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Island Peak, Nepal

Island Peak & Kala Pattar

Island Peak is perhaps the best (and only) opportunity for advanced beginner/intermediate climbers to take on a challenging glacier climb above 20,000 in the heart of the Everest Himalayas. En route, participants also get to walk the famed Trek to Everest Base Camp.

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./6,189m), we trek through the Himalayan Khumbu. Team members will have the opportunity (weather permitting) to summit Kala Pattar (18,187 ft./5,545m), a wonderful location to view and photograph Mt. Everest, then 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 used to help 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 share 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.

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. Endurance is the key to succeeding, regardless of who you ultimately choose. I recommend Alpine Ascents (with whom I had climbed with on Kilimanjaro and in their 6 day training course) because they handle everything so I can focus on the beautiful scenery, friendships with the group, and the cultural exploration. I highly recommend Alpine Ascents for this, or any other climb.” – Chuck P.

Island Peak

The trek to Island Peak also walks us through the countryside, where we immerse 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 are used to help 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 share 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 sub-continent, 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 un-passable 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 explorers renaissance was born. These explorers would often quick change from Muslim Cleric to Buddhist pilgrim replete with an understanding of language, culture and local idiosyncrasies, those minute details of movement which 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 surveyors 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, 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 expeditions 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, 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 arm chair 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 un-celebrated glory. While five summits is the record for a westerner, Ang Rita Sherpa has summitted 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

The route to Kala Pattar takes us along the path to Everest Base Camp. We travel through the renowned village of Namche Bazaar and the revered monastic community of Tengboche. From the summit of Kala Pattar, 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 immerse 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. Our nights before the climb will be 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 this can be limited by availability and remoteness of region.

Island Peak Frequently Asked Questions

Upon sign up we will forward our famed, comprehensive confirmation package. This package will include all of the details for your trip.

What is the skill level of this climb?

Climbers should have successfully completed our 6-Day Training course or performed well on a 3 day climb such as Rainier or Mt. Baker, or have equivalent skills and 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.

What is the physical conditioning level needed for this climb?

Climbers must be in excellent physical condition. Summit day can be 10-14 hours long.

Any tips on how a climber can maximize their chances of success?

Along with the required climbing skills, review cardio training on the training page for this climb. We strongly recommend following the advice of our guides to acclimatize properly.

Who is the guiding team composed of (How many guides? Climber to guide ratio?)

Your expedition leader will be one of our International Mountain Guides. They will have along as many assistant guides as necessary to ensure a low climber to guide ratio. See more on guides here.

What is the best season to climb / which dates will have the most chance for success?

The best time to climb Island Peak is in April and October.

How many climbers are on this expedition?

Generally, our maximum for this climb is 15 climbers plus guides and Sherpa.

Will I be sharing a tent or lodging with other climbers?

During the trek we will be lodging in teahouses (very simple lodging). During the climb, we will be in a fully stocked camp tent at Island Peak Base Camp. Team members will be either sharing a teahouse room (2 per room) or a tent (2 per tent) while at Base Camp.

How much will my pack weigh?

During the trek and climb team members will only be carrying gear and supplies for the day. At no point do we carry camping gear or equipment for overnight. During the trek daypacks will weigh no more than 20 lbs. and during the climb the packs will weigh no more than 30 lbs.

What gear will I need?

Please review the gear list.

How does your gear rental system work?

Those requesting rental gear must submit an online expedition rental form with payment. All rental gear will be mailed to the climber prior to the climb. Climbers are expected to clean all rental gear and return it to us by mail following the expedition.

Any further advice on gear and using your gear list?

While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the gear list may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The gear lists are created by the guides to assist in having climbers be prepared to summit in any conditions.

While it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do offer a wide variety of equipment in our Gear Shop, that has been hand-picked by our staff of mountaineering experts. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes. Plastic boots are required for this climb.

How is drinking water treated?

During the trek we will provide unlimited amounts of water at mealtimes. Team members can fill up water bottles at meals and use their Steri pen to sterilize. Bottled water can also be purchased in teahouses at additional cost but can be expensive and creates waste. Once in BC water will be boiled.

What will the meals on the expedition be like?

