K2 Photo Expedition 2019

  • Location: Karakoram, Pakistan
  • Tour dates: 1.08-21.08.2019 (we accept applications until 15.06.2019)
  • Tour leaderTomasz Przychodzień – instagram.com/lightguide_
  • Participation fee: 2500 EUR (+ flight to Pakistan, visa costs etc.)
  • Group size: 2-7 participants

Karakoram for years has been our dream. Reading books about first Polish expeditions to this area we always thought it is something monumental, inaccessible, mystical.  We imagined ourselves driving dilapidated Nysa 501, for weeks traversing the extreme route between Poland and Skardu – the gate to Karakoram. (currently GoogleMaps counts 94h). Through the eyes of immagination we looked at majestic Trango Towers, shining wall of Gasherbrum IV or the only 8000m peak that was not conquered in winter – the K2, which rightfully bears the name of “The Killer Mountain”. Despite the lower popularity than Himalayas, its beauty and and diversity of shapes of rock formations, makes Karakorum overshadow the Everest area. It is the most astonishing places on Earth, same time so remote that it is rarely visited by landscape photographers. We decided to organize a photo expedition to this photographic paradise in 2019. We make our dreams come true and if you want to join us – you are more then welcome!

We will start our journey in summer where getting to the foothills of K2 is definitely easier than in the autumn and winter, and the temperatures allow relatively comfortable shooting. During the 3-week trip, we will cross the road from Askole to Concordia – the place where the world’s longest glacier outside the polar region – Baltoro – joins another ice giant – Godwin-Austen. We will be following the path of Polish National Winter Expedition on K2. On our route of we will encounter the most beautiful peaks of the world – Trango Towers, Cathedral Group, Gasherbrum IV, Miter Peak, Muztagh Tower, Broad Peak or K2 – places that have been permanently recorded in the history of world himalaism.

The photographic part of the expedition will be covered by Tomasz Przychodzień renowned Polish landscape photographer, winner of National Geographic Grand Photo Competition 2017.  Together we will see the most beautiful parts of Karakoram and Tomasz will share his photographic experience with you.  Time spent together in Pakistan will give us an opportunity to talk about photography, our inspirations and visions of presenting the world through our images. The expedition will be an opportunity to reflect on what photography is for each of us, to try to find our own photographic path – which does not necessarily coincide with ours. Of course, we will also focus on technical sides – you will learn the basic techniques of mountain photography, discover ways to compose your images, use the existing lighting conditions so your photographs be appreciated not only by yourselves. Tomasz will share with you his photographic patents, you will get an opportunity to learn advanced techniques such as focus stacking, combining exposure, perspective blending, ettr, and others.

Of course, our expedition will not do without the support of our Pakistani partners who will be responsible for the organization of trekking. The logistics of expedition will be secured by K2 Treks & Tours Pakistan, a licensed expedition operator (license # 1754), a member of the Pakistan Association of Tour Operators, cooperating with Pakistan Alpine Club and Khurpa Care Pakistan (an organization that promotes sustainable tourism development in the Gilgit Baltistan region). This will help us avoid potential problems that often occur when using the cheapest options for trekking in Karakorum (escaping porters, poor quality equipment, mountain guide not knowing the area etc.). We will be able to focus fully on photographing.

Who can participate in our workshops?

The expedition differs from similar initiatives offered by travel agencies. Trips organized in Karakorum are usually focused on trekking and getting to K2 Base Camp. During our trip photographing will be most important part and the route will be chosen to make the most of its photographic potential. That is why we prefer organizing the expedition on the classic route (the road to Concordia and return the same way). It will give us at least two chances of capturing each of the peaks on the route, which may prove invaluable in the case of adverse lighting conditions encountered on the way up.

The workshops are intended for people with different levels of photographic advancement: from beginners to professionals. We accept those of you who are not interested in photography – it is possible to take part in the trekking itself. Thanks to a small group (up to 7 people), we will be able to adjust the program individually to the needs of each participant. Regardless of whether you have just bought the first DSLR camera or you have medium format Phase One, the workshop will help you develop landscape photography skills, learn new techniques that will enrich your workshop. Three weeks spent in Pakistan will be certainly enough to deal with all your photographic doubts and bring your skills to the next level.

