Wild Everest Christmas | Makalu Arun to Gokyo Lakes Trek - Nepal

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Celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve with the Sherpas in their sacred homeland, the Everest region of Nepal!
Our 'Wild Everest' trek starts with perhaps the most scenic, diverse and least known trek in Nepal, the Arun Salpa valley. Early Everest climbers such as Shipton and Hillary used this route to reach Everest, but it escaped the hoards of trekkers and climbers heading to the Everest region because of the airport at Lukla and the road-head at Jiri.

With hundreds of Nepali companies running cheap treks in Nepal, numerous Western companies running expensive lodge and teahouse treks in the Himalaya, why trek in the Everest region with Kamzang?

Trekking in the Everest region with Kamzang Journeys: Over ten years of local knowledge, extensive interaction with Sherpas and Tibetans, friends and family in the Khumbu region, Sherpa AND Western guides along with a great staff, a full medical kit and O2, a record of mountain safety, a private heater, a library of books on Everest & the Khumbu region, hot water bottles for your sleeping bag and a combination of yaks and porters to carry your duffel bags. You can choose from the extensive lodge menus for your meals, which are accompanied by snacks, desert, a choice of herbal teas, hot drinks and freshly brewed coffee.

Starting in the rustic, semi-tropical east of Nepal, homeland of the Rais and other 'middle-hill' Nepalis, we begin our journey from Tumlingtar, landing on a newly-paved runway next to a groves of tangerine trees. We trek along the turquoise Arun River and through the green, terraced hills of the Arun and Salpa valleys to Sherpa Solu, and continue traversing across the many high ridges of rhododendron and bamboo that characterize Nepal's lush middle hills. We pass through lively, traditional Rai and Sherpa villages as we head towards Lukla and the old Tibetan trading center of Namche Bazaar. This is a region which sees few trekkers, so the trek will be a real adventure, a glimpse into the timeless mountain villages and cultures of Nepal.

Once at Lukla and the Khumbu region, the festival of Himalayan peaks begins. Heading north towards Cho Oyu and the border of Tibet, the 7000 and 8000 meter snow-peaks tower above us as we trek through Sherpa villages and seasonal grazing lands. We hope for a white Christmas at Namche Bazaar, an old trading center with Tibet, afterwards exploring the turquoise Gokyo lakes and climbing Gokyo Ri for sublime views down the Gokyo valley and up towards Tibet. We trek the spectacular eastern trail back down to the old Sherpa village of Phortse, taking time to visit some of the old Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and Sherpa homes, perhaps being invited in for a cup of salt-butter tea or chang.

Fantastic hills and peaks, cultural and scenic diversity, few other trekkers until Lukla, traditional Nepali & Sherpa villages backed by the high snow-peaks of the Himalaya and a bit of holiday pampering in the Sherpa homeland of Solu Khumbu, on the shores of spectacular Gokyo Lake. It's hard to beat.

Celebrate Christmas + the New Year in the Everest region with Kamzang Journeys!

Trip

Wild Everest | Arun Valley & Gokyo Lakes Trek

Day 1 - Saturday, 9 December 2017 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 - Kathmandu
Day 3 - Fly Tumlingtar
Day 4 - Trek Kartiki Ghat
Day 5 - Trek Gothe Bazaar
Day 6 - Trek Salpa Phedi
Day 7 - Trek Jau Bari
Day 8 - Trek Gurase
Day 9 - Trek Tiu
Day 10 - Trek Gudel
Day 11 - Trek Kiraunle Gompa
Day 12 - Trek Sibuje
Day 13 - Trek Pangum
Day 14 - Trek Phakepani
Day 15 - Trek Monjo
Day 16 - Trek Namche
Day 17 - Namche | Christmas!
Day 18 - Trek Dole
Day 19 - Trek Macherma
Day 20 - Trek Gokyo
Day 21 - Gokyo
Day 22 - Trek Phortse
Day 23 - Trek Namche | New Year's Eve!
Day 24 - Trek Lukla
Day 25 – Fly Kathmandu
Day 26 - Kathmandu
Day 27 - Thursday, 4 January 2018 - Trip Ends

Short Trips

Arun Salpa (Eastern Everest) Camping Trek | Christmas in Kathmandu

Day 1 - Saturday, 9 December 2017 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 - Kathmandu
Day 3 - Fly Tumlingtar
Day 4 - Trek Kartiki Ghat
Day 5 - Trek Gothe Bazaar
Day 6 - Trek Salpa Phedi
Day 7 - Trek Jau Bari
Day 8 - Trek Gurase
Day 9 - Trek Tiu
Day 10 - Trek Gudel
Day 11 - Trek Kiraunle Gompa
Day 12 - Trek Sibuje
Day 13 - Trek Pangum
Day 14 - Trek Phakepani
Day 15 - Trek Lukla
Day 16 - Fly Kathmandu
Day 17 - Kathmandu | Christmas!
Day 18 - Tuesday, 26 December 2016 - Depart

