Island Peak (6,189 m) or “Imja Tse” is a stunning Himalayan peak in the Everest region. The mountain appears as an island in an ocean of ice from Dingboche. Thus, the peak is commonly known as “Island Peak.” The Island Peak difficulty level is considered as extremely challenging.
The difficulty level while posing a threat also gives avid mountaineers an added value of adventure and is quite popular among them. A physically strenuous trek precedes the climb in the rough terrains of above 5000m. After arriving at the glacier field, climbers need to rope-up and wear necessary gears like crampons.
The toughest part of the ascent is the foot of the headwall. Steep incline and thin air make the climb very taxing. However, you will be safe as the fixed lines will assist you at all times. You will need to push hard to arrive at the summit ridge. The ascent is short and accessible from the summit ridge to the top.
Moreover, the trek to the Island Peak Base Camp (5,100m) is a challenge in itself. The longer you spend on the Himalayas, the easier it gets to climb the mountain. So, you must consider long duration treks to get accustomed to the place and ensure successful ascent of the peak. You will get proper acclimatization and can adapt to the weather, and climatic conditions.
The altitude is another factor that needs consideration. Climbing a legitimate mountain is not a walk in the park. The climb can get stressful at an extreme altitude for an amateur mountaineer. You must consider all the risks involved with the climb and train accordingly. Read further for the detailed description of some of the most important aspects regarding the Island Peak climbing difficulty.
See our package: Island Peak Climbing
What Makes Climbing Island Peak So Difficult?
Located in the Everest region of Nepal, the Island Peak is an extension of Lhotse and Everest. The unique mountain valley of Imja has pristine glaciers flowing from the 8000m. First, we take a flight to Lukla from Kathmandu. The scenic mountain flight is adventurous and pleasant at the same time.
The trek to Island Peak base camp passes through the Everest base camp. It is also possible to trek directly to the island base camp as well, but it is not recommended for beginners. You can only see the mountain at Dingboche which takes around 6 or 7 days of the trek.
The Island Peak lies in proximity to the Mera Peak. The Mera Peak is higher than the Island Peak but is less technically challenging. The trek on the rugged terrains of above 5000m in the Everest region is quite challenging
You must have known by now that the weather in the Everest region is highly unpredictable. Not only that the temperature also fluctuates from 20 degrees Celcius to –20 degrees Celsius depending on the month that you seek to climb Island Peak.
The spring months (April-May), and the autumn months of (September-October) have temperatures ranging from 0 degrees to 15 degrees during the daytime and -5 degrees to -10 degrees during the night. The harsh sun reflected by the snow-capped mountains and the harsh winds also causes trouble.
You need to be ready for all weather conditions while climbing Island Peak. We also start our climb at around 2 AM in the morning to avoid the afternoon winds blowing in the summit that can derail your expedition.
The Headwall and the Summit
There is a steep gully after leaving high camp and before arriving at the glacier from where you need the help of crampons. The final steep section is the most challenging part of the climb with the headwall before the summit ridge. The steep headwall is a 300m climb with 40 and 50 degrees of slope.
The sherpas will rope you up for the ascent. You will need to cross few crevasses, and a ladder gets placed across the challenging section for the ease of the climber. This section is the most challenging, and every climber should take maximum precautions while attempting this climb.
The mountain is at an altitude of above 6000m while the trekking involved also moves along the elevation of above 5000m at all times. During the trek/climb, the level of oxygen, and the air pressure becomes less at high altitudes. So, you must acclimatize regularly all along the trail.
Altitude sickness is probably the most significant problem that trekkers and climbers face in the Everest region. Hence, every climber must acclimatize as much as possible. The most famous landmarks to acclimatize are Namche Bazaar (3,500m), Dingboche (4,410m), and the Island Peak base camp (5,100m).
If you trek Everest Base Camp (5,364m) and Kala Pattar (5,545m) route, you will get more time to acclimate properly. There are tablets like Diamox that altitude sickness preventing, and you can take it if you have a doctor’s prescription. Stay hydrated at all times as it also helps to cope with altitude sickness.
Acclimatization process does not mean you will stay idle; in fact, you will cover some distance in the acclimatization process as well. If you do not feel well, you should not ascend further as these are the symptoms of altitude sickness. In case the symptoms get worse, you need to descend immediately.
There are some altitude sickness related death cases in the mountains. Do not take it lightly as it can turn fatal.
How Should You Prepare for the Climb?
Island Peak is not a regular mountain climb. You will need a specific training regime for Island Peak. Climbing the peak before monsoon is quite different than climbing peak post-monsoon. The route can turn difficult under heavy snow there is a lot of snow. The steep ice wall with no resting section with non-stop climb.
