It's our 40th Birthday! Take a look at our birthday offers page here

Into the Throne Room of the Karakoram Mountains

Three years ago, KE traveller Bryan Hardaker made a journey he'd long been dreaming of and trekked into the Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan. His goal:... Read more
Into the Throne Room of the Karakoram Mountains

Three years ago, KE traveller Bryan Hardaker made a journey he'd long been dreaming of and trekked into the Karakoram Mountains of Pakistan. His goal: to tick off the trip of a lifetime and visit the base camp of the world's second highest mountain, K2. 

 "Everyone has their own story of how they became addicted to mountains," says Bryan "For me, it all started in 1970 when my then employers, Rowntree Mackintosh, sent me to the Eskdale Outward Bound School for a month... I was hooked. I visited the Lakes and Dales at every opportunity and I began to devour books about the mountains. At a time when the first British package tourists had just discovered Benidorm, holidays for my wife and I were decided by the mountain literature I was reading at the time. Heinrich Harrer’s book, The White Spider, saw us heading to Switzerland to see the Eiger. And after Bonington’s account of the ascent of Everest South West Face where else could we go in 1977 but Everest Base Camp. One book, however, caught my attention more than any other – In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods by the American author and climber Galen Rowell. It’s an account of the failed 1975 American expedition to K2. In it, he describes the history of K2 and the mountains of the Karakoram around it, illustrating it with superb photos. If bucket lists had been invented in the ‘70s then K2 would have gone to the top of mine!"

In June 2017 Bryan finally made his epic journey, which was published in Adventure Travel magazine – here’s an excerpt from his excellent account.



For the first couple of days on trek, we followed rough goat-herders' tracks along the Braldu River to Paiju at 3,340m. During those days the big peaks stayed hidden behind the clouds, but next morning, on our rest and acclimatisation day, we woke to clear blue skies and our first view of the spectacular granite peaks of the Trango Towers some 3,000m above us. I had settled into that wonderfully relaxing routine of trekking life. The simple pleasures of the early morning cup of tea, the breakfast porridge, lunch magically produced in the middle of a glacier, faffing in the tent before dinner, and best of all for me, no phone signal and no idea what’s happening in the world outside our bubble – except of course in the cricket!

Some days later we were there - Concordia, the place that Rowell had called “the throne room of the mountain gods”. This is what I had come to see. It’s on a T-junction of glaciers creating a stunning cirque of some of the most spectacular mountains on Earth. But my luck had started to run out. The cloud had closed in and the big peaks couldn’t be seen. I retreated to my tent only to be roused two hours later as it was shaken violently. Getting out, I discovered a world of white – it had been snowing heavily. After dinner, some of the cloud cleared and for a brief minute we got our first glimpse of K2. I snuggled into my sleeping bag that night hoping for a better day tomorrow.


But it wasn’t to be. The cloud closed around the mountains and the first snow flurries started as we set off to walk the five miles along the Godwin-Austen Glacier to Broad Peak Base Camp. An Australian expedition was there having just established Camp 2 before the weather changed, and it was interesting to talk to them and hear their plans. We were a gloomy group that night in the dinner tent. We had hoped to set off the following day on the climbing part of the trip – the crossing of the 5,500m Gondogoro La pass. But the heavy snow meant the avalanche and rock fall risk was too high, so our guide Tom reluctantly made the decision to call it off, the first time in eight attempts that he’s not got over the pass.



Not everyone at Concordia thought the same as Tom. There was a Korean group there and one of their members had demanded that a guide take him to Ali Camp to be in position to cross the pass next morning. Some days later we heard that he had retreated having spent many hours toiling, un-roped we believe, through deep snow on a heavily crevassed glacier. A lucky man.

The unpredictable weather is part of the appeal of travelling in the mountains for me, so I was disappointed but philosophical about the outcome, or I would be if only the clouds would clear from K2! The next morning was better, with some blue sky, but the mountains were still shrouded in mist. We passed part of the day walking on the glacier towards the Gasherbrums, mountains on which Tom had organised expeditions in the past. The clouds parted a little in the evening and gave us glimpses of the big peaks, but as I went to bed that night I was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to see the views that had captured my imagination all those years ago.


At 4 am I was again awoken by my tent being shaken violently, but this time it wasn’t the snow. Someone was saying: “It’s clear; it’s clear!” I was out of the tent in a flash and there it was, the perfect triangle of K2 set against a blue sky with the sun just touching the Abruzzi Spur. It was absolute magic. For the next two hours we wandered around taking hundreds of photos and just gazing in awe at the scale of everything surrounding us. It is some place. It’s not pretty. There’s no contrast here between the green fields and white mountains that are such a feature of the Alps and Nepal. This is a place of rock and snow, with the only colour being the blue sky, and somehow that seemed right.

We were a much happier group as we left Concordia on our walk back to Askole. Seven days later, we were back in the 30C degree heat, experiencing the sights and sounds of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. But my mind was still full of those magical mountains of the Karakoram. I felt so privileged to have been able to visit the throne room of the mountain gods.

Bryan travelled on our K2, Concordia and Gondogora La trek.

Footer logos
Your Wishlist
No Wishlist Items

Start your next adventure.

Click the heart icon on the search or holiday pages to save a holiday to your wishlist.

Holiday Search