Trekking in Everest Region
Located in the eastern half of Nepal, the Everest region offers a wide range of trekking experiences. From the well-developed trail to Everest base camp to treks in remote semi-wilderness areas, there is a choice to suit all-corners.
The most frequented part of the region is located in Solukhumbu district, the home of the legendary Sherpas. The northern part of the district (Khumbu) is encompassed in the Everest National Park , which was established to protect the fragile environment of the alpine region. To the east of the Everest National Park is the Makalu-Barun National Park , a remote and wild stretch of mountain peaks and deep densely forested valleys. To the west is the Rolwaling valley, a well protected microcosm of cultures and ecology. The southern part of the district, Solu is much less frequented by tourist and be a very rewarding destination in its own right.
Beside Mount Everest there are other 8,000 meter peaks in the region. Lhotse , Cho Oyu and Makalu and in addition numerous other peaks lesser altitude but no less stunning. Add to this glacial lakes rhododendron forest, native flora and fauna, traditional villages and ancient Buddhist monasteries, all go to make this region a spectacular destination.
Permits and Fees
No special trekking permits are required to visit this area provided that the trekker's do not climb any of the peaks. An entry fee is charged for access to Everest National Park . This is payable at the national park desk in Thamel. For treks to the east of main Everest trail an addition permit is required to enter Makalu-Barun National Park obtainable from the same location.
Access to the Everest region can only be made by air or on foot. By road, the only practical road ahead at this time is Jiri, a seven to ten hour bus ride from Kathmandu. A new road is under construction to Salleri, the district headquarters, but this will probably be complete for another five years at least. It is also possible to trek to the Everest region via the Arun valley where roads head is at Hille, a twenty ride from the capital. These times are all by local bus as there is no tourist bus service available at this time. Private cars and taxis could be used and would reduce the traveling time considerably but obviously at extra cost. Buses to Jiri currently leave from the old bus park in central Kathmandu.
By air there are three options. The most convenient for Everest treks is Lukla, which is serviced by many daily flights from Kathmandu. Three days walk to south, near the district headquarters, is Phaplu air strip, which is service by daily flights. This is useful for treks in southern parts of the region or for Everest trekkers who want to gain extra acclimatization and see some of less developed part of the district.
The last choice is the small air strip at Syangboche, which is located above Namche Bazar. While this is an option, its altitude (3760 meters) makes it an impractical and unwise choice as an arrival destination for acclimatization reasons.
People and Culture
The main ethnic group that visitors will encounter in the Everest region is the Sherpas . This is their heartland and their influence is to be seen everywhere from their traditional dress to their distinctive houses and village monasteries. There are also minorities of various other groups, notably Rai/Limbu and Tamang in the lower hills and the ubiquitous Bhramin and Chhetri farmers of the valleys.
Flora and Fauna
The flora and fauna to be seen are quiet diverse since the region ranges in altitude from less than 2000 meters above sea level at Jiri to the high peaks of the Himalaya at over 8000 meters. Up to 4000 meters you will find dense stands of forest including pine, oak and the spectacular flowering rhododendrons . The latter are one reason to make a trip in Nepal in the spring when the hills between 2000 and 3500 meters are a riot of colors.
The crop under cultivation will depend on the season that you visit but expect to see wheat, barley, corn and potatoes at some stage. Domesticated animals will range from cattle, buffalo, goats and pigs to the all-purpose beast of mountains-the yak
There is a good chance of seeing wildlife, mostly birds including the national bird of Nepal-the Impeyan Pheasant, or danfe, which is quite common around Namche Bazar. Other notable birds will include the ravens and crows of the middle hills and the coughs which soar to seemingly impossible heights in the mountains. Also in the mountain look for flocks of snow pigeons wheeling around the hillsides.
Land animals can be most elusive but look out mountain goats (most commonly the Himalayan tahr) and, if you are lucky, musk deer or barking deer in the forest.
How and When
How to trek in Everest region depend entirely on the route that you choose. On the main trail to Everest base camp or the route to Gokyo valley then teahouse trekking is perfectly possible. The trail in from Jiri is also endowed with many continently located teahouses although generally not of such a high standard as those to the north. Other trekking routes will almost certainly require the use of camping and organization of trekking staff and equipment. See the following individual route description for detail.
