Peak(s):  Ama Dablam - 22494
Date Posted:  11/25/2016
Modified:  04/22/2019
Date Climbed:   11/25/2016
Author:  Emily
 Ama Dablam   

The first time I saw a photo of Ama Dablam I remember being captivated by its aesthetic ridge lines, and wondered if someday in the future I would be competent enough to climb it. It was just a dream though, something I could never imagine actually happening -- mountains like Ama weren't for normal people like me. But experience sneaks up on you when you're doing something you love. Last year and this year in particular I've been fortunate to attempt some bigger objectives (see report on Peru here). I wanted to keep that momentum going by trying something higher at the end of the year, and thought a lot about Aconcagua (which would have made sense logistically, given that I speak Spanish and feel comfortable navigating South America). But I couldn't get Nepal out of my head.

I first met Pasang Sherpa in July 2015 while he was working for Altitude Junkies, and he offered to put together an affordable trip for me to Ama using logistics by Expedition Himalaya. After a few attempts to find partners who could also take off the entire month of November, I ended up signing on alone to go to a part of the world I had never seen, to climb the highest, hardest mountain I'd ever tried. When researching this climb I had SO many questions and couldn't find many detailed trip reports. I wanted to write this in hopes that it will be helpful for anyone thinking of climbing Ama Dablam or nearby peaks.

Ama Dablam - Southwest Ridge - 6,856m / 22,494ft

1. November 4 - Depart San Francisco
2. November 5 - Layover in China
3. November 6 - Arrive Kathmandu
4. November 7 - Day in Kathmandu
5. November 8 - Fly to Lukla, trek to Phakding
6. November 9 - Trek to Namche Bazaar
7. November 10 - Trek to Pangboche
8. November 11 - Day hike to AD base camp
9. November 12 - Trek to Lobuche
10. November 13 - Day hike to Gorak Shep / Kala Patthar
11. November 14 - Trek back to Pangboche
12. November 15 - Sick day in Pangboche
13. November 16 - Sick day in Pangboche
14. November 17 - Move to Ama Dablam base camp
15. November 18 - Sick day in base camp
16. November 19 - Sick day in base camp
17. November 20 - Move to Camp 1
18. November 21 - Tag Yellow Tower, back to base camp
19. November 22 - Rest day in base camp
20. November 23 - Move to Camp 1
21. November 24 - Move to Camp 2
22. November 25 - Climb AD and back to Camp 2
23. November 26 - Return to base camp
24. November 27 - Trek to Pangboche
25. November 28 - Trek to Namche Bazaar
26. November 29 - Trek to Lukla
27. November 30 - Fly to Kathmandu
28. December 1 - Kathmandu city tour
29. December 2 - Free day in Kathmandu
30. December 3 - Free day in Kathmandu
31. December 4 - Depart Kathmandu

Part One: Trek to Kala Patthar

Nov. 4 - 7
I departed SFO on November 4th and after stops in Shanghai and Kunming, landed in KTM on the afternoon of the 6th. Lucky to score a window seat on the right side of the plane, I was treated to great views of the Himalaya! I got my Nepal visa upon arrival which took about an hour but was very easy ($40 USD in cash for a 30-day visa). Pasang met me at the airport with a driver and we took off into the chaotic Kathmandu streets (they drive on the other side of the road, FYI). I'm used to crazy South American drivers but Nepal is on another level! Somehow we made it to Thamel, the most touristy area of the city and I checked into Hotel Manang, then proceeded to pass out at 7pm in my jet-lagged stupor.

Of course this meant that I woke up at 4:30am, so had tons of time to hang out and enjoy the buffet breakfast spread before meeting up with Pasang. We went to get an NCELL SIM card for my phone (no problem if your phone is unlocked, and so cheap to call the U.S. - just 5 cents per minute) I spent the rest of the day getting lost in noisy and polluted Thamel where the streets make no sense, checked out Himalayan Java, the Garden of Dreams, and Hot Breads bakery, then packed and got ready for an early morning flight to Lukla!

Note: My plane ticket was ridiculously cheap ($575 round trip from San Francisco to Kathmandu). I found it on Kayak through China Eastern, and after reading reviews of the airline I think I was more anxious about the flight than the rest of the trip combined. So I was pleasantly surprised when all three flight legs arrived on time with bags intact. Aside from some annoying overnight layovers in the Kunming airport I had no complaints and would fly China Eastern again!

