When to Trek

It’s possible to trek in the Khumbu year-round. Occasional flights operate to Lukla during the monsoon, and the summer can be a lovely time to visit Khumbu. The best weather is in autumn, but it can be frightfully crowded. There are clouds and occasional rain during spring, but the weather is warmer and the days are longer than in autumn. It can be bitterly cold in winter as soon as the sun drops behind the mountains at about 3.30pm, but the days are comfortable. At some time during the season from October to March there is certain to be a storm or two that will blanket the countryside with snow. Depending on the depth, it will either vanish immediately or, as it did after the blizzard of 1995, remain on the ground until April.

Emergency Facilities

There is better medical care in the Khumbu than the rest of Nepal, but it is still pretty rough by Western standards. The Khunde Hospital offers emergency assistance to trekkers. The Himalayan Rescue Association at Pheriche also provides excellent services for trekkers, but it’s in a remote location and is convenient only if you are already in the upper Khumbu. Other medical facilities include the hospital at Phaphlu and basic health posts in Namche and Chaunrikharka. There are telephones throughout the region that you can use to summon an emergency rescue flight.


The Everest area has been mapped to death; there are more detailed maps of this area than of any other part of Nepal. The entire region is covered in 1:50,000 detail by the Schneider maps: Khumbu Himal (which covers Namche Bazaar to Mt Everest); Shorong/Hinku (Solu and the Hongu valley); Dudh Kosi (Lamidanda to Lukla); Tamba Kosi-Likhu Khola (Jiri to Junbesi); Rolwaling Himal (Rolwaling and Gauri Shankar); and Lapchi Kang (Barahbise and Kodari).

More recent maps include the Nepal survey maps that were produced with Finnish assistance; four sheets cover the major Everest trekking routes at 1:50,000 scale (Those, Salleri, Namche, Sagarmatha).

There are two National Geographic maps: Everest Base Camp at 1:50,000 and Khumbu at 1:125,000, which shows the walk from Jiri. The November 1988 issue of National Geographic contained a 1:50,000 computer-enhanced topographic map of the Everest area. This map does not cover much of the trekking route, but is a fascinating document to study. Copies are available in Kathmandu bookshops.

The US Army Map Service sheet, 45-2 Mount Everest, isn’t worth carrying because there are so many better maps of the region. Many locally produced maps are available in Kathmandu. The Nepal-Khumbu map produced by Nepa Maps is available in Kathmandu. Nepa, Himalayan Map House, Shangri La and several other Nepali map makers have produced colour maps that vary in detail and quality. All cost about Rs 600 to 800. For fun, there’s also a reprint of the map produced by the 1921 Everest expedition.


There is almost too much information available about Everest. In addition to the books listed here, there are hundreds more books and thousands of magazine articles about the Sherpas and Mt Everest. Whether your interest is in mountaineering, Buddhism, anthropology, natural history or environmental preservation, you will be able to find suitable literature about the Everest region.

Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer, is an excellent, moving account of the 1996 Everest disaster. It’s a must-read if you are trekking to Khumbu. Sagarmatha, Mother of the Universe, by Margaret Jefferies, is a detailed description of the Sagarmatha National Park.

The Sherpas of Nepal, by Christoph Von Ftirer Haimendorf, is a rather dry anthropological study of the Sherpas of the Solu Khumbu region. The book is out of print and unavailable, except in libraries; the author has written a sequel, The Sherpas Transformed. Sherpas – Reflections on Change in Himalayan Nepal, by James F Fisher, is an account of changes in Sherpa culture and practices as a result of schools and tourism.

High in the Thin Cold Air, by Edmund Hillary & Desmond Doig, describes many ‘ of the projects undertaken by the Himalayan Trust. It contains the story of the scientific examination of the Khumjung yeti skull. Schoolhouse in the Clouds, by Edmund Hillary, describes the construction of Khumjung school and other projects in Khumbu. It provides good background information on where all those bridges, hospitals and schools came from Mani Rimdu, Nepal, by Mario Fantini, contains colour photos and descriptions of the dances of the Mani Rimdu festival at Tengboche monastery.

