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Back to our roots: trekking in Pakistan

In 1984, KE’s very first trip was born in the heart of the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan. Thirty-five years, thousands of worldwide departures and... Read more
Back to our roots: trekking in Pakistan
In 1984, KE’s very first trip was born in the heart of the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan. Thirty-five years, thousands of worldwide departures and the formation of global company later, two of KE’s Product Managers followed in the footsteps of our founders and made the journey to where it all began.

“Coming down the track towards us was the Hushe Mountain Rescue team,” says Chloë. “As soon as they found out we were from KE, I was met with the strongest handshake I’ve ever received in my life.”

There’s a part of the Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan where you’d find those who live there would be likely to know the UK Lake District just as well as any British walker. For Chloë and Caroline, this wasn’t much of a surprise – they’ve been hearing stories of the close link between our namesake, the Karakoram, and the birth of KE, ever since they started working here.

So why go now? “Going this year was a long overdue visit to where it all began,” says Caroline. “We’ve known Zafar, our agent there, for years through his visits to Keswick, and of course heard how the Karakoram is one of the most spectacular places on Earth.” It’s true that these mountains hold a unique reverence amongst mountain connoisseurs – and that some things simply must be experienced yourself to fully comprehend.

This sense of awe strikes from the moment the flight to Skardu takes off. With over 25 years of experience travelling and working for KE between them, Chloë and Caroline were still stunned. They’ve been to Nepal, Peru, the Alps, Morocco, Bhutan, the Arctic, and plenty more. “But I couldn’t believe the sheer carpet of mountains I could see from the plane,” Chloe shakes her head, still in disbelief. “They stretch from horizon to horizon. It felt endless.”
The next few days spent travelling to start the trek showed that this journey was going to be unique, not just through the landscapes, but the people within.

“The impact here of bringing travellers here hasn’t been forgotten,” says Caroline. “It was incredible to see the true positive power of travel – how coming here has helped bring jobs, wealth – even clean water.” Setting up a water supply in Hushe Village was one of the very first projects completed with KE’s partner charity, the Juniper Trust.

And when it came to the actual trek? “It’s a real expedition,” Chloë says, beaming. “You’ll be too hot, too cold, you’ll go 10 days without a shower – and love every minute.”

The mission was to get to Gondogoro Peak, but heavy snows meant this wasn’t possible. This didn’t matter though, according to Caroline. “It was all about the journey – nowhere has this felt truer. A group of us ventured up an extra 200m, to say we’d gone as far as we could. We stayed a while and threw snowballs at each other in a white out.”

Reaching the iconic spire of Laila Peak, the clouds blocked any sort of view – but the group was woken hours later. “Everyone was crying out ‘Laila, Laila!’. I ran from my tent to finally see its impossibly dainty tower spearing blue sky,” says Caroline. “It was an unforgettable sight.”

“It was the team that made the journey too,” Chloë emphasises. “Tom Richardson, the KE leader on our trip, is a legend amongst our clients. He more than lived up to his reputation.” Tom has been trekking for over 30 years in Pakistan – he last climbed Gondogoro Peak with mountaineer Joe Simpson, author of Touching the Void. Tom took the adventure and the remote, wild lands of the Karakoram in his stride – Chloë recalls his motto “It’s not an adventure if it all goes to plan – it’s a holiday.”

“At one point, Ahmed, our local leader, stopped us and reached down into the snow,” says Caroline. “He called us closer to examine some faint tracks, casually showing us where a snow leopard had walked hours before.”

So what did this adventure leave them feeling? “Anyone who loves wild places and awe-inspiring mountains needs to come here,” Chloë assures us. “And we want to make it clear it doesn’t matter if you’re female. All the guide books made coming to Pakistan as a woman sound dangerous, and it’s just not true. We felt no different travelling here than we did in Nepal, India or Peru.”

“Absolutely,” Caroline agrees. “And if anyone dreaming of Pakistan wants to hear more – they should just give us a call.”

Trip: Gondogoro Peak and the Hushe Valley | GHU

In 2017, guest Brian Hardaker also travelled to Pakistan to fulfill a life-long ambition. 

Click here to read more.

Still want some questions answered about the difference between the Himalaya and the Karakoram, read Kit's Guide to the Karakoram and the Himalaya here.

Our other adventures in Pakistan:
K2 and Concordia | K2
K2, Concordia and the Gondogoro la |GLA 

Do you want to know more about KE's trips to Pakistan? Just give our adventure-loving team a call on +44 (0) 17687 73966 or USA/Canada toll-free 1888 630 4415.

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