Mount Everest, Sagarmatha & the Mount Everest Trekking Route
Mount EverestThe highest summit on earth - Mount Everest, Sagarmatha or Chomolungma - is 8848 m (29,028 ft) high. The route to the foot of Mount Everest became popular following the, now legendary, first ascent of the peak in 1953 by Edmund Hillary from New Zealand and the Sherpa Tensing Norgay. In 1978 Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler were the first to reach the mountain summit without artificial oxygen.Today approximately 12,000 trekkers a year set out to climb Mount Everest, over half of them belong to an organised trekking group. The complete walk to the foot of Everest takes three weeks but can be made shorter by flying to Lukla.In order to try to stem the flood of people making money from these expeditions, the cost of a trekking permit was drastically increased in 1994 to U.S. $50,000. Sagharmata National Park is also now on the UNESCO list of protected areas.
Mount Everest Trekking Route
Everest RouteThe route first leads through the mountainous countryside of Solu before reaching the higher Khumbu region. Unlike in the Annapurna region it does not follow river valleys but runs vertically. As it is constantly up and down the walk to the base camp actually covers a climb of 9000 m (29,527 ft), so to speak, the total height of Everest above sea level. The route goes through regions with sharply contrasting topography and climates, from the hot Tarai to the glaciers of Khumbu. In between are the Siwalik Hills and the Mahabharat chain with the valley of the Sun Kosi. The walk continues through the Sagarmatha National Park.Equally varied are the people and their cultures. From the Tharu in the Tarai to the Sherpas in Khumbu it passes through settlements of the Hindu castes, the Magar Rai and through Chalsa, a village, inhabited by Tibetan refugees for centuries. Alongside the traditional activities tourism has become big business, with Namche Bazar resembling an Alpine resort more than a Sherpa settlement.The dangers from altitude sickness are particularly acute on the Everest route. It is not simply just a matter of crossing a high pass but involves staying at high altitude for at least a week. Descending to significantly lower-lying regions can therefore be very time consuming.The lower part of the route, which leads through the Solu region, is passable all year round. For Khumbu the season is limited to October/November and March to May. Yet even the monsoon period in Khumbu is attractive with wild flowers in blossom and yaks grazing in the fields. The winters are cold, in regions above Thyangboche it is not possible to get any further from mid-December to mid-February. During the drier winters when there is less snowfall the local guest houses remain open.For the Everest route the Khumbu Himal trekking permit is required. To climb the Imja Tse a summit permit must be obtained from the Nepalese Mountaineering Association (NMA).The starting point for this walk keeps moving in recent years. Nowadays it is possible to travel on the Kodari road via Lamosangu to Jiri. The twelve-hour bus journey is anything but comfortable.In Jiri (1860 m (6102 ft)) there is an airfield with charter flights from Kathmandu. The walk begins by climbing up to a mountain ridge (2400 m (7874 ft)) and dropping down on the other side to Shivalaya (1800 m (5905 ft)). Before the road was built to get to Shivalaya from Lamosangu it was necessary to go via Those.Beyond Shivalaya the path climbs high to Sangbadanda (2150 m (7053 ft)) where the first mani stones are to be found, marking the entrance to the Buddhist region. From here the path gently climbs to Kosaribas (2500 m (8202 ft)) to a pass at 2705 m (8875 ft), beyond which it descends to Bhandar (2200 m (7218 ft)), a typical Sherpa settlement with a gompa and some tourist accommodation.On the stretch between Sangbadanda and Bhandar there is a possible detour to Thodung (3090 m (10,140 ft)). In this small town there is a cheese factory which was built in the 1950s with Swiss development aid.The path to Bhandar leads down to the valley of the Likhu Khola and, after crossing the river, back up to Kenja. There are various ethnic groups living in Kenja with distinctive styles of building. At the entrance to the