K2 Photo Expedition 2020
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.
How was it last year?
Last year’s expedition was our first trip to the K2 region. Thanks to the support of the Pakistani travel agency, everything went smoothly. There were many permits necessary to organize trekking – group registration in the Ministry of the Interior Affairs, local police station, National Park, etc. All the the formalities have been arranged perfectly and without any delay.
A 30-person team (!) consisting of a guide, chief of porters, porters, chef and his two assistants was appointed to take care of our 6-person group.
This provided full comfort and gave us the ability to focus on shooting. While reaching the next camps, tents were already waiting for us, meals were being prepared, the water for “shower” was warming up. Outside the place to sleep, we had a mess tent, where we ate together and discussed the current action plan. We’ve been provided with 3 meals a day (1 during trekking!). Interestingly, they were tastier than those in a hotel in Skardu (although we must admit that Pakistani cuisine did not made the best impression on us). There was even a vegetarian option, although Pakistani crew found it hard to understand why not eat meat when it was available.
The trip program was adapted to our needs in 110%. Every day in the evening we discussed the route for the upcoming day, taking into account the participants’ fatigue, photographic potential of places and weather conditions. The expedition was planned in such a way that we had a lot of space to maneuver and make changes on a regular basis. Everything in order to get the best out of it.
Unlike other expeditions, we did not have to walk together one after another – when someone wanted to go faster, they got one member of the crew to walk with and same for the slower participants – they could go at their own pace. There was also a lot of time to deviate from the trail, looking for original frames. 20 km daily hikes did not prove to be a great challenge – we had it all day long to finish them and technical difficulties were negligible.
Due to the weight of the equipment, the luggage limit carried by porters was raised to 15kg, it was possible also to pay for additional kilograms of luggagge (in the end, we were charged for excess weight but we can’t promise it will be the same this year).
In addition, the company organized a generator for charging phones and camera batteries every evening. A satellite phone was available, enabling the coverage of the trip and contact with our relatives (3 USD / min – as in the case of luggage, the Pakistanis did not charge anything for this pleasure – maybe because we used it moderately).
In crisis situations (generator failure, theft of goats;)), the company was up to the challenge and got replacement ‘equipment’ from a village located 70km from the place where we were camping at the moment.
Who can participate in our expedition?
Weather in Karakoram
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. Before we reached the glacier it was as hot as 30°C (85°F).
Trekking route to Concordia requires some 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 – the glacier is covered in stones so we almost don’t walk on ice), 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 trekkings in the Tatra mountains or similar.
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 :)
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!
What do we provide?
- amazing landscapes guaranteed
- 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
- travelling 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
- 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
Reservations can be made by phone at +48 691 286 789 or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.