By Rajesh KC
Khumbu is one of three sub-regions of the main Sherpa settlement of the Himalaya, the other two being Solu and Pharak. Khumbu is located in northeastern Nepal and includes the town of Namche Bazaar and the famous Buddhist monastery at Tengboche. Solukhumbu, the heartland of the Everest Region and an integral part of the Himalayan mystique, thus provides a welcome destination for the adventurers.
The Everest area was expanded in the Sagarmatha National Park in 1976 with an area of 1148 square kilometers. The park is largely composed of the rugged terrain and gorges of the high Himalayas. Mount Everest (8848m) – known in Nepal as Sagarmatha – has long been the greatest attraction for nature lovers and trekkers alike.
Throughout the trekking I was overwhelmed with the views of unbelievable peaks, Buddhist monasteries, and friendly Sherpa people.
I was carrying a satellite phone equipped with GPS facility. Altitudes and positions mentioned below were acquired by this unit.
Day 01 (October 10):
After 35 minutes morning flight from Kathmandu we landed on the narrow, sloping black-topped runway in the heart of the mountains. It was a very spectacular way to arrive Lukla (Lat N 27° 41′ 17.63″ Lon E 86° 43′ 52.31″ Alt 2800m) – also considered as the gateway to Everest region. There are tea shops, lodges, hotels and general stores for almost every trekking gears and foods available in Lukla. It is best to allow two days for the walk up to Namche Bazaar to assist with acclimatization. After lunch, with a local guide-cum-porter, I trekked to Phakding (Lat N 27° 44′ 22.52″ Lon E 26° 42′ 44.61″ Alt 2618m) which took about three hours. Being a photographer – as I had to take pictures with medium format camera using tripods – the travelling time was a bit longer for me. The trek begins following a gentle climb up the mountainside on the left bank of the Dudh Koshi. Kongde Ridge can be seen in the distance on the opposite bank. We camped outside one of the lodges in Phakding.
Day 02: Phakding – Namche Bazaar
Morning was sunny with small patches of clouds. Outside temperature was 15°c. At 8 o’clock, we started a very pleasant walk by the river through pine forest leads to Monjo and the entrance to the Sagarmatha National Park. A suspension bridge was crossed then ascended quite steeply to Namche. ‘The climb has been made easier by a new suspension bridge allowing the route to avoid a difficult rocky section’, said the guide Hasta Bahadur. On the way we enjoyed the view of Mt. Kusum Kangaru, Thamserku, Konde-Ri and Tawache peak. I was not lucky to have the first view of Everest from about an hour and a half below Namche as it was covered with the clouds. We reached Namche Bazar at 3 pm. This is the main trading village in the Khumbu region and also holds a busy market. Namche boasts an abundance of lodges and souvenir shops. It is an ideal place to spend a rest day, acclimatizing to the new altitude before heading off towards Tengboche. Options for acclimatization walks include the one-hour walk up to the Everest Hotel above Namche for the sunset view of Ama Dablam, Nupste, Lhotse and Everest.We experienced light rain as soon as we arrived. Temperature was 15°c. We stayed at a lodge in upper side for a better view of the Namche Bazaar (Upper Namche Lat N 27° 48′ 18.43″ Lon E 86° 42′ 47.82″ Alt 3513m).
Day 03: Namche Bazaar – Kyanjoma
From Namche, we trek out of the village and follow a small trail where the views are incredible; behind to the west, the ridge of Nupla and Kwangde Himal (6186m); across the valley to the south, the towering ice-fluted walls of Thamserku (6608m), and to the east at the head of the valley, the Lhotse and Nuptse wall, towering above Dingboche valley. Everest looms above the ridge, a black, triangular rock; Sagarmatha, was a truly magnificent sight. On a small ridge across, the Tengboche Monastery can be seen. After a short (2 hours) walk from Namche Bazar, we arrived at Kyanjoma (Lat N 27° 49′ 18.44″ Lon E 86° 43′ 52.37″ Alt 3577m). Tepmerature was 13°c. We spent a night at Kyanjoma – a one and half hours walk from Namche – to assist with further acclimatization.
Day 04: Kyanjoma – Tengboche
Woke up at 6:00, it was 8°c with clear sky. After breakfast we left for Tengboche. En route, we had great views towards Everest and Lhotse and one of the world’s most beautiful peaks Ama Dablam. We descend to the village of Sanasa and then contour to Trashinga where the trail drops steeply to cross the Dudh Kosi at Phukitenga (3250m). A break was taken here for lunch by a series of water-driven prayer wheels. We ascended gradually towards Tengboche. It is a steady ascent of approximately 2 ½ hours through pine fir, black juniper and rhododendron forest. We arrived at Tengboche (Lat N 27° 50′ 10.70″ Lon E 86° 45′ 53.74″ Alt 3851m) at 14:45 hours. The place is set in a beautiful meadow, high on a ridge surrounded by towering Himalayan peaks. A peaceful, tranquil position, surely one of the wonders of the world and the Tengboche Monastery is spectacularly situated. The monastery dominated by the Gompa with its prayer flags and Mani stones was founded in 1916 as a meditation centre. This is a popular place to camp or stay in one of the selected lodges. Sunset was particularly impressive. Hiking up to nearby hills gave a chance to have a bird eye view of the beautiful Monastery.
Day 05: Tengboche
Woke up at 6:45, temperature was 7°c. Started light snowfall, which was the first snowfall of the season. Visited Monastery and hiked nearby hills. The view was spectacular as the area was covered with snow. For further acclimatization, we spent one more night in Tengboche.
