Mountaineering in Nepal
Snowy Horizon has compiled a list of essential equipment, personal medical provisions, and a summary of medical conditions likely to encounter during high altitude mountaineering. We hope this helps you in your preparation for the expedition. You might already have most of the equipment anyway but it never hurts to have a checklist at hand. A basic rule of thumb to keep in mind: carry a spare of every piece of equipment necessary for survival whenever possible. And think broad: Sunglasses might sound like a trivial item but if you lose or break your pair on the mountain, you will suffer from snow blindness which can be fatal high up on the mountain simply because you’ll be unable to descend – carry a spare. And equally important, make sure you are familiar with all of your equipment, especially new pieces. You should be able to use everything under even the most adverse conditions.
This list should be considered as an essential summary and, naturally, it might be incomplete.Expeditioners are encouraged to conduct further study and practical exercises to familiarise themselves with the equipment. You should also be familiar with the medical terminology and have a basic understanding of medical conditions related to high elevation, cold, wind, excessive sun radiation as well as injuries likely to sustain in the outdoor situations, particularly in high and remote mountainous areas. While most of this will only be relevant in emergency situations – which we all hope never to encounter –it’s better to come over-prepared; your life might depend on it.
Essential Personal Climbing Gear:
- Alpine Climbing Harness: A good climbing harness should be light and simple in design, easy to put on and take off with gloves on, with positively foolproof locking features.
- Crampons: Crampons must fit boots perfectly; steel crampons with anti-balling and ability to toe point positively and safely into ice. The lighter the better – extra weight on your feet is much more strenuous than anywhere else on your body.
- Ice axe: Ice axe should be versatile and light. A general purpose technical ice axe (T rated) but not too aggressive.
- Ascender: Ascender or Jamar, a mechanical device used for ascending on a rope; must be suitable to be used with gloves or mittens. Practice using it with thick gloves on again and again.
- Multi-LED Head Lamp: Multi-LED Head Lamp and spare batteries are essential; we do not recommend single bulb lights due to lower reliability
- Karabiners: Minimum 2 locking carabineers, 1 large and 1 small and 4 regular.
- Rappel device: Figure 8, ACT or similar; be familiar with Munter Hitch as it may save your life if you lose your rappel device (which happens a lot)
- Trekking poles: Very handy for the approach; adjustable types are the best (preferably with a simple outside locking mechanism)
- Slings: One 3m(10ft) and three 2m(6ft)
- Prusik loops: Never hurts to carry a few (e.g. 0.6m and 1.2m), they come in handy in many situations
- Masks, hoses, and regulators: Good quality for your safety.
- Altimeter :ABC watch or more advanced GPS watches will do the trick. Watch for battery life
- Climbing helmet: Climbing helmet is essential safety gear for crossing areas under rocks and ice cliffs; light weight is essential.
For undergarments we recommend Merino wool – or one of the new mixtures between Merino and synthetics (Icebreaker and Odlo are two highly recommended brands).Quality as well as comfort are essential in extreme conditions so don’t look for cheap options. Merino wool is popular because of its softness and breath-ability while providing excellent insulation. It can absorb water very well and takes moisture away from the body which keeps you dry and warm. It has natural antibacterial properties, so it stays usable for much longer.
- 1-2 (medium insulation) short-sleeve Merino shirt(e.g. Icebreaker Merino 150 or lightweight 200, Odlo Revolution medium)
- 2 long-sleeve Merino shirts (e.g. Icebreaker Merino 150 and/or 200 or Odlo Revolution, one medium and one thick)
- One fleece pullover, medium weight.
- One fleece jacket.
- One hardshellwaterproof Gore-Tex jacket with large hood to accommodate the climbing helmet. The Arc’teryx SV range is expensive but offers excellent wind and water protection.
- Lightweight down jacket for chilly days in base camp or warm layer when stopping for short breaks.
- One very warm expedition grade goose-down (duvet) jacket with hood or a down suit if you prefer, for high altitude use (e.g. Northface, Rab etc.)
Note: Your clothing should be kept dry using waterproof stuff sacks (preferably made of Cordura) or alternatively bin-liners or large plastic bags although they are less rugged.
- One pair lightweight liner gloves. These will be worn when tying knots etc.
