Climbing Island Peak is a great adventure, a combination of an amazing Everest Base Camp hike and an even more challenging climb of the Himalayan peak. Once you’ve done it you want to do it again. This experience is an opportunity to relax and test your physical abilities, good fun in great company yet plenty of time to contemplate.
Following the steps of those who climbed the biggest mountain you will find their footprints. From Namche Bazaar, while watching documentaries about summiting Everest, passing memorials of those who have died climbing, all the way up to the stunning view of the sunrise on Everest itself. What can be more rewarding after than being able to experience summiting one of the peaks in such majestic surroundings!
When I decided to climb Island Peak I wanted to ensure the trip would be safe. I didn’t want to risk failure by rushing up the mountains and after my research, Ian Taylor Trekking was the company I could rely on. The right approach to provide a secure and successful climb is what I was expecting and I was not disappointed. Ian and his team delivered more than they promised! They provided complete care and guidance to facilitate my journey to the top of the 6189 m peak.
An adventure of climbing Island Peak doesn’t really start in Lukla. In a fact it starts months ahead with training, preparing your gear and clothing. Having the right experience and skills with snow, low temperatures, rough weather and altitude will only make the Himalayan experience easier.
Carefully selected gear and trialing it before the hike is crucial. The pain and effort of breaking into your hiking boots and the suffering of wet and windy weather in your winter skills training will pay dividends when you get to Himalaya.
Thanks to Ian’s team we spent an extra day acclimatising and practicing with the gear, which will be used on the summit night. The team explained how crucial it was to break into our crampon boots. There is nothing worse then blisters and discomfort with every step on the trek! After 10 days hiking we have all been dreading the thought of heavy and stiff boots knowing each day is getting tougher.
When it comes to fitness training I guess everyone has a different approach. Mine was to split training into two. One was completed in my local gym, which included a mixture of cardio and strength exercises, mainly circuits, spinning and cross-fit. I was training at least four times a week for a minimum of two hours with a good stretch after. To help me stay focussed and challenge me further, I added in personal training sessions. It was hard work!!!
The other part of my training was outdoors. Walking and hiking whenever possible over the weekends. You don’t have to be lonely with your training. My friends were a great support when taking me over to local villages, kicking me out of the car at the bottom of every hill with a rucksack full of food and tea for themselves. Joking apart, it really helped to carry the extra weight when training.
There were parts of my training where I really struggled. During those times I was hard on myself and would not give up. I maintained my focus knowing that it would be even harder on the actual climb.
Climbing Island Peak is a great adventure but very importantly it is an adventure with altitude. It is difficult to predict the effects of high altitude on your body. Very easily one can overestimate their strength and physical abilities. I can not highlight the importance of acclimatizing days, it allows your body to get use to the low level of oxygen.
Fitness and strength won’t work without the right amount of nutrition and hydration. Drinking lots of water and eating enough to supply energy for hours of hiking sounds easy, however it still might be an issue for some of the hikers.
As a girl it isn’t that simple to drink 5L of water, let alone the obvious lack of facilities on the trek. There is plenty of rocks and bushes around and we girls just got more to explore on the way. Also a clever device like a “shewee” might be useful. Don’t be embarrassed girls.
Hydration is so important when facing altitude changes and even more crucial with the amount of every day physical activities. If you add the right amount of food to supply energy, you will have a good chance to make it to the top.
It was really nice when in contrast to other groups, we didn’t have a fixed menu. We stayed in several different lodges and always had a great choice of food, both Nepalese and Continental. This was a huge convenience to those who lost their appetite, often caused by the altitude. I personally loved local cuisine and could never resist the popular dumplings.
There is a lot to enjoy in the Himalayas. Every day there were breathtaking views of the valleys and surrounding mountains, the Nepalese culture, cuisine and amazingly friendly local people. It was three weeks of fantastic adventure and a lifetime experience.
In the cold evenings spent in the Himalayan lodges, we warmed up with lemon or honey and ginger tea. You could just relax or if you prefer take part in a crazy game of cards. So crazy that my heart rate kicked up to120 BPM due to excitement.
Waves of emotions were in abundance. The mornings at Island Peak Base Camp when I used to sit on a rock and just watch the sun rising over the mountains. A cup of hot lemon in my hand. Me, my rock and the silence…
Staying at the fabulous village of Namche Bazaar we enjoyed the local bakery and the famous Cafe Danphe bar. At the beginning of the hike we watched a documentary about Everest, learning to respect the mountain and admire brave mountaineers. I felt proud being there and experiencing a small part of their expedition.
The summit attempt took us across deep crevasses and the conquering of the ice wall. This challenging climb and the perseverance of the last 3 weeks was truly justified when we finally stood on the top of Island Peak at over 20,000 feet.
On the return journey we stopped at Namche and celebrated our achievement and safe return, this time with cold drinks. I won’t go into details – what happens in Namche, stays in Namche.
No words can describe how the spirit of Himalayas can reach and touch your soul. Be prepared for deep emotions, you might well fall in love… I did. I fell in love with the magnificent Ama Dablam. I had the privilege of admiring her glory throughout the trek and now I have something to dream of. You never know how high the mountain spirits can lift you (and Ian Taylor takes you).
By Magda Kreft – Island Peak 2015