By Kathy Cosley and Mark Houston
Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides 2003

The equipment we bring on this expedition can generally be divided into two categories. First, the clothing and gear needed for the approach trek and for use lower on the mountain, and second the equipment we need for climbing higher. Ama Dablam is a very technical climb; the gear we use on the technical sections should be as lightweight as possible. In the list below we have given what we consider to be reasonable weight targets for various items. Please carefully consider this aspect of your equipment selection. On many expeditions this may be less critical, however because of the difficulty of climbing on Ama Dablam, weight is very important.


Climbing Boots – You need warm climbing boots, but you also need reasonable agility and performance on rock. Even with the use of fixed lines, good rock performance in your boots will delay fatigue, helping you climb faster and more safely both on the steep sections and the easy scrambling sections. A good, warm insulated leather boot with an insulated super gaiter would be ideal (examples include La Sportiva Nepal Extremes, and Kayland Revolutions). Plastic boots will also work well if they are fairly warm and fitted well. Good examples are the Koflach Arctis Expe, the Scarpa Inverno and Vasque Ice 9000. If you have had problems with cold feet plastic boots are probably preferable. If you feel you need to use plastic boots, an ordinary gaiter is fine. In any case, but especially if you go with plastic boots, fit your boots carefully and make sure they're not too big.

Hiking Boots/approach shoes – These are the boots you will use on the trek to Kala Patar and Base Camp. A light weight approach shoe with a decent sole for scrambling on rock, is the ideal choice here. While the trails can be rough, our loads will be light and the days generally warm.

Gaiters – Bring a pair of regular knee high gaiters if you are using plastic boots, or insulated supergaiters if you are using leather boots.

Socks – Bring socks for the trek in as well as for the climb. We usually bring a nice clean fluffy pair for the summit day. Some people like to wear a thin liner sock.

Lightweight long underwear bottoms – Any of a myriad of synthetic wonder fabrics will do.

Other layers for the legs – Things get a little complicated, here. What you bring for your leg layers will depend on your shell strategy, specifically on whether you opt for 1) an insulated one-piece Gore-tex suit; 2) an un-insulated one-piece Gore-tex suit, or 3) simply Gore-tex jacket and pants.

I'll start with the strategy for option 1 – an insulated one-piece Gore-tex suit. This is what you would use getting to camp 3, and/or on summit day—this suit may be too warm for climbing on the lower mountain, below Camp I. Under this suit, on summit day you will want to wear light long underwear bottoms and a slightly thicker layer, such as the Patagonia R-1 fabric, Powerstretch tights or something similar. With this strategy, for the lower mountain you will want a separate light weight shell pant for wind and squall protection, and also climbing pants. The ideal climbing pant is made of a fabric such as Schoeller fabric, with is stretchy and comfortable, sheds snow, blocks wind somewhat, and if worn under a light Gore-tex shell, can be quite warm. Some examples include the Patagonia Guide Pant, the North Face Alpine Pant or the Mammut Champ Pant, but there are many other brands and models of similar pants.

If you choose option 2 – an un-insulated one-piece Gore-tex suit, or 3 – ordinary Gore-tex jacket and pants, then you will want a warmer insulated under layer on the legs for the summit day, than you would for option 1. Ideal would be pants made with Prima-Loft insulation. A good example is made by Integral Designs. Second choice would be a light-weight down pant, also rare; and your third choice would be some kind of fleece. The problem here is that fleece is bulky and not very "slippy", so it tends to inhibit freedom of movement, that's why PrimaLoft is a better choice if you can find it.

Shell – If you bring a one-piece suit for the climbing you will also need to bring a light weight Gore-tex or equivalent jacket and pants for the trek in and the lower mountain, as the one-piece will be too warm low down. Despite this fact, a one-piece suit is still a great way to go for this type of climb, as it gives the best warmth for the weight. Many brands and models exist. If you do not want to buy a one piece suit, then a regular Gore-tex, or equivalent, jacket and pants will do. Whatever you use it should be roomy enough to fit over all of your insulating layers.

Lightweight long underwear tops – same as bottoms

Midweight top layer – expedition weight or light fleece.

Heavier weight fleece or primaloft jacket – you may want to leave this garment in Base Camp, relying on a down jacket for warmth above.

Down parka or sweater – This should not be a heavy or bulky jacket. In this case, light is most definitely right. The Marmot Parbat down jacket is a good example.

Lightweight polypro liner gloves – Bring 1 pair–Windstopper gloves are both warmest and toughest.

Shelled gloves – Usually Gore-tex shells over a fleece or pile liner. Liners should be removable for easy drying. Your waterfall gloves will work if they are quite warm.

Medium weight balaclava – pile, fleece or wool

Additional wool or warm hat

Earband – nice for keeping ears warm without overheating.

Sunhat – Or baseball cap with bandanna safety pinned to it to keep the sun off your face and neck.

Light cotton long sleeved shirt – For hiking in warm weather.

Comfortable and lightweight cotton or synthetic pants – For hiking.

Clothing for around town – Bring a couple changes of clothing to wear around Kathmandu. If we finish the climb early we may need to spend an extra day or two in Nepal while we change our flight schedule home.


Crampons – Bring crampons with a flat frame, horizontal front points, a snap-on lever in back, and preferably a strap system rather than a bale in front. Excellent examples are the Charlet Moser Super12 or the Grivel G12 – these models are easy to adjust in the field, easily fit most boot types with or without supergaiters or overboots, and have a flat frame. Waterfall climbing crampons will not be a good choice for this climb.

Ice axe – On Ama Dablam you will not need an ice axe as the fixed rope make the axe unecessary. However, on other climbs we may do for acclimatization, an axe may be required. A standard mountaineering axe is appropriate. I use a 50cm Grivel Jorasses axe for this type of climbing.

Harness – Adjustable leg loops are necessary, big enough to fit over all your layers of clothing. We recommend harnesses with belay loops (not all harnesses them have these).


Carabiners – 3 locking, 4 non-locking. At least one of your lockers should be a rounded “pear-shaped” carabiner. The rest can be “D” or modified D shaped.

Rappel Device – A compact Figure 8 is best for use in descending the fixed rope.

Ascender – Virtually all of the climbing on the route is equipped with fixed line, which we will use as an aid to climbing and for protection. We will need an ascender for the fixed line climbing.

You will need only one ascender. It must have a handle. If you are right-handed, buy a right-handed ascender, or if you are left-handed buy a left-handed ascender. Our preferred ascender for this type of expeditionary use is the Petzl Ascension. It incorporates a hole in the flanges of the rope slot through which a carabiner can be clipped, essentially locking it onto the rope. Petzl anodizes the right ascender blue and the left ascender gold.

Ascender sling – You will need to set up your ascender with a sling attached to your harness. Unfortunately, the best length is about 4 inches longer than a standard sewn shoulder runner. One good solution is to find a very short sewn 6” loop and girth hitch this to a sewn runner to reach the best length.

The attachment of the ascender to the harness must be made without carabiners. Girth hitch one end of your loop of material to the ascender and then the other through your belay loop. Sewn slings are much preferable to tied.

Sewn slings – Bring two shoulder runner length sewn sling. These will be used to connect you to the fixed line when you are not using your ascender. Light Spectra sewn slings are recommended.


Sleeping Bag – Rated to -10 to 0° F. or so. We strongly recommend down for its light weight and compressibility. The total weight of your sleeping bag should be under 4 lbs. Plan on wearing your down parka to bed at high camp. The coldest nights will likely be at Base Camp. Up on the climb the smaller tents and cooking inside help to retain warmth.

Sleeping Pad – Therm-a-rest pads are the best choice for comfort and warmth. These are one of the few "heavy" items that are worth the weight. We like to bring a 3/4 length standard thickness or Ultra Light for higher on the mountain, and use our empty pack for under the feet.

For the trek and Base Camp you might consider adding a full length closed cell foam pad such as a Ridgerest, or even bring a heavier “luxury series” Therm-a-rest.

Cup – Should hold about 12 ounces, insulated plastic commuter mugs are handy and keep things warm longer.

Bowl – Plastic and not too small! Should hold 2-3 cups.

Plastic spoon – Soup spoon style.

Swiss Army Knife – You certainly don't need an orange-peeler-manicure-tool, saw, fish hook remover, or magnifying glass! Our favorite model for climbing is the Spartan. It has 2 blades, one big, one little, can opener, bottle opener, awl, toothpick and tweezers, and of course the required cork screw.

Repair tool – (Optional) Some folks like to bring a Leatherman type repair tool. Plan on bringing no higher than Base Camp.


Trekking Poles – (Optional) These are really handy for carrying loads to Camp I, and for the trekking portion of the trip. 3-section poles are very compact.

Head lamp – We will not be starting in the dark, but will want to carry headlamps for emergencies and for reading in the tent during long cold autumn evenings in camp. The Petzl Tikka is light-weight and adequate for the purposes of this trip. Bring plenty of extra batteries.

Sunscreen – At least 20 SPF or higher.

Lip balm – With sunscreen.

