Ama Dablam 2020: Climbing in an Empty Khumbu

Surreal. Wonderful. Those are the words chosen by Garrett Madison to describe the peaceful Khumbu Valley, bereft of the usual crowds. “We didn’t see any other foreigners,” Madison said.

The U.S. guide had quickly assembled a small team of adventurous clients and flew to Nepal, prepared to ride out the mandatory quarantine and the uncertainty of getting permission to enter the Khumbu.

“Masked dinner” to celebrate success on Ama Dablam. Summiters were Garrett Madison, Mohammed Al-Thani, Jennifer Drummond, Ted Hesser, Chase Merriam, Elia Saikaly and seven Sherpa guides.


They were the first non-Nepalis, but not the last. A handful of European guides and their small groups soon followed. One of Lukas Furtenbach’s groups has already climbed Mera Peak, and another is about to leave Ama Dablam BC for their final push. They expect to reach the top by Sunday. Furtenbach reports that a second team run by Pioneer Treks had to abort their summit push two days ago because of strong winds.

Just you and the Himalaya: Solitude on top of Mera Peak last weekend. Photo: Furtenbach Adventures


Apart from this outlier, climbing Ama Dablam has been pleasant this fall, thanks to lots of sun and dry weather, which have kept the long, rocky sections clean of snow and ice. Meanwhile, the Sherpa communities, left without work for most of the year, have focused on cleaning and repairing the trekking routes in the valley, Ang Rita Sherpa told the Nepali Times.

A Sherpa worker re-paints a mani wall near Namche Bazaar. Photo: Ang Rita Sherpa