From Kathmandu to the top of Island Peak: What happened on our 2015 Nepal expedition


island peak summit reach for nepal

Last month, The Hungry Buddha’s Lachhu Thapa travelled to Nepal to climb Island Peak, a 6189-metre mountain in the heart of the Himalayas. In this post, Lachhu recounts his journey from Kathmandu to Island Peak’s summit.

This trip was one that was so close to my heart, especially after the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015. I wanted to the trip to be a success, for everyone involved.

Being in Kathmandu, the breath of fresh Himalayan air is always a nice welcome. However, the start was a bit sour, as there was an unannounced trade blockade from the Indian side, already in place for several weeks.

There was a lot of politics involved. A trade blockade meant that no gas or petroleum products were coming in from India to Nepal, a landlocked country. It was so bad that Nepal’s national airline carrier was carrying loads of fuels to get the domestic flight circuit going.

After all the parties had arrived, and after a bit of last minute shopping for supplies, it was time for our last night’s rest in Kathmandu.

trekking nepal

The next morning we went to the airport to for an early morning flight to Lukla, home to Tenzing Hillary Airport at 2800m. Lukla is the gateway to Everest and other Himalayan mountains. It’s also one of the world’s most dangerous runways, but to me it didn’t feel like it because of excitement.

After breakfast at Lukla and meeting the rest of our crew, we were off on our expedition.

Along the way, we had a rest day in Namche Bazaar. The village is home to Everest View Hotel, a four-star paradise at 3800 metres often used by trekkers acclimatising to high altitude.

nepalese village

There were views of Everest and the region as we sat and sipped tea. We also visited Edmund Hillary School in Khumjung, which was established in 1963 and has a 100 per cent Year 10 pass rate – more than half the students receive distinction grades. We had a chat with some teachers, saw kids attending a lunch mass and also visited the museum located on the first floor of the school. This was some day.

rebuilding in nepal

Along the route, we saw plenty of devastation from the earthquake – some deserted houses, some being rebuilt and also some people still in temporary shelter. It was a mixed feeling. I was relieved to see people carrying on with lives but also affected by the amount of devastation far from the Gorkha/Sindhupalchowk epicentre.

prayer flags nepal

Despite the trade blockade and recent earthquake, we met plenty of tourists during our trek. We met a Slovenian guy on his ninth trip to Nepal, a German lady on her fifth visits and another fella, around for the 29th time. There is something about Nepal that brings people back. We were happy that visitors were around – after all, tourism is the backbone of Nepal’s rebuilding efforts.

himalayan peaks

After Renjo-la Pass at 5418 metres and Gokyo at 4800 metres, we finally arrived at Chukkung on our 12th day of trekking. This is where we met our climbing sherpas. We had a rest day before we climbed the 5350-metre Chukkung Ri, where we had a nice view of Mt Makalu (8481 metres), Ama Dablam (6812 metres) and Island Peak – our climbing peak the very next day at 6189 metres.

The next day at around 12 pm, we headed for Island Peak Base Camp – at 5100 metres.

lachhu island peak 2

At 1 am on 14 Nov, 2015 we started our ascent to Island Peak. At around 8:30 am, after seven long hours of climbing, all four of us summited the peak. It was mixed feeling. We were exhausted, but the thrill of having just climbed the first peak was surreal. Everyone was in good health, and proud of the achievement.

yoga pose island peak

Nepal is beautiful and inviting. It is absolutely safe to travel, and still offers something for any traveller. We have established the Reach for Nepal Foundation, to assist rebuilding efforts in Nepal after the earthquake. There are two school rebuilding trips one each in Feb and Mar 2016 organised to Nepal by the Buddha Odyssey. There are other trips planned for 2016, so check the website for more information.

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