Khumbu Peaks - Chukkung Ri, Pokalde, Island Peak
Khumbu Peaks - Chukkung Ri, Pokalde and Island Peak
A superb expedition to enter the world of climbing in the high Himalaya with three mountain ascents of increasing altitude - Chukkung Ri (5550m), Pokalde 5806m and Island Peak at 6189m. There is also a visit to the Kongma La which has excellent views over the high Khumbu glacier and towards Everest Base Camp.
The gradual ascent up the Khumbu valley allows for excellent acclimatisation to climb Chukhung Ri for one of the great views of the south wall of Lhotse and then the Kongma La with it's views over the Khumbu Glacier, and Pokalde with its panoramic view over the great divide in the Khumbu valley. Each are lovely objectives of their own with breathtaking views.
Island Peak is the final highlight of the trip, a classic 6000m peak which was climbed by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing back in 1953 as their training peak for Everest. In fact the route you climb is exactly the same as what they did. Island Peak is technically more demanding than the other two but you will be well acclimatised and mountain fit by this time.
During the trip, you will use many skills in safe travel on mountains at high altitude including glacier travel, scrambling and moving on mixed snow and ice terrain. Good alpine skills are a requirement for this trip as the summit day on Island Peak does involve crossing a crevassed glacier using a climbing rope, negotiating some ladders across crevasses, using a jumar to ascend a fixed line and then a descender to come back down again (there is no top rope on the abseil) and negotiating a narrow exposed ridge to the summit.
Climbing Chukkung Ri
Chukkung Ri is a rocky peak, similar to Kala Pataar above the village of Chhukung in the Everest (Khumbu) Region of Nepal. It lies to the North of Chhukung and takes approximately 3-4 hours of lung busting effort.
Starting from the village it takes around 2 hours to climb to the saddle on good trails with cairns. Turn left at the saddle for an easy trail to the lower summit, and then traverse the ridge of loose screen and broken rock to the higher summit from where there are amazing views towards the Lhotse wall and across to Makalu and Ama Dablam.
It takes about two hours to go down from the main summit and bring at least 2L of water for the climb with snacks and good warm clothing as it can be very windy and dusty up there.
Climbing Pokalde Peak
This mountain is mostly rocky during the main trekking season but be prepared for some snow and patches of ice early in the morning. It's a popular acclimatization peak for Island Peak and is impressive as a high point on the ridge across the valley and the view from the summit is spectacular with a vista that extends all the way down the Khumbu valley. An ice axe and crampons should be brought, as well as your harness, karabiners and slings.
Most people climb the north ridge but it is also possible to climb the South ridge which is graded PD. Both routes might require two pitches to be put in the last section to the top depending on the group and the ground conditions. The rock is a little loose at times and on the whole this is a rock scramble.
The more popular north ridge route is still a PD/PD+ but and accessed from the Kongma La which has really great views directly down onto the Khumbu Glacier with the village of Lobuche directly across.
Climbing Island Peak
The small summit of this famous mountain provides some of the most spectacular scenery of the Himalayas in the Khumbu region. Seen from the summit, the giant peaks of Nuptse (7,879m), Lhotse (8,501m), Lhotse Middle Peak (8,410m) and Lhotse Shar (8,383m) make a huge semi-circle to the north. Makalu (8475m) is visible to the east, with Baruntse and Ama Dablam to the south completing a truly remarkable 360 panorama.
From Dingboche, the mountain is seen as a pyramid of ice and rock, dwarfed by the 8000m Lhotse behind. The mountain itself is the extension of the South Ridge of Lhotse Shar separated by a col and it was named by Eric Shipton because of its resemblance to an island in a sea of ice.
The route follows the Chukkung Valley to Base Camp, from which the summit is a challenging 6 to 9 hour climb depending on conditions. The route follows a circuitous rocky path in the dark to 'crampon point' after which you will be on a climbing rope and negotiating a heavily crevassed glacier with ladders used to cross some of them. The route comes to the base of a 300 metre headwall to the summit ridge which is fixed with a rope to clip onto using a jumar and a safety karabiner ('cow's tail' set up). Once atop the ridge a further 200 metres along the narrow ridge using a fixed line to a small summit.
