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Arun Valley & Gokyo Lakes
Christmas & New Year's Trek

Kathmandu - Christmas in Namche Bazaar - Gokyo Valley - Tengboche Gompa - New Years in Phortse

Celebrate Christmas (and the New Year) with the Sherpas in their homeland, the Everest region!

Meet the group of Arun Valley trekkers in Lukla after a spectacular mountain flight from Kathmandu to the Hillary airport, and have an extra day to acclimatize in Lukla and Chaunrikharka. From here, the festival of peaks begins; heading north towards Cho Oyu and the border of Tibet, the 8000 meter giants tower above us as we trek through Sherpa villages. We hope for a white Christmas in a cozy Gokyo lodge while exploring the stunning, turquoise Gokyo lakes and climbing Gokyo Ri, and trek the spectacular eastern trail back to the old Sherpa villages of Phortse and Pangboche, taking time to stop at the many gompas (monasteries) including the well-known Tengboche Gompa, and visiting old Sherpa homes, maybe having a cup of salt-butter tea or chang in their traditional kitchens.

Join us!

Outline Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m

2 - Kathmandu

3 – Fly Luke. Trek to Phakding 2680m

4 - Trek to Namche 3400m

5 - Namche

6 - Trek to Kyangjuma (via Khundu & Khumjung)

7 - Trek to Dole 4050m

8 - Trek to Luza 4360m

9 - Trek to Gokyo 4800m

10 - Gokyo - Christmas Day

11 - Gokyo

12 – Trek to Phortse 3800m

13 – Trek to Pangboche 3980m

14 – Trek to Namche

15 – Trek to Lukla

16 - Fly to Kathmandu - New Year's Eve

17 - Kathmandu

Day 18 - Depart

 

Highlights

Gokyo Lakes & Gokyo Ri

The alternate, spectacular route to Phortse

The Pangboche high route

Tengboche Gompa

Saturday Market at Namche Bazaar

Himalayan wildlife

Christmas in Gokyo & New Year in Kathmandu

Cozy Sherpa lodges

2010 Dates

none, 18 Days

Cost - US $2180

Gokyo Christmas & New Year's Trek

Leader

Kim Bannister

Mobile: (+977) 98414 23810

Kathmandu Guest House room 603

On-trek satellite phones

+88216 21277980 – use for Nepal

+88216 21274092 India, 2nd choice for Nepal

Arrival Hotel

Kathmandu Guest House

Thamel, Kathmandu

Tel: +(977 1) 470 0632, 470 0800

Contact: Mr Sohan Shrestha, Guest Manager

Local Office Contact

Lhakpa Dorji & Lhakpa Doma Sherpa

Lhakpa Dorji mobile: 98412 35461

Lhakpa Doma mobile: 98415 10833

Our Services Include

Kathmandu Guest House & Kathmandu sightseeing

Lukla flights & departure tax

Airport pick-ups & drops

Sagarmatha National Park entrance fee

Kamzang teahouse-style trekking: All meals and hot drinks from lodge menu, herbal teas and French press coffee, snacks, double or single rooms at lodges, medical kit, satellite phone & PAC bag, porters, Sherpa & Western guide

Our Services Exclude

Travel health insurance, Nepal visa ($30), meals in Kathmandu, international flights, equipment rental, alcohol and soft drinks, laundry, tipping and other items of a personal nature

Tips & Extra Cash

Allow approx $250 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend $100 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.

 

Gokyo Lake from Gokyo Ri

The Trek

A scenic flight from Kathmandu brings us to the Hillary airport in Lukla, where we have an extra day to explore Lukla and the neighboring village of Chaunrikharka and to acclimatize before meeting the Arun Valley group. We continue north through Sherpa country towards the border of Tibet, trekking up to the spectacular Gokyo valley lakes under clear, blue December skies. Once in Gokyo, there is lots of exploring to be done, Gokyo Ri to climb, and spectacular viewpoints for sunrise and sunset. We spend Christmas day at a wonderful lodge in Goyko, right on the lake. We usher in the New Year in Phortse, at one of our favorite lodges, after trekking down a little used trail on the eastern side of the valley, a wonderful route topped by 8000-meter snow peaks.

