Island Peak Nepal: Reach 6000m In The Shadow of Everest

By Jan Bakker

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Island Peak Nepal: Reach 6000m In The Shadow of Everest
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Ready to tackle your first 6000-er? If the answer is yes, Island Peak should be on the top of your list. At 6189m, it is the perfect climbing objective for trekkers with high altitude ambitions. Not only is the mountain relatively straightforward, it is also located in one of the most stunning mountain sceneries on the planet.

I’m Jan and at Bookatrekking.com I help people planning their high altitude adventures in Nepal. I have had the privilege to climb a number of high mountains myself, such as Stok Kangri (6150m) in the Indian Himalayas and Pik Korzhenevskaya (7105m) in Pamir Mountains. Curious what the views from the summit are like? Come join us on the Everest Base Camp and Island Peak trek!

Island Peak: How to Scale Your First High-Altitude Mountain

Island Peak, also known by its local name Imja Tse, was first climbed by the Swiss mountaineer Hans-Rudolf von Gunten in 1956. He used the climb as an acclimatization trip for the third ascent of Mount Everest. It was named Island Peak as from the nearby village of Dingboche it appeared as an island in a sea of ice. The Nepali authorities renamed it to Imja Tse in 1983, but the name Island Peak is still its popular name. Standing tall at 6189 meters, the mountain is effectively part of a massive ridgeline coming down from Lhotse and is only a few kilometers from the Nepal-Tibet border.

Island Peak Base Camp sits roughly 16 kilometers east from the classic Everest Base Camp route at an altitude of 5200 meters, next to Island’s Peak glacial lake Imja Thso. Although there is a high camp at 5500 meters, most teams will head straight to the Island Peak summit from BC, especially those who have acclimatized on a trek to EBC. Due to glacial recession, the route to the summit involves crossing a couple of wide crevasses on fixed metal ladders. The toughest part of the climb is the final wall to reach the summit ridge. It involves using a jumar on a fixed line to pull yourself up, while kicking steps in the hardened snow. On descent, you abseil from this same rope. To increase the chances of reaching the summit, we built in an extra buffer day on our Everest Base Camp with Island Peak.

Climbing a mountain above 6000 meters is never easy. It takes determination, grit and lots of preparation to reach these extreme altitudes. Reaching the summit of a six-thousander feels like an incredible achievement, having pushed the very limits of your body. The views are worth it!

Island Peak: How to Scale Your First High-Altitude Mountain

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What Makes Island Peak a Trekking Peak?

The term Trekking Peak is somewhat misleading. It is a reference from the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) and it refers to altitude limitations rather than technical difficulty. Generally speaking, a mountain below 6600 meters is a trekking peak. The NMA published a list of 27 of those peaks, varying in difficulty and altitude. The Island Peak height is 6189 meters and is on the trekking peak list. You need to obtain a special permit to climb it. Other well-known trekking peaks are Mera Peak, Cholatse and Chulu West. Despite the word trekking suggesting it’s only a hike up, you need mountaineering equipment to climb up most of these mountains. In the next chapter we’ll delve a little deeper into the difficulty of climbing Island Peak.

What Makes Island Peak a Trekking Peak?

How Can I Combine Island Peak Climbing With A Trek?

The best way to acclimatize for an Island Peak ascent is to combine it with a trek in the Everest region. A trek to Everest Base Camp Trek is the perfect preparation for an Island Peak ascent. This allows for proper acclimatization while you can spend more time in the Everest region. A typical trek begins after a short flight to Lukla. The trails will take you to Phakding and on to the capital of the Khumbu Namche Bazaar. Here we will spend two nights for acclimatization to limit the risks of altitude sickness. The trekking continues from Tengboche to Pheriche and to Lobuche. These Sherpa villages are rich in culture with chortens, mani walls, museums and fantastic views of the Himalayas.

