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More Than Beautiful: Ama Dablam

Two mountaineers navigating a glacier on a Gasherbrum II Expedition

In two days, Alpenglow leaves for Nepal to begin our expedition on Ama Dablam. Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful peaks in the Himalaya, Ama Dablam stands alone in the Solu Khumbu (Everest) valley, towering over the Sherpa villages of Thyangboche and Pangboche. “It is my favorite single mountain that I guide every year” expressed Alpenglow founder Adrian Ballinger, during a recent chat about the beauty, skill, and calculated risk Ama Dablam presents to its climbers.

Frequently compared to the Matterhorn, Ama Dablam is often hailed as one of the most beautiful mountains in the world. Adrian has summited it 13 times and defines the “beauty” of this climb as not only aesthetic, but as an experience that feels “very real and full.” Climbing big mountains is worth calculated risk, a climb where he can justify and quantify the risks of climbing for the fulfilling, well-rounded reward of personal achievement. Climbing big mountains embodies the mental, physical, and emotional, which all of Alpenglow’s mountain guides credit to the “beauty” of this climb.

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Ama Dablam continually inspires climbers, hikers, and trekkers as they trek across the Khumbu Valley. As the visually striking mountain that you look at the entire time you trek to Everest Base Camp, Ama Dablam awes both people who visit Nepal to summit the peaks of the Himalaya and those who tour the region to see the sights and engage in the culture of the Nepalese and Sherpa. As always, Alpenglow fully soaks up the local culture of Nepal during our climbing trip. Year after year, we use the same Sherpa team on Ama Dablam as we do on Everest. Because we know them well and love to spend time with the Sherpa and their families, we truly get to experience daily Sherpa life as we travel through their villages on our trek to Ama Dablam Base Camp.

From Base Camp, we climb the Southwest Ridge, which according to numerous accomplished mountain guides, “is one of the most beautiful routes in the world on one of the most beautiful mountains.” Ama Dablam is a climber’s paradise not only because mountaineers frequently seek the beauty they achieve through climbing and summiting, but also because the route is all technical climbing above Camp 1.That means that above Camp 1, the route is massively exposed with at least a 2,000 foot drop on either side (also called a knife-edged ridge), and you are roped in at all times. The Southwest Ridge consists entirely of 5.8 grade rock and 5.4 grade ice climbing, at altitude, which is not hard, but is more technical than big mountain trekking or hiking.

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Alpenglow guides do everything in their power to minimize and safely address risk. On Ama Dablam, one of the well-known risks on the mountain is Camp 3, which is prone to huge avalanches from a serac above it. Years ago, because of this danger, Alpenglow figured out a way to completely avoid camping with the risk of avalanche in this area by setting up Alpenglow “Camp 2.7.” Situated between Camp 2 and Camp 3, Camp 2.7 is perched on a ridge and is 100% not exposed to avalanches no matter how big the avalanche goes.

In many ways, Ama is the culmination of Alpenglow’s big mountain climbing program because it entails both technical rock and ice climbing, combined with performing well at high altitude. Essentially, years of climbing trips throughout our climber’s lives – from domestic rock and ice climbs to big mountain expeditions at all altitudes – result in Ama Dablam. Alpenglow’s guides climb it every single year and Alpenglow is currently the most experienced team on the mountain. Every year our climbers and guides come home stoked and excited to go back. With that, we are sending off our Ama Dablam 2014 team wishing them fun and success as they achieve their dream and attempt to summit the most beautiful mountain the world. 

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