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Everest High Passes Trek

Everest Base Camp trek with Kala Pattar, Gokyo, Chukhung , Cho La & the Renjo La

See Our treks for our other treks.

A 'best of the Everest region' journey - Sherpa villages and 'gompas' (monasteries), mountain Buddhist culture, stunning high passes with spectacular 8000 meter peak panoramas, Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar, the Gokyo lakes and Gokyo Ri (peak) and the Chukhung and Thame valleys. Passing through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the Himalayas, we visit many of Kim's favorite spots in the Khumbu and cross the little trekked Renjo La ('La' is pass in Tibetan) to the Thame valley as well as the Cho La to Gokyo.

The trek starts at the Hillary Airport in Lukla and the Tibetan trading center of Namche bazaar, continues on to the remote Chukhung valley and then up the snow-capped Khumbu Glacier valley, where we climb Kala Pattar and visit Everest Base Camp. From here, we climb up and over the glaciated Cho La pass to the turquoise Gokyo lakes, Gokyo Ri (peak) and the surrounding 8000m peaks of the Gokyo valley. We finish this epic trek in the traditional grazing region of the Thame valley, which leads up to the Nangpa La and Tibet, after crossing the Renjo La (with perhaps the best views in the Everest region) from Gokyo.

November is the perfect time to trek in the Everest region, without the hoards of trekkers who come during the peak months. Wildlife such as the Himalayan Thar, the musk deer, the Danphe (Himalayan pheasant, Nepal's national bird), Blood Pheasant, Himalayan Snow-cock and snow-pigeon and Chukkar roam the mountain-sides, and the peaks are all accentuated by the clear, blue November skies ...

Everest at it's best!

Outline Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu

2 - Kathmandu 1340m

3 - Fly to Lukla 2850m. Trek to Phakding 2660m or Monjo 2835m

4 - Trek to Namche Bazaar 3450m

5 – Namche

6 - Trek to Kyangjuma 3620m via Khumjung and Khunde

7 – Trek to Upper Pangboche 4020m

8 - Trek to Dingboche 4300m

9 - Trek to Chukhung 4750m

10 - Chukhung

11 - Trek to Thugla 4620m

12 - Trek to Lobuche 4935m

13 - Trek to Gorak Shep 5180m

14 - Gorak Shep (Everest Base Camp/Kala Pattar)

15 - Trek to Dzongla 4830m

16 - Trek over the Cho La (5350m) to Tangnak 4700m

17 - Trek to Gokyo

18 – Gokyo

19 – Trek to Lungden 4375m

20 – Trek to Thame 3805m

21 – Trek to Namche (via Lawudo Gompa)

22 – Trek to Monjo 2835m

23 - Trek to Lukla 2850m

24 - Fly to Kathmandu

25 - Kathmandu

Day 26 - Depart

Highlights

Everest Base Camp & Kala Pattar (peak)

Gokyo Lakes & Gokyo Ri (peak)

Renjo La & Cho La (passes)

Chukhung Valley & Chukhung Ri (peak)

Saturday Market at Namche Bazaar

Lawudo Gompa

Cozy Sherpa lodges

2009 Dates

7 Nov-1 Dec, 25 days (yes, one day shorter)

US$2580

Cost - US $2480?

Single supplement $100

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

Airport transfers

Kathmandu Guest House

Kathmandu sightseeing

Kathmandu-Lukla flights & departure tax

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.

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 trekking itinerary may also vary slightly depending on our trekkers' 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

Explore the Kathmandu valley with Kim. 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.

We'll have time for a bit of gear shopping in Thamel for anyone who needs to do this, and in the evening will head out for dinner of wood-oven pizza at the Roadhouse Cafe.

Day 3 - Fly to Lukla 2850m, Trek to Phakding 2660m

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 sorting out our loads with the porters and breakfast at Eco-Paradise Lodge, we will start trekking. The quaint village of Chaunrikharka lays below us; 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 stay at Ang Sani and Jangbu's Shangri La Lodge, well deserving of its name, where a fire will soon be stoked in their cozy dining area.