Meals in the mountains consist of a diet rich in carbohydrates because our bodies do not process fat and protein efficiently at higher elevations and to compensate the increase in caloric need that high altitude climbing involves. We try to make meals and breakfast varied and as normal as possible. During the trek we will be served meals in the teahouses but prepared by our own staff. Meals during the trek and climb are made from food both purchased in Nepal and the U.S. Typical meals are rice, pasta or potato dishes along with vegetable and egg dishes. During lunches we will also have a cooked meal. Above BC climbing food mainly consists of dried meals such as pastas or rice. Lunches while climbing will mainly be made up of bars and snacks brought from the U.S.

Can I bring some food from home?

You may bring power bars, Gu, Power Gel, cereal bars or similar high energy foods, powder Gatorade is also recommended to fight dehydration. All meals are provided on this expedition.

Are there any innoculation requirements?

No requirements at this time

What is the best air route to my destination?

Most routes from the States to Kathmandu are via Asia  but there are many options via Europe as well.

When should I book my flight? Do I need to use your Travel Agent?

Fares are generally less expensive when booked early. You may use our Travel Agent (Charles Mulvehill 1-800-727-2157) or book flights yourself. Please note that flights booked online are often difficult to change. Please send us a copy of your flight schedule as early as possible as this allows us to book pick ups and hotels.

What time should I arrive and leave and where do I meet the guides?

We will pick up all climbers and trekkers at the airport. Guides will often meet you upon arrival at the hotel or at our first planned meeting.

What if I arrive early or depart late? Can you arrange extra night lodging? Is there a single room option for this expedition?

We are happy to make arrangements such as personalized tours, extra hotels rooms, airport pick ups and arrange for private rooms. Please indicate that you would like a private room on your application and we will contact you with information on single room supplement costs (for hotels only).

Are there any entry or Visa requirements?

The easiest way to obtain a visa is in the Kathmandu airport. Upon arrival in the KTM airport fill out the necessary forms and proceed to the visa line. As visa prices change often we suggest taking a variety of cash denominations, such as (2) $20.00 bills (1) $10.00 bill (1) $5.00 bill. We will obtain a trekking permit for you in KTM.

  • Current visa cost is $30.00 and is subject to change
  • Please obtain a one month visa

Please bring 2 passport photos (one for the visa and 1 extra).

Is there any communication while we are on the mountain?

Cell phones work in many parts of the Khumbu as well as in Kathmandu. We can assist you in getting a local sim card but you must “unlock” your phone beforehand. We can assist in getting a phone unlocked in KTM but can cost up to $50 and take 48 hours (usually less).

Where can I get more information on history, books, and additional activities in the region?

Check the reading list on the Island Peak page of the web site.

Can I contact the others on the climb? How about the guide?

You can always call our offices and we will have your Island Peak lead guide contact you. 30 days prior to departure, we will mail a list of the other team members to you.

How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?

$500 should easily cover any extra expenses and tips. Most climbers prefer to bring about $1000 and have credit cards.

How much should I tip my guide and staff?

For trekkers $150 total is the suggested tips for all Nepali staff including Sherpa. You may have some perfunctory tips at hotels and at time of transport. For Island Peak climbers an additional $50 total is suggested for climbing Sherpa helping with the ascent. Tipping is not required but a common practice. Climbers may also opt to tip the Lead guide ($150+ is an average tip).

How do I register for this expedition?

At: www.alpineascents.com/registration or by calling our offices with a credit card handy.

What paperwork do I need to send in?

Each climber should submit an application and flight information.

When is the money due for this expedition? What kind of payment do you except?

We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, personal checks and Alpine Ascents gift certificates. To reserve a space the deposit is $700.00 and balances are due 120 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of trip.

What is your cancellation policy? What is your refund policy?
What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?

Communication is sometimes difficult in the mountains. However our guides and local staff will make the necessary efforts to obtain the necessary transportation and reservations to get you home as quickly as possible if for any reason you need to depart early.

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

Superb logistics. Very Professional. Food and all cooking, water, juice, table setting – luxury standard. Entire experience 5 stars pus one. My guide was patient, strong, knowledgeable, and performed an incredibly difficult job with energy good grace and panache.

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.

Partners & Accreditations

Alpine Ascents International is an authorized mountain guide service of Denali National Park and Preserve and Mount Rainier National Park.
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