Mt. Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain peak after Mt. Everest (8848m), Mt. Ketu (8611m) and Mt. Kanchenjunga (8586m). It is at an altitude of 8516m from the sea level. In the Tibetan language, the meaning of Lhotse is “Southern peak”.
Mt. Lhotse is gaining its popularity in recent times for its dramatic South Face. The South Face raises 3.2 KM and is 2.25KM wide, which makes it the toughest face of this size in the world. This is the reason why Lhotse is regarded as an extremely challenging climb in the world as compared to the other summits in Nepal such as Mt. Everest, Mt. Manaslu and Mt. Makalu. And very few have the courage to climb this summit. The key to a successful ascent of Mt. Lhotse is patience, good organization of logistics, perseverance and in the end a little luck from the weather as well.
Where is Lhotse located?
Lhotse is situated on the border area of Khumbu region of Nepal and Tibet of China. Mt. Lhotse and Mt. Everest are connected through South Col, which is a sharp-edged pass between these two mountains. It is located about 50 miles from Kathmandu. Besides the mighty 8615m peak, Lhotse incorporates smaller peaks such as Lhotse Middle (aka Lhotse East) at an altitude of 8414m/27605ft and Lhotse Shar at 8383m/27503ft. Many people have mistaken Lhotse’s location as Tibet (China) since it borders with it. However, Lhotse’s peak is located in Nepal.
In 1955, Norman Dyhrenfurth along with his team members reached 8100 m on Lhotse. They were denied to climb further because of the strong wind and cold. Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger first ascended in 1956, the main Lhotse (8615m) as a part of Swiss expedition. The summit was climbed as an alternative route towards the Everest. Before that, Lhotse was recognized as the south peak of the Everest massif (a compact group of mountains). Similarly, Sepp Mayerl and Rolf Walter conquered Lhotse Shar (8383m) for the first time in 1979. And the Lhotse East (8414m) was climbed by the Russian expedition in 2001. Until now, only just above 600 climbers have been to the summit of Mount Lhotse as compared to thousands of them in Mt. Everest.
Deaths while climbing Lhotse
Since Lhotse Mountain is one of the highest mountain peaks in the world, it has witnessed numerous deaths over the years. While attempting to climb up the peak, many have lost their lives even though it’s not as tall as Mt. Everest because of its toughness and challenging conditions. According to Himalayan Database, the success rate of summiting Lhotse is 67% and by the end of 2014, 15 people have died trying to conquer mighty Lhotse peak. Among the deaths caused, the major reason was fall.
- Highest elevation during the trip; 8516m/27,940 ft.)
- Duration of the trip: somewhere around 60 days.
- Latitude and Longitude: 27.96670°N / 86.93330°E
- Country of location: Nepal (Bordering with Tibet)
- Climbing route: South Col.
- Difficulty: Challenging
- Best time to travel: Late Spring and Autumn
- First ascent: 1956 by Ernst Reiss and Fritz Luchsinger
- Starting point: Kathmandu
- Hotels and Accommodation: Tea house and camping.
- Mountain sights: Amadablam, Everest, Makalu
- Lhotse climbing Permit: Yes, the climbers are required to have a permit before climbing Mt. Lhotse.
Best time to climb Lhotse
The best time to ascend for Lhotse expedition is during the late March to May, which is considered as the time of spring in Nepal. Similarly, during the month of October and November is also regarded as descent timings for the expedition. However, monsoon and winter are not favorable for climbing. The weather gets totally unpredictable resulting in difficulty to the climbers in summiting the peak.
Day 1: Arrival at Kathmandu via Tribhuvan International Airport. Rest day at Kathmandu.
Day 2: Preparation of logistics and rest day.
Day 3: Preparation and finalization of gears/logistics.
Day 4: Fly to Lukla (2860 m). And trek to Phakding (2610m).
Day 5: Trek to Namche Bazaar (3440m). It’s the major gateway to Everest region.