village are the houses of the lower Hindu castes, the Kami, Sarki, Damai and Sunar, followed by the houses of the Chhetri, the warrior caste, and the mainly Hindu Newar. Gurung and Sherpa houses are amongst them.Beyond Kenja it is a steep, apparently endless climb to a fork: one route leads via Sagar (2440 m (8005 ft)), the other via Sete (2575 m (8448 ft)). Sagar has the best camping facilities, Sete the best accommodation. There is also a detour from Sete to a nearby gompa. From here onwards there are only Sherpa settlements.From Sete or Sagar a long, steady climb follows through rhododendron woods to the Lamjura Pass at an altitude of 3530 m (11,581 ft). Before reaching the pass there is the opportunity to take a rest in Goyem (3300 m (10,827 ft)). The Lamjura Pass is the highest point betwen Jiri and Namche Bazar. In winter there are often snow and cold spells and in spring blossoming rhododendrons. On the other side there is a climb down to Tragdobuk (2860 m (9393 ft)) and then Junbesi (2675 m (8776 ft)), an attractive Sherpa village with a monastery and good accommodation. There are walks in the surrounding area.It is a one and a half hour walk to the monastery of Thupten Choling. Thupten Choling is the successor to the Rongbuk Monastery on the north side of Everest, which was completely destroyed by the Chinese in the Sixties. Tulsi Rimpoche, one of the abbots of the Rongbuk Monastery, supervised the reconstruction in this secluded location. It was he who introduced the famous Mani Rimdu dances to Solu and Khumbu, carrying on the tradition from Ronbuk. The monastery is home to 150 monks and many nuns, who live in the small cells around the gompa. The Sherpas come here regularly for the puja.The Chiwong gompa is situated in the south-east of Junbesi, on a high cliff above Phaplu. The Mani Rimdu dances are performed here about one month after the famous Tengboche dances.North of the Junbesi valley towers the white dome of the Numbur (6959 m (22,831 ft)). The Sherpas call it Shorong Yul Lha, guardian of Solu. In this region is the place of pilgrimage Dudh Kund, the Milk Lake (4537 m (14,885 ft)). Hindus come here from India to stick their tridents into the ground whilst the Sherpas hold their grandiose pujas. A tent, provisions and a local guide are necessary for this delightful detour. The lake lies at the foot of the Numbur glacier from where there are spectacular views of the steep icy slopes of the Numbur and the Karyolung. The return journey ends in Ringmo.First it is uphill to the Sallung ridge (3080 m (10,104 ft)) from where the first breathtaking view of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) can be seen. Next the route leads through Sallung (2980 m (9777 ft)) into the valley of the Ringmo Khola (2650 m (8694 ft)). This is the last opportunity to take a bath in the river as the water of the Dudh Kosi is too cold by far.The village of Ringmo is surrounded by apple orchards; consequently apple turnovers, apple juice and apple pies are plentiful. From here a new road, built in the 1980s, goes to Namche Bazar avoiding the many inclines of the old routes. Fortified in Ringmo the traveller can tackle the short climb to the Trakshindo Pass (3071 m (10,075 ft)). On the other side just beyond the pass is a small monastery where a community of 40 to 50 monks and nuns live. A small guest house adjoins the monastery which is somewhat dilapidated but enjoys marvellous views. Most trekkers rest in the small cheese factory on a side path before the pass, having heard of its reputation for homemade delicacies such as cheese, yoghurt, bread and cake.On the other side the walker passes through a small wooded area on the way down to Nuntala/Manidingma (2320 m (7610 ft)) and then continues on to Solu in the Dudh Kosi valley (1500 m (4920 ft)) and over to the far river bank. The section of the route from here onwards is quite a long climb which it is best to tackle before the full heat of the midday sun.On the opposite bank of the Dudh Kosi is Jubin/Dorabuk (1680 m (5512 ft)), a settlement of the Rai from eastern Nepal. With their elegant facial features these people are quite different from the Sherpas. Instead of the usual yaks they have black pigs roaming about among their houses. Mandarin oranges, bananas and