Featured Image: What it is all about! (near Machhermo)
Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 14 November 2016
Trekking in the Everest Region in Spring 2013: Lukla to Gokyo
Reading my Postcard from Nepal about Boudhanath Stupa, posted in April 2015, my first post, coincidentally almost at the same time as the earthquake, and Teresa’s Trek Report, it all seems a long time ago. I certainly meant to post this photo essay much earlier but perhaps now is a good time. People need to be encouraged to travel back to Nepal. We are hoping to go next year perhaps to do Upper Mustang — the difficult but slightly less remote trek now into Tibetan Nepal.
As mentioned in Postcard from Nepal, we arrived in March 2013. We headed off a few days later with Dorje and Khanche to go to Patale, Dorje’s village where we were part of a group sponsoring a health centre. After a few days in Patale we embarked with Dorje and Kanche to visit Kanche’s village Juke, which he’d been encouraging us to do for a few years. Both Juke and Patale are in the Solu Khumbu or the Lower Everest Region. Juke is not far from Pikey Peak, a branch off of the original Everest trek from Jiri, before flying to Lukla became the more popular option. The Lower Everest region has great potential for remote trekking through villages with plenty of challenges such as Pikey Peak to whet the appetite. I’ll cover this in another post There and Back: Patale to Juke.
We returned to Kathmandu and met up with Teresa. We still had a few days to spare and she sent us off to visit Gorkha the old capital of Nepal and Bandipur — a wonderful viewing point for the Himalayas on the road to Pokhara.
Thursday 4 April was departure day. We arrived at the domestic departure terminal at 5.25 am and luckily 16 of us trekkers and guide porters made the first flight and 4 others also made it on the second. This is always a potential stopping point as planes can only fly in in good weather and in the mornings. One can often be delayed for days getting in or getting out.
Lukla is the famous short airport where you land on an impossibly short uphill strip that ends in a stone wall backed by rock. Leaving is much worse. You taxi downhill off a cliff with plenty of negative potential. Indeed, the wrecked of planes at the bottom of the cliff advertise the fact.
Anyway, Lukla is at altitude (2860 m) and we had breakfast there and spent the first night on the trail to Namche Bazaar. Teresa’s business is called slow trekking and one benefit is that you acclimatise at the same rate as the doctors walking up to spend months volunteering at the various high altitude clinics. The downside of many people’s treks to high altitudes in the Himalayas is the two-week holiday. There is not enough time to acclimatise, even young and fit people can risk their health. We certainly saw many on the well-known commercial treks having a miserable time, because of altitude sickness. Don’t let me get started on over-loading porters. On the commercial treks the trekkers rarely see the porters and never get the chance to know them. On Teresa’s treks each person has a personal guide/porter who walks with you most of the time and is very concerned for your well-being. They carry about 15 Kg (your gear and theirs) you get to know them well after three weeks. At night they sometimes the join you (about half the time) for a chat, a singsong or a dance, but it is up to them.
March/April is Spring in Nepal. This means that the monsoons haven’t washed the dust from the air, so that you don’t often see the mountains well from far away, ie, Kathmandu, Pokkara and Patale Village (often but not always true). The upside is that it is rhododendron season and the lower slopes are alive with flowering rhododendron forests.
I’ve included Teresa’s Trek Report in Further Information, so I’ll just give brief descriptions to make the pictures meaningful. Let’s get to the pictures.
Most people who go trekking above Namche Bazaar (3440 m) want to go to Everest Base Camp (5380 m). This is despite base camp not being the most welcoming or lovely spot and that strings of trekkers are behind and in front of the whole way you, day-in-day-out. Teresa decided to take us to Gokyo Lakes and Gokyo Ri or Peak (5357 m) on a left hand zig instead. Two of the fittest of the party went with two guide porters over the Cho La Pass (5420 m) from Gokyo, to base camp via Gorak Shep and also to Kala Patthar (5643 m above base camp). While the rest of us retraced our steps part way and then zigged right. We were going Dingboche (4410 m) the start of the walk to the Island Peak (6189 m) climb — the easiest small peak in Nepal. The weather was very windy and it was quite cold so a small group of us only made it to the teahouse at Bibre (close to 5000 m), which was sheltered and didn’t continue on to Chukkhung (4730 m) beyond Dingboche.
April 4-6 Lukla to Namche Bazaar
Many groups and individuals do Lukla to Namche Bazaar in one day. It is rather a rush and you don’t have time to enjoy the walk. Everyone is eager to get beyond Namche into the Everest Region. However, trekking in Nepal shouldn’t be run on a rigid timetable. Everything is weather and altitude dependent. The one-day rush to Namche can cause altitude sickness problems at the very start of your trek. The two week holiday syndrome can be risky and dangerous at high altitude. Altitude sickness isn’t predictable and hits the young and fit as frequently as older and less fit people.
The photographs emphasise how beautiful this lower walk is. We stayed two nights enroute staying at Padding and Jorsale and arrived at Namche next day at 3 pm. The weather was perfect and the walk beautiful.