When to Visit?
The peak season of October/November and March/May are obviously the most popular. At these times the weather is mild and generally dry, making the walking conditions good. The spring season is good for wild flowers, particularly the rhododendrons, while the autumn season generally gives the best mountain views, as the air at this time is crystal clear.
Winter is possible but the chances of snow are higher and passes may be closed, particularly during late winter. Also during this time many of the teahouses will close. The summer/monsoon period is generally unsuitable for trekking period, as the trails are slippery, leeches abundant and the mountain views are unpredictable. It can be rewarding time, however, if you are prepared to tolerate these drawbacks, as the wild flowers are at their best at this time and there are fewer tourists on the trails making interaction with the locals easier.
It is possible to hire guides, porters or yaks at Lukla but for safety a guide from Kathmandu is preferable. The extra cost of his airfare will outweigh the possibility of not finding a suitable guide at Lukla, especially during the peak seasons. Porters are always available at Lukla. Pure yaks will not be found at Lukla, as it is too low for them to operate, but yak crossbreeds will be found there. For a small group only carrying personal gear, porters are preferable. The cost will depend on the seasonal demand for their services.
If your trek starts at Jiri then you will only find porters available there. Guides should definitely brought from Kathmandu.
Looking after the environment
Much has been said about the deteriorating environment of the Himalaya. Over that past few years, due to effort by many overseas expeditions and organizations such as the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee and Nepal Mountaineering Association, education programmes and clean-up campaigns have, to a large extent, solved many of the problems.
Having said that, the environment of the high Himalaya is a very fragile eco-system that is easily put out of balance. The locals lived for generations in relative harmony with their surroundings but the recent influx of tourist has put pressure on the indigenous populations to supply more and more services in the name of tourism development. While the Everest National Park is somewhat protective from the worst ravages the same cannot be said about the area immediately to the south. Here, uncontrolled timber collection for fuel and building has led to a marked loss of timber cover. Certain initiatives within the National Park area, such as the banning of glass beer and soft drink bottles, had resulted in a reduction of the amount of non-biodegradable rubbish being left behind. Much more can be done, however, particularly by the trekkers themselves. The KEEP code of trekking conduct is a perfect example.
Everest base Camp
One of the classic treks in Nepal, Everest base camp is most commonly visited as a two week trek starting and finishing at Lukla, the airport just to the south of Everest National park.
During the trekking seasons there are numerous daily flights into and out of Lukla, weather permitting. The flight from Kathmandu, which takes around forty-five minutes, passes over the fertile middle hills, with their scattered villages and terraced fields, with an amazing panorama of the high Himalaya as a backdrop. Before long the mountains close in and you are sweeping down to land at the gateway to Everest-Lukla. Situated high above the banks of the Dudh Koshi river, which carries the melt water from Everest, Lukla provides a range of services, including accommodation but most trekkers will choose to start trekking as soon as they arrive and use Lukla as a final destination on their return.
From Lukla trekker must have a gentle, two days trek up the Dudh Koshi valley to reach Namche Bazar in order to avoid altitude problems. There are plenty of teahouses along the way for the first night stop, Phakding (three hours from Lukla) and Monzo (five hours from Lukla) are the most popular. Just beyond Monzo, trekkers enter the Everest National Park at the Jorsale check post. Here entry permits will be checked and the visitor's passport details recorded. The trail, which has been following the Dudh Koshi since Lukla, starts the ascent to Namche Bazar about one hour past Jorsale.
Namche Bazar, once a small village but since grown in size to accommodate the influx of trekkers, is the unofficial capital of the Sherpas. It was once an important trading centre on the route from Tibet to Nepal but has now been largely given over to catering for the needs of trekkers. There is a multitude of teahouse, equipment shops, curio sellers, restaurant and even cyber cafes that make just about anything the trekker could need, available, albeit at a higher price than in Kathmandu. For acclimatization reasons, trekkers must spend two nights in or around Namche, Which gives the opportunity to explore some of the less developed and more traditional villages in the area.