rice are cultivated.One hour's walking further on Khari Khola (2070 m (6791 ft)) presents the typical picture of a Sherpa mountain village. The walk on the old route along the Dudh Kosi used to necessitate a rest in the Basar town of Khari Khola. Experience shows that bearers or leaders want to stay here even if Bupsa can be reached in the same day. In Khari Khola Pharak begins, a border zone between Solu and Khumbu, which runs along the narrow gorge of the Dudh Kosi.From Khari Khola the path descends to Bupsa/Bumshing (2300 m (7546 ft)) only to climb up to more mountain ridges. From here the Dudh Kosi can be seen 1000 metres below. On the other side of the ridge (2900 m (9515 ft)) is the village of Puiyan (2730 m (8957 ft)), situated in a side gorge of the Dudh Kosi. After the next incline the path falls again to Surke/Buwa (2293 m (7522 ft)), a village by the river which has superior overnight accommodation to Puiyan. Shortly after Surke and in Chaurikharka (2680 m (8793 ft)) the fork to Lukla meets the main route.The fork to Lukla, which has an airfield, joins the main route at Chaurikharka (2680 m (8792 ft)). The airfield at Lukla lies at an altitude of 2850 m (9350 ft) and was laid out by Edmund Hillary in 1964. Together with this project and others he also initiated the building of some schools. In so doing he wanted to show the Sherpas, his true friends and companions, gratitude and respect. With the building of the airfield the old Lukla times were over ("luk la" 5 place of sheep), nowadays up to nine planes a day land here in the main season, from the end of June to the beginning of September when flights are discontinued. Near the monastery there is the small Thankga school of painting (pictures for sale) which is supported by a German charity.The flight into the mountains from Khumbu is a unique experience which also saves the week-long journey from Jari. However, those trekkers who fly in are more likely to suffer from altitude sickness than those who have become acclimatised by the lengthy climb. For this reason it is recommended to make the return journey to Kathmandu by air rather than the outward journey. The result is a long waiting period in Lukla for which the hotels and restaurants are well prepared. The wait can be made shorter by making short day trips into the surrounding area. Among these are the steep path over the Kaalo Himal or a walk to the main route to Surke. The Saturday bazaar is as good as the one in Namche Bazar.From Lukla it is a two day trek to Namche Bazar. Most trekkers break the journey halfway and stay overnight in Phadking (2650 m (8694 ft)), which is a short climb beyond Ghat (2550 m (8366 ft)). From Phadking it passes Benkar (2700 m (8858 ft)) and Chomoa where a Japanese owner runs the Hatago Lodge. Beyond Monjo the route leads down to cross the Dudh Kosi and climb up again to Jorsale (2850 m (9350 ft)). In Jorsale there is a control post where the entrance money for the Sagarmatha National Park is collected. Between Jorsale and Namche Bazar (3440 m (11,290 ft)) there is a long, steep incline.Namche Bazar (3440 m (1128 ft)) is the modern centre of the Khumbu region with shops, restaurants and hotels, a bank and the control checkpoint. The buildings are in a horse-shoe shape, an amphitheatre with the spectacular backdrop of the Lumding Himal, and with Tramserku and Kangtega towering above the mountain ridge.The hydro-electric power produces not only light but also hot water, a very special luxury. The Sagarmatha National Park visitor centre is situated in Namche Bazar on a hill in the east of the town. Namche Bazar comes to life with the Saturday market. To some people the town may seem over commercialised, resembling an Alpine resort more than a Sherpa settlement. Yet its unique situation and numerous places to stay are ideally suited for the obligatory rest to acclimatise. From Namche Bazar there are four valleys which can be explored; bearing in mind the long walk there this opportunity should not be overlooked.In Namche Bazar experiences and information about the next stage of the walk can be exchanged.After staying in the more westernised town of Namche Bazar the villages of Khumjung and Khunde make a welcome change. Here tourism has hardly changed the life of the