Before heading to Island Peak you will trek to Everest Base Camp and climb to Kalapathar. Kalapathar is popular with hikers as you can enjoy a sunrise or sunset with views of Mount Everest. Finally we hike to the Island Peak BC and climb the summit on day 12. The hard work is rewarded by a 360 degree panoramic view of mountains like Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Makalu. From there we descend all the way back to Lukla where our climbing adventure ends.

Am I Able to Climb Island Peak?

Climbing a mountain over 6000 meters can be a daunting idea. Apart from the extreme altitude, you may see pictures of Island Peak expeditions with fully equipped mountaineers, jumarring their way up on a steep, snow-covered slope. These 3 points will debunk your perception that Island Peak is only for “real” mountaineers:

1. You are guided by very experienced Sherpa guides, who climbed Island Peak dozens of times with novice mountaineers. They know exactly what to do and how to coach you.

2. The guides will teach you the ropes (pun intended). How you walk on crampons, how you use a jumar to haul yourself up a fixed rope and how to self-arrest a fall with an ice axe.

3. The angle of a slope can be deceiving on pictures and film. It’s not a vertical wall you’re going up, but the steepest part is briefly around 60 degrees.

All this said, it is by no means easy. The climb is at a very high altitude, higher than any mountain in Europe, Africa, Oceania and Antarctica. It is physically and mentally demanding to climb, especially with equipment you may not have used before. In some sections, there are ladders across crevasses. You’ll be attached to a fixed line, but this is not a place for people with vertigo. Also you start the climb in the middle of the night. Being that high, remote in the dark can feel quite intimidating. Can you do it? If you are very fit, determined and you have an adventurous spirit we think you are able to make it to the Island Peak summit.

Am I Able to Climb Island Peak?

When Is The Climbing Season For Island Peak Nepal?

The Everest region shares its trekking season with many other mountainous areas in Nepal that are vulnerable to monsoon rains. In the pre-monsoon period, during the Northern Hemisphere Spring, climbing conditions are favorable. The weather is not as chilly as winter, and precipitation is low. It is the prime season for climbing peaks like Island Peak, particularly in April and the first half of May. In June the monsoon starts and there is no climbing until late September. The autumn season resembles spring in many ways, with one notable difference – the air is clearer due to the monsoon rains. The climbing window closes at the end of November, when temperatures start to drop well below freezing level. We don’t offer Island Peak climbing between early December and early March.

A 16-day Island Peak and Everest Base Camp Itinerary

As the Island Peak elevation is over 6000 meters, our trek includes a thorough acclimatization trek to Everest Base Camp. This increases you chances to reach the top. This is our itinerary for the Everest Base Camp with Island Peak trek.
Day
1

Fly to Lukla , trek to Phakding

Duration: 02:30 h
Distance: 7.3 km / 4.5 mi
Ascent: 160 m / 525 ft
Descent: 370 m / 1214 ft
We’ll board a flight to Lukla (2810m). You will be able to enjoy the beauty of splendid hills, rivers and mountains during the 30 minute flight. On reaching Lukla airport, you’ll be introduced to your porter, and served a wholesome breakfast. After that, we will head north to Phakding (2620m). It is an easy 3 hour hike through the Dudhkoshi valley. We will head north from the airstrip to Chheplung (2700m) and cross the crystal clear Thadokoshi on a locally built suspension bridge. Past the bridge, you can witness KusamKanggru (6367m), which is one of the toughest mountains to conquer. Away from the ThadoKoshi, the trail continues towards the Ghat (2590m) and we will cross a ridge marked with painted Mani stones. We will reach the beautiful tribal village of Phakding where you will stay overnight.