The descent is back the same way, and the headwall must be negotiated with a rappelling or descending device so it is important to feel competent with descending by yourself. There is no top rope for safety so we advise using a figure of eight that is easily managed. There are many anchor points on the fixed line so it is vital to double up with a safety karabiner on the ascent and the descent and to remember to place the safety karabiner above the anchor point before moving either the jumar or the descender device.
Khumbu Peaks - terrain
The trek is on a well trodden path all the way though this can be rocky and uneven in parts. Poles are useful but not necessary, and you can walk in hiking clothes and lightweight trekking boots or shoes. Sunny days can be up to 18 degrees but the temperature in the evening can drop to just below freezing. Lodges have heated central rooms and unheated bedrooms with beds, mattresses, pillows and blankets if you need them.
Above Namche Bazaar the terrain opens out into high U-shaped valleys carved out by the glaciers with the great mountains around. Windy and dusty and cold potentially, with snow and hail but equally hot sunny spells. The UV up here is strong and damaging so it's important to look after your skin and eyes.
The ascents to Chukkung Ri and Kongma La are tiring at altitude but non-technical on rocky ground, the main danger being slipping on a loose rock and twisting an ankle or sliding on loose scree. Neither are on steep ground but the combination of altitude, the thin dry air and potentially cold weather does make everything challenging up here.
Pokalde is a rocky peak requiring some hands-on scrambling to the top. It is definitely quite precarious and steep towards the end and it's important to bring along a rope for protection on the last two pitches. Bring a harness with karabiners and slings in case the leader needs to lead a pitch and set up a belay for others to follow. Sometimes there will be fresh snow and patches of ice so crampons and a walking axe are useful items to take on the summit day.
Once on Island Peak there will be steep scrambling on loose broken rock then climbing steep snow slopes and a narrow airy ridge to finish. You will need to use crampons and a walking axe. You will need to have experience of using the necessary equipment such as jumars, harnesses and descenders, but you will also need to be competent at walking safely on a man line, clipping onto a fixed line and abseiling on a single line (without a top rope).
The main headwall climbs at around 38 degrees which will feel quite steep and strenuous at that altitude. There is a fixed line here for you to clip in to for protection and there are anchors at every 10 or 20 metres. The summit ridge can feel fairly exposed and you will need to compose yourself and walk carefully and deliberately.
Accommodation will mostly be in lodges and tea houses run by Sherpas. Each lodge has a central communal area with stove, while the bedrooms are unheated with two beds and mattresses and pillows. You will need to bring a sleeping bag and the lodge will lend you a blanket if you ask.
The lodges generally have showers which are powered by gas and they use ‘drop’ toilets (in Namche Bazaar they are generally flush systems now).
At Kongma Tse high camp and at Island Peak base camp we will be camping. We will be in mountain tents usually sleeping two persons per tent. Bring a 4 season sleeping bag and also a good quality sleeping mat.
The porters will carry your main bag up to a maximum weight of 18 kgs and cater for all the group needs, including assisting you if you need to go back down the valley.
Experience and training
Previous basic mountaineering experience will be of particular benefit on this trip, especially using protection equipment and crampons safely. Knowing how to use a walking axe properly, scrambling confidently and efficiently, and knowing how to maximise your energy over multiple days is going to be a big advantage too.
We recommend that you embark on a good fitness programme at least 6 weeks prior to your trip, and one that builds up general stamina and leg muscle groups in the thighs and calves. There is nothing like hiking with a rucksack to train for this type of trip, so the best advice is to get out into the hills as often as you can. You are likely to carry about 5- 8 kilos in your day sack so this is a good weight to work with.
If you are going to be using the gym then use step machines which work on the thigh and calf muscles, and try to build your heart rate up to 50% above resting rate. Any cardiovascular activity is good, but remember that swimming will not train the correct muscle groups so it must be added to other exercises to be effective. Exercise groups like body pump, Pilates and aerobic are all excellent preparation for a trip like this, especially those which work on core strength, balance and stability.
