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Everest Base Camp

Duration                             15 days
Max Elevation                  5545m
Standard                            Medium-hard
Season                                October to December,   February to May
Start/Finish                     Lukla

Summary

Fly in to Lukla and walk to the Sherpa village of Namche Bazaar, the monastery at Tengboche and on to Everest base camp. It is important to allow enough time on this trek for acclimatisation. It can be very crowded in the high season.

ACCESS

After a long wait at the Kathmandu airport and an exciting landing at Lukla, you’ll emerge from the plane to a throng of sherpas, porters, hotel touts and trekking-company representatives clamouring for your atten­tion. Nearby will be a group of trekkers clutching their boarding passes waiting to board your plane for the return flight to Kathmandu. Behind a fence will be the mournful faces of those who did not get a seat on this flight. If you arrived by helicopter, hide behind a building when it takes off or you may get a real dust bath.

If you are trekking with a group, your sirdar should magically appear and hustle you off for tea while the sherpas organise things for the trek. Most trekking companies do not make the final preparations for the trek until they actually see the trekkers get off the plane. If you are on your own, you can retire to one of Lukla’s numerous hotels to plan your next move. See Access Towns for more information about Lukla.

THE TREK

Day 1: Lukla to Phakding

2-3 hours, 200m descent The trail from Lukla (2800m) leads north from the airstrip past lodges, carom game parlours, airline offices and shops to ‘Tamang Tole’ near the edge of the Lukla plateau. The trail drops steeply for a bit, then descends gently past the Chaunrikharka school to the intersection of the Jiri trail at Chablung (2700m). The gompa, high on the hill under a cliff, is being renovated and is worth a visit.

At Chablung the trail crosses a stream, makes a detour around a large mani stone, and passes a few lodges, then heads north through a brief stretch of forest. The trail descends steeply to the Tharo Kosi (also known as the Kusum Kangru Khola), crossing it on a local-style suspension bridge. Just past the bridge are the Saino Lodge and Pas sang Temba’s Mount Kusum View Lodge. The peak at the head of the valley is Kusum Kangru (6367m), the most difficult of the trekking peaks.

Soon you will probably meet your first yaks, wonderful shaggy beasts that create lumbering mobile roadblocks on the trail. Although yaks are uncomfortable at low elevations, sherpas use them to transport trekking gear between Lukla and Everest base camp. They are relatively tame and well controlled, but beware of waving horns or an out-of-control yak roaring down a steep hill.

Beyond the Tharo Kosi bridge, the trail climbs a bit, then contours around a ridge to Ghat (Lhawa), at 2590m, on the banks of the Dudh Kosi. Part of this village and much of the old trail were washed away by floods in 1997. A new trail climbs past the Kongde View Lodge and Ghat Guest House to the large Lama Lodge at the top of the village. The owner, Dorje Lama, has a private gompa and has marked the prayer wheels with signs instructing you to turn them clockwise. Villagers sleep on the funny platforms that you can see in the fields in order to chase bears away from the crops. Cross a ridge marked with painted mam stones and climb a bit above the river, passing several scattered houses, then descend stone staircase to the Hotel Alpine Trekkers and a camp site. The trail climbs again to Phakding, a collection of about 25 lodges. You first come to the well-advertised International Trekkers Guest House. A short distance beyond is the Phakding bazaar with shops, the big Travellers Guest House, Himalayan Shangri La, Kola Pattar Lodge and Tbs hi Taki Lodge, After crossing a small bridge over n side stream, you come to another cluster of lodges dominated by the Naniostc Lodge, Don’t be put oil if you are refused accom­modation at a particular lodge, Several arc permanently reserved by organised teahouse treks and do not cater to individual trekkers.

Just beyond the cluster of lodges at Phakding, you can see the first signs of the devastation caused by flooding from glacial lakes. Beyond the Riverside Lodge, cross the l)udh Rosi on a suspension bridge to the Phakding Star Lodge (which advertises ‘sunny flower camping with swinging net facilitate’). Sun Rise Lodge and some group camping grounds, Below the camp, near the river, arc the stone cottages of Jo s Garden Lodge, part of the Himalayan Chain Lodge system, with rooms a single/ double. You can climb to the gompa in Gumila, high on the hill above Phakding, for views of the high peaks. Icy winds from Khumbu combine with the river dampness to make Phakding a particularly chilly spot.

Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar

5-6 hours, 1000m ascent, 100m descent From Phakding the trail follows the Dudh Kosi valley north, staying 100m or so above the river on its west bank as it passes sev­eral new hotels in Zamphuti, including the large Kwangde Peak Guest House. The trail crosses a small stream where (he tiny Amu Dahlam Lodge sits on the opposite side of the wooden bridge.

Take the route straight up the hill and do not follow the old level trail that leads to the right. Climb through Helds past a few lodges in Toktok to a waterfall. A short distance beyond the waterfall dure is an excellent view to the east of the 640im peak of Thamserku. Climb steeply over a rocky ridge, then traverse high above the river to Benkar at 2710m There are several hotels here; the largest are the Waterfall Hew on the ridge just as you enter the village and the Thamserku Hew Lodge and Super Restaurant just below. A short distance be­yond Benkar the trail crosses the Dudh Kosi to its east bank on a suspension in 19%.

The trail follows a pleasant route side the river, then climbs to Chomot the site of an agricultural project that was setup in the 1970s to serve the Hotel Everest View. The largest facility a Hatago Lodge a creation of the eccentric Mr Hagayuki who lived here for almost 10 year without a visa before being deported. He are apt of the moat colourful of Nepal’s many strange characters.

All along this part of the trial, village interspersed with magnificent forest of rhododendron, magnolia and giant funk both the early autumn and late spran the flowers on this portion of the trek make it a beautiful walk. On the cliffs above die never it is possible to see musk deer and Himlayan tahr. If you sit quietly beside the DudhKuai you may see water rat swimming in the fast current. You might think they are re­lated to the legendary yeti, but they actually do exist in the river here and further upstream towards Thami.

From Chomoa, the trail climbs to the Riverside Lodge, then descends steeply into a big valley below Thamserku. The trail crosses the Kyashar Khola and climbs out of the valley to Mon jo (2840m). The Monjo Guest House and Summit Lodge are in the centre of the village, and the Mount Kailas Lodge, with its solar electricity, is up a little rise at the northern end of town. The small Utche Chholing monastery is on a hill above; if you wish to contribute to this monastery, there is a convenient donation box just beside the trail.

Just beyond Monjo the trek enters the Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park. At the park entrance station (which is guarded by machine-gun-toting army personnel), rangers check your entrance permit to be sure you have paid the fee and record your arrival in a logbook. If there are a lot of trekkers, this can be a long and tedious wait.

Sagarmatha National Park was established in 1976 to protect a 1148 sq km area surrounding Mt Everest (called Sagarmatha by Nepalis). Advisers from New Zealanc assisted with the park development and trained the first Nepali wardens. Although the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation manages the area, most of the enforcement activities are carried out by a large contingent of the Nepal Army that is based in a compound above Namche Bazaar. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.

Since the national park’s creation the amount of wildlife in the region has increased and it’s now common to spot Himalayan tahr, musk deer and impeyan pheasants near Namche Bazaar. Park rules prohibit trekkers from buying fuel wood from local people or removing any wood materials from the forest. In 1998 the park administration banned glass bottles. Nepali beer is available in cans, but if you want a soft drink, you’ll have to rely on Chinese drinks that have been transported over Nangpa La from Tibet. Park regulations also prohibit mountain biking, carrying arms and explosives, climbing any mountain without proper permission and littering.

The park entry permit is good for only one entry and is checked when you leave the park.Beyond the national park entrance station, the trail makes a steep rocky descent to a large farm. The trail turns left at the cluster of buildings at the bottom of the hill, crosses the Dudh Kosi on a high 120m-long Swiss-built suspension bridge and follows the west bank. A short distance up the river is Jorsale (Thumbug) at 2830m. Several lodgesare packed together along the main street of Jorsale, and you usually have to detour around cows and crowds of porters hanging around the village.

The trail follows the river for a while, then recrosses the Dudh Kosi, follows along the river bank and, after a few ups and downs, makes a steep climb near the con­fluence of two rivers – the Bhote Kosi from the west and the Dudh Kosi from the east. The trail crosses the Dudh Kosi on a sus­pension bridge that’s a dizzying height above the river. The approach to the bridge on the north end is up a set of steep, crooked concrete stairs it’s prudent to choose a time when there are no yaks on the bridge – or the stairs – to make your crossing. In the busy season a local person uses a police whistle to direct traffic.

