Day 9: Touching the sky: Island Peak summit

Island Peak is a superb entry into Himalayan climbing. With it's mostly non-technical ascent, Island Peak allows an opportunity to experience altitude first-hand while getting to appreciate the inner workings of an expedition to the Himalaya!

Distance: 6 + 6.5 km
Time: 11 + 3 hours
Night: Khangri Resort, Chhukhung

Start elevation (Island Peak Base Camp): 5,119 m
Max elevation (Island Peak): 6,189 m
End elevation (Chhukhung): 4,729 m
Total ascent / descent: 1,113 m / 1,503 m
Elevation loss: 390 m

Even though it might seem a little early to try and go over 6,000 m on the 9th day of our trek, I feel I am already pretty well acclimatized to the altitude after all the side hikes I had done on the way to Chhukhung (Khunde Ri at 4,200 m, Ama Dablam Base Camp at 4,574 m, Nangkartshang Peak at 5,083 m and Chhukhung Ri at 5,550 m).

Next day starts soon after midnight, with a coffee and a snack, quick gear check, and at 1 am we are already off into the night.

There are 3 teams starting together - Alex and me, the Ozzie couple, and a band of 5 aloof faux-pro Russians.


Base camp to high camp is basically a scree hike with some steep switchbacks, but just above high camp some rocky steps require moderate scrambling.

Coming up through the gully at 5,700 m in the dark involves scrambling through some sections. Photograph: Ian Taylor Trekking.

We put all our climbing gear on at the "crampon point" at the edge of the glacier, leaving the backpacks on the snow waiting for our return, and push on, still fairly easy going.

Slowly the terrain gets more and more interesting - steepier and crevassier.

Previously, climbers were faced with a straightforward crampon glacier crossing followed by a steep ascent of a headwall of about 150 metres. With a fixed rope set and a jumar, this was a physically demanding challenge but not too technical.

More recently, the glacier traverse has become much tougher, as a number of deep crevasses have opened up which have to be crossed on ladders.*

A substantial crevasse along most of the headwall leading to the summit ridge has sometimes caused teams to turn back. In April 2009, the Nepal Mountaineering Association tasked the Nepal Mountaineering Instructors' Association with installing stairs (ladders) at the crevasse. As of the 2016 fall climbing season, a 5-meter high fixed aluminum ladder is being used to cross the crevasse.*

One of the several crevasse crossings on the way.

We're heading up there?

Jumaring up the fixed rope in a slow approach to the final wall.

"No technical climbing involved" my ass.

Let's rest a moment...

Our Sherpa Nlima Tenzig watching our backs.

Almost there now. Perfect weather - can't wait for the views from the top!


And we're here! At 8:30 we are the first team on the top today. No one else around, the whole summit just for us.

Also, at 6,189 m, this is the highest I have been so far. Well done us!

With Alex's banner.

Look at these views!

Interactive panorama


On the way back down we're meeting many people still going up.

A pinch of jealousy that they still have most of the adventure in front of them, but a huge relief at the same time that we don't have to go through all that effort anymore. Bon courage!

Quick snack at the crampon point to up our energy levels - there's still a lot of quite demanding descending in front of us.

A happy summitter.

One of the most dangerous moments - crevasse crossing on the way back.

With the mountain successfully summitted you might think all is done now and relax, but it's still a long way down back to Chhukhung.

Finally back in Chhukhung - tired as hell, but enthusiastically happy.
Now, who wants to hear the story?

The Island Peak summit was organized with the help of Nepalese Asian Hiking Team trekking agency. Huge thanks to Team Leader Suman Neupane for all his help with arranging everything, and Nlima Tanzig Sherpa for getting us safely to the top and back.

You can read more about my preparation process in the Research and preparations post, and about what happened before and after in 3 Passes of Everest trek post.

Route map