First Aid Kit – We will be supplying a major kit for the expedition but you should have a few personal items such as –

  • - blister kit – -include some Spenco Second Skin as well as moleskin and/or Mole Foam;
  • - a few assorted bandaids;
  • - a small roll of adhesive tape;
  • - pain reliever and analgesic, such as aspirin, Tylenol or ibuprofen;
  • - cough drops;
  • - Imodium, for diarrhea.

The following drugs require a physicians prescription. Be sure to discuss their use with your doctor.

  • -Diamox , for prevention and treatment of acute mountain sickness. Scored 250 mg. tablets are most useful.
  • -Antibiotic for gastro-intestinal problems and/or UTI’s (Urinary Tract Infections). Consult your physician for the best choices. A few general words of advice – Cipro is a good, broad-spectrum antibiotic of choice for gastro-intestinal infections. Bactrim is a good choice for UTI, BUT ONLY IF you have no allergy to sulfa drugs. Tetracycline and Doxycycline should be avoided as they tend to increase you sensitivity to sun.

Repair Kit – We will supply a major kit for the expedition, but you should bring a few personal items, such as –

  • -Therma rest repair kit
  • -crampon repair kit including any special bolts or gewgaws specific to your particular type of crampons.
  • -tools for removing/replacing your ice tool picks

Personal Toiletries – Toothbrush, small amount of toothpaste, dental floss, contact lens fluids etc.

Ear Plugs – For noisy hotels, windy nights in tents, snoring tent mates etc.

Water Bottles – Enough to carry 2 quarts of water. A bladder hydration system is fine for the trek, but will freeze up on the mountain, so bring bottles as well.

Water Purification – Polar Pure or Potable Agua tablets, or a purifying filter.

Snack food – We all have our favorites, and you might want to bring a small private stash of yours. Keep to less than a couple pounds worth.

Glacier glasses – Wrap-around style sunglasses with good peripheral coverage, or glacier glasses with side shields. Side shields block light well, but on the downside they also interfere more with balance on rock and scree. Whichever you choose, make sure they screen out 100 % UV and are dark enough to prevent eye strain in extremely bright conditions. About 88% or higher light transmission is good.

If you use prescription glasses we recommend you bring pair of clip-ons in addition to prescription sunglasses. Armed with these you will still be able to function on the snow should something happen to your prescription sun glasses.

2 Duffel Bags with locks – Nylon, with sturdily sewn on straps. These duffels will need to take a lot of abuse on their journey to Base Camp.

Smaller duffel bag and lock – For items left in our hotel in Kathmandu.

Plastic Garbage Bags – Bring 3 or 4 to help keep your gear dry in the event that it rains during our approach trek.

Pack – You'll need a pack capable of carrying overnight gear for up to about 3 nights out, but that will also be suitable for technical climbing. That means that it should be simple and light in weight. Look for a pack with no internal frame, and a total weight of the empty pack at less than 4 lbs.

For this trip, and, in fact, for many similar technical alpine routes we prefer to use a pack of about 45 litres in volume, max. Good examples of this type of climbing pack include the Black Diamond Ice Pack 44, the Chernobyl by Cold Cold World.

One critical aspect of both of these packs is the extendable top lid. This allows them to carry much more than their rated volume if necessary. Avoid panel opening packs with zipper closures.

Stuff Bags – A few assorted stuff sacks to help organize your gear.

Entertainment Selection – (Optional, of course) – For up to base camp only. Paperbacks, journal, music player, games or cards, etc.

Camera – (Optional of course) – A compact digital camera or 35mm range finder, which can be carried in a handy outside pocket will tend to get you more and better pictures than a large SLR that you are tempted to leave in camp or carry in your pack. Bring lots of film/flashcards and at least one extra battery. Digital cameras’ batteries seem to be more sensitive to cold, and may simply not work higher on the mountain.


Passport photos – Nepal requires you to acquire a tourist visa upon entry in Kathmandu. You will find the forms in the airport and may fill them out there, but you will be asked to supply one passport photos as well.

Passport & Money Pouch – The kind that fit around your neck, or around your waist inside your shirt.

Vaccination records are NOT required, but the US State Department recommends yellow fever vaccinations for travelers to rural areas. Check with your doctor or local health department for other inoculation recommendations.

Money – Because it is hard to predict exactly how many nights we will be spending in Kathmandu, and how much money you will need for meals there, you should plan accordingly. Generally you can eat reasonably well for $20 per day. Many of us can't seem to go to Nepal without buying a carpet or some other object d'arte. Cash is generally easier to exchange than travelers checks.