One of the nicest destination for the acclimation day is to walk to Thame, home of many famous mountaineering Sherpas, including Tenzing Norgay of Everest fame. Often Danfe (Impeyan Pheasant) and Himalaya Tahr can be seen along this trail. The round trip is quite a hard day's walk taking a minimum of eight hours. An option would be to stay the night at one of the teahouse at Thame and retrace your steps the next day. While at Thame, be sure to visit the Buddhist monastery, which is located on hillside about a thirty-minute walk above the village. The valley to the north of Thame leads to Tibet via the Nangpa la, the pass traditionally used by Sherpa and Tibetan traders. The valley to the west of Thame leads to the Trashi Labsta pass and the Rolwaling valley.
Easier option for passing the acclimatization day can be found by visiting the twin Sherpa villages of Khumjung and Khunde, which are about a two-hour walk above Namche. While in Khunde, visit the hospital, which was established and funded by sir Edmund Hillary's Himalayan trust. Khumjung monastery is interesting as being the store place of one of the alleged yeti scalp that is to be found in the region.
Moving on from Namche Bazar the trail follows the valley of the Imja khola with some spectacular views of the mountains including Thamserku, Kangtega and Ama Dablam and, dominating the skyline ahead, Everest and Lhotse. The most common night stop after Namche is at the top of a steep climb from the Imja khola, at Thyangboche. This is the site of one of the most significant Buddhist monasteries in Solukhumbu and a visit is well recommended. Tours of the monastery are conducted each afternoon. If the teahouse and campsites at Thyangboche are full, a common occurrence in the main season, then more lodging can be found a further thirty minutes along the trail at Deboche. The ramshackle nunnery, an extension of the Thyangboche monastery, at Deboche makes an interesting site trip.
Following the Imja khola from Thyangboche the trekking route climbs gradually through pangboche and emerges above the tree line. Eventually, after a long day's trek, you reach the next night's stop at either Pheriche or Dingboche. Here another rest/acclimatization day trip being to Chhukung, around three hours walk above Dingboche. The mountain panorama around Chhukung is nothing short of amazing with the massive south face of Lhotse rearing above it to the north and a ring of lesser peaks surrounding it.
From Dingboche or Pheriche it takes another six hours of trekking to reach the cluster of teahouse at Lobuche sited on the lateral moraine of the khumbu glacier. Above Lobuche it is another three hours walk to the last settlement on the trail at Gorak Shep. Here a few basic teahouses provide shelter for the night before undertaking the final leg of the trek up the glacier to Everest base camp. Above Gorak Shep rises the well-known landmark of Kala Pattar. A climb of two to three hours will reward the trekker with a marvelous vista. Barely eight kilometers to the east is the summit of Everest and just to the most beautiful mountains to be found anywhere.
The trek along the glacier to base camp can take up to five hours depending on the trail conditions. Care should be taken while traveling here, as route finding can be a problem and there are no facilities at base camp (expeditions are generally reluctant to entertain visiting trekkers) so it is important to make sure that you have food and drinks for the return trip. Descending from base camp, most trekkers will reach at least Lobuche, if not further, by nightfall.
The return trek to Lukla basically follows the upward route but rest days are obviously not necessary. The route can be varied, to make the return more interesting, by diverting through upper pangboche and returning to Namche via Phortse (looks for herds of tahr on the hillsides), Mong La and Khumjung. Pangboche, which has few teahouses and campsite, is an interesting place to spend a night. The monastery here is one of the oldest in Solukhumbu and also has yeti relics.
Khumjung would make an interesting alternative stopping place to Namche Bazar if trekkers wished to avoid the hustle and bustle of the bazaar.
If you haven't arranged for somebody to reconfirm your flight out of Lukla for you, be sure to reach there as early as possible on the day before departure in order to make sure that your seat doesn't disappear. Arriving in Lukla on the day of departure is inviting a lost seat.
