This is a major mountain expedition but it is still fixed with static rope from Camp 1 to the Summit. This work usually falls on the shoulders of the climbing Sherpas of the larger teams. If you are planning on gong alone or with a small group it is mandatory that you plan on contributing rope, pitons or other climbing gear at base camp. You generosity and honesty will go a long way
All expeditions to Ama Dablam start from Kathmandu Nepal. You will need to book a flight there from your country of origin. There are a lot of daily flights to Kathmandu but i still recommend booking early as they fill up quickly during the main climbing seasons.
VISAS: Pretty much any country can get a visa on arrival from the airport in Kathmandu. Ask for a 90 day expedition visa, this will cost you 100usd. If you are planning on staying longer than this please be aware that Nepal only allows tourist visas for a maximum of 150 days per year. No exceptions. Dont over stay this time period, you will face a very serious fine and barring from Nepal for the following year.
A domestic flight to Lukla is also a major part of the trip. Be prepared for delays due to poor weather and operational problems.
Climbing on the South West Ridge of Ama Dablam
After arrival at Ama Dablam base camp, acclimatize for a couple of days while the guides and Sherpa team begin to fix the route and prepare camps on the SW Ridge. This will allow for optimal adjustment to the new altitudes and environment and permit the team to progress very slowly and safely. Now, the climb begins and everyone becomes really excited for the challenge ahead.
Use 2 camps above the 4600M base camp:
- Camp One – On snow, or rocks 5650M
- Camp Two- On snow and rocks, 6000M
After an appropriate resting period, venture towards camp one with no loads save for some water, food and camera for the days climb. The climb although relatively easy, will be a challenge for everyone on the team. Our Ama Dablam acclimatization has only just begun and will be feeling the effects of the thin air up to over 5600M.
The Sherpa team will carry all of the ropes, hardware, group sleeping and cooking equipment for the high camps the leaders and members will aim to spend at least two nights at camp one and one night at camp two. Pushing any higher at this point would only serve to weaken everyone and risk complications associated with extreme altitudes. Therefore, slowly descend all the way back to base camp or Pagboche for an extended period of rest. During which time, our Sherpa team will ensure the climbing route is in place and also prepare and stock all of the high camps for the summit push.
A NOTE ON CAMP 3 AND CAMP 2.9 ON AMA DABLAM
The choice to make a summit bid from camp 2 is not only a safer and healthier option but also serves to save the time and energy required to move the team up to another high camp. This methodology allows up another chance at the summit of conditions on the route do not permit us to top out on the first try. Regardless, an 856M summit day is hardly extreme for any Himalayan giant such as Ama Dablam.
Once a favourable weather window is predicted, the team will advance with the Sherpa team at a rate of one camp per day. If all goes well, we will be standing on the summit of Mt Ama Dablam three days after leaving base camp. If the weather and/or conditions on the mountain fail to co-operate, we will have ample opportunity to make another bid for the summit.
Base camp to Camp 1
frThe climbing from base camp 4600M to Camp 1 5650M is essentially the only slogging portion of this whole route. Once you leave base camp follow the path up the grassy ridge over undulating terrain until you reach the rarely used advanced base camp, aka Yak Camp. 5100M or so. From here you need to look out for rock carins marking the entrance to the infamous boulder field. STAY AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE HERE.
Stay on the path and stay high. Try not to be tempted to drop down to easier ground as you will just have to make it up later. This is easy rock scrambling that presents little difficulty to a compotent climber. That said, it is awkward and annoying. Be on your toes for shifting blocks and slippery slabs. Trend left and high until you see the traversing path to the bottom of the slabs.
The slabs are located right below camp one and are the beginning of the fixed lines. Most people do not need to rope up for the slabs but if you have any doubts, do it! No one will care and safety is the top priority here. The slabs are typical 4.11 climbing. (joke). Fatigue is the main challenge here, if you are tired, rope up and jug up the lines into camp one. It is about 2 rope lengths in total. easy and fun. Be safe, wear your helmet and enjoy!
Camp 1 to Camp 2
This is some of the best climbing on the route. On a good day you will have the time of your life and love every second of it. Try to leave camp one early if there are crowds and very early if you plan on just tagging. You should be able to do this in approach shoes and carry your big boots. There is little or no snow here and the track will be well defined, follow the ropes.
The first hour is mainly traversing granite blocks. Trending slowly upward and onward, enjoy the views and love the exposure. There are a couple of spicy spots before the Yellow Tower but just stay stoked and you will be fine. The whole route up to the bottom of the Yellow Tower is barely 5th class, aka 4.11. Just fun and exposed.
The traverse to the bottom of the Yellow Tower is pretty unnerving. Keep you tension on the ropes and dont climb up too high. Stay low until the rise to the bottom of the tower.
The Yellow Tower is the technical crux of the route. free climbing it is an easy 5.8 but at nearly 6000M with a pack and no climbing shoes, it is a different story from your home crag's tourist routes. Try not to use your jumar too much here folks. The holds are there and take you time, breathe a lot and you will be fine. The Yellow Tower is about one pitch with mega exposure. Dont look down. After you top out this pitch it is a relatively straight forward move up to camp 2, 6000M.
Camp 2 to Camp 3
The top of the Grey Tower, just outside of camp 2 on Ama Dablam
This is the spice of the route. Right out of the gate you do an airy traverse to the bottom of the Grey Tower, a blocky granite mixed climb of about 1.5 pitches. Dont climb up if there are people above you. It is loose, very loose. The exposure is amazing. The tower used to be pretty icy but now days it is dry as dust. Stay close to your climbing partners and keep in close contact. I recommend waiting it out if there are any large parties above you. The Grey Tower is about 75 degrees and blocky. Super fun but also super dangerous if people are kicking things down on you. Watch out.
After the Grey Tower, an amazing airy traverse leads to the Mushroom Ridge. Walking a tight rope at 6200M. Stunning. Amazing. surreal. Camp 3 is really dangerous so dont sleep there. Go to the summit from Camp 2. Ignore anyone who says it is safe. You will use a lot more energy advancing your camp than you would adding an additional 4ish hours to your summit day.
Camp 3 to Summit
3-6 hours to the summit
Climbers entering camp 3 on Ama Dablam in the early morning light. cr Ganesh Adventures 2012
This is full on alpine ice and snow climbing. Although it is not recommended to stay in camp 3, many teams choose to do so. In my opinion, the effort and potential danger required to cary equipment and sleep at camp three far outweighs any positive outcomes. The climb above 6400M, camp 3 is a mixture of ice and snow depending on the season and conditions. It does get very cold and it is recommended to try to reach camp three at about 0530-0600 in the morning. This way, you will benefit from the warmth of the sun. It is very east to freeze fingers and toes so be sure to keep wiggling those toes and fingers and turn back if you lose feeling. Depending on your speed, you will reach the summit after about 4 hours of climbing. There are no false summits on this route and you top out right onto the summit. Amazing.
It is highly recommended to descend as far as possioble after summiting any high altitude mountain. A strong climber should be able to get all the way back to base camp after summiting from camp 2. Usually though, people return to camp two or three and sleep for the night before descending early the next morning. It is very important to stay alert and swithced on during the descent as any false more with the ropes will result in certain death. The exporure on this ridge in incredible and there is zero room for error.
This is why it is highly recommended to go with an expedition provider who offers detailed and structured training on the use of the fixed ropes specifically on Ama Dablam. As you can see from the photos, this is no snow slog for beginners. This is a serious route with objective dangers and a lot of ways to ruin your day. Dont let this scare you though, it is the best route out there! Enjoy and play safe.