April 7-10 Thamo, Kangzuma, Phortse Tenga, Dhole
Teresa says the walk to Thamo 2-3 hours is usually a day side-trip from Namche. It’s always funny on treks, you can never predict when a big hurdle is likely. I’d somehow succumbed just this day to a 12-hour chest infection and I found the 3.5 hour walk an agony. I was exhausted when I arrived at Thamo and I thought I might have to abandon or slip a few days behind the group. I was exceedingly lucky that this was the easiest walk of the whole trek — relatively flat and short.
Next morning I was fine and continued on without any troubles at all for the remainder of the trek.
We visited the Edmund Hilary School and the walk downhill to Kangzuma was relatively easy and rather beautiful. We saw pheasants and other wildlife.
Next morning we headed up the valley to Phortse Tenga on the river below Phortse proper on the other side. We saw massive eagles and lammergeiers gliding effortlessly on thermals – sometimes below us! Mong Danda is on top of a 4,000 metre ridge but after a stiff start the approach is fairly gradual. The descent to Phortse Tenga is a tortuous, dusty spiral-staircase of a track but it gradually backs off and becomes quite easy with large cedars marking the way. (Teresa)
At Phortse the track forks we took the Gokyo track which continues on up the Dudh Kosi Valley following the river. The track to Dhole was steep and we gained altitude to 4038 metres. It snowed overnight but it was fine in the morning and we had beautiful views down the valley and up into the mountains.
April 11-14 Machhermo, Gokyo
The walk from Dhole to Machhermo was pleasant gaining more altitude. We stayed two nights at Machhermo (4470 m) because that’s what you do to acclimate. There is a rescue post here and the doctors are very knowledgeable about mountain sickness. They give free blood tests and a talk. We had walked from Lukla at the same pace the doctors take to Machhermo when they begin their volunteer placement. Denise and my blood were 98% which is excellent, the best of the group, but then we had been trekking for two weeks in the lower Everest region before starting.
On our rest day some of the group were suffering headaches. The rest of us walked up to the ridge above Machhermo. The views were magnificent but as the photo shows the wind was fierce.
The walk to Gokyo Lakes next day was tough because of the rise in altitude but stunningly beautiful.
The village of Gokyo (4790 m) hovers over the beautiful Gokyo Lakes. You have to walk across a swampy patch at the edge of the lake below the village to climb Gokyo Ri or Peak (5357 m). A short walk above the village you peer over cliff on the ridge into an enormously wide glacier which has to be crossed to get to the Cho La Pass (5420 m) over to the Everest side. It makes you realise how insubstantial and vulnerable the village is. By the way there are no real villages in this part of the Everest region. Away from Namche much of all transport in the region is geared for tourists: climbers and trekkers, apart from the odd monastery and villages in certain parts.
Next day the almost perfect weather held and we climbed up Gokyo Ri to a virtually windless summit. It was a tough climb but you just take it slowly and the panorama of the world’s highest mountains from the top was breathtaking.
You feel pretty amazing and light headed when you make it to the top.
April 15 Gokyo to Macchermo
While the two fit ones headed out for the Cho La Pass the rest of us headed back to Machhermo and beyond.
These steps were I think much scarier on the way up. The rocks kept moving underfoot. But, they weren’t as easy as they look in the photo, except I do have a photo of one of the guide porters prancing down them showing off.
Yaks are the main form of transport in this region and they are ferrying in supplies to support the tourist trade. Going down was much faster than coming up. Lowering the altitude always is. It took just three hours to reach Machhermo where it began snowing and the weather was deteriorating rapidly. So that we stayed there the night rather than proceeding. It wasn’t perhaps dangerous but why go on in miserable freezing weather. The weather in the Himalayas is very changeable another reason for having the time to be flexible.
Album and Slidshow via Google Photos.
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Key Words: Trekking, Nepal, Everest Region, Spring, Lukla, Gokyo, Gokyo Ri, Gokyo Lakes, Namche Bazaar, Thamo, Kangzuma, Phortse Tenga, Dhole, Machhermo, Ama Dablam, Mount Everest, Teresa, Slow Trekking
Teresa’s Slow Trekking Website
Teresa’s Trek Report
Guide Porters for arranging your own trekking
Dorje (Kathmandu/Everest), Lahar (Pokhara/Annapurna) are both lead guides. When not working for Teresa they are available to organise trekking and can always arrange for guide porters from their own networks. The best way to do this is to contact Teresa who is happy to work out what you need and pass you on to them. If you haven’t trekked in Nepal before, I’d highly recommend Teresa’s slow trekking as the way to start.
Mountains around Gokyo
Four 8000 metre peaks can be seen from Gokyu Ri
Everest 8848 m
Lhotse 8516 m
Makalu 8845 m
Cho Oyu 8201 m
Tenzing Peak 7916 m
Nuptse 7861 m
Pumori 7161 m
Lobuche 6145 m
Others on the way to Gokyu
Ama Dablam 6812 m
Khumbila 5761 m