Forerunners to Everest, by Rene Dittert, Gabriel Chevalley & Raymond Lambert, translated by Malcolm Barnes, is a description of the two Swiss expeditions to Everest in 1952. It includes a fine description of the old expedition approach march.Faces of Everest, is an illustrated history of Everest by Major HPS Ahluwalia, a summiter from the 1965 Indian expedition.Everest, by Walt Unsworth, gives a detailed history of mountaineering on Everest.

Fees & Permits

All treks described in this chapter require payment of the Rs 1000 entrance fee to Sagarmatha National Park. There are no other specific fees for treks in the Everest region, but you should make a donation to any monasteries and gompas that you visit.

Foreigners are not allowed to trek north of Thami towards Nangpa La, the pass leading to Tibet.The use of kerosene as a fuel is required for trekking groups in the Sagarmatha National Park and is encouraged elsewhere. The Lukla Himalayan Club has convinced villagers not to sell firewood to trekking groups. Kerosene is expensive because it must be carried by porters or helicopter.

Place Names

Maps and route descriptions for the Everest trek become confusing because of conflicting names for the same places. There are both Sherpa names and Nepali names for many villages. The Nepali names are used here
because these are on all official maps and records. The Sherpa names for villages along the route appear in parenthesis after the more common Nepali name.


There are lodges of varying degrees of sophistication all the way from Jiri to Everest base camp, and there are few places where you will walk more than an hour without finding some kind of facility. In Lukla and beyond, the competition among lodges is intense and the facilities are better than those on the trek from Jiri. Almost all lodges have both private rooms and dormitory accommodation until you get into the high country beyond Namche. There is a lot of variety in price and facilities, so you can walk on to the next place if you cannot find something that suits you.

Above Namche Bazaar there are fewer private rooms. You may have to join other] trekkers in dormitory facilities that consist of huge bunks that sleep eight to 10 people. If the bunks are full, you are still welcome to a space on the floor. One common phenomenon at high altitude is very strange dreams and even nightmares. These occurrences lend a bit of entertainment to a night in a crowded lodge on the way to Everest.

During the trekking season, hotels fill up quickly. You will probably get involved in a daily race with other trekkers to get the best, and sometimes the only, accommodation.; This can be dangerous at high elevations because altitude sickness is encouraged by overexertion and a fast ascent. At Pheriche and Lobuche, particularly, you must be a bit aggressive in dealing with the crowds. Lodges are not subject to the rule that prohibits the use of firewood. Although they may cook on electricity or kerosene! many hotels in the Khumbu region use wood stoves to heat the dining room.

A few hotels in the region also offer facilities beyond the basic accommodation of a trekking lodge. These include:

The Hotel Everest View, between Shyangboche and Khumjung, is a Japanese project popular with well-heeled! Japanese tourists. The hotel was closed from 1982 until 1989, but it has been renovated and is now open – and expensive.

Supplies & Equipment

You can rent almost anything, including sleeping bags, down jackets and climbing gear, from shops in Lukla and Namche Bazaar. You can also find large supplies of sunscreen, batteries, candy bars and film among the displays of Tibetan souvenirs.


The Austrian-financed 630KW hydro plant at Thami is operated by the Khumbu Bijuli (electricity) Company and provides a reliable, abundant power supply 24 hours a day to Thami, Namche, Khumjung, Khunde and the Hotel Everest View. Many homes, lodges and bakeries use this power for cooking, so the consumption of wood in the region has decreased. All the wiring within villages is underground. The electricity project is part of an effort to conserve energy and reduce environmental degradation in Khumbu.