Phakding

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Phakding
Day
2

Trek to Namche Bazaar

Duration: 04:30 h
Distance: 10.5 km / 6.5 mi
Ascent: 910 m / 2986 ft
Descent: 150 m / 492 ft
Heading for the Namche Bazaar, we cross through the hamlet of Zamphute and Tok Tok to see dazzling Thamserku glistening in the sun that stays all the way with us in most of our trek. Passing through the scenic Sherpa villages of Benkar, Chumoa and Monjo, we reach Utche Choling Gompa on a bluff abutting the Dudhkoshi river and further we make our way between the bluff to the entrance of Sagarmatha National Park, a UNESCO declared world heritage site. Completing halfway to Namche Bazaar, we head for the second half of the march that would likely to take more time due to steep climb at the end. Crossing through the last village of Jorsale, a steep stepped path leads us to an amazing high bridge over the Dudhkoshi River gorge and just before this bridge, the Dudhkoshi is met by its tributary, the BhoteKoshi.

Namche Bazaar

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Namche Bazaar
Day
3

Acclimatize at Namche Bazaar

We have an acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar. To help our body better adapt to the high altitude, we can take short walks or climb few hundred feet during the day to have a look in the villages, houses, terraced fields and snowy mountains of Kwangde, Khumbu peak, Thamserku, Kusum Kanguru and the village’s big weekly event, the Saturday market to have fun mingling with the crowds and watching men and women in traditional attire.

Namche Bazaar

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Namche Bazaar
Day
4

Trek to Tengboche

Duration: 05:30 h
Distance: 9.5 km / 5.9 mi
Ascent: 780 m / 2559 ft
Descent: 350 m / 1148 ft
Our route for today to Tengboche weaves in and out of side valleys, making small ups and downs, to the picturesque tea shops of Kenjoma, and joins the trail from Khumjung just before a collection of Mani stones. The views of Everest and Ama Dablam are excellent from this part of the trek. We pass the small settlement of Sanasa from where the trail drops towards Phunkithanga (3250m). From here the trail climbs steeply through pine forests and around Mani stones as it follows the side of a hill to the saddle on which the monastery of Tengboche sits at 3870m. The view from here is rightly deemed to be one of the world’s most magnificent sceneries. Kwangde (6187m), Tawachee (6542m), Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse (8501m), Amadablam, Kantega and Thamserku provide an inspiring panorama as the Himalayan giants. We will spend the night in Tengboche.

Tengboche

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Tengboche
Day
5

Trek to Pheriche

Duration: 05:40 h
Distance: 11 km / 6.8 mi
Ascent: 630 m / 2067 ft
Descent: 170 m / 558 ft
An easy descent through rhododendron forest and across a bridge over Imja Khola to Pangboche. The route will continue to Pheriche, for a 3-4 hour trek in total. There is a rudimentary hospital run by Himalayan Rescue Association in Pheriche. It only opens in peak seasons (March-May and November-December). We will spend the night in Pheriche.

Pheriche

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Pheriche
Day
6

Day trip to Nagarjun (5000m) and back to Pheriche

A 800m climb will take us to Nagarjun peak at 5000m altitude. You will enjoy some good views of the mountains including Mt. Makalu 5th highest mountain in the world. This hike usually helps with acclimatization. There are chances to see snow leopard on this 3-4 hour hike. Once you arrive there, you will admire the view from the top and descend down to Pheriche.

Pheriche

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Pheriche
Day
7

Trek to Lobuche

Duration: 04:20 h
Distance: 7.8 km / 4.8 mi
Ascent: 620 m / 2034 ft
Descent: 20 m / 66 ft
The gradual climb to Lobuche will be pleasant as we will get closer and closer to the snow clad giants. After a 45-60min hike, we will reach Thukla. There, we will make a stop for food and continue up to a flat area where several memorials dedicated to the climbers who died on Everest are erected. Then, we will climb out of the valley and descend to the yak pastures at Lobuche.

Lobuche

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Lobuche
Day
8

Trek to Gorak Shep (5180m) – Everest Base Camp (5364m) – Ghorak Shep

Duration: 06:40 h
Distance: 12 km / 7.5 mi
Ascent: 390 m / 1280 ft
Descent: 150 m / 492 ft
This challenging trek day will take around 6-8 hours. From this point onwards you will probably feel the altitude more than before. We therefore will have have to be extra careful. The trekking distance will be around 15km. After a filling breakfast, we will head to Everest Base Camp, trekking through the rocky terrain alongside the Khumbu Glacier. Upon reaching EBC, you will have some time to enjoy the heavenly environment and take photographs. If you are trekking somewhere between March and May, you might get the chance to see all the commercial expeditions trying to reach the summit. After lunch, we will trek downhill to Gorak Shep, and spend the night at a local guest house there.