En route, we visit many of Kim and Lhakpa's favorite spots in the Everest region; Lhakpa comes from Thame, just west of Namche, and has relatives throughout the Khumbu, and Kim has been coming to the Everest region for years, her home away from home. We'll stay in cozy Sherpa lodges, stop at old Sherpa villages off the usual tourist trail, visit Buddhist gompas in Pangboche and Tengboche, and experience the real Solu Khumbu during our favorite month in the Everest region.

Trekkers Say

[About Kim] I swear you are one of the most amazing people I've ever met. You simply never ceased to amaze me with your seemingly endless energy. On top of that you were always there to see how I was doing and never failing to have a solution to whatever was the problem of the day. Your professionalism, organization, and friendliness shined at every turn.

Lowell, Everest Gokyo & Kala Pattar Christmas 2005

Kim - Your energetic leadership and guidance and positive outlook have made this trip truly memorable. Thanks for your kindness and inspirational support.

Jim Wolff, Everest Gokyo & Kala Pattar Christmas 2005

I had a delightful, if not challenging at times, trek. Kim and Lhakpa were friendly, informed and efficient and the porters were friendly and fun to be around.

Bill Castle, Everest High Passes 2006

Detailed Itinerary

*Note that although we try to follow the itinerary below, at times local trail or weather conditions may make slight changes necessary. The Arun valley section, especially, has changed greatly over the years, and we will stay in the villages with the best lodges, perhaps changing our trekking days slightly. The trekking itinerary may also vary slightly depending on everyone's acclimatization rates.

Early Arrival

Providing you have sent us your arrival details, you will be met at the airport by a representative from the Kathmandu Guest House (look for their sign - they will be looking for you) and escorted to the guest house. Kim will book the extra nights for you, so your room will be ready.

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m

You'll be met at the airport by a representative from the Kathmandu Guest House, so look out for a Kathmandu guest house sign when you leave the airport. They will bring you back to the Kathmandu Guest House, where your rooms are booked.

Kim will meet you at the guest house and introduce you to Thamel, the main tourist area of Kathmandu. Thamel is a myriad of banners, signs, music shops, bakeries, internet cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels, shops of all imaginable varieties and eccentrically clad backpackers. Over dinner we check your insurance details (please have a copy of your travel medical insurance policy with you), go over gear and get to know each other over a beer at New Orleans cafe ...

Day 2 - Kathmandu

You have a free day to explore a bit of the Kathmandu valley. Options: Climb the many steps to Swayambhunath (the monkey temple), with its commanding views of Kathmandu (at 1420 m), its whitewashed stupas and its unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. The striking Buddha eyes of Boudhanath Stupa watch over a lively and colorful Tibetan community and attract pilgrims from all over the Himalayan Buddhist realm. In the midst of traditional gompas, and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, Boudhanath attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the stupa. Durbar Square, one of the old capitals of the Kathmandu valley, is a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist temples, stupas and statues, and is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies. Hindu Pashupatinath and its sacred temple complex on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Here, monkeys run up and down the steps of the burning ghats, and trident-bearing saddhus draped in burnt-orange and saffron sit serenely meditating - when they’re not posing for photos-for-rupees.

The flight is early in the morning, so get your packing done and get to sleep early!

Kim & Monjo girls - photo by Jim Wolff

Day 3 - Fly to Lukla 2850m. Trek to Phakding 3680m - Kim's Birthday

 ***You will meet Kim, Lhakpa and the group trekking in from the Arun Valley/Jiri trail this morning or afternoon, depending on your flight arrival time in Lukla.

A little after sunrise, we are indulged with a spectacular 45-minute flight over the Kathmandu valley and along the snow-capped Himalayan ranges to the airport at Lukla. After meeting Lhakpa, the Sherpa guide coming up from the Arun Valley trek, (Kim and some of the porters will take the lower route to Phakding), sorting out our loads with the porters and breakfast at Eco-Paradise Lodge, we will start out on our trek!

