NOTE: Although we make an effort to follow the trek itinerary below, at times local trail and weather conditions or lodge accommodation may make slight changes necessary. The trekking itinerary may also vary slightly depending on trekkers' acclimatization rates.
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/4355ft
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
A free day to explore the Kathmandu valley. Options: Climb the many steps to Swayambhunath (the monkey temple), with its commanding views of Kathmandu from 1420 meters, 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 good wine and wood-oven pizza at the Roadhouse Cafe.
Day 3 - Fly to Lukla 2850m/9350ft, Trek to Monjo 2835m/9300ft
A little after sunrise, we are indulged with a spectacular 25-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 or dzobkios and breakfast at Eco-Paradise Lodge, we 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 have lunch at Ang Sani and Jangbu's Shangri La Lodge, well deserving of its name.
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 luxurious Kailash Lodge for the night. Monjo is a spectacularly situated Sherpa village where Kim taught English a decade ago.
Day 4 - Trek to Namche 3450m/11,315ft
After a short walk past the school from Kailash Lodge we enter the gateway to the Sagarmatha National Park. Descending to the river, we cross a long suspension bridge to reach the hamlet of Jorsale and then and cross another long suspension bridge, continuing along the sandy riverside trail, the shores peppered with large, rounded rocks. Hike carefully as some of the ascents and descents on steep, stone staircases are a bit treacherous ...
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, Kantega, Thamserku and Kusum Kanguru 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 in Namche. Everyone is free to relax and explore the bazaars, the bakeries, the Sherpa and National park museums, Namche Gompa and the Tibetan markets.
Kim & Lhakpa will lead whoever wants on a loop through the Khunde and Khumjung valley. Taking advantage of the crisp morning light we'll hike 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, still used for cargo, en route. On the ridge above the airstrip we climb to a large, whitewashed chorten at the yak-breeding center. From there, we have are fabulous views of Taboche, Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Kantega, Kusum Kanguru, Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse. We may see some Himalayan Tahr grazing on the hillsides, and possibly Danphe and Chukkars.
We will visit the Khumjung Gompa, home to the only existing Yeti scalp on the planet ... The adjoining villages of Khumjung and Khunde 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. Perhaps 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 this valley are breathtaking. Heading up the valley just a bit, we will visit Khunde's hospital, where Lhakpa's uncle Kami is the head doctor and his cousin, Kami's son, is also now treating patients.
Next door at the Khunde Guest House we'll have lunch with the lovely owner who lost her husband to cancer a few years previously. Her lodge has perhaps the best mountain views from the glass dining room. Satiated, we'll hike through Khunde's entrance kane and back up the small ridge, where more Himalayan vistas await. Way down below us is Namche, and hot showers at Moonlight ...
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 dzobkios 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).
The lodge has a warm shower, a large library, beer and wine in the cabinet and delicious home-cooked food, so there is really no reason to leave at all. Later in the afternoon you might spot yaks wandering into the Moonlight Lodge. They will be ours, with our yak-driver Kaila, and will accompany us for the rest of the trek.
Day 6 - Trek to Phortse 3780m/12,400ft
We have an easy two hour's walk from Namche, contouring around several hillsides high above the Dudh Kosi below, to Tashi & Lhakpa's Ama Dablam Lodge in Kyangjuma, perched dramatically on a steep hillside overlooking the peak of the same name. Their pet yak will by in the morning for some grub, and Tashi has the best shopping in the Everest region, so we'll have a short stop here. Continuing along the main trail, we veer sharply left at the intersection to Gokyo and take the steep trail up to the bridge which intersects with the old trail from Khumjung, and climb gradually for another hour or so to Mong La, where we will have a well-deserved lunch (with fantastic views) at a small lodge perched spectacularly on this 4000 meter pass.
It's a steep descent on a slightly exposed trail to Phortse Tenga where we cross the river on a small bridge and start the short but steep climb to Phortse, one of the first villages of the Khumbu region, at 3800 meters. On the way up, keep your eyes open and cameras out as there are many musk deer, danphe and blood pheasants hiding in the rhododendron forests bordering the trail and the village. The danphe dig for potatoes in the lower fields of the village in the mornings and evenings. We'll bunk down for the night at one of everyone's favorite lodges, the Phortse Lodge, which boasts a wonderful dining room, great views and good electricity for re-charging and perhaps watching a movie. The lodge is run by a lovely Sherpa couple, Ba Nuru and his wife Pasang. Ba Nuru is a many-time Everest climber and one of the main participants in the Phortse Climbing School, founded by Conrad Anchor and his wife.
Day 7 – Trek to Pangboche 3975m/13,040ft
We have a breath-taking hike ahead of us this morning, leaving Phortse on the northeastern side heading towards Tengboche Gompa across the deep river gorge below. Our trail skirts the high ridges of Taboche Peak, often precipitous but always safe, and offering fantastic views around every corner. Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse dominate the northern skyline, while Ama Dablam is close enough to touch to the east and our old friends Kantega and Thamserku grace the valley below us. We climb a small pass, and eventually reach Upper Pangboche, where we'll wander the old alleys and take a peek inside one of the four oldest gompas (monasteries), approximately 500 years old, in the Khumbu.
