Island Peak, Nepal

Climb Island Peak & Kala Pattar With Alpine Ascents

I had an amazing time on my expedition. It was such a great trip and I enjoyed the trek with the trekkers and then our climb. It was successful and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of Guides/Porters. They all went above and beyond. There is a reason I keep climbing only with AAI! – 2019 Climber

Alpine Ascents offers a unique opportunity to climb 2 peaks following a trip to Everest base camp. While most companies offer a single or no peaks, we can climb above 18,000 feet on 2 occasions with Kala Pattar and Island. Peak. Island Peak is considered the best opportunity for advanced beginner and intermediate climbers to take on a challenging glacier climb above 20,000 feet in the heart of the Everest Himalayas. En route, participants get to walk the famed Trek to Everest Base Camp. This journey is also an outstanding opportunity to spend time and learn with one of the true legendary guides of our time, Vern Tejas.

It is no surprise that Himalayan peaks have drawn adventurers, climbers, and cultural enthusiasts for nearly 200 years. The stark and rugged terrain, so entwined with the culture of local Sherpa people, offers such powerful experiences that Himalayan travel stands in a class by itself. While many think of travel to the Himalayas as only high-altitude climbing or trekking, this expedition offers climbers and trekkers an exciting opportunity to enter the world of the mighty Himalayas. See details of the trek.

In order to acclimatize prior to climbing Island Peak (20,305 ft./6,189 m), we trek through the Himalayan Khumbu. Team members will have the opportunity (weather permitting) to summit Kala Pattar (18,187 ft./5,545 m), which is a wonderful location to view and photograph Mt. Everest, before we head for a visit to Everest Base Camp. The area in and around Island Base Camp is a stunning and truly wild terrain, far from any villages.

With the assistance of Alpine Ascents’ guides, a fit and enthusiastic advanced beginner with basic climbing skills can successfully reach the spectacular summits of Kala Pattar and Island Peak. The climbs are considered physically challenging, but not technically difficult. Porters and yaks are will help us carry gear, food, and supplies. We encourage you to review the detailed itinerary, and we would be delighted to put you in touch with veteran trekkers to learn from their experiences.

Climbing Skill Level

Climbers should have successfully completed a minimum of our 3 Day Mount Rainier or Mount Baker Climb (or have similar experience). Climbers must be mentally prepared to deal with strenuous situations at high altitudes. The requirements are also based on our desire to have similarly skilled team members. Please note this is a trip requiring climbers to be in excellent physical condition.

Climbers hike to Island peak via the famed Khumbu region trek to Everest Base Camp. Please visit our Everest Base Camp Trek page for more details on the trek.

The logistics of the trip were well-organized. The Sherpa support was fantastic – food was clean, tents/equipment carried and assembled, friendly. The route selected is the classic Everest trek, and you will see all the big peaks – Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu, Ama Dablam etc. Itinerary built in enough time to acclimate well. High summit day success rate – while observing safety The Alpine Ascents group was, by far, the most upscale group in the Khumbu. I recommend Alpine Ascents (with whom I had climbed previously) because they handle everything so I can focus on the beautiful scenery, friendships with the group, and the cultural exploration. – Chuck P.

Island Peak

The trek to Island Peak also walks us through the countryside where we will be immersed in centuries-old Nepalese and Tibetan cultures. The journey offers some of the most striking scenery in the Khumbu via the enchanting village of Dingboche. Filled with Buddhist shrines, this village of stone charms our path to the mountain. The summit of Island Peak stands adjacent to the South Face of Lhotse, one of the world’s largest ice walls, and offers stunning views of beautiful Ama Dablam and Makalu. It is an excellent opportunity to participate in and fully experience a Himalayan mountain-climbing expedition.

With the assistance of Alpine Ascents’ guides, a fit and enthusiastic advanced beginner with basic climbing skills can successfully reach the spectacular summits of Kala Pattar and Island Peak. The climbs are considered physically challenging, but not technically difficult. Porters and yaks will help us carry gear, food, and supplies. We encourage you to review the detailed itinerary and we would be delighted to put you in touch with veteran trekkers to learn from their experiences.

Mallory and the Statement

When George Mallory responded, “Because it is there” to the “Why climb Everest?” question, he passed on a sort of permanent approval to those who wished to risk their lives climbing. But one should really have asked Mallory and his predecessors, “How did you know it was there?” Possibly “Why climb Everest?” is best answered, “Because we found it.”

