3 Passes of Nepal Trek
For some time now I have wanted to return to Everest Base Camp to bring final closure to my relationship with Mt. Everest and with the spirit of Rob Hall, good friend and guide who died on Everest in 1996. The Three Passes Trek, offered by Adventure Consultants which was Rob's company, offers the perfect opportunity to visit Base Camp and also see parts of Nepal which I have not previously visited.
And so at the end of April, 2007, I will head, for the 8th time, to this country I love so well to celebrate and honor my own journey, the spirit of Rob Hall and all those I have known who took their final breaths in the high mountains, and the glory that is Nepal and its people.
How about joining me? Adventure Consultants runs fabulous trips. Details of the 3 Passes Trek are below. For more information about it or to join me on this trip, please visit Adventures Consultants.
3 Passes Trek Description
The trek through Nepal's 'Three Passes' takes in some of the most exciting and picturesque scenery in the Himalaya. The landscape is varied and spectacular; the lodgings and tracks range from the time-worn paths of the Khumbu, to the isolated and less frequented Renjo Pass region.
Sometimes strenuous trekking is continuously rewarded with dramatic Himalayan scenes, including four of the world's eight highest peaks; Cho Oyu (8,201m), Makalu (8,463m), Lhotse (8,516 m) and Everest (8,850m). Time spent admiring breathtaking mountain vistas are complemented by visits to Sherpa villages, homes and monasteries offering you an insight into the quiet but culturally vibrant Sherpa way of life.
This trek is unique in that we have the privilege of visiting
Everest Base Camp during the Adventure Consultants 2007 Everest Expedition,
giving an appreciation of the inner workings of expedition life.
Outline of the trek
Once everyone has arrived, we have a team meeting where introductions and the trip outline are completed. You will be briefed on the trip preparations and we can sort out any queries you have.
Your guide will advise you on good shopping and the better restaurants to visit while you are in the city. There are plenty of shops and entertainment to suit all tastes. From excellent bookshops, to mountain bike rental, to CD shopping and bars; Kathmandu's retail fraternity is waiting to meet you! We use a full day in Kathmandu sorting out any equipment problems you may have, so don't worry if you have forgotten anything. There are plenty of good outdoor shops in the city.
Next morning we fly into the village of Lukla at 9000 feet (2808m), the beginning of our trek.
The trek takes 22 days after our departure from Lukla until we return to that point. The walking is mostly over gentle terrain, but there are some decent hill climbs required to get over our '3 passes'. The trekking days are moderately strenuous, and involve walking between 4 and 6 hours duration with plenty of scenic places to stop along the way. We place a lot of emphasis on maintaining health to enhance our trekking experience.
There is the issue of altitude we have to contend with which is incorporated into our trekking itinerary. We have included rest days at the relevant elevations to allow our bodies to adjust to the thin air, and we carry sufficient medication to deal with most altitude related problems. Experience has shown us that good hydration, rest days at significant elevations and good base fitness help avoid any significant problems during this trek.
From Lukla the trail contours the valley walls of the lower Khumbu valley with fine views through the stands of Himalayan Pines, up to the high mountains above. We spend a night in Phakding and next day we follow the valley to the base of the Namche hill.
A long climb brings us to the famous village of Namche Bazar, which is the center of trade for the Sherpa people as it has been for hundreds of years. There are many sights to delight in Namche Bazar with the dramatic views across the Valley to Mt Kwonde, a wonderful backdrop to the unique Sherpa architecture of the houses and lodges here. We may even visit Sir Edmund Hillary's first hospital in Nepal, which is situated in the village of Kunde and sample high altitude croissants at the bakery in Kumjung.
The Sherpa are of Tibetan origin, having traveled over the high Tibetan passes including the Nangpa La, to settle in the Nepalese highlands. They developed trade between the two countries bringing gems, wool and salt from Tibet in exchange for the plentiful Nepalese products. The Sherpas brought their Buddhist religion with them, which they evolved to develop their own sect of the faith. They are very generous and spiritual people with a colorful lifestyle, and our trek allows us to spend time with them in their homeland.
The next stage of our trek takes us towards the town of Thame, off the main trail and away from the main trekking path going to Everest Base Camp. Our itinerary takes a more adventurous and longer route in the remote Nangpa Valley, only recently opened to westerners because of its proximity to the Tibetan border. The region is unspoiled and we visit age-old Sherpa villages.
