HOW HARD IS CLIMBING LOBUCHE EAST?

TSA CEO Oliver Browne answers the question everyone's been asking

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At 6118m, Lobuche East is one of Nepal's most popular treks. Situated amid the sublime scenery of the Khumbu Valley, Lobuche East expeditions offer the chance to immerse yourself in the Himalayas, summit a 6000'er, and take in views of greats including Everest.

Here our CEO extraordinaire Oliver Browne uses his experience on the mountain to answer your questions about climbing Lobuche East.


For starters Oliver, what and where is Lobuche East?


Part of the Nepalese Himalayas, Lobuche East is the eastern peak of Lobuche Mountain (the other being Lobuche West). It's around 5km south of Mount Everest and a few kilometres from the second to last village on our Everest Basecamp Trek, which is also called Lobuche.


How do you get to Lobuche?


True Summit Adventures' Everest Basecamp Trek is the best way to start the Lobuche ascent for the reason I've just outlined. We offer the classic trek via Tengboche or to go via Gokyo and its lake. Either way the trek allows ample acclimatisation time ahead of attempting Lobuche itself. After reaching Everest Basecamp we spend a night in Gorakshep before descending to Lobuche village. Here we rest and get ready for the climb. The Lobuche high camp is a 4 hour hike from the village. 


What is Lobuche high camp like?


It's pretty good! It’s like a mix between basecamp and Camp 2 on Mount Everest. Lots of operators use Lobuche as a way to prepare and acclimatise for Everest itself, so it’s a well established camp with a large dining and kitchen tent. Some great food was knocked out prior to our ascent by the team there!


2023 was your first expedition to Lobuche. How did it go?


It will be hard to beat, that’s for sure! All our expedition members summited. All the more remarkably, one of them, Patrick Kappaz, was only 16 years and 48 days old. We think this is likely a record for a non-Nepali climber and potentially for anyone. We're looking into it!


What were the highlights of climbing Lobuche East?


Great expedition members for starters. Everyone was well prepared and very determined. There was never really a moment when I thought we wouldn’t all summit. But that’s not to say it’s easy. We came well acclimatised and just kept plugging away.

I think we had great Nepali guides too. Ankaji Sherpa has been our Everest trekking guide, but is also a very competent climbing sherpa with three ascents of Ama Dablam on his CV. We were led by senior guide Pasang Kami Sherpa, who has eight Everest summits and many other ascents of 8000m mountains to his name.

“PK” did a great training session for the members in Lobuche village the day before we went to high camp. He created a section of ‘fixed rope’ and everyone practiced ascending with the Jooma device and descending with the figure of 8 device. It gave everyone some much-needed confidence for the climb.

We also had champagne conditions: it was cold during the night but we were fortunate to have no wind and when the sun came up it was beautiful. Bright sunshine and blue skies!


Lobuche is designated a “trekking” peak in Nepal. Did you find it as such or is it more technical?


Yes the designations in Nepal can be confusing! I've heard that these labels are a form of PR designed to make the peaks less likely to be excluded from insurance policies! Whatever the reason, it’s not true to call Lobuche a trekking peak. There’s 600m of ascent on snow and ice for starters requiring the use of crampons. There's also some technical complexity, such as using a fixed rope and traversing a crevasse. Anyone expecting a trek in the mould of Everest basecamp or Annapurna is going to have a shock - it’s an ascent. 


How long does the climb of Lobuche East take?


From the high camp to the summit it's 4-5 hours depending on speed and conditions. I would say 4.5 hours would be ‘par for the course.’ At the summit you might have to wait for people to come down before you can ascend the final section, as it's a very narrow summit ridge.

Descending to the high camp is 2.5-3 hrs. You can go there and take a helicopter down, as we did, or you can hike to Lobuche or Feriche. These options add at least a couple of hours to the descent. 


Was it cold at the summit?


Yes it was! I wore La Sportiva Nepals (6000m boots) but my feet were cold before sunrise, possibly because my mountaineering trousers were not thick enough despite having thermal underwear as well.

I wore 6000m gloves from Outdoor Research but also put some mittens on at the coldest point before dawn. When the sun came up it was glorious, but definitely come prepared for cold conditions.


What experience do you think people need before trying Lobuche East?


Well, I guided a 16 year old up who was having his first ascent of any mountain... but I think he was the exception to the rule. He was a fit and determined guy who had a natural aptitude for climbing and altitude. He spends a lot of time skiing in Colorado so that must have helped him. There was never a moment that I thought he wouldn’t summit.

If you've done any alpine climbing or had any experience at altitude (even if it’s only a non technical ascent like Kilimanjaro) but have a good level of fitness and mountain awareness then you should take your chance on Lobuche. It's a great mountain in its own right and a great introduction to Himalayan climbing. We help you every step of the way, so if you're not confident with your rope work, you don't have to worry. If you do well on Lobuche you'll be ready for the next step up.


Will you be running expeditions to climb Lobuche East regularly? 


Yes! We have April and October trips running annually. I will be leading them alongside our local Nepali guides.