By the end of the 18th century, the world did not know where the highest mountain lay. Historically, it was prime time for the “Great Game” and the struggle to conquer Central Asia. While the British developed their stronghold on the Indian subcontinent, Czarist Russia was intent on dominating the relatively uncharted landscapes of mountainous Asia. To control these areas, one had to overcome ruthless thieves and unfriendly kingdoms as well as cross the seemingly unpassable and hostile ranges of the Pamirs, Hindu Kush, Karakorums, Garwhals, and Himalayas.

To map these areas around India, one traveled as a spy or pundit, often changing disguises as the communities warranted. These cartographers-cum-spies also needed incredible strength and climbing skills while crossing the barren terrain, and hence an explorer’s renaissance was born. These explorers would often change quickly from Muslim cleric to Buddhist pilgrim, replete with an understanding of language, culture, and local idiosyncrasies — those minute details of movement that are a delicate part of Asian culture.

Even these skills were only a prerequisite to the goal of the journey, which was to survey the regions with precision. For these explorer chameleons, it was not uncommon to hide surveying tools in everyday objects. (The most famous instance of this was a surveyor’s kit and records hidden inside a Tibetan prayer wheel. Another pundit logged thousands of miles by counting every individual step.) While noting what progress could be made in a day or week and observing difficult crossings, natural defenses, and watering holes for pack animals, they traveled in expedition style (a common term for a style of mountain climbing in which a series of camps are set). Expedition teams approached the surveying journey in the same way modern climbers think about a mountain.

These explorers became legendary heroes who bridged the gap between older explorers and modern-day climbers*. They were, in fact, the first Himalayan climbers, as surveying the mountains was often the cited raison d’etre for an expedition’s approval and funding. The heroes became fabled characters in Kipling’s “Kim,” and provided a century of literature for the Great Britain’s Royal Geographical Society.

* The mapping of Everest is a sub history in itself with Indian Surveyors of the 1950’s taking accuracy to new levels. Even with satellite methods of the 1980’s, the older figures held. Most recently, famed climber, photographer, and cartographer, Dr. Bradford Washburn made updated calculations. Nearing 90 years of age, Dr. Washburn still conducts experiments with Everest climbers using GPS systems and a prism placed on the summit. Everest climbers Burleson, Athens, Berg, and Tejas have all worked with Washburn.

It was not until 1808 that the British fully embraced the single goal of finding the world’s highest mountain. (It was nearly 100 years later that the British dispatched Colonel Younghusband to cross the Himalayas to secure Tibet as an ally.) Charting territory from British India, they did not reach the Himalayan foothills until the 1830’s. Movement was slow in Himalayan terrain and Everest was not proclaimed as the world’s highest peak until 1852. Thirty years later, Clinton Dent raised the first serious proposal for a full-on attempt to summit Mt. Everest.

Now discovered as the highest mountain, it was Mallory’s 1922 expedition that brought Everest and its mythos to the masses. After 114 years of mapping, Mallory could now state: “Because it is there.” When Hillary and Norgay were the first to summit Everest in 1953, Hillary stated, “I really believed the story had finished. I supposed it would be recorded in Alpine journals but that was all. How wrong I was. The media and public reaction was far beyond anything I naively expected.”

Back in vogue, the media attention to the disasters of 1996 has brought Everest renewed popularity. Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” has made Everest household talk from the Oklahoma plains to the shores of New Foundland. While the tragedies of 1996 were unique, they were certainly not odd. Climbers do die on Everest most every year, but the 1996 tragedy offered a reporter at the ready, satellite phones, internet access to events, and a cast of characters that intrigued armchair climbers and the common man. It was practically a ready-made news event and unfortunately the actual climbing was often presented with journalistic simplicity.

Most recently, the “Everest” IMAX film has reached theatres around the world and has given an alpinist’s view of the mountain and a chance for us catch a glimpse into the incredible beauty that seduces climbers. We may ask ourselves why a few deaths on Everest evoke more empathy than other natural disasters and grade school killings? It is because we all relate to adventure in some form; the predetermined, articulated goal of a climber, sailor, or balloonist will naturally capture our human emotions.