- Mitten: Goretexovermitts (that block the wind) matched with the very warm down mitts, spare mitts might also be useful (For instance, Mountain Equipment Redline)
- Warm wool or synthetic hat that covers your ears
- Balaclava or face mask
- Scarf or neck sleeve
- a Bandana or head scarf is useful for dusty conditions
- Ball cap or brimmed sun cap
- Glacier Sunglass with side shields (2x)
- One pair of ski goggles (optional with light and dark lens) for windy conditions
- Merino underwear briefs (Icebreaker, Odlo etc.)
- One pair walking shorts (optional)
- One pair walking trousers for trekking and around camp
- Two pair thermal Merino bottoms (Icebreaker 150 or 200 or Odlo Revolution)
- One pair very thick thermal Merino bottoms (Icebreaker 200, Odlo Revolution Thick)
- One pair polar fleece trousers or similar mid layer trousers
- One pair Gore-Tex (over)trousers or bibs. Waterproof/breathable with full side zips
- One pair of Goose-down trousers or bibs. You may prefer a down suit (Northface, Rab, etc.)
- One pair of plastic boots suitable for >8000m. (For instance La Sportiva Olympus Mons, Millet or equivalent good quality plastic shells with inner boots; avoid tight fit with heavy socks)
- One pair sturdy leather or synthetic (Gortex) hiking boots with good ankle support for the walk to base camp
- One pair cross-trainers, running shoes and/or sandals for Kathmandu and in camp
- One pair down booties (optional but convenient)
- Two pair med-heavy poly or wool socks
- Two Pair of liner socks. Polypropylene or wool
- Vapour barrier liner socks or plastic bread-bags (matter of preference)
- Two pair lightweight trekking socks, poly or wool
- Light Merino wool or cotton socks for in town
Travel and Sleeping Gear
Rucksacks and Travel Bags:
- One medium rucksack (50-70 l), can be used for airplane carry as well)
- Two large (120 l) duffle kit bags for clothing and equipment, must be durable for use on pack animals
- Small padlocks for duffel kit bags
- One down sleeping bag for high altitude (rated to –35 C (-30 F). In the high camp, you can sleep in your down clothing inside your sleeping bag.
- For base camp, one (additional) sleeping bag (normal rating to about-15C to-20 C (-5 F)).
- At least 3 closed cell foam mats for use in base camp in the higher camps (Thermarest offers an excellent light-weight one with decent insulation values) – inflatable mats are not recommended as they are more prone to failure and provide almost no insulation if not properly inflated.
Note: Your sleeping bags should be kept dry using a waterproof stuff sack
- Personal hygiene supplies;
- Two tubes lip sun cream, at least 1 large tube regular sun cream (min. factor 30), some after-sun lotion in case you do get a sunburn
- Anti-mosquito cream;
- One toothpaste/brush set;
- One hand sanitizer gel
- 1 (fast drying) synthetic towel
- Small personal first-aid kit; (Simple and Light): first-aid tape, plasters (band-aids),alcohol-free wipes for cuts, personal medications, etc. (The leaders will have more extensive first-aid kits)
- Personal prescription medications; Please let your leader know about any medical issues before the climb.
- One skin blister repair kit
Useful Medication: (Always contact your doctor if you have any questions; use alternatives in case you have intolerances for the suggested medication)
- Anti-diarrhoea pills (Imodium) (one regular package)
- Anti-headache medication (Aspirin or Ibuprofen) (one regular package)
- One small bottle cough and/or cold medicine.
- One course antibiotics for stomach infection, available locally at chemist shop or pharmacy with no doctor's prescription.
- One course antibiotics for chest infection, available locally at chemist shop or pharmacy with no doctor's prescription.
- One small bottle anti-altitude sickness medication: Diamox (Acetylzolamide), available locally, for more about this medication, please contact us or your doctor
- One small bottle of water purification tablets (needs to contain silver-ions AND chlorine) or a water filter or UV sterilizer.
- Extra prescription glasses/contact lens. Contact lens wearers, please bring glasses in case of emergency.
Note:Do not bring sleeping pills. They are respiratory depressantswhich is problematic at high altitude.