A side-trip for the afternoon: Sano Gomila Gompa. Cross the river and climb high above the Dudh Kosi to the small, colorful Sano Gomila Gompa perched amongst the pines. This gompa, as well as those at Thame and Pangboche, are homes to small idols, housed in a metal chest, which are rumored to be made from the branches of a white tree which once grew here. On the way down, we can take the long route and pass through Thulo Gomila village, a traditional Sherpa hamlet, and return along the mail trail to Phakding.

*** Note: we may decide to continue on another two hours to Monjo.

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 for an early lunch at the Kailash Lodge. Monjo is a spectacularly situated Sherpa village where Kim taught English years ago. Just past the lodge we enter the gateway to the Sagarmatha National Park; 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.

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.

Kim & Monjo girls - photo by Jim Wolff

Day 5 – Namche

An acclimatization day, so you are free to explore and/or relax. 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.

For some peak-spotting, climb steeply to a viewpoint an hour’s walk straight up the ridge, worth the effort for the panoramic views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. Along the way, you are likely to see some wildlife such as musk deer, Himalayan Tahr and the spectacularly-hued Danphe (the Nepali national bird). Alternatively, we might make a day trip to Lawudo Gompa instead of going on the way back from Thame (see Day 20).

The lodge has a warm shower, a large library, a TV with videos (Everest Imax, anyone?), beers in the cabinet and delicious home-cooked food, so there is really no reason to leave at all! They'll do laundry if anyone has grungy clothes.

From here up, the acclimatization process dictates our itinerary, so we will have plenty of shorter days walking.

Day 6 - Trek to Kyangjuma 3620m (via Khumjung & Khunde)

Taking advantage of the cool air and 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 Nupste, 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. The views of Ama Dablam from Khumjung are breathtaking.

It is an easy half hour's walk downhill through the rhododendrons to Tashi & Lhakpa's Ama Dablam Lodge, perched dramatically on a steep hillside overlooking the peak of the same name. Tashi and her family are ideal hosts, and in their toasty lodge we might get a chance to sample some local Sherpa barley beer, or 'chang'; and the dal bhaat is great. Ask to take a look at their traditional Sherpa prayer room, and look out for Tashi lighting incense for the local Khumbu deities outside the lodge. Their pet yak will by in the morning for some grub, so take care going outside when you wake up ...

Day 7 – Trek to Pangboche 3090m

Heading north from Kyangjuma, we pass the trails leading up to Khumjung and then the Gokyo valley, pass through the small hamlet of Sanasa and climb new stone steps leading high above the Dudh Kosi. We descend steeply through a wooded hillside to the river, cross a small bridge to Phunki Kola, and then start right back up again, hiking along wonderful cliff-side trail bordering thick forests of pine and rhododendron. It will take nearly two hours to reach Tengboche Gompa where we are treated to an extensive panorama of snow-peaks, including the summit of Everest.

Tengboche Gompa, built by Lama Sangwa Dorje, is one of the oldest gompas in the Khumbu, with a large monastic school, a cultural center showing movies of the history of the gompa and its founders, and a well-known and revered head Rimpoche, Nawang Tenzin Zangbu. We'll stop inside for a look before continuing through the rhododendron forests and past mossy, old mani walls to the nunnery at Devoche, a charming and colorful ani gompa housing about ten nuns. Once across the new bridge perched high over the river, we climb again towards the kane chorten, indicating the entrance of Pangboche, an hour and a half away. Pangboche is another old Sherpa village with the oldest monastery (500 years) in the Solu Khumbu in the upper (and older) village; lower Pangboche was built more recently and is the spot to browse the small tea-house shops for excess expedition goods. It's a lovely village to stop in for the evening, with views across the river to the trail to Ama Dablam Base Camp and the old airstrip. We stay at the last lodge of Pangboche village, Sonam Lodge, owned by Lhakpa's brother and sister-in-laws, Gyurme & Nima, 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.

