This trek is a fantastic alternative route to the foot of Everest. It goes up a little trekked valley and over a 5320mts pass, across two safe and easy glaciers and contours around well above the main trail and only joins it for the last day and a half to Gorak Shep and Everest.
Almost all trekking companies lead groups on the classic trek, straight from Lukla past Namche Bazaar and Tengboche and on up the main Khumbu valley following the path of the Dudh Kosi river and Khumbu glacier to the foot of Everest. Dudh Kosi means ‘Milk River’ in Nepali due to the volume of glacial silt it carries. Many groups trek this route in 10 days with some marathon days on the return to Lukla. In season this route is full to bursting and maybe that’s what the average trekker likes.
Whilst Nepal Professional Mountain Guides are happy to guide you on that route (please ask for information) we would like to show you a different approach to Everest where the crowds are less, the route is more challenging but not difficult, the views are better and you get a chance to climb to two summits over 5000mts high.
Just like our Three Passes and Three Summits trek, our trek starts with a thrilling flight to Lukla, a mountain town perched on a hillside at the edge of the Khumbu. Nowadays Lukla has a tarmac runway with a proper airport terminal but I first flew into Lukla some 30 years ago when the runway was a bumpy strip of earth and the chickens were chased off to let the planes land. Even now it’s an ‘interesting’ flight.
Over the next two days we trek to Namche Bazaar and on the way we have our first glimpse of Everest. Sitting in a bowl in the hillside Namche Bazaar is one of those romantic places names redolent in mountaineering history. Most major climbing expeditions have passed though Namche on the way to climb many of the worlds most famous peaks. Namche is a vibrant town with lots of accommodation, internet access, chocolate cake and trekking kit shops interspersed with mule trains moving supplies up the trail and all dominated by the massive bulk of Thamserku, 6618mt . At Namche we have a days rest for acclimatisation.
Shortly after leaving Namche and shortly after a spectacular view of Everest and the Lhotse Wall, we turn west off the heavily trekked main trail towards Gokyo Lakes. Trekking through a mixture of forest and open rocky valley keep a eye open for elusive and endangered Himalayan Musk Deer and the Himalayan Thar goat, a great shaggy beast often grazing in the forest shadows but so well camouflaged that you can walk right past and not see them. The huge birds swooping overhead are Griffon Vultures. You might see the rarer Lammergeyer vulture. There are Snow Leopards in the valley.
Within two days you pass through the treeline to overnight at Machermo, 4465mts, in the flat bottom of a side valley. Machermo is also now the home of a rescue post. Officially called the Machermo Porter Shelter/Rescue Post it was opened in October 2006 and is a project of the International Porter Protection Group . As its name indicates its first aim is to help provide a quality shelter (as well as medical help if needed) for porters but the western doctors stationed there will also assist western trekkers for a fee (this is ploughed back into the project). Next day you trek up steep hillsides on exciting paths to reach the first of the Goyko Lakes with its interesting piles of carefully balanced rocks. It’s a easy walk to Gokyo Lakes which at 4800mts is the same height as Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps but you’re in a valley! The lake itself is a turquoise colour and quite large and if you are there in December it may be frozen. As soon as the sun goes down so does the temperature – it’s cold in Gokyo. However it is a beautiful place with marvellous view of the huge and imposing Cho Oyu, 8206mts at the end of the valley. A short walk up the moraine backing the settlement reveals the rubble covered Ngozumba glacier which has been alongside you for the last few hours but you’ve been largely unaware of it. Falling from Cho Oyu it’s the longest glacier in Nepal.
Your objective is Gokyo Ri which at 5360mts from which you get superb views eastwards to Everest, (8848mts) Lhotse (8516mts), Nuptse (7864mts) and behind them Makalu (8462mts) and closer to hand Cho Oyu, 8206mts. Try to go up in the afternoon as the light on the mountains is better then. You will not see Makalu or Cho Oyu from the ordinary Everest trek. The climb is utterly straightforward as there is a good path to the top.