An alternative, or even better, an addition, to the Everest Base Camp trek is the trek up to the Gokyo valley. Gokyo is located in the valley immediately west of the Everest (Khumbu) valley and is far less developed and crowded than its better-known neighbor to the east. In fact, the Gokyo valley only has one traditional permanent settlement, the rest being summer pastures now catering to the passing trekkers.
If Gokyo is visited after trek to Everest base camp the extra distance only adds a another five days to the itinerary. If Gokyo is visited independently of Everest then care needs to be taken on the upward leg of the trek, as the altitude gain is much greater, leading to many unwary trekkers having problems with AMS. Both options will be described here.
If Gokyo is the ultimate destination rather than Everest then the Everest trail is followed as far as the teahouses at Kenjoma (where the trail from Khumjung joins the main trail). From here the Gokyo trail climbs up the hillside to a pass at Mong La before dropping steeply back down to the banks of the Dudh Koshi. The next two hours of trekking, through beech, rhododendron and oak forest, past waterfalls, which are often frozen, and ultimately through pine forests before breaking out above the tree line is one of the best sections of any trail in the area. Just above the trees line are the teahouses of dole, a convenient stopping place for the first night.
The following day must be very short if you are to avoid altitude problems. it only takes around for hours to reach Machherma but this is as far as most trekkers should travel that day. The valley that leads west above Manchherma is well worth an afternoon visit. it is here that the last reported sighting of a yeti was made. A yeti sighting unlikely but the valley is stunning none the less. The rocky bulk of Kyajo Ri, an unclimbed and impressive peak, dominates the head of the valley.
The final push up to Gokyo takes you past the teahouses at Pangkha and up the terminal moraine of the Ngozumpa glacier, the largest glacier in Nepal. Just above the moraine is the first of the glacial lakes for which Gokyo is renowned. If it isn't frozen, look for migrating ducks on the lake surface. The trail passes two more lakes to reach the teahouses of Gokyo about four to five hours after leaving Machherma.
The Gokyo valley is dominated at its head by the massive form of Cho Oyu, at 8153 meters the eight highest peaks on earth. Many options are available in the upper Gokyo valley. The most common destination is the rock hill above the third lake known as Gokyo Ri or Gokyo Kala Pattar. This hill, which takes at least two hours to climb, provides an even better panorama than the one seen from the more famous Kala Pattar at Gorak Shep (see Everest base camp trek description). To get the most out of a climb of Gokyo Ri, leave the teahouses at least two hours before dawn in order to have a sunrise view of the Himalaya. Other options include an additional day spent trekking further up the valley past the fourth and fifth lakes to Cho Oyu base camp. It must be remembered that there are no facilities beyond Gokyo and all trekkers must be self-sufficient.
There are two high passes leading out of the Gokyo valley. The most traveled in Cho la pass which connects with the khumbu valley near Lobuche and the other is the renjo la pass that joins the trail between Thame and Nangpa la. Both of these are serious undertakings that require some basic mountaineering skills and equipment depending on weather conditions. Teahouse trekkers have successfully crossed Cho la but the risk of sudden storm, which could trap unprepared trekkers, is always possible. Neither pass should be attempted without a competent guide.
if you are visiting the Gokyo valley in addition to Everest base camp it is as far better to trek to Gokyo after visiting Everest ,for acclimatization reasons. Follow the Everest trek route described previously and take the alternative exit route as far as Phortse. From here, follow the eastern side of the valley through some isolated settlements, which include the village of Konar, the only permanent settlement above Phortse. The trail climbs, mostly gently, up the valley with some superb view of Cho Oyu in front and Thamserku and Kangtega behind. There are no facilities available on the side of the valley until the small teahouse at nah is reached after about six hours walking from Phortse. Trekkers should therefore carry their supplies for the day. Nah is a good place to camp but for teahouse accommodation Pangkha, another hour further on, has far better facilities. From here the previously described trail is followed to Gokyo.
Jiri to Lukla
An alternative to taking the flight to Lukla is to trek in from the road ahead at Jiri. Jiri can be reached by local bus from Kathmandu in seven to ten hours depending on road conditions or by taxi or private car in five to six hours. There are no tourist bus services available. A newly opened extension to the road beyond Jiri currently reaches the village of Shivalaya but, since the bus takes over two hours from Jiri and walk takes barely three hours it makes little sense to take the bus.
