High Altitude Adventures: From South Col to Our Rooftop Bar

Discovering South Col in the Everest Region

The south Col region is a key pass for trekkers on their journey to Everest, the highest peak of the world. It is nestled between Everest and Lhotse at the mighty altitude of 7,900 meters. As it is a particularly final camp en-route to Everest, traversing South Col symbolizes the traveler’s indomitable spirit, pushing their boundaries.

South Col is a crucial part of the southern approach to Everest’s peak from the Nepal side. At nearly 7,900 meters, it marks the beginning of the “death zone,” where oxygen is scarce and climbers are affected by near-fatal altitude sickness and digestive issues.  Survival beyond the point is an ultimate test of physical and mental strength. 

South Col is the final staging ground for summit attempts. The flat, exposed terrain often experiences sweeping high winds which makes it challenging. Yet it is a strategic camp for climbers to acclimate before their final push to the summit. 

Legendary Expeditions and Famous Climbers at South Col

South Col has witnessed some of the most iconic moments in mountaineering history. It was the route used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay during their historic first ascent of Everest in 1953. Since then, countless expeditions have passed through, including Reinhold Messner’s oxygen-free ascent. South Col, in itself, is a symbol of mountaineering achievement.

Preparing for High-Altitude Climbing at South Col

Preparation for all types of high-altitude climbing, especially for Everest, requires intense physical training. Activities like running, cycling, swimming, and weight training, along with specific exercises such as stair climbing with a weighted pack, over a period of a few months are necessary to develop the fitness levels for such a climate. However practicing on other peaks is also recommended as it builds cardiopulmonary endurance, and flexibility.

It is equally important to undergo a thorough medical check-up before an expedition. This includes a general health assessment, cardiovascular tests, and specialized evaluations for those with prior health issues. To be fit for climbing, analysis of other records such as past medical and surgical history, drug history, allergies, immunisations is needed. Ensuring physical fitness is crucial to handle the extreme conditions encountered during the climb.

Good medical screening, well before the expedition allows for adequate planning of everything from what to put in the medical kit to planning how to detect and manage specific condition-related complications e.g. ensuring a good supply of emergency drugs and kit to manage seizures if a group member is known to have epilepsy.

Additionally, emergency information such as passport/ insurance/ next of kin needs to be kept securely, and be readily accessible to the expedition medic.

Essential Gear and Equipment Required for High-Altitude Climbing at South Col


  • Base Layers
  • Insulating Layers
  • Outer Layers: Waterproof and windproof shells to protect against the elements.
  • Accessories: Insulated gloves, balaclava, beanie, and thermal socks to shield extremities from the cold.

Climbing Equipment and Accessories needed for high altitude climbing at South Col.

  • Alpine Climbing Harness: Light and easy to use with  foolproof locking features.
  • Crampons: Tightly fitting  steel crampons with anti-balling and the ability to toe point positively and safely into ice.
  • Ice-ax: Ice-ax should be versatile and light. 
  • Ascender: Ascender or Jamar, is used to ascending on a rope.
  • Multi-LED Head Lamp: Multi-LED Head Lamp and spare batteries are essential.
  • Carabiners: Minimum 2 locking carabiners, 1 large and 1 small and 4 regulars.
  • Rappel device: Figure 8, ACT or similar.
  • Trekking poles: Very handy for the approach.
  • Altimeter: ABC watch or more advanced GPS watches will do the trick.
  • Climbing helmet: The climbing helmet is essential safety gear for crossing areas under rocks and ice cliffs.
  • Other Gears : Slings, Prusik loops, Masks, hoses, and regulators.
  • Portable Oxygen Cylinders: Enables safe breathing and prevention of hypoxia.
  • First Aid Kit: Essential medication for prescribed needs of for injuries.
  • Avalanche Beacon: For locating and rescuing in the event of an avalanche.

Other Accessories

  • GPS and Satellite Communication Devices: For navigation and emergency communication.
  • High SPF Sunscreen: Provides protection from direct and reflected UV rays in the snowy regions.
  • UV-Protective Sunglasses: Shields eyes from harsh winds and bright lights in the high altitudes.
  • Water bottles: Special containers with clean water for staying hydrated during the climb.
  • Energy Food: High-calorie snacks like energy bars, nuts, and dried fruits to maintain energy levels and a nutritious diet. 

Technical Difficulties and Dangers

Crossing the South Col is not complete without numerous obstacles. The extreme altitude leads to severe hypoxia, and the weather can change rapidly, with temperatures plunging suddenly as winds reach extreme speeds. With the constant risk of avalanches and falls, its mixed terrain of ice, snow, and rock requires advanced technical skills to navigate. 

 Altitude Sickness and Acclimatization:

Symptoms and Types of Altitude Sickness

Headaches, nausea, dizziness, and exhaustion are some of the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS), often known as altitude sickness. High-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), which are both life-threatening and necessitate a rapid descent, are examples of severe instances.

Preventive Actions

A gradual ascent, ensuring ample water intake, refraining from alcohol, and taking prescription drugs like acetazolamide are vital measures to prevent altitude sickness. It’s important to pay attention to your body rather than speed the climb.

Methods of Acclimatization

Achieving effective acclimatization requires gradual ascent, rest days built into the itinerary, and some time spent at intermediate elevations. The body adjusts to the altitude with the aid of the “climb high, sleep low” technique, in which climbers go to greater altitudes during the day and descend to lower altitudes for sleep.

From Summit to Sip: Rooftop Bar Experience at South Col

Concept of the Rooftop Bar

Inspired by the South Col, the rooftop bar at Varnabas offers the thrill of Everest at a more accessible altitude. Featuring elements reminiscent of mountaineering expeditions—ropes, carabiners, and climbing-themed decor—the bar captures the spirit of adventure.

Atmosphere and Ambiance

The bar provides breathtaking panoramic views of Kathmandu city center, creating an ambiance akin to the awe-inspiring vistas of the Himalayas. Cozy seating, warm lighting, and a rustic yet modern design make it a perfect retreat after a day of urban exploration.

Drinks and Snacks

Specialties range from themed cocktails, international blends  and local favorites along with hearty snacks such as mountain goat platters and high-protein energy bites, inspired by the sustenance climbers rely on during their expeditions.

Reflecting on the Journey

From the meticulous preparation for a high-altitude climb to enjoying a relaxing drink at the rooftop bar, this mission of Varnabas Museum Hotel is to capture the essence of adventure. Travel embodies the human spirit, resilience, and the joy of overcoming challenges and Varnabas welcomes travelers with a thirst for adventure. High-altitude adventures, whether in the Himalayas or in Kathmandu city, inspire a sense of accomplishment and wonder. 

Embrace the call of the mountains, prepare to ascend to another level of luxury and comfort with Varnabas Museum Hotel.