Gokyo Lakes Sherpa Lodge Trek | Christmas & New Years

Day 1 - Thursday, 21 December 2017 - Arrive Kathmandu
Day 2 - Kathmandu
Day 3 - Fly Lukla (Meet Group). Trek Monjo
Day 4 - Trek Namche
Day 5 - Namche | Christmas!
Day 6 - Trek  Dole
Day 7 - Trek Macherma
Day 8 - Trek Gokyo
Day 9 - Gokyo
Day 10 - Trek Phortse
Day 11 - Trek Namche | New Year's Eve!
Day 12 - Trek Lukla
Day 13 – Fly Kathmandu
Day 14 - Kathmandu
Day 15 - Thursday, 4 January 2018 - Trip Ends

Chitwan National Park | Maruni Sanctuary Lodge
Chitwan + Tharu Villages Wildlife Safari

Add Ons
Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Pashupatinath, Boudhanath + Swayambunath (+$75)
Kathmandu Durbar Square Walking Tour | Durbar Square (+$50)
Bhaktapur Heritage Sightseeing Tour (+$100)
Patan Heritage Sightseeing Tour (+$50)
Extra Trek Day Gandruk (+105)
Extra Day Chitwan (+$125)
Everest Sightseeing Flight (+$250)
Extension Shivapuri Heights Cottage (+75 Night Depending on Room)
Cycling Trip in Kathmandu Valley (+Trip Price)

Nepal Modules
Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip!

Highlights+Reviews

Trip Advisor Reviews

Client's Highlights
Amazing experience! My husband and I trekked with Kim Bannister and Kamzang Journeys through the Arun Valley and the Everest region, and long to go back on a trek with her again. Kim and Lhakpa, and the rest of the Kamzang team ensured we enjoyed stunning scenery, great food, local experiences and stayed healthy in order to fully enjoy our experience in Nepal. We always felt in capable hands and appreciated Kim's knowledge and respect of the people and the customs as well as her willingness to share this knowledge with us, enriching our experience.
  - Reagan & Eric (Canada), Arun Valley & Gokyo Lakes Trek 2011

What an amazing trek it was! You can not go wrong by trekking with Kim & Lhakpa. Their professionalism, friendliness, efficiency, expertise and unflagging good cheer and able assistance can not be overstated. The meals were excellent, Junar is a very fine chef. 5-star, healthful dining for all three meals a day. Kim has such a thorough knowledge of their dress, customs and lifestyle. I loved that she would generously share these details with me as we walked. She is a wealth of knowledge and experience. She was also amazing at interacting with the people we would meet along the trail and get them to pose for her camera.

What photos we have to remind ourselves of the fun we had! Lhakpa is the epitome of the ideal Sherpa host. Nothing we Westerners could conjure up would budge his smiling, courteous, and unflappable countenance. Exhausted and struggling on the trail? Lhakpa will carry your pack. (Not to be left out, Kim was quick to relieve us of our packs on steeper sections of the trail - two of them plus hers on one memorable day.) We did not see a single westerner/trekker until we reached the eastern border of the Khumbu. Culturally speaking, all of our interactions with the people were positive and enjoyable. Our porters and kitchen staff were a continual delight to get to know and try to communicate with. They are all really nice, helpful, extremely hardworking (and damn strong!!) happy guys. And Kim, words cannot describe her energy, always positive, unshakable, pleasant demeanor, and all-around world class guide capabilities. There was never a twinge of worry that we weren't in the most capable hands. You could go to the moon safely with her. I feel like they will be my friends for life. They really made the trek all the more memorable and extraordinary.
 - Lindsay H (USA), Wild Evrerest Trek | Arun & Gokyo 2009

Read More Testimonials
Trekker's Comments

Trek Highlights

  • Remote Arun Salpa valley trek (the original route to Everest)
  • Nepal's green, semi-tropical middle hills
  • Lively Rai & Hindu villages
  • Traditional Sherpa villages
  • Gokyo valley, lakes & Gokyo Ri (peak)
  • The spectacular trail to Phortse
  • Bustling Namche Bazaar
  • Himalayan wildlife
  • Great sunrises & sunsets
  • Christmas in Gokyo & New Year in the Everest region
  • Cozy Sherpa lodges (above Lukla)