- You will get to travel with local guides who not only lead trekking groups but are experienced in high altitude expeditions.
- Porters' health and welfare is constantly monitored by local and UK trekking group leaders.
- All the staff in our UK office have been to Nepal and we are qualified mountain professionals so you can chat to people who understand what it's like to go up for the first time, before you go.
- Preparation information and support is available to help you plan.
- We advise you to read our advice on altitude health and acclimatising safely.
We have an operations manager in Kathmandu who organises all the staff, equipment, permits and hotel arrangements. You will have his telephone number. He is also the main link between you and the UK office. He will talk to the Sherpa guides regularly on the trip when signal is available and he can make arrangements while you are on trek.
You also have continued support from the main office in the UK. In the Khumbu region there is an opportunity to communicate since most lodges now have signal in large parts of the Khumbu valley. We will always try our best to assist with any situation and of course we will provide you with all the advice and support you need prior to this trip.
Emergencies and evacuation
Helicopter evacuations are quite common in Nepal and there is a very established system for dealing with emergencies. It is obviously important to have travel insurance in place and to be clear on where you are going to the policy maker. In the event of an emergency the initial job of moving a casualty will be the responsibility of the team itself and the guide and porters and anybody else nearby. The task will be to move the casualty to the nearest safe place and then to a point where an evacuation can be made. On a Himalayan peak this could be some distance and take some time.
Horses are commonly used for assisted descent and they normally charge around USD$150.00 per day which needs to be paid in cash. A helicopter evacuation can be organised through your insurance company but there will need to be some direct communication with the insurance company to open a case and explain the circumstances. This will require you to have your policy number, name and address and the date on which you paid for the insurance policy. Phones do work but in some places it is just too remote. We don't normally carry a satellite phone because of the ubiquity of mobile phones now.
In the case of altitude sickness the only best advice is not to take risks, and descend. Further ascent can lead rapidly to the much more serious cerebral or pulmonary oedema which is incapacitating, so normally if you are feeling really bad then best to descend while you're still mobile. There is plenty of literature on acclimatising and using the appropriate drugs but even with medication you should still descend.
Khumbu Three Peaks itinerary
|1||1400m||Arrive into Kathmandu and transfer to hotel. Depending on your arrival time you can relax or go sight-seeing around Kathmandu.|
|2||1400m||For the 2019 spring season you will need to transfer to Ramanchap by road and stay in a lodge while the airport is closed. Otherwise it's a rest day in town.|
|3||2460m||45min flight, 2hrs walking||Flight to Lukla, and walk downhill to Phakding or Jorsale along the edge of the Dudh Kosi River. Easy, busy path, surrounded by forest.|
|4||3440m||6hrs||Uphill to Namche Bazaar which is the Sherpa capital in the heart of the Khumbu region. Initially follow the valley to Monjo where you enter the National Park, then cross the river a few times and start a long unrelenting path uphill, with one spectacular bridge spanning a deep gorge. Leave the coniferous forest behind, and arrive at a huge natural amphitheatre with the houses spread around the sides.|
|5||3440m||This is an acclimtisation day which you can rest or enjoy the sights and sounds of Namche, the major trading centre of the Khumbu. Nowadays there are also many equipment shops, internet facilities, banks, post office, cafes, bars, lodges and hire shops.|
|6||3850m||6hrs||Walk to Deboche which is near the famous Thyangboche Monastery. The path out of Namche is initially steep and then opens out into a high valley, passing through villages like Pangboche before negotiating two steep hills. After this it is a short walk to the beautiful rhododendron glade where you will find the lodge.|
|7||4252m||5hrs||A gradual gradient up to Dingboche. The path skirts the side of the valley with the river far below on your right and passing beneath the spectacular Ama Dablam. The village sits on the confluence of two valleys.|
|8||4252m||This is another rest and acclimatisation day. In the neighbouring village of Pheriche it is important to visit the Himalayan Rescue Association to listen to the daily lecture on high altitude health, and get a check from the medical staff if required.|
|9||4730m||4hrs||Today we have a relatively easy day as we continue on up the Imja valley on easy ground to the village of Chukhung (4730m). Here you can check any rental gear you will need.|
|10||5550m||5hrs||Early start to climb the nearby peak of Chhukhung Ri, 5550m. It is a staightforward walk under foot but the increase in altitude will soon start to tell. From the top look down to the four different glaciers that all approach our start at Chukhung and to our north marvel at the giant south face of Nuptse.|
|11||5400m||5hrs||Walk up to Kongma Tse base camp for two nights in tents next to a small lake on this high plateau. Bring sleeping bag and mat and climbing gear for Pokalde.|
|12||5806m||3hrs||Pokalde summit day via the Kongma La where we will be able to peer down the steep gully to the Khumbu glacier. We then follow the ridge line up to the summit.