Day 6: Acclimatization at Namche Bazaar. Tour around the town.
Day 7: Trek along Tengboche Monastery (3890m) and then to Deboche (3820 m).
Day 8: Trek until Dingboche at 4410m. One can see the beautiful view of Mt. Ama Dablam.
Day 9: Acclimatization at Dingboche.
Day 10: Trek until Loboche (4940m).
Day 11: Trek up to the top of Kala Patthar (5643m) and then descend to Gorak Shep (5164m).
Day 12: Trek up to Everest Base Camp (EBC) at an altitude of 5380m.
Day 13-49: Time to ascend the summit being careful about the weather, health and everything else.
Day 50-56: Spare time. If in case, the weather doesn’t favor or any inevitable circumstances incur, this time will cover them. Also, descend to the lower stops.
Day 57-60: Reach Kathmandu by then. Have some free time in Kathmandu.
Lhotse South Col Route Camps:
The Khumbu Icefall is a steep glacier with obvious implication of large crevasses and treacherous unstable seracs making navigation complicated and riddled with a high objective danger of falling ice. Without any doubt, Khumbu icefall is the most dangerous part of the entire mountain and has claimed a lot of lives over the years. Khumbu icefall is a river of ices that moves several feet a day. And the movement is unstable and very risky as well. There’s no any other option other than passing through the Khumbu icefall if you are to climb Mt. Everest or Mt. Lhotse. Once past the Khumbu icefall the route is not that challenging technically and is essentially a strenuous trekking route with a little objective danger. The elevation of Khumbu icefall begins at 5,300m (17,5000ft) and ends at 6,000m (19,500ft).
The icefall is famous for crossing the vertical ice masses and open crevasses. Since Khumbu icefall is avalanche risk area, it is very dangerous in the afternoon. So most of the climbers prefer to cross this icefall during the early morning before the sun rises. This is because the cold temperature in the night freezes the ice and makes easier for climbers to walk decreasing the risk of unstable ice falling.
Lhotse Base Camp: (5380m/17,600ft.)
Mt. Everest and Mt. Lhotse share the same base camp. It is widely known as Everest Base camp. Stay in Lhotse base camp at an altitude of 5380m (17,600ft) from the sea level is very significant as well as the critical phase of climbing Lhotse. The climbers have to stay here up to 45 days. Basecamp is located on a moving glacier. The main purpose of staying here for that long period of time is to acclimatize the body, shift and move tents here and there because of melting ice. The Lhotse base camp is harsh for obvious reasons but at the same time rewarding as well. One can witness beautiful Pumori, Lola, and Nuptse from the base camp. The base camp experiences warm mornings and occasional afternoon snow squalls. Since there are a lot of expedition teams trying to climb Mt. Everest and Mt. Lhotse, the Basecamp witnesses numerous climbers and it feels like a village in the lap of Himalaya.
Camp 1 (6065m)
Camp 1 is located on the top of Khumbu icefall; it is a desolate and exposed place mainly used as rest and transition location on the way to camp 2 (6400m). The glacier between camp 1 and 2 flattens but there are still large crevasses close to camp 1, which are also fixed with ladders.
Reaching camp 1 is the most technical part of a south side climb since the climber has to pass through the Khumbu Icefall. Generally, the climbers stay in camp 1 for about two nights in order to acclimatize. After that, the climbers move to camp 2 in order to ascend.
Camp 2: (6400m/20,998ft.)
Camp 2 is located in a lateral moraine at the bottom of the west ridge. It is a very safe and sheltered location with tremendous views on Lhotse. All the climbers set-up their main climbing camp for the duration of the climbing period with tents for individual climbers, the kitchen, and dining tents. Camp 2 is main acclimatization camp and the base for camp 3-acclimatization climb and the final summit attempt. This is the camp that you will spend most time after base camp.
Camp 3: (7100m/23,294ft.)
