Locally known as Imja Tse, Island Peak is a spectacular peak amid the giants of the Himalaya. Tucked away up the Chukkung valley this beautiful mountain does indeed look like an island which is dwarfed on both sides by the stupendous Lhotse/Nuptse South Wall to the north and Baruntse to the south. The views from the top of this mountain are truly wonderful, and all the more memorable for a spectacular airy ridge climb to the top.
If you have dreamed of climbing a technical 6000 metre Himalayan summit then this famous mountain may answer your wishes. It was actually a training peak used by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing in 1953 and the route they discovered is the same one that is used today. In fact Island Peak is still a popular training peak for clients attempting Mount Everest because a lot of the skills required – crossing crevasses with ladders, using jumars on a fixed line – are the same.
Crossing the glacier on the way to the headwall which is 300 metres in height.
The expedition not only provides an enjoyable climb but also provides some of the most spectacular scenery of Himalayas in the Khumbu region. After climbing the 300 metre headwall and ascending the exposed summit ridge, the view from the top brings the thrill of Himalayan mountaineering because of the spectacular 360-degree panorama of many of the highest mountains in the world. Seen from the summit, the giant peaks of Nuptse (7,879m), Lhotse (8,501m), Lhotse Middle Peak (8,410m) and Lhotse Shar (8,383m) make a semi-circle to the north. The views of Makalu (8475m) in the east, Baruntse and Ama Dablam in the south add to the 360 panorama.
On the final summit ridge with Ama Dablam in the background.
From the village of Dingboche Island Peak is clearly seen as a pyramid of ice and rock. It was named by Eric Shipton because of its resemblance to an island in a sea of ice. The mountain itself is the extension of the South Ridge of Lhotse Shar separated by a col and the ridge rising to the south from this point leads to the summit of Island Peak.
The approach route follows the Chukkung Valley to Base Camp, from which the summit is a challenging 9 to 12 hour round trip depending on conditions. The route includes circuitous rocky paths and scrambles to the snow line, followed by a section moving in rope teams across glaciated and crevassed terrain and then a 300 metre headwall to the summit ridge. The headwall is fixed with a rope to clip onto, and this extends all the way along an exposed summit ridge about 300 metres long which is narrow and precipitous but not steep. The top itself is quite small with only enough room for maybe four or five people to stand safely.
The fixed line extends up the headwall about 300m and along the narrow summit ridge to the top. The conditions can be hard and icy or quite deep snow, it depends on the time of year and local weather conditions.
All our Sherpa guides on Island Peak are given guide training in Nepal and have all been on many climbs to high altitude and been given extensive training in managing foreign clients safely and dealing with the expectations of paying clients.
We offer an inclusive package which include all of your meals on the trek and accommodation for the entire itinerary, flight transfers and plenty of time to safely acclimatise, enjoy and explore your surroundings.
The teams we employ are well provisioned and equipped themselves, as we provide climbing equipment, sleeping bags, sunglasses and good boots. We also provide medical insurance for our staff and evacuation cover.
You can speak directly with Gavin Bate about your proposed climb of Island Peak and have the benefit of somebody who has climbed the mountain many times and who will come to visit a group if necessary and go through the whole expedition from start to finish. In the office you will find friendly and knowledgeable staff who will give you the time to discuss through all your preferences and questions.
Our company is properly insured and financially protected, so that your money is safe and you know you are dealing with a tour operator that is correctly set up to manage and run trips like this.
The walk in initially follows the main Everest Base Camp trek and is on a well-trodden path all the way though this can be rocky and uneven in parts.
Once on the mountain itself there will be scrambling on quite loose rock to ‘crampon point’ at the snow line. This is done in the dark from a 4am start on the ascent and often requires the use of hands to assist. There are some steep drops and the path follows a circuitous route through the scree and bottom rock formations.
From crampon point the route is on snow and there are numerous crevasses to cross and you will be roped up in groups of three or four on glaciated ground. Some of the crevasses are deep and there will be ladders to negotiate, which are not difficult but do require care and alertness. The route is normally well marked, and groups only follow one designated ‘path’ on the glacier because there is a danger of falling into slots or hidden crevasses if you stray too far.
At the base of the headwall you will move onto the fixed lines which need to be checked for their robustness. The anchors are normally strong and every thirty metres or so, but especially in the afternoon they can become loose. The lines themselves are normally polyprop (not kernmantel) and can get icy and slip through jumars. The gradient is around 45 degrees at it’s steepest but averages less than that. There are plenty of places to rest for a bit, and the whole headwall of 300 metres normally takes about an hour and a half. Quite often you can find yourself behind other parties, which slows things down.