Our skilful cooks will prepare 3 delicious hot meals and plenty of drinks each day in base camp, as well as in camp 2 on the mountain. These meals will consist of soup, local cheese & sausage, biscuits, dried noodles, potatoes, rice, porridge, butter, dried and tinned vegetables, fruit, meats, and fish, tea with milk and sugar, powdered juice drink, and drinking chocolate. Our Sherpas will be carrying this food to the higher camps.
We ask members to bring only 5 dehydrated meals (freeze-dried dinners) for their summit attempt. On summit day, you will be at high elevation and you will be affected by the altitude with very limited appetite so it is important to have flavours you like best and you perceive as pleasant even when you are not hungry.
We cannot cater for specific personal and uncommon foods and flavours. If you have any unusual, non-standard or specific personal, cultural or religious dietary requirements, which can only be satisfied with imported product, we ask you to bring your own imported daily snack and energy foods.
We do not provide “snack” food such as chocolate or energy-bars. We ask that you bring or buy your own snacks or daily cold energy food in Kathmandu or in your home country. Because of the high degree of physical exertion, proper nutrition is very important and you might want to plan food supplementation carefully. From our experience 3-6 kilos/6-12 pounds of additional food is a sufficient amount.
A growing variety of imported foods such as European and American cheeses, chocolates, biscuits, cookies, nuts, and locally made power-bars are now available in Kathmandu, at reasonable prices. However, many imported brands and specialized items may not be available. If you want these items, you must bring them from your home country. Many of our members, especially Europeans and Australians with small baggage allowances, now purchase their daily snacks in Kathmandu (or at least parts of them). Our schedule in Kathmandu allows sufficient time for shopping.
Miscellaneous Practical Items:
- 1 small roll of repair tape, 1 sewing repair kit;
- 1 cigarette lighter, 1 small box of matches that light in all conditions;
- 1 compass or GPS;
- Solar charger
- 1 battery powered alarm clock/watch;
- 1 digital camera with extra cards and extra batteries;
- Nylon stuff sacks for food and gear storage;
- 3 Water bottles (1 litre) wide-mouth Nalgene (1 is a pee bottle)
- 1 plastic cup and spoon;
- 1 small folding knife;
- Binoculars (optional);
- 4 large, waterproof, disposable rubbish sacks;
- Passport, 2 extra passport photos, flight ticket, flight itinerary;
- Separate photocopies of passport and relevant visa pages, proof of insurance;
- Dollars, Pounds or Euros for purchasing Nepalese visa at Kathmandu airport, for paying for restaurants and hotels, for gratuities, snacks, and to purchase your own drinks and gifts (bring small denominations);
- Credit cards, Bank/ATM/Cash machine cards for use for withdrawing funds from cash machines (bring a photocopy of your cards), traveller's checks, etc.
- 1 bathing suit/swimming costume (you never know);
- Base camp entertainment. It is good to bring additional items which you have found to be useful on previous expeditions. For example: paperback books, playing cards, mp3 player, short-wave radio, game boys, musical instruments, ear plugs, lots of batteries, etc.;
- travel clothes for base camp and in town;
- Please be sure and bring your patience and try to keep an open, relaxed, positive and friendly attitude as travelling in this part of the world may be very different than what you are used to, but things always seem to fall into place at the last moment.
Note: This is not an exhaustive list. Please contact us for any other equipment concerns and suggestions. We are happy to discuss these in detail.
On Everest, although some climbers wish to try to summit it without supplemental oxygen, most of members would prefer to have oxygen available. We only allow members to climb Everest with the supplemental oxygen available. How much oxygen one requires is an individual decision; some people want 1 bottle, others want 12; our only requirement is that every expedition team member must have at least one oxygen bottle available for personal use, which will constitute at the minimum an emergency supply for climber to get down to at least camp 4. Our experience indicates five oxygen bottles is usually a sufficient for an average climber. All of the equipment is guaranteed to work well together, and it is easy to use, with simple threaded and snap-on fittings which require no tools. We have a 40% buy back policy on unused oxygen bottles, and masks, hoses, and regulators in good condition.
Note: You may have to carry some or all of your own oxygen on summit day, as well as up and down the mountain. If possible, the group’s Sherpas will help stock the high camps, as well as share in carrying extra bottles during summit attempts. If you are concerned you might not be able to carry your own oxygen, you may wish to hire a personal Sherpa.
