Practical Information tab).

Image

Suitability and training for Gondogoro La pass

K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La would be a suitable objective for someone with previous experience of high altitude trek and with a high level of fitness. It is important that you have the mountaineering skills explained above. If you do not have this experience then you would need to attend a one week mountaineering course to learn the skills required. 

Alternatively you could consider joining K2 Base Camp & Concordia as this trek does not involve any mountaineering and descends from Broad Peak Base Camp to Concordia then from there you walk back down the Baltoro glacier. Whereas the K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La group will walk from Concordia to Ali Camp and then on the next day will cross the pass.

Is it worth crossing the Gondogoro La pass?

In a word, yes! There is no doubt that including a crossing of Gondogoro La on K2 Base Camp trek in Pakistan is well worth it. This is a beautiful pass with wonderful views from the summit across to the Karakoram range and on the Hushe side you see the graceful lines of Leila Peak. This is known as one of the best treks in the world and is rightly included in the book called Top Treks of the World by Steve Razzetti.

Do not just take our word for it, please read the feedback from our previous groups on AITO Travellers Reviews for K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La. I have copied one of the reviews below:

"This trek was brilliant - walking along glaciers and into the middle of some of the world's most impressive mountains, with K2 majestically towering over them all. Then over the challenging Gondogoro La pass and down the Hushe valley, more alpine in nature, beautiful flowers and colours. A wonderful circuit journey through amazing scenery."

Image

If you have any questions about your suitability for K2 Base Camp & Gondogoro La please contact us and we can provide feedback as well as a training plan to help you get ready and prepared.

We organise this trek every year in mid July, please get in touch with us if you are interested in joining this groups.

Trek on!

Roland Hunter
The Mountain Company