Everest Region Guide
by Ben Whitehead
For millennia, the imposing face of the largest mountain on earth has looked down into the valleys of Nepal and the surrounding Himalayas. Seen through the clouds Chomolungma, Sagarmatha, or its more recognisable name of Everest has drawn travellers from all over the earth, anxious to just get a glimpse of it, or determined to climb it.
Fantastic view up the Khumbu glacier, Everest region, Nepal
One of the most popular treks in Nepal is without doubt, the Everest Base Camp trek
. It's almost become a sort of pilgrimage to trek through the lush rhododendron forests, up through Namche Bazaar and onwards to the Khumbu glacier before arriving at Kala Patter for one of the most incredible panoramas in the world.
The trek itself can last up to 3 weeks depending on where you start. It's common now to fly into Lukla from Kathmandu and begin the trek from there but it's also possible to avoid this flight and start the trek from Jiri - the only problem being this adds about 6 days trekking onto your trip. Ok, if you have the time, but as a lot of people don't have weeks to spare, it's now just as common to begin the trek from Lukla.
Child playing in a door, Everest region, Nepal
From Lukla, most trekkers follow the trail all the way to Kala Patter for the best viewpoint of Everest. It starts by following the Dudh Koshi River north before climbing up to Namche Bazaar, an interesting Sherpa town that has everything one might need for trekking in the Himalayas, from Mars bars to internet access. From Namche, the trail heads northeast and climbs up to Tengboche where you can view one of the most popular peaks, Ama Dablam. The monastery at Tengboche is also on most peoples must see list - it was actually re-built after a fire in the early 90's. The trail continues on to Pangboche, where you can view the area's oldest gompa before heading up to Pheriche. There is actually a Himalayan Rescue Association post in Pheriche and during the trekking season, daily AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) talks are held.
The trail moves north again from Pheriche, and begins to climb Khumbu Glacier before reaching Lobuche. It's one more day on from here to Gorak Shep which is the base for the climb up to Kala Patter (5,545m). From here the panorama is simply breath-taking with the peaks of Everest (8,848m), Lhotse (8,516m) and Nuptse (7,861m) all visible. Time to get that camera out!
From Gorak Shep, it's another day trip on to the actual Everest Base Camp
where you may see numerous expeditions, particularly in spring time. In recent years, as a side route back down, the Gokyo Lakes trip has become popular. This 7-day option usually extends the total length of the trek by 3 days and takes you up the Dudh Kosi river valley to the beautiful lakes around Gokyo. The mountain views here are without a doubt the best, and present a spectacular panorama of Everest, Lhotsi and Makalu and Cho Oyu, all 8,000m plus peaks.
Sign to Kala Pathar, Everest region, Nepal
With fewer routes available in the region, Everest isn't as heavily trekked as the Annapurna region but it is more fragile as the number of trekkers in the high altitude environment combined with the number of inhabitants is significant. There is estimated to be around 10,000 trekkers on the trail each year with probably twice as many porters meaning that locals spend three times longer to collect firewood than they did a decade ago. Although most of the Khumbu valley is protected under Sagarmartha National Park, we would always advise our clients to have as little to do with wood-burning as possible. It's not always possible to avoid this completely but try to choose a tour operator like Nepal Uncovered
, which tries to make as much effort as possible to ensure this, for example, through support of KEEP and the Trekkers Association.
While incredibly rewarding, a trek in the Everest region is not to be undertaken lightly. No specialist mountaineering equipment is needed but the very real risk of AMS is always present and should be taken extremely seriously. Every year there are a number of travellers who become ill on the trails throughout Nepal and rescue operations are rarely straightforward. With this in mind, always be aware of yourself and fellow travelers. Check out our AMS guide!