The Great Karakoram Traverse

The ultimate Karakoram trekking challenge





From 0 Land only

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Holiday Overview


  • From Hushe to Hunza across two 5000 metre passes
  • Unrivalled mountain landscapes and scenery
  • No-one else is offering this magnificent mountaineering expedition
  • Our longest and toughest trek

Forging a route through the central Karakoram, from south-east to north-west, this tremendous trek was a KE classic throughout the 1990's and is making a return due to popular demand. Starting out from the Hushe Valley, we cross the Gondoro La (5585m) to reach the junction of glaciers known as Concordia, a place steeped in mountaineering legend and surrounded by four 8000 metre peaks. A day here gives us the option of visiting K2 Basecamp, before continuing our trek down the Baltoro Glacier to Korophon. Here, we cross the snout of the Biafo Glacier and turn to follow our excellent Snow Lake route into the heart of one of the world's most amazing mountain landscapes. Beyond Snow Lake and the Hispar La (5151m), we make our descent to Hunza via a series of lovely off-glacier camping places. This is a sustained and challenging high-level adventure, with more of the feeling and logistics of an expedition than a trekking holiday.

Is this holiday for you?

This is a superb mountaineering journey, which crosses one of the most rugged tracts of terrain on the face of the Earth. Long and sustained, it includes a number of tough days and 2 high and committing pass crossings. We have rated this as one of the toughest treks in our programme. There are only 3 rest days within this 26-day trek and that means you will need to be in excellent physical condition to take it on. However, our trekking pace in Pakistan is dictated to a great extent by the distances that the porters are prepared to walk and this is usually around 6 hours' walking per day. This equates with an average of just 7 or 8 miles per day, as walking speed is restricted by the altitude and by the sometimes difficult terrain.

The crossing of the Gondoro La is a true mountaineering challenge, involving the ascent of steep (45 degree) snow slopes on the Hushe side and the descent of a large glaciated mountain face on the Concordia side. It will also be necessary to rope up to descend the snow-covered West Vigne Glacier. This day will require a midnight start and could be as long as 10 or 12 hours. No technical climbing ability is required as steep sections of the pass will be safeguarded with fixed ropes and full training in their use, as well as in the various techniques required for roped glacier travel, is given prior to the crossing.

 The crossing of Snow Lake and the Hispar La involves less steep ground, but it is crevassed and, once again, the group will be roped up, possibly for as many as 3 consecutive days. We require clients booking on this trip to have previous experience of walking in crampons and to be familiar with the use of an ice axe for self-arrest.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Day 1
  • Day 2
  • Day 3
  • Day 4
  • Day 5
  • Day 6
  • Day 7
  • Day 8
  • Day 9
  • Day 10
  • Day 11
  • Day 12
  • Day 13
  • Day 14
  • Day 15
  • Day 16
  • Day 17
  • Day 18
  • Day 19
  • Day 23
  • Day 25
  • Day 26
  • Day 27
  • Day 28
  • Day 29
  • Day 30
  • Day 31
  • Day 32
  • Day 33

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee*

* Against Land Only services.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • airport
  • point
  • peaks
  • trip direction
  • pass
  • pass
  • transfer
  • trek

Holiday Itinerary

  • Day 1

  • Day 2

  • Day 3

  • Day 4

  • Day 5

  • Day 6

  • Day 7

  • Day 8

  • Day 9

  • Day 10

  • Day 11

  • Day 12

  • Day 13

  • Day 14

  • Day 15

  • Day 16

  • Day 17

  • Day 18

  • Day 19

  • Day 23

  • Day 25

  • Day 26

  • Day 27

  • Day 28

  • Day 29

  • Day 30

  • Day 31

  • Day 32

  • Day 33

Holiday Information

For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

Shortly after first light one of the cook crew will wake you with a cup of tea or coffee brought to your tent. You will have plenty of time to get up and pack your kitbag before sitting down to a hot breakfast, during which camp will be struck and the porters given their loads. Setting off in the pleasant cool of the morning, we will generally reach our lunch stop after 3 or 4 hours trekking. The cook crew, having overtaken us on the trail, will already have the lunch preparations well under way. Lunch usually takes an hour or even two and again this is a cooked meal. This is a great time for relaxing, reading and sitting in the sun. The pack-animals usually catch up with the group during lunch and are well on their way to camp which we hope to establish by the afternoon, well before dusk. It is usual for the afternoon’s walk to be shorter than the morning session. During the day you are free to walk at your own pace. On arrival at camp, the camp crew will quickly put the tents up and a hot drink will soon follow. Dinner is a 3-course meal served in the mess tent. This is a great time of day for reliving the events of the trek so far and for general socialising. After dark, the temperature quickly falls and everyone will soon be tucked up in their sleeping bags.

