|Our treks||Expeditions||Contact us||About us||Old photos & Diaries|
Kharta Valley & Everest Kangshung Face
Lhasa - Shigatse - Kharta Valley & Kangshung Face BC trek - Rongbuk Gompa - Tibet Everest BC - Kathmandu
See Our treks for our other treks
The 'undiscovered' side of Mount Everest, or Chomolungma as it is known in Tibet; the Kharta Valley trek is an absolute classic, a real Tibetan journey through some of the most spectacular landscapes in the Himalaya. We're amazed it isn't more well-known! The Kangshung (East) face of Everest is possibly the most spectacular side, rising almost five kilometers above the Rongphu Base Camp. Join us on the 'roof of the world' before the trek becomes famous and overrun.
Exploring the Kharta Valley was how Mallory's 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Expedition eventually realized how to climb Everest. They trekked from Sikkim, instead we drive to the last villages, beginning in the dry Kharta Valley and climb into lush scrub camping by alpine lakes. Over the first pass the panoramas open up, HUGE mountains litter the horizon. More pleasant trekking brings us to in your face Everest views and we actually stay at the normal Everest Base Camp as well as visiting Dza Rongphu (Rongbuk) Gompa.
As a bonus, before the trek we take an incredible snow-peak filled flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa, where we spend three and a half days exploring Jokhang Gompa and Barkor Square in the Tibetan quarter, the Potala Palace and Drepung and Sera Gompas just north of the city. Afterwards, we drive south through Tibetan villages to Shigatse and Tashilhumpo Gompa, perhaps the most resplendent monastery in Tibet.
This is a real journey into Tibet, the 'Abode of the Snows' and land of Lamas, where nomads in yak-hair tents roam the plateaus with their yaks, a land of spectacular, snow-topped peaks and the wonderful, spirited Tibetans themselves.
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 (we usually have time to do three of these): 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 - Kathmandu
A free day in Kathmandu to organize gear, do some last minute shopping for the trek, or do some further exploring. Kim will have many suggestions for anyone who wants to wander around the city ...
Day 4 - Fly Kathmandu - Lhasa 3650m
This spectacular hour long flight, on China Airlines, takes us right across the main Himalayan range and provides us with magnificent mountain views. After landing at Gonggar Airport and meeting our Tibetan guide, it is a further one and a half hour drive by Landcruiser jeep to Lhasa. We stay in the heart of old Lhasa at the Dhood Gu Hotel (or a Tibetan-style hotel of similar caliber), near the Jokhang temple and the Barkor square, where the character of the city is still very Tibetan. It's advisable to rest and take it easy for the remainder of the day due to Lhasa's altitude; and drink plenty of water.
Days 5, 6 & 7 - Lhasa
Over the following three days we visit the palaces, gompas and monasteries of Lhasa with our Tibetan guide. Most afternoons will be free for you to discover the endlessly interesting markets, walk koras around Jokhang temple with the myriad other pilgrims, or perhaps best of all, sit in Barkor square and immerse yourself in the exotic ambiance. There is also the option of additional tours to places such as Ganden Monastery and Tsurphu Monastery at an extra cost
We visit some of the following places:
Jokhang Gompa - Jokhang is the holiest gompa in Tibet. Shuffle among the pilgrims, butter lamps permeating the air, and find gruesome Gods in hidden annexes. There is always a procession of devout Tibetans through the complex. After walking the holy inner circle complete a circuit of the Barkor, the market surrounding the Jokhang, for good luck. It is the best market to shop for all things Tibetan.
Drepung and Sera Monasteries – Sera is one of the best preserved monasteries in Tibet, renown for its lively debating sessions in the courtyard each afternoon. Within it's whitewashed walls and golden roofs, several hundred monks live and study. Drepung was founded in the 14th century and was once the largest gompa in the world with a population of around 10,000 monks. These days the figure has been reduced to several hundred, but there is still much of interest to see here, as the structure escaped relatively unscathed during the Cultural Revolution.
Norbulingka - Norbulingka is the summer palace of the Dalai Lama and is in a quiet and relaxing garden. One particular mural inside depicts the history of Tibet and all the Dalai Lamas.
Potala Palace - The magnificent Potala Palace dominates the city of Lhasa. It contains the winter quarters of the Dalai Lama, the jewel-encrusted gold and silver stupas of previous Dalai Lamas as well as numerous grand state rooms and many important chapels. There has been a palace on this site since the 5th or 6th century, but the present palace was constructed in the 17th century.