Streets of Thamel, Kathmandu

Nov. 8
Since our flight left at 6am, Pasang naturally picked me up at 5:30 and we made a mad dash through the airport. These planes are tiny, fitting just 18 passengers! I was freaking out a little after reading about how Lukla is one of the most dangerous airports in the world, with its short runway located on the edge of a cliff. Every few years it seems there is an accident that kills everyone on board. So after the short 30-minute flight on Goma Air I was relieved to land safely (sit on left side if possible). We grabbed our duffels and had a leisurely breakfast before hitting the trail to Phakding.


Arriving at the Tenzing-Hillary airport in Lukla

To my surprise, much of the trek from Lukla to Phakding was downhill and we arrived before 11am. I asked if we could continue on to Monjo or even Namche, but Pasang said that our porter Sonam couldn't do that. Fair enough. Another thing that surprised me was how civilized the whole route is -- there are tons of little towns along the way and you are never far from a shop or teahouse. October and November is the high season for trekkers, so we passed lots of people. In other words this is definitely not a wilderness experience. Phakding is a small but lively town with two pool bars and plenty of porter, trekker and pack-animal traffic. We stayed at Buddha Lodge with a rather large rambunctious group from the Czech Republic.

At least 15 cases of beer being carried by one porter

Nov. 9
We enjoyed a very scenic hike to Namche the following day. Lots of towns with earthquake damage, and many suspension bridges. The highest one we crossed was right before the Namche hill, and I had to keep reminding myself that they send yaks across these too. The Namche hill seems to go on forever, broken only by a public restroom stop with the first views of Everest!

First Everest views through the trees

Of course once we finally reached Namche we had to walk up like 5000 more stairs to get to our teahouse (Moon Light Lodge). As I was enjoying some dhal baat, Pasang turned on his phone and casually let me know that Trump was winning the election. Um, what? I took a walk down to Everest Bakery with another girl who happened to be from Durango, and in a state of disbelief we watched the election results become finalized over coffee and apple pie. It was here that I first met Tim Mosedale's expedition group, also heading to Ama Dablam, and who would become my friends and climbing companions later on in the trip. The American girl and I wandered up to the helipad to get some views of Namche and the top of Ama was just barely visible - looking forward to seeing it for real the next day! Our teahouse was lively that night as we caught up with friends who had climbed Cholatse with Pasang / Altitude Junkies a couple weeks prior.

Entering the park

Suspension bridges

Namche Bazaar

Nov. 10
Most people spend a full day in Namche to acclimatize as you are now over 11,000 feet, but since I had been living at that altitude in Peru we decided to take an acclimatization day in Pangboche instead (around 13,500'). I was so excited for this part of the trek because I knew we would start to get some amazing views. Sure enough, we rounded a corner just above Namche and there was Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. My jaw dropped -- photos do not do these mountains any justice. I felt bad for Pasang because despite this realization I kept stopping every five seconds to take more pictures. We also started passing yaks as opposed to cows, hearing their bells jingling from far away and hugging the edge of the trail to let them go by.

Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam

Late morning we took a break for some milk tea before heading up the Tengboche hill, which I thought was worse than the Namche hill -- so hot and dusty and steep. Finally we reached Tengboche with its beautiful monastery. There we ran into two other climbers on their way to AD (Pasang seemed to know every single Sherpa so was always stopping to chat), and we all hiked together to Sonam Lodge in Pangboche, where we would spend two nights. The Dudh Kosi river is really gorgeous here and views of Ama just keep getting better.

Tengboche Monastery

Ama and the Dudh Kosi river

Nov. 11
I woke up early the next morning, which happened to be my birthday, and groggily watched the sunrise over Everest from my bedroom window. After breakfast (and a phone call with the parents) Pasang and I headed out for a day hike to Ama Dablam base camp, about two hours above Pangboche. We passed quite a few people coming down with reports of a successful summit -- very promising! And holy crap, there must have been 100 tents at base camp, mostly large expedition groups. I was glad that most of them would be gone by the time we actually started climbing.

