Looking back, to the beginning of this tour, I’m almost sure that if we had known how exhausting this trip would become, we would have never found ourselves here in Pakistan. Our goal is to reach the „Throne Room of the Mountain Goods,” the Concordia in the heart of the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan by bike. There is probably no other high-altitude mountain range this spectacular on Earth. You can’t find such a density of peaks and chains of mountains above six-, seven-, and eight-thousand meters anywhere else. Not even in the Himalayas.
We arrive at the small airport in Skardu, the main region in Baltistan in August 2019. The small, dirty, and seemingly poor city on the Indus river surprises us with its cordial and open residents. Excitement ensues everywhere we arrive with our mountain bikes. We’re under the impression that Pakistan is just as interested in us as we are in it.
We leave Skardu in a Jeep and reach the starting point of our bike tour, the idyllic mountain village of Hushe, after two days of driving. We plan three days of biking/hiking and two rest days until finally crossing the highest pass, Gondogor La 5600m, to slowly get used to the steadily increasing altitude. We know that acclimatization is utterly important at high altitude. The places we camp seem to be fighting for superlatives. One is more impressive than the other.
Whenever we ask Isaak, our Pakistani guide, how the path will be the following day he just answers with a broad grin: „Too easy! No problem.” But we all agree that it’s become pretty exhausting for “too easy.” So, we’re a little unnerved when we ask about the crossing of the pass on our rest day when the answer is „Maybe a little hard. But no problem.“ So ok. And that’s how it is going to be. We take off at 9pm for our deciding leg of the tour. We reach the height of the pass at 5am, completely worn. We are more than compensated with bright sunshine and a truly unique panorama. Four of the 14 mountains higher than 8000 meters are in front of us: K2, Broad Peak, Gasherbrum 1 & 2. Next to them we see uncountable other peaks and razor-sharp ridges.
We were hoping for a downhill ride. What we find is a snow-covered descend, secured by fixed ropes between the crevasses. No bike riding for the next hours. It’s past noon as we reach the Baltoro Glacier. We can now move on, rolling on our bikes. Our goal, the Concordia, lies somewhere at the foot of the pyramid of K2, the “mountain of mountains”, looming in front of us. We reach our camp there at 9pm, after 21 hours. Our relief is equal to our exhaustion.
We also know that there is still a long way to go. We spend three of the four following days crossing the Baltoro Glacier. We are often forced to push or even carry our bikes with the millions of rocks strewn across. We enjoy the passages we are able to ride even more. We pass granite walls thousands of meters high and countless peaks. The path leads us across endless fields of rubble out of this breathtaking landscape. The last leg to Askole, the first settlement we reach after ten days in the mountains, really turns out to be “too easy” and pretty good to ride. We fall into each others arms, exhausted but exalted.
Looking back, we all agree: even though we were able to ride less than we had hoped, even though the tour was more exhausting that we could have imagined, even though we all had to leave our comfort zone not only once – it was worth every minute. The cordial, helpful people, the impressive mountain landscape, and last but not least our perfectly functioning, harmonious team made this trip to one of the most extraordinary bike expeditions we have ever experienced. Big thanks to our helpful crew, they supported us a lot and made this trip a big success for all of us.