K2 Expedition 2018
Jake’s K2 Blog #5: The long trek to Base Camp begins
Day 6: Askole to Jola Camp
Today we hiked the 15 miles from Askole to Jola, which is the first camp site on the trek up to K2 basecamp. It’s also the first main camp site in the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP), and therefore serves as a first day target for the vast majority of groups heading up the Baltoro Glacier, regardless of destination.
We set off from Askole at 0700. I’d had a good night, although I’d been rather toasty in my -25 sleeping bag, and woke at about 0400. The kitchen team were already starting to boil water and prepare breakfast, so I went and had a hot chocolate (actually an Ovaltine), stretched my legs and then went back to the tent to read my book (the ‘giggle a minute’ Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor). Tomo is proving to be a very pleasant tent partner – he doesn’t snore and keeps his side of the tent under control. I only hope he is thinking the same of me…
Three fried eggs, two slices of toast (warm bread) later, and I was ready to set off. The camp was already inundated by porters who were being assigned loads for the trek. Some will do the whole trek into basecamp (a 10-11 day round trip), where as others might only do a few days, until their load (normally fuel and food for other porters) had been exhausted.
For anyone who has read ‘The Ascent of Rum Doodle’, you’ll be familiar with the idea of ‘for every porter, there was another to carry his food. For every two of those porters there was a boy to carry their food (and so on)’. Whilst we may not have 3000 porters, our 250 porter loads certainly meant that we’d have quite a trail of people and mules stretching along the Baltoro as we trekked up.
It was still early as we left Askole, yet the fields already had women tending their crops, and we also met quite a few women carrying large piles of brush firewood back into the village. Of course the majority of the men here are involved in the summer portering business, which leaves the women to look after the fields in their absence.
Forty-five minutes into the walk, you reach the CKNP Park office. This is where all trekkers and climbers have to register their entry into the park. Mr Baig had told us earlier that he would do this for us, but with one of the rangers beckoning is in, we felt that in a country that loves bureaucracy and paperwork, filling in the same form twice could hardly hurt!
From there is was a two hour walk to our ‘lunch break’ at Khorophong. The weather was perfect – overcast, with a gentle breeze. It was still warm, and the sun fought valiantly to come out, but frankly it couldn’t have been more pleasant for walking. It certainly made a lovely change from my 2 previous times heading up here, where with perfect blue skies and a merciless sun beating down on us, we melted in the heat.
The trail is well marked with rocks and very easy to follow. For the most part it is essentially flat, with the occasional gentle undulations. If I was being picky about the route, I might be tempted to complain about the soft silty sand which covered much of it – but considering what we will be encountering over the next week or so, we’ll probably be dreaming about soft silty sand providing a spongy cushion underfoot.
After a very pleasant lunch of soup, cheese (laughing cow) and biscuits and tinned pineapple, we continued on up to Jola. It was another couple of hours until we arrived at this CKNP maintained camp site, and fortunately one of the porter teams who had some of our personal kit had already arrived (they hadn’t taken a long lunch break like us).
Having checked the tracker, it looks like we walked around 15 miles over 4 hours 22 minutes of actual hiking (not including any breaks), which at a pace of just under 15 minutes a mile isn’t bad at all. Of course it’s certainly not a race, but I had just settled into a decent pace, and listening to a talking book on my headphones, rather switched off and was walking on auto pilot.
The nice overcast skies have given way to blue skies and sun for an hour of so after we arrived (which was perfect), but now we’ve got a light rain, and as the sun dips below the horizon of the 6000m Peak to our East and the shade of the mountains engulf us, the temperature has dropped significantly. As I write this, I am in shorts and a hoody in my tent (having done my laundry), and I’m going to at least don a down jacket before I venture out to get some soup and a hot drink.
Tomorrow to Paiju Camp!
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