Introduction: We at SummitClimb have been climbing Ama Dablam since 1997, with more than 30 successful Ama Dablam expeditions during this time. My name is Dan Mazur and I personally have led 9 successful Ama Dablam expeditions, together with our awesome Sherpas, some of whom have summited Ama Dablam more than 15 times. I hope you will enjoy some discussion, facts, ideas and tips we have learned about climbing Ama Dablam over the years.
Meaning of Ama Dablam: Ama means Mother and Dablam means Charm Box. Nowadays it is quite common for Sherpa men, women, and children to wear necklaces containing plastic encased or cloth bound pictures of the Buddha, tied around their neck on a string. A long time back, Sherpa men and women even wore around their necks, worked silver charm boxes bulging with prayer scrolls, sacred herbs, etcetera. So when you look at Ama Dablam from the Everest Base Camp trekking trail, in the vicinity of Pangboche Village, you can see that the big hanging glacier near the summit “head” of the mountain looks like one of these bulging charm boxes, and the two extending ridges of Ama Dablam look like arms, so that the mountain in its entirety appears to be an elderly Sherpa matron with her long grey hair tresses hanging down her head, a big charm box round her neck and wide arms outstretched embracing the Sherpa people. When you think about Pangboche village being the highest summer herding settlement in ancient days, you can imagine the Sherpa’s herding their yaks in the shadow of mother Ama Dablam must have felt especially blessed.
Location of Ama Dablam: Ama Dablam is located in the Khumbu Valley near the village of Pangboche, just a days walk from Namche Bazaar. Ama Dablam is located at the confluence of the river coming from Island Peak and the river coming from Everest. On Ama Dablam’s southern flank lies the Mingbo River. Ama Dablam is 20 kilometres / 12 miles from Everest.
History of Ama Dablam: Since Nepal was basically off limits to foreigners until after World War 2, and Ama Dablam was low in the valley, and Everest was occupying the early explorers excitement, Ama Dablam did not get much attention until a group of Everest climbers decided to give it a go in 1960-61. As Ama Dablam’s iconic shape and name seemed to be very significant to the Sherpa religion, Ama Dablam was even considered to be a “sacred” peak that should not be climbed. Not only that, but early foreign explorers had decided that Ama Dablam and its neighbor Mount Tawoche were “unclimbable” (too difficult to be climbed). Even Sir Edmund Hillary frowned on climbing Ama Dablam and discouraged it. However, a group of Everest summiters and the famed Gill, Bishop, and Ward finally climbed it in March, 1961. You can imagine what an amazing feat this was using the limited equipment and clothing of the day. Also, March is quite a chilly month to climb in the Khumbu Valley. This was at the time of the “Silver Hut Expedition” when climbers were learning that staying at high altitude for many months at a time, without descending to lower elevations for a rest, was of no benefit, and, in fact would sap a climber’s energy and cause health problems.