From his tent at Ama Dablam base camp, guide Sid Pattison checks in with this recap of the climb of Ama Dablam:
The climb to camp 1 was a big day for everyone. But the views of our intended route made it all worth it. After about 1220 m (4000 ft) of elevation gain, we were happy to see our tents. But Ama kept pulling us out. Situated at the toe of the SW ridge, camp 1 let us see just about every step we will take to the summit: the yellow tower on the way to camp 2, the gray tower just out of camp 2 and of course the intimidating Dablam with the steep fluted snow slopes leading to the summit.
Yesterday we woke up to beautiful skies, very little wind and the move to camp 2 ahead of us. While only a 2-3 hour day, the terrain we were to move over has little in common with the pastoral hiking we had done the day before. Right out of camp we put our harnesses on and clipped in for the move. Most of the terrain was steep, very exposed and held our attention.
The highlight of the day was the yellow tower, while only clocking in at around 5.8, with a full pack, approach shoes and at roughly 20,000ft, to say it was strenuous would be an understatement. Needless to say, we all made it up and moved into camp 2. I gotta say, camp 2 is one of the coolest places on earth! All of our tents are set on unlikely stone platforms just below the beginning of the vertical climbing. With a vivid view of what’s to come, hours are spent admiring the climbing route. We spent our day here napping, eating, prepping gear and generally wrapping our minds around the climb that would begin that night…
1 am never seems like a sensible time to wake up. But when the day holds climbing one of the worlds most iconic mountains, you deal appropriately. In our case, it was wondering if the winds whipping at our tents were too much to climb in. After a few brief comments thrown from tent to tent, we decided the growl was worse than the bite.
We suited up and were off by 2:15. The night was perfect, with only two parties climbing from camp 2 there was no pressure, we could enjoy the climbing without worrying about other people. We climbed up through the vertical mixed ice and rock terrain of the gray tower, over the ridge that connects to camp 3 before the sun rose. As we stood, staring up at the Dablam and the face that rises above it we knew we would make it! Though much bigger than it appears, the mental boost was enough.
We crunched up the frozen snow, lost in our thoughts for several hours. As the valley villages below us started to show I mentally picked them out, Pengboche, Dingboche, Phortse, Phereche, also picking out the paths I had walked looking up at this beautiful mountain. At around 8:30 we stood on top. We hugged, high fived and knew we had a long road back.
Back to Base Camp
The descent is as much fun as the climb, with lots of rappels one was never bored. We arrived back at camp 2 and packed our things. We planned to be back at base camp for dinner. Reversing the exposed, technical terrain to camp 1, we put out climbing kits away and endured the 3-hour hike back to base camp where a fantastic meal awaited us. And now I’m in my tent writing this. Good night and dream of climbing Ama Dablam.
We just received a satellite phone call from the team. They are standing on the summit of Ama Dablam (6812 m / 22,349 ft)!! After they safely descend, we will share the climb recap and some photos.
Fun facts: Ama Dablam is the third most popular Himalayan peak for permitted expeditions, first climbed in March of 1961 via the Southwest Ridge (same as our team uses) by an international team which included Barry Bishop of the USA.
The team is here at Ama Dablam base camp. We all rendezvoused after parting ways following the Nupla Khang climb. We met up yesterday in Pangboche and spent the afternoon resorting gear and getting ready for Ama Dablam. The team is in great spirits and really psyched to climb! We arrived at BC around 4:00 PM greeted by huge views of our anticipated route and a super comfy camp.
Tomorrow we will take a rest day to train a bit and pack for our climb. The following day, the 9th, we will head up to Camp 1. We plan to spend one night at Camp 1 and one night at Camp 2 before pushing for the summit on the 11th. Hopefully, the weather cooperates with our plans.
We’ve made it to Gokyo (4750 m/15,580 ft), the last village before before base camp. After leaving Khumjung, we trekked up the Gokyo Valley. This area, including the village of Machermo, is remarkably beautiful with stunning views.
Today our team went on an acclimatization hike up nearby Gokyo Ri, at 5357 m (17,575 ft). We had amazing views all around of Mount Everest, Mount Lhotse, Makalu, and could see our objective the unclimbed Nup la Khang! This afternoon we will head to base camp. There we will spend a few days acclimatizing and training to prepare for our attempt of Nup la Khang.