If you want to climb Everest, you're going to have to be in extremely good physical shape. Basic fitness training should start well in advance, at the minimum 12 months before with main emphasis on cardiovascular training (assuming you are an amateur athlete and you are fit for strenuous athletic exercises). The main reason for your cardiovascular training is to increase your heart-lung oxygen capacity, so you can deliver sufficient amount of oxygen to your muscular and brain tissue in extremely low partial oxygen pressure. Acclimatization to high altitude is both a function of cardiovascular capacity as well as your personal physiology adaptation capacity, which you will only find out, when you above 8000m. A small fraction of people - no matter how fit they are at sea level - will not be able to adapt to high altitude or will encounter complications. But the better your physical fitness, the better your chances to reach the summit. We advise you to do additional research into how to prepare properly for high-altitude expeditions.
Altitude Hazards and Complications
The primary concern of mountaineers as altitude increases is the decrease in partial oxygen pressure. At higher altitude, the density of the gases to comprise our air decreases. Partial pressure is (hypothetical pressure) of a gas in a mixture of gases if the same space was only occupied by that gas. A decrease in partial Oxygen pressure means that there is less Oxygen is any given volume of air.
There is a fine balance between the gas pressure in your blood (called Blood gas tension) and the outside world, which allows your lungs to absorb the oxygen and deliver it to your organs. The outside pressure decreases with altitude, while the internal pressure remains constant.At about 9000m you will not be able to absorb any oxygen at all with a predictable outcome. Our body has evolved at low altitude, where it functions perfectly and it doesn’t at high elevation. The human body has, however, phenomenal ability to adapt given appropriate conditioning and time, which is called acclimatization.
Low levels of oxygen in the blood can cause number of conditions which is usually summed up as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). This is easily treatable and reversible if acted upon quickly (the course of treatment is to reduce altitude as soon as possible). But it can lead to more serious (and potentially lethal) conditions such as High Altitude Celebral Edeme (HACE) and High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE). Furthermore, a low level of blood oxygen can lead to thermal inefficiencies in your body causing frostbite and hypothermia. Have a look at http://lavablau.com/general/acute-mountain-sickness/ for an introduction to the current research on high-altitude conditions and some links to more profound sources.Other conditions caused by the effects of high altitude are thrombosis and embolisms.
Less serious but not to neglect: At high elevation due to lower UV absorption by the atmosphere and reflections from the snow there is a high risk of sunburn. Since you will not be able to stay out of the sun completely, this can escalate to a serious situation. Always shield your skin as well as possible from the sun and use plenty of sunscreen. Other more obvious hazards include broken bones due to falls, avalanches, ice and rock fall etc. but you should have come across those in your previous mountaineering activities anyway.
Again, this is not an exhaustive list but we hope it provides a loose guideline for your preparations. Do as much background research as possible – it never hurts to come over-prepared. And, of course, we are always happy to help so just give us a shout if you have any questions, comments or concerns.Happy preparations!
Nepal with 1310 identified Himalayan peaks over 6000m including 8 out of 14 highest peaks in the world is unquestionably a premier mountaineering and climbing destination for thousands of climbers and mountaineers testing their skills and endurance and fulfilling their desire to summit a Himalayan peak and marvel the world from its rooftop. Currently there are 326 peaks open for climbing and mountaineering in Nepal.
Peak climbing expedition is usually both technically and physically very challenging activity. It requires considerable climbing skills and in Nepal usually is done on sub-eight thousand meters high mountains, where acclimatization is easier and more effort can be devoted to climbing skill rather then shier brute force to combat altitude.
Facts of Mountain Expedition
Identified Peaks: 1310 in Nepal
Above 8000m: 8 out of 14
Opened Peaks: 326 peaks open for climbing
Top Mountains: Mount Everest, K2, Kangchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri I, Manaslu, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna I
Peak Climbing Question/Answers
What is trekking peak?
Trekking Peaks are the mountain which can be approached in a day to the summit from their base camp including return to the basecamp. Trekking peaks are generally between 5000m to below 7000m. The climbing permits for these peaks can be obtained from Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). These peaks are also called NMA Trekking Peaks.
Who can climb a peak?