Day 8 - Trek to Dingboche 4300m

A short day since we are gaining some altitude, so we enjoy the beautiful walk. Leaving Pangboche on the left side of the mani wall, we trek along a rocky trail to Somare, and then along wide yak trails and back down to the river, where we cross on a small, wooden stream to reach the scree hillside leading to Dingboche, another old Sherpa village and the upper limits of the permanently settled villages. The lower half of Dingboche is a line of trekking lodges, while the upper half is still local Sherpa dwellings, fields, rock walls and yak enclosures, reminiscent of what all Sherpa villages were like years ago. Above us, an old Buddhist hermitage called Nangar Dzong, the summer meditation place of Lama Sangwa Dorje, sits nestled in the hillside, and there is a ridge on a high peak called Dolma Ri, topped with prayer flags, to climb for those with extra energy. Look on top of the peak for the eagle, or 'lak', perched there. We'll bed down for the night at Lhakpa's Aunt Mingma's Dingboche Guest House, where delicious chang is freshly brewed and there is always a warm (yak-dung and wood) fire going in the dining room stove ...

Day 9 - Trek to Chukhung 4750m

If we are all feeling acclimatized, we will trek the few hours up along the Imja Kola to Chukhung, a seasonal herding village nestled under Ama Dablam, Lhotse, the Nuptse wall and in view of Island peak, to name just a few of the peaks that make this such a superb setting. After lunch (or before with a snack) we have the option to climb Chukhung Ri, a climbing peak with two summits, the higher at about 5530m. From the summit, the views of Makalu in particular are awesome. Another option is to wander up the rolling valley, very central Tibetan in style, (after negotiating the ridges of the glacial moraine just above us) towards Island Peak Base Camp, a three hour journey up, two hours back. The dining room of the Panorama Lodge is all windows, so it's always tempting to just sit and peak gaze, there is a new, warm shower tent and Tenzing and his wife and mother are the most perfect hosts.

Day 10 - Chukhung

This is one of the least trekked and most spectacular valleys, so we've added an extra day in Chukhung this year. If you were too tired to climb Chukhung Ri or trek up the Island Peak Base camp valley yesterday, we have an extra day today. Another option is to trek a few hours to the Nuptse face, an awesome view of this peak, or the Lhotse face nearby. One last option is a day-trip up and back from the Kongma La, the pass leading directly to Lobuche.

Day 11 - Trek to Thugla 4620m

After returning back down the valley to Dingboche, we crest the chorten-topped ridge and continue another three hours further, looking down on the trail to the Cho La Pass and Dzongla. Walking along the flat, grassy plateau, we pass the summer 'doksa', or yak-herding settlement, of Dusa before heading down to the stony river coming from the Khumbu Valley, and crossing it on a small bridge. A quick five minutes up the hill and we arrive at Thugla and Tsering Lhakpa's Yak Lodge, probably the most genuine alpine lodge in the Khumbu. And it's worth a trek up to Thugla just to meet Tsering, who often takes out his Tibetan 'damnye' to play some traditional Tibetan songs around the fire.

Day 12 - Trek to Lobuche 4935m

From Thugla, it's straight up the steep, yak-trodden trail to the memorials to the many climbers who have died attempting one of the many peaks in the area (including Babu Chiri and Scott Fischer's). The Sherpas call this place Chukpi Lhare, meaning 'wealthy persons' kharka'. Check the mountain views behind you when you reach the memorial crest, they're spectacular. Next, we head up-valley towards Lobuche, where we stay the night at Pemba's Sherpa Lodge. The views from the edge of the glacier down valley are superb, almost more so as the clouds move up the valley, so don't miss an afternoon walk up to the ridge with your camera. At Lobuche, almost 5000 meters, it is especially important to take it easy, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

Day 13 - Trek to Gorak Shep 5180m

We leave Lobuche early, trekking up a rocky yak trail on the right side of the Khumbu Glacier towards Gorak Shep, a walk of about three hours. The walk isn't difficult, but there are a few hills to crest, and we'll feel the altitude. The last stretch of the trail snakes up and down glacial scree, and just before Gorak Shep we get a view of Everest. Gorak Shep, with Kala Pattar just to the left, is a welcome sight; the Himalayan Lodge has expanded, the rooms are lovely, the toilets are inside and the dining room is always lively and warm. The food is even good, quite a feat at 5180 meters, many days walk from the markets! To the east of Gorak Shep, Nuptse looms magnificently above us, now a triangular rock face which turns pink with the evening light.

We might climb Kala Pattar today if the weather is clear, a two-hour climb; from the top, we have in-your-face views of the 7000 and 8000 meter giants Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and Pumori as well as many other peaks on the Nepal Tibet border. For the remainder of the day, rest, rest and lots of water!

