Nepal’s Trekking Peaks

The Himalayas are the ulti­mate dream for gen­er­a­tions of moun­taineers, but not all climbers have the pock­et change to join a major 8,000-meter expe­di­tion. Nepal’s Himalayan Range is so vast and var­ied that even moun­taineers with basic glac­i­er trav­el expe­ri­ence can find minor and sig­nif­i­cant sum­mits to add to their repertoire.

Nepal has des­ig­nat­ed 18 moun­tains as Trekking Peaks, climbs of an inter­me­di­ate lev­el that has less strin­gent restric­tions but is a step above the stan­dard Himalayan sojourn. Despite the rather benign sound­ing name, Nepal’s trekking peaks are not to be tak­en light­ly. While the alti­tude is well under 23,000-feet, the dif­fi­cult climb­ing and the dan­gers are still very preva­lent. The peaks are list­ed under three climb­ing grades: “F” (Facil) for easy, “PD” (Peu Difi­cile) for inter­me­di­ate, and “AD” (Assez Dif­fi­cile) for dif­fi­cult. The fol­low­ing list describes the major trekking peaks by their grade.

Chukhung Ri (18,238 ft.) F
Sit­u­at­ed just out­side the town of Chukhung, this small moun­tain is more of a stren­u­ous day-hike, requir­ing 3–4 hours of scram­bling and steep uphill walk­ing. Many use the climb as acclima­ti­za­tion and prepa­ra­tion for big­ger peaks since its lack of snow and easy to fol­low cairns make it a stout but non-tech­ni­cal moun­tain. From the vil­lage, the well-main­tained trail leads up a sad­dle and to the sum­mit marked with flut­ter­ing prayer flags where hik­ers enjoy excel­lent views of Ama Dablam, and Makalu.

Kala Patthar (18,514 ft.) F
While not offi­cial­ly a trekking peak, Kala Patthar is a small sec­tion of Pumori’s main ridge, that offers one of the best views of Ever­est and Lhotse. Because of its easy acces­si­bil­i­ty and low-grade hik­ing, the climb is pop­u­lar with trekkers from near­by Gorak­shep, who scram­ble to the top in the pre-dawn hours for a spec­tac­u­lar sun­rise over Everest’s South Col.

Yala (18,046 ft.) F
West of Kath­man­du, the mys­te­ri­ous Lang­tang Region is a rel­a­tive­ly untouched moun­tain par­adise, receiv­ing just a frac­tion of the vis­i­tors that head for the Khum­bu Himal. The star of this rugged range is Lang­tang Lirung, how­ev­er the minor is sur­pris­ing­ly mod­er­ate first climb or acclima­ti­za­tion route. Base camp is set at one of the lodges in the val­ley with a high camp estab­lished on the main ridge. While a rope isn’t required for the wide and low-grade ascent, cram­pons and ice axes are a must. Since Yala is near the bor­der with Tibet, there are excel­lent views of sev­er­al major peaks includ­ing Shishapangma.

Island Peak (20,285 ft.) PD
Climb­ing Island Peak, one of Nepal’s most pop­u­lar trekking peaks, takes com­mit­ment and expe­ri­ence, uti­liz­ing ropes, ice axes, and cram­pons. The ascent can be done in an eas­i­er two-day push or a one-day roundtrip from Chukhung. The stan­dard route ascends a thin ridge to a point­ed and dra­mat­ic sum­mit. Because of its archi­tec­ture, many teams climb Island Peak in prepa­ra­tion for ascents such as Ama Dablam or as an excel­lent entry-lev­el intro­duc­tion to Himalayan mountaineering.

Lobuche East (20,075 ft.) PD
Like Island Peak, Lobuche East is a superb intro­duc­to­ry moun­tain that fol­lows a nar­row ridge to a mag­nif­i­cent point­ed sum­mit. With base camp sit­ting well above 15,000-feet, the ver­ti­cal gain is rel­a­tive­ly short but the climb­ing stren­u­ous. Climbers tread icy slab and rock, then tran­si­tion to a snowy ascent at a low-grade. The most pop­u­lar route trav­els via the South­west face, where the top of the ridge marks the false sum­mit. For climbers with tech­ni­cal knowl­edge, a treach­er­ous thin knifed edge requir­ing rope leads to the true top. From here, a sad­dle sep­a­rates the moun­tain from East’s sis­ter peak, Lobuche West, which is a tech­ni­cal expe­di­tion climb.

Mera Peak (21,247 ft.) PD
Mera Peak is the high­est and most one of the most pres­ti­gious prizes of Nepal’s trekking moun­tains. On a clear day from the domed sum­mit, climbers can see five 8,000-meter peaks: Ever­est, Lhotse, Kangchen­jun­ga, Cho Oyu, and Makalu. The approach to Mera Peak takes climbers to an inhab­it­ed yet remote side of the Khum­bu Val­ley and over one of Nepal’s high­est pass­es, Mera La. The peak is heav­i­ly glaciat­ed on all sides, with a gap­ing crevasse to nav­i­gate just under the sum­mit ridge. It’s style, grade, and archi­tec­ture are sim­i­lar to Mt. Rainier in execution.

Kongde Ri (20,298 ft.) AD
The mam­moth face of Kongde Ri dom­i­nates the sky­line above Nam­che Bazaar. It’s an intim­i­dat­ing mas­sif of rock and ice con­sid­ered to be a holy peak by the set­tlers of the Khum­bu. While all of the routes are long, tech­ni­cal­ly dif­fi­cult, and stren­u­ous, the glaciat­ed south side sees a more tra­di­tion­al climb­ing method, while the steep, rocky North Face calls for a pure alpine style ascent. While the moun­tain is vis­i­bly impos­ing over the Sher­pa town­ship, it’s base camp is in a remote val­ley sur­round­ed by four glac­i­ers. Climbers move up to a high camp at 4,900-meters and make a sum­mit bid by fol­low­ing a long ridge across mul­ti­ple false sum­mits to the true peak. Kongde Ri is excel­lent train­ing for those who prac­tice a fast and light climb­ing style.

Cholatse (21,129 ft.) AD
Cholatse is a strik­ing crys­tal-like peak that was only recent­ly named a trekking peak. It’s steep angu­lar faces have turned back even the best of moun­taineers, and its promi­nence makes it a for­mi­da­ble, com­mit­ting, and extreme­ly dif­fi­cult ascent. Because of its remote­ness and advanced tech­nique, it didn’t see its first ascent until an Amer­i­can team con­quered the South­west Face in 1982. It’s the bold­est ascent came in 2005, when Swiss alpin­ist Ueli Steck solo climbed the North Face. Cholatse is only a trekking peak by clas­si­fi­ca­tion, but it is a seri­ous and com­mit­ting expedition.