Our Island peak team will head off today from Gokyo towards Dzongla and will spend several days making their way to Island Peak (Imja Tse). So we are saying our goodbyes to our fellow trekkers/climbers. We look forward to reuniting with them after the climbing period.
The weather has been stellar the past week for us as we’ve trekked up from Lukla towards these high Himalayan peaks. We hope it will continue. But there looks to be some high wind in the forecast. Fingers crossed for calm winds and clear skies!
Our unclimbed peak expedition team is now in base camp, preparing to make a recon up to the peak to scout the potential climbing route. Our peak, Tharke Khang, looks to have a ridge line beginning from the west that appears climbable, with steep snow and ice slopes. Our base camp is comfortable with a heated dining tent and great food!
We made our from Machermo up the valley to the village of Gokyo, situated next to a beautiful aqua marine lake. After lunch a few of us hiked up nearby Gokyo Ri, at just over 17,500’. We glimpsed our unclimbed peak in the distance, still a long way off…with major challenges between us and the start of the route, about 10 miles of glacier moraine and glacier/ icefall. This will not be an easy walk to say the least…accessing the base of the route is one thing, climbing the technical ridge is another.
Exploration in essence is venturing into the unknown… and that is exactly where we are headed.
Our team is good, everyone is acclimatizing well. The weather has been favorable and we hope this trend continues. We look forward to reaching our base camp the next day or two.
Tham Serku peak
Trekking through the high country towards base camp
First view of the unclimbed peak, Tharke Khang
At the top of Gokyo Ri today, 17,500′
The village of Gokyo, at 15,600′ high in the Himalayas where we are staying
At one of the Gokyo lakes today
Our head Sherpa, Aang Phurba
Stairway to heaven
Old chorton (in Sherpa language) means stupa
The Madison Mountaineering team has trekked to the village of Namche Bazaar! Yesterday we arrived into the village after a challenging 4,000 vertical foot hike from Phadking. This remote village is located within the Khumbu area at 3,440 metres (11,286 ft) and is nestled quietly in the hills. The crew rested, drank tea and chatted it up with other trekkers and climbers in the Panorama Hotel. The trek was as beautiful as a hike could possibly be, through mountain villages, past small tea houses along the river and across high suspension bridges. This morning we took an acclimatization hike up to the Everest View Hotel and were rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of Mt. Everest, Ama Dablam and many other giants, reminding us of the wild country ahead of us. We will now rest up and continue to acclimatize our bodies as we push further into the mountains tomorrow. Enjoying the scrumptious food here in Namche Bazaar before we are back on the trails. Garrett and Sid are some of the best chefs on the mountain, so the team will be well taken care of!
Check out this article written by Outside if you have not already!
Ama Dablam presents a significant climbing challenge with sustained technical sections of snow, ice, and rock at relative high altitude with significant exposure. Trekking through the beautiful Khumbu valley and interacting with the local Sherpa culture combine with this challenging climb to create a truly remarkable experience!
Note from Garrett Madison, Lead Guide:
I first attempted Ama Dablam in 2003 with a few of my mountain guide friends after a Cho Oyu expedition, my first season in the Himalayas. We did not reach the summit due to complications on the route. I returned in 2012, as a seasoned Himalayan guide and Expedition Leader with 3 climbers, and had an excellent climb, reaching the summit with all climbers on November 7th. It was one of the most enjoyable climbs of my career. I returned to Ama Dablam in the autumn of 2014 with a few climbers and again had a fantastic climb.
Ama Dablam, or “mother’s necklace” is an iconic peak located in the Khumbu Valley of Nepal, and was first climbed in 1961. At 22,493’, ’Ama’ is a challenging climb because of the steep faces of snow, ice, and rock that one must negotiate during the ascent of the Southwest ridge. Climbers must have experience with fixed ropes, and be comfortable climbing along very exposed ridgelines. The view from the summit is spectacular, as one can see Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, and Sishapangma.
We begin our expedition by trekking from Lukla along the Dudh Kosi river through the Sherpa villages of Monjo, Namche, Debuche, then Pangbochce. From here we leave the valley and climb up to our base camp.
We have the finest base camp on the mountain. Because our camp is built on a large grassy plain, we are able to bring a large dining and communications tent, as well as personal tents that you can stand up in with a very plush mattresses for sleeping. Fresh food is brought up daily from the valley so our base camp meals are truly delicious! We have a state of the art communications system that allows us to receive regular weather forecasts, make phone calls, and check in via the internet, as well as coordinating with our climbers and Sherpas on the mountain. The views from base camp are stunning, and often we take breakfast outside in the sunshine to start the day.