Day 14 - Gorak Shep (Everest Base Camp/Kala Pattar)

Those who are interested can hike to Everest Base Camp at 5365 meters, a 5-6 hour round-trip walk along a glacial ridge, and then right onto the groaning glacier itself. Just before the Base Camp we will pass the helicopter that crashed a few years ago, now adorned with Buddhist prayer flags. A reminder of the fragility of life amongst these high peaks ...

For those who didn't do it yesterday, perhaps we'll have time (or energy) to attempt the 5645 meter Kala Pattar in the afternoon (although it makes for a very tiring day at this altitude to try both). Rob Hall's memorial makes a nice side-trip down, or alternative to the long climb up Kala Pattar, and affords us great views of Pumori.

Day 15 - Trek to Dzongla 4830m

Today is a four to five hour walk down the well-worn trail past Lobuche and up an alternative, winding trail to Dzongla, a small 'kharka' of two lodges which sits a few hours below the Cho La pass. The walk to Dzongla past the Cho La lake is a lovely one, and the panoramic mountain views are wonderful, so we'll take time to enjoy it. Once at the Himalayan View Lodge in Dzongla, we gaze up at the sheer wall of Cholatse Peak and get ready for the early morning crossing of Cho La pass the next day. There is a new lodge owned by Lhakpa's brother in law, Ang Tsering, a welcome change from the old one!

Day 16 - Trek over the Cho La Pass to Tangnak 4700m

An early start for the crossing of the Cho La pass (5370m), a steep and somewhat difficult ascent of a rocky ridge a few hours walk from Dzongla kharka. We start by crossing a small glacial stream, and then start climbing up the pass. From the top, we are treated to views of Ama Dablam, Kanteiga, Thamserku, Taboche, Cholatse and Baruntse, and to Nangpai Gosain, Pasang Lhamo, Numbur and on the Gokyo side. Once up on top of the glaciated pass, we trek across the snow, with Lobuche West looming above us, to the summit and hang some Buddhist prayer flags to send prayers out across the Himalaya. After a snack, it's a scramble back down the pass, a rocky, hilly trail across the valley, and a descent to the yak kharka of Tangnak, where Lhakpa Nuru has built a new and somewhat luxurious lodge, the Cho La Resort. A (chilled) beer might even be in order.

Day 17 - Trek to Gokyo 4790m

We start the morning by crossing the Ngozumpa Glacier on a sandy, shifting trail, the frozen lakes creaking below and beside us as we snake our way to the other side. Once back on the main trail to Gokyo, we have an hour's hike past the second lake to the lodge at Gokyo. In the Gokyo valley, 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. It is a great base to explore from, and we have plenty of time for it. 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 a wonderful woman and good friend, and if the kids are off from school it is a very lively place.

Lured into the wonderful sun-room, it is easy to spend 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. For those with energy left over after the pass, a must is an excursion up Gokyo Ri (5360m) for some Everest spotting and all-around spectacular views of the lakes, the glacial moraine, the Khumbu icefall and the Himalayan peaks surrounding us on all sides (including Makalu, this time). It is fantastic in the morning, the middle of the day or for sunset, but don't forget to bring a torch if you opt for a 'sunset on Everest' views, which is better than the sunrise.

Day 18 – Gokyo

If you didn't get up Gokyo Ri yesterday, you have another chance today. Another option is an incredible 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, and all with unforgettable views of Everest and the Himalayan range. The unobstructed view of Everest from Scoundrel's Point (4995m) is a good reward for the walk.

Day 19 – Trek to Lungden 4375m

Another early Himalayan start as we head west of Gokyo lake (taking the upper trail) towards the Renjo La pass (5415m). The trail switchbacks very steeply up a sandy ridge, crosses an often-frozen stream, and continues along finally skirting the dramatic rock face below the pass to the top, a climb of about three hours. The trail has recently been improved to accommodate yaks, and the views from the top are some of the best in all of the Himalayas, with a long and impressive panorama of 7000 and 8000 meter peaks all around, and prayer flags to mark the pass. After a snack and photos, we will begin the even steeper descent (trekking poles are really good to have for today), again down new stone steps, to the lake below, past several yak kharkas, past the twin Renjo Lakes and down to the Thame valley where we stay at a small guest house in the small seasonal hamlet of Lungden. You'll see Khampas from Tibet camped across the river far below us as we descend, on their way to or from Namche for the market. Again, the views are wonderful from the lodge, and we have trekked down to one of the few still-traditionally Sherpa regions of the well-trekked Khumbu!

