Duration                 12 days

Max Elevation      5350m

Standard                 Medium-hard

Season                     October to December,February to May

Start/Finish          Lukla

Summary               A high-altitude trek to a valley west of Everest base camp. Excellent views of Everest, small lodges on the entire route and marginally less crowded than the base camp trek.

 

Gokyo

The trek to Gokyo offers an alternative to the traditional Everest base camp trek. From Gokyo Ri, more of Everest itself is visible -from a slightly greater distance – than from Kala Pattar above Gorak Shep. The mountains are more spectacular, the Ngozumpa Glacier is the largest in the Nepal Himalaya and, from a ridge above Gokyo, four 8000m peaks (ChoOyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu) are visible. The view of the tremendous ice ridge between Cho Oyu and Gyachung Kang (7922m) is one of the most dramatic panoramas in Khumbu. There are many options for additional exploration and high-altitude walking, including the crossing of Cho La, a 5420m-high pass into Khumbu.

THE TREK

Days 1 & 2: Lukla to Namche Bazaar

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.

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.

Days 3 & 4: Namche Bazaar

Don’t rush. The Himalayan Rescue Association doctors have determined that you must acclimatise before you begin the Gokyo trek. It is easy to get too high too fast and succumb to altitude sickness. Only after a minimum of three days in the Namche-Khumjung region is it safe to begin this trek. There are lots of things to do here. Take a hike to Thami, visit Khumjung or eat cinnamon rolls in Namche. Hiking will help acclimatisation more than the cinnamon rolls, however.

Day 5: Namche Bazaar to Phortse Thanga

2-3 hours, 530m ascent, 290m descent Climb the hill to Khumjung and descend to the east of the village down the broad valley leading to the Dudh Kosi. The Gokyo route turns north, climbing above the more frequented route to Tengboche and Everest base camp.

There is a choice of routes in the beginning: the yak trail, which climbs gently, but traverses a long distance around the ridge or the steep, staircase-like trail made of rocks embedded in a narrow cleft in a large boulder. The Sherpas claim that the steeper trail is better – for exercise, although the lower yak trail offers quite spectacular views. The two trails soon join and continue towards a large chorten on the ridge top at 3973m. This ridge descends from Khumbila, the abode of the patron god of the Khumbu region, khombtla (or, more correctly, Khumbu Yul Lha) translates as ‘Khumbu area god’. On thangkas and other monastery paintings this god is depicted as a whitefaced figure riding on a white horse. Numbur, the mountain that towers over Junbesi and the Solu region, is the protector god of that area and has the Sherpa name Shorong Yul Lha (‘Solu area god’).

At Mong (Mohang) there are five teahouses and a chorten. This is said to be the birthplace of the saint Lama Sange Dorje, the reincarnate lama of Rongbuk monastery in Tibet who introduced Buddhism to Khumbu. The trail descends in steep switchbacks down a sandy slope to the Dudh Kosi. There is an excellent camp site at Phortse Thanga, near the river (thanga means ‘riverside’) at 3680m, just before the bridge that provides access to Phortse, an isolated village of about 60 houses. It is possible to go much further in a single day from Khumjung – as far as Tongba or Gyele – but it is dangerous because of the rapid increase in elevation. There are two basic lodges and a national park army post nearby. The army may require you to dig your national park receipt out of your luggage so they can examine it.

Day 6: Phortse Thanga to Dole

1-2 hours, 410m ascent You should make this another short day to aid your acclimatisation to the altitude. The rock in Lhabarma at 4330m. A few more minutes up the trail is a small teahouse called the Holy Day Inn. There are kharkas wherever there is a flat spot and the slightest hint of water. In winter, many of these villages have no nearby water source, so there are no lodges and it’s impractical to camp at them.

Luza at 4340m makes a good camp site and supports the Kantega View Lodge as it is on the banks of a large stream and has a year-round water supply. All the kharkas on this side of the valley are owned by people from Khumjung. Families have houses in several settlements and move their herds from place to place as the grass becomes overgrazed and the snows melt.

The trail continues to climb along the side of the valley, high above the river, crossing sandy spurs to Machhermo at 4410m. It was in Machhermo in 1974 that a yeti killed three yaks and attacked a Sherpa woman. This is the most credible yeti incident ever reported in Khumbu, so be watchful as you visit this region. There are good mountain views from Machhermo and you can choose from the Namgyal Lodge, Taboche View, Himalayan Lodge and two others.

Day 8: Machhermo to Gokyo

3-4 hours, 350m ascent Beyond Machhermo the trail climbs 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 at 4390m. An entire trekking group was killed hare by an avalanche in November 1995. The three lodges in Pangka, including the Cholatse View Tea House, are located well away from the old avalanche path.