Yaks at AD base camp

Ama Dablam base camp

We got back down at lunchtime and I took a walk over to Hermann Bakery for some masala tea, and ended up chatting / playing cards with a few Coloradans and Canadians until dusk. Pasang bought me an Everest beer and Tim Mosedale's group had arrived at Sonam Lodge. There are certainly worse ways to spend a birthday!

Nov. 12
Unfortunately I woke up the next morning with a sore throat...uh-oh. Nonetheless, we packed up (leaving climbing gear behind) and started out towards Lobuche.

Note: People climb AD with all kinds of different itineraries. Some choose to acclimate on a nearby peak first, such as Island Peak or Lobuche East. However I was trying to keep costs down and didn't want to pay the permit for another mountain, plus never having been to Nepal before I wanted to see Everest, so we decided to continue up to Kala Patthar (~18,500') for several days of acclimatization and then come back down the valley to AD base camp.

On the way to Lobuche we stopped in Dughla for lunch and then passed a large group of memorial chortens for fallen Everest climbers, including Scott Fischer's (if you have read Into Thin Air). Awesome views of Cholatse and Pumori here!

Scott Fischer memorial chorten

That evening I started feeling much worse and didn't leave the teahouse. It felt like I had a really bad head cold -- congested, achy, exhausted -- aggravated by the dry dusty air and freezing temperatures. I don't think the altitude helped much either, now over 16,000 feet. We had originally planned to move the next day to Gorak Shep, but that night I told Pasang there was no way I could sleep at over 18,000' in my current condition. So we decided to just take a day hike to Gorak Shep and then Kala Patthar if I felt okay, skipping actual Everest base camp where there isn't much to see anyway.

Nov. 13 - 14
I slept terribly, not being able to breathe through my nose, and the next morning the last thing I wanted to do was hike anywhere. But I also knew it wasn't doing me any favors to sit around Lobuche -- I just wanted to get up to Kala Patthar and then return to Pangboche for some real rest. So we set off at 8am and in 1.5 hours arrived in Gorak Shep, a tiny village in a big sandy bowl. After a short break we continued up to Kala Patthar ("black rock"), which sits below Pumori and provides an incredible vantage point for Everest and Nuptse. They say if you only have time for Everest base camp or Kala Patthar, choose the latter. This was incredibly draining for me, but at long last we made it and were rewarded for our efforts with unbelievable views of Everest, the South Col, the Khumbu Icefall, Nuptse and Pumori.

Gorak Shep and the trail to Kala Patthar below Pumori

Me taking in the views of Everest and Nuptse

We cruised back down to Gorak Shep in a fraction of the time it took to hike up, had some tea and soup, then began the long, windy, dusty walk back to Lobuche, stopping to have a look inside the odd Italian Pyramid research station. After another poor night of sleep the next morning I felt even worse. I should have been at home on my couch with Netflix and kombucha, not hanging out at 16,000 feet. I was so glad to pack up and get out of Lobuche. On the way down we paid a visit to the Himalayan Rescue Association in Pheriche, where they diagnosed me with a virus (so the antibiotics I brought wouldn't help), gave me some cold meds, and said there wasn't much to do but wait it out. If I felt better in a few days I was still good to climb.

Heading back down the valley towards Pheriche

Thanks again, HRA!

Nov. 15 - 16
Back in Pangboche the plan was to sit and do nothing for a couple days until my health improved. I washed clothes, read a ton (went through five books on this trip), and on the second day Pasang and I paid a visit to Lama Geshe at the Pangboche Monastery. This was a fascinating experience -- we entered a small room where he was sitting surrounded by Tibetan scriptures. After paying our respects with a white scarf and a little envelope of money, we sat for a long time while he chanted, threw rice on us, waved some smoke around, and presented us each with a square pendant full of pieces of rice and feathers. More chanting, lots of tea-drinking, then he placed the scarves back around our necks before saying goodbye. Back at Sonam Lodge I was starting to feel a bit more human, so we decided to officially move to Ama Dablam base camp the next morning.