You need to prepare well for mountaineering trips. There are steep climbing sections in the Island Peak and require specific mountaineering skills. The climb requires abseiling, ladder crossing, and you should prepare with these factors in mind. There is a section where you will need to abseil or rappel down the headwall using a figure of 8 at 6,150m.
The summit ascent of Island Peak lasts 12- 16 hours based on the conditions; hence, the two factors you must focus on is the strength and endurance. The journey doesn’t finish here as you need to walk all the way back to Lukla as well. The preparation for the climb depends upon your fitness levels and climbing experience.
You can climb the mountain with no previous experience but rigorous training at least 4-5 months before is necessary. So, practice properly and get comfortable around ropes, Jumar ascender, and abseiling using a figure of 8 on fixed lines. Physical training with a focus on two main elements strength and endurance.
Specific Training Tips for the Island Peak Climb:
- Train 5 days a week at least 4-5 months before the climb
- Maintain a strict, balanced diet
- Train on an inclined treadmill for four days a week
- Train with carrying a backpack of 5kg/ 11lbs
- Train to specific heart rates within your endurance zone
- Gradually increase training duration from 1-2 hours to 4 hours
- Perform a more extended endurance session once a week and always take a day or two off
- Increase the weight you carry every month 6 to 12 hours of training per week
- Include some weight training activities after two months
- Develop your quads, calves, and core strength
Nine Essential Tips for Climbing the Island Peak
1. Acclimatize properly
The process of acclimatization is an integral part of any adventure in the Himalayas. Some tour packages also include a trek to Everest Everest Base Camp before marching to the ascent of Island Peak to give the climbers proper time to acclimatize.
Acclimatization helps to adapt your body to the high altitude conditions and also protect you from altitude sickness. Gaining an elevation of 300m or 1000 feet a day is ideal and lets you acclimatize properly.
2. Add spare days to the trip
Adding extra days in your journey is always fruitful in case there are flight delays due to unfavorable weather conditions. The flight to and from Lukla is quite unpredictable and are bound to delays and even cancellation. You could also delay your climbing day in case you are not properly acclimatized.
3. Train Properly
There are no shortcuts to climbing the Island Peak. Pre climb training, including cardiovascular and aerobic exercises with some weight at least 4-5 months before the climb is a must.
Your fitness level must be at a peak to climb the mountain. Do not take this lightly as the mountain conditions are harsh and do not even think of attempting the mountain until you are adequately trained.
4. Avoid Winter and early spring season
There are heavy snows and harsh, chilly winds with temperatures around winds at the summit (-40C) make the summit difficult between December and Mid-February.
There might be fresh snow on the summit during between February and March which makes it the ascent quite difficult. The peak season of March to May and from September to November is ideal for the climb, and you can climb the peak very comfortably.
5. Hire a Guide and Porter
Hiring a professional guide and a porter will decrease the level of difficulty of the climb. You can solely focus on the ascent and would not need to think about the heavy luggage. You can also seek help if you find the trek or climb too complicated. Overall, it is always an advantage of climbing with a guide
6. Have the right mountain gear and clothing
The right gear and equipment for the climb is a must, and you can get them in Chukhung near the base camp. Alternatively, you can buy your own gears as these rented gears have low quality.
The climbing gears must be comfort fit as uncomfortable gears can turn out to be a hurdle in your adventure. Climbing boots, crampons, figure 8 ascender, are some of the essential equipment for the Island Peak climb.
7. Stay positive
You must remain positive during the process of climbing Island Peak as this factor plays an integral part in the successful ascent of the peak. No matter how hard you train or maintain excellent fitness levels, but if you don’t remain positive during the climb, you may experience difficulty. Your attitude and enthusiasm help you every step of the way.
8. Be proficient in abseiling and tying knots
You have to get skilled in abseiling down the headwall of Island Peak. Only when you are comfortable with abseiling, you should start the climb as you will be in full control of the rope.
Besides that, learning to move between ropes using a figure 8 device is also essential. Practice on a local rock climbing wall using a harness and abseiling from height to get the knack of it.
Furthermore, you will be using overhand and Italian hitch knots, so you be to be an expert in tying these knots as well. These technical skills will be crucial at the Island Peak climb.
9. Move according to the plan
You will arrive at the High Camp(5,600 m) in the mid-afternoon. The ascent starts around Camp 2 am intending to reach the summit before noon to avoid harsh sun and winds. You should not stay at the High camp for long as the water resources are scarce.
You should rest well and get a few good hours of rest before the climb. There have been few instances of theft so you should be careful. You should always listen to your team leaders and move according to the plan.