For nearly a decade, Matt Hook has been an avid mountaineering enthusiast and dreamt of summiting many of the world’s most ambitious and inspiring mountain peaks.
“Ever since I first started mountaineering about eight years ago, it's been my dream to climb all the iconic mountain ranges in the world,” Matt tells Explore & Share. “Ama Dablam, in particular, left me in awe the first time I saw a photo of it. From that moment forward, it was my dream to climb it.”
However, Matt’s first proper mountain climbing experience took place in Peru, while he was hiking the Cordillera Huayhuash circuit.
The high-altitude trek included options to climb two mountain peaks, neither of which required any previous mountaineering experience and Matt jumped at the idea.
“The first climb of Pumarini challenged me more mentally and physically than anything I had ever done before; and the feeling of reaching the summit was unlike any high I had ever experienced,” he says. “I was also carrying the ashes of my best friend, which I spread on the summit.”
“It was a very special and emotional experience,” he adds. “From that moment on, I was hooked on mountaineering.”
As his feeling of wanderlust grew, Matt itched to get back out into the mountains. He eventually resigned from his job and set out on an 18-month climbing tour of the world, which is still in progress.
“My love for climbing and traveling drove me to quit my job in finance to pursue my dream of climbing on every continent in the world,” he says.
Among the first stops on Matt’s climbing sabbatical was the Himalayas. The time had come for him to fulfill his dream and reach the summit of Ama Dablam.
“I wanted a program that included multiple climbing objectives, would improve my development as an alpinist and allowed an appropriate amount of time to acclimatize and improve my fitness prior to climbing,” he says.
After his thorough and exhaustive research, Matt settled on hiring Tshering Pande Bhote – an IFMGA-certified mountain guide with more than 20 years of experience climbing in the Himalayas, including seven successful expeditions to the summit of Mount Everest.
“Tshering’s climbing resume was incredibly impressive and prior client reviews spoke to his level of professionalism and quality of service,” Matt says. “It was an easy decision at that point.”
Of the dozens of climbing trips that Tshering offers in the Himalayas, Matt settled on one in particular that would lead him to achieve his long-time goal and provide plenty of other great mountain climbing opportunities en route: a 35-day guided mountaineering course that included an ascent of Ama Dablam (6,812 meters/22,349 feet).
However, prior to heading east to the Himalayas, Matt decided to first go to Greenland and Norway to do some physical training and warm-up climbing in a similarly harsh environment.
“Prior to Nepal, I went on a two-week exploratory climbing expedition in Greenland and went climbing in Norway, where I actually met and climbed with Tshering,” Matt says. “The latter wasn't planned but when I arrived in Norway, Tshering and his wife Chiddar welcomed me into their home in Jostedalsbreen National Park and invited me to join him climbing with some other clients.”
Matt was overwhelmed by Tshering’s kindness and, upon completing his Scandinavian climbing adventure, flew to Nepal a few weeks before his mountaineering expedition in order to further prepare and acclimatize.
“I arrived in Nepal a couple of weeks prior to our expedition and Tshering helped me organize a 10-day trek of the Annapurna circuit to get fit and start acclimatizing,” Matt says. “The preparations paid off as I felt strong and fit throughout the entire expedition.”
Finally, Matt returned to Kathmandu and set out on his highly anticipated trip to the top of Ama Dablam.
On the way to the iconic Himalayan peak, which is often compared with Switzerland’s famed Matterhorn, Matt and Tshering climbed to the Mount Everest Base Camp, up to the summit of Lobuche East (6,119 meters/20,075 feet), then on to the top of Mehra Peak (5,820 meters/19,094 feet) and Imja Tse – better known as Island Peak – (6,189 meters/20,305 feet).
After more than three weeks of challenging but rewarding climbing all through the east of Nepal, Matt arrived at the foot of Ama Dablam and proceeded to realize his long-time dream.
“No pictures, movies or stories can truly capture the sheer size and scale of these mountains – it's something that you can only appreciate in person,” he says. “The emotional and spiritual connection I experienced while I was there was truly humbling.”
“The Himalayas deepened my respect for the mountains and our planet and provided added motivation to do my part combating climate change,” Matt adds.
After completing more than 45 days of exploring the Himalayan wilderness, Matt has a few tips for would-be travelers planning a trip to this stunning part of the world.
“Come with some prior mountaineering experience and make sure they are fit and healthy prior to arriving,” he says. “I would also recommend hiring Top Himalayan Guides [Tshering Pande Bhote’s company] to ensure they have experienced and professional guides leading them.”
Since leaving Nepal, Matt has continued his sabbatical, heading through New Zealand and Japan, where he did some more trekking and climbing as well as some skiing. He is now on his way to Southeast Asia to try out the various outdoor activities on offer there.
“After Southeast Asia, I'll be headed to Australia, Africa, Central America, South America and hopefully finish my 18-month journey in Antarctica,” Matt says. “I'll likely be visiting Explore & Share quite frequently along the way to find more great guides like Tshering.”
When is the best time to go mountaineering in the Himalayas?
The ideal times of year to go mountain climbing in the Himalayas are from October to November and March to May. These two shoulder seasons fall in between the monsoon rains of the summer and the harsh winter.
During these autumn and spring months, expect average daily temperatures of 10 ºC (50 ºF) or less in the valleys and temperatures well below freezing up on the mountains. Autumn is relatively wet compared with spring. However, November tends to be the driest month of the year.
Matt is one of the roughly 700,000 tourists who visit the Himalayas each year. However, due to the immense variety of mountain climbing options and numerous guides, he was able to carve out a unique experience in this much-traveled mountain range.
Check out our selection of mountain climbing trips in Nepal and start planning your own unique adventure to the top of the world!