Weather in Karakoram

Although Karakoram are one of the world’s highest mountains, participation in the expedition does not require experience with extremely high altitudes. What matters the most is a good physical condition and endurance. Planned routes consist of maximum 7 hours of trekking per day (during most of the days days – less), however, you must take into consideration that we will be hiking higher than in the Alps or the Dolomites,  so it will be more difficult to complete the route of the same length and elevation. During the 14 days of trekking we planned 4 rest days. We assume that the members of the expedition should be familiar with sleeping under the tent and prepared for the discomforts associated with it. We will stay in the tents everyday for almost two weeks. During the trekking you will be provided with full care – both photographic from Light Guides, as well as logistics secured by Pakistani tour operator. We will provide you a guide, sirdar, porters carrying your equipment (up to 15kg / person), chefs and other support workers.

In August during the nights in Karakorum you can expect temperatures between -8°C  (17°C F) – albeit rarely (the last 2 years, coolest temperature was -2°C (28°F)) and 5°C (41°F). During the daytime you can expect temperatures ranging from 0 to 15°C (32-59°F) (we can assume 5-10°C (41-50°F)). Here’s some meteorological data from the area from 2018: https://bit.ly/2pE0Tl1. Averaging, we predict: 2°C at night, 7°C a day (36/45°F).

Trekking route to Concordia requires familiarity with mountains, but does not require climbing skills. Sufficient physical condition shall be enough. Trekking will contain sections that require walking on the glacier (small elevation, crampons not required), crossing suspension bridges over rivers. In the detailed plan of the expedition, we uses the scale of difficulty describing rather physical condition requirements, not technical difficulties. Easy – almost anyone who used to hike in the mountains should be able to do it, difficult route – for people with experience with longer trekkings in the Alps or similar mountains.

Why is it worth it?

  • sitting at home, you will not start to take better photographs
  • thanks to the individual contact with an experienced Light Guide, you will gain knowledge faster, easily learn how to use your equipment in practice
  • you will get the opportunity to learn mountain photography from basics (composition, proper exposure of the frame) to advanced techniques such as combining exposures, perspective, long exposure photography and others
  • you will learn how to organize trips (logistics, planning, preparation in terms of equipment, proper use of any weather conditions)
  • you will get to know our photo and travel patents (eg. using flash lamps outdoors, organizing the photo equipment, gear carrying solutions)
  • you will spend a great time in a relaxed atmosphere, getting to know the most beautiful areas of Karakoram
  • beautiful landscapes guaranteed or money back :)

EXPEDITION PLAN

What will we see?

During the tour, we will visit the most beautiful places in Karakorum guaranteeing great photographs. On our trail we cannot miss the majestic Trango Towers, the shining wall of Gasherbrum IV, an overnight stay in a tent at the altitude of 4700 m.a.s.l. and photographing the amazing peaks of K2, Muztagh Tower and Cathedral Group. The famous Pakistani glaciers – Baltoro and Godwin-Austen will also meet us there!

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Day 1. Getting to Pakistan
Flight to Islamabad. Night at the hotel.

Day 2. Islamabad – Chilas
Getting to Chilas by bus. We will be driving one the most famous roads in the world – Karakoram Highway. Estimated duration: 9-10h. Night at the hotel.

Day 3. Chilas – Skardu
Getting from Chilas to Skardu (275km). We will pass Nanga Parbat (8125m) and stop there for few photos. Then Mandatory briefing before the trek in Tourism Department of Gilgit Baltistan. Night at the hotel.

Karakoram Highway

source: youtube.com/watch?v=9C75UWdMILs

Day 4. Skardu – Askole (3000m)
Jeep ride from Skardu to Askole – the last inhabited place on our route. 96km distance will take us 7-8 hours! Night at the campsite.

Skardu – Askole

żródło: youtube.com/watch?v=stnBfMTSahw&t=80s

Day 5. Askole – Jhola (3150m)

Route length: 21km / Trek duration: 5-6h / Sum of ascents: 550m / Sum of descents: 400m / Difficulty: 1. part: easy, 2. part: moderate

The first day of trekking – the beginning of our real adventure with Karakoram. After leaving Askole, we will rely on porters who will transport our equipment and food, ensuring a comfortable expedition. After crossing the ridge, we will pass the former polo field (at least according to the local legends ;)). Next, we will head to Korofong (2-3h): on the route we will cross a suspension bridge on the Biafo river and traverse the Biafo glacier – a huge river of ice stretching for 63km, starting from the central Karakoram peaks to the Brald valley. Lunch break. After that, further trek to Jhola (2-3h): crossing the bridge over the Dumardo river to get to the camp located near one of the streams. Overnight in tents.