There are normally ‘up and down’ lines on the headwall, but people get confused and so it is important to check which line you are using and if it is clear, and to make sure there are not other people pulling on one anchor. Climb without hauling on the jumar, it is a safety aid and hauling back on the rope is generally bad practise. The route nowadays is normally hard ice so your crampons points need to be sharp, but you can also get soft snow with big buckets to negotiate. Pre-monsoon is more likely to be harder ice, post monsoon more likely to be soft snow, but much depends on the local weather at the time.
Once on the summit ridge, the route is narrow and exposed and often busy with people. There is normally only one fixed line going to the top and only space for a small group of about five on the summit. You will need to negotiate with others on the route. There are a few steps which are more exposed and steeper than others, but the route is not difficult in good weather with little or no wind. Be careful with always clipping the safety karabiner across an anchor first before moving the jumar over. This is a very important safety manoeuvre to avoid ever being unclipped from the rope.
The descent is tiring but extra caution should be given to the initial section of abseil from the summit ridge. For those with experience, it is an easy abseil and plenty of ‘shelfs’ to move to. Be careful that someone is not clipping onto the down line on the way up! Some people are very unsure about abseiling and can slow things down a lot. Sometimes it is possible to overtake at a suitable platform, but often there is tension as people get frustrated with slow progress, especially if it is getting late in the afternoon.
Once back on the glacier be very careful coming back in sunlight; the snow will not be as hard packed and the ladders may have loosened. Keep the man ropes taut and follow good climbing principles all the way. Keep to the route.
Previous winter mountaineering experience is important and necessary for this expedition. Knowing how to put on crampons and walk safely with them, using a walking or ice axe correctly and tying into a harness and onto a man rope are important skills to have. Walking safely on a man rope on glaciated ground is all part of the experience, but previous experience is absolutely necessary. Our guides will teach you and guide you, so make it known to the guide the level of your experience.
On the headwall, it will be necessary to use a jumar and safety karabiner attached to your harness to ascend (sometimes known as a ‘cows tail’), and a descender to abseil back down again. This is not the place to abseil for the first time, so please make sure you have gained some training and practise beforehand. The abseil is on a single line and you will be completely self-reliant, it is not possible to top rope this section because it would take too long to set up, unless absolutely necessary of course.
The crevasses are quite manageable and not too wide, but crossing ladders can be a disconcerting experience. There are handrails attached to snow stakes in the ground, but some people do find it difficult. The best option is to walk across with the crampons placed across the rungs of the ladder, but some people choose to go on hands and knees.
The headwall on Island Peak is not very steep but it looks more daunting from afar and face on. Once on it, you will find there are plenty of places to rest and stand on ledges. It doesn’t seem nearly so steep or difficult. Many people opt to ‘jug’ up the ropes, pulling back on the rope with their jumars and essentially hanging their weight on the line. Sometimes a single line can have several people hanging off it, and this is dangerous. The anchors may have been put in place several days ago, and the rule is never to trust an anchor until you have either put it in yourself or have seen it with your own eyes. So therefore try to climb the route with your crampons points and axe, rather than hanging on the rope.
The summit ridge is quite ‘airy’ with steep drops off to the sides. Therefore you will need to be able to concentrate and keep your composure. This is not a place for people who suffer from vertigo or don’t like precipitous drops. Experience of ridge walking will help and of course a confident attitude which comes from feeling comfortable on your crampons and using your axe. This is not a place to be using this equipment for the first time. At this stage the guides cannot be alongside you, they will be either behind or in front on you on the rope so most of the work is being done by you alone. Knowing how to move your jumar safely across an anchor safely is vital. It goes without saying that the rule of always keeping clipped in applies here.
In terms of training courses, some of the skills for Island Peak are different to what you find on alpine courses. In general the experience you will gain is invaluable of course, especially ropework and moving confidently and safely on glaciated ground. However, fixed lines are uncommon in the Alps so make sure to mention to your training guide that you would like some work on using jumars safely and abseiling on a fixed line without being top roped.
In summary the trek up to base camp of Island Peak is all relatively easy, staying in lodges and enjoying the walks in the valleys. Once you start up from base camp in the dark on the loose scree and then onto snow, then alpine skills and team skills on man ropes are going to be important.
We have a number of items which you can rent for this trip and we will have them supplied to you in Kathmandu.
Plastic boots or double mountaineering can be rented from the village in Chukkung.
