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Lobuche Peak: climbing to 6,000 meters in the Himalaya

Lobuche Peak: climbing to 6,000 meters in the Himalaya

Starting up the snow on Lobuche Peak. Photo: Zeb Blais.

Starting up the snow on Lobuche Peak. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

After our trek to Everest Base Camp, our bodies were ready for the real thing.  Lobuche Peak, a 6,000 meter peak not too far off was our objective.  We had first seen the western side of the peak from Cho La pass and had gottten views of it from all sides as we trekked around it's base to Lobuche village.

Porters cross the glacier below Cho La pass. Louche East Peak is visible in the back (far right). Photo: Zeb Blais.

Porters cross the glacier below Cho La pass. Louche East Peak is visible in the back (far right). Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

Before launching into our climb, we stopped back in Lobuche village to sort out our gear and have a good meal at the ECO Lodge.  After a few cups of tea and a mysteriously tasty high altitude pizza, we headed for high camp.  The porters once again shouldered the bulk of our heavy gear so it was fast and easy.  I always feel a little guilty watching other humans carry gargantuan duffel bags filled with my gear, but it’s how they make their money.  Hauling loads is big business in the Khumbu  and trekkers and climbers are a huge part of their economy.  I quickly got over the guilt and enjoyed the hike without the heavy load.  It’s pretty nice once in a while!

The basin below high camp. Ama Dablam in the background. Photo: Zeb Blais.

The basin below high camp. Ama Dablam in the background. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

 

 

The hike from Lobuche village to high camp is great.  It’s not a long walk, not a lot of vertical gain and the terrain is varied and enjoyable.  The views, like almost anywhere in the Khumbu, are off the charts.  From town we walked south, up a barren ridge line before dropping into a large basin with an impressive view of the peak’s Southeast face.

A pool of water reflects towering Cholatse Peak. Photo: Zeb Blais.

A pool of water reflects towering Cholatse Peak. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

 

Walking past a beautiful, bright green lake we made our way up a large, loose boulder field.   The walking here was steeper and more difficult, but still relatively easy.  Near the top of the bench where high camp sits a couple of exposed rock sections added a little spice to the mix.  It was good scrambling and nothing that would prevent an avid hiker from getting to camp.

High camp on Lobuche East. Nuptse in the background. Photo: Zeb Blais.

High camp on Lobuche East. Nuptse in the background. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

 

 

Tshering Dorjee Sherpa and the porters had our tent set up when we arrived at our 17,000’+ high camp.  All we had to do was move in. We enjoyed incredible views of Cholatse, Ama Dablam and Nuptse before making a quick dinner and getting to bed.  We woke at 3:30 am and started up by 4:30.

Some of the blockier sections of rock above high camp. Photo: Zeb Blais.

Some of the blockier sections of rock above high camp. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

 

Immediately above from the tent site, the climb begins with low angle rock slabs.  The rock was dry so it was easy travel, but with a little snow or verglass this section could  be a little tricky.  Generally it’s friction climbing (smooth rock slabs rather than blocky talus or boulders) and can be a little awkward in mountain boots.  A boot with good dexterity, like a Scarpa Phantom 6000, is recommended.  The two other climbers on the route were using La Sportiva Batura’s, but the temps were above average.

The start of the snow on Lobuche East Peak. Photo: Zeb Blais.

The start of the snow on Lobuche East Peak. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

 

 

We were moving well and after only an hour and a half we had hit the snow line.  We transitioned to crampons and busted out the ice axes.  I was carrying my skis and ski boots (glad I didn’t have them on for the rock slabs!) so I put on the AT boots.  The snow climbing begins on a nice gradual slope that ramps up to being fairly steep at the top (45+ degrees or so).

Tshering Dorjee Sherpa in front of Lobuche East. Photo: Zeb Blais.

Tshering Dorjee Sherpa in front of Lobuche East. Photo: Zeb Blais.

Nearing the top. Lobuche East. Photo: Zeb Blais.

Nearing the top. Lobuche East. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

 

The difficulty of this section depends heavily on snow conditions, and it was about as good as it could get.  Perfect neve (firm, frozen snow that is great for cramponing- it’s not too hard and not too soft) plastered the slope all the way to the top.  We climbed up, stopping only once for a quick break on the steep slope.

Colin Haley going for the true summit. Some sketchy cornices ended up turning him around before the top. Photo: Zeb Blais.

Colin Haley going for the true summit. Some sketchy cornices ended up turning him around before the top. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

 

The false summit is a flat section of snow that has enough room for a few tents and a 360 degree view.  We had made it up there from high camp in 3.5 hours - a pretty good clip considering the climbing is all above 17k’ and we had to transition into crampons.  We stopped there, separated from the true summit by a knife edge ridge and some cornice that we had decided we weren’t going to tackle this time around.

Back onto the rock. Cho La Lake and Cholatse in the background. Photo: Zeb Blais.

Back onto the rock. Cho La Lake and Cholatse in the background. Photo: Zeb Blais.

 

 

Most of the team started the descent while I waited on top for the snow to soften up.  With the warm temps and calm winds, I knew it wouldn’t be long before the perfect neve turned into perfect corn.  I gave it a little less than an hour then clipped into my skis.  It is always a bit intimidating to ski something steep and exposed like this line, but the snow conditions were absolutely perfect.

I made a couple short hop turns to test my bindings and the snow, then opened it up and linked up about 10 perfect GS turns.  I was overjoyed – I was making absolutely glorious turns at nearly 20,000 feet in the middle of the Himalaya!  Who gets to do that?  It ended up being 1,400’ of the coolest turns I’ve ever made - totally worth dragging skis to the middle of the Khumbu!

A huge smile on my face after some great turns on Lobuche. Photo: Fred Doar.

A huge smile on my face after some great turns on Lobuche. Photo: Fred Doar.

 

 

 

If you have questions or want to trek with Zeb next fall in Nepal, shoot him an email:  zeb@alpinemountainworks.com.

For more pictures of Zeb's adventures, follow him on Instagram: @zebblais

 

 

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