Sonam Lodge

Part Two: Climbing Ama Dablam

Nov. 17
On Thursday November 17th we wandered up to AD base camp, this time with all the gear. Most large expedition groups set up a full tent base camp with a dining tent, outhouse, etc., but for smaller independent groups like us it's generally easier to stay in the teahouse, which is about a 10-minute walk from regular base camp. And I must admit, it's super nice! The rooms and bathrooms are kept clean, the food is fantastic, and each night they keep the dining room toasty with the yak dung stove. They even bring around hot towels before dinner. There are some amenities available for purchase (TP, snacks, drinks, wifi cards) though all at a high price. It felt good to finally be out of the mobs of EBC trekkers and amidst fellow climbers.

AD teahouse dining room

My private room at base camp -- not too shabby!

Nov. 18 - 19
Unfortunately I woke up the next day feeling terrible again, maybe due to the change in altitude. I walked about 15-minutes down the hill to find cell phone service and called my travel insurance company (World Nomads) to chat with someone about possibly cancelling the climb altogether. Even that short walk was exhausting. On the plus side, it's nice and warm in the sun during the daytime and a great place to relax and read. I took it easy and woke up the next morning with a little more energy and felt hopeful about starting our first rotation the following day.

Nov. 20
On Sunday November 20th Pasang and I left base camp at 9am to move to Camp 1. Given my illness it took us about five hours, though it could be done easily in 3-4 if you're quick. The hike to Camp 1 is much like a class 1-2 14er trail until the very end, where you have to boulder-hop for a bit then climb up steep-ish but grippy slabs. Camp 1 sits high on a rocky ridge around 18,300 feet, not far from a sheer cliff. The campsites are all set on large rocks and not very comfortable, but we found a decent spot and settled in for dinner. As soon as the sun went down temps dropped so we snuggled into our sleeping bags around 6pm. Blue and purple hues lit up surrounding peaks and a few climbers' headlamps were visible inching up Ama.

Pasang at the bottom of the final rock slabs to C1

Sunset views from C1

Nov. 21
I slept poorly, but dragged myself out of my sleeping bag and got ready to go tag Camp 2 per our plan. We departed Camp 1 at 8:20am and were on the fixed lines almost immediately. You cross some mellow, icy ground through C1 and then the fun begins! I almost forgot how crappy I felt as we traversed across very exposed ridges and up low class-5 sections, mostly rock but occasionally ice. We got to a point just before the yellow tower and saw a large group descending, so decided to turn around there rather than deal with passing them. By 11am we were back at Camp 1 and packed up to return to base camp, leaving gear stored inside the tent.

Note: I was given this helpful tip before my trip and I'll pass it along -- if you can deal with carrying your mountain boots, it's way easier to wear approach shoes for the type of scrambling between C1 and C2.

We ran into some people coming down from a successful summit, and every single one of them said it was the most exhausting day of their life! Apparently I had a lot to look forward to...

En route to C2

Short class 5 section

Better view of Camp 1

Down at base camp we checked the weather forecast. Up until now it had been just incredible, cloudless blue skies every single day. Unfortunately it seemed that there were high winds coming in that wouldn't be going away anytime soon. Based on this info we decided to go for the summit on November 25th which appeared to be the lowest-wind day in the near future.

Nov. 22
I spent the 22nd hanging out at base camp, chatting with some independent groups and also folks from Tim Mosedale's expedition, who were going for the four-day summit push on the same schedule as me. We'd gotten word that high winds would continue through the 30th, so it was now or never! My energy levels remained low and I knew I hadn't recovered from the Nepalese plague yet -- probably never would at this altitude. But I felt hopeful, ready to give it my best shot -- I'd made it this far so all I could do was try.

I took some close-ups of the upper mountain from base camp (climbers visible above the dablam):

Nov. 23 - 24
We departed base camp on Wednesday November 23rd, and the hike to C1 sucked just as much as the first time, but at least we made it in four hours. The next morning we packed up absolutely everything to move higher. My super heavy pack made for slow-going to Camp 2. Finally we arrived at the base of the infamous Yellow Tower, a 5.9-ish completely vertical rock pitch before Camp 2. Pasang went up first with his pack and then came down to get mine because he's awesome. I used a jumar and tibloc backup on two fixed lines but found some good hand and foot-holds (so glad to be in hiking shoes, not Spantiks here). After the tower there is some sketchy snow traversing and then you pop out in Camp 2, which should be called Camp Poo. The entire camp smells terrible and there is literal shit and trash everywhere, which isn't surprising given that it sits on a rock tower no larger than a living room.