Many villages between Jiri and Namche Bazaar have hydropower projects that supply electricity of varying standard during the evening only. Electricity is expensive, so many private homes cannot afford it, but most lodges have electricity for lighting. Most small electricity schemes do not have enough capacity for cooking and most lodges still rely on firewood or kerosene. Among the villages on the Everest trek that have electricity are Jiri, Kenja, Junbesi, Salieri, Nhuntala, Khari Khola, Lukla and Tengboche. Most hotels will charge you about Rs 100 per hour if you use their electricity to charge batteries.


In addition to the February celebration of the Tibetan New Year (or Lhosar) there are two uniquely Sherpa festivals that you may encounter in Solu Khumbu.

Mani Rimdu

The most important festival of the year, Mani Rimdu is celebrated at the monasteries of Tengboche, Thami and Chi-wang. The monks wear elaborate masks and costumes and, through a series of ritualistic dances, dramatise the triumph of Buddhism over Bon, the ancient animistic religion of Tibet. The first day of Mani Rimdu is called Ong and involves prayers by the lamas in the monastery courtyard. The second day, Cham, is the colourful lama dancing, when lamas wear brocade gowns and wonderfully painted papier-mache masks. Hundreds of Sherpas from all over the Khumbu region attend the performance; it is an important social occasion as well as an entertaining spectacle. Along with the serious and intricate dances the lamas also dramatise two absurd
comic sequences that make the entire performance a grand and amusing event. On the final evening of Mani Rimdu the villagers join in an all-night Sherpa dance.

The Tengboche celebration of Mani Rimdu usually takes place at the November-Decem-ber full moon. As large crowds of Westerners attend the ceremony, both hotel and tent space is hard to come by. Prices creep up in accordance with the capitalist tradition of charging what the traffic will bear. The I monastery charges for entrance tickets, with I a hefty surcharge for movie cameras.

A spring celebration of the Mani Rimdu festival is held on the day of the full moon closest to the middle of May each year in Thami. Mani Rimdu at Thami tends to be a little more spirited (literally) than the autumn festival at Tengboche because the weather is warmer in spring and the rimpoche, or reincarnate lama, at Thami is more liberal than the Tengboche lama.

Mani Rimdu is also held in autumn at Chiwang gompa in the Solu region, usually on the same day as Tengboche’s Mani Rimdu. This monastery is set high on a ridge overlooking Phaphlu and Salieri. The-Chiwang gompa celebration may be the more authentic version because it is presided over by the head lama of Thubten Chholing, who is the reincarnate lama of Rongbuk, where Mani Rimdu had its origins.


A celebration of the birth of Guru Rimpoche (Padmasambhava), Dumje is a six-day celebration that takes place in June, a time when few tourists are in the Khumbu region. Eight families sponsor the event each year. It is a heavy financial burden, so this responsibility is rotated among the villagers. Separate celebrations take place in the villages of Namche Bazaar, Khumjung and Thami.


You can either fly or walk to the Everest region. Those who fly to Lukla (see Access Towns opposite) miss out on the historic and culturally fascinating route followed by the Everest expeditions of the 1950s and 1960s, although the trek has changed a lot since these early expeditions. If you can possibly find the time and energy to walk from Jiri (see Access Towns opposite) you will have a more rewarding trip and will be in much better physical shape to tackle the high mountain region of upper Khumbu.

If you fly to one of the mountain airstrips ! near Everest, do not attempt a quick visit to the base camp because you won’t have had time to acclimatise. Allow at least eight or nine days to reach the base camp region if you fly to Lukla. You can return from the base camp to Lukla in four or five days, therefore it takes an absolute minimum of two weeks for a safe trek to the base camp. Precise scheduling is complicated because flights to Lukla often do not take off as planned. Allow a few spare days for both the flight in and the flight out.