Day 8 - Drive to Shigatse 3900m
We leave the 'City of Gods', driving south down the Friendship Highway on a newly paved road, past several Tibetan villages and ruins on the hillsides to Shigatse. The drive is short, only 90kms, so we arrive in time for lunch and an early check in to the hotel, which is just across from Tashilhunpo Gompa. Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet and after exploring the local market we visit the Tashilhunpo Gompa. This monastery is one of the largest functioning monasteries in Tibet and there is much to explore within its high surrounding walls. We stay the night at one of two good hotels, Western standard, either across from Tashilhunpo Gompa or in the village.
Day 9 - Drive to Shegar
We have a longer, but very scenic drive today to 'New Tingri', or Shegar. En route, we pass more Tibetan villages (and some newly created Tibetan/Chinese complexes) and more 17th & 18th century ruins perched atop craggy hillsides, so keep your eyes open. We stay the night at a more basic-style guest house, and have the afternoon to play some pool with the locals at one of the outdoor pool tables.
Day 10 - Drive to Kharta
Ten kilometres after the town of Shegar we divert from the main highway and drive south towards the Everest region. From the top of Pang La (5150m) we gain views of Everest and the lie of the surrounding country. From the pass we descend to the village of Phadhruchi where the jeep track divides - the track to the west heading to the Rongbuk Valley - the one to the east leading to the (Phung Chu) Arun Valley and the village of Kharta - the administrative headquarters of the region.
Day 11 - Trek to Dambu 4290m
We begin trekking! We trek along the Dambuk Chu river valley, initially following a jeep trail, passing Yulok and Yulba, settlements of stone houses amid rich barley fields which contrast with the stark hillsides. When the valley narrows the trail divides, the lower path leading to the Langma La which we return on; instead we begin climbing on the Sha-u La route to the first possible camping place near a stream at 3995m. The trail continues climbing into the greenery and prayer flags mark the end of the steep section. Soon after is another good camping place, although sometimes the crew prefer a spot five minutes up just over a small bridge at a place called Dambu. The small lhakhang (altar) of Tarpaling is across the Kharta Tsangpo, and lower along the ridge the ruins of Ganden Chopel Gompa are visible. We have made a 640 meter jump in altitude which you should feel. If you arrive at camp with a headache consider taking 125mg or 250mg of Diamox and drink plenty.
Day 12 - Trek to Sha-u Tsho 4650m
Today is only a few hours trekking to put us in the best position for crossing the Sha-u La, and to help acclimatize. We follow the sparkling stream up on a mostly rocky trail. After passing a widening of the stream, up and along from the next rise is a beautiful lake, which we camp near. Again today you are likely to feel the altitude so it is worth taking drugs. From camp, or nearby at the lake, we will be treated to views of Makalu to the south and Jomo Lonzo, the north peak of Makalu, to the west. Exploring around, there is a second large lake and several more smaller ones.
Day 13 - Cross Sha-u La (4900m) to Jokshim 3980m
We start early as this is a fairly tough day’s trekking. At the end of the lake begin climbing, looking back there are several more turquoise lakes, the biggest in a matching rock circ. The top of the pass is marked with prayer flags and an inspiring view, including Everest (8848m, #1), Makalu (8475m, #5) and Lhotse (8501m, #4). Soon after the descent begins the trail forks, take the right past a rough pond, wait for your guide if unsure, and soon the trail becomes slightly bigger, dropping in lush pastures, all the while with spectacular peaks visible. Descending further we swing around right to a curious sheer-sided valley, the terrain soon making sense; bounder erratics dumped by glacial retreats pepper the landscape. Passing thru rhododendron shrubs at the base of the valley there is a rocky sparkling stream and pretty meadows then juniper forest.
Our idyllic camp, Jokshim or Joksham, is just above the Kaamo Tsangpo Valley and by the stream at the base of the ascent of the next day.
Day 14 - Trek to Thangsum 4480m
We climb steeply out of Joksham thru Juniper, Birch and Rhododendron forests with Usnea lichen hanging low from the trees, typical of Nepali cloud forests and some of the most interesting in the Himalaya. Climbing into alpine tundra there are views down to the Karma Tsangpo and the Arun River into Nepal, and not far upstream is a glacier coming from Makalu. Look to the right for views of Everest and Lhotse. Traversing and climbing further we reach a doksa, or seasonal herding settlement. Here take a traversing trail out to more doksas and to either Tso Nak, the black lake, or Shalung Tso (we're not sure which) and then Lhotse Shar, all the while with views of awesome rock faces on the opposite side of the valley. The rubble in the main valley is the Kangshung Glacier, and the Kangdoshung Glacier spills out from the bottom end. From the north, coming from the Karma Gangri peak is the massive, glaciated tributary valley of the Rabka Chu. The junction of these valleys form the Karma Tsangpo (river). We camp at the third doksa, called Thangsum. This is a short day and you are welcome to explore around in the afternoon.
