Today is free for sightseeing in Kathmandu. You may wish to visit Durbar Square in the heart of the old city where the old Royal Palace, with its intricate woodcarving, is located. Outside is Kumari Chowk, home of the Kumari, the young girl who is revered as a living goddess. The whole area is a maze of temples and images. Leading away from the square in all directions are narrow alleys, full of the most amazing variety of shops and stalls. Alternatively you may wish to visit the monkey temple at Swayambhunath, one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in the world at Bodnath, or the most important Hindu temple in the valley at Pashupatinath. A range of city sightseeing tours can be booked locally. Please see the Optional Excursions section. There will also be a full trek briefing today.
We fly to the mountain airstrip of Lukla (2800m), and set off on the first short leg of our trek, heading northwards up the valley of the Dudh Kosi (or 'Milk River'). We descend from the small plateau down into the forested valley. The trail crosses several tributary streams and we have some tantalising views before reaching the small settlement of Phakding (2652m), where we will spend our first night.
We follow the Dudh Kosi north. Heading out of Phakding, we first cross to the west bank, climbing high above the river and walk through magnificent forests of rhododendron, giant fir and magnolia trees. After Jorsale (2800m) the trail climbs over a spur and alongside a dripping moss-grown cliff, to cross the Bhote Kosi, and start the steep climb to Namche Bazaar. About 300m up this ascent we should have our first glimpse of the summit of Everest appearing behind the great ridge of Nuptse-Lhotse. Another 300m of climbing brings us to Namche Bazaar, administrative centre of the Khumbu region, headquarters for the Mount Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park, a prosperous Sherpa village and an important trading centre.
We spend today acclimatising to the altitude. Today we trek to Thamo, a quiet side valley on the way to Tibet. We may well see Tibetan traders with their herds of yak bringing goods from Tibet to trade in Namche. There is also time to visit the Everest National Park Museum and a Sherpa Cultural Centre. From the museum on a clear day we can see Everest in the distance just visible behind the great bulk of Nuptse.
We climb steeply out of Namche to the Everest View Hotel. This spectacularly situated hotel has wonderful views of Everest and Ama Dablam and is an ideal place for a tea break. Continuing we trek to the villages of Kunde and Khumjung set below Khumbila, the rocky peak sacred to all Sherpas. In Kunde we can visit the Edmund Hillary hospital, and in Khumjung we can see the Edmund Hillary School. There should also be time to visit Khumjung monastery, where for a small donation we will be shown the only Yeti skull in the world! Descending to the main trail we spend the night at Kyanjuma.
At Kyanjuma we turn off the main trail and begin climbing to the Mong La, marked by a chorten on the top of a ridge at 3972m. This ridge descends from Khumbila, the abode of the patron god of all sherpas. From the ridge, the trail descends in a series of switchbacks towards the Dudh Kosi. At Phortse Tenga the trail starts to climb steeply out of the valley and we enter the rhododendron forests, which give way to juniper and conifers higher up the valley. We pass through many kharkas, summer settlements used by the Sherpas to graze their yaks, before coming to Dole (4040m) where we have magnificent views of Khumbila and Tawoche.
A short walk today. From Dole the trail is steep in places as it passes through Lhabarma and Luza along the side of the valley, high above the river through scrub junipers until we cross the sandy spurs to Machhermo (4410m). It was here in 1974 that a yeti was reported to have attacked a sherpa and killed three yaks! We should get to Machhermo by lunchtime and in the afternoon there is time for an acclimatisation walk up onto the ridge behind the lodge for amazing views of Tramserku.
We begin today by climbing a ridge for an excellent view down the valley to Kangtaiga and also up towards Cho Oyu (8153m). The valley now widens as the trail passes through Pangkha then descends to the riverbank before beginning the steep climb onto the terminal moraine of the Ngozumpo Glacier. We pass the first of the lakes at Gokyo where a family of Brahminy ducks reside and then follow the level trail to the summerhouses and walled meadows of Gokyo at 4750m. Gokyo is a small settlement of lodges on the shores of a blue lake. In the afternoon we can walk up the hill behind camp for incredible views of the Ngozumpo Glacier.