ADDITIONAL KIT INFO
Boots for the climb need to be of a type that will allow fitting of crampons. They also need to be warm and fitted well to your feet. There is a huge range of boots available, a lot of which will not be suitable for this climb. For Island Peak you will need boots graded at least B1 for crampon use. If you are planning on doing more mountaineering in the future on higher or colder routes it may be worth investing in B2 hybrid or B3 rigid Plastic boots both of which will also be suitable for Island Peak. Full 8000m triple boots are not needed for this climb but could be used if you already have them.
The porters will carry your main bag up to a maximum weight of 15 kgs and cater for all the group needs, including assisting you if you need to go back down the valley. Unless specifically tenting, all accommodation is in lodges or teahouses which are very well equipped, warm and sociable.
|1||Arrive in Kathmandu (start date)|
|2||Rest day in Kathmandu, permits, rentals etc|
|3 – 8||Fly to mountain airstrip at Lukla and trek up to Dingboche 4252m, rest day|
|9 – 11||Trek to Chukkung 4730m and up to overnight camp below Pokalde Peak, optional climb of Pokalde and/or Kongma Tse, back to Chukkung.|
|12||Island Peak base camp 5100m, explore route to high camp, preparations.|
|15-17||Trek back to Chukkung back to Lukla|
|18||Fly into Kathmandu (allow leeway for delayed mountain flights, at least 24 hours). Depart for home on minimum day 19.|
Note: some people like to also complete the trek to Everest Base Camp prior to climbing Island Peak instead of camping up near Pokalde Peak. If you would like to do this then add two days to the trip and contact us to arrange.
Remember to always allow leeway for the return flight home because the mountain flights in and out of Lukla are often delayed by bad weather. We recommend a minimum of 24 hours but 48 hours is better.
Trekking route to Island Peak
|1||1400m||Arrive Kathmandu. Stay in either the AA Guesthouse or local hotel.|
|2||1400m||Rest day and briefing in Kathmandu.|
|3||2460m||4 hrs||Flight* to Lukla, walk downhill to Phakding or Jorsale along the edge of the Dudh Kosi River. Easy, busy path, surrounded by forest.|
|4||3440m||6 hrs||Uphill to Namche Bazaar which is the Sherpa capital in the heart of the Khumbu region. Nowadays there are also many equipment shops, internet, bank, post office, cafes, bars, lodges and hire shops here.|
|5||3440m||This is an acclimatisation day which you can rest or enjoy the sights and sounds of Namche.|
|6||3850m||6 hrs||Walk to Deboche which is near the famous Thyangboche Monastery.|
|7||4252m||5 hrs||A gradual gradient up to Dingboche. The path continues along the side of the valley with the river far below on your right and passing beneath the spectacular Ama Dablam. The village sits on the confluence of two valleys and has spectacular views. From here you have views of Island Peak up the Chukkung Valley.|
|8||4252m||This is another rest and acclimatisation day. You can visit the Himalayan Rescue Association to listen to the daily lecture on high altitude health, and get a check from the medical staff.|
|9||4730m||5 hrs||Trek up to the village of Chukkung and overnight in lodge. Extra equipment hire is here.|
|10||5200m||4 hrs||Trek up to the lakes below the summit of Pokalde for an overnight camp in tents.|
|11||~ 5900m||All day||Optional climb of Pokalde or Kongma Tse nearby ($250 permit per person), this is an incredible remote spot with amazing views down the whole Khumbu valley and up towards Everest. Important acclimatisation too. Back to Chukkung in the afternoon.|
|12||5090m||4 hrs||Trek to Island Peak Base Camp, a small area in a narrow valley alongside the lateral moraine of the Imja Khola lake. Camping.|
|13-14||6189m||12 hrs||Summit days. It is possible to get back to Chukkung on the evening of day 14.|
|15||6 hrs||Trek down to Deboche.|
|16||5 hrs||Trek down to Namche Bazaar. Fast groups sometimes get lower down.|
|17||7 hrs||Trek down to Lukla.|
|18||Flight* to Kathmandu which is always in the morning. Allow at least 24 hours leeway for potential mountain flight delays, preferably 48 hours.|
|19||International Flight home. This is the end date of the trip, although additional options remain such as travelling to Chitwan or staying in Kathmandu.|
*These flights ‘fly by sight’ so if there is cloud cover or bad weather there can be delays. If necessary we can be flexible and adapt the itinerary to catch up on lost days, but if the planes can’t fly then there is little that we can do except wait. Occasionally the planes can’t fly but helicopters can, if you prefer this option we can organise it but there would be a supplemental charge. This doesn’t happen very often but if your trek is very early, very late, or out of the main season you should consider possible impacts.