Below us as we head out of Lukla is the quaint village of Chaunrikharka; the trail takes us above a rhododendron-choked forest, over the school and gompa and past the checkered fields of barley, spinach and potatoes of the village. Ahead of us is Karylung peak, covered in snow. We are trekking along the Dudh Kosi (river) along a centuries-old trading trail from Nepal to Tibet. It is well traveled by stout, heavily loaded Nepali porters and Tibetan traders (Khampas, most distinguishable by the length of red or black tassel wrapped around their heads) conducting business between the weekly markets of Lukla and Namche with Chinese and Tibetan goods brought over the 5700m Nangpa La (pass) from Tibet.

From the small hamlet of Thado Kosi, while crossing a small, shaky bridge, we view the three sister peaks of Kusum Kanagaru to the east. More beautiful walking over cobbled trails takes us through Ghat and the best-maintained cluster of mani stones and prayer flags in the Khumbu. The local lama, owner of the Lama Lodge in Ghat, is responsible for this magical setting. At Phakding, a lively village a half hour's walk away from Ghat, we’ll have lunch at Ang Sani and Jangbu's Shangri La Lodge, well deserving of its name, and then settle into our rooms and around the wood-stove for the night. Since it's our first night together as a large(r) group and also Kim's birthday, we'll perhaps try some of Ang Sani's tongba, a mild beer-like beverage, to celebrate the occasions. But just a little bit since we're acclimatizing!

Day 4 - Trek to Namche 3450m

Passing by the small tea-houses servicing the locals and workers in Phakding, we cross a long suspension bridge over the Dudh Kosi and trek above the river, climbing a bit to reach the first lodge of Benkar on the left. Continuing over a small bridge, we continue through the rest of Benkar, the first village to attend the Monjo school. Another suspension bridge, another climb, and we reach Chumoa. One more small bridge and larger climb on uneven stone steps, and we finally reach Monjo, where we stop at Kali and Chombi's Kailash Lodge for an early lunch before the dreaded Namche hill. Monjo is a spectacularly situated Sherpa village where Kim taught English years ago.

Just past the lodge, school and newly painted mani walls we enter the gateway to the Sagarmatha National Park. Once inside the new gate, we descend to the river and cross yet another suspension bridge to reach Jorsale village, and one more bridge before continuing along the sandy riverside trail, the shores peppered with large, rounded rocks.

Bring your five-colored Tibetan prayer flags to hang on the long suspension bridge over the confluence of the Dudh Kosi (milk river) and the Bhote Kosi (river from Tibet) and send prayers out into the Everest region! The steep hour and a half climb to Namche is broken half-way up the hill by our first view of Everest, Lhotse & Nuptse, and will prime you for the bakery once we arrive at this old trading village. You'll need the extra energy to reach our guest house, Natang & Pemba's wonderful Moonlight Lodge, scenically situated at the top of Namche, up a long flight of stone steps, at 3500 meters. The lodge has a warm shower, a large library, beers in the cabinet and delicious home-cooked food, and will do laundry if anyone has grungy clothes.

Namche Bazaar, now the most prosperous trading village on the old trade route with Tibet, sits in an amphitheater surrounded by mountains. From here, we have perfect views of Kongde Ri in front of us, Kantaiega, Thamserku and Kusum Kangguru to the east and Khumbila behind us. Down-valley, the hills and valleys of the route from Solu to Khumbu from Jiri sit shrouded in hazy shades of grey.

Day 5 – Namche

An acclimatization day, so you are free to take a short hike up the hill to get some great Everest views, or just to relax. Other options: visit the Namche Gompa perched on the hillside, the Sherpa Cultural Center museum and re-constructed Sherpa house or the National Park Headquarters museum. The Tibetans are often in the center of town in a dusty bazaar with their goods from China. Alternatively, you might choose just to indulge yourself at one of the two famous bakeries, shop for some yak bells or hand-woven Himalayan hats, look through the gear shops for good trekking gear, chat with the sociable Sherpas in the village, or just relax in preparation for the trek. Watch out for dzopkios and cows wandering the narrow streets.

