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Six Tips on Winter Mountaineering in Tibet

June,10 2023 BY Sonam Tenphel 0 COMMENTS

Who are Suitable from Mountaineering in Tibet in Winter

Unlike the trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC), or even the trek from EBC to the Advanced Base Camp (ABC) at over 6,000 meters, mountaineering in Tibet requires a little more skill and expertise than what is required for ordinary mountain trekking. Climbing to the summit of any mountain in Tibet is something that only skilled and experienced climbers should do, as the higher altitudes and adverse weather conditions make it one of the hardest places for mountaineering in the world. The complex terrain, climate variability, and blustery effect of the wind can make high-altitude mountaineering a big risk.

Accidents and incidents in the high mountains of Tibet are usually due to people having an insufficient knowledge or experience for the objectives they undertake. Before starting out to do mountaineering in Tibet, one should learn about the requirements of basic mountaineering skills, and only attempt to scale a peak with an experienced group of climbers.

 Winter Mountaineering You should attempt to scale a peak with an experienced group of climbers

With poor visibility and the ground covered in snow it is all too easy to become disoriented, so it is very important to review your planned route before setting off. Planning is great, but inflexibility is not. In winter, the weather and conditions can change incredibly quickly and you must be willing to alter your plans accordingly. This does not have to mean turning back, but may involve taking a different route if a slope is avalanche prone, a ridge too windy, or if your start time has been delayed.

There are whole hosts of skills to master to make your winter mountaineering safe and enjoyable. Hazards are always there, but that is part of the attraction. In addition, with crampons frozen snow or ice can be negotiated. Balance is the key, and that is where the axe comes in very useful. It can be used as a third leg on steep slopes, and should always be carried in the uphill hand. Exploring the mountains in winter is exhilarating, and having the skills to get around confidently allows you to visit truly wild areas. The keys to success are preparation and practice. Do some research before you head to the hills, and practice the essential skills in a safe environment.

Choose the Right Time for Winter Mountaineering in Tibet is Vital

Mountaineering in Tibet is something that cannot be done all year round. Certain conditions are required in order to more safely climb to the peaks of the Himalayan Mountains, and there are certain times of the year when it is highly unadvisable to attempt a climb.

The months of April and May are normally the peak time for mountaineering in the Himalayas, and it is the time when the professional teams make their ascents of Mt. Everest. While the spring is still in season, and the skies are clear, there is less chance of accidents on the mountains, wind is normally less strong, and there is no rain.

September to the end of October is also a good time, though there is still some chance of a little rain in early September. It can be a little more windy in autumn than in spring, but the skies are also clear, and there is less snow on the mountains at this time.

From October onwards, mountaineering in Tibet becomes more difficult, and only very experienced climbers should attempt to make climbs, as the weather can get worse, and at heights it can start to snow more. Summer is a no go time for climbing too, since it is the monsoon, and even in the mountains the rains can cause mud and rock slides that make climbing too dangerous.

Recommended Winter Mountaineering and Trekking Route in Tibet

Advanced Everest Base Camp Trek

This is one of the most spectacular treks in Tibet and also the world’s highest elevation trek ending at 6,340 meters. The trek starts when you reach the small monastery of Rongbuk, from where you can look up the valley directly at Mount Everest. Its only 22km to the Advanced Base camp but you are gaining 1,310 meters, which is more than it seems given the already high elevation. This is the same route used by climbers using the North Col to summit Everest.

 Advanced Everest Base Camp Trek Advanced Everest Base Camp Trek

Mount Shishapangma Base Camp Trek

Mount Shishapangma is one of only 14 peaks reaching 8,000 meters in the world. You can make the dramatic trek to base camp 4,980 meters in as little as a week and if you have an extra few days continue on to Advanced Base Camp at 5,400 meters. The hiking here is not too difficult, as it is mostly on decent trails and then across the rockier moraines to the base camp.

 Mount Shishapangma Base Camp Trek Mount Shishapangma Base Camp Trek

East Mount Everest Base Camp - Kangshung Face

This is an 8-day trek to the seldom-visited Kangshung Face Base Camp which serves as the eastern base camp for Mount Everest. The trail passes over two high passes the Shao La (4,915m) and Langma La (5,200m) and passes through the beautiful Gama Valley. The trek passes through an area of rich floral diversity and some of the world’s highest elevation forests before bringing you to the base camp where you have great views of Everest, Lhotse, and Makalu. The Kangshung Face is the most dangerous approach to Everest and the least used. The impressive rock wall viewed from the base camp has a vertical relief of over 3,350 meters.