Day 6. Jhola – Payiu (3480m)

Route length: 21km / Trek duration: 5-6h / Sum of ascents: 700m / Sum of descents: 370m / Difficulty: 1. part: easy, 2. part: moderate

Relatively easy beginning (2-3h) – our road will be passing near the Bardumal camp along the 2-kilometer bank of the Braldu river. Lunch break. Trekking to Paiyu: after about 2-3h, we will get to the point overlooking the Baltoro glacier, Cathedral Towers and K2 – we will see the Killer Mountain for the first time on the route. Payiu in Balti means salt. At the foothills of Payiu (6611m) there are small deposits of salt – local residents believe that the snow at the top of Payiu is a huge pile of salt which flows down the rocky slopes. After reaching the Payiu camp (in the summer quite crowded) – overnight in tents.

Day 7-8. Payiu – Urdukas (4130m)

Route length: 21km / Trek duration: 6-7h / Sum of ascents: 1010m / Sum of descents: 360m / Difficulty: strenuous

Depending on the decision of the organizers, after assessing the group’s physical capabilities, we will choose one of two options:
1) rest in Payiu and next day trek to Urdukas
2) Trek to Urdukas and then rest day. Urdukas offers great views towards Trango Towers, so the second option is preferred.

The route to Urdukas begins with the traverse of the area where Payiu and Baltoro glaciers merge. After completing this part, we will have a dinner near Liligo. After the meal, we will cross the Khuburse and pass two moraine glaciers and finally reach Urdukas – a popular camp site that provides amazing views on Trango Towers and Ula Biaho.

Day 9. Urdukas – Goro II (4500m)

Route length: 12km / Trek duration: 6-7h / Sum of ascents: 520m / Sum of descents: 150m / Difficulty: moderate-strenuous

At the beginning, we will walk between the glacial crevasses (easy) to Goro I located opposite the Yermanendo glacier flowing from the Maerbrum pass. Another 2-3h is an approach to the east, up the Baltoro glacier. On that day our shutters will meet eye to eye with Muztagh Tower, Miter Peak and Gasherbrum IV :) We will spend the night in tents, at Goro II camp, which is located in a rocky area in the middle of the glacier.

Day 10.  Goro II – Concordia (4720m)

Route length: 12km / Trek duration: 5-6h / Sum of ascents: 290m / Suma of descents: 70m / Trudność: moderate

Before us a route with beautiful views – a panorama of the pearl of Karakoram:  Muztagh Tower, Gasherbrum IV, Miter Peak and of course, the K2. We will finish the trekking in Concordia – the place where three glaciers join together: Baltoro, Abruzzi and Godwin Austen. In a radius of 15 km from our camp there are as many as 65 peaks over 6.500m high, of which 4 are eight-thousanders!

Day 11-12.  Concordia (4720m)
2 days for photographic exploration of the Concordia area. It is possible to organize 1 day trek to K2 Base Camp (views on K2 are much worse than from Concordia) or Base Camp Broad Peak. Overnight in tents. In the case of adverse weather conditions, we may decide to return earlier and spend an extra day, eg in Urdukas.

Day 13.  Concordia – Goro II
Return using the same route. Overnight in tents.

Day 14.  Goro II – Urdukas
Return using the same route. Overnight in tents.

Day 15.  Urdukas – Payiu
Return using the same route. Overnight in tents.

Day 16.  Payiu – Jhola
Return using the same route. Overnight in tents.

Day 17.  Jhola – Askole
Return using the same route. Overnight in tents.

Day 18.  Askole – Skardu
Return using the same route (jeep ride). Debriefing after the expedition in Tourism Department of Gilgit Baltistan. Night at the hotel.

Day 19.  Skardu – Chilas
Return to Chilas.  Night at the hotel.

Day 20.  Chilas – Islamabad
Return with Karakorum Highway to Islamabad.  Night at the hotel.

Day 21.  Return flight to your country

We recommend reserving an additional day in case of random situations (landslides, road blocks, protests), which may eventually be used for sightseeing in Islamabad.

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What do we provide?