Contouring high above the newer (Lower) Pangboche, we pass a high mani wall, some memorial chortens and the school before dropping down to our lodge in Lower Pangboche. 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 at Mingbo. We stay at the last lodge of Pangboche village, Sonam Lodge, owned by Lhakpa's brother and sister-in-laws, Gyurme & Nima Lhamo, who also own the newly built Ama Dablam Support Lodge a few hours up the Mingbo Valley. Gyurme is one of the many lodge owners that we will meet along the way who has summit ted 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 Pangboche (Day trip Ama Dablam Base Camp)
We've scheduled an extra acclimatization day in Pangboche, and a day for a fantastic hike to Ama Dablam Base Camp (4450m) where Nima and Gyurme own the Ama Dablam Support Lodge. It takes two and a half hours of beautiful hiking towards the base of Ama Dablam to reach the base camp, where we will visit the higher base camp, ablaze with colorful tents, before dropping a bit to the lodge for lunch. The views throughout the day are sublime, especially of Pumori and Taboche, so enjoy this extra day, and feel better for it later in the trek.
Day 9 - Trek to Dingboche 4300m/14,105ft
A short day since we are gaining altitude, so we enjoy the beautiful walk. Leaving Pangboche on the left side of the mani wall, we trek along a rocky trail to tiny Somare and then along wide yak trails past the intersection to Pheriche (the HRA health post is there) and 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 Shar Khumbu Resort, one of the nicest and newest lodges in the region, owned by our friends Ang Cherring and his wife Ang Lhamo, who also own Himalayan Lodge in Gorak Shep.
Day 10 - Trek to Chhukhung 4750m/15,580ft
If we are all feeling acclimatized, we will trek the few hours up along the Imja Kola to Chhukhung, a seasonal herding village nestled under Ama Dablam, Lhotse, the Nuptse wall, Peak 38 and 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 Chhukhung 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 Chhukhung Resort, run by the industrious Chunti Sherpa, is a lovely lodge with sunny, new rooms and a warm sunroom with views, perfect for peak-gazing in the afternoon. Sunsets are sublime, so get out on the nearby moraine with your cameras ...
Day 11 - Chhukhung
This is one of the least trekked and most spectacular valleys, so we like to include two days in Chhukhung. If you were too tired to climb Chhukhung Ri or trek up the Island Peak Base camp valley yesterday you have the chance to do it today. Another option is to trek a few hours to the Nuptse face, an awesome view of this peak, or the Lhotse face nearby. Island Peak climbers may wander in late afternoon, exhausted after the day's climb ...
Day 12 - Trek to Lobuche 4935m/16,190ft
We have two options today, descending to Dingboche, traversing to Thugla and then climbing to Lobuche, or crossing the Kongma La and the Khumbu glacier to reach Lobuche. Below is the first (and easier/lower in altitude) option:
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. We'll have lunch at Thugla before continuing up.
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.
Option 2: The Kongma La pass takes only an hour or so more than the route via Thugla (not including stopping for lunch), and is very do-able if we're strong and have slept two nights at Chhukhung. To reach the Kongma La, we head directly west out of Chhukhung on a small, rocky trail and contour around many hillsides, usually not very steeply, until we reach the Pokalden Base Camp. After a few other hills, more steep, we will reach another Base Camp for Pokalden and a clear blue lake which sits just below the pass. We climb the last half hour on a trail which is good but looks impossibly built into the cliff-side, and about 4 hours later we have reached the Kongma La, our highest pass at 5540 meters.
*** Kim & Lhakpa will decide if we will attempt the Kongma La, and who is acclimatized and able to do the pass. We can easily go in two groups, all meeting at the Eco Lodge in Lobuche.
Day 13 - Trek to Gorak Shep 5175m/16,975ft (Kala Pattar)
We leave Lobuche early, trekking up a rocky yak trail on the right side of the Khumbu Glacier towards Gorak Shep, a walk of two or 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 bright and relatively clean, the toilets are inside and the dining room is always lively and warm. Even the food is good, quite a feat at 5175 meters many days walk from the markets at Namche. To the east of Gorak Shep, Nuptse looms magnificently above us, now a triangular rock face which turns pink with the evening light.
We will climb Kala Pattar (5640m/18,560') today if the weather is clear, a steep, windy and switch backing climb of two (or more) hours. From the Tibetan prayer-flag adorned summit, we are treated to in-your-face views of the 7000 & 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 ... And don't miss the sunset behind Nuptse.
Day 14 - Gorak Shep (Everest Base Camp)
Those who are interested can hike to Everest Base Camp at 5365 meters, a five hour round-trip walk along a glacial ridge, and then right onto the creaking glacier itself. We will stop at 'Korean Base Camp', where a helicopter crashed several years ago, once adorned with Buddhist prayer flags and now almost wholly removed. A reminder of the fragility of life amongst these high peaks ... From here, we can explore inside the spires of the actual icefall, a sublime experience.
