Monday, May 20, 2013

Three Passes of Everest Trek

The top of the Rhenjo La pass - one of the three passes crossed on this trek 

For the complete photo essay  please do visit http://travel.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?285825

THE INFORMATION

GETTING THERE
There are a number of flights every morning from Kathmandu to the mountain airstrip of Lukla, the start of the trek. Tara Airways (www.yetiairways.com) is the airline of choice and runs the maximum number of flights. The fare is presently USD 280 for foreigners and NPRs 16,280 return for SAARC citizens.  In bad weather, Lukla flights get disrupted and the only option then is to take a seat on a helicopter (www.simrikair.com.np) back to Kathmandu (USD 450-500 one way).

PREPARATIONS
The best season for the trek is April to Mid May and again from Mid October to early December. Though the passes are crossed later in the season as well, there is always the possibility of heavy snowfall closing down the route. If there is heavy snow during the trek, the passes are best avoided and the route can be done by following the valleys instead. We trekked in late April and were rewarded with a riot of mountain flowers including the rhododendron in the valleys capped by the soaring peaks. Bottled mineral water is available but very expensive, so please carry iodine/chlorine water purification tablets. You need to carry enough water with you at least one litre at a time and this can be refilled at the lodges. Trekking poles are a must as there are three passes to cross with slippery trails and scree.  The tea houses (lodges) will provide beds and quilts but a warm three season plus sleeping bag is essential. The trek crosses 5400 metres so do not underestimate the effects of the altitude or the walk. This is a difficult trek and you need to be fit and properly acclimatized to succeed.



THE ROUTE

Day 1 Kathmandu to Lukla (2850m) to Phakding (2640m) 4-5 hours 
T
he stunning thirty minute mountain flight lands you at the Tenzing-Hillary airport at Lukla. After breakfast at one of the tea-houses start the walk to Phakding. The first hour is gently down the hill to Cheplung after which the trail meanders past the attractive mane walls of Ghat to reach Phakding by late afternoon.  

Day 2 Phakding to Namche Bazar (3450m) 6-7 hours
The walk begins with a series of gentle ups and downs past Zamfute, Tok Tok and Benkar until it reaches Monjo. The TIMS permit is checked at Monjo and a little further up the trail is the Sagarmatha National Park Headquarters where the Sagarmatha Permit is checked. There is a small museum at the Park HQ which should be visited. The trail then drops in thirty minutes to Jorsale which is the usual lunch stop. From Jorsale the trail crosses a suspension bridge and then skirts the bank of the river until it reaching a high bridge over the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and the Bhote Kosi. From this bridge is a steep two to three hour climb to Namche.

Day 03 Acclimatization day at Namche Bazar
The acclimatization day can be spent by doing a day walk to the village of Khumjung around two hours away. Khumjung has the famous monastery with the Yeti scalp, the Hillary school and the Khunde hospital nearby both set up by Ed Hillary.

 Day 04 Namche Bazar to Thyangboche  (3860m) (5-6 hours) 
The trail climbs to the top of Namche Bazar and then skirts the hill arriving at the twin villages of Kyanjuma and Sanasa in about an hour and a half. It then drops steeply to Phunki Tenka in an hour which is a good stop for lunch.  There is an uphill climb for about two hours to the monastery of Thyangboche perched on a saddle with one of the best views in the Khumbu. Thyanboche is the spiritual center for the region, a training center for new monks. The Rimpoche (incarnate Lama) of Thyangboche resides here and the area is considered holy, nothing may be hunted or killed.

Day 5 Thyanboche to Dingboche (4350m) (5 to 6 hours)
The trail drops from Thyanboche to Devoche which is reached in half an hour. It then crosses the river over a suspension bridge which offers a great view of Ama Dablam above the crashing waters of the Dudh Kosi. It passes a large mani wall in the middle of the trail and finally levels out to reach Pangboche for lunch. The trail then follows the Imja Khola and passes the yak grazing areas of Shomare and then the small tea house of Orsho. Do not take the left fork which leads to Pheriche.  The right fork continues downhill and crosses a bridge over the river. Dingboche about 45 minutes from the bridge.

Day 6 Acclimatization day at Dingboche
This is the second compulsory acclimatization day at Dingboche. It can be used for a day walk upto Chukung with fabulous views of the Lhotse/Nuptse wall and Ama Dablam as well. Alternatively a half day walk can be made to the Nangkartshang peak or the Ama Dablam lakes across the moraine.


Day 7 Dingboche to Chukung (4600m) (3 hours)
T
he trail follows the valley of the Imja Khola upstream and in about two hours reaches the small tea shop of Bibre. The views of Ama Dablam and the Lhotse wall are outstanding. Half an hour from Bibre brings you to the tea houses of Chukung.

Day 08 Chukung across Kongma La to Lobuche (4940m) (9 to 10 hours)
This is a very long day and you need to start at dawn from Chukung to get to Lobuche before nightfall. There are no tea houses on the way so you need to carry food and water for the day. There are two routes: one climbing the hill north west of Chukung and the other going back down to Bibre and then climbing above the Niyang Khola. Please ask the lodge owners for the   best route at the time. The two trails meet about two hours from Chukung and then it is a relentless climb until you reach a basin studded with emerald frozen lakes. Pass to the right of the highest lake and climb the scree slope to the Kongma la (5535 metres). It can take anything from four to six hours to reach the top.  It is a long way down across the Khumbu glacier to the tea houses of Lobuche.  

Day 9 Lobuche to Gorak Shep (5170m) (3  hours)
The trail follows the moraine of the Khumbu glacier and there is a lot of hard walking over boulders and scree slopes. Pumori comes into view as one approaches Gorak Shep.  The more intrepid could try to ascent to Kala Pattar in the evening for the sunset if the weather is good.