Our high camps are reserved by our Sherpa team in advance of the season, as space in these camps is very limited. By reserving these camps and stocking them with provisions such as food and cooking equipment, we are fortunate in that we only have to carry our personal items with us during our acclimatization rotations and our ascent. Our Sherpa team will arrive in base camp several weeks ahead of us and begin setting the route. This is a huge advantage for us as setting the route on Ama can take weeks. By the time we arrive the route should be ready for climbing.
We regularly organize custom programs for private groups. We are happy to accommodate your program dates, as well as other specific requests related to the itinerary, amenities, and group size. Please contact us if you would like to know more about custom programs.
Day 1: Depart USA (Oct 18th)
Day 2: In transit
Day 3: Arrive KTM (Oct 20th) Check all gear, review program itinerary
Day 4: Fly to Lukla and trek to Monjo
Day 5: Trek to Namche
Day 6: Rest in Namche, acclimatization hike to Everest View Hotel for tea
Day 7: Trek to Debuche
Day 8: Trek to Pangboche, visit Lama Geshe for blessing
Day 9: Trek to Ama Dablam base camp (15,000’)
Day 10: Climb to Yak Camp (17,000), return to base camp
Day 11: Rest in base camp, review fixed line climbing techniques
Day 12: Move to Camp 1 (18,500)
Day 13: Climb to Camp 2 (19,600’), sleep in Camp 1
Day 14: Descend to base camp
Day 15: Rest in base camp
Day 16: Move to Camp 1
Day 17: Move to Camp 2
Day 18: Move to Camp 2.7 (20,550’)
Day 19: Summit day and return to Camp 1 or base camp.
Day 20: Rest in base camp
Day 21: Trek to Namche
Day 22: Trek Namche to Lukla
Day 23: Fly Lukla to Kathmandu
Days 24-28: Contingency days for bad weather, etc.
Day 24: Fly KTM
Day 25: Arrive country of origin (November 16)
October 20-November 18
Ama Dablam Climb: $16,500
Balance due 90 days prior to departure
• Airport pick up
• Welcome dinner in Kathmandu
• American mountain mountain guide, support staff, porters, cooks, climbing Sherpas
• Accommodations in Kathmandu (1 night) before the expedition, and (1 night) after the expedition.
• High quality lodges will be provided during the trek, and tents will be provided during the climb.
• We provide all meals during the trek and climb. We bring high quality food from the US and source local organic food from Nepal for this expedition (think real maple syrup and bacon!). We are happy to accommodate your dietary needs!
• All ground transportation in Kathmandu.
• All regular scheduled air transportation in Nepal. This includes round-trip air flights from Kathmandu to Lukla.
• All group gear such as tents, stoves and pots/pans, fuel, ropes, snow, ice & rock protection, VHF radios (we have a base station in our base camp and climbers carry hand held VHF radios), oxygen and other medical items if necessary.
• Climbing permits, garbage deposit and removal fee, liaison officer.
• Use of our satellite phone, and satellite modem for internet access.
Costs Do Not Include:
• Wire Transfer Fee
• Airfare to Nepal
• Food or Dining in Kathmandu and hotel expenses before the program begins, and after the climber has departed from the Khumbu Valley.
• Personal items (see equipment list)
• A Medical & Evacuation insurance policy is required to for this expedition. Taking a helicopter from the mountain this is very expensive. Travelex is recommended for this and for trip cancellation insurance.
• Medical Release signed by your doctor.
• Any costs that are beyond the control of Madison Mountaineering.
Cancellation and Refund Guidelines:
The upfront costs to operate this program involving the local outfitters, government, permits, etc., necessitate a strict refund policy.
Each deposit includes a $250.00 non refundable registration fee.
A full refund, minus the registration fee, will be provided 90 days prior to the program start date.
50% refunds will be provided 60-90 days prior to program start date.
No refunds will be provided 59 days prior to program start date.
All refund requests must be submitted in writing and received by our office within the 60-90 day period.
All balances are due 90 days prior to departure date.
Trip Cancelation Insurance
We strongly recommend trip cancellation insurance. Oftentimes, this is the only way to receive a refund if you have to cancel or depart early from the program, and may allow you reimbursement if you are not within the parameters for a refund from Madison Mountaineering.