For those who didn't do it yesterday and want to skip EBC, you have all day to attempt the 5645 meter Kala Pattar with one of our guides. Rob Hall's memorial makes a nice side-trip down, or alternative to the long climb up Kala Pattar, and affords great views of Pumori.
Day 15 - Trek to Dzongla 4830m/15,840ft
Today is a five to six hour walk, first heading 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, contour after contour around scenic hillsides, and the panoramic mountain views are wonderful so we'll take time to enjoy it. Turning right at the corner where we look left towards Pheriche and straight ahead at Cho La Lake, we have a short but steep climb followed by a descent before crossing the valley where the Taboche Peak Base Camp is set. One river crossing on a very small stone-slab bridge and one more steep climb awaits. 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/15,415ft
An early start for the crossing of the scenic Cho La pass (5370m), a steep and somewhat difficult ascent of a rocky ridge a few hours walk from Dzongla kharka. We start by ascending gently around the ridge above the lodge, continuing for half an hour along a relatively flat plateau and then crossing a small glacial stream on rock steps, often icy. We begin the real climb from here, first switch backing gently to a massive rock wall which blocks the entrance to the pass ahead of us. Stopping for a rest, we'll soon turn sharply right and start climbing a rock staircase, often with hands to steady us. It's a fun ascent, and soon we've reached a small plateau where we gaze down on the Ama Dablam valley far below us. Again we start climbing towards the pass, first right under a rock outcropping afterwards on rocks and snow, often icy and slippery and finally on the Cho La glacier itself. 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. Have your crampons or Yak tracks ready if you have them. From the Cho La pass, we'll marvel at views of Ama Dablam, Kantega, Thamserku, Taboche, Cholatse and Baruntse, and to Nangpai Gosain, Pasang Lhamo, Numbur and on the Gokyo side. After a snack, it's a scramble back down the very steep pass followed by a rocky, hilly trail across the valley, and another long, steep descent to the yak kharka of Tangnak, where Lhakpa Nuru has built a new and somewhat luxurious lodge, the Cho La Resort. (Chilled) beers are available from the lodge-keepers should you need one ...
Day 17 - Trek to Gokyo 4790m/15,710ft
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 is a wonderful host and good friend, and with her two kids at the lodge to help her has expanded the lodge to include simple but beautiful new lake-side rooms.
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 decent reward for the walk. A third option is an hour's hike around Cho La Lake, passing the beach and Buddhist and Hindu 'temples' on the opposite side.
Or just sit by the lake and relax. You ARE on vacation ...
Day 19 – Trek to Lungden 4375m/14,350ft
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 four hours with Makalu looming ever larger on the horizon. 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 again steeply down to the Thame valley where we stay at the newly renovated Lungden Support Lodge in the small, walled seasonal hamlet of Lungden. Again, the views are wonderful from the lodge so don't be lured inside all afternoon by the warm stove. We have trekked down to one of the few still-traditionally Sherpa regions of the well-trekked Khumbu.
Day 20 – Trek to Thame 3805m/12,480ft
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, Khampas, trading en route to and from Namche and Tibet with the villagers. We follow the Bhote Kosi all day, and when we reach Thame Thang we hike right through the old village. We'll make a short detour to Kerok Gompa, still small and Sherpa in style. Back down from the gompa, we have a small ridge to climb before we look down on Thame and our lodge for the night. Thame is an old village of snaking rock walls, yak 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 beautiful 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 today. But first a side-trip to Lawudo Gompa (3790m), affiliated with the renowned Kopan Gompa in Kathmandu, tucked away above Thamo and Mende villages. After a steep descent to the Bhote Kosi, which we cross on a high bridge over a narrow canyon, 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. 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 ...
We'll have lunch with Lhakpa's mother and sister in Mende, picnic style. Potato pancakes will be on the menu for sure, a Sherpa specialty. From Mende, we drop steeply to the trail and trek for an hour and a half, contouring high above the river, to Namche.
Day 22 – Trek to Lukla 2850m/9350ft
We have a long hike ahead of us today, so we'll head off early from Namche. 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 and parents en route. After one last steep hill to the National Park gate, we reach the welcome sight of Monjo and the National Park entrance. From here we have only an hour and a half back to Phakding along the same trails that we trekked up a few weeks ago, and we stop for lunch at Ang Sani's Paradise Lodge. We continue back to Lukla along the same trail, although it always looks different coming from the opposite direction. We finish the trek back at Dawa Phuti & Ang Pasang's Eco Paradise Lodge, where we'll have yet another Sherpa feast and perhaps try some of Dawa's 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 is our contact at the airport, so we are in good hands for our flight out the next morning. We will hand out tips to our staff during dinner, and treat them to a few beers and a 'buff' dal baht.
Day 23 - Fly to Kathmandu
Bags packed and ready to go before the sun rises as we fly out of Lukla to Kathmandu early; 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 get together for the best wood-oven pizza in town at Fire & Ice, followed later by coffee and drinks later at one of Thamel's many cafes ...
Day 24 - 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 25 - Farewell
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, trips 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 sunrise/sunset mountain panoramas, visits to interesting temple villages such as Changu Narayan, a few days at Barahi Hotel in Pokhara or a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park. 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!