On trek, the food is a mixture of local and Western, dishes using ingredients mostly purchased in Pakistan and cooked by our highly trained trek cooks. Breakfasts consist of cereal, muesli or porridge, eggs, bread or chapatti, tea and coffee. Lunches are a picnic from a choice of canned fish, tinned meats, cheese, pickles, pate, and crackers or chapattis, sometimes accompanied by hot soup and noodles, and finished off with tea or coffee. Dinner taken in a group ‘mess’ tent, is a three course meal. We do routinely cater for vegetarians but you must inform us if you wish your diet to be exclusively vegetarian. Drinking Water Drinking water treated with iodine is provided by the trek kitchen during breakfast, at the lunch stop, and while in camp. We use spring water wherever possible but on some days we have no choice except to use glacial melt water which may contain silt which is dissolved in the ice of the glacier. Conventional water filters do not work well with glacial silt and in circumstances where we have to rely on such a source, the camp kitchen will use a large water barrel which allows the silt to settle away. You should bring a little bicarbonate of soda if you find the taste of iodine unpalatable.

Approximately £180 - £200 (or equivalent in US dollars, Euros etc.) changed into local currency should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses, including porter and trek crew tips. Note that money for tips should be changed into local currency (denominations of 500 rupees or smaller only) before you leave Islamabad. It is not necessary to purchase local currency (Pakistan rupees) before your trip. Money can be changed at a reasonable rate at the airport or at authorised money changers near to the hotel. Since you will be changing the majority of your spending money into local currency soon after your arrival, we recommend that you take it in cash. US dollars, Sterling and Euros can readily be exchanged in Islamabad. Credit cards can be used to purchase many goods in Islamabad, Skardu and Gilgit and are particularly useful for more expensive items such as carpets. It is possible to withdraw cash (rupees only) from cash machines in Islamabad.

Internal Flights

Skardu and Gilgit are weather-dependent airports. Since these valleys are completely surrounded by high mountains, planes can only land here in good visibility and this means flights to Skardu and from Gilgit are never guaranteed. The planes do fly more often than not, but cancellations are not infrequent and if this happens on the day we are scheduled to fly we will have to travel by road. This is an epic journey which travels in part along the Karakoram Highway, one of the most remarkable roads in the world. In most circumstances we aim to make this journey over two days with an overnight stop in an hotel approximately halfway, but occasionally it may be necessary to do this as a continuous journey. If flights to Skardu are cancelled on the outbound journey, we may opt to try to fly the next day staying an extra night in Islamabad (your trip leader will make this decision), but if the flight from Gilgit is cancelled on the return journey we will get on the road straight away to make sure we are back in Islamabad in time for our international flights. We have also built in a spare day in Islamabad for such a contingency. Please refer to the important insurance information below about travelling on the Karakoram Highway.

It is usual to tip the members of your trek crew, including your local guide, if you are happy with the services provided. This is a very long and very tough trip for the porters and your trek crew and we recommend that a contribution of around £80 - £100 (in local currency equivalent) from each group member will provide an appropriate level of tips. Towards the end of the trek, the trip leader will help the group to determine an appropriate level of tipping for each crew member, and this is most usually done as a group ‘thank-you’ with ceremony on the final day of trekking.

Your baggage on trek will be carried by porters. The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking including your sleeping bag and camping mattress should be no more than 12.5 kgs. (27 pounds). You should note that this allowance which is governed by maximum porter loads, is slightly less than allowances for treks in India and Nepal and is quite strictly adhered to. It is possible to leave items not required on trek at the group hotel in Islamabad. Note this allowance does not include your mountaineering equipment which will be collected from you in Skardu and carried separately in communal bags.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

This holiday involves going to very high altitude. During the course of your trip you will be spending at least one night above 4000 metres and/or trekking to 5000 metres or above. This is not something that you should worry about; the human body is quite capable of adapting to a very wide range of altitudes, but it is important that we follow some simple rules in order to acclimatise successfully. Before coming on this holiday you should read the advice on trekking at high altitude on our website which can be viewed via the link below. Unless you have previous experience of trekking above 4000 metres you should consult one of our trekking experts before embarking on this holiday. On this trip we carry a portable altitude chamber (PAC-bag) and/or bottled oxygen for use in emergencies.

All nationalities need a passport with at least 6 months remaining validity at the time of travel and a visa for entry into Pakistan.

