Feb 19

Ten minutes on top of the world

by in Gilgit-Baltistan, published, Travelogue

It was just before dawn as I pulled the ropes to climb to the top while taking deep breaths. The summit was a only a few feet away. I paused for a while, caught my breath and looked behind. The sky was a palette of orange and blue hues as spectacular mountains were silhouetted in the foreground.

The weather was bright and clear, I was at the top of one of the highest mountain passes on earth — “Gondogoro la Pass” at an altitude of 5,940 meters above sea level, was viewing some of the highest peaks on earth including Four of Eight-Thousander peaks K2 (Choghori), Broad Peak, Gasherbrum I and Gasherbrum II.

On top of Gondogoro Pass image by Attique Badar Ten minutes on top of the world


I’d been advised to spend no more than 10 minutes on the summit and then descend to the other side.

Those 10 minutes very easily became the most beautiful moments of my life where I saw the first beam of sunlight hitting K2 — the second highest mountain in the world.

My journey to the top started at 10:00 am in the morning on July 10, 2012 when a team of 27 trekkers left for Ali camp from Concordia. It took us all about six to eight hours to reach to the camp. We crossed through hard rocks and the Vigne Glacier. In many places, the snow came up to our waist and it didn’t take long before our shoes and socks were drenched.

After reaching Ali camp in the evening, we tried to dry our shoes on the stove in the kitchen tent, but with little success. The trek to the summit was in just a few hours and we were back on our way, in the dark, without much rest.

We’d been told to reach the summit before dawn. Gondogoro Pass can only be crossed during the night; it involves steep climbs and abrupt descents. Without the sun, temperatures fall below freezing causing the snow to harden, hence lessening the chances of slipping or getting caught in an avalanche.

desend on Gondogoro 2 Ten minutes on top of the world


Time is a commodity in this environment and even minutes wasted can prove deadly.

While at the Ali Camp, we had our meal and then prepared ourselves for the treacherous pass. Taking a limited supply of food packs and water, we started our hike at 22:00 hours towards the pass in complete darkness aided by a little moonlight and our head torches.

The initial trek was difficult to navigate, with the snow being so hard, but eventually our path evened out to a more manageable climb. It took us an hour and half to reach to the base of the Gondogoro pass.

The enormous snow walls were illuminated by the moon light, as I watched a few head torches at a distance going to the top. A few of them were my trek mates, while the man ahead belonged to the rescue team for the Pass who was trying to make the route easy for those following.

Ropes were fixed on the steepest slopes and I had to fix the carabinar into it to prevent a fall. It was hard to climb, especially as the air thinned with altitude and breathing became more laborious.

desend on Gondogoro Ten minutes on top of the world

It took me almost six hours to reach the summit. Even though there was a fear of avalanches, I had come too far to turn back. Reaching the top would be a seminal achievement in my life and a memory that would last me forever. After spending the allowed 10 minutes on the summit I began my descent.

To my surprise, the descent was steeper and harder than the ascent. We had to do it in daylight. I managed to descend down with the help of ropes while snow started to get soft. It took me two hours to climb down. Then I started my hike towards the beautiful lush green camp site of Khuspang, again crossing through soft snow and rocky patches for what seemed like hours.

The grand Gondogoro Pass quest ended at 1300 hours, the next day at Khuspang . Upon reaching the camp site, I joined my trekking mates for a meal.

As I lay in my sleeping bag, I thought back on the events of the day and realised how memorable the entire experience was. Despite the ropes and gear that we had, it had been an arduous and dangerous climb. I wondered how difficult it must have been for those before us who didn’t have the facilities that I had been provided with.

It was not just another adventure or exploration, for 10 minutes of my life I was literally on top of the world, and any number of words is not enough to define that.


The article was originally published in Dawn Blogs dated 21st August, 2012



13 Responses to “Ten minutes on top of the world”

  1. From Jiya:


    Those 10 minutes that you and people like you had experienced, that had shown you of what a lot of us desire and dream of, will be a life line to hold on to I guess. You might go there again and again but your article is a proof that you won’t trade this first time with any other.

