One of the classic treks in Nepal, Everest Base Camp is most commonly visited as a two week treks starting and finishing at Lukla, the airport just to the south of Everest National Park.
During the trekking seasons there are numerous daily flights into and out of Lukla, weather permitting. The flight from Kathmandu, which takes around forty-five minutes, passes over the fertile middle hills, with their scattered villages and terraced fields, with an amazing panorama of the high Himalaya as a backdrop. Before long the Mountains close in and you are sweeping down to land at the gateway to Everest, Lukla provides a range of services, including accommodation but most trekkers will choose to start trekking as soon as they arrive and use Lukla as a final destination on their return.
From Lukla trekkers must take a gentle two days trek up the Dudh Koshi valley to reach Namche Bazer in order to avoid altitude problems. There are plenty of teahouses along the way for the first night stop, Phakding (three hours from Lukla) and Monzo (five hours from Lukla) are the most popular. Just beyond Monzo, trekkers enter the Everest National Park at the Jorsale check post. Here entry permits will be check’d and the visitors passport details recorded. The trail, which has been following the Dudh Koshi since Lukla, starts the ascent to Namche Bazer about one hour past Jorsale.
Namche Bazer, once a small village but since grown in size to accommodate the influx of trekkers, is the unofficial capital of the Sherpas. It was once an important trading centre on the route from Tibet to Nepal but has now been largely given over to catering for the needs of trekkers. There is a multitude of teahouses, equipment shops, curio seller, restaurants and even cyber cafes that makes just about anything the trekker could need, available, albeit at a higher price than in Kathmandu. For acclimatization reasons, trekkers must spend two nights in or around Namche. Which gives the opportunity to explore some of the less developed and more traditional villages in the area.
One of the nicest destinations for the acclimatization day is to walk to Thame, home of many famous mountaineering Sherpas, including Tenzing Norgay of Everest fame. Often Danfe ( impeyan pheasant) and Himalayan Tahr can be seen along this trail. The round trip is quite a hard day’s walk taking a minimum of eight hours. An option would be to stay the night at one of the teahouses at Thame and retrace your steps the next day. While at thame, be sure to visit the Buddhist monastery, which is located on the hillside about a thirty –minute walk above the village. The valley to the north of Thame leads to Tibet via the Nangpa La, the pas traditionally used by Sherpa and Tibetan traders. The valley to the west of Thame leads to the Trashi Labtsa pas and the Rowaling valley (see later trek description).
Easier options for the acclimatization day can be found by visiting the twin Sherpa villages of Khumjung and Kunde, which are about a two-hour walk above Namche. While in Kunde, visit the hospital, which was established and funded by Sir Edmund Hillary’s Himalayan Trust. Khumjung monastery is interesting as being the store place of one of the alleged yeti scalps that are to be found in the region.
Moving on from Namche Bazer the trail follows the valley of the Imja Khola with some spectacular views of the mountains including Thamserku, Kangtega and Ama Dablam and, dominating the skyline ahead, Everest and Lhotse. The most common night stop ater Namche is at the top of a steep climb from the Imja Khola, at Thyangboche. This is the site of one of the most significant Buddhist monasteries in Solukhumbu and a visit is well recommended. Tours of the monastery are conducted each afternoon. If the teahouses and the camp sites at Thyangboche are full, a common occurance in the main season, then more lodging can be found a further thirty minutes along the trail at Deboche makes an interesting side trip.
Following the Imja Khola from Thyangboche the trekking route climbs gradually through Pangboche and emerges above the tree line. Eventually, after a long day’s trek, you reach the next night’s stop at either Pheriche or Dingboche. Here another rest/acclimatization day should be taken with an attractive day trip being to Chhukung, around three hours walk above Dingboche. The mountain panorama around Chhukung is nothing short of amazing with the massive south face of Lhotse rearing above it to the north and a ring of lesser peaks surrounding it.
From Dingboche or Pheriche it takes another six hours of trekking to reach the cluster of tea houses at Lobuche sited on the lateral moraine of the Khumbu glacier. Above Lobuche it is another three hours walk to the last settlement on the trail at Gorak Shep. Here a few basic teahouses provided shelter for the night before undertaking the final leg of the trek up the glacier to Everest Base Camp. Above Goraak Shep rises the well- known landmark of Kala Patter. A climb of two to three hours will reward the trekker with a marvelous vista. Barely eight kilometers to the east is the summit of Everest and just to the north is Pumori, arguably one of the most beautiful mountains to be found anywhere.
The trek along the glacier to base camp can take up to five hours depending on the trail conditions. Care should be taken while traveling here, as route finding can be a problem and there is always the risk of falls on the ice. There are no facilities at base camp (expeditions are generally reluctant to entertain visiting trekkers) so it is important to make sure that you have food and drinks for the return trip. Descending from base camp, most trekkers will reach at least Lobuche, if not further, by nightfall.
The return rek to Lukla basically follows the upward route but rest days are obviously not necessary. The route can be varied, to make the return more interestingly, by diverting through upper Pongboche and returning to Namche via Phortse (look for herds of Tahr on the hillsides), Mong La and Khumjung. Pangboche, which has a few teahouses and campsites, is an interesting place to spend a night. The monastery here is one of the oldest in Solukhumbu and also has Yeti relics.
If you haven’t arranged for somebody to reconfirm your flight out of Lukla for you, be sure to reach there as early as possible on the day before departure in order to make sure that your seat doesn’t disappear. Arriving in Lukla on the day of departure is inviting a lost seat.
Credit : GummyTraveller