Everest Base Camp, Nepal
17 Days. Maximum altitude 5,545m.
If your intention is to climb Everest then you best head straight to Base Camp. If not, then it is much better to spend three extra days and take a far less frequented trail that rewards tough trekking with a whole album of awesome views.
This trek involves three commanding, east-facing vantage points as we get progressively closer to Everest. The first objective is the Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar, then through the 4,500m contour to trek up the west flank of the Longponga Glacier and the ascent to Gokyo Ri with Everest to the east in a halo of sunrise.
The route then continues by cautiously crossing the lower section of the glacier and an early start is required to cross the Cho-La. If indeed Yeti lives, then surely he's hidden from us here in one of the most remote, awe-inspiring places on Earth. The landscape is 6,000m mere hillocks and the horizon is 7,000m and 8,000m giants including Cho Oyo, Nuptse, Lhotse and, the reason you're here, Everest towering above them all.
Kala Pattar, our final objective, puts Everest right there, just beyond and above the Khumbu Glacier. Nuptse and Lhotse are poised as forward sentinels and the incredible icefall bars all further direct approaches.
On our descent home, via Lukla, we pass the Thyangboche Monastery, its tranquillity casting a different mystical spell.
Day 1: Fly to Lukla (45mins) and trek to Phakding.
Overnight altitude 2,610m. Trek for 4 hrs.
A stunning early morning flight to the gateway to the region of the legendary Sherpas. Start trekking north towards Phakding along meandering trails lined with stone walls.
Day 2: To Namche Bazaar.
Overnight altitude 3,440m. Trek for 6 hrs.
Following the torrent of the Dudh Koshi, the trail climbs north through forests of rhododendron, magnolia and giant firs, to the village of Jorsalle for lunch, before ascending to Namche Bazaar, the largest village in the area, often called the 'Sherpa Capital' of Khumbu.
Day 3: In Namche Bazaar
Today is for acclimatisation to the high altitude. Adjust by exploring the local markets, mingle with the people, walk up to Everest View Point, breathing deeply and happily lazing around in the sunshine.
Day 4: To Dole.
Overnight altitude 3,780m. Trek for 6 hrs.
The beginning of the trail is almost level then it abruptly ascends on a staircase made up of rocks embedded in a narrow cleft in a large boulder and continues towards a large chorten (a smaller version of Stupa) on the top of the ridge which is Mong La, the birth place of the saint Lama Sange Dorje, the reincarnate lama of Rongbuk monastery in Tibet who introduced Buddhism to Khumbu.
From Mong La, the trail descends in steep switchbacks down a sandy slope to the Dudh Koshi river and then climbs steeply out of the valley through rhododendron forests, which give way to fragrant stands of juniper and large conifers as the elevation increases. The trail passes a herder's hut at Tongba, then ascends smoothly to Dole with views of Khumbila, the abode of the patron god of the Khumbu region, and Tawache. From here on it is possible to climb a ridge behind Dole for a broader view up and down the valley.
Day 5: To Machhermo.
Overnight altitude 4,470m. Trek for 4 hr.
The route is steep in a few places as it climbs through scrub junipers and along the way, Kharkas (grazing field for yaks) are seen wherever there is a flat spot and the slightest hint of water.
The trail carries on to climb along the side of the valley, high above the river, traversing sandy spurs to Machhermo, where "a yeti has killed three yaks and had attacked a Sherpa girl", the most credible yeti incident ever reported in Khumbu, so be on guard as you visit this region!
Day 6 and 7: To Gokyo and Gokyo-Ri.
Overnight altitude 4,790m. Trek for 5 hrs.
Away from Macchermo the trail ascends a ridge for an excellent view both down the valley to Kantega and up towards Cho Oyu. Beyond the ridge, the valley widens as the trail reaches Pangka, after which we drop briefly, then again climb to a large cave area known as Nilibuk. As we pass Nilibuk the trail climbs steeply again along a narrowly crafted staircase trail and down below, the clear water from the Gokyo lakes merging with the glacial outflow from the massive Ngozumpa Glacier is seen. Atop the staircase, the trail crosses a simple wooden bridge to the first small lake, where a family of Brahminy ducks has dwelled for many years. We head on past a second lake known as Taujun, and finally up a boulder strewn path to Gokyo, a collection of stone houses.