    Stay blessed :) Jiya

    Posted on 19. Feb, 2013 at 2:49 pm #
    • From danialshah:

      @Jiya: :) Thank you jiya

      Posted on 07. Mar, 2013 at 6:01 am #
  2. From Umer:

    Wow !

    Posted on 25. Feb, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    I think the spirit of dventure in us is best captured in the Theme ‘Kaap Walking’. To those who dream like Danial, think like Danial and WALK their TALK 9he CLIMBS too!), is a wonderful enigma, obsession, passion and the “joi de vivre” as they call it in French. Keep Walking and KEEP WRITING to tell your STORY Danial. May THE FORCE be with you..ALWAYS.

    Posted on 05. Mar, 2013 at 7:18 pm #
    • From danialshah:

      @Abdul Ghafoor Shahzad: Shukria Shahzad sahab :) thats pretty motivating :)

      Posted on 07. Mar, 2013 at 6:00 am #
  4. From Zainab Hashimi:

    wow! you are so cooooooooooooool!!! this is awesssome! :)
    and I can’t help being jealous of the kind of adventure you had! (and still having)

    Posted on 05. Jun, 2013 at 5:53 pm #
    • From danialshah:

      haha Zainab whats so cool about this adventure? this is just an another adventure in the life of a wanderer :D :P

      Posted on 08. Jun, 2013 at 6:47 am #
      • From Zainab Hashimi:

        well, it is cool because i think it is cool. :)
        and come one, let’s be realistic. it is K2!

        Posted on 08. Jun, 2013 at 8:26 pm #
  5. From An Ardent Dreamer!:

    After reading and re reading this blog for umptieth time i came to the conclusion that when a dreamer like me wants to travel to unseen places or worlds, only a written account of another dreamer like you is enough! When you wrote that you could hardly breathe due to thin air, i felt the tightness in my chest and i felt i was climbing the summit with you. I could feel the sense of achievement when i reached the top along with you! No amount of cold or tiredness was there within me….i was so happy and escalated in that feeling of joy that tears were flowing down my cheeks…..tears of joy and tears of amazement and awe of such magnanimity! Such a feeling that how big those giants are and how little i am made, yet i can with passion overcome the difficulties to reach the top! How big a hurdle in my life would be in front of me from now onward when i have reached this roof top!
    Greatly in awe to you for this beautiful journey to the top of the world.
    Do not fail this dreamer and allow me to travel through the mountains through your powerful narrations.
    an Ardent Dreamer!

    Posted on 06. Jun, 2013 at 12:02 pm #
    • From danialshah:

      @Dreamer: the words that you have written in response to what i wrote, i am wordless now. just want to say “Thank you” for appreciating and letting me keep going. :)

      Posted on 08. Jun, 2013 at 6:50 am #
  6. From Saalik Siddikki:

    Assalaam o Alaikum

    My dear Danial Shah,

    Young men like you are real pride of any nation. I’m a young man of 58 and have never attempted climbing but there has always been a dream deep inside me to do so. Whenever a Pakistani and specially a young man conquer these cliffs, I feel I was with him throughout the grinding adventure.

    Allah Karim bless you with more energy, ambition and success in scaling K2 and Mount Everest.



    Posted on 13. Jul, 2013 at 3:37 pm #
    • From danialshah:

      Dear Saalik Sahab,
      bohat bohat shukria. I am proud to have avid readers like you who are there to encourage someone who is following his passion :)

      Posted on 13. Jul, 2013 at 9:36 pm #
  7. From Farida:

    Reading your journey to the K2 gave me goose bumps..here i fully agree with some of the people who commented that while reading it, i actually felt each and every tense moments and wow what a feeling to be on top of the world! This phrase i use so often when I actually feel great but this is for the first time i m reading from someone who actually been to the top of the world!!
    Wish you all the best Danial..!

    Posted on 09. Nov, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

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