Amadablam : Queen of Mountains

  • Nayan Shakya
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Ama Dablam: Queen of Mountains

Ama Dablam (6856m) is one of the most iconic mountains in Nepal’s Khumbu Valley. Ama Dablam means “Mother’s Necklace”; the long ridges on each side like the arms of a mother (ama) protecting her child, and the hanging glacier thought of as the Dablam, the traditional double-pendant containing pictures of the gods, worn by Sherpa women. For several days, Ama Dablam dominates the eastern sky for anyone trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp. For its soaring ridges and steep faces, Ama Dablam is sometimes referred to as the "Matterhorn of the Himalayas."

Ama Dablam was first climbed on 13 March 1961 by Mike Gill (NZ), Barry Bishop (USA), Mike Ward (UK), and Wally Romanes (NZ) via the Southwest Ridge. They were well-acclimatized, having wintered over at 5800 meters near the base of the peak as part of the 1960-61 Silver Hut expedition, led by Sir Edmund Hillary.

Ama Dablam is known as one of the most impressive mountains in the world, not for its altitude, but for its beauty, aesthetics, and the pure exposure encountered high on its flanks. Most parties attempt the SW ridge, climbing expedition style, fixing ropes, ferrying loads, and acclimatizing slowly. It's common to encounter high altitude Everest veterans having a problem with the technical difficulties encountered on the crux pitches of this climb. Ama Dablam is a technically difficult climb with a combination of rock, ice, and snow. Climbers technically set up three camps along the ridge with camp 3 just below and to the right of the hanging glacier, the Dablam. Any ice that peels off the glacier typically goes left, away from the camp.

For several days, Ama Dablam dominates the view for anyone trekking to Mt Everest BaseCamp. And that seems to be a typical itinerary over several years: Everest Basecamp, then Ama Dablam, then Everest’s summit. But, Ama Dablam is a rugged technical mountain, one which even Everest veterans struggle with. The step between Everest Base Camp and Ama Dablam’s summit requires thorough training and extensive mountaineering experience. The rock climbing alone, which is reasonable at sea level, is made much more difficult in mountaineering boots at altitudes over 6,000m. 

A fall trek through the Khumbu Valley provides a tranquil alternative to the hustle and bustle of the busy spring season in the Everest region. The cool, crisp air and changing colors of the forested hillsides delight the senses during a time of year when trekkers can typically enjoy long stretches of clear days. We take a less-traveled route, hiking up and over Renjo La Pass to drop down into the serene alpine village of Gokyo. After relaxing for an evening along the shores of Dudh Pokhari Lake, where yaks and wetland birds wander about, we venture further up valley exploring the series of glacial lakes that leads us to the base of Cho Oyu’s South Face. On our return from Cho Oyu Base Camp, we descend through the Gokyo Valley, giving us the chance to experience different Sherpa-run lodges. 

Ama Dablam Expedition is Asia’s most famous snow, rock, and ice climbing. This expedition offers you stunning views of Everest and thousands of other mountain peaks.


Ama Dablam Difficulty

Though Ama Dablam comes amongst the easier trek for the beginners, it is technical and hard level is all around. It has plenty of challenging sections. However, this mountain is never extreme. Sometimes the mountain can be a challenging one. You must use an ice ax, ropes, crampons, ice screws, and Jumars. The challenges are also because of the altitude. The final steep snow and ice slope requires rock climbing and crampon skills.

Ama Dablam's difficulty provides easy, moderate, and hard experiences. The difficulty level ranges between moderate to hard. There are several short and steep sections and near-verticle ice and rock on the spectacular ridge between Camp I and Camp III. Climbing to high Camp I is easy climbing. The route from High Camp Ii is mostly covered with steep rocks, snow, and ice glacier. It requires both strength and technique. Another notable obstacle of Ama Dablam is the severe cold climate and wind. The weather changes drastically. One has a significant adaptation problem than in any other mountains of similar heights. Though it is challenging, there are fixed ropes and a well-defined route which make the climb easier as well.

Where is Ama Dablam?

Ama Dablam is one of the stunning Himalayan peaks. This mountain peak is located at the Lower Khumbu Valley of Solukhumbu District of Province No 1 in Nepal. It is located to the south of Everest and Lhotse. The exact location of this peak coordinates between 27.86° N latitudes and 86.86°N E longitudes.

What is the best time/Season/Weather for Ama Dablam?

Ama Dablam experiences a wide range of climates. The cold temperature and windy days make it more challenging. Spring and autumn are the best seasons for this venture. Generally, days are warmer in spring and there will be less threat of snow. The weather is pretty unstable during autumn. However, September provides the best Ama Dablam experiences. Most people visit Ama Dablam in autumn because most people prefer to visit Everest in spring. Many people prefer climbing before the monsoon or after the monsoon. Therefore, April-May or September-October are the ideal months for climbing.

Ama Dablam Climbing Route

The most popular route for climbing Ama Dablam is the southwest ridge. The climb is done with the three camps along the ridge. Camp III is established just below and to the right of the hanging glacier. The southwest route is a standard and normal route t the top. It is also considered the safer route because there are hardly any risks from avalanches.

Ama Dablam Climbing Permit

The government has recently restructured the Royalties of Mountain Climbing permits in Nepa. The changed royalty structure has been implemented since the 1st of January 2015. The objectives of restricting the royalty fees are to stimulate climbing tourism and to encourage mountaineering/climbing all year round.

The features of recently changed royalty fees are:

The permit fees were discounted to 50% for autumn expeditions than spring and to 25% for winter and summer expeditions.

The maximum number of expedition members allowed per expedition was increased from 12 to 15.

The individual or small size group is more beneficial with the changed structure.

Climbing royalty was waved for 5 years for peaks located in mid and far western regions.

An incremental royalty system was implemented, whereby the royalty fee is proportional to the number of expedition members replacing the previous flat fee per expedition.

You need a climbing permit to climb Ama Dablam. You also have to get Area Permit or a Permit to enter the Sagarmatha National Park. It is not difficult to acquire them. No worries, your trekking partner will get them for you. There will be checkpoints and you must show them for passing through them.

Accommodation and Meals

Ama Dablam trekking trails have many tea houses along the route. They provide shared rooms and good toilet facilities. As you reach the base camp you will find no tea house or lodges. You will have to adjust to your tent. You will be provided with a sleeping bag and a foam mattress. In some peak months, sometimes no booking will be available. In such cases, camping is all you can do. You will be at an extreme altitude and the risk of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) is also greater. You should keep on drinking enough water, juice or soup. Keeping your body hydrated is the best way of avoiding altitude sickness. Anything you eat must be carefully chosen. To supply the required energy to your body, consume lots of carbohydrates and protein. Eat plenty of bread, cereals and carbohydrates, and protein but avoid fat consumption.

Climbing Preparations

Safety should be always your priority. Preparing well in advance is very important for your safe, secure, and pleasant climb. Some tips about preparing for Ama Dablam climbing are as follow:

  • It is the basic idea to take a basic rock climbing course.
  • Practice enough gym workouts for this climb. Cardio and strength endurance training must not be avoided.
  • Be mentally ready to cope with this strenuous peak.
  • Consult with your physician to prevent yourself from HAPE and HACE.
  • Collect adequate gears and clothing.
  • Consult with a professional and well-established trekking partner.
  • Hire a professional guide.
  • Complete all the mandatory paper works and procedures.