The trek from Jiri to Lukla takes an average of seven days and gives preparation for the Everest base camp trek. It is never flat as it crosses the grain of the land for the first five days. The highest point reached before Lukla is Lamjura La pass, which is at 3530 meters above sea level. A highlight of the area around the Lamjura La is the magnificent display of pink and lilac rhododendrons in spring.
The trek passes through parts of Solukhumbu that are relatively undeveloped compared with the northern part of the district around Namche Bazaar. This enables trekkers to experience many traditional aspects of the culture of the local people that are less easy to see above Lukla. The trail passes through numerous settlements of different ethnic groups including Tamang, Jirel, Rai, Brahmin and Chhetri and, of course, the Sherpas. The trail is well serviced, with trekking teahouses and good campsites in most of the settlements. starting trekking from Jiri the night halts will most likely be at the villages of Deurali, Kenja, Sete, Lamjura, Junbesi, Trasindho, Karki Khola and Surkne(below Lukla). The most interesting of these stops is probably Junbesi, the oldest Sherpa settlement in Solu. An extra day spent here will be time well spent. The local teahouse owners will arrange guided day trips if you are traveling without your own guide but the main points of interest are the monastery of Thupten Chholing, about an hour above Junbesi and the villages of Mabung and Pangkarma which are en route to the monastery. The monastic school at Phungmoche, an hour above Thupten Chholing is also worth visiting and can offer guest accommodation for limited numbers.
Below the pass at Tragsindho the trail falls over 1500 meters to cross the Dudh Koshi. Here it follows the river and joins the main trail to Everest Base Camp below Lukla.
Other treks around Solu
The southern part of Solukhumbu (Solu) holds many attractions as a destination in its own right. The options are many but the best known of treks are the nine day trek over Pike, the Dudh kunda trek and treks east of the district headquarters at Salleri. None of these routes are serviced with so trekkers must be fully self-sufficient.
Over Pike Danda
This trek, of nine day's duration, usually starts in Jiri and ends with a flight back to Kathmandu from Phaplu. It is also possible to continue on from Phaplu and join the Everest trek at Ringmo, the village below the Tragsindho La pass. The highest of the trek is the stunning view from the top of pike, which includes Everest as well as a great number of lesser snow-capped peaks.
To travel over Pike Danda, follow the Jiri to Lukla trek as far as the Likhu Khola, before Kenja. The route then climbs steeply through the villages of Goli Gompa and Ngaur before reaching the 4065 meter summit of Pike. Descent to Phaplu is via the Sherpa village of Lodingma, home of several Everest summiteers .there is an alternative, rough, trail that joins the Jiri to Lukla trail near Lamjura La.
Due to the high altitude of Pike, trekkers must be particularly careful to watch for signs of AMS and be prepared to spend extra nights at Goli or Ngaur if necessary.
To Dudh Kunda
The sacred lake of Dudh kunda lies at the base of Mt.Nambur, the mountain regarded by the locals as being the home of the protective deity of Solu. In August there is an influx of devotees who come to perform cleansing ritual at the lake. At other time you are unlikely to meet anyone on this rarely traveled trail.
The main trail to Dudh kunda starts at Ringmo on the route between Junbesi and Tragsindho La. an alternative route to the lake starts at Thupten Chholing and follows a spectacular, isolated ridge through dense forest and then opens, and sometimes rocky, yak grazing pastures to join the main trail at Sarsarbeni. This latter trail is quite remote and a local guide may be needed if your staff is unfamiliar with the route.
From Ringmo, the trek to Dudh kunda takes a minimum of five days but at least one extra day for exploring around the lake should be allowed for. While at the lake, be sure to walk right around its shore and look for the spring, high up on the Northeastern side which is considered to be the source of the holy water.
There are several additional option for extending treks above Dudh Kunda but the remote nature of the country makes a locally experienced guide essential.
