Early 2018 I lead a group to the summit of Island Peak. It started off as a group of four but one of the clients dropped out on the trek into Base camp. He had struggled with acclimatizing to altitude on previous expeditions so was not shocked to find he was suffering in the early stages. It was great to have him along as he was just happy to be there which is something that is forgotten by some Himalayan summit baggers.
The trek into base camp was as fun and eventful as always. Flying into the spectacular mountain village of Luckla where the trek begins and then ascending through the valley on foot until hitting the village of Namche Bazaar. I now count the bridges along the way which precariously cross the river below giving me indications of distance traveled.
From Namche Bazaar we follow the crowded paths towards Everest Base Camp. Depending on the time of year we sometimes see lines of yaks carrying supplies to mountain climbers aiming to reach the summit of Everest. Or we see sunburnt faces coming away from the mountains and reaching the comfort of tea houses with hot food and a fire Place.
Once we arrived at basecamp we were welcomed by tents and people wondering around the area either acclimatizing or coming down from the mountain to rest. It’s a great moment when you transfer from tea house to tent. This for me is when the traveling stops and the expedition begins.
The tents had been placed for the season and would see many climbers throughout the next month. Each had their own team and mess tent to spend the evenings relaxing and gaining moral for the days higher on the mountain.
After one night spent sleeping at advance base camp situated 2-3 hours walk from BC, we were ready to set off for the summit. The second client turned around after an hour as she was fatigued and not accustomed to the long mountain days.
This meant there were only three of us left including a climbing sherpa (pictured above). I was at the back and will be honest that I struggled to keep up with the pace! Most of the climbing sherpa will stay at high altitude for a number of months (usually above BC) only coming down between groups for a couple of days rest.
Along the way we had to cross this ladder placed between the gaping crack of a crevasse. This was my first ladder to cross and I was mildly surprised by the concentration needed to tackle it. Balance and a steady head were crucial at a point when you feel a bit dizzy from the alititude and fatigue. Some people resort to crawling across but this felt tricky due to the uncomfortable pressures on the legs. It is certainly easier in the dark when you cant see where you would fall if something did go wrong!
After maybe 3 hours of crevasse ground we arrived at a steepening which would put us onto the summit. During this slog I was surprised by the gradient of the ground and the technicalities as this summit is classed as a "trekking peak". To me I think of trekking as having trainers or boots on and covering rocky and rough ground maybe like the Lake District. However here I had my steel toe crampon points kicked into the ice, one hand on my axe and one hand on my ascender feeling almost vertical in places!
Finally we made it to the top! Heart pounding in my chest and a big smile on my face. The only thing I was thinking at the time was "thank god for that! Now lets get back down promto!"
The fatigue wasn't the only thing which I was afraid of at this point. The ladder has its own way of playing on your mind. Once I had crossed that then I would be able to relax again.
A peak which I would recommend to anyone but not to be underestimated!