Sandwiched between the Karakoram Mountains to the north and the Arabian Sea to the south, Pakistan is home to a blend of diverse and stunning landscapes. 

Along with deserts, plains, plateaus and forests, the country is home to some of the world’s tallest and most remote mountains. As a result, Pakistan is a popular mountaineering destination for advanced climbers looking for a challenge.

Five of the world’s 14 tallest mountains – K2, Nanga Parbat, Gasherbrum I, Broad Peak and Gasherbrum II – are located in Pakistan or on its border with Tibet (China). Due to their notable status of exceeding 8,000 metres (26,200 feet), these are the toughest but also some of the most popular destinations in the country. 

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Depending on time allowances – just about any expedition to Pakistan will take at least one month – mountaineers may opt to take on a single mountain. Adding two extra weeks to the trip, though, provides enough time to climb two. 

Four of the country’s five highest peaks are located within a 25-kilometre (15-mile) stretch. The other is less than 200 kilometres (125 miles) away.

Any expedition to climb these mountains begins with a flight into Islamabad International Airport (ISB). Most guides opt to meet here before flying to Skardu and taking a four-by-four to the starting point of the trek to base camp.

While Pakistan has gotten much safer over the past decade, kidnappings, terror attacks and other incidents are not uncommon, especially in the mountains. As a result, be sure to check with your government’s travel advice before booking a trip to the country.

1| K2

Situated in the heart of the Karakoram Range, K2 is the second tallest mountain on Earth and perhaps the most complex and dangerous to climb.

Known as Savage Mountain after American mountaineer George Bell famously told reporters, “it's a savage mountain that tries to kill you," after his failed 1953 expedition, K2 has since lived up to its name. 

Keep reading: Climbing the Seven Second Summits: Facts & Information

Fewer people have reached the mountain’s summit than gone into space, and there have been more fatalities on the peak than any other of the world’s five highest peaks. A combination of highly technical climbing terrain and inclement and unpredictable weather contribute to why the peak is so difficult to climb. 

To summit K2, climbers must have a high competency for rock, snow and ice climbing. The ascent involves climbing along steep and exposed ridgelines and rock faces, some of which have grades up to 80 degrees. Due to the high wind speeds and steep terrain, avalanches are a near-constant threat on the mountain and add to the difficulties of climbing. 

Despite the danger and difficulty, dozens of climbers still opt to attempt to climb the peak each summer. There are about 10 different routes that are commonly used to climb the peak, but only one is frequently taken.

Keep reading: Summary of K2 Winter 2021

The Abruzzi Spur was the first route to be successfully climbed and is now used in about three-quarters of ascents of the peak. The route follows the southeast ridge of K2, taking climbers from 5,400 metres (17,700 feet) to the top.

Rocky ribs, snow and ice fields, some high technical rock climbing portion and a deep, narrow couloir just below the summit are a few of the challenges that face climbers taking this route. 

However, any climber that overcomes all these obstacles to reach the summit will join the elite club of 377 other individuals who have managed the feat and conquered the world’s most formidable mountain.

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 8,611 m (28,251 ft)
  • Duration: 8 to 9 weeks
  • Climbing season: June to September

2| Nanga Parbat

 Nanga Parbat – Photo: Guilhem Vellut (https://www.flickr.com/photos/o_0/)

Located slightly less than 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of K2, Nanga Parbat is the second highest peak in Pakistan and the ninth tallest on Earth.

Towering above the famed Fairy Meadow, the peak cuts a distinctive figure on the horizon. While not quite as difficult or dangerous as K2, Nanga Parbat is considered a challenging climb.

Due to both its difficulty and stunning natural beauty, the peak has been the scene of some of the most audacious ascents in mountaineering history. 

In 1953, Austrian climber Hermann Buhl made a daring solo expedition to the summit. After his teammates turned back, Buhl continued, arriving at the summit at 7:00 p.m. On his descent, he was forced to bivouac on a narrow ledge before returning to the high camp the following morning.

Buhl climbed via the main route that is still taken up to Nanga Parbat’s summit. While there are more challenging routes, even the easiest one requires an advanced level of rock, snow and ice climbing. Along with the technical difficulty, the peak is one of the steepest on Earth. As a result, acclimatisation is critical. 

The main route up Nanga Parbat is the Kinshofer Route and ascends the peak via the western Diamir Face. Climbers scale the imposing Kinshofer wall from the base camp before making a mixed snow and ice climbing ascent onto the summit.

The more recently-discovered Austro-Canadian is longer and more physically challenging but avoids the Kinshofer wall, making it a more popular option for some climbers. 

