Why Climb Island Peak with Alpine Ascents?
The Island Peak expedition was fantastic. Key factors:
1) Our guides were great hosts. Their vast knowledge of the area and friendship with many of the locals made for a unique experience not offered by other companies.
2) Staying at Base Camp is something not many other operators can do and was an excellent feature along with the walk through the Khumbu glacier.
3) Having our guides flanking the climbing team provided a feeling of safety as we had such experienced climbers with us.
4) Experiences beyond the trek and climbing: HRA in Pheriche, Lama Geshe, Medical Clinic in Khumjung, Monks prayer ceremony at Tengboche, Dinner with Tashi at Tengboche.
-Island Peak Climber
While some outfitters take inexperienced climbers up the glaciated Island Peak, we expect our climbers to have prior crampon and self-arrest experience. In turn, we treat this as a serious mountain climb, giving respect to the climb as well as a goal of summiting. Alpine Ascents guides are revered as outstanding mountaineers, instructors, and cultural enthusiasts. The expertise of our guides fully encompasses climbing and trekking high peaks in the Himalayas. Our guides also have a passion and knowledge of Nepal that is contagious and that will add to the already profound richness of this expedition. We are confident that our expertise in this region is unsurpassed. We have been guiding in Nepal over the past two decades and have consistently run expeditions from year to year. The familiarity with the region, combined with our expertise and knowledge around the world, lend a depth and richness to every expedition that we feel is unrivaled in the guiding community.
Some of the keys to our continued success
This journey is also an outstanding opportunity to spend time and learn with one of the true legendary guides of our time, Vern Tejas.
Part of Alpine Ascents’ success is based on our small and select group of experienced guides. We’re fortunate to have close friends and an expert staff in Nepal. (Note: While guides are subject to change, your guides will be Himalayan veterans. This is what separates this expedition from others. You will have the opportunity to climb with some of the foremost climbers from the United States and Nepal. Previous lead Island Peak guides include Todd Burleson, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, and Ben Jones. Small teams may be led by our Everest Sherpa guides.
In addition to our Western guides, the trek will be supported by a team of Sherpa. We have been working with the same team for over 15 years, and our deep-rooted friendship with each member makes for a wonderful exchange of ideas, laughter, and assistance. Porters and yaks will move the majority of our gear and personal packs up the mountain (for the Island and Kala Pattar portion), enabling trekkers time to fully appreciate the surrounding environment.
We lodge in Sherpa villages, many of them remote, giving us a rare look into traditional and monastic communities. Our lodging along the way is usually in tea houses. We access these villages through our longtime Sherpa friends with the belief that a sharing of cultures is paramount to 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 spend the nights before our climb in a fully stocked camp tent at Island Peak Base Camp.
Our spring trip often has you traveling with our Everest climbing team en route to Everest Base Camp (17,300 ft.), affording a unique opportunity to experience the excitement of an Everest expedition. Fall can be a less crowded time in the Khumbu, and many consider it to be the prime trekking season.
All our treks will have a Cybercast (blog) page on the Alpine Ascents website, with either audio or text updates every few days, often with photos. Family, friends, and the public can follow the team on its trek from Kathmandu to Base Camp and back.
We have selected the climb of Island Peak to be part of the expedition because of its sheer beauty and location in this Buddhist-influenced region. We believe that the climber should be lost in the world of mountains and travel unfettered by the rigors of food preparation, lodging, and logistics. Alpine Ascents offers the most comprehensive program available, using a distinguished staff of Sherpa, huge four-season tents and a diverse assortment of quality meals. (Some of the food is flown in from the US. Although the local food is a part of our diet, we find a wide variety of food helps keep climbers and trekkers healthy and strong). We spend the nights before the climb in a fully stocked camp tent at Island Peak Base Camp.
A Brief Overview of Sherpa Life
Often inseparable from mountaineering, the Sherpas of Nepal inhabit much of the lower portion of the Himalayas known as the Solu-Khumbu or “Khumbu.” While their reputation as climbers is nothing short of historic, local Buddhist, animist, and cultural traditions have equally nurtured and impacted a fascinating relationship with Westerners and Western thought.
Sherpas became prominent to the West when British mountaineers began to set their sites on conquering Himalayan peaks. With the first Mt. Everest expedition in 1921, the skill, expertise, honesty, and dedication of Sherpas as guides and partners became an integral part of Himalayan climbing. The affinity of outsiders for Sherpa/Buddhist civilization has blossomed into an ever-increasing sharing, understanding, and friendship between cultures.
Prior to British expeditions, Sherpas revered the great mountains of the region as dwelling places of gods and goddesses, to which the thought of climbing was considered blasphemous. (“Chomolungma,” the Tibetan name for Everest, is the residence of Miyo Lungsungama, the goddess of humanity and prosperity.)
Sherpas traditionally worked as traders, farmers, and religious folk. Along with these ancestral roles, leading climbs and treks has recently become a mainstay of the Sherpa economy. Sherpa refers both to a tribal group and a job capacity as porter, climber, or trek leader. The term “Sherpa” means Easterner, referring to their origins in Eastern Tibet. The migrations of this Tibetan culture began sometime in the early 1400’s. Today, the Sherpa population in the Khumbu is about 5,000, with a total of roughly 35,000 living in Nepal.
Sherpas on Everest
The first notable and successful Everest climbing Sherpa was Tenzing Norgay. In 1952, Norgay accompanied Raymond Lambert to within 800 vertical feet of the still unclimbed Mt. Everest. A year later Norgay was asked to join the British team led by Col. John Hunt that successfully summited Everest, following the same route as Norgay and Lambert. Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first climbers to reach the summit. By the mid 1980’s, Sherpas had summited Everest many more times than Westerners. Ang Rita Sherpa, the most well-known climbing Sherpa, had amassed seven summits of Everest by 1995. In 1993, Pasang Lhamu Sherpa became the first Sherpa woman to summit Everest.
The Name Khumbu
The name Khumbu comes from its guardian deity, Khumbila Tetsan Gelbu. The literal translation is “Khumbu country god.” The teachings of Sherpa Buddhism talk of a spiritual understanding between all beings. This is probably why the level of hospitality and acceptance of Westerners comes naturally to the Sherpa. It should, however, be mentioned that Tibetans are also considered fierce warriors.
Strengths are clearly the caliber of guides and the logistical planning. The guides are not only great mountaineers but great people – a pleasure to be with. The staff in Seattle is excellent – always ready to help and get whatever information you need.