Sherpas. It is possible to find accommodation with a family and take the opportunity to sample the Sherpa speciality, Riki Kur. It is a type of potato fritter enriched with yak butter. Both villages are only a few hours from Namche Bazar, at the foot of the sacred mountain, Khumbi-la.The route here passes the Everest View Hotel. At 3870 m (12,696 ft) it is not just the location which is high, the prices are also somewhat steep. Customers usually fly here direct to the nearby airfield at Syanboche. Yet this is very risky as the difference in altitude is much greater and covered even faster than on the flight to Lukla. A Gamow cabin with pressure balance is provided for serious cases. There is an admission charge to visit the hotel rooms but the view of the surroundings is free.En route to Kala Pattar and the Everest base camp is the Thyangboche Gompa. It can be reached directly from Namche Bazar or via Khumjung and Khunde after a day's walk through a wooded area where pheasants can be found.The monastery dominated by the gompa with its prayer flags and mani stones is on a mountain ridge, surrounded by the high peaks of the Himalayas. The monastery was founded in 1912 as a meditation centre and has since become a popular tourist attraction. Every autumn the famous Mani Rimdu dances are performed here which document the victory of Buddhism over the old Bon religion. This attracts many hundreds of tourists and Sherpas. This tradition of dances only goes back as far as 1942. During the 1970s the number of monks declined sharply not least because of the increase in tourism. Today there are over 40 members of this community. Thyangboche owes its status as a religious centre of the Khumbu region not least to its leader Thyangboche Rinpoche who rendered outstanding services to the foundation of a monastery school and the Sherpa cultural centre.In 1988 a hydro-electric power station was opened, financed by the U.S. Himalayan Foundation. Just nine months later a huge fire broke out which destroyed the monastery and 80 per cent of the works of art, including irreplaceable articles from Tibet such as handwritten manuscripts, costumes, religious symbols and, of course, wall paintings of the interior rooms. The fire was caused by an unguarded heater. Sponsors led by Sir Edmund Hillary financed the rebuilding of a new, bigger gompa.Beyond Thyangboche the path descends to Devuche and crosses the Imja Khola via a rather hair-raising bridge. It climbs through juniper and rhododendron woods to Pangboche (3860 m (12,664 ft)).The monastery, chorten, prayer walls, mani stones and prayer flags are indicative of the religious conviction of the villagers. Pangboche began as a monastic settlement founded by the Lama Sanga Dorje. It was this "national saint" from Khumbu who spread Buddhism throughout the region. He has since become a legend: in Pangboche his foot and handprints can be seen, the juniper grove grew out of his hair and a rocky ledge was turned into a shelter. Together with a statue of the guru Rinpoche and Tsepame the gompa also contains two portraits of the Lama of Pangboche. Among the religious objects in the monastery there were what were supposed to be the Yeti scalp and a Yeti hand. These were stolen in the early 1990s and never recovered. Some 200 metres above the village there are six hermitages below the summit of Tawoche, the guardian deity of Pangboche.Past Pangboche is Periche (4240 m (13,910 ft)). There is a HRA hospital (HRA 5 Himalayan Rescue Association), where information about altitude sickness is given in the afternoons, and plenty of good accommodation is available. A rest day in Periche is advisable. From here there is a one-day excursion to the Nangkartshang gompa with views of Makalu. The route to Chukhung is described below.The main route continues through meadows to Phalang Karpa (4340 m (14,328 ft)) and then climbs to Duglha (4620 m (15,157 ft)). It then follows part of the terminal moraine of the Khumbu glacier. On the crest there are several small chortens, erected in memory of Sherpas gone missing or killed.Next is Lobuje (4930 m (16,174 ft)), then a path between the mountain slope and the moraine of the Changri glacier. A path marked by stones crosses the glacier and on the other side lies Gorak Shep (5160 m (16,929 ft)).Beyond this towers Kala Pattar (5545 m (18,192 ft)), the Black Rock, which has a spectacular view of the Everest massif with the Changri glacier in the foreground. The panorama from here takes in Pumori (7161 m (23,494 ft)), Lingtren, Zangtze (7580 m (2487 ft)) in Tibet, Sagarmatha (Mount Everest; 8848 m (29,029 ft)) and Nuptse (7885 m (25,869 ft)).From Gorak Shep it takes four hours to reach the Everest base camp (5456 m (17,900 ft)). Yet apart from the expedition tents and the rubbish dump there is nothing impressive here; the view of Everest is blocked.The route passes the dangerous Khumbu icefall - the scene of many fatal accidents mostly involving badly equipped Sherpas. From Gorak Shep it is advisable to climb down as far as possible.There is a detour from Periche to Chukhung through the almost unspoilt valley of the Imra Khola at the foot of the Imja Tse (6189 m (20,305 ft)), which can be climbed with the necessary equipment and experience. From Periche the route crosses the ridge east of the settlement to Dingboche. From here it continues along the steep-walled gorge of the Imja Khola. Soon the Amadablam comes into view in the south and a few hours later Chukung (4734 m (15,531 ft)) is reached. Good accommodation and fine views of the Lhotse Nuptse and Imja Tse provide for a day's rest here. There are walks from here to the Amadablam base camp or to the Chukhung Ri (5043 m (16,545 ft)) in the north.Following the valley the path comes to the foot of the Imja Tse (6189 m (20,305 ft)), one of the most popular trekking summits in Nepal. High Alpine clothing and equipment are essential for this climb as is permission from the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA). The glacier scenery between Lotse and Amadablang and the panoramic view from the summit are remarkable. In the background the high Amphu Laptsa towers, from where the route descends to the unspoilt Hunku valley.An alternative to the Kala Pattar is the walk to Gokyo. This route is not remotely as famous as the one to the Everest base camp and therefore not frequented so often. Yet many trekkers, who have seen both Kala Pattar and Gokyo, prefer the alternative route.From Namche Bazar it climbs up high to a small pass beyond which is the Khumjung. It leaves the village in a north-easterly direction on steep rock steps to the chorten at Mong and then descends into the Dudh Kosi Valley. There are two alternatives in the valley; the route on the west side of the valley offers more accommodation along the way.First comes Dole (4040 m (13,254 ft)), followed by a moraine hill with a view of the Cho Oyu (8217 m (26,958 ft)). A day to acclimatise in Pangka is recommended. Beyond Pangka the path skirts a brook, rock faces and moranic debris until it reaches three small lakes. The shepherd settlement of Gokyo lies by the third lake where there is some accommodation available. A small peak (5483 m (17,988 ft)) to the north-west can be scaled for a view of the Cho Oyu base camp. From Gokyo it is a direct route via Cho La (5417 m (17,772 ft)) to the Kala Pattar and vice versa. For this journey a tent, provisions for four days and a guide or at least a good map are required. It cannot be undertaken in deep snow.The three to four hour walk to Thame is by far the simplest tour from Namche Bazar. It leads into lower and therefore warmer areas than the routes to Kala Pattar and Gokyo. The view is accordingly less spectacular. The route passes the crest beyond Namche Bazar on the west side and follows the Nangpo Tsangpa valley. Above Mende is a gompa with a meditation centre, a branch of the Himalaya Yoga centre in Kathmandu. Here the route crosses the river and climbs steeply to Thame (3780 m (12,401 ft)), the home of Tensing Norgay, the companion of Edmund Hillary. The gompa in Thame presides over the village from a cliff with a view of the Kongde Ri waterfalls. When there is a full moon in May the Mani Rimdu dances take place in this idyllic spot. In the west the Thame river rises on the slopes of the Trashi Laptsa pass (5749 m (18,861 ft)). Beyond is the Rolwaling valley which is closed to tourists. It is two days' walking north to the Nangpa La, the pass to Tibet through which hundreds of Tibetans fled each year. It also is closed to tourists.