Day 15 - Trek to Pathang 4240m
Crossing out of Thangsum thru more meadows soon we come to Chahataphu, where the trail to the Langma La branches off. The panorama is truly awe-inspiring. From here we can see our camping area at Pathang, but first we have to drop steeply through dwarf rhododendron and scrub juniper to the river and gently ascend again. The main valley is the Kangshung Valley glacier, which we follow for a few days.
Close to the camp at a small trail junction an obvious trail heads north (right) to the Tsechu Tsho, a holy lake with a Guru Rimpoche cave temple, a beyul, or hidden sanctuary; it's less than an hour away to the lake. The views are well worth the short climb, and the energetic could even circumambulate the lake (clockwise), which takes around two hours; be warned the first section has no real trail.
Day 16 - Trek to Pethang Ringmo 4960m
The small trail soon begins to climb steeply along the Kangshung Valley glacier rim, seeming never to end as it avoids the glacier pushing in below. There are several tight sections; in 2005 Jamie's group lost the kitchen equipment down the hill, most was retrieved, two years earlier two personal barrels fell, lost to the river. After the climb the views open up the valley with the huge Lhotse and Chomolungma wall dominating the head of the valley. The faces of Chomo Lonzo (7790m) are just as awesome, being much closer. Although the steepest section is over, the trail still ascends above one doksa, Woaka or Oka, and continues up the ablation valley eventually reaching the nomad tents on the large meadows of lush grass, Pethang Ringmo, where we normally camp. What a panorama, accentuated by white ice floes fall from the peaks into the Kangshung Valley Glacier. This was the Base Camp for George Mallory and the 1921 Everest Reconnaissance Team.
Day 17 - Pethang Ringmo 4960m
A rest and acclimatization day at last; there are plenty of day trips possible above the campsite, and the delightful meadows of Pethang Ringmo are perfect for a relaxing day.
Day 18 - Trek to Karbus - Kangshung BC 5090m
It is well worth staying higher at the base camp. It is about three hours away and at 5290m, so a high place to camp and likely you will feel the altitude. It is an absolutely stunning location, ringed by mountains and with an awesome view of the Kangshung face, and Lhotse, and by exploring only a little further you can see the steep amphitheatre falling from Lhotse. North of camp, on a ridge overlooking the Khangshung Valley, are two greeny-gray lakes, and in between a spur that rises to at least 5800m, probably higher, just a walk up. Or go north past Base Camp for about 45 minutes following the crest of the long moraine for great Himalayan views as well as the glacial lake below.
Day 19 - Trek to Pethang Ringmo 4960m
In the morning there is time to have a look around here before heading back down to our lovely campsite at Pethang Ringmo.
Day 20 - Trek to Tsho Shungrim (Langma La BC) 4970m
Returning, the views are always surprisingly different. After the scrub we cross the river for the one hour climb back up to the Rabka Chu Meadow Camp where we separate at the intersection of the Sha-U La trail. At Chahataphu, we traverse and climb out of the valley looping around a few small ridges with spectacular views opening up on the opposite side of a glaciated valley. After a couple of hours we head into the main valley that leads to the pass, camping by a lake. Looking back are impressive views of many peaks (not that we saw them) and just above us are more lakes. This is the last camp before the pass, at a doksa 20 minutes past Tso Melogma.
Day 21 - Cross Langma La 5390m, Trek to Lundrubling 4390m
The climb to the Langma La takes two hours with further views back of Lhotse Shar, Lhotse and Everest (from left to right), Makalu (which dwarfs the others) and Jomo Lonzo as well as some beautiful lakes closer in too, as well as the impressive peak above the pass. Pethangtse is the bullet shaped peak to the right, or west. From the pass (5390m) there is a series of steep descents. After passing the guitar-shaped lake of Damnye Tsho (a Tibetan guitar is called a damnye), there is one more descent along a rocky moraine, along some cliff-side trails, to a series of doksas, often filled with sheep and goats. Gary McCue calls this settlement 'a medieval-looking collection of stone houses and muddy alleyways'. He also mentions that arak (Tibetan whiskey), chang (Tibetan beer) milk, yogurt and vegetables might be available. Look for blue poppies en route. At the end of the valley the terrain changes, the earth suddenly drier as we reach our camp. Apparently it is possible to see the Kangchenjunga massif rearing above the ridges beyond Kharta on the Nepal-Sikkim Border. Hidden but near our camp is the village of Lundrubling.
Day 22 - Trek to Kharta, Drive to Tashidzong 4110m
Just around the corner from our camp is a wonderful village scene of billowing barley fields and old houses; passing thru the kids often mob you. The road is being extended, so we have less than three hours to trek to Kharta, the main administrative 'shang' in the Everest region. Your leader will decide the itinerary depending on the time, but probably we will drive to Tashidzong, the main transportation junction, and stay at the rustic Chomolungma 'Hotel'.
