Ascent to the base of the world’s highest mountain. Everest (8,848 m) and the many surrounding peaks are surreal. A 16-day hike passes by several Sherpa villages and glaciers.
Hikers in the Nepalese Himalayas have two serious choices: The Khumbu (Everest) western region or the Annapurna eastern region. Globerovers Magazine has done both but spent more time in the Everest region. Both areas are great and if you can only do one, then it certainly will be a difficult decision which may be best answered by the flip of a coin.
The best advice from Globerovers Magazine is to do both. They are very different and they are both very spectacular.
The Everest region trek starts at the little village of Lukla (2,850 m) that is a 45 minute scenic flight from the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. Lukla is notoriously unreliable for flights due to the unstable weather. The small airstrip (351 meter long) is at an approximate 10 degree angle and it is quite a thrill to see the small planes landing and taking off.
When you are on the plane yourself, you may wonder why people next to the landing strip stare in disbelief! There is little margin of error for mistakes – if the plane can’t stop in time, or don’t take off in time, it will tumble deep down the cliffs.
From Lukla it is a rather boring walk (compared with the rest of the hike) through the village of Phakding and then on to the awesome little mountain village of Namche Bazar which is tucked away in a “mountain superbowl” at a height of 3,440 m at the low point. Stay over for the night, hike around the area above the village and get used to the high altitude. At times you will feel very dizzy. Don’t worry, its normal. Take a rest and continue your hike.
Remember that the overall rule here is: Walk high, sleep low. So go for a hike high above the village, stay there for an hour or so, then walk down back to the village and take a good sleep. Tomorrow morning you will feel much better. Remember this throughout your hike in the mountains: Walk high, sleep low!
From Namche Bazar head up to the village of Khumjung (2,850 m) and its famous Thame Monastery. From here the scenery gets really impressive all the way up to Gokyo Ri (5,357 m) where you stay the night and climb the nearby hill at 4:30 AM to see sunrise over Mount Everest (8,848 m) directly to the east.
Gokyo Ri is one of the best places to see Mount Everest, so you better hope for clear weather. From Gokyo Ri peak and the lakes around Gokyo Ri, the path back-tracks a little south and then head over the Ngozumpa Glacier, which is the largest glacier in Nepal. After crossing the glacier, your next stop is the village of Dragnag (4,700 m) which has a single building – your guesthouse for the night. The facilities here are dreadful as are most facilities high in the mountain. Just sleep and get out the next morning to hike over the impressive but dangerous Cho La Pass (5,330 m).
From here it is non-stop stunning mountain scenery all the way down through Dughla (4,630 m) and up to Lobuche (4,830 m) where again the guesthouse facilities are very basic. Sleep again, get used to the higher altitude, and if you don’t get sick, head up further north to Gorak Shep (5,184 m) and up to Everest Base Camp (5,363 m).
Don’t expect too much at Base Camp. Stay a while, relax, and think of the climbers who annually start their ascent to Everest from this base camp. After you pondered for a while (no views of Everest from here) head back to Gorak Shep which has a few nice hiking paths in the area, including the sunrise hike up to Kallar Patthar peak (5,545 m) with another good view of Mount Everest. Once again, hope for clear skies.
Done photographing Everest? Head downhill and then south to the beautiful setting of the Dingboche village (4,420 m). From here go further south to Tengboche (3,867 m). Don’t forget to sleep in some guesthouses along the way! Most of the villages (which are tiny communities) are very interesting with fantastic views of the surrounding mountain peaks.
This area offers several impressive peaks such as the king itself, Everest (8,850 m), Nuptse (7,861 m), Lohtse (8,414 m), Taboche (6,367 m), and Ama Dablam (6,858 m).
Tengboche has a particularly interesting and large monastery and the distant view of Everest is spectacular. From Tengboche the scenic path descents for a few hours back into Namche Bazar.
Before you arrive at Namche Bazar look back a few times to get your last glimpses of Everest, as well as some good views of the impressive Ama Dablam peak. You will be happy to be back in Namche Bazar to enjoy the relative luxurious guesthouses, including the local Himalayan version of the “Holiday Inn”. This may be your first shower in the past 10 days. Enjoy it!
After a good night sleep, trace back your steps of two weeks ago and descent into the village of Lukla where your small plane is waiting for your exciting lift off from the scary airstrip. Trust you will land safely in Kathmandu to explore the rest of Nepal.
More photos of Nepal by Globerovers blog