In Gokyo, we again take a day to acclimatise. After an early morning breakfast, hike up to Gokyo-Ri (5,357m, 2 hrs approx.) the small peak above the lake. The place offers an astonishing panoramic view of Cho Oyu, Gyachung Kang, Everest, Lhotse, Kakalu, Cholatse and Tawachee. This small peak is sometimes called Kala Patthar (which is entirely different from the Kala Patthar above Gorakshep).
Day 8: To Thangna.
Overnight altitude 4,610m. Trek for 4 hrs.
The route we trek today is a challenging side trip across Cho La to the Khumbu valley in the Everest region. Just about halfway between the first and second lakes, a trail leads across the moraine to the east, past the steep pass. This involves a glacier crossing on the eastern side before finally reaching Thangna, a small hamlet of houses where we make a night stop and prepare ourselves for crossing Cho La tomorrow.
Day 9: To Dzongla.
Overnight altitude 4,860m. Trek for 8 hrs.
We wake earlier than usual to prepare for the challenging trek across Cho La. We pack our lunch for the day as houses and lodges are almost non-existent on the route. Besides the moraine trail we may come across ice falls, if there's been enough snowfall in the region. The trail, which comprised of moraine and rock towards Cho La (5,340) is steep and often snow-covered in the upper part. The descent from the pass to Dzongla is quite straightforward.
Day 10: To Lobuche.
Overnight altitude 4,910m. Trek for 3 hrs.
Leaving Dzongla, the trail continues to descend. Passing frozen rivers, we reach Lobuche where stone houses sit in an icy wilderness of stunning beauty. Once in Lobuche, we get a sense of being close to the ultimate goal.
Day 11: To Everest Base Camp (5,300m) and Gorakshep.
Overnight altitude 5,160m. Trek for 8 hrs.
Today we'll spend the whole day trekking to the Base Camp and then back to Gorakshep. Your trek Sirdar will navigate the Khumbu glacier as you make your way to The Base Camp of Mount Everest. We'll be standing at the base of the tallest mountain on Earth and shall see the infamous Khumbu icefall. Reaching Base Camp fills one with a real sense of achievement as we've done what we set out to do and stare in awe at the spectacular surroundings. Soon it will be time to descend back to Gorakshep for the overnight rest.
Day 12: To Kala Patthar (5,545m) and Dingboche.
Overnight altitude 4410m. Trek for 8 hrs.
Again the day starts early with the aim being to reach Kala Patthar, the best vantage point for viewing Everest and the other surrounding peaks, before sunrise. A feeling of being in unison with the might of nature overwhelms us as we ascend to the top of Kala Patthar. The views are amazing and Everest is breathtaking. We continue our descent to the sandy flat expanse of Gorakshep, then trek onwards, down to Dingboche where the views are terrific.
Day 13: To Tengboche.
Overnight altitude 3,860m. Trek for 4 hrs.
The route leaves the Imja valley, then crosses the Khumbu Khola via a wooden bridge, ascending to rejoin the upward trail near Orsho. We continue onwards to descend again, often passing several yak herders and tea shops near Shomare. Leaving behind alpine meadows, we reach the tree line and our night stop in Tyangboche, the religious focal point of the Sherpas. Here we can visit the largest monastery in Nepal, founded in 1919 by Lama Gulu, a monk from Khumjung.
Day 14: To Monjo.
Overnight altitude 2,840m. Trek for 6 hrs.
We descend through the woods to Phunki Tenga, then head uphill to Kenjoma, retracing our steps back past Namchhe to Monjo.
Day 15: To Lukla.
Overnight altitude 2,800m. Trek for 4 hrs.
The last day in the Khumbu Region. The trail followed is fairly easy with some steady climbs through scrub forests and a final steep ascent that leads to a Tamang village, and shortly thereafter to Lukla.
Optional day in hand for bad weather contingency, additional acclimatisation or detour.
Day 17: To Kathmandu.
A short but spectacular flight will bring you back to Kathmandu. Time for relaxing or exploring, shopping or chilling out before the end of the trek celebration dinner.
All trek timings are approximate and will vary according to the group and the season.