 Day 10 Gorak Shep to Kala Pattar (5554m) and back to Lobuche 
The climb to the view point of Kala Pattar would take around two to three hours depending on the level of acclimatization. From this high point a magnificent 360 degree view unfolds with all the major peaks of the region visible. The descent to Gorak Shep is around an hour or so and after quick lunch follow the trail back to Lobuche.

Day 11 Lobuche to Dzongla (4850m) (3 to 4 hours)
The trail from Lobuche follows the main route down the Khumbu valley. About half an hour from Lobuche there is a sign for Dzongla to the right which follows a level path below Lobuche peak on the other side of the valley from the trail to Dugla. The trail then enters a valley below the peak of Cholatse to Dzongla where there are two lodges for an overnight stay.

 
Day 12 Dzongla across Cho La (5420m) to Thangnak (4700m) (7 to 8 hours) 
The path crosses a stream and then climbs up a ridge. Keep climbing north over rocks and boulders until you meet the glacier. Be careful of rock fall in summer and in cold conditions it can be icy. Try to remain on the southern end of the glacier and keep a look out for crevasses. After a long uphill haul of around four to five hours the pass is at the far end of the snowfield. On the way down are a number of rocky ledges which can be both icy and slippery. Try to follow the cairns in a long 720 metre descent to Thangnak.

 Day 13 Thangnak to Gokyo (4750m) (3 to 4 hours) 
The trail to Gokyo crosses the Ngozumgpa glacier and is usually marked by cairns. It changes due to snowfall so ask the lodge owners at Thangnak for the current trail. Once you are across the moraine, the trail joins up with the main trail to Gokyo.  

 Day 14 Rest Day at Gokyo  
The rest day at Gokyo can be spent climbing Gokyo Ri (4 hours round trip) or making a day walk to the Fifth lake (6 hours round trip).

Day 15 Gokyo across Rhenjo La (5417m) to Lungden (4375m) (6 to 7 hours)
The path to Rhenjo La skirts the third lake for about an hour and then follows a series of steep zigzags uphill. It then crosses a snowfield and there is a steep climb just before the pass. In snowy conditions follow the cairns uphill.  There is a long staircase down to the valley from the top which is often snow covered.  The trail passes a lake, often frozen, until it enters the valley and meets the path to Lungden.  

Day 16 Lungden to Thame (3825m) (3 to 4 hours) 
The walk from Lungden to Thame is mostly downhill. Fit hikers could press on the Namche Bazar on the same day after lunch. Thami is the birthplace of Tenzing Norgay and the monastery here is worth visiting.   

Day 17 Thami to Namche Bazar to Monjo (2825m) (5 to 6 hours) 
The walk from Thami to Namche Bazar takes around three hours. Have an early lunch in Namche and then head down to Monjo. The trail descends steeply to the bridge across the Dudh Kosi. From the bridge the trail passes through Jorsale and reaches the Sagarmatha Park headquarters where you need to show your permit and check-out of the park. Monjo is five minutes from the Park gates.

Day 18 Monjo to Lukla (4 to 5 hours)
It is now a gentle stroll from Monjo down the valley. Stop for lunch at Thad Kosi and then there is a uphill climb to Lukla which should take around two hours.

Day 19 Lukla to Kathmandu A morning flight from Lukla could bring you back to Kathmandu in time for breakfast.   

WHERE TO STAY
There are a number of tea houses along the route so camping equipment and tents are not needed. Advance booking is usually not required though some trekking agencies do make advance bookings for their groups. The room rates vary between USD 3-35 depending on the facilities offered like luxury rooms with attached bathrooms and hot showers. As you go higher facilities become more basic and luxury lodges would not be available. Food is available against menus and cover most items like soups, noodles, eggs, toast, dal-bhat meals, spaghetti etc. Some lodges also offer exotica like yak steaks, pizzas, lasagnia, apple pie etc! The average cost of food per person per day would range between USD 25-30.

TREK OPERATORS
It is possible to do this trek without the services of a trek operator if you are an experienced trekker and can carry your own gear and navigate the trail. However, it would be better to hire a guide who would know the trail well across the passes.  Another option is to land at Lukla and pick up porters/guides as you may need. However, there is no certainty that you would get a good team!  The thumb rule is one porter for two trekkers. Porters would charge around USD 15-17 per day and guides would charge USD 25-30 per day.  There are a large number of trekking agencies in Kathmandu offering this trek – an average cost for a mid range agency would be around USD 1600-1800 Kathmandu to Kathmandu all inclusive.  

PERMITS
Trekkers are required to obtain a Trekking Information Management System (TIMS; www.timsnepal.com) card; US$20 for individual trekkers and US$10 if you are part of a group for foreigners (USD 5 and USD3 respectively for SAARC citizens). The best place to get a TIMS card is from the Tourist Service Centre (01-4256909 ext 244; www.welcomenepal.com; Brikuti  Mandap, Kathmandu; h10am-1pm & 2-4pm Sun-Fri).  Carry a photocopy of your passport and two passport photos..
You also need a Sagarmatha National Park permit NPRS 3000 for foreigners and NPRS 1500 for SAARC available from the National Park office ( 01-4224406) at the Tourist Service Centre mentioned above.  The Sagarmatha Permit is also available at the Park gate in Jorsale.


3 comments:

  1. Nice write-up of 3 passes in EBC region! -KS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks KS - have you done the trek?
      Sujoy

      Delete
  2. Hey Your Pictures and information is really good, beautiful and interesting.. Please Check and Like my page as well. www.sikkimtravelinfo.wordpress.com Thanks and Regards Manoj Chettri

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