Gorak Shep

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Gorak Shep
Day
9

Climb Kalapathar (5400m) | Trek Down to Dingboche

Duration: 09:00 h
Distance: 17 km / 10.6 mi
Ascent: 440 m / 1444 ft
Descent: 1330 m / 4364 ft
You will notice when up in the Base Camp that the Everest is not completely visible. From Gorak Shep, we will walk down, up and up again to Kalapathar. We will climb up to Kalapather either sunrise or sunset time. It will take 1.5 to 2 hours. You will have the best view of Mount Everest, Nuptse and Changtse with a little of Lhotse from here. Then we will return to Gorak Shep for food and descend to Dingboche.

Dingboche

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Dingboche
Day
10

Trek to Chukhung

Duration: 02:00 h
Distance: 4.2 km / 2.6 mi
Ascent: 400 m / 1312 ft
From Dingboche to Chukhung, the trek will be about 2 hour long and easy. Chukhung is a beautiful valley nestled between mountains like Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam, Island Peak etc. You will appreciate a really good and close view of these mountains and their glaciers. The river Imja Khola runs past the Chukhung village where we will be lodging.

Chukung

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Chukung
Day
11

Trek to Island Peak Base Camp

Duration: 02:30 h
Distance: 6.1 km / 3.8 mi
Ascent: 350 m / 1148 ft
Descent: 20 m / 66 ft
After breakfast, we will trek towards south, turn east and enter the main valley. We will walk along the stream and pass Imja and the Lhotse glacier moraine before reaching the valley where we will camp in tents. From the camp you will see the southwestern face of the Imja Tse (Island Peak).

Island Peak Base Camp

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Island Peak Base Camp
Day
12

Climb Island Peak | Return to Chukung

Duration: 08:15 h
Distance: 13.4 km / 8.3 mi
Ascent: 960 m / 3150 ft
Descent: 1310 m / 4298 ft
We will walk toward the summit aroung 01:00 to 02:00am. It will take about 2 hours to reach the High camp, then we will climb the rock gully. We will follow a ridge-line to the summit glacier and climb up a steep snow slope to reach the summit. There, you will get an excellent view of the mountains. After spending some time htere, we will go back to high camp and base camp and all the way back to Chukhung.

Chukung

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Chukung
Day
13

Trek back to Tengboche

Duration: 07:00 h
Distance: 17 km / 10.6 mi
Ascent: 240 m / 787 ft
Descent: 1120 m / 3675 ft
From Chukhung, we will walk down towards Pangboche and take the same trail we took up to descend and then climb up again to reach Tengbochhe. After this 4-5 hour trek, we will spend the night in Tengboche.

Tengboche

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Tengboche
Day
14

Trek to Namche Bazaar

Duration: 05:00 h
Distance: 9.5 km / 5.9 mi
Ascent: 350 m / 1148 ft
Descent: 780 m / 2559 ft
From Tengboche we move towards Phunki Tenga and now descend to Sanasa and Kyangjuma and then finally to Namche Bazaar.

Namche Bazaar

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Namche Bazaar
Day
15

Trek to Lukla

Duration: 07:00 h
Distance: 18 km / 11.2 mi
Ascent: 530 m / 1739 ft
Descent: 1080 m / 3543 ft
Finally we return to Lukla following the Dudhkoshi River, where the trek ends. We will spend the night in Lukla.

Lukla

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Lukla
Day
16

Lukla

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Lukla
Day
17

Fly back Kathmandu

Early morning air trip from Lukla to Kathmandu. Don’t forget to pick a seat on the right side, to see the spectacular mountain views again. On reaching Kathmandu, it will be time to say goodbye! May you enjoy the rest of your journey here in Nepal.
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Island Peak Trek Map

Our Island Peak climb includes a trek to Everest Base Camp. See the map below for the full trekking route.

