Island Peak Climb 2008
Island Peak (Imja Tse) is a 6189m peak in Nepal, Sagarmata park, close to Mount Everest. It is one of the peaks called climbing/trekking peaks and it needs a permit to be climbed.

Advice on how to climb peaks cheap and independently in Nepal (notice).

5 Vietnameese and four germans summiting 5 march 2008

Permits to climb peaks
The system is design so that you should go to a trekking company and buy their services and employ porters and a guide, preferably already in KTM and pay for the staffs flight tickets to Lukla. NMA does not deal with climbing individuals, they direct all questions to the tourist agency or to the trekking agencies.
A guide is obligatory if you want a climbing permit. A climbing guide has to be registered with NMA, he will usually cost no less than 300 usd. The permit costs the agency 350 usd, a garbage deposit of 250 usd has to be deposited.

You need:
1) Trekking permit, costs 100 rp at an agency (they may say it costs more but this is what it costs them).
2) A park permit, costs 1000 rp, can be bought at park entrance or at the counter opposite North face shop on the main road leading into Thamel, or through agency.
3) An agent that deals with the permit and deposit with NMA.
4) A climbing guide - his name has to be on the permit.

We did like this when we organized our climb:
We shopped around (there are maybe hundreds of trekking agnecies in KTM) and said we ONLY wanted a permit and a guide that met up at the mountain. We got a permit (with wrong date, you should get a 30 day window to climb in ) and a name and a village where we where supposed to find the guide at a certain date. We came early and did not find the guide, which suited us fine. We climbed alone (there were other climbers on the mountain) and saved the 300 usd for the guide. We bought some equipment in KTM. In the last village (Chukkung) we rented: crampons, mountain boots, one short rope, an ice axe each, a tent, gas and a kitchen, food in thermoses, mattresses. (In high season you might have to wait for equipment).

We found a porter in Dingboche that carried 25 kilos up to high camp 5600 meter. He collected the stuff the next day and carried it down to Chukkung (we paid him 1500 totally, and another 400 for good work).
Two rent days for all equipment cost us some 5000 for 3 persons.

Day one: Chukkung – to high camp at 5600. Sleep.
Day two: Start at High Camp at 04.00 – go for peak – go down to Chukkung in the same day. It was one of the hardest days of my life. We failed to climb the wall – we turned at 6000 meter. I will explain further down what we lacked.

Important: at Namche you must register your “expedition” at SPCC office and write down what gear you use. It should be signed by the guide, but our porter rented in Lukla signed it.

On return to Namche we brought a bag with our garbage from the mountain (oh yes) and told that our rented gear had been returned to the lodge where we rented it. We got a paper that we delivered with the permit back to the agency guy that collected the 250 usd garbage deposit and returned it to us. All in all a 350 usd climb. The actual work for an agency is a couple of hours paper work and two errands to the NMA. Pay accordingly. We paid the guy 30 usd for that.

It is the buyers market usually (we did this out of season). Shop around and explain you want to do as much as possible yourselves (if this is your ambition). Say you only need a guide sitting in base camp or just be back-up while you take the lead. You will probably have to pay the 300 usd a registered guide wants (they know you need their name). If you pay, try to find a guide that you can have use of, or is easy to deal with. Ourselves we did not want to be led up the mountain, we wanted to climb it ourselves. Ask if he can carry something (guides usually don’t like that). You can ask if the agency can try to hook up your climb with another group and save on the permit.

The climb of Island peak.
Island peak is a hard mountain to climb, especially if you lack mountaineering skills. It´s not obvious where to scramble. Weather can put you in dire trouble on that mountain if you don’t know your way. The last wall – is usually steep, a fall will hurt you badly. We could not pass it due to fatigue and lack of equipment.

The reason why you pay 1000 usd or more to climb Island peak if doing the group thing through an agency is because they will get you to the top and service you all along. No decisions has to be taken by you - just eat, sleep, walk when they tell you. Put on the gear they arranged e t c. They set up fixed rope along the last wall and the last ridge so you only have to jummar (use an ascender) and pull yourself up. In high season as many as 25 people summit a day – success guaranteed.

Route and directions:
Chukkung to base camp is pretty straightforward, but very tedious. There are two toilets at basecamp, carry on another 300 meter, the path up the mountain starts to the left. It is obvious up to 5600 meter, if there is visibility.
There are three levels of High camps: far left at 5500 (good), a big buttress and platform at 5600 (ok), you can also raise at tent at 5700 meter (trickier) (or on the glacier at 5900, but then you are almost at the top).

The route from 5600 is very hard to find especially in darkness. I will try to describe it (Island photos):
1) Go just to the right of the high camp platforms at 5600 meter, up the gully.
2) Keep left some 100 elevation meters, do not pass the white rock. Turn right onto a  ridge. This is very dangerous scrambling, specially in darkness and snow. The path serpents very steep up and there are at times several options and not so obvious cairns.

The 5600m high camp is left of camera.

3) Up, up, up. The path curves around this outcrop of the mountain, back and forth, aim as much straight up as possible. Rocks, boulders, lots of lose stuff. Lots of steep ravines to fall into.
4) Buttress narrowing in getting steeper the last 50 meters up to about 5900 where the glacier starts. Put on crampons.
5) The glacier depends on snow conditions, there are crevasses to fall into. In good visibility it should not be a problem.
6) The wall starts with a slope, at 6000 it gets steeper, ranging from 40% to 75%. It could be icy, it could be softer. Don’t expect the surface to be good. There are crevasses in the wall some years. Do not underestimate your fatigue at this altitude.

Alternative one:
Send up one strong, skilled guy with crampons and two ice axes. He brings snow anchors and a 100 meter rope. Theoretically two snowanchors could be enough to put at the top, but better have many so that you can set fix points along the way up – I suggest 3-6 snowanchors. Once your hero has set he rope, the rest of you use ascenders, crampons and an ice axe each to get up.

Alternative two:
Everybody iceaxe themselves up attached to the same rope (was done from the right side of the wall in 2008, in a traverse fashion, took hours for them). This needs experience.

Once at the top of the wall you need ropes to safely walk up the ridge to the summit.

We will be back 2011 to climb some trekking peaks (free), one or two climbing peaks (share permit), and maybe an expedition peak (7000 meter above). And some unnamed peaks around 5500-5800 that might be somewhat technical. Low budget, out of season, independent. More.

Another story: "team mixed nuts" expedition 2005.

Above: Beginning of the glacier.