Kim Bannister Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Kamzang Journeys | Country + Regional Photos
Kamzang Journeys Photos

Kamzang Journeys Group Photos
Group Photos

Himalayan Photos
Himalayan Wildlife Photos

Himalayan Bird Photos

Himalayan Flower Photos

Market + Street Food Photos
Asian Markets + Street Food

Travel Reading | Enhance Your Trip!
Travel Books

Date+Price

2017 Dates
9 Dec 2017 - 4 Jan 2018
27 Days

9 - 26 Dec 2017
18 Days

21 Dec 2017 - 4 Jan 2018
15 Days

2017 Trek Price
$3880 (Arun + Gokyo Trek)
$2880 (Arun Trek)
$2680 (Gokyo Trek)

+ Single Upgrade Options Available
+ NO Single Supplement for Trek (Single Tents)!

Chitwan Extension
$500

Includes

  • Kathmandu Guest House
  • Lukla & Tumlingtar flights
  • Departure taxes
  • Airport pick-ups & drops
  • Sagarmatha National Park Permit
  • Arun Baron National Park Permit
  • TIMS card
  • Kamzang-style Trekking
    Marmot Thor tents (2x, or 3x for couples), delicious & copious 'gourmet' food with seasonal, fresh produce, French-press coffee, chai, Kashmiri & herbal teas, Katadyn filtered drinking water, warm washing water, library, 'lounge' with dhurri rugs, Crazy Creek camp chairs, blankets & the occasional music at night, oxygen & PAC bag (when needed), full medical kit, horses, yaks or porters, Western, Sherpa & local guides (when needed), our 5-star staff & the signature yellow 'Kamzang Dining Tent', NO single supplement for single tents. And flexibility ...
    :
  • Kamzang Lodge-style Trekking:
    All meals from lodge menu, herbal teas and French press coffee, filtered drinking water, hot water bottles at night, gas heater in dining room, double rooms at lodges, medical kit, satellite phone, PAC bag, library, porters & yaks, Sherpa & Western guide & our great staff ...

Safety & Health Precautions

  • Thuraya satellite phone
  • InReach satellite messaging system
  • Updated route published on InReach site
  • Helicopter evacuation services (excluding cost of evacuation)
  • Support by Khumbu Adventures in Kathmandu
  • Oxygen saturation monitoring system
  • PAC bag (portable oxygen chamber)
  • Full medical kit & stretcher
  • Kayadyn filtered water
  • Safe, sanitary, delicious & plentiful food and drinks

Excludes

  • International flights
  • Nepal Visa
  • Travel or travel medical insurance
  • Helicopter rescue service cost
  • Helicopter shuttle service to or from Lukla in case of flight delays or cancellations
  • Meals in Kathmandu (while not on trek)
  • Equipment rental
  • Boiled drinking water
  • Alcohol & soft drinks
  • Showers
  • Laundry
  • Tipping & other items of a personal nature

Tips & Extra Cash
Allow approx $250 for meals (while not on trek), drinks (on trek) and tips. We recommend at least $200 per trekker thrown into the tips pool for the crew.

Contact+Details

Trekker's Comments
Travel Books

Kamzang Journeys Contact
Kim Bannister
kim@kamzang.com
Mobile: +(977) 9803414745
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21277980 (Nepal)
On-Trek Satellite Phone: +88216 21274092 (Tibet & India)

Kathmandu Contact
Khumbu Adventures
hiking.guide@gmail.com
Office: +(977) 01 4488352
Lhakpa Dorji Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 235461, 9813 371542
Doma Sherpa Mobile: +(977) 9841 510833, 9803 675361

InReach Explorer
We have a MapShare page that works for sending emails to our InReach messaging device. Give this link to people who want to follow us and have them send us a message so we have their email in the system. We can email them back directly Please tell people not to expect updates every day. There is a ‘message’ button on the top left, and the message sender needs to put their EMAIL address instead of phone number to get a response. Messages are free, enjoy.

Follow Us on Facebook
Kamzang Journeys Facebook
I will post InReach updates to our Kamzang Journeys Facebook page if friends & family want to follow our progress.

Satellite Phone
We carry a satellite phone with us for emergencies. Send us a free message at the online Thuraya link below. We can call you back or email you back. If you want a return call or email include your contact info. You can send this in two SMSs if needed.
Kim Satellite: +88216 (21277980)
Lhakpa Satellite: +88216 (87710076)
Thuraya

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

Pokhara Hotel
Lake View Resort
Single Upgrade - $40
Single or Double Upgrade AC Cottage - $65

Kathmandu Guest House Single or Double Upgrades | 4 Nights
Garden Single - $100
Deluxe Single or Double - $400

Kathmandu Guest House Extra Nights
Includes breakfast + 25% taxes
Book with Kamzang Journeys + save on room rates

Kathmandu Guest House | Room Prices
Standard Single - $80
Standard Double - $100
Garden Single - $120
Garden Double - $140
Deluxe Single - $200
Deluxe Double - $220

Kamzang Journeys | Room Prices
Standard Single - $55
Standard Double - $75
Garden Single - $80
Garden Double - $100
Deluxe Single - $160
Deluxe Double - $180

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Kathmandu
Kathmandu Happenings

Photo Gallery | Trip + Trek Photos
Kim Bannister Photography

Visas
You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Health Information
Nepal Health Information
CDC

We also recommend bringing probiotics with you to help prevent infections while on trek. Doctor's recommendation!

Travel Medical Insurance
Required for your own safely. We carry a copy of your insurance with all contact, personal and policy information with us on the trek and our office in Kathmandu keeps a copy. Note that we almost always trek over 4000 meters (13,000+ feet) and that we don't do any technical climbing with ropes, ice axes or crampons.

Global Rescue
We recommend that our trekkers also sign up for Global Rescue, which is rescue services only, as a supplement to your travel medical insurance.
Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Wicis-Sports Wearable Tech | Sports Package
Live personal heath stats via a wearable chest strap heart rate monitor.
Track your vitals (heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation), the weather, GPS locations, altitude, speed, bearing and stream LIVE via a Thuraya satellite hot spot. Partners: OCENS (weather), Global Rescue, Aspect Solar.

"Thuraya Telecom + WiCis Sports offer connectivity to Himalayan treks + expeditions"

"Founded in 2011 by Harvard and Stanford anesthesiologist Dr. Leo Montejo and located in the Lake Tahoe area, the company’s goal is to promote the use of mHealth and tracking devices to make adventure sports safer and engage their followers with real time data that is either private or also available to social medial platforms."

Book package through Wicis-Sports via Carlota Fenes (carlota@wicis-media.com)

Medical
We have a full medical kit with us including Diamox (for acclimatizing), antibiotics, inhalers, bandages, re-hydration, painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs etc. but please bring a supply of all prescription and personal medications. Kim has First Aid, CPR and Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certifications as well as many years of experience with altitude in the Himalaya but is NOT a qualified medic or doctor, so please have a check-up before leaving home, and inform us of any medical issues. This is for YOUR OWN safety.

DO bring all prescription medications and good rehydration/electrolytes. We advise bringing your own Diamox, Ciprofloxin, Azithromyacin & Augmentin. We have all of these with us but the Western versions are always better than the Indian equivalents.

PAC Bag + Oxygen
We carry a Portable Oxygen Chamber, or Gammow Bag, with us on many treks. There is no charge for use of the PAC bag but oxygen is $300 per canister (cost price, pass on to insurance company).

Notes on Itinerary
Although we try to follow the itinerary below, it is ONLY a guideline based on years of experience trekking in the Himalaya. At times local trail, river or weather conditions may make a deviation necessary; rivers may be impassible, snow blocks passes, and landslides wipe out trails. The trekking itinerary and campsites may also vary slightly depending on the group's acclimatization rate or sickness.

The Himalaya are our passion, and we take trekking seriously. Although everyone is here on vacation, please come with a dollop of patience and compassion added to your sense of adventure ...

Arrival Kathmandu

Arrival
You will be met at the airport by the Kathmandu Guest House van or our Kamzang Journeys driver. Look for a sign with your name on it AND the Kathmandu Guest House sign. You will be driven to the Kathmandu Guest House (or the hotel of your choice) where your rooms have been booked for you. Kim will meet you at the Kathmandu Guest House to go over details and get you settled into Kathmandu.

Arrival Hotel
Kathmandu Guest House

Visas
You can get your Nepal visa either at the airport (or any land border) when you arrive in Nepal, or before you leave home.
Nepal Visa

Temperatures + Clothing
Kathmandu during trekking season, in the spring and autumn, is usually warm (t-shirt, sandals, light pants or skirts) during the day, and gets chilly (light fleece or windproof top) in the afternoon. Nights can be cold enough for a sweater or light jacket, or warm enough for t-shirts. Summer is hotter and wetter; you’ll need a rain jacket and umbrella. The winter months (November – March) are chilly in the mornings and evenings, cold enough that you might start the day in a down jacket, but often warms up enough to wear a t-shirt by mid-day. Nights get cold enough for a down jacket if you’re sitting outside in the spring and autumn, and much colder in the winter when you won’t leave the hotel without your down jacket. It never snows in Kathmandu, leave your snow boots behind. Keens or lightweight sandals great for wandering around Kathmandu, and for trekking in lower altitudes.

Trekking is a mixed bag of temperatures. LAYERS are the key as hot can change quickly to freezing crossing the passes and snowfalls are common. We often have some rain below 3000 meters in the spring and early autumn, and it can rain hard in the summer. Have a wide range of layer-able trekking clothes for summer to winter temperatures. Keep a lightweight down jacket or synthetic jacket with you at all times, available inexpensively in Kathmandu. A lightweight rain poncho and umbrella for trekking recommended spring and summer. Be prepared! See our GEAR LIST for full details on gear, shoes, clothing, electronics and meds for the trek.

There are lots of real gear shops (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Sherpa Gear) and of course many fake ones in Kathmandu, so if you don't think you have the right gear starting the trip it will be easy to pick-up stuff once in Kathmandu. We have sleeping bags, duffel bags down jackets to rent.

Dress conservatively in Kathmandu and on the trail as a rule. Shorts are okay if they aren't too short, mini skirts aren’t recommended. Sleeveless t-shirts are absolutely fine, but perhaps avoid tank-tops on the trail. Super tight doesn't go over so well with the village elders. Many of the younger generation in Nepal wear modern Indian or Western-influenced clothes, but remember that you haven't signed up for a beach or surf vacation. Use your good judgment, be an ambassador for western tourists! Please ask Kim or your guide if unsure about appropriate clothing.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face style duffel bags with Kamzang Journeys logos for sale (XL, orange). They are (mostly) waterproof, mid to lightweight (lighter than North Face) and good quality. Price 4000 NRP (about $40)

Cultural Issues
Nepalis are very open and welcoming, but there are a few issues you should be aware of to make your stay in Nepal more fulfilling. Use your right hand to pass things, shake hands or do most anything. Left hands are somewhat taboo. Nepali's often place their left hand on the right forearm when passing things to others, a sign of respect. Best not to pat kids on heads, or point feet ahead of you at monasteries. Don't walk over someone's legs or feet, but put your hand down in front of you to signal them to pull their legs to the side. Take off shoes and hats when going into Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples, don't use flashes inside monasteries or temples in general, be respectful of a puja (prayer ceremony) if attending one. You can talk, all religious are very tolerant, but be aware of your level of voice.

Nepalis don't anger quickly, so try not to raise your voice if exasperated or angry as it only will make a situation worse. Do bargain at shops, with taxis and rickshaws, but don't fleece them. They are poor and making a living, generally.

Give small donations on the streets if you choose, but try not to encourage begging too much. Be aware of who you are giving money to, and please only give small amounts. If you do want to donate to a cause, ask about our Kamzang Fund or other responsible organizations.

Pampering Yourself in Kathmandu
We’re happy to book your rooms before or after the trek (or upgrade during the trek) at other boutique or luxury hotels in Kathmandu. We recommend Dwarika’s, Shangri-La, Yak & Yeti or Hyatt. We can also direct you to wonderful spa & massage centers in Kathmandu.

Tips for Staff
We recommend at least $200 per person to go into the tip pool for the staff. Please bring Nepali Rupees (NRP) with you on the trek for the tips. It’s nice to buy the staff drinks on the last night. Or any other night that you feel like getting them a bottle of Kukure Rum!

Tips in General
Tips are always appreciated but they don’t need to be extravagant. 100 NRP to carry bags to/from your room is fine. The women who clean your room will be happy with 100-200 NRP when you leave, and 100 NRP is good for drivers to/from the airport. Round up taxi fares. A larger tip would be expected for a daytrip in a car, perhaps 500 NRP. 10% is included in most restaurant and hotel bills in Nepal, and if it’s not included it’s still expected. Check your bills, and still round up at restaurants. Feel free to give out small change to the beggars in the streets (5, 10, 20 NRP) but try not to give it out to the street kids who use it for glue to sniff.

Cash + ATMs
You’ll want some cash with you on the trek for drinks, snacks, beer, sodas, etc. There are often  chances to during the trek, and usually local crafts to buy en route. (You’ll want your tip money in NRP as well). There are ATMs in KTM but they don’t dispense large amounts of cash (usually 10-20,000 NRP) so you’ll be best with currency or TCs to change.

International Medical Center Kathmandu
CIWEC

Kathmandu + Kathmandu Valley Information
Our personalized 'Insider' list of things to do, places