 East Mount Everest Base Camp - Kangshung Face East Mount Everest Base Camp - Kangshung Face

Packing List

There are certain things you will need when mountaineering that you would not normally need when just trekking. A reminder of important gears for mountaineering or trekking in winter in Tibet :

Clothing & Outer layers - Heavy down jacket, Thermal underwear, Down vest, Woolen blend trekking socks, Heavy Socks, Wind/rain proof overlayer (jacket and pants) - Warm winter hat, Trekking boots, Scarf, Goggles or pairs of sunglasses, Hiking poles, Gloves, Winter hiking boots
Navigation - Map (with protective case), Compass, GPS (optional)
Sun protection - Sunscreen, Lip balm, Sunglasses, goggles or glacier glasses
First-aid supplies - Mountaineering aluminum water bottles, Winter hiking poles, Flashlight or headlamp,Antiseptic wipes, Antibacterial ointment, Compound tincture of benzoin, Altitude-sickness medicine, Eye drops, Chocolate or milk bars, Instant coffee or tea,Assorted adhesive bandages, Butterfly bandages / adhesive wound-closure strips, Gauze pads, Nonstick sterile pads, Medical adhesive tape, Blister treatment, Ibuprofen / other pain-relief medication, Insect sting relief treatment, Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions, Splinter tweezers, Safety pins, First-aid manual or information cards, Elastic wrap, Triangular cravat bandage, Rolled gauze, Rolled, stretch-to-conform bandages, Hemostatic (blood-stopping) gauze, Liquid bandage, and Oval eye pads.
Fire - Matches or lighter, Waterproof container, Fire starter (for emergency survival fire)
Repair kit and tools - Knife or multi-tool, Duct tape or other repair items
Emergency shelter - Lightweight sleeping bag, Tent, tarp, bivouac or reflective blanket

(The dramatic temperature change between daytime and nighttime and symptom of altitude sickness are two tough challenges to mountaineers, so have full preparation.)

Travel Documents

The Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) permit, also known as the Tibet Travel Permit, is the first must-have permission for all foreign tourists who want to enter Tibet and have good Tibet tour. It is issued by the Tibet Tourism Bureau and has to be applied through a Tibet local travel agency. The Frontier Pass is the official document for travelers to tour the border between Tibet with other countries. It is applied for through Armed Police Tibet Frontier Corps in Lhasa. Without this paper, foreign travelers will not be allowed to visit EBC or travel to Nepal from Tibet via the Gyirong border.

The Aliens' Travel Permit is a "must" for those who are planning to travel the "unopened areas" outside Lhasa. Mt. Everest belongs to the "unopened areas". Without this permit, travelers cannot reach the Everest Base Camp. If you plan to visit any places higher than the EBC, such as Advanced Base Camp (6,500 meters), Rongbuk Glacier, or plan to do any mountaineering in Tibet, you have to apply for another permit - Mountaineering License - that is issued by Tibet Mountaineering Association, and you must also hire a professional climbing coordinator through your tour operator.

In addition, for mountaineering above 6000m, you have to get both Tibet Mountaineering Permit and Trekking Permit from Tibet Mountaineering Association (TMA). Currently, we can offer trekking and mountaineering service to mountains below 6500m in Tibet.

Six Tips on Winter Mountaineering in Tibet

If you are a mountain climbing enthusiast and planning a Tibet Tour. The snowy mountains in Tibet are extremely charming in winter. It is a pleasure to climb the snowy mountains in Tibet. One can enjoy the stunning winter scenery of Tibet while conquering the snowy maintains. Here are some tips for mountaineering in winter.

1. Avoid climbing mountains alone but in a team with experienced mountaineers.

2. Choose short mountaineering routes. Make sure of the weather forecast before departure and the round-trip time as 6-8 hours with the departure time after the sunrise. Go down mountains before 4:00 PM. Climb down the mountains quickly if the weather changes.

3. Be properly equipped. It is important to keep warm outdoors in winter. Put on light, windproof, waterproof, warm and ventilate mountaineering suits as well as anti-slippery spiked shoes. Don't wear jeans or cotton clothes. Make the shoelaces a little loose when going up the mountain but a little tight when going down the mountain. Put light and large things at the bottom of the backpack and heavy things on the top. Take flashlights or top lights in case of emergency.

4. Take precautions against possible dangers. Follow the footprints on the snow. Step hard on the ground with soles when there is no footprint. Reduce strides and move weight onto heels when going down mountains. Wear the backpack, for it can guard against head or waist injury once you fall down.

5. Properly arrange rest time. Take a break for 5-10 minutes after a-hour climbing. Rest for 1-2 minutes every 20 minutes on steep roads.

6. Follow mountaineering rules. Throw the rubbish to assigned positions, forbid using matches or cigarette lighter and don't destroy trees or public facilities to protect the environment.

Other Dos and Don’ts

Trekking and mountaineering in the Tibetan mountains can be fun if done in a certain manner and few dos and don’ts are followed. “Mountain Manners” are an important part of mountaineering, and should be used at all times.

Respect the faith of locals especially at a religious site. Tibetan Buddhists are devout, and will not appreciate you mocking their religion.

Making a rhythm is very important while trekking. If a proper rhythm is not maintained, one is bound to get tired easily. Try breathing in time with your steps to maintain a good rhythm. Moving too fast will make one tired easily, and if too slow, you might be left behind. Try to walk at a steady pace so that you reach each campsite before sunset.

After 20-30 minutes of starting the trek, remove excessive clothing if you are sweating a lot. Maintain your body temperature when resting by putting on a wind proof jacket, and keep your backpack on when taking short rests.

Sonam Tenphel

About the Author - Sonam Tenphel

With 20+ years of guide experience and tons of great reviews, Sonam Tenphel is one of the top-rated local Tibetan guides in our team. Polite, enthusiastic, and extremely attentive to every traveler’s needs, he is your best travel companion in Tibet and a walking dictionary of Tibetan culture and history.

Additionally, being a great photographer, Sonam helps you capture great Tibet travel moments and maximize your Tibet experiences like no other.

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