Though Lukla and Jiri are the most obvious entry points for the Everest region, there are several lesser-known alternatives to the busy Lukla airstrip. The tiny airstrip of Shyangboche, above! Namche Bazaar at 3730m, was built to accommodate six-passenger, single-engine  Pilatus Porter aircraft. Unfortunately, all ! Nepal’s Pilatus Porters have crashed (none at Shyangboche, however) and the strip is I now used only by helicopters. Most flights 1 are for guests at the Hotel Everest View or major cargo shipments to Khumbu. Nepal I government regulations now prohibit the big Russian cargo choppers from carrying passengers, even if this means they fly empty back to Kathmandu. Both the Everest! View and Shyangboche Panorama hotels operate charter flights from Kathmandu to  Remember that it’s fine to fly out of Shyangboche, but it can be dangerous to fly into Shyangboche because of the high risk of altitude problems.

From Phaphlu  it’s a three-day walk to Lukla, or four days to Namche Bazaar. If you have an extra few days, this may be a viable alternative for flights both to and from the Everest region. Few tourist groups use the airstrip, and you might find a seat at the last minute, although nearby Salieri is the district headquarters and many seats are booked by government officials. RNAC, Yeti and Skyline serve Phaphlu.

About five days’ walk south of Lukla is an airstrip at Lamidanda. It is a largely unknown alternative as either an approach to, or exit from, the Everest region. From Lamidanda there are daily flights to Kathmandu and occasional flights to Biratnagar. Lamidanda is the alternative airport for Lukla, so some-tunes planes and helicopters land here for a while to wait out a spell of bad weather at Lukla. When Lukla is being repaired, or is snowbound, planes from Kathmandu drop off passengers at Lamidanda and helicopters shuttle them to Lukla.



Jiri is I88km from Kathmandu and is the starting point for ‘walk to Everest’ treks. You should plan on one week to trek from the roadhead at Jiri to Namche Bazaar. If you take the time to walk from Jiri, the hike will help to acclimatise and condition you to visit Everest base camp or climb Kala Pattar. You can then fly out from Lukla or walk back by an alternative route to Kathmandu.

The people of Jiri and the surrounding area are Jirels, a subgroup of the Sunwars, whose language is related to that of the Sherpas. You can pick up last-minute supplies here, although most items are also available all along the trek. Jiri has two shops that carry a good assortment of medical supplies. Stock up here as you won’t find many such shops in the hills.

The Jiri airstrip is no longer used by Planes, but Russian cargo helicopters run shuttles to Lukla and Shyangboche carrying goods that have been trucked to Jiri from Kathmandu. In early 2000 the police posts in both Jiri and Shivalaya were attacked by Maoist groups.

Getting There & Away There are five buses daily to Jiri, and they depart from the old bus terminal across from Ratna Park in central Kathmandu. The buses that serve Jiri are dilapidated, crowded and slow (one trekker described the trip as ‘hell on earth’). There are also frequent reports of ‘ thefts from backpacks on the roof of Jiri buses during the 10- to 12-hour trip.

Buses leave Jiri for Kathmandu at 5 am,6.30am and 7am. They attract passengers by blowing their horns much too early in the morning. If you have trekked out from Khumbu to Jiri you can sometimes find an empty seat on a car or bus that has delivered trekkers from Kathmandu They arrive about 3pm and usually return immediately.


Lukla has a good choice of accommodation. Most of the hotels and all the airline offices in Lukla are along the track north of the airstrip. Here you’ll find the Economy Home, Garden Lodge, Karma Lodge, Khumbu Lodge, Paradise Lodge and the sprawling Khumbu Resort. The Himalaya Lodge and Buddha Lodge are conveniently located near the check-in counter. There are numerous other lodges and facilities around the village that offer entertainment, accommodation in both private rooms and dormitories, and extensive menus.

