9 Tips to Summit Island Peak

Island Peak or Imja Tse (6,189m / 20,305 ft) lies in the center of the Everest Region of Nepal and is the most popular of Nepal’s 33 designated trekking peaks. It’s a great summit for first time climbers who are looking for something a little more challenging then the Everest Base Camp Trek and a good peak to start with for those with more mountaineering ambitions in Nepal. The peak was first climbed in 1956 by a Swiss Team and was named in 1951 by Shipton’s party, who viewing it from Dingboche described it as “Island in a sea of Ice.” The summit itself sits almost in the middle of a large valley and is surrounded by giant peaks with Everest to the North, Makalu to the east and Ama Dablam to the west. What follows are nine tips to get you.

1. Proper Acclimatization is Key. Any peak over 6000m is a real challenge and proper acclimatization is a must. Our regular climbing schedule includes a trip to Everest Base Camp before heading to Island Peak primarily in order to give you time to acclimatize. Regardless, of the schedule the best advice is to average about 300m or 1000 feet a day in elevation gain from Lukla onwards. Here are some helpful tips on Acclimatizing for Base Camp.

2. Allow enough time in your schedule. Our normal Island Peak schedule is 17 days but it’s best to schedule several extra days at the end of your trip in case of flight delays or bad weather on the summit day. If you’re having problems acclimatizing the best solution is just waiting a few extra days at a lower elevation until you are feeling better.

Island Peak and Chukhung

3. Train Properly. While you don’t have to be in fantastic shape to do the climb it will pay off to do a bit of pre-climb training. Cardio and local hill or stair climbs with some weight are the best ways to prepare. You should be able to comfortably hike all day and being able to run a 5k is a good indication of an adequate fitness level.

4. Avoid Spring Snowfall and Winter Winds. We normally don’t run the climb between December and Mid-February as heavy snow and bitterly cold winds at the summit (-40C) make the summit difficult. Even early spring months like February and into March can be difficult if heavy fresh snow is on the summit. Island Peak does receive a good number of climbers (around 80 per day in the peak season) from March to May and from September to November so it’s usually only a couple of days before the route is packed down and passable again.

5. Have the right gear. We provide all the gear for the climb except for plastic climbing boots which can be rented in Chukhung near the base of the peak for several days. Keep in mind these are rental boots and of average condition. If you wear an odd sized shoe size its best to have us call in advance and check availability before you are up on the mountain. You can check a full equipment list of things you need to bring here.

Excellent Views of Lhotse from Island Peak

6. Hire a Guide and Porter. Everyone who climbs is required to get a climbing permit from a licensed trekking company. If you want to do things on your own its possible to arrange just the climb separate from the trek with 3 days of support for around $900 (Email me if you are interested). Although, I think the best option is to opt for our entire package with the trek to Everest Base Camp. Having a guide and porter throughout the climb and trek will make your experience more enjoyable and you can focus on the mountain views instead of lugging your gear up the mountain.

7. What to Expect at Island Peak High Camp. We normally start the climb from the High Camp at 5,600 meters (18,400 ft) where you will arrive in the mid afternoon. Camp will be setup and you will have a chance to rest until the climb starts sometime around 2am in the morning. Most groups don’t stay at High camp long as water is limited. Our team will bring enough water and food for cooking and the tents are comfortable with mats so that you can get a few good hours of rest before starting the climb. One problem with high camp is that many people are coming and going so this is one place to be careful for theft and don’t leave any valuables in your tent during the climb. The traditional Base Camp is lower at 5,087 meters (16,690 ft) and it’s basically a scramble / hike between the two camps.

Near the Summit with Ama Dablam in Distance

8. The Island Peak Headwall and Summit. Leaving High Camp you traverse up a steep gully before reaching the start of the glacier where you need to put your crampons on. The most difficult part of the climb is probably the final steep section up the headwall before you reach the summit ridge. The headwall itself is a 300m climb with a slope of between 40 and 50 degrees. Your climbing Sherpa will have you rope up for the ascent. There only a few crevasses that need to be crossed and one ladder is placed across a difficult section (watch the video).

9. Have the right attitude! Whether you’re just trekking to Everest Base Camp or climbing Island Peak your attitude towards the experience is probably the biggest factor impacting both your success and enjoyment. I have seen out of shape trekkers get up to Base Camp with nothing but enthusiasm and others in excellent shape complain every step of the way. Trekking in the Himalayas is always a challenge and everything does not always run smoothly, but the views of the mountains make everything worthwhile.

Island Peak Summit Final Approach

If you’re interested in finding out more about Island Peak you can check the following blog posts:
Climbing Island Peak: Interview with Xavier Koenig
Nepals Greatest Trekking Peaks
Island Peak Climb 17 Day Program $2349
Upcoming Climb Dates