The climb to Namche is long and takes you from a ‘safe’ altitude to one in which al­titude sickness is a real danger. One important aid to acclimatisation is to avoid getting exhausted, so walk slowly on this hill. Many fit irekkers have spoiled their trek by racing up the hill and becoming exhausted or worse. After a long climb up switchbacks there is a view of Mt Everest peeking over the ridge of Nuptse (7879m). Because clouds usually obscure the peaks in the after­noon, Everest will probably not he visible when you reach this point. Leaving the ridge, the trail climbs less steeply, but still steadily, through pine threats to a national park forest nursery, then over a rocky ridge to tome teashops at Miahulung. Just beyond is a small spring. When the trail turns into a stream, take the right, upper trail to reach the main street of Namche Bazaar The left-hand trail leads to the village’s lower pastures.

The bank provides the village clock, sounding the hour – day and night – by striking an empty oxygen cylinder. There are two mineral-water factories in Namche. The water is safe to drink, but they both use nonrecyclable plastic bottles.

There are several hotels and camping places in the suburb of Chhorkung, on the hill above Namche at 3540m. The fields at the foot of Namche have been taken over by Tibetan traders selling Chinese goods. These colourful sheepskin-clad men bring trains of huge Tibetan yaks laden with clothing, soft drinks and household goods from the Tibetan town of Tingri over the 5740m Nangpa La into Khumbu. They camp in Namche and make trading excursions as far south as Lukla. There’s nothing much to buy of interest to trekkers, but the Tibet bazaar is certainly worth visiting. These traders return to Tibet once they have sold their wares. You may also encounter Tibetan refugees who have crossed Nangpa La and are headed tor Dhammsala in India, the home ot the Dalai Lama and the Tibet govenment-in-exile.

Historically, Sherpas were herders and traders, Namche Bazaar was the staging point for expeditions over Nangpa La into Tibet with loads of manufactured goods from India. On the return trip they brought wool, yaks and salt. Today, Sherpas raise barley, potatoes and a few vegetables in the barren fields of Khumbu, but their economy relied on trading until trekking boosted their income. As you walk through Khumbu you will see women excavating potatoes from the I deep pits in which they store them during winter to keep them from freezing. Trekking has provided the people of Khumbu with the income to remain here despite the limited indigenous food supply. Most Khumbu Sherpas have capitalised on the influx of trekkers and mountaineers and have become quite well-to-do, maintaining  winter residence in Kathmandu and sending their children to expensive schools in the capital.

Places to Slay & Eat

It is probably futile trying to keep up to date on the latest tourist developments in Namche. (he flow of money into Khumbu from trekkers has encouraged excessive hotel construction in the village. At any time there are several hotels in various stages of construction, renovation and expansion, so it’s difficult and expansion, so it’s difficult to keep track of which one is currently the best.

The most popular hotel is Lakpa Dorje’s Trekkers Inn, which chums out yak steaks by the hundred. One of the largest is Namdu’s Khumbu Lodge, which offers private rooms includ­ing the ‘Jimmy Carter slept here’ suite. At Tawa Lodge you can sit in the sun and watch the village activity as you eat freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Namche Bazaar Guest House also has a camping ground and Friday-night slide shows. Other popular lodges are the Thamserku View, Kala Pattar and Sherpa Guide. NimaNuru’s laige Cafe Danfe has private rooms, good food and the most active bar and pool hall in town.

There are many other smaller lodges as you climb the hill east of town towards Chhor kung. The Kongde and Ama Dablam lodges are near the bazaar. The Mountain Paradise, Panorama and Trekkers lodges are higher and further away from the barking dogs and hubbub of the bazaar. Atop the hill in Chhorkung is Lakpa Sonam’s Hotel Sherwi Khangba , which has private

rooms, a museum, library, photo gallery (the owner is a photographer), cultural centre and its own chorten. It’s quieter and less dusty here. Other facilities in Chhorkung include the Passang Lodge and Tengboche Lodge. If you want to avoid the Namche crowds you can choose one of the numerous lodges in Shyangboche, Khunde and Khumjung.

Day 3: Acclimatisation in Namche

Acclimatisation is important before pro­ceeding higher. This is the first of two spe­cific ‘acclimatisation days’ that everyone should build into their trek schedule. You can spend the day taking a day walk hike to Thami (see the Thami trek opposite), by vis­iting Khunde or Khumjung, or by re­laxing and exploring Namche Bazaar. If you ask around for the key, you can visit the Namche gompa, built in 1897. Some hotels in Namche offer slide shows at night.

Above the police checkpost is the Sagarmatha National Park headquarters. The visitor centre is open 8am to 4pm daily except Saturday and holidays, and is worth a visit. It has displays about the people, forests, wildlife, mountaineering and the impact of tourism.