Yellow Tower

Photos of the Yellow Tower by Peter Hughes

The four or five acceptable tent spots were already taken, so Pasang and I set up our tent sideways on some pointy boulders and tied it to the cliff.

Me and the actual angle of our tent (photo by Laurent Zuijdwijk)

On the bright side, views from C2 are unreal -- 360-degrees of stunning Himalayan peaks, plus the Gray Tower / Couloir of Ama which we'd be climbing in the middle of the night. And actual phone service?! I also remembered that it was Thanksgiving, for which I had a few bites of freeze-dried olive pasta...mmm.

Taboche and Cholatse

Views down the valley from C2

View of AD from C2

Nov. 25
Pasang and I had decided on a 2am start, but the commotion began at midnight as the first folks got ready to leave. Needless to say we didn't sleep much and finally got going at 2:30. I somehow managed to choke down a Clif Bar, the only thing I would eat all day.

There is no warm-up on Ama, no mindless slogging, no breaks. This climb is relentlessly intricate and steep, every single move demanding your attention! From C2 you traverse a few meters of snow ridge and then immediately start up the gray tower, which is many, many pitches / hours of nearly vertical mixed climbing. There is no place in the gray couloir to really rest or to take your pack off, you just have to keep moving.

Eventually, a short traverse popped us out into Camp 2.7 / Mushroom Ridge. Camp 3 is a bit higher up but rarely used these days due to its exposure to falling ice under the dablam. Almost everyone attempts Ama in one extremely long day round-trip from Camp 2, though it's not unheard of for people to bivy at 2.7 when they fail to get down before dark. Here we took just a brief pause to drink water before continuing into even harder terrain, basically several pitches of vertical to overhanging ice. I found it a little awkward having the jumar and one tool as opposed to two tools, but inched my way upwards, arms on fire. Pasang and I were the first ones on the mountain by that point having passed some folks, so we had to deal with the fixed line being buried in ice at several points. After what seemed like forever we finally pulled over a ledge to the former Camp 3, a large snowfield almost directly beneath the dablam.

First light on steep ice before C3

Below the dablam (taken on descent)

It was here that the wind first hit us, whipping snow and ice sideways into our faces and almost strong enough to push me over. We had looked so carefully at the forecast, so weren't expecting this! So much for taking a nice, relaxing break at Camp 3. We wasted no time and started up the steep snow slope just right of the dablam, which averages maybe 60 degrees.

I had been struggling still with this virus / head cold, and began to really feel it here. The sun doesn't hit this face until 8am or later, so with the shade and the wind it became bitterly cold. But I pushed on, a few steps, stop, breathe, repeat. Very slowly we progressed above the dablam and left of two prominent rocks you can see high on AD's face. I was hoping that the wind would subside as time passed, but it never did, and every time I looked up I could see snow blowing fiercely up on the summit. I started to wonder if it was a good idea to continue on, and weighed this thought in mind for a very long time as we slowly made progress. The two contributing factors were high winds which meant exceedingly cold temps, and also my health -- I had known from the start that I wasn't coming at this climb with 100% energy, and I didn't want to push my body farther than was safe, especially with such a long and involved descent. I had a deep conversation with myself up there around 22,300ft. What would I regret more? Turning around so close to the top, or summiting with even the smallest amount of doubt that I would have the energy to make it safely back down? I thought the latter.

So around 50ish meters of snow slope from the true summit I told Pasang that we should call it a day, and he agreed. That might sound like nothing, but it's super slow-going at these altitudes. I felt good about my decision then, and still do. I was in the summit vicinity of Ama Dablam which is more than I could have ever imagined in my wildest dreams. Time to head down and get the hell out of this wind!

High on Ama

Himalaya views (photo by Ron Edwards)

On the way down we ran into some climbers from Tim Mosedale's group, who also decided to turn around due to wind and time. In fact, there was a bit of an emergency as one super-strong climber had randomly collapsed with sudden onset HACE, and the group leader administered dex while rigging up a system to lower him to Camp 2.7, where a Sherpa had been radioed to meet them with oxygen. Pasang and I stopped for a moment but there was nothing we could do for him that they weren't already doing, so we progressed downwards, rappel after rappel after rappel. I was relieved when we finally reached Camp 2 at 3:30pm. Eventually the others started to return as well, reporting where they had bailed, and even the climber with HACE who fortunately was feeling much better on O2. Two determined climbers did push on to the top that day -- one returned at 7pm, and the other spent an unplanned night at Camp 2.7. Rough day all around!

Descending mushroom ridge

Rappelling the gray couloir

Terrain between gray tower and Camp 2 (photo by Ron Edwards)

Camp 2

Note: Ama Dablam's standard Southwest Ridge is generally fixed by Sherpas sometime each October, all the way from Camp 1. As a result, you must be very careful while climbing because the old ropes are simply left up and new ones put on the next year, creating a tangled mess at each anchor station. Accidents have happened in the past from people clipping into old ropes by mistake.

Prior to this trip, I had only minimal practice with fixed ropes so it was an interesting experience. Many climbers shun the use of fixed ropes at all, preferring a more pure and sporting approach to climbing. The presence of fixed ropes definitely makes Ama much more accessible than it would be otherwise. For example fixed lines make possible a round-trip summit from Camp 2, which I can imagine taking days if you had to pitch out / protect the whole route (and it's steep and exposed enough that you would).

That being said, I don't think Ama is good for expedition groups, and if I were to go again I'd do it the same way. There just isn't enough space on the mountain to accommodate large teams especially at Camp 2 (and Camp 2.7 had room for only one or two tents). I'm very happy that I went in late November even with less predictable weather, rather than in October when the mountain is significantly more crowded.

Typical mess of fixed ropes at an anchor

Nov. 26
The following morning we descended to Camp 1, where Sonam had hiked up to meet us with sandwiches and coke. Having finally gotten my appetite back I couldn't have been more grateful. After a little reorganizing at Camp 1 we hiked all the way down to base camp, expedition officially over.

Sonam, me and Pasang (L-R) at the AD teahouse (still looking windy up top)

Part Three: Journey Home

A parting shot of Ama before descending to Namche

Nov. 27 - 29
On the 27th we packed up our gear at AD base camp, said some goodbyes, and headed down to Pangboche in the afternoon. I showered for the first time in ten days, which was heavenly even though just a weak trickle of hot water came out of the tap.

Around 5am I was fast asleep when all of a sudden it felt like someone was violently shaking my bed. Earthquake! It only lasted for a few moments but I bolted up, threw on a jacket and ran outside, just as everyone else in the teahouse had done. After a little while the owners declared that all was well and we went back to bed.

A few hours later we awoke to cloudy skies for the first time the entire trip. Pasang and I departed for Namche just after breakfast -- I forgot how much uphill there was on the way back! We saw lots of eagles soaring through the valley and also spotted Nepal's vibrant national bird, the Himalayan Monal. The fog kept getting thicker and we learned that all flights from Lukla had been cancelled that day. We arrived in Namche at 1pm and went for lunch at Everest Bakery, where we first got word that there had been a serious accident on Ama Dablam during the earthquake. Apparently a Sherpa and client were climbing near Camp 3 when the quake hit and they got pummeled with falling ice. Thundu Sherpa suffered fatal head injuries and the client got away with some broken bones. My deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Thundu.

Namche was bitterly cold that night -- the climbing season clearly coming to an end. The next morning we cruised all the way to Lukla, stopping for lunch in Phakding. It's crazy how what takes so long to hike up takes just a few days to descend. I felt drained by the time we arrived at Tara Lodge in Lukla, still not having kicked the plague after all that.

Nepalese porters, strongest people I've ever met

Nov. 30 - Dec. 3
We were able to get on an 8am flight the next day (luckily skies were clear enough for planes to go)! I've heard of people getting stranded in Lukla for days. I was probably even more nervous about the take-off than I had been about landing, but everything went smoothly and in no time at all we touched down at KTM's domestic airport. I got a taxi to my lodging, Kathmandu Resort Hotel; the rest of the day spent catching up on work emails at Himalayan Java followed by dinner at the very good Mediterranean restaurant OR2K. I slept for ten hours straight that night and woke up the next morning feeling like a new person. It's amazing what a real shower, comfy bed and good meal will do for ya.