Day 20 – Trek to Thame 3805m

Today's three hour walk is a step back in time as we pass by many old, walled Sherpa villages, seasonal settlements of the Thame and Thamo villagers. We will probably also share the trail with Tibetan yak caravans, trading en route to and from Namche and Tibet with the villagers. Thame is an old village of snaking rock walls, paddocks and traditional slate-roofed Sherpa houses. Thame Gompa, perched up to the north of the village, is one of the oldest in the Khumbu, and one of the gompas that celebrates the Dunche festival in the summertime. We stay the night at Lhakpa's uncle Kami (of Khunde Hospital) and his wife Dawa Dolma's Valley View Lodge, with the best tongba (fermented millet beer, served in a bamboo container with a long straw and hot water) in the Khumbu.

Take the afternoon to climb to the gompa and wander around the walled village. We might stop in at Lhakpa's mother and sister's house in the lower end of the village for a cup of tea if they are not in Mende, their winter home.

Day 21 – Trek to Namche (via Lawudo Gompa)

Back to Namche, the Tibetan market, the Moonlight lodge, hot showers, good food and cold beers! But first a side-trip to Lawudo Gompa (3900m), affiliated with the renowned Kopan Gompa in Kathmandu, tucked away above Thamo and Mende villages. We take an alternative (and rarely used by trekkers) trail which climb steeply to the small gompa where Guru Rimpoche meditated in a small cave en route to Tibet. The monk or ani (nun) staying this magical retreat will inevitably treat us to tea while we take in the spectacular views from the gompa steps. Khumbila, the sacred Sherpa peak, looms overhead, prayer flags from the gompa providing the perfect Himalayan foreground. The local monk, Nawang Chhuldim, assured Kim that this was one of the most beautiful spots in the Khumbu when she first happened upon this isolated gompa, far from the main trail; see if you agree! The cave the famous Rimpoche used has been turned into a tiny cave chapel, and there is a eclectic in-house library. Kim has a book on the gompa, so ask for a look if you want some more history ...

Day 22 – Trek to Monjo 2835m

It's Saturday Market day, so we'll take the morning to explore the bustling market, a feast of colors, smells (not all of them appealing), and colorfully-clad Sherpa women up from their villages for the weekly event. It’s as much a social gathering as a produce, meat and essential goods market, so the atmosphere is spirited and lively.

Lunch is on the sunny deck of the Thawa Lodge, our other favorite lodge in Namche, right in the center of town. Ama-la (which means mother in Sherpa), makes the only fresh yogurt in the upper Khumbu. 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 two 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. We settle in for the night at Chombi & Kali's Kailash Lodge in Monjo, where Kim spent most of her evenings when living and teaching in Monjo. The school kids will be out en force to visit, and we can take a look at the new gompa just below the school if anyone still has the energy. Dawa Yangi and her sister Nimale, two of the other girls that we help in Monjo, live just above Kailash Lodge, so they will probably stop by to say Hi.

The Kailash Lodge has one of the warmest wood-burning stoves in the Khumbu, and once Chombi gets it stoked, we'll probably need a few large bottles of beer to cool down, now available since we're out of the National Park.

Day 23 - Trek to Lukla 2850m

We trek back to Lukla along the same trail, although it always looks different coming from the opposite direction. We’ll stop for lunch in Phakding or Cheplung, and finish the trek back at Dawa Phuti & Ang Pasang's Paradise Lodge in Lukla, where we'll have yet another Sherpa feast (after hot showers) and perhaps 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 24 - Fly to Kathmandu

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, we'll go out for a celebratory dinner at New Orleans Cafe or Fire & Ice, followed later by a drink or glass of wine at one of Thamel’s many cozy cafes ...

Day 25 - 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 delayed flights out of Lukla.

Day 26 - Farewell

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

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

Tashi Delek, and see you during your next trip to the Himalayas!

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