© 2015 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis. Like other mountainous areas, Nepal is highly vulnerable to glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), and this vulnerability has increased due to climate change. Risk reduction strategies must be based on a comprehensive risk assessment. A comprehensive methodological approach for GLOF risk assessment is described and illustrated in case studies of the potential GLOF risk posed in Nepal by four glacial lakes, one located in China. People, property and public infrastructure (including hydropower plants, roads and bridges) are vulnerable, and there is a need to integrate GLOF risk reduction strategies into national policies and programmes.