Leaving Pangka the trail drops briefly, then climbs to a large cave area known as Nilibuk. This is an excellent place for lunch but there are no lodges or facilities. After Nilibuk the trail climbs steeply along a narrow, newly crafted staircase trail. Below, you can see the clear water from the Gokyo lakes joining with the glacial outflow from the massive Ngozumpa Glacier. Above the trail to the left is a steep ridge that can be a dangerous avalanche area after a storm. Atop the staircase the trail crosses a simple wooden bridge to the first small lake, Long-ponga, at 4650m, where a family of Brahminy ducks has resided for many years. The trail now becomes almost level as it follows the valley past a second lake, known as Taujun, at 4710m, and finally up a boulder-strewn path to Gokyo at 4750m. Gokyo is a collection of stone houses and walled pastures on the shores of a large lake known as Dudh Pokhari. The setting is reminiscent of an abandoned summer resort. At last count there were eight lodges at Gokyo, The Gokyo Resort), built by the 1991 Australian ballooning expedition, is the largest with 23 double rooms. Others include the Cho Oyu View and the Gokyo New Lodge near the take, and the Namaste Friendship Lodge and Gokyo Sherpa Lodge on the flats beyond.

Day 9: Gokyo

The views around Gokyo are tremendous. For the best view, climb Gokyo Ri, the small peak above the lake. This peak of 5357m is sometimes called Kala Pattar (not to be confused with the Kala Pattar above Gorak Shep, although the views are similar). It is a two-hour climb to the top of the peak, providing a panoramic view of Cho Oyu, Gyachung Kang, Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cholatse and Tawachee.

Cho Oyu is said to be the easiest 8000m peak to climb, but the south face is impressively steep. The ‘easy route is from the north, via Tibet, and some expeditions from Nepal cross into Tibet once they are high on the mountain.

Day 10: Gokyo to Phortse

5-7 hours, 900m descent You can descend to Phortse in a single long day, or you can spend the night at Thare or, if you are camping, at Konar to make the day less strenuous. Rather than retrace the upward route, follow the eastern side of the valley to gain different views of Khumbila. You will also enjoy somewhat warmer weather, because the sun stays on these slopes longer in the late afternoon.

The route to Phortse retraces the upward journey to Pangka, then turns east and climbs across the terminal moraine of the Ngozumpa Glacier to Na (4400m), the only year-round settlement in the valley. The Cholo View and Solu Khumbu lodges here are not the same quality as the lodges in the rest of Gokyo. The descent from Na along the eastern side of the Dudh Kosi valley is straightforward, passing the Himalayan Lodge at Thare and the Sherpa Lodge at Thore before reaching Konar, where there are no lodges. The trail makes a few ups and downs where  landslides and streams have carved side valleys, eventually entering Phortse at its upper end. You could camp in the potato fields of this large village. The Khumbu Lodge is near the top of Phortse and the Namaste and Phortse lodges are lower down.

Mountaineering Route: Cho La

If you have mountaineering experience and are well equipped, you can make a challenging side trip across Cho La to the Khumbu valley. About halfway between the first and second lakes a trail leads off across the moraine to the east. This is the route to the 5420m Cho La (or Chhugyuma Pass) into the Everest region. The pass is not difficult, but it is steep and involves a glacier crossing on the eastern side. Allow three days from Gokyo to Pheriche on this high-altitude route. An ice axe, crampons and a rope are often necessary for negotiating the small ice-fall at the foot of the glacier on the east side of the pass, although in ideal conditions there are no technical problems and there is a trail of sorts in the rocks beside the ice fall. The western approach to the pass varies in difficulty depending on the amount of snow.

Sometimes it is a rough scramble up a scree slope, other times it’s an impossible technical ice-climb. The best conditions are when there is snow soft enough for kicking steps up the slope. The pass is not possible for yaks and sometimes not suitable for heavily laden porters, but you can send the porters and yaks around the mountain via Phortse and they can meet you in Lobuche or Pheriche three days later. If you plan to cross the pass, spend a night at Tagnag (Dragnag on the Schneider map) or Chhugyuma and the following night at Dzongla on the other side. There are three small lodges at Tagnag, but you’ll have to camp if you stay in Chhugyuma. Once you get across the pass you can stay in one of the two lodges in Dzongla or keep going to Duglha or Lobuche.

Day 11: Phortse to Namche Bazaar

3-5 hours, 700m descent, 300m ascent A slippery trail descends from Phortse to the bridge at Phortse Thanga and rejoins the original route from Khumjung. It is easy to reach Namche Bazaar, or even go beyond to Jorsale, for the night.

An alternative route from Phortse leads from the village gompa up a steep, exposed trail with spectacular views to upper Pang-boche, where it joins the trail to the Everest region. There is an offshoot of this trail that descends steeply to the Imja Khola and climbs through forests to Tengboche.