impressions from

Mount Everest: Trekking to Kala Patar and Gokyo

Nepal is home to hundreds of peaks, and dozens of trekking routes with great views. Many of the popular treks take you through the Solu Khumbu, land of Sherpas and home of Mount Everest, the highest peak on earth. The classic route I took in fall of 2008 leads to several fantastic viewpoints and over two high passes.

Gyachung Kang and Hungchi, click to see entire galleryI fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, an amazing 45 minute flight that ends after the small plane stops at the end of the steep runway of Lukla's airstrip. The town has become the starting point for tourism into the valleys up north. After a quick breakfast at the lodge I meet Tenba, who'll be carrying my pack for the next three weeks, and we set out on the wide trail.

The walk on the first day is gentle, slightly up the forested valley which becomes increasingly narrow. After a steep three hour climb we reach Namche Bazaar, tourism hub, and because of its altitude of 3'300 meters a place for most tourists to stay for acclimatization. It's also a good place to stock up on luxury items like chocolate bars.

Close-up of Mount Everest, click to see entire gallery The first highlight is Tengboche monastery, which rewards a steep climb with the first view of Mount Everest and - more closeby - Ama Dablam. On the walk higher up we pass small settlements with cozy lodges. Since it's still early in the season and we stay away from larger villages, we usually get the choice of cozy and empty places to stay and eat.

Yaks graze on the alpine meadows where some alpine flowers still grow. Higher up we enter the world of glaciers and snow as we climb up viewpoints above Chukang, with amazing views of the Lhotse south wall and Makalu.

Crossing the Cho La pass, click to see entire galleryThe views of Everest were blocked so far by higher peaks, now that we follow the Khumbu glacier to Gorak Shep the black summit is revealed. On the way up to Kala Patar, another stunning viewpoint at 5'545 m, the true grandeur of Nuptse becomes impressive; and from the top the black pyramid of Everest shadows all other peaks in height.

Crossing the snow-bound Cho La pass we enter the Gokyo valley which is dominated by Cho Oyo, 8'201 m, and Nepal's largest glacier.

Yak grazing above Gokyo lake, click to see entire galleryThe lodges of Gokyo lie at the turquoise glacial lake, and in addition just an hour above lies the Gokyo Ri viewpoint: an amazing spot to see 4 peaks above 8'000 meters, marvel at the Ngozumba glacier and enjoy the 360 view of summits. This a great place to spend some days exploring; a dayhike up the glacier to the foot of Cho Oyo reveals more glacial lakes and views of Gyachung Kang and Hungchi.

The second pass, the Renjo La, reveals a last view of the giants; then we head it into the Thame valley. Gentians and edelweiss dot the hillsides again with a backdrop of ice-fluted flanks. A side-trip to Kumjung is a great idea to escape the crowds before hitting the main trail. From the village I enjoy the last sunset on Ama Damblam, and a stunning sunrise the next morning.

From Namche Bazaar we return to Lukla; many trekkers are now on their way up and I'm glad to have been trekking just before the peak season. But it is a busy trek for good reasons: such a combination of fantastic scenery and comfortable lodges is hard to be found anywhere else. This is a great trek for beginners as well as veterans.

Panorama view Gokyo Ri, click to see entire gallery

Route: (in-depth travelogue to follow)
  • Lukla - Namche - Pangpoche
  • Pangpoche - Chukung - Dhugla
  • Dhugla - Gorak Shep - Kala Patar
  • Dzongla - Cho La - Gokyo Ri
  • Gokyo - Ngozumba Glacier
  • Gokyo - Renjo La - Thame
  • Thame - Kumjung - Lukla
Outside sources of information: