Everest Circuit and Cho La Pass,  Nepal – Stunning Vistas and Wonderful People

Everest Circuit and Cho La Pass, Nepal – Stunning Vistas and Wonderful People

Part of our mission here at High Peaks Hiking is to inspire the world to hike. We believe that one of the best ways to do that is to spread the word about all of the great hikes and beautiful vistas in the world. We invite all of our site visitors to send us photos or stories about their hikes and we will do our best to share them with our site visitors! We would like to thank Cut Lunch Adventures for the amazing photos and blog post!

Panorama from Gokyo Ri, including Mt Everest

The brochure promised ‘Everest Circuit and Cho La Pass – combining Everest Base Camp (EBC) and Gokyo Lakes with a stunning crossing of the Cho La pass’ – well, the hype lived up to it and more. Those that have followed my previous blog posts to the Himalayas would have noted that despite numerous visits, I have only flown into and out of Lukla only once by plane. All the rest have been by helicopter for various reasons. Well, I now can report that on this trip I successfully landed and departed Lukla by plane – yippee.

Cho Oyu from the top of Gokyo Ri

We had arrived in Kathmandu with days to spare before joining our team to commence the trek. We hadn’t been back to Nepal since the devastating earthquake back in 2015. We noticed that it was a lot quieter than usual especially around Thamel,  the main tourist centre of Kathmandu. While a lot of work has been undertaken to repair the infrastructure and buildings damaged in the earthquake,  there are still areas that are in need of urgent repair such as Durbar Square. Even with less traffic, the pollution though was very bad – lots of dust due to the digging up of the roads to lay new water pipes and more tummy bugs than usual going around due to the warmer and incessant pollution. 

Thamel, Kathmandu

Landing at Lukla AIrport

After our pre-trek briefing, it was time to finally fly into Lukla and commence our trek. Upon landing in Lukla, we received a nice surprise as one of our Sherpa guides named Loki who was on our first trip to EBC back in 2013, was there to greet us with his big warm smile. After many hugs, and meeting the rest of our team of Sherpas and porters, it was time to start the short trek to Ghat and then over the next couple of days head up to Namche Bazaar to find a decent coffee and apple pie.

Swingbridge on the trail

Mani Stones (Prayer wall) – always walk on the left side

Namche Bazaar

After departing Namche, we then broke off from the main trail heading to EBC and commenced our trek up the Gokyo Valley to Gokyo, with Cho Oyu (6th highest mountain in the world – 8,201m) visible at the head of the valley. After ascending Gokyo Ri (5,483m) in fine and windy conditions, we then ascended the Cho La pass (5,420m). Lucky for us, we had great weather up and over the pass, with a seven hour crossing – a record I believe for our group of 14 and our trek leader. Contrast this with another group we knew, who the previous fortnight took over 12 hours and encountered almost white out, blizzard conditions. 

View of Mt Everest and Mt Lhotse from the top of Gokyo Ri

View from the top of Gokyo Ri

At the top of Cho La Pass

It was fantastic trekking up the Gokyo valley as we hardly encountered any other trekkers or yaks. Contrast this with the main Everest Base Camp trail which we re-joined once we had dropped back down towards Lobuche after the Cho La Pass crossing. Trekkers, climbers, yaks all mixed in together – not necessarily in that order.

Trekking through the snow to Lobuche

Yaks in the snow

As this was the peak Everest climbing season, it was great to meet some of the climbers, whom some had dropped down to other villages to rest up and put on some weight for when they got the OK to commence their summit bid. It was also a pleasure to meet the famous Ice Fall Doctors who are charged by the Government to fix the ropes to the top of the Everest summit on the south side. What an amazing and extraordinary group of Sherpas they are.

Everest Base Camp and the Khumbu Glacier and Ice Fall

Trevor with the Ice Fall Doctors

While the trek down from EBC was fairly uneventful other than the odd snow storm, Lukla however had other ideas and had the last laugh with the weather. There were many false hopes, planes coming and then not coming, dashing from the cafe on the other side of the airport on rumours we were going to try and fly out and then cancelled – well you catch my drift. The next morning we tried again and lucky for us, our guide and company we were trekking with managed for us to scramble out on the last flight of the morning – there were no other flights landing or departing for another three days after we left. While it was great to revisit EBC and the villages that we trekked through back in 2013, the highlights for us were definitely the Gokyo Valley, Gokyo Ri, Cho La Pass and above all else, the wonderful warm Sherpa people and of course our great trekking team. 

The short runway at Lukla – weather not so good

Footnote: The Tenzing-Hillary Airport at Lukla is rated as the of the most dangerous airports in the world. On the 27 May, 2017, this was once again re-affirmed with the crash of a Goma Air plane just short of the runway coming into land at Lukla, tragically leading to two lives lost – the Captain and co-pilot. 

Onwards and Upwards! Trevor.

Everest, Lhotse and the striking Ama Dablam

Insights

  •  Allow for a contingency day in Lukla as often the weather can be unpredictable for flights (planes or helicopter

  •  Be resilient – change of plans can occur at a moments notice as you’re in the mountains and weather dictates everything you do.

  • Don’t stress about things you can’t control. See our post on mental toughness.

  • The people dynamics side of your team is just as important if not more than the type of journey you take

    Cho Oyu

    •  Hygiene factors – always take hand sanitiser gel and use it regularly. You are in a third world country and you need to stay healthy for your trek or climb

    • Due to people succumbing to the Khumbu cough on the EBC trek, consider taking plenty of cough lozenges. Also take plenty of pain killers for altitude headaches though always inform your trek leader if the headache persists

    • As you trek higher, be prepared for various illnesses and loss of appetite – but ensure you keep hydrated 

    • Also wear a buff over your mouth while walking around the streets of Kathmandu due to the dust pollution to help prevent illness before you head off on your trek or expedition

    Crossing the glacier on the Cho La Pass – microspikes are helpful

    • Wet wipes are also recommended and are a great substitute for showering

    • Consider taking extra toilet paper for emergencies though this can be purchased at a few villages or tea houses en route

    • In Namche, check out Cafe 8848 for great coffee and cake and the free WiFi

    • In Kathmandu, check out the New Orleans Cafe and Bar,  Black Olive Restaurant and Fire and Ice Pizzeria

    View of Cholatse from Dzongla



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