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Himalayan Climbing - Your First 6000M Peak

Updated: Aug 21

Island Peak Base camp - The Himalayas are unlike any other mountain range. Partly due to the size and vastness of the terrain. Himalayan climbing is often seen as the most dangerous and committing as safety and support are often a long way away.

Island Peak base camp in Nepal
Island Peak in Nepal

Looking up at Island peak from base camp

How hard is it to climb a 6000m Himalayan peak? 6000m peaks in the Himalayas are often referred to as trekking peaks. They are usually only up to 500m above this height because anything closer to 7000m is much harder and less likely to be classed as trekking. Although trekking peaks, they require respect and a good amount of mountain endurance even though the daily distance you cover is kept under 1000m ascent. This is due to altitude and how fast the body can acclimatise. Ascend too much in one day and you could become very ill with altitude sickness - HAPE (High Altitude Pulmonary Edema) or HACE (High Altitude Cerebral Edema) If it wasn’t for the altitude then trekking to this height would be achievable for most people; however the majority of unsuccessful summits is due to trying to acclimatise too quickly. By getting fitter and having a better cardiovascular system you can improve your body’s ability to recover from exercise. Being fitter also means the exercise is easier so you don’t waste precious energy reserves lower down on the mountain.

Lobuche in Nepal.

How fit do I need to be? Being comfortable with walking 800 -1000 meters of ascent for 4-5 days back to back is a guideline. This is the equivalent of walking up and down Snowdon for 5 days straight. It would also be recommended to get some longer days in such as the Welsh 3000s or Yorkshire three peaks. This also includes carrying a small rucksack and wearing large boots.

How often should I train? This depends what you are doing. To improve the cardiovascular system you should be training 3-4 times per week. This could be a mixture of running, cycling and trekking.

It is also good to mix up the training method such as fartlek, interval and long slow distance. You can also train with carrying weight and covering mixed ground such as mountain paths. This will help develop muscles in your ankles and improve your ability to cover undulating terrain.

What skills will you need? Knowing how to ascend a fixed line (a fixed rope on the mountain) will be required for most 6000 meter peaks in the Himalayas. Ice axe and crampons will also be needed; so being efficient with these tools will be very useful. Crossing ladders is particularly tricky so being comfortable balancing on crampons will help.

Will I suffer from altitude? Most people feel the effects of altitude past 3500 meters. As you continue to ascend the body will adapt. The most important thing to remember is go SLOW. Fast hikers are much more likely to fall ill because they work their bodies too hard.

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