Sheherbano Taseer of Bhindi Fries shares her journey of the K2 Base Camp Trek. Here is her survival guide for anyone out there thinking of embarking on this exciting journey.

Go for it

I will say that no words and no pictures will ever do justice to those days so if you can do it – DO IT! It’s truly a life-changing experience and something I am so grateful I had the opportunity to do.

Make sure you have a solid group + tour operator

In order to get the most from the trek you’d be lucky if you had a great group (which I did!) and a great tour operator (which we did not – ours was super disorganized with lackluster equipment and one of the members in our group got lost in the freezing rain on the Baltoro Glacier at night which was really scary).

Look for a decent weather window

Although this is honestly all luck. A friend who went years ago told me “you are going to see all four seasons in one day” and he was 100 percent right. During the course of one day it would switch from pelting rain to hail to scorching heat to strong blizzard. We went in mid July.

Make sure you’re in a good place physically and mentally

My awesome trainer Azmeh helped me get into great shape before the trek. I would definitely recommend you do that so you can enjoy yourself and don’t feel like you’re going to die, ha-ha. But I realized that so much of it is a mental game. You’ve really got to buck yourself up and sometimes group members too; because it’s a 180km trek where you eventually get to an altitude of around 5200m at the Base Camp. No mean feat!

Have a backup driving option in case your flight gets cancelled

We drove from Lahore to Islamabad and flew from there to Skardu. We got lucky with the weather and our flights took off but it’s advisable to have a backup driving option ready in case the flights get cancelled – which they often do.

Keep your extra luggage in Skardu

I would advise packing a pull along for everything you need before and after the trek and keeping it at your hotel in Skardu (if they allow) so you don’t have to carry extra weight with you when you hike.

Exploring Skardu

We stayed an extra day in Skardu and hiked around a beautiful fishing village in Soq Valley. You can go post Shangrila for stunning hikes or drive down to picturesque Khaplu, Shiqar, Upper Deosai Plains and local trout farms – whatever tickles your fancy, your hotel will guide you.

Get a SCOM sim

Get a SCOM sim with you for your days in Skardu but especially for when you reach Concordia. They have a 4G cell tower that gives you signals. It was amazing to disconnect from the world and just be present where we were but it was also nice to reconnect with friends and family when we got Wi-Fi after days at Concordia and especially Facetiming with my babies!

Be prepared

There are landslides, unpredictable weather, broken bridges and a million other obstacles that come your way during the drive so be prepared!

Set your rates in advance

Set all rates with your porters and tour company before starting so there is no bad blood during or after the trek. Make sure you ask them what food they are serving, what kind of tents and equipment they have. So much of your comfort and mainly all your safety depends on that.

Pre-download your playlist

Pre-download your playlists on Spotify and some audiobooks or podcasts for the trek or when you’re at camp at night.

Invest in good quality equipment

Everything gets wet and dirty super fast so you want to make sure your duffel bag is sturdy and waterproof. I also suggest using packing cubes to keep things organized. I would also recommend packing everything inside large Ziploc bags and labelling them so your things stay organized and weather proof. If you have to spend money on one good thing make sure it’s the shoes. I kept two pairs with me because one will inevitably get soaked and you could risk frostbite. Wear them before the trek starts to avoid blisters. You can even put Vaseline on your feet before wearing socks to prevent blisters.

Invest in a good Backpack

Your backpack will be your lifeline. I got a Camelbak with a straw and filled it with ORS so that I wouldn’t get dehydrated and could sip while walking. Don’t forget to get a waterproof cover for your backpack.

Pack Smart

Since it’s a long trek, pack smart. I took a lot of stuff with me. It’s not just about what you bring, what you don’t bring is just as important.  Get good trekking poles, head lamps and my favorite were the tent lights – so useful for when you need to leave your tent to get something out from your bag at night.