Day 23 - Drive to Dza Rongphu (Rongbuk) Gompa, Trek to Everest BC
Less than an hour after leaving Tashidzong we reenter the Chomolungma Nature Preserve and have to change Landcruisers for reasons the authorities cannot satisfactorily explain. So a local Landcruiser or bus takes us up to Dza Rongphu (Rongbuk) Monastery, a gompa first 'discovered' by the early Everest expeditions and described as a remote monastic hideaway. It is actually over a hundred years old, founded by a Nyingmapa lama, although it has been an important religious site for over three hundred years. From here we trek the eight kilometers past the ruins of two ani gompas, or nunneries, Changchub Tarling and Rongchung, older than Rongbuk Gompa (the nuns fled Tibet in 1959) to Everest Base Camp (horse carts are also an option). There are simple temporary teahouses here where we can eat and stay, with the huge north face of Chomolungma in front of us.
*** There is a Rongbuk Gompa guest house, inexpensive, and a cozy tea-house for those who just want to make a day-trip of EBC.
Day 24 - Drive to Tingri
We catch the sunrise in the morning then trek back to Rongbuk where we take transport back to Landcruisers. We drive the shortcut to Tingri. This was once a trekking route and is still a beautiful, if rough drive. Tingri is an atmospheric village composed of new and old Tingri, and including a Chinese Army post. Old Tingri, once called Ganggar, includes about 100 mud-brick houses crowded together below the hillside, very old Tibet in style, and worth a walk around for a glimpse of Tibetan village life. There are some real Tibetan characters roaming the streets doing business; or perhaps passing us on the street in their horse-carts or prayer-flag festooned tractors. The wild west of central Tibet! There is an impressive viewpoint at the remains of an old garrison called Ganggar Ri with views of Everest, Cho Oyu and the Nangpa La route to the Khumbu region of Nepal. We stay at the Snowleopard Guest House, quite nice with a great Tibetan-style dining area upstairs and late-afternoon sun.
Day 25 - Drive to Zhangmu, Cross border to Last Resort
An early, cold morning; after breakfast we're back on the Friendship Highway heading south towards the border of Nepal. We drive up a wide valley we have final views of Everest and Cho Oyu, and pass the ruins of several large forts, which guarded the trade route to Nepal and were destroyed in 18th century wars. Further along the road to Shishapangma north base camp and to Kailash is sign-posted, and above are inspiring views along that road that passes Peiko Tso.
The first pass is the Lalung La, 5124m, and after a short scenic drop between we reach the Shung La 5200m (although often called other names). Here we stop to admire a Himalayan panorama that includes Shishapangma and Khambachen on the west (right) and a hard to recognize Gauri Shankar (Chomo Tseringma for Tibetans and Sherpas). We are standing on the geographic divide, although the main Himalayan mountain divide is further south.
The descent to Nyalam at 3650m takes a couple of hours, with Zhangmu another hour or so down. This is one of the most impressive gorge roads in the world, often atmospheric with cloud and waterfalls streaming off the cliffs. We hope to cross the border today and stay at Last Resort, although we can also stay at Zhangmu if necessary.
From Zhangmu, it's a short drive to the Friendship Bridge which spans the Bhote Kosi River and marks the Chinese - Nepalese border. We say goodbye to our Tibetan guide and driver and walk to Nepalese Immigration Control in Kodari where we will be met by our Nepalese staff and driven to the Last Resort, just half an hour south.
The Last Resort is a wonderful place to spend a night after the rigors of Tibet; let's see if they can get the sauna started! Beers in the bamboo bar/restaurant afterwards is the perfect way to wind down ...
Day 26 - Drive to Kathmandu (1400m)
We'll have the morning to relax at the Last Resort, enough time for a bungy jump if anyone wants! We continue the drive to Kathmandu which, depending on road and weather conditions, should take about five hours. Back in Kathmandu, we'll send grungy clothes to the laundry, and then head out to The Roadhouse Cafe for some wood-oven pizza and cold beers!
Day 27 - Kathmandu
One last day in the capital of our favorite Kingdom. There is lots to do, or nothing to do but relax in the garden with a book and a beer. We have one last night out together, so perhaps we'll head across the street to New Orleans Cafe ...
Day 28 - Depart
Farewell! We take you to the airport for your flight home. We hope you had a fantastic trip in Tibet, the Land of the Snows on the roof of the world; the journey of a lifetime ...
For those of you with more time, there are lots of options, including a spectacular Everest flight, a Kathmandu valley bike trip, rafting, Pokhara or a trip out to Nagarkot and Bhaktapur, all of which we can book for you.