Day 6 - Trek to Kyangjuma (via Khunde & Khumjung)

Taking advantage of the bright morning light, we trek up the steep hill in back of Namche towards the lively, old Sherpa villages of Khunde and Khumjung, passing through the old airstrip at Syangboche en route. On the ridge just above the airstrip, still used for cargo, there are great views of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, and a yak-breeding center. We may see some Himalayan Tahr en route, as there is a large herd living in the vicinity. We have the morning to visit Khunde's hospital, where Lhakpa's uncle Kami is the head doctor, and many cases of AMS have been treated. We will visit the local gompas of both villages, Khumjung's gompa housing a Yeti scalp. These adjoining villages are some of the original villages in the Khumbu region, both about 600 years old, and are wonderful examples of local Sherpa architecture with their winding stone walls, yak paddocks and wood and slate houses. If we are lucky, we will run into Sherpa friends who will invite us in for some salt-butter tea, climbing up a wooden ladder over the straw-lined manger to get into the main house on the first floor. Both villages sit below Khumbila, the sacred Sherpa peak, and near a famous rock-mural of Guru Rimpoche, and the views of Ama Dablam from Khumjung are breathtaking.

It's just a quick hike down through rhododendron forests to Tashi and Lhakpa's Ama Dablam lodge, perched dramatically on a steep hillside overlooking the peak of the same name. Great Everest sunset views to be had just five minutes above the lodge. This is one of everyone's favorite stops; Tashi is as charming as they come, the rooms are lovely, and we're treated to real Sherpa hospitality.

Day 7 - Trek to Dole 4050m

After a scenic breakfast on the deck and a bit of posing for photos with Tashi's pet yak, we start the morning by contouring around the hillside to Mong La, at 4000 meters, a wonderful spot overlooking both the Gokyo and Kala Pattar valleys, with a breath-taking panorama of peaks: Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Malan Palan, Taboche and the newly named Kamzang Peak. Phortse, one of the oldest villages in the Everest region, is perched at the intersection of the Khumbu & Gokyo valleys in front of us. The misty layers of the hills and valleys south of us are visible down-valley, as are Monjo and the bridge to Jorsale.

We'll have lunch at Mong La, enjoying the view, and then descend steeply through the pine forest to Phortse Tenga by the river, immediately ascending again. The route is beautiful, past frozen waterfalls, up cathedral-like stone staircases, through old rhododendron and Himalayan Birch forests, across small rivers and past tiny Sherpa settlements. The forest is home to several must deer, shy creatures who peer out at us through the tangle of rhododendron. We arrive a few hours later, having had our first view of the 8000 meter Cho Oyu, at the summer herding settlement of Dole, where we stop for the night at Kami & Dawa Dolma's Himalayan Lodge.

Day 8 - Trek to Luza 4360m

Hoping for a sunny morning, we continue up the Gokyo valley, gaining elevation, along a trail high above the valley floor, Cho Oyu looming in front of us at the border of Nepal and Tibet for the later part of the walk. We pass some small Sherpa herding huts en route, and after a few more hours of trekking we arrive at the charming yak-herding settlement of Luza and our favorite lodge there, Lhakpa Nuru and Chomzi's Kangtega View. Kangtega shimmers orange in the sunset, with great views from the ridge just above the lodge.

Day 9 - Trek to Gokyo 4790m

Another beautiful and mountainous trekking day; we set off early as the walk up to 4800 meters is difficult at altitude. In the Gokyo valley, once past the lodge at Fanga, the character of the trekking changes abruptly. The opaque powder-blue lakes are often on the verge of freezing over, and sometimes perform a Himalayan symphony of expanding and retracting ice. We have entered the grassy ablation valley running beside the Ngozumpa Glacier, and have our first sight of Gokyo, a seasonal village and grazing area built beside the third, and biggest lake. Gokyo has become something of a Himalayan resort without the crowd – at least in terms of the comfortable lodges with sunrooms, unbeatable views, excellent food and warm stoves. A more spectacular setting is difficult to imagine, and our guesthouse, the Cho Oyu Lodge, perfectly situated on the lake-side, is a little piece of heaven. Dali Sherpa, our host, is always ready with a smile and a laugh, and with her son (and sometimes her daughter) helping at the lodge, you'll feel right at home. Lured into the wonderful sun-room, it is easy to spend the rest of the day chatting with fellow trekkers, watching shaggy yaks amble their way in and around Gokyo (sometimes casually sticking their heads inside the lodges) and admiring the views.