A very early start this morning for the ascent of Gokyo Ri (5360m), a small peak above Gokyo village. As we climb the views become even more fantastic and from the top we can see four of the seven highest peaks in the Nepal Himalaya: Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu. Stretching out for miles below us is the longest glacier in Nepal - the Ngozumpo glacier, which tumbles down from the slopes of Cho Oyu. One of the best all round views in Nepal, the climb is well worth the effort. We return to Gokyo for lunch. Mid afternoon we retrace our steps to the second lake and climb to the crest of the moraine overlooking the Ngozumpo glacier. The route across the glacier is well marked with cairns and takes us to the eastern side of the Gokyo Valley. We stay tonight at Tangnak (4700m) at the foot of the Cho La Pass.
An early start for the very long day across the Cho La (5330m). We climb up from Tangnak for about 90 minutes to a col. Ahead we can see the Cho La in the distance. We descend to a large boulder field, where we rest before tackling the final part of the climb to the pass. The last two hours are very steep and rocky and involve some scrambling as we zig zag up to the top. The upper part of the route can be covered in snow and ice, particularly after November. Finally we reach the glaciated top, from where there are excellent views including an unusual aspect of Ama Dablam. We need to take care on the descent as its steep and involves the crossing of a small glacier (usually snow covered) which is fairly straightforward. After a scramble down onto the glacier we follow a trail across the snow and down a rocky gully to the pastures below. The trail becomes more defined as we approach Dzongla (4830m), where we stay tonight.
An easier day ahead as leaving Dzongla we begin with a continuation of our descent. A short ascent brings us to the foot of Awi Peak, which we contour round on a wonderful high trail with great views of Chalotse and Tawoche across the valley. We finally descend to join the main trail again just below Lobuje. We spend the night at Lobuje (4,930m). The sunset on Nuptse from the ridge across from the lodge is not to be missed.
We are now surrounded by giant Himalayan peaks; Everest, Nuptse, Lingtren, Khumbutse and Pumori tower above us. Today is long and hard as we visit Everest Base Camp. The trail from Lobuje climbs steadily by the side of the Khumbu Glacier, and after crossing glacier rubble we arrive at Gorak Shep (5180m), a summer yak-herder settlement situated at the foot of Kala Pattar. After a short break and snack we set off for Base Camp. The trail heads along the crest of the moraine at first and then drops onto the Khumbu Glacier itself, where we get magnificent close-up views of the great Khumbu Icefall as it tumbles down from Everest. In the spring season we will see expedition teams as they prepare for an ascent. We retrace our steps to Gorak Shep for the night.
Another long day as we ascend the small peak of Kala Pattar ('black rock') at 5545m. It is a steep two-hour climb to the summit, but the effort is well worth it, as we appreciate the most magnificent view of the Khumbu glacier and above all a close-up sight of the world's highest mountain which the Nepalese call Sagarmatha - Head of the Waters and the Sherpas Chomolungma - Mother of the World. We return to Gorak Shep and descend past Lobuje to Pheriche. Please note the exact order in which we trek up Kala Pattar and visit Everest Base Camp will depend on the weather and how the group is acclimatising. Both days are long and hard due to the high altitude.
We descend the Pheriche valley with spectacular views of Ama Dablam. We join the main Imja Khola Valley, which we follow down to Pangboche with superb views looking back to the great ridge of Lhotse-Nuptse. Pangboche, at 3985m is the highest permanent settlement on the approach to Everest. Dropping down to the rushing Imja Khola we then walk through rhododendron forests to Thyangboche at 3867m. From here we have a fantastic panorama of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse, and Ama Dablam. Descending from Thyangboche we cross the river at Phunki Tenga and climb up to Kyanjuma, where we spend the night (on occasion we might walk further to Namche Bazaar).
An easy trail contours round the hillsides back to Namche Bazaar. From here we drop down to the river and retrace our path through Monzo to Phakding.
We retrace our steps southwards with a final climb to the airstrip at Lukla.
We fly back to Kathmandu and spend the rest of the day at leisure.
Free in Kathmandu for individual sightseeing.
Trip ends after breakfast.