My flight home didn't leave until Sunday December 4th so I had a few free days in Kathmandu. On the first day Pasang took me on an awesome city tour on his scooter -- we saw the Monkey Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Durbar Square, and a few other spots. I think riding a scooter on the streets of Kathmandu was the most dangerous thing I did all trip, but Pasang's a great driver! The next day I did some souvenir / Christmas shopping and met up with a few of the folks from AD for food at Fire and Ice Pizza and drinks at Sam's Bar. The following day Pasang invited me to lunch at his house, where his wife Kilu cooked the most amazing meal ever, and I got to meet their adorable 20-month-old daughter.

Kathmandu pollution

I wonder why they call it the monkey temple?

Hey Pasang, smile! At Boudhanath Stupa

Rickshaw stand

Best dhal bhat ever

Pasang and his adorable daughter Zengmu

Dec. 4
And that's all! I had no issues with the flights home (thanks China Eastern). Nepal is a stunning country and needs tourism income now more than ever, as damage from the 2015 earthquake is still widespread, so I encourage everyone to go visit! Thanks for reading and a huge thanks to the people who motivated me to go do this and gave me advice, and to Pasang for being the best guide and climbing partner I could have asked for.

Tips / Notes
- If you do fly through China, some airports have free wifi but you can't access Google, Gmail, Facebook, etc...I got around this by downloading a VPN app which worked great. Also, almost nowhere accepted credit cards so either bring food or be prepared to change money.
- Don't forget to bring a passport photo and appropriate amount of cash, as required for your Nepal visa.
- I purchased an NCELL sim card for my iPhone. The card itself cost $3 and included 50 rupees worth of phone calls and 20mb of data. Calling the U.S. is just 5 rupees per minute, or about 5 cents! You can purchase recharge cards along the trekking routes, however they add a surcharge the higher you go. For example in Kathmandu you will just pay the amount that it says on the card, but in Pangboche I had to pay 650 rupees for a 500-rupee card. You can also buy various data packs and 3G is available most places (even at Camp 2 on Ama Dablam).
- Where there is no cell service or if you don't have a sim card, you can buy Everest Link wifi cards, which also become more expensive the higher you go. At Ama Dablam base camp, these cards were 700 rupees (about $7) for only 100mb of data. Some of the teahouses lower down have their own wifi which you pay a set amount to use (for example 400 rupees for 24 hours of unlimited use).
- You have to pay per hour to charge phones and other devices at teahouses along the trek. I brought an Anker PowerPort solar charger which worked great for my iPhone, Kindle and Steripen.
- Some of the teahouses have showers at various prices and hot water is hit or miss. For example, I paid 400 rupees ($4) to shower in Namche. Bring a small travel towel since they'll charge you extra to rent one.
- It's BYOTP (toilet paper) everywhere, even in the teahouses. Stock up while down low to avoid higher prices up high.
- Great restaurants that I would recommend in Kathmandu include OR2K, Himalayan Java (for coffee), Roadhouse Cafe (pizza), Third Eye (Indian), Rosemary Cafe (breakfast), Fire and Ice (pizza!), Sam's Bar (drinks), and Pumpernickel Bakery.
- If anyone has questions about logistics, cost, gear list, etc., shoot me a PM and I'd be happy to talk to you!

Comments or Questions
12/28/2016 17:53
Great TR, Emily. I'll be staring at some of these photos for days. I really respect your decision making and willingness to turn around so near your goal, it's a trait that'll keep you climbing for many years to come. See you for a beer soon!

is this a 14er?
12/28/2016 20:50
I'm going to change my favorite quote from "Where's Emily?" to "Holy crap, where the F$!$%%!^CK is Emily?". This looks incredible. Camp 2 looks incredible. That peak looks unreal. Well done Emily. To just say you're a badass wouldn't do this justice. Did my monkey make it through customs? I'm typing this from my Oso Chromebook.

12/29/2016 06:10
Awesome Emily! What an amazing trip.

12/29/2016 07:08
At this speed of ascent, you'll become the next Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, before we know it! Congrats!