We stay in Thame, situated in a large valley with good views of the snowy peaks of Teng Kangpoche and Kwangde to the south. About 150m above the town there is the Thame Gompa, a picturesque monastery set amongst the many homes of Lamas and lay people. This is the site for the spring celebration of the Mani Rimdo festival, held about the middle of May each year. We take a rest day here to explore the monastery and surrounding valleys while adjusting to the altitude.
From Thame the trail heads north to Thame Teng and on through several small villages such as Chanakpa, Taranga, Marlung, and Lungden. All except Chanakpa are only seasonally occupied in the spring and summer so we may have to camp in Marlung. Sherpas consider Taranga to be the homeland of the Yeti and Taranga potatoes are reputed to be the best in the world.
The next day we move onto Lungden and at just under 4600m you'll really be starting to feel the altitude! It's from here that we move up towards the Nangpa La ('La' means Pass) and away from the Tibetan trade route.
Above Lungden there are very few settlements and the vegetation becomes very sparse. We will make a high camp below the Nangpa La at about 4,900m, depending on the level of each member's acclimatization, weather conditions and other variables. The Nangpa La was used by the early Sherpa settlers in the late 1400s /early 1500s as they crossed into Nepal.
The day crossing the Renjo La will be one of the more difficult days of the trip due to the altitude. Typically the weather is clear at this time of year and the prospects for favorable conditions are excellent. From the pass there are excellent views of Everest and other 8000-meter peaks to the east.
We descend into the Gokyo Valley, to the village of Gokyo, one of the prettiest locations of the Khumbu. A succession of azure blue glacial lakes sit beneath towering, rugged peaks sometimes dusted in snow.
A day is set aside to make a side trip up Gokyo Ri ('Ri'
means hillock). The one and a half hour hike up Gokyo Ri takes us above
the village and Gokyo Lake and is well worth the effort for an unsurpassed
panoramic Himalayan view. In clear weather there are good views across
to the 8000m peaks of Mt Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and close by,
Next we have a short day across the Gokyo Glacier to Dragnag at the base of our next pass, the Cho La. After arriving at Dragnag time can be spent resting or exploring the moraine covered glacier.
For the Cho La pass crossing day we'll start early. Taking our ascent rate steadily, we follow the main trail up rolling grassy slopes and then moraine to the saddle of the glaciated Cho La pass where we are rewarded with expansive views. As we cross the pass we enter the Khumbu valley again, and a whole new vista of peaks open up: the near vertical north aspects of Cholatse and Taweche, Ama Dablam, Makalu off in the distance and Lobuche East rearing up to our north. The descent is not quite as steep as the climb and more snowy to begin with, as we follow the glacier down to its terminus before the valley drops off steeply in a series of glacier-polished cliffs that somehow allow us through quite easily. We descend to Dzonglha for the night.
On the trek we will be utilizing the best accommodation options available to us. We may use tents at times if the lodges are full or as a result of other factors. By having a flexible approach we can remain together as an expedition and make the most of the situation in order to aid our acclimatization process.
Our next stage takes us to Lobuche village and the base of the Khumbu glacier. Mt Everest is hidden from us even though we are so close, but Pumori, Nuptse, Lobuche and Taweche provide a classic Himalayan backdrop.
We then move to the last village in the Khumbu called Gorak Shep. Above Gorak Shep is the small peak of Kala Pattar which has outstanding views of Everest from it's summit. At sunrise or sunset the views of Everest can be even more magical and we hope to enjoy a photographic session with you there!
We then spend a day hiking up to Everest Base Camp for lunch. It is here that the climbers rest and recuperate when not actually up on the mountain. There is always plenty of activity as the Sherpas and climbers prepare for their next phase of climbing on the mountain. After our lunch with the expedition we descend back to Lobuche, and prepare for our third pass, the Kongma La.
By now our group will be well acclimatized and you will be amazed how much easier the Pass will feel, even though it's almost 5500m high. After a packed lunch at the pass, we'll descend to Dingboche.
The next day can be spent resting, showering or hiking up to Island Peak base camp. In the Imjatse Valley, Island Peak enjoys spectacular views of the North Side of Ama Dablam and the sweeping flanks of Nuptse and the world's 3rd highest peak, Lhotse.
We continue descending the Khumbu Valley with it's many tea houses and trekkers, enjoying some rediscovered luxuries like the fresh bakeries, internet cafés, laundries and hot showers. We finish back in Lukla for the flight back to Kathmandu and dinner out to celebrate our fine trip!