When considering climbing Island peak, you should consider the benefit of having extra acclimatization under your belt. We like to trek to Everest Base Camp first and climb Kala Phattar at 5,545m/ 18,192 feet, then take four days before an ascent of Island Peak. If we move slowly towards Island Peak base camp and take a rest day, with some training and relaxing before the ascent to the summit at 6,189m/ 20,305 feet. The key to success is adding a high camp on Island Peak at 5,500m/ 18,044 feet, leaving 689m/ 2,261 feet to the summit. We have been very successful with this in the past, while other teams fail to make the summit. We are getting 85% of people there. We had 100% on our last two ascents of Island peak. CLICK HERE for another blog post on climbing Island peak. There is no water at high camp so carrying water to high camp requires having extra porters and climbers to carry their own personal equipment. If you are looking to climb Island peak, you should have basic winter skills under your belt. Understanding how to use a harness, ice axe, helmet, crampons are essential. If you can abseil using a figure of 8 then you should have the necessary skills. Also if you have been up Kilimanjaro or have been to altitude before this will help you better understand how your body reacts to altitude. Island peak also requires excellent fitness and conditioning before any ascent, this will give you the best possible chance at making the summit. You should consider doing a winter skills course prior to joining an Island Peak climbing team.
Island Peak the climb: See pictures below CHECK OUT OUR UPCOMING TRIPS
Once you arrive in Island Peak base camp you will be camping, so vital to get your tent is in order, sort out your climbing equipment, test your harness, ice axe, crampons, and practice using your figure of 8 for abseiling on down the head wall. We will set up a training ground in base camp so you can use your Jumar (ascender) and figure of 8. You need to be comfortable with using these pieces of equipment before heading higher on the mountain. It is also important to eat as much as possible and keep drinking your 5 ltrs of water a day. Staying hydrated can be key to a successful ascent. Since 2013 we only use a high camp for climbing Island Peak. We will leave at 1am It will take 6 – 8 hours to reach the summit. Once we start trekking we will go from high camp, up through a wide open gully and then move onto steeper terrain before getting to crampon point.
Before the summit night we have to make the 3 hour trek up to high camp from base camp. The route is on steep sandy and rocky terrain, we will zig zag up towards more rocky terrain. This is hard going as the ground is not level and climbing with a mixture of steps and steep terrain buts added pressure on your quads and calf muscles. So make sure you are adding calf raise, quad exercises into your training plan. Hill walking with extra weight in your pack will be vital in your preparation and training. After three hours we should reach the spot where high camp would be situated. The terrain is rocky scree and can take a lot out of you, so going slowly and concentrating on breathing through your nose, out through your mouth and foot placement is vital in easing the pressure on your muscles and keeping your heart rate steady. You don’t want to be pushing hard at this stage. You are trying to converse most of your energy to safely move up the head wall and trickier snow and ice conditions higher on the mountain.
Once we pass the high camp at 18,400 feet we have 1,905 feet left to the summit. From here the ground gets a little steeper as we traverse and move across scree, and scramble through some interesting rock formations. This is also tricky in mountaineering boots, with rigid soles you do not have the same flexibility as trekking or hiking boots. We will take our time scrambling through some gullies, and making our way in the dark around this rocky section. Once we pass this section it is a steep zig zag climb on rock, sometimes with a little bit of snow thrown in. This section takes a lot out of people, so it is really important to concentrate on your foot placement and breathing making sure you are drinking water and getting a little bit of food in. As we move higher and as it is coldest just before dawn we will not stop so much as we want to keep warm.
Once we make it up this steep path of rock we will come to a narrow ridge with some drop offs on each side. It is vital to keep to follow your guide on crossing this ridge as you need to be very careful with your foot placement and keep your hands free to help you across this section to the start of the glacier. From here we will take a short break, drink some water, eat some food and quickly get our climbing gear on. Harness first, take out our ice axe, put on your helmet and lastly put you crampons on. Try and buddy up with someone to double check each others gear. Make sure your crampons are on tight and correctly, make sure your harness has been doubled back for safety as you don’t want to slide out of it. You need to be responsible for your own safety, so make sure you have doubled check our equipment. It is also wise to spread out as not to hit anyone else with your ice axe or stand on anyone with your crampons. Once you are ready you will be roped up before moving onto the glacier. Then it is important to remember you are moving as a team. The rope needs be tight at all times and if anyone needs to stop they need to inform the rest of the team moving on the rope.
We will move onto the glacier, remembering to keep your ice axe out and on the hill side of you as we move across the glacier. Foot placement and ice axe placement is vital for your and team on the ropes safety. Once we contour around some of the glaciers mounds. We will see the head wall that leads to the summit. It is a very gradual slope across the glacier to the start of the head wall. The sun will be coming up and we will start to warm up a little. If you have cold hands, you need to keep moving them to keep warm. Also wiggle your feet in your boots as you walk to keep them warm. Once we get to the head wall we will re group. We will take off the rope, store it and then everyone will start the fixed line climbing with your jumar and safety carabinar. It is vita to be always clipped into the rope at all times. If you come to the end of the rope where it is attached to the mountain you take off your safety carabiner and clip to the next section before taking off your Jumar. Then keep moving. There is a tendancy to use the rope to pull you up. Do not do this as you are risking the safety of everyone else and yourself on the rope. The rope is a safety device you need to use your legs to drive you up the hill. You can see here the ropes, angle of the terrain and what is involved.
This is strenuous climbing over 19,000 feet so concentrating on getting up the head wall is what it is all about. You have conserved energy for this moment as you make your way up the head wall to the ridge. This can take one hour to an hour and a half to make this climb.
Once you get to the top of the head wall, you can rest for enjoy the amazing views right across the Himalaya’s and you are now only 20 minutes to the true summit at 20,305 feet above sea level and one of the most amazing views you will ever see. Once we have rested we will continue the narrow ridge to the summit of Island peak, get our pictures and continue back to the top of the head wall for our abseil down to the head wall.
Once we have make the summit we have to click in and concentrate on getting back down, you will be tired from getting up the head wall and now concentration is key, focus on taking your time placing your feet and making our way safely back down. Jumar are but away and figure of 8 is now the safety device you will need to get you back down the head wall. Here is the view from the top of the head wall looking down to the Glacier.
Once we get back to the bottom of the head wall, we rope up again and move back across the glacier as a team and continue back to the crampon point. We will pack away our helmet, crampons, ice axe and harness and continue all the way back down to base camp. This could take an additional 4 hours. 12 hours on the go we will rest for a few hours, maybe spend another night in base camp or continue back to Chuckhung. This is a long, hard but rewarding day to have climbed high in the Himalaya’s. We will either sleep or revel in our summit success. Mountaineering is a retrospective enjoyment so we will get back safely and then enjoy the success of the climb.