Day 10 - Gokyo - Christmas Day

After breakfast, we cross the small, glacial stream, jumping over the stone 'bridge' to get to the base of Gokyo Ri (5360m), just five minutes from the lodge. It will take us about two hours of switch-backing to reach the prayer-flag festooned summit; take your time as the views down valley past Gokyo lake are great the whole way up. From the top, we are treated to a spectacular, 360 degree panorama of the Gokyo lakes, the glacial moraine and the surrounding Himalayan giants; Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu among many others.

A nice afternoon excursion is a circumambulation of Gokyo lake; there is a beach at the other side, and then Buddhist and Hindu shrines just past that, a walk of 1 to 1 1/2 hours. And for sunset, don't miss a quick hike up the moraine ridge in back of the village for glorious sunset colors on Cho Oyu, turning pinker down valley towards Cholatse, Taboche and Thamserku.

*** It's Christmas Day, so we'll have a feast and a few bottles of wine in (well, we'll see how everyone is feeling, maybe hot lemon is more realistic) in the evening, perhaps even some presents! A real Himalayan Christmas!

Day 11 - Gokyo

Two options for today; the first is a scenic day hike up the Gokyo valley, past two or three more glacial lakes, towards Cho Oyu. There are several trails that snake up this gorgeous valley, one emerging on the ridge overlooking the creaking glacier, another passing the eerily deserted fourth lake with it’s white, stony beach. The unobstructed view of Everest from Scoundrel's Point (4995m), just before the fifth lake, is reason enough for the hike.

The other option is a 3 1/2 hour trek up to the Renjo La (4515 meters) for spectacular Himalayan views from both sides of the pass; from here, stone steps descent to the Thame Valley and the Nangpa La, which the Tibetans cross with their yaks en route to Namche.

And then, of course, there is always just relaxing in the warm sunroom of the lodge with a book ...

Day 12 – Trek to Phortse 3810m

A truly epic day of wonderful hiking on high mountain trails which skirt the ridges on the west of the river. We trek back along the lakes to just below the stone steps, where we cross the river to the small hamlet of Na, and then gradually climb back up, contouring on a high trail along the western side of Cholatse and Taboche peaks. Looking back, we have an unobstructed view of Cho Oyu and the glacial valley, and ahead Ama Dablam. There are several lovely villages, yaks in the walled enclosures, for tea and/or lunch (although perhaps with limited options in December), other scenic, stony seasonal villages, a few ridges topped with chortens to climb, magnificent views of Taboche, and lots of wildlife, so enjoy the day.

We arrive early afternoon at Phortse, in time to stop at the colorful Phortse Gompa at the very top of the village. Phortse, a maze of small, walled lanes, traditional houses and now many newer lodges, is one of the oldest villages in the Khumbu. The village perches scenically on the promontory protruding from Taboche, which towers majestically above it. Many Daphne, musk deer and blood pheasants live in the woods that border the village, and you can almost always see them early and late in the day.

We stay the night at Phortse Lodge, which boasts one of the regions nicest dining area, a good sound system and TV, delicious food and a stocked bar ...

Day 13 – Trek to Pangboche 3930m

After a sunny breakfast, we head up the hill in back of Phortse to the ridge where we look down on Tengboche Gompa across the Dhud Kosi valley. Today's trail also has fantastic mountain views and a trail that rivals yesterdays, though not as long. We contour around the eastern side of Taboche, with a few small crests, for just over three hours to reach Upper Pangboche, where we stop for a look at one of the oldest gompas (500 years) in the Khumbu. We stay at the last lodge of Pangboche village, Sonam Lodge, owned by Lhakpa's brother and sister-in-laws, Gyurme & Nima Lhamo, and their vivacious young daughter, Sera Dolma. Gyurme is one of the many lodge owners that we will meet along the way who has summitted Everest many time. From the three-sided windows of the dining room, we will be treated to a sunset over Ama Dablam, Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse.