Day 06: Tengboche – Dingboche
The morning was sunny with no clouds at all. Surrounding mountains was spectacular. From Tengboche, we descended through a forest of birch, fir, juniper and rhododendron, to the nunnery at Debuche. Had lunch at Debuche Gompa and we crossed the Imja Khola, ascending gradually, with the beautiful Ama Dablam dominating the skyline, to visit the monastery. After three or four hours trekking took us to the village of Pangboche – possessing the oldest monastery of the Khumbu. We continued keeping our eyes opened for Danphe Pheasant and high on the steep slopes of the valley, Himalayan Thar (wild goats), gaining height only very gradually. We arrived at Dingboche (Lat N 27° 56′ 52.77″ Lon E 86° 48′ 36.34″ Alt 4893m) at 1700 hours and camped outside one of the lodges in this picturesque Sherpa village. Temperature was 4°c.
Day 07: Dingboche
Temperature was minus two degree Celsius at 0600 hours. After breakfast, we hiked up to a small hill to the north from where we can see the Mt. Makalu, Island Peak and Imja valley. It was important to continue with our careful acclimatization. We spent a rest day and second night at Dingboche. As the Nuptse and Lhotse tower amazingly, the Everest gets hidden behind these walls.
Day 08: Dingboche – Lobuche
We were well above the tree line. At 0700 hours, we began our climb of the Khumbu Glacier en route to the tiny settlement with tea shops at Thugla where we had lunch. We passed a memorial to those Sherpas who have died on Mount Everest and the trail flattens out and follows the lateral moraine on the west side of the Khumbu Glacier to Lobuche. We arrived at the ultimate habitation (Lobuche) at 1400 hours.
Day 09: Lobuche – Gorakshep – Kala Pathar – Lobuche
Early this morning, temperature was -3.6°c we began our trek to Kalapathar. Above Lobuche, we followed the path running through a trough alongside the Khumbu Glacier. Continuing on over rough ground we reached at Gorakshep (Lat N 27° 58′ 49.03″ Lon E 86° 49′ 42.73″ Alt 5126m) at 1100 hours, where we took a short break for lunch. The ascent of Kalapathar begins from Gorakshep. Kala Pathar appears as a big brown bump below the impressive south face of Pumori (7,161m). The trail then becomes steep until it reaches the wind-swept summit ridge. From there, a five to ten minute scramble over boulders takes one to the top, which is marked with prayer flags. The full ascent usually takes about 2 hours. Since I made the attempt starting from Lobuche, an additional three hours (one way) was required. It was a hard climb, but the view from the top surpasses the wildest imagination. The glaciers surroundings have an awesome and unnatural brilliance and a classic view of Everest was there. We spent 4 hours a top Kalapathar (Lat N 27° 59′ 44.59″ Lon E 86° 49′ 42.76″ Alt 5600m) – encountering cold gust of wind – taking snaps of different phases of light reflected on the Everest and other peaks until the sun sets.
A panoramic view from Kalapathar.
People who have fully acclimatized may spend hours on the top. For me, the main highlight was the magnificent views which unfold from the summit of Kalapathar – the extraordinary ice sculptures of the Khumbu Glacier, Nuptse and the south-west face of Everest itself. Trekkers in the region of Mount Everest attempt to summit Kalapathar, since it provides the most accessible point to view Mt. Everest which cannot be seen from the base camp. We returned back to Lobuche at 2000 hours.
Day 10: Lobuche – Debuche
This morning the temperature was -3.0°c with clear sky. Even warm water was freezing to ice within a few minutes. After our tiring ascent to Kala patar yesterday, today was an easier walk to the lower altitudes. Following the same route back to the terminal moraines at Thugla, we then take a different return trail to Pheriche – arrived at 1000 hours. A small settlement, Pheriche (Lat N 27° 53′ 36.30″ Lon E 86° 49′ 11.57″ Alt 4244m) has a number of welcome tea houses and lodges. There is also a local hospital run with the support from foreign organization for altitude sickness and rescue operation. After lunch, we continued down to Orsho, then on through Lower Pangboche and down to Debuche arrived at 1530 hours.
Day 11: Debuche – Namche Bazar
We begin our descent to Namche at 0800 hours. Temperature was 3°c. Following a similar trail through Phunkitenga, we continued on to cross the Dudh Kosi for a steep descent to Trashinga. After lunch at Sanasa we arrived back to Namche Bazar at 1540 hours.
Day 12 (October 21): Namche – Lukla
From Namche the trail descends steeply, passing through Jorshale, Monjo, Phakding to reach Chauri Kharka where the trail cuts up to the airstrip at Lukla. We stayed in a lodge near by the airstrip in Lukla. On arrival in Lukla in the evening we had time to relax and celebrate the completion of our trek.
Day 14: Flew back to Kathmandu
Kongde peak from Namche. A Sherpa woman from Phungi Tenga.
Snowfall in Tengboche monastery.
Kongde (left) and Khumbila peak as seen from Tengboche.
Sunset over Ama Dablam.
On the way to Tengboche from Namche.
Imja river valley as seen from Dingboche.
Thugla stands as monument to all the people killed in expedition. Ama Dablam seen in the back ground.
Trekkers on the way to Everest base camp. Mt Pumori in the back ground.
Mt Everest (8848m) during sunset as seen from Kalapathar (5545m).
All pics by Rajesh KC