We should have plenty of the day left to enjoy our surroundings and maybe explore the plateau a little as this is quite a beautiful place to camp.
|13||5400m||5hrs||Head back down to Chukkung. Rest and arrange any rental gear for Island Peak.|
|14||5400m||5hrs||Trek to Island Peak Base Camp (Pareshaya Gyab), a small area in a narrow valley alongside the lateral moraine of the Imja Khola lake. We will have a refresher/ training on the use of fixed lines and personal movement on ice and plan our clothing and equipment for our ascent. Camping.|
|15||5087m||3hrs||An early start for our climb to the summit of Island Peak via the normal South East route. Camping.|
|16||6189m||6-9hrs||Second summit day. Descend back to Chukkung or Dingboche|
|17||4730m||3hrs||Trek to Deboche|
|18||3820m||5hrs||Trek to Namche Bazaar via Khumjung.|
|19||3820m||Namche Bazaar - celebration meal, visit the shops or walk to Thame. Enjoy this remarkable town!|
|20||3440m||Trek to Lukla|
|21||2460m||Fly to Kathmandu or bad weather day|
|22||1400m||Fly to Kathmandu|
|23||International flight home|
Khumbu Three Peaks cost £2495.00
- Airport transfers
- Internal flight return from Lukla
- Accommodation in lodges/tea houses during trek
- Accommodation in tents on the climbs
- Three meals per day in the mountains
- Sagamartha National Park Fees (VDC fees)
- Climbing permits for Island Peak
- Sherpa climbing guides (English speaking, trained in first aid)
- Porters (1 per member, carries about 18kgs)
- Extra porters for group equipment
- Staff insurance
- Group climbing gear
- International flight to Kathmandu
- Accommodation in Kathmandu - we can book this for you. See the Extras tab and also Click here for details
- Meals and drinks in Kathmandu
- Personal costs like drinks, laundry, hot showers, boiled water and hot drinks in the lodges (~£150)
- Personal travel insurance
- Any change to using a helicopter to go up to the mountains in the event of the flight being delayed by bad weather.
Payments and costs
A minimum deposit of £100.00 is required on booking to secure your place and we ask that the remaining balance (trip price minus the deposit) is paid in full six weeks prior to your departure. Interim payments are flexible but we do ask that 50% of the trip fee is paid six months prior to departure.
We have our own licensed company in Kathmandu, Adventure Alternative Nepal, and full time staff to operate all our treks, climbs and tours.
Travel insurance will need to be purchased by each team member to cover all costs associated with medical, rescue, equipment, cancellations etc. This should be purchased as early as possible to ensure cancellation coverage in case of any issues arising that cause you to cancel your trip.
Have a read of our information page about getting the right travel insurance.
Flight delays in Lukla
The mountain flight in and out of Lukla which is where most treks begin and end in the Khumbu (Everest) region can be delayed due to bad weather. Normally it is for about 24 hours but it can be longer. We recommend you allow some time in Kathmandu after the specified day of the internal flight just in case. There is more information about Himalayan flight delays.