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 8,125 m (26,657 ft)
  • Duration: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Climbing season: June to September

3| Gasherbrum I

Photo: Real Kvass (https://www.flickr.com/photos/65772631@N05/)

Situated just 25 kilometres (15 miles) southeast of K2, Gasherbrum I is the eleventh highest peak in the world and the tallest of the six Gasherbrum peaks.

Perched atop the Baltoro glacier, Gasherbrum I is also called Hidden Peak due to its extremely remote location. Any ascents up the peak require a long and challenging trek to arrive at the base camp. 

Its remote location combined with the difficulty of climbing has made Gasherbrum I the least climbed eight-thousander in the world.

However, this lack of contact with the rest of the world has also made Gasherbrum I one of the most pristine mountains on Earth. As a result, its base camp is a popular stopping point for advanced trekkers exploring the glacier. 

After making the trek to the base of the peak, climbers will need an advanced level of snow and ice climbing to head up the mountain’s western face. 

Along with the technical difficulty, Gasherbrum I is also prone to extreme weather events. It is the tallest peak on the southern edge of the Karakoram Range, so its western face is left extremely exposed to wind and storms.

Most climbers heading up to the summit opt to take one of the routes that lead up the peak western ridges. Since Gasherbrum I is climbed so infrequently, the peak has no normal route, but the northwest and south ridges are probably the two most popular to climb. 

Both require a high level of technical ability and lead up their respective exposed ridgelines until arriving at the Japanese couloir at the top of the mountain’s northwestern face. From here, the summit is not much farther.

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 8,080 metres (26,510 feet)
  • Duration: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Climbing season: June to September

4| Broad Peak

Photo: Kobler & Partner

Situated on the western edge of the Baltoro Glacier, in the shadow of K2, Broad Peak is the twelfth tallest mountain in the world and the most popularly climbed mountain in Pakistan.

The mountain sits on the western end of the Gasherbrum massif but stands out from its neighbouring peaks due to its massive summit plateau. From end to end, the plateau measures more than 1.5 kilometres (0.93 miles).

Along the plateau are five major summits, three of which exceed 8,000 metres in elevation. However, Broad Peak, Broad Peak Central (8,011 metres/26,283 feet) and Broad Peak North (7,490 metres/24,573 feet) are the only three that are commercially climbed. 

Broad Peak is widely considered one of the easiest of the 8000ers to climb and, as a result, is frequently used as a warm-up peak for climbers attempting to reach the top of K2. 

While not as technically difficult as any of the other 8000s in the country, climbing Broad Peak still presents plenty of challenges. 

An upper-intermediate level of mixed snow and ice climbing is required on the easiest routes. As with any expedition to high altitude, proper acclimatisation and a very high level of physical fitness are also required.

Four main routes lead to the summit of Broad Peak. However, the West Ridge route is the most commonly taken one and is the normal route. 

From the base camp, climbers will steadily ascend the ridge up to the snow couloir just below the summit before traversing this and continuing along the ridge to the top. 

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 8,051 metres (26,414 feet)
  • Duration: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Climbing season: June to September

5| Gasherbrum II

Photo: Furtenbach Adventures

Situated just six kilometres (3.5 miles) north of Gasherbrum I is its slightly smaller neighbour, Gasherbrum II.

Gasherbrum II is the thirteenth-highest mountain in the world and one of the most popular climbing destinations in Pakistan. 

The peak is also considered the easiest of the 8000ers to climb in the Karakoram Range, making it more popular than its neighbours. It is also frequently used as a warm-up climb for advanced mountaineers headed to Gasherbrum I. 

Like Gasherbrum I, the approach to Gasherbrum II is both incredibly scenic and quite challenging, making the base camp of the peak a popular stopping point on treks along the Baltoro glacier. 

While Gasherbrum II is not as technically difficult to climb as many of its neighbours and far less steep, the peak still presents plenty of challenges to mountaineers headed to its slopes. The ascent still requires an upper-intermediate level of snow and ice climbing. Due to the high elevation, proper acclimatisation and a high level of physical fitness are also required.  

Several routes lead to the summit of Gasherbrum II. However, the Southwest Ridge Route is the most commonly used. Also known as the normal route, the SW Ridge Route is the easiest and usually has fixed ropes and spikes along the route during climbing season.

The ascent begins with a brief ascent of an icefall up to the ridgeline, leading straight to the summit. Several plateaus may be found along the way, which are perfect for setting up high camps.

Quick facts:

  • Elevation: 8,034 m (26,358 ft)
  • Duration: 4 to 6 weeks
  • Climbing season: June to September

Start Researching for your Next Pakistani Adventure Today

Pakistan is home to some of the world’s most beautiful scenery and the tallest mountains. For advanced mountaineers looking for that next challenge or upper-intermediate climbers seeking to conquer their first 8000er, Pakistan is the perfect place to head.

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