Documents required for visa application

Competed and signed application form (obtained from the Pakistan Embassy, High Commission or Visa Application Centre in your home country)
Valid passport along with a photocopy of passport
2 recent passport photographs (with white background)

Proof of address (Utility Bill or UK Driving License with paper counterpart)
Invitation letter from
sponsor (provided by KE)

Complete address of sponsor (provided by KE)

Trekking permit (provided by KE)

Last 3 months bank statement

Reference letter from workplace (stating return date)

Pre-paid, Self-addressed envelope for return of passport.

Please send a copy of your visa to the KE office once this has been approved.

Trek permits

For all Pakistan tours we must have from you a completed permit form (included with your booking confirmation). Please return this form, together with three passport-sized photographs, and a photocopy of your passport information page(s) and the page containing your Pakistan visa, as soon as possible, as we have to send these out to Pakistan in advance of departure.

UK Passport Holders

A single entry tourist visa for UK citizens costs £140 and is valid for 6 months from the date of issue for a stay of up to 90 days. Make your application at least 8 weeks before your trip. Applications can only be made in person or via a visa processing company. Note that it is not possible to submit an application directly by post but your passport can be returned to you by post (remember to take a pre-paid self-addressed envelope). From 2013, all Pakistan visa processing has been outsourced to Gerry’s Visa Application Centres. Currently there are four of these centres in England and you should visit the most convenient for you.

There are plans to open a centre in Glasgow soon and you should check at for the most up to date details.


1st Floor, Tramway House

3 Tramway Avenue

Stratford, E15 4PG


Suite 1B, Warwick House

17 Warwick Road, Old Trafford

M16 0QQ


2nd Floor

130 - Alum Rock Road

B8 1HU


Ground Floor

St. Andrews House

Legrams Lane


Visa Application Submission: Monday - Friday: 9am to 2pm. and Saturday: 9am to 1pm

Passport Collection: Monday - Friday: 2pm to 5pm. and Saturday: 09am to 01pm

Filling out the application form

Answer questions carefully and accurately:
For ‘Type of visa applied for:’, tick ‘Tourist’
For ‘Purpose of visit’, write ‘Holiday with KE Adventure Travel’
For ‘Duration of stay in Pakistan: write from and to using the start and end dates of your trip.,

For ‘Visa required for:’ tick ‘Less than 1 month’ (for GKT tick ‘Less than 3 months)

For ‘Type of visa:’ tick ‘single entry’

Port of entry and departure is Islamabad

For places to be visited, write ‘please refer to itinerary attached’

Where you are asked for an address in Pakistan, write ‘c/o Baltistan Tours, P.O.1285, Islamabad 44000. Tel. 00 92 51 2840581’

For Sponsor’s name, use ‘KE Adventure Travel, 32 Lake Road, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 5DQ.’

Important – when asked for details of profession on the application form, do not put anything that might cause delay or potentially refusal to grant a visa at the Pakistan Consulate eg. photographer, writer, journalist, military, government, police etc.

US and Canadian Passport Holders

A single entry tourist visa for US citizens costs US$120 and for Canadian citizens C$100. Visas are valid for 6 months from the date of issue for a stay of up to 90 days. Make your application at least 6 weeks before your trip. Applications are usually processed within a few days but at busy periods may take two to three weeks.

US citizens, please consult the Pakistan Embassy in Washington for the latest information. Website:

Please do not apply for your visa at any of the Pakistan Consulates. Please use only the embassy in Washington.

For Canadian citizens, the Pakistan Diplomatic Mission website is or telephone: 1-613 238-7881 & 238-8029

WARNING! We do keep our information up to date but be advised that visa requirements are subject to change by the Pakistan Government and also by individual officials within Embassies and High Commissions without notification. It is recommended that you consult the relevant Consulate by telephone before you make your application in case of recent alterations. Contact details for all Pakistan Consulates can be found on the Embassy or High Commission websites.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum. The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking including your sleeping bag and mattress should be no more than 12.5 kgs / 27 pounds. This limit which is set by the porters is strictly enforced and bags will be weighed prior to setting off on trek. Anything not required on the trek can be left at the group hotel in Islamabad. Please note that your mountaineering equipment will be packed into additional, communal kitbags at the start of the trekking and this equipment will not be part of your personal 12.5 kgs weight limit.