There are no restrictions to obtain climbing permit and anyone with appropriate fitness and skills can attempt a peak climbing. Climbing difficulty varies for different mountains and routes. Non-technical climbs can be attempted by a fit trekker with little or no climbing experience. For technical climbs one needs to have an appropriate level of climbing experience.
I have never climbed before. Can I go for peak climbing?
There is always first time for everything including peak climbing. There are non-technical peaks, which can be climbed safely by a fit trekker and even slightly technical peaks can be attempted by a novice climber with a professional climbing guide.
What are physical fitness criteria to climb a peak in Nepal?
To climb high elevation peak the health and fitness is a paramount criteria. The level of fitness required is proportional to peak elevation and route difficulty and length.
What is climbing permit?
Climbing Permit for trekking peaks is a legal document issued by the Nepal Mountaineering Associationauthorizing the climber to attempt the climb on designated peak or route. Attempting a climb without permit is illegal.
Do I need climbing permit?
Yes climbing permits are required to climb any peak above 5000m and it is illegal to do so without a climbing permit.
Who will lead me during climbing?
A licensed, trained and experienced Climbing Sherpa Guide will lead you while Peak Climbing.
Do I need travel insurance?
Yes the rescue insurance is required while climbing.
Which is the best season for peak climbing?
In general August to November and March to May are two climbing seasons in Nepal.
Do I need to join in a climbing group?
There is no legal requirement to join the climbing group however climbing solo is an unsafe practice. It is recommended to hire the guide even for simple routes.
What will be the food and accommodation?
During the access trek you will be accommodated in a lodge/teahouse; once in the basecamp you will be assigned a tent and your climbing Sherpa will prepare high altitude food; all your climbing gear and food for the climb will be carried by the porter up to the base camp.
How much time is generally required for trekking peak?
It varies for different peaks and weather condition. Generally most of trekking peaksrequire one or two days to summit from the basecamp. The access time varies also and depends on peak location and peak elevation.
How difficult are the trekking peaks?
It depends on the Trekking Peak. There is a variety of peaks available ranging from non-technical through easy technical to difficult and very difficult technical routes.
Is there any age limit for trekking Peaks Climbing?
Children below 18 are Restricted for Peak Climbing in Nepal. Is this incorrect?
What are the sources of drinking water supply during Peak Climbing?
On most of treks bottled water is available. There are also purified filtered water stations in many lodges. The boiled water will be also available in the lodges and from the camp kitchen.
Where do we eat our meals?
On popular trails we will stay in lodges and guest houses and the meals will be cooked for you with continental menu meals often available as well as soups and noodles and rice dishes; on some routes there will be a limited choice and on some more remote routes only local Nepal Dal Bhat and curry or instant noodle soups will be available. In the basecamp your Sherpa guide will prepare meals for you from instant dry meals.
Is there any communication while we are on trekking?
It all depends on the area with most of the trekking routeshaving local VHF Phones; increasingly more places get mobile coverage of varied capacity; in remote communication is not available or very limited so the only option would be a satellite phone.
What type of shoes or boots should I wear?
You need comfortable trekking shoes preferably with Gore-Tex style lining for ultimate comfort and thick vibratim soles to have comfortable walk on rocky paths. On snow routes you will also require crampons, climbing harness and on many climbs the iceaxe.
What problems can arise on altitude?
At high altitude your cardio-pulmonary system is affected by low oxygen density and you can suffer from general breathing difficulties to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) as well as your skin is susceptible to sunburn if not protected by cloths or sunblock. The AMS is preventable through appropriate trekking pace and undertaking acclimatization.
What type of insurance should I have? Where can I obtain the insurance?
You need to obtain travel insurance before you arrive to Kathmandu. Your insurance should cover rescue insurance and it should allow the expense of helicopter supported medevac. Nowadays such policies are readily available through many airfare booking agents. Try ihi.com if you cannot find your insurance.
What type of insurance should I have? Where can I obtain the insurance?
You will require a travel insurance, which will not exclude climbing and helicopter evacuation. You need obtain your insurance before you arrive to Kathmandu. Climbing insurance may be obtained through some climbing clubs and some insurers such as IHI.
What is the cost of Peak Climbing?
The cost depends on peak you wish to climb and the number of climbers in the group. The cost of the climb consists of trekking cost, transportation costs (airfare or surface transportation), equipment and staff requirements, climbing duration and permit costs. Please consult us.