As the West decides who are the Everest heroes and goats, the Sherpa of Nepal go about their business of climbing Everest in uncelebrated glory. While five summits is the record for a Westerner, Ang Rita Sherpa has summited the mountain 10 times. For most Sherpa, climbing is one of a few possible occupations. Their reputation as climbers is nothing short of historic, and their local Buddhist, animist, and cultural traditions have nurtured and impacted a fascinating relationship with Westerners and Western thought.

Our Climb & Trekking Route

Our path to Island Peak is that of our Everest Trek as we take an alternate route after base camp to reach Island Peak. We travel through the renowned village of Namche Bazaar and the revered monastic community of Tengboche. Onward to the summit of Kala Pattar (trekking peak), where we can snap excellent photographs of Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse. The Kala Pattar trek serves as an introduction to the warmth of the Sherpa community and as an acclimatization period preceding the ascent of the great pyramid, Island Peak.

The trek to Island Peak also walks us through the countryside where we will be immersed in centuries-old Nepalese and Tibetan cultures. The journey offers some of the most striking scenery in the Khumbu via the enchanting village of Dingboche. Filled with Buddhist shrines, this village of stone charms our path to the mountain. The summit of Island Peak stands adjacent to the South Face of Lhotse, one of the world’s largest ice walls, and offers stunning views of beautiful Ama Dablam and Makalu. It is an excellent opportunity to participate in and fully experience a Himalayan mountain-climbing expedition.

Lodging & The Khumbu Region

We lodge in Sherpa village tea houses, many of them remote, giving us a rare look into both traditional and monastic communities. We access these villages through our long time Sherpa friends with the belief that a sharing of cultures is paramount in our understanding of the world. While the environs are often primitive by Western standards, they are balanced by the warmth and tremendous support of the Sherpa people. We will spend the nights before the climb in a fully stocked camp tent at Island Peak Base Camp.

*Please note that while we hand pick the lodges, the Khumbu is a remote area and accommodations are very basic. We work hard to have a diverse menu but meals can be limited by availability and the remoteness of the region.

Reading List

This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.

High Himalaya
by Art Wolfe, Peter Potterfield, Norbu Tenzing Norgay, Mountaineers Books
Everest; The Mountaineers Anthology Series
Foreward by Tom Hornbein, Peter Potterfield editor, Mountaineers Books
Everest
by Walt Unsworth, Mountaineers Books
Classic Hikes of the World
Peter Potterfield, W.W. Norton pub.
Fragile Edge : Loss on Everest
by Maria Coffey, Harbour Pub Co.
Coronation Everest
by Jan Morris, Burford Books
Everest : The West Ridge
by Thomas F. Hornbein, Mountaineers Books
Eric Shipton: Everest & Beyond
by Edmund Hillary, Peter M.D. Steele, Mountaineers Books
The Snow Leopard (Penguin Nature Classics)
by Peter Matthiessen, Penguin USA (paper)
Trekking in Nepal : A Traveler's Guide
by Stephen Bezruchka, Mountaineers Books

I found the entire expedition very well organized and maintained. It was very much what the itinerary stated.

A similar view on our approach to base camp.
Touring the Swayambunath Temple, also known as the Monkey Temple, in Kathmandu.
Looking down into the holy Hindu temple of Pashupatinath.
Sadhus or holy men of the Pashupatinath temple.
A view down the impressive landing strip in Lukla.
Trekking through villages below the town of Namche.
Approaching the summit.
A view into the Khumbu valleyÁs largest village, Namche Bazaar.
Memorial cairns for Sherpa climbers, who have passed away.
A group inside the childhood home of Lakpa Rita, in the village of Thame.
Standing in the courtyard of the 300+ year old Thame Monastery.
Along the trail one continuously sees these ever-present mani stones or prayer stones.
The entrance to Tengboche monastery.
Evening light in Tengboche.
Young monks during the Mani Rimdu Festival at the Tengboche Monastery.
A thanka painting of the White Tara on a rock wall along the trail.
From the top of Kala Pattar a trekker looks out north towards Tibet with Mt. Everest summit ridge off to the right.
On the way out to Everest base camp with the Khumbu Icefall recognizable in the distance.
A traditional home with slate roof, along the trekking route.
Everest base camp during a spring expedition season.
Views south from the top with Baruntse in the distance on the far left and Ama Dablam on the far right.
The spectacular summit ridge of Island Peak.
View from the summit.
A similar view on our approach to base camp.

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