Getting There & Away

At 2800m, Lukla is served by 19-passenger Twin Otter or Domier aircraft that carry (due to the high elevation) only 14 or 15 passengers. RNAC and most private airlines operate daily flights. Yeti Airlines has the most flights to Lukla, with three scheduled trips a day and additional flights when needed. If you truly have a limited amount of time, you can fly to Lukla and take as little as five days to visit Namche Bazaar and Tengboche, then trek back to Lukla for a flight back to Kathmandu, but beware of flight delays because it’s a rare day when all Lukla flights operate according to schedule. There are usually either more or less flights because of cancellations, extra flights, charters or ‘delayed schedule’ flights. It can be chaotic when there are 20 or more flights in a day, with planes from various airlines arriving in seemingly random patterns. Tickets are not interchangeable between any of the airlines, so it becomes an amusing lottery as you try to get onto the next available flight.

Since so many companies run both charter and scheduled flights to Lukla, it is easiest to contact a travel agent or trekking company and have them search for seats by telephone. If you prefer to run around airline offices yourself, try Yeti, Skyline, Gorkha or Flight Care.

Most airline offices are open for an hour in the evening for reconfirmation – usually from 5pm to 6pm, but sometimes from 6pm to 7pm. It’s worth making the effort to reconfirm flights during this period. All the airline offices have telephones, but often their office in Kathmandu does not decide how many flights to send until after the office closes. This adds an atmosphere of mystery to the proceedings and provides constant fuel for the Lukla rumour mill. Check-in begins early and can be chaotic.  If your innkeeper or a trekking company representative offers to check you in for the flight, take advantage of this. There isn’t much to do at Lukla other than wait for planes or talk about when they will come.

A Hillary team built the unique airstrip as part of the Khunde Hospital project in 1965, envisioning it as a makeshift strip to handle emergencies at the hospital. The Department i of Civil Aviation expanded the strip in 1977 and added a control tower in 1983. In 2000, additional improvements were made, including a new control tower, terminal and sealing of the runway. During the trekking season it is the third-busiest airport in Nepal.

High on the side of a mountain, the strip is built on a slant so that there is an elevation difference of about 60m between the ends of the runway. This slope slows planes and helps them stop before they run into the mountain peak that rises from the eastern end of the 450m runway. The flight approach path is totally visual; there are no instruments or navigational aids of any kind. If it is cloudy, planes cannot make the approach, although helicopters can often sneak in.


Barahbise, on the east bank of the Bhote Kosi, is a crowded bazaar at 820m, inhabited mostly by Newars and Chhetris. Just south of Barahbise, a small branch of the Sun Kosi joins the Bhote Kosi (‘river from Tibet’) to form the much larger Sun Kosi.

Little more than 5km beyond the bridge at Khandichaur where the Jiri road begins and 85km from Kathmandu, Barahbise is the starting point of the extended Everest walk-in trek described in the Barahbise to Shivalaya trek at the end of the chapter.

Getting There & Away

There is no express bus service to Barahbise, so you must take a funky local bus from the old bus park in the centre of Kathmandu. It takes five to six hours, but it’s cheap. You can make the trip by private car or taxi. This section details the first eight days of a trek from Jiri to the Everest base camp or Gokyo. This is the best way to do an Everest trek, but it is shown here as two different treks because most people fly to Lukla and walk only the high-altitude portion of the route. This means that the portion of the trek from Jiri to Lukla is often uncrowded, . and therefore excellent trekking country. From Namche Bazaar you can follow the’ route to Everest base camp described in the following trek and fly out. You can also make an excellent 30-day trek by walking on to Tumlingtar or Hile instead of flying from Lukla. Another alternative is to walk much of the route that is traversed by the Jiri road, following the Barahbise to Shivalaya trek route.

The trek from Jiri involves a tremendous amount of up-and-down walking. A glance at a map will show why. All the rivers in this part of Nepal flow south from Himalayan glaciers, but the trek route proceeds east. Therefore the track must climb to the ridge that separates two rivers, descend to the river itself, and ascend the next ridge. Even though the trek begins at an elevation of 1860m, on the sixth day it crosses the Dudh Kosi at only 1500m – after considerable uphill (and downhill) walking. If you total all the uphill climbing, it comes to almost 10,000m of elevation gain from Jiri to Everest base camp. The road to Jiri saves almost 4000m of uphill walking over the old approach from Lamosangu that was used in the 1970s, but this is still a long! hard trek with many steep hills.