What Permits Do I Need For Climbing Island Peak?

For trekking to Everest Base Camp and climbing Island Peak, you need the following permits:

TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System)

This permit is important for every trekker wishing to trek in Nepal. From the Annapurna Circuit the trek to Poon Hill, all trekking routes require this permit. This costs NRS 2000 per person. This equals about 17 USD or 15 EUR. Alternatively, your trekking company arranges you a location permit in Lukla which costs around 20 USD.

Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit

For entering the Sagarmatha National Park, the park that is home to the Mount Everest Region, you need to obtain an entry permit. This permit costs 30 USD + government tax.

Island Peak Climbing Permit

In addition to all the above mentioned permits, your trekking company also takes care of your Island Peak climbing permit. Without a valid permit you are not allowed to climb Island Peak.

What Permits Do I Need For Climbing Island Peak?

Training for Climbing Island Peak

Training for high-altitude mountaineering involves a combination of cardiovascular fitness, strength training, acclimatization, and specific skills related to mountaineering. Here are some general guidelines:

1. Cardiovascular Fitness

- Focus on aerobic exercises such as running, cycling, swimming, and hiking to build cardiovascular endurance.

- Include interval training to simulate the variable intensity of mountain terrain.

- Aim for long-duration workouts to build stamina.

2. Strength Training

- Develop overall strength, with a focus on the lower body (legs) and core muscles.

- Include exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, and core workouts.

- Incorporate functional movements that mimic the demands of mountaineering.

3. Altitude Training

- Gradual acclimatization is crucial for high-altitude climbs. Spend time at higher elevations to allow your body to adjust.

- If possible, plan pre-expedition trips to gradually increase your exposure to higher altitudes.

- Consider using altitude simulation devices or hypoxic tents for simulated altitude training.

4. Specific Skill Training

- Learn and practice mountaineering skills such as rope work, ice and rock climbing, and crevasse rescue.

- Familiarize yourself with the use of specialized gear, including crampons, ice axes, and harnesses.

5. Load Carrying

- Practice carrying a backpack with the gear you'll need during your climb to simulate the conditions you'll face.

- Gradually increase the weight to build strength and endurance.

6. Nutrition and Hydration

- Pay attention to your nutrition, ensuring you have a well-balanced diet with adequate protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

- Stay well-hydrated, as dehydration can exacerbate the effects of altitude.

7. Mental Preparation

- Develop mental resilience as mountaineering can be physically and mentally challenging.

- Practice stress management techniques, visualization, and mental focus.

8. Medical Check-up

- Before embarking on a high-altitude expedition, undergo a thorough medical examination to ensure you are physically fit for the challenges.

9. Progressive Training

- Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to avoid overtraining and reduce the risk of injury.

10. Rest and Recovery

- Include adequate rest days in your training schedule to allow your body to recover and adapt.

Always consult with a healthcare professional or a certified trainer before starting any high-altitude training program, especially if you have pre-existing medical conditions. Additionally, seek guidance from experienced mountaineers or hire a certified guide for personalized advice based on your specific goals and the requirements of your planned ascent.

Training for Climbing Island Peak

Where Do I Stay On My Island Peak Climbing Adventure?

Our climb of Island Peak is part of a greater trek that includes Everest Base Camp. Along the route there are so-called tea houses, another term for Nepali mountain guesthouses. This type of accommodation is fairly basic, but it provides you with a warm place to stay and your local meals are cooked by your welcoming hosts. It gives you an idea about what life at these altitudes are like. In lower areas you may even have WiFi, hot water and electricity to charge your devices. The only spot where you camp is in Island Peak Base Camp. The stay is for just half a night, as you start climbing in the middle of the night. In case you don’t make the summit for whatever reason, you may stay another night to make a second attempt. After the climb you head back to the villages where you can really appreciate the comfort of the tea houses again.