12/29/2016 07:30
Oh, your trip report brought back so many awesome memories of my own trip to Nepal last spring. We stayed at some similar teahouses, ate at similar places. Kala Patthar was snow covered when I went. Also made my way up to Goyko and ascended Goyko Ri. Those beautiful blue lakes were frozen, but the views were still incredible. I absolutely fell in love with the country and the people of Nepal. The Sherpa are the most kind, genuine, and selfless people I have ever met. Huge respect for your decision to turn around so close to the summit. I vow to return someday. I returned from my trip just two weeks prior to the major earthquake that killed all the climbers at Everest base camp. I agree that the entire trip you spend eyeballing Ama, not Everest. Ama is simply breathtaking !

Incredible Journey
12/29/2016 08:08
Mad respect to you for being able to make the decision to turn around so close to the summit, definitely says alot about your experience and wisdom in the mountains. Thank you for sharing!

12/29/2016 10:41
That kinda says it all...

12/29/2016 11:08
I was blown away by your trip report of the seldom climbed mountains you summited in Peru earlier this year, and now this... What a way to spend an otherwise divisive election year doing something awesome. As others have noted, it's too bad you had to turn around so close to the summit of Ama Dablam but as the old saying goes "the mountain will always be there."


Hot damn, Emily
12/29/2016 11:22
You just rocked my wife and I's dream trip! We are trying to get back to the Himalaya and make this happen in the next few years as its #1 priority for us, so your tips and information are invaluable to us. Just so amazing and awesome to hear your story and witness your experience through your great writing and phenomenal photos. So sorry about your illness, but damn hats off to you for persevering to 22,300'! Incredible. I've had my share of sickness bouts in that valley for sure. Its definitely common. Loved that you stayed at Sonam Lodge in Pangboche. We are friends with the owners and spent many days in that teahouse room and in those bunk rooms. I had no idea they had a teahouse up near Ama basecamp - is that new? When you described yourself waking up to an earthquake, I had a feeling that was the tremble that killed Thundu. Just awfully tragic and sad. We knew him well and climbed Everest with us in 2010. He was really really close to some of our best friends who had just climbed Cho Oyu with him. The world lost a hero that is for sure. Anyway, just loved your report and thanks for sharing your experiences. Best to you, Emily.

12/29/2016 11:42
I especially enjoyed your photos.

12/29/2016 14:00
You're kind of a big deal, you probably have an ice axe made of fine mahogany. Sorry you didn't make the summit, but you made the right decision and now you have an excuse to go back You just keep racking up these incredible adventures, what's next?

Whole different level
12/29/2016 18:32
Surreal report. I'm sure words and photos don't do your experience any justice, but it is awesome. And camp 2 looks pretty airy!

12/31/2016 06:47
What an incredible trip. Your photo descending mushroom ridge is amazing! That's quite the mountain, thanks for sharing.

01/01/2017 19:53
Wow, nice job and writeup Emily! Those Camp 2 tent shots are great.
Quite adventurous to read through. Felt like I was reading an issue of NG Adventure. Too bad we missed each other on the Mountaineers Route on Whitney in 2013.

01/04/2017 03:34
Breathtaking photos and a huge accomplishment even without summiting! You are wise to know when to turn around. In many ways what a bigger accomplishment that is. At least your safe and can tell this amazing story. Great job!

thanks for the great report !
01/04/2017 07:28
Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience. Great photos, I was in this region too many years ago, brings back memories. I would agree AD is in the discussion of the most beautiful mountains I have ever seen.

01/04/2017 13:06
I have been reluctant to comment because I just don't have the words. I've told a few that this peak was my endgame stretch dream, though becoming more of a pipe dream. I heard you were out there. Sorry about the bad luck, but great job making good choices!
Regarding some of your past comment follow-ups, I don't see a return trip to Ecuador happening...too few chances/a lot of other objectives. But you'll hear from me if I ever see a big climbing window open up.
Thanks for the well written and very helpful report!

01/08/2017 17:59
Amazing pictures! Congratulations for getting as far as you did considering the circumstances, you're a strong woman!

01/09/2017 09:53
Great write-up for an awesome trip! As Eric said, it shows experience and wisdom to make the call to descend when you did.

Holy Sh!t Hedricks
01/09/2017 13:18
This is one hell of a guide and bench mark for future people looking to climb Ama. Incredibly beautiful report with some of the best pictures I have ever seen. You are the most bad ass chick I know!

A Great Read
01/19/2017 20:01
I really enjoyed reading your trip report. I didn't even skim any of it. Thanks for taking the time to write this up so nicely.

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