• Ice Axe: A short ice axe no longer than 60 cm.
• Crampons: General mountaineering crampons
• Trekking Poles: Adjustable poles for the trek to base camp
• Climbing harness: An alpine climbing harness
• Carabineers: 4 locking and 2 non locking
• Belay / Rappel device: For rappelling or belaying climbers
• Helmet: Must fit over a thick hat
• Ascender: One right or left hand ascender (Petzl is best)
• Prussik Cord: 20’ or 7 meters of 6mm cord.
• Light hiking boots or trekking shoes: For the trek to base camp, these can be worn at base camp and as high as camp 2 depending on route conditions.
• Mountaineering Boots: A boot with a built in gaiter such as the La Sportiva Olympus Mons, Millet Everest, Scarpa 8000, etc.
• Socks: Minimum 3 pair thick mountaineering socks and 3 pair liner socks
• Short Underwear: 2-3 pair of synthetic short underwear
• Long Underwear: 2-3 pair lightweight long underwear pants and shirts. 1 pair of heavy expedition weight long underwear.
• Soft Shell Jacket: A hooded jacket
• Soft Shell pants: For trekking and climbing
• Insulated Jacket: PrimaLoft or Down
• Expedition Down Parka: A hooded down jacket with 800 minimum down fill.
• Insulated Pants: PrimaLoft or Down, these should have full side zippers.
• Hard Shell Jacket: To be worn in wet conditions
• Hard Shell Pants: To be worn in wet conditions, these pants should have full side zippers.
• Headlamp: Bring extra batteries
• Warm Hat: A warm fleece or wool hat.
• Balaclava: to cover your face and neck on windy days.
• Sun hat: A baseball style sun camp.
• Buff: 1-3 of these to wear around your neck & face to block the wind, UV rays, dust.
• Glacier Glasses: wrap around style sunglasses with dark lenses
• Goggles: With dark lenses.
• Soft Shell Gloves: 1 pair
• Shell gloves with insulated liner: 1 pair
• Shell mittens with insulated liner: 1 pair
• Expedition Backpack: A 65 liter internal frame back pack.
• Trekking Backpack: Optional. A small pack for the trek in.
• Sleeping Bag: Rated to at least -20 °F. Down is preferable over synthetic.
• Compression stuff sacks: for reducing volume for your sleeping bag and down jacket.
• Self Inflating pad: A full length air mattress
• Closed Cell foam pad: Full length is best
• Headlamp: Bring a spare set of batteries
• Cup: 16oz. minimum
• Bowl: ½ liter minimum capacity
• Spoon: Plastic (lexan)
• Sunscreen: 2 tubes, SPF 40 or stronger
• Lipscreen: 2 sticks, SPF 30 or stronger
• Thermos: 1 liter capacity
• Water bottles: 2 bottles with 1 liter capacity each
• Water Purification System: Tablets or Steripen
• Water Bottle Parkas: To keep your water from freezing
• Pee Bottle: 1 liter capacity minimum
• Pee Funnel: For Women
• Knife: Optional
• Toiletry Bag: Toothpaste, Toothbrush, baby wipes, etc.
• Hand Sanitizer: 2 small bottles
• Hand warmers / Toe warmers: 3 sets of each
• Trash Compactor bags (4): To line stuff sacks and separate gear
• Camera: lightweight with extra batteries
• Travel Clothes: For days in Kathmandu.
• Large Duffel Bag with lock: for transporting all personal gear to base camp.
• Small duffel bag: to store items in the hotel
• Small Personal First Aid Kit: Athletic tape, band aids, Ibuprofen, Moleskin, blister care products, personal medications, cough drops.
‣ Acetazolamide (Diamox) for altitude illness
‣ Antibiotics such as Ciprofloxin or Azithromycin for gastro intestinal or respiratory illness
‣ Ibuprofen for muscle soreness
‣ Pepto Bismol for loose stool
‣ Excedrin for headaches
‣ Anti-nausea medications.
• Climbing Snacks:
‣ Electrolyte Replacement Drink Mix: Bring a supply for 12 days such as Nuun.
‣ Energy Gel: Single serving gel packs such as GU, Clifshot, Powergel, etc.)
‣ Energy Bars: Power bar, Cliff bar, etc.