Get a Filter Water Bottle

One of the most useful things we got was this Grayl Water Filter Bottle and it saved us from getting sick. I heard the glacier water would be clean but sadly the route has become super commercial and is quite contaminated with human and donkey poop.

Keep a Power bank

Make sure you take a power bank with you for your phones and our solar charger was so useful too. We would attach it to our backpacks when hiking on sunny days to charge any necessary devices. Make sure the power bank casing is plastic and not metal. Metal is a poor insulator and cold weather will kill the batteries.

Keep a First Aid Kit

Our first aid kit consisted of several things but the number one thing was altitude sickness defeating pills, so important! You might also want to take blister tape, sunburn relief, anti-allergy and post bug bite ointments, Deep Heat, bandages, Polyfax, Mospel, Pyodine, Brufen, antibiotics, and do get some Entamizole or Imodium because many of our group members got bad tummies.

Keep a few cans of food

Lastly, you can take a few small cans of tinned food for the group to share. I didn’t mind the food at all but there are some days where you feel like a bit of comfort food due to the weather and physical and mental exhaustion. We took some aloo keema and palak paneer.

The one thing I will never forget is seeing K2 for the first time – you can start to spot all the other mountains from far away in the the days you start reaching Concordia, but K2, distant and reclusive is hidden away till the very end, retaining her aura of mystery, beauty and danger. There are days you feel like you’re on a different planet, especially at night. Each day is exhilarating, challenging and thought provoking. You really come face to face with who you are. You talk to God; you feel His limitless mercy and love. Go before global warming and commercial tourism ruin everything. Go for the ride of a lifetime!

Fashion designer Maher Gillani recounts the tale of Buddhist nun  Khema’s path to enlightenment

Just as there were two for most disciples in the order of monks, namely Shariputra and Moggallana, likewise Buddha named two women as foremost amongst nuns, Uppalavanna and Khema.

The name Khema means well-settled or composed or security and is synonymous for nirvana. The nun Khema belonged to a royal family from the land of Magadha. When she was of marriageable age, she became one of the chef consorts of King Bimbisara. As beautiful as her appearance was, equally beautiful was her life as the wife of an Indian maharaja.

When she heard about Buddha from her husband, she became interested, but she had a certain reluctance to become involved with his teaching. She felt the teaching would run counter to her life of sense-pleasure and indulgences. The King tried to influence her to listen to his teaching. He described at length the harmony, the peace and beauty of the monastery in the bamboo grove where the Buddha stayed frequently. Because she loved beauty, harmony and peace, she was persuaded to visit there.

Decked out in royal splendor with silk and sandalwood, she went to the monastery. The Exalted One spoke to her and explained the law of impermanence of all conditioned beauty to her. She gave her full attention to the sermon and still dressed in royal garments, she attained enlightenment, just like the monk Mahakappina (a former king). She likewise became liberated through the power of the Buddha’s words while still dressed in the garment of the laity. With her husband’s permission, she joined the Order of Nuns as Khema.

Such an attainment, almost like lighting, is only possible where the seed of wisdom has long been ripening and virtue is fully matured.

An ordinary person hearing Khema’s story only sees the wonder of the present happening. A Buddha can see beyond this and knows that this woman did not come to full liberation accidentally, but the transformation was due to her inner attraction towards higher truth.

While most people were either milling around the realms of heaven or hell during Buddha’s lifetime, Khema always tried to be near the source of wisdom. Buddha even praised her as being the nun foremost in wisdom. Khema purified her heart and perfected her virtues now that she was mature enough. She had such pure tranquil emotions, that she could accept the ultimate Truth in the twinkling of an eye.

Brand: “BiBi” (summer 2017 ethnic kimono trends)

Designed by Maher Gillani

Make-up & styling by Bobby Jazavi

Photography by Suranjith Arachchi

Model: Maher Gillani

Location: Buddha temples  (Srilanka)

Spacial thanks: Ahsan Hussain

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