Some people choose to cancel the internal flight and book a helicopter which can fly below the cloud level and is not so determined by the weather. This is possible but there are no fixed prices for a seat on the helicopter. There are now around 12 helicopter companies operating and we can check them all for you.
For a one way place to Lukla can cost around $500.00. The cancelled portion of the flight can be refunded and used to offset this figure, but the refund is only around $170.00 for a one way sector, so there would be balance to pay. Normally people use their credit card to cover off this additional expenditure.
Unfortunately there is nothing we can do if the flight is delayed. Sometimes you can end up waiting in the airport from early hours to get the 'green light' to go, only to find yourself back in the hotel by mid morning. People do get very frustrated because it can impact on the trekking itinerary. A helicopter is one option, or else to wait until the weather improves. However, if it does not then very quickly a queue of people at either end can build up, and it is always hard to get priority for when the weather clears. The airline companies just put as many planes on as possible to clear the backlog.
We try to assist as best we can, but it's important to accept that the route has this potential delay and also that it's advisable to book the international flight home a little later in case the delay affects your return ticket.
Khumbu Peaks kit list
- Large duffle bag or rucksack & liner
- 40 Ltr day pack
- Stuff sacks, waterproof, various sizes
- Expedition Jacket, primaloft or down
- Waterproof jacket and trousers, goretex or equivalent (softshell)
- Trekking trousers and shorts, Tshirts, shirts
- Fleece or woollen tops
- Base layer tops and bottoms
- Thin socks and thick socks
- Warm hat, buff/balaclava, sunhat
- Liner gloves, warm gloves, mitts
- Sunglasses Cat 3 UV polaroid
- Mountaineering boots graded B1 or B2 to accommodate crampons
- Trekking boots/shoes and hut shoes
- 4 season sleeping bag (comfort temperature -15C) and compression sack
- Thermarest or sleeping mat for camping
- Walking poles
- Head torch & spare batteries
- 2 x 1 litre drinks bottles and covers
- Pee bottle (optional)
- 12 point crampons
- Mountaineering harness - preferably alpine harness
- Walking axe & leash (leash is optional but preferred)
- Climbing slings - at least 2 medium
- Screwgate/locking karabiners - at least two
- Ascender (jumar) - best to use the one with the big handle for easy manipulation
- Descender, normally a figure of eight
- Prussik loops - one is enough for emergency use on the fixed line
- Wash Kit and first aid, towel
Items available for rent in Nepal
Descender, ascender, karabiners and slings
Sleeping bag and mat
Boots for the climb need to be of a type that will allow fitting of crampons. They also need to be warm and fitted well to your feet. For Island Peak you will need boots graded at least B1 for crampon use. If you are planning on doing more mountaineering in the future on higher or colder routes it may be worth investing in B2 hybrid or B3 rigid Plastic boots both of which will also be suitable for Island Peak. Full 8000m triple boots are not needed for this climb but could be used if you already have them.
Personal first aid kit contents
Water Purification Tablets
Personal Medication as required:
eg. Anti-Malarials, Asthma Inhalers, Insulin, Epi-Pen etc
Prochlorperazine tablets (for sickness/nausea)
Ciprofloxacin tablets (general antibiotic; prescription required)
Acetazolamide tablets also known as Diamox (altitude prophylactic; prescription required)
Note: you must check with your GP for your personal suitability to all medicines and their possible side effects and interactions. Please inform us of the details of all regular medication that you intend to use though the course of your trip and any relevant allergies and medical history related to them. You also need to check the requirements and regulations of the airline and all countries visited in relation to medications. For example; laws governing transport of some pain control medication and the need keep insulin at a suitable temperature, ie not in the cargo hold.
You can book your Adventure Alternative holiday for as little as £100.00 and pay the balance in as many instalments as you like. Choose a scheduled date or contact us for private dates, a bespoke itinerary or more trip details.
- Duration 18 days
- Numbers 4-8
- Altitude 6189m
- Comfort Lodges and tents
- Climbing grade PD to AD