It's a nice walk up past the gompa to another hermitage, tucked away at the mouth of a narrow gorge, in the afternoon, and a good place to scour the small shops for left-over Everest supplies, as many of the Everest Sherpas come from Pangboche.

Day 14 – Trek to Namche

A wonderful walk along well-used yak trails down to the bridge over the Dudh Kosi, through rhododendrons and past ancient, moss-covered mani walls to Debouche, where we'll stop at the ani gompa, or nunnery. Afterwards, we start the steep climb to the spectacularly set Tengboche Gompa, backed by the massive wall of Kantaiega. We'll stop to visit the gompa, have some tea, and descend steeply to Phunki Tenga and the bridge across the river. A last steep climb and some contouring through scrub, pine forests and rhododendron eventually leads us to Kyangjuma, where we stop again for a sunny lunch on the terrace of Ama Dablam Lodge. A further 1 1/2 hours of contouring brings us to the top of Namche Bazaar and back to the Moonlight Lodge where Pemba and Natang have our rooms ready.

Day 15 - Trek to Lukla

Up early as it's quite a long day back to Lukla. The descent of that long hill that we plodded up less then a fortnight ago seems amazingly short and easy on the way down. Jorsale, just before the bridge to Monjo, is the home of Phuru Diki, one of the girls Kim sponsors (she's now in school in Kathmandu), and we will probably run into her youngest sibling en route. After one last steep hill to the National Park gate, we reach the welcome sight of Monjo, where we'll stop at the Kailash Lodge for a cup of tea. Dawa Yangi, another girl that we sponsor, and her younger sister live in Monjo, so we might run into them in Monjo. We continue back to Lukla along the same trail, although it always looks different coming from the opposite direction. We’ll stop for lunch in Phakding, and finish the trek back at Dawa Phuti & Ang Pasang's Paradise Lodge in Lukla, where the adventurous can try some of Dawa's famous Sherpa tongba. This cozy dining room is one the nicest in the Everest region, so it's always an added treat to return there after the trek. Ang Pasang works for the airport, so we are in good hands for our flight out the next morning.

Day 16 - Fly to Kathmandu - New Year's Eve

Bags packed and ready to go early as we fly out of Lukla to Kathmandu on Yeti Airlines in the morning; taking off from the Hillary Airstrip is just as exciting as landing! Flights our of Lukla are sometimes delayed by bad weather, so we have an extra day in Kathmandu just in case.

In Kathmandu, back at the Kathmandu Guest House, long, hot showers await, and grubby clothes can be dropped at the laundry. In the evening, after changing into the appropriate New Year's garb, we'll get together somewhere in Thamel for a great New Year's Eve celebration, a fitting way to end our journey. Happy New Year!

Day 17 - Kathmandu

A free day in Kathmandu for shopping, some sun in the garden of the guest house, shopping, cafe-ing or perhaps a visit to Boudhanath for some 'koras' to give thanks for our safe journey back from the mountains. And sights we missed during the first few days in Kathmandu, we can catch today, and afterwards out for our last dinner together. This is also the extra day in case of cancelled flights out of Lukla.

Day 18 - Depart

Sadly, we send you off to the airport for your flight home.

Extra Days in Kathmandu

*** If you wish to stay longer, we can offer plenty of suggestions: mountain biking or rafting in the Kathmandu valley, an Everest sightseeing flight, a trip out to Bhaktapur or Patan, Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities, a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for a bit of luxury and expansive sunset and sunrise mountain panoramas or a multi-day trip out to Chitwan or Bardia National Parks. Kim can help to arrange any of these excursions for you.

 

Tashi Delek & Namaste; we'll see you during your next trip to the Himalayas!

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