Camp 3 (7100m) is located on a small ledge on the Lhotse wall. It typically takes 2 to 3 hours to complete the 2.8km (1.7 miles) distance, 762m (2,500ft) height gain, climb from Camp 2 to Camp 3. One has to cross the glacier to the right side before 40deg 600m climb on the compact snowfield. The route is safe with a couple of short less than 3m ice cliffs, which climbing Sherpas set up with fixed ropes.
Ascending to the Lhotse face to Camp III is often difficult since the climbers are troubled with high altitude and haven’t used the supplemental oxygen as well. The Lhotse face is steep and the ice is hard but the route is fixed with rope and the angles range from 30 to 45 degrees. At least 2 nights of acclimatization is necessary at camp 3.
Camp 4: (79000m/25,918ft.)
Camp 4 (7900m) located near South Col is the last camp before summiting the Lhotse peak; it is easily accessible by the majority of climbers without supplementary oxygen. There are two rock sections to navigate before camp 4: Yellow Bands, interlayer marble, phyllite and semi-schist rocks and Geneva Spur, an anvil shaped rib of black rocks; they are again set-up with fixed ropes. Normally it takes around 3 to 6 hours of time to reach camp 4 from 3. But this majorly depends on weather conditions, climber’s capability, and his health conditions. Also, if there’s a long queue, it might take longer than the time mentioned above. And the height gain is 854m (2800ft.) and the distance is around 800m (2635ft.).
Camp 4 is notable as offering the first view of Everest’s summit, still over 800m (around 2,700ft) above, but climbers will also be acutely aware that they are now on the edge of the Death Zone where there is not enough oxygen for humans to breathe. While not every climber uses oxygen at this height those who don’t are extremely rare.
Summit: (8516m/27, 940ft.)
While the climbing would usually begin after sunrise it will still be extremely cold before the sun moves over Lhotse, especially if the wind is strong. However once the sun appears and in cloudless skies, as was the case in the Western Cwm it can rapidly become very hot especially for climbers in full down suits.
While it is crossed in about 2 hours (give or take) it takes great concentration to avoid a slip and once again the proper use of the fixed lines is critical. Above the Yellow Band, the terrain flattens a little until the Geneva Spur when the angle increases again to around 40 degrees. The Geneva Spur is a mixed ground of rock, snow, and ice, which, depending on conditions is sometimes easier to climb without crampons. From the top of the spur climbers soon reach the South Col, and Camp 4, at just over 8000m (26,300ft).
The Lhotse South Face
The western flank of Mt. Lhotse is called “The Lhotse Face”. The Lhotse face is one of the most popular parts of climbing Everest from the southern side mainly because of its strenuous and peculiar structure. Similarly, the Lhotse face is very tough as there is a high chance of avalanche and constantly falling rocks.
Any climbers are bound to climb 1,125m of glacial blue ice in order to reach South Col. South Col is the sharp-edged notch or pass between Mount Everest and Mount Lhotse. This face rises at 40 and 50-degree pitches with the occasional 80-degree bulges. High-altitude climbing Sherpas and the lead climbers will set fixed ropes up this wall of ice. Climbers and porters need to establish a good rhythm of foot placement and pulling themselves up the ropes using their jumars. A jumar is a mechanical device through which the fixed line runs freely in one direction only. Two rocky sections called the Yellow Band and the Geneva Spur interrupt the icy ascent on the upper part of the face. The Yellow Band is a strip of limestone that cuts through the Lhotse Face about 2 hours into the climb. It is smooth rock angled at about 20 to 30 degrees.
The Lhotse face is a wall of rock-hard blue ice and hard packed snow and climbers typically climb it twice; once during the final acclimatization climb and then again en route to the summit. This is a tough climb and requires great care and concentration as the steepness and hardness of the ice makes it difficult to get a grip with crampons. Due to this, climbers must be clipped into the fixed line at all times, even when moving around Camp 3 which is cut into the face.
What do you think of Mt. Lhotse? Do you think you can make it to the fourth highest peak in the world? Gear up the adventure!