How To Identify and Prevent AMS On The Island Peak Trek?

It's essential to understand that altitude sickness can affect anyone, regardless of age, fitness level, or previous high-altitude experience. These days there are several tools to monitor your health at altitude. A widely-used (analog) method is the Lake Louise score card. It ticks the altitude symptoms while keeping the severity in mind. It’s a common tool used by guides. Nowadays, most trekking and mountain guides bring a blood oxygen saturation meter, which also measures the heart rate. These are key indicators whether a person adapts to altitude well or not. AMS can occur when trekking the Island Peak Trek. Below you can find everything you need to know about altitude sickness.

  • Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)

    Altitude sickness, also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is a health condition that occurs when someone is exposed to low levels of oxygen at higher altitudes. AMS is a serious condition and as the name suggests acute. It needs to be dealt with immediately, as it is potentially life-threatening. Most people will experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness. It’s important to be aware of these symptoms and act before symptoms become more severe. Below we break down the different forms of AMS and how you can reduce the risk of getting it.

    AMS symptoms

    It is key to know how to identify altitude illness. You may experience the following symptoms due to the jump in altitude: headache, lack of appetite, breathing difficulties, insomnia, nausea and vomiting. The intensity and severity of these symptoms may increase with altitude and an overall feeling of fatigue will take all your joy away. This may further deteriorate to one of these life-threatening conditions.

    High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE): HAPE is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, chest tightness, and an increased heart rate. It can be a life-threatening condition and requires immediate descent to lower altitudes and, in severe cases, medical treatment.

    High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE): HACE is a more serious condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain. Symptoms may include severe headaches, confusion, loss of coordination, and altered mental status. HACE is also a medical emergency and requires immediate descent and medical attention. Below 7 ways of minimizing the risk of AMS:

    • 1. Gradual Ascent

      One of the most effective ways to prevent AMS is to ascend gradually. When traveling to high altitudes, try to take several days to acclimatize before going higher. This allows your body to adapt to the reduced oxygen levels. All our treks in Nepal keep sufficient acclimatization into account.

    • 2. Stay Hydrated

      Dehydration can increase the risk of AMS, so drink plenty of fluids. Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, as they can contribute to dehydration.

    • 3. Diet

      Consume a balanced diet with adequate carbohydrates and avoid heavy, fatty meals. Carbohydrates can help your body utilize oxygen more efficiently at high altitudes.

    • 4. Medication

      Some individuals may consider taking medication, such as acetazolamide (Diamox), to help prevent AMS. Consult with a healthcare professional before using any medication, and be aware of potential side effects.

    • 5. Rest

      Ensure you get enough sleep and rest during your ascent. Fatigue can increase the risk of AMS.

    • 6. Avoid Overexertion

      Pace yourself and avoid overexertion. Listen to your body, and if you experience symptoms of AMS, rest or descend to a lower altitude.

    • 7. Descend if Symptoms Persist

      If you experience symptoms of AMS, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, or difficulty breathing, it's crucial to descend to a lower altitude. Symptoms should not be ignored or dismissed.

Packing List for the Island Peak Trek

Trekking in Nepal requires good quality and appropriate equipment. Especially the essentials like a good pair of hiking boots and breathable hardshell rain jacket. We highly recommend that you read our suggested packing list to hike the Island Peak Trek.

  • Technical Clothing

  • Headwear

  • Handwear

  • Footwear

  • Accessories

  • Equipment

  • Other

In addition to the trekking equipment, you need mountaineering equipment for the Island Peak ascent. These items are not included in the price, but you can rent them at a reasonable price. Below you can find the list with extra items:

- Helmet

- Climbing Harness

- Karabiners

- Jumar device

- Ice axe

- C2 Crampons

- Double-layered mountaineering boots

Where Can I Book the Island Peak Trek?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book this trek and many others. Our guided options come with experts on the ground, and offer you a convenient, stress-free, safe, and educational way to explore the outdoors. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is this not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our blog posts:

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