  • When selecting clothing for this holiday, please be culturally sensitive. Tight fitting or revealing clothing is not appropriate. Shorts and tee shirts can be worn but only once we are above the last temporary habitations of the valley.
  • You must bring the following items:

    • 4 season sleeping bag*
    • Thermarest or similar sleeping mat*
    • Daypack c. 30 to 40 litres / 1800 to 2500 cu in
    • Hiking boots
    • Mountaineering boots (see ‘Mountaineering equipment’ below)
    • Trainers / sneakers or sandals for river crossings and camp use
    • Socks
    • Technical walking socks (2 or 3 pairs)
    • Spare laces
    • Trekking trousers / pants
    • Lightweight waterproof overtrousers / rain-pants
    • Underwear
    • Long johns (thermal underwear)
    • Thermal baselayer shirts (2 short sleeve, 2 long sleeve)
    • Shirts or T-shirts
    • Fleece jacket or warm jumper
    • Waterproof jacket
    • Warm jacket (down)
    • Sunhat
    • Warm hat or balaclava
    • Eyewear - Sunglasses
    • Thermal gloves
    • Warmer over gloves or mittens
    • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)
    • Water bottles 1 litre / 1 quart (x2)
    • Trekking poles
    • Headtorch / headlamp with spare batteries
    • Washbag and toiletries
    • Antibacterial handwash
    • Small towel
    • Basic First Aid Kit including: A broad spectrum antibiotic, antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), altitude (Diamox), painkillers, plasters (band-aids) and blister treatment, insect repellent, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite). Glucose tablets and multi-vitamin tablets.

    The following items are optional:

    • Insect repellant – (DEET)
    • Scarf or buff
    • Sleeping bag liner
    • Pee bottle
    • Travel clothes
    • Pocket-knife (note: always pack sharp objects in hold baggage)
    • Repair kit – (eg. needle, thread, duct tape)
    • Small padlock (to lock your KE trek bag)
    • Camera, film / memory cards, batteries

    Mountaineering Equipment

    • Insulated and rigid mountaineering boots which can be securely fitted with crampons. (B2 grade minimum).
    • Ice axe*
    • Crampons*
    • Climbing harness*
    • Karabiners (2 x screwgate)*
    • Sling (120cm. / 3ft.)*
    • Prussik loops X 2 (4m. / 10ft. of 6mm cord makes 2)*
    • Climbing helmet*

    Equipment hire / rental

    • Items marked * can be hired / rented through KE Adventure Travel. Please make requests at least 6 weeks prior to the trip departure. All hire / rental equipment is issued in Pakistan.

    Needle Sports (specialist mountaineering equipment shop)

    • Needle Sports is the English Lake District's foremost specialist climbing shop supplying mountaineering, rock, ice, alpine and expedition equipment worldwide. Internationally recognised as among the very best of the UK's top technical climbing gear retailers. They have a good range of equipment appropriate for this trip and offer knowledgeable advice both on their website and in store.
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    A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

    We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:

    It makes a lot of sense to spend some time before coming on a trekking trip getting some additional exercise. The fitter you are, after all, the more enjoyable you will find the experience. For this trip you need to be aerobically fit and also comfortable with walking up to 10 hours on some days. We would suggest that you adopt a weekly exercise regime leading up to your trip. Regular hiking in hill country is the best training but running, tennis and swimming are also good for developing cardio vascular fitness and stamina. Before departure, we suggest that you try to fit in a number of long walks in hilly country.

    As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: for essential travel advice and tips.

    KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

    From mid June to August, we can expect to encounter temperatures as high as 30°C at Skardu and 25°C at Hushe and at the start of the Biafo glacier. In June and early July there should be a good covering of snow on the slopes leading to the Gondoro La. and we may also encounter snow on the upper part of the Baltoro and the upper part of the Biafo. Above 4000 metres snow can fall at any time of the year. At any time of the season the night-time temperature above 4000 metres are likely to drop to freezing or below and at our highest camps may reach minus 10 or 15°C. The weather is generally good throughout the summer season, with clear skies and little rain or snow. However, weather in mountainous areas is difficult to predict, and short-lived storms can occur at any time of the year.

    Trekking in Pakistan. Isobel Shaw. Karakoram Highway. King. Top Treks of the World. Steve Razzetti. In the Throne Room of the Mountain Gods. Galen Rowell. K2 Triumph and Tragedy. Jim Curran.

    Pakistan: Leomann Trekking Maps of the Karakoram:

    Maps designed specifically for the trekker, presenting the topography by line drawings of mountain ridges, with altitudes of main peaks and passes shown. The maps also show rivers and villages and clearly indicate trekking routes. On the reverse are route descriptions and other information about the area. two sheets are required to cover the entire route: Sheet 3 K2, Baltoro, Gasherbrum, Masherbrum & Saltoro Groups. 1 : 200,000 Sheet 2. Skardu, Hispar, Biafo Area

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