Treks around Salleri
The district headquarters of Solukhumbu can make an interesting base for several short walks visiting local villages and viewpoints. Salleri itself has few tourists but Phaplu, an hour's walk to the north, boasts a range of teahouse options and also has suitable camping sites.
The Chailsa-Chiwong Circuit
One of the nicest short treks follows the ridge above Salleri, to the east. This ridge the Ratanji Danda, gives mountain views across Makalu Barun N.P and also distant views of Everest. The route follows the ridge north as far as Tragsindho. then a circuit can be completed by following the valley back to Phaplu .along the trek highlights are the views, well preserved forest, the Tibetan resettlement camp at Chailsa (above Salleri) and the Buddhist monastery at Chiwong. Chiwong is famous for the Mani Rimdu festival held here each year in November. At least four nights should be allowed for this trek starting and ending in Phaplu.
There are many other possibilities in the area including reversing the Pike Danda trek described previously. Seek advice from local teahouse owners for details.
The Hinkhu and Hongu Valleys
Located to the west of Solukhumbu is the secluded and rarely visited Rolwaling valley. The upper reaches of the valley are connected to the Solukhumbu by the high and difficult pass of Trashi Labsta. Trekkers contemplating trek that connects Rolwaling with khumbu should always travel from east to west (khumbu to Rolwaling). To attempt to do the trek in reverse is likely to result in technical and altitude problems. The trek, particularly the crossing of Trashi Labsta, is one of the more difficult treks in Nepal and should only be attempted by self-sufficient, strong and experienced parties. Some basic mountaineering skills are required. Staff, particularly porters, must be experienced and from the district. For good acclimatization, a trek to Everest Base Camp or Gokyo, prior to crossing over to Rolwaling, is an excellent idea.
The route to Trashi Labsta starts at Thame (see Everest Base Camp description).it takes two nights to reach Trashi Labsta which, ideally, should be crossed early in the day to avoid rock fall from the slopes above. The pass is usually ice covered and porters carrying large loads will need assistance. If camping at the peaks, be careful to choose a campsite that is well away from the rock fall area.
The next two days are spent traveling down the Drolambao glacier. There are two icefalls on the route, which usually require the use of ropes to descend. At the end of the glacier is the massive Cho Rolpa glacial lake. This lake, which is now being drained, was at one time threatening to burst and inundate much of the Rolwaling valley.
After the glacier the upper Rolwaling valley is hemmed in by mountains on both sides with the bulk of Gauri Shankar on the northern side. The settlements on Nah and Beding are Sherpa villages, Nah being only a summer settlement. As you descended below beding the valley becomes forested first with juniper and pines and later the vegetation becomes lusher. The Sherpas give way to people of the middle hills mainly Tamang and Brahmins. After seven days from Trashi Labsta the end of the trek is reached at Charikot on the Kathmandu to Jiri road.
Everest to the Arun valley
As an alternative to Jiri or Lukla the Everest trek can be started or ended by trekking across to the valley in the eastern side of Nepal. The starting point can be Hille if traveling by road or Tumlingtar if a flight is preferred. Getting to or from Hille involves a lengthy bus journey from Kathmandu of around fourteen hours. If this route is taken an entry permit for Makalu Barun National Park is required.
If using the Arun valley as an alternative exit, the route leaves the main Everest trail at Kharte, the village above Khari Khola. It generally travels south east crossing the major rivers in the area, the Hindu Khola and the Hongu Khola, and two high passes, the Pangkoma la (3350 meters) and the Salpa La (3350 meters). Both of these passes give good views of the mountains to the north. The scenery along the trail ranges from mixed farming land and scattered Sherpa and Rai villages to stands of forest including rhododendron and oak. After trekking for five days from where several flights a week connect with Kathmandu and Biratnagar. A further two days trek to the south is Hille from where daily buses operate to Kathmandu.
Our Featured Group Tours
Small Group Journeys are set date trips designed for travel with a small group, sharing the enjoyment,cost and expreience of the destinations. A 8 days Trip to Mt.Everest Base Camp or Overland to kathmandu from Lhasa only cost you 700USD. Tours dispatch weekly, do not miss the chance, join in now!