  • amazing landscapes
  • photographic tour with a guidance of an experienced photographer – the winner of the National Geographic Grand Photo Competition
  • the opportunity to learn advanced photo techniques
  • working in a small group of up to 7 participants
  • the possibility of renting at professional gear, lenses and accessories at N-Rent.pl – with 40% discount
  • assistance in arranging a visa (invitation letter from Pakistan) and paperwork in Pakistan (permits etc.)
  • entry fees to Central Karakorum National Park
  • fees for trekking permits
  • briefing and debriefing at a local government institution
  • transfer from airport in Islamabad
  • local transportation in Pakistan (air-conditioned cars, no public busses)
  • accommodation in cities – hotels / guesthouses (2-person rooms)
  • accommodation during the trek – tents
  • food: in hotels – breakfast, during trekking – full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner)
  • English-speaking mountain guide, cook along with helpers, sirdar – paid according to the current governmental rates + their board and insurance against injuries / death
  • porters carrying up to 15kg luggage / person.
  • tents (2-person). 1-person tents available at additional cost
  • mesa tent equipped with tables and chairs (applies to a group of minimum 4 people)
  • hot water for showering
  • tent-toilet
  • kitchen equipment, cooking utensils, fuel, etc.
  • generator for charging phones and batteries
  • satellite telephone (connection cost not included)
  • coordination of the evacuation action in the event of a crisis situation
  • in the case of a decision to detach from the group and return – porter and food for the return journey

What is not included?

  • plane ticket to Pakistan and back (650-900 EUR)
  • mandatory (!) travel insurance covering the costs of a helicopter rescue action at the height of 5000m (sum of min. $15000) we recommend:
  • we are considering an additional day for taking photos in eg Urdukas – when the first participants will sign up – together we will discuss iw we want to extend the tour (additional cost of 150 EUR)
  • costs of a visa to Pakistan (about PLN 40EUR depending on your nationality)
  • additional expenses in hotels (drinks, laundry, etc.)
  • lunches and dinners in hotels
  • sleeping bags, hiking clothes, personal equipment
  • costs of calls using a satellite telephone (about 3 EUR / min)
  • bottled water (we will draw and treat water from streams), alcohol
  • expenses related to early departure from the expedition (except food and porter on the way to Askole)
  • local transportation in case of early departure
  • additional costs related to random events: natural disasters, road blocks, demonstrations, stone avalanches, landslides, etc.
  • tips for guides, porters, drivers – customary but not required
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Mountain equipment:

  • sleeping bag – temperatures in the night will usually vary from 0°C to 5°C (32-41°F), there may be individual nights slightly below 0 (0 to 5 degrees C is rather enough, but if you want to be 110% prepared you can take a sleeping bag on – 5 to -7 degrees C).
  • sleeping pad with good insulation or self-inflating mat (we recommend Thermarest or Klymit)
  • proper trekking shoes – waterproof, with ankle protection (but not hardshell mountaneering boots)
  • warm socks (we recommend wool)
  • comfortable trekking pants – optimally 2 pairs (1 rainproof)
  • insulating layer – fleece / power stretch
  • down jacket (if you feel the need at a temperature of about -3-0°C (27-32°F)
  • jacket with a membrane protecting against rain and wind (eg Gore Tex)
  • scarf / buff / balaclava – protecting against dust
  • trekking poles
  • gaiters
  • gloves
  • a hat for neck and face protection from the sun
  • cap
  • headlamp (+ spare batteries)
  • daily backpack (for photo gear, food, water, basic mountain equipment etc.)
  • duffel bag or a backpack with a rain cover (for other items carried by the porter – 15kg limit)
  • good quality sunglasses (dark, but not glacier sunglasses)
  • water treatment system (in the mini version we recommend tablets Katadyn Micropour MP1 – it cleans water from bacteria and viruses, but does not filter, in addition if necessary there are many portable filtration solutions on the market)
  • biodegradable soap
  • water bottles
  • basic first aid kit – for abdominal pain, cold, gastric problems, plasters, sunburn treatment meds etc.
  • knife
  • comfortable shoes for use in the camp
  • inflatable wash basin

Photographic equipment

  • camera with interchangeable lenses
  • filters (optional, but useful – especially ND and polarizer)
  • tripod
  • shutter release device
  • space batteries
  • chargers
  • memory cards
  • mobile phone
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Additional information

Reservations can be made by phone at +48 691 286 789 or by e-mail: lightguidesworkshops@gmail.com. You reservation will be confirmed after receiving payment of a deposit of 500EUR. The banking data necessary for the transfer will be provided after acceptance of your application. In case of cancellation up to 4 months prior to departure date you will receive full refund.

The workshops are carried out in cooperation with the European Foundation for Education and Development and are organized under as a statutory activity. The entry fee is intended to cover organizational costs.

Photo gallery