The first part of the drive from Kathmandu is via the Amiko Rajmarg or Kodari Highway, the Chinese-constructed road that links  Nepal with Tibet. The road descends to Panchkal, then for lows a small stream to Dolalghat at Km57. It crosses the Indrawati river on a large bridge just upstream of its confluence with the Sim Kosi. The Sun Kosi (‘gold river’) is one of Nepal’s major rivers; it is possible to make a week-long rafting expedition from Dolalghat all the way to the Terai. The road climbs over a ridge behind Dolalghat, passing the junction of the road to Chautaara. The road descends from the ridge and follows the Sun Kosi north through Balephi to Khandichaur, a clutter of restaurants and shops 37km south of the Tibetan border. Just north of Khandichaur is Lamosangu, the old trailhead, and a hydroelectric power plant built with Chinese aid.

At Khandichaur the Swiss road to Jiri  crosses the Sun Kosi and begins a new series of kilometre posts. The bridge is Km 0 and Jiri is Km110. After some initial switchbacks as the road leaves the Sun Kosi valley, the road turns east and heads up a canyon towards the top of the 2500m ridge that forms the watershed between the Sun Kosi drainage to the west and the Tamba Kosi drainage to the east. The first large settlement along the road is the Tamang village of Pakhar (1980m). From Pakhar the road climbs along the top of a ridge towards a pass. There is little mineral wealth in Nepal, but about 15km beyond Pakhar there is an economically viable source of magnesite, a mineral used in refractories. Nepal Orind Magnesite Corporation has a huge open-pit mining operation and exports magnesite to India and other countries using a cable ropeway that stretches down to Lamosangu. Trucks used for transporting ore have trashed the otherwise well-maintained road along this stretch. Buses often stop at either Bhote or Muldi (3540m) for tea or lunch at one of several bhattis.

After crossing a pass at 2440m the road makes a long sweep around the head of the valley, finally reaching the large village of Charikot at the road junction for Dolkha at Km53. There are several lodges in Charikot and if the bus driver decides to stop here for lunch, try the Sagan Guest House or the Laxmi Lodge. Although buses are often late because of breakdowns, accidents, road problems or an excess of bureaucratic formalities, you rarely need to spend a night in a hotel along the road. The buses continue their trip at night, no matter how late.

About 5km to the north is the large bazaar of Dolkha, the departure point for treks to Rolwaling (see the Other Trekking Areas chapter). There is a significant Maoist presence in the Dolkha and neighbouring Ramechhap districts and there have been a few incidents involving tourists here.

The road descends from Charikot through a region of heavy settlement to Kirantichhap (1300m) at Km64. It makes a circuitous descent from Kirantichhap into the Tamba Kosi valley. This is a fertile area, containing a good deal of terraced land for irrigated paddy cultivation. The population is mainly Brahman and Chhetri, but there are also Tamangs and a few Newars. Just after the road crosses the river on a large steel bridge at 800m, there is a junction with a road leading to Ramechhap, 56km to the south. The Jiri road makes a steep ascent to Namdu, then to its neighbouring village, Kabre. Reforestation and agricultural projects, part of the Swiss development scheme, are operating in both villages.

The road climbs above Kabre, then past the road project station at Mina Pokhari to Hanumante Pass, the top of a forested ridge at 2555m. It remains high and contours around the head of the valley in forests above Thulo Chaur. The road descends along the top of a ridge to a police post, where passport details are recorded. It’s then a 3km drive to Jiri past the bazaar at 2100m, where there are a few bhattis and lodges and a weekly Saturday market. Ignore the pushy kids that jump on the bus and tout for hotels as the bus descends to Jiri (1950m). The road ends at a bus stop beyond a cluster of shops and hotels, none of which is particularly outstanding.