An extra day here is good for acclimatisation and you can trek along the valley towards Cho Oyu basecamp. If you feel up to it then Ngozumpa-tse, the 5553mts viewpoint known as Knobby View, which lies between the 5th and 6th lakes of the Gokyo Valley towards Cho Oyu basecamp is a worthwhile but hard day out. From the rocky top, which on the northern side drops a shear vertical 1000 ft down to the lakes at the foot of Cho Oyu, is probably the most spectacular panoramic view in the Khumbu. Cho Oyu rises immediately to the north, appearing close enough that one could almost reach out and touch its shear ice covered southern face, and Everest, Lhotse, and Malaku to the east,below you lies the Ngozumpa Glacier and the lake dotted Gokyo Valley.
We now join the Everest. Three Passes and Three Summits trek.
Leaving Gokyo we head over the rumble covered Ngozumba glacier which is the longest in Nepal and spend the night at the foot of the Cho La pass (5368mts). The glacier is fascinating and the path wanders around ice ponds and mounds of rock. Looking up the glacier you get a fantastic view of Cho Oyu (8201mts).
Starting before dawn next day we go up and over boulder fields to the Cho La pass. At 5368mts the Cho La has a minor glacier on the east (our descent) side. Late in the season the snow cover has gone from the glacier and we use lightweight crampons on the bottle green hard ice. The pass itself is rather narrow as passes go, about 30mts front to back. Like on all passes wind is a real problem and you’ll soon want to head down the glacier to the lodge. The following day we traverse across the side of the main Everest valley but high enough to get much better views those people on the main trail. Their small size serves to highlight to enormous scale of the mountains. Eventually we get to Lobouche.
Next day we go North to Gorak Shep (5140mts) and the views get better and better. After lunch at Gorak Shep we climb to the top of Kala Patthar (5643mts). Our second summit is, in my opinion, best seen at 2pm or later. Most people seem to climb to the summit for the sunrise but I wouldn’t advise that as the main view of the Everest group is to the east and directly into the sun in the morning. Maybe go up to see the sunset although it is cold up there even in daylight and you will be descending in the dark. The view of Everest, Pumori, Nuptse and other smaller peaks is truly breathtaking. Everest South Col and the summit ridge is visible as is the bottom of the Everest ice fall, the entire length of the Khumbu glacier and the spire of Ama Dablam to the south. A wonderful panorama. Recently the height of Kala Patthar has been remeasured at 5643mts, about 100mts higher than on the maps.
Whilst you have seen the best view of the Everest group and the Khumbu valley an optional additional day lets you go on to Everest Base Camp which is most likely deserted by late October.
The next few days are spent walking back down the trail passing through Tengboche monastery which is a modern replacement for the original building burnt down some years ago. Just before you get back to Namche Turn turn around at a big chorton (buddhist monument) to see the last great view of the upper Khumbu including Everest you will get.
Two days later you arrive back in Kathmandu.
This trek is 17 days Kathmandu to Kathmandu plus any extra days such as trips at Goyko or Everest Base Camp or even to go over the Kongma La pass and climb Chhukhung Ri.
At the start we have an administration day getting permits, etc, checking your kit and resting. We fly the following morning at about 6am and start trekking right off the plane. On return to Kathmandu you overnight then fly home the next day.
However, we can’t control the weather and in and out of Lukla where there may be a delay of a day or two. We strongly advise you to have a flexible ticket home as it’s possible to miss your flight.
You pay a flat fee for guiding and portering. Then you pay for all your living expenses plus travel, etc. on top of that. We’ve estimated your living expenses at the upper end of the scale. Depending on your wishes you can either save money or spend more by, lets say, drinking beer every night.
Based on two trekkers sharing a room and one guide and one porter the guiding only will cost £480 each. That includes the staffs accommodation and food which they pay for.
On top of that you have your costs as individuals which is roughly £980 each which includes your food and accommodation on trek, flights for you and your guide to Lukla, 3 nights in an average hotel in Kathmandu, permits, taxis, etc. So it’s roughly £1460 each in total. Please note the entire Khumbu is the most expensive place to trek in outside of the restricted areas. Daily costs might well be more and flights will be more expensive.
The way it works is : You pay the guide up front in full and pay the rest directly to the provider, eg lodge owner. The guide will organise the bill for lodges, etc. I find it best just to hand over a sum of money for the guide to pay the daily expenses and keep track of the running total. It makes life simpler that way.
This doesn’t includes staff tips. These are poor people so please bear that in mind. I always give 12%.
This doesn’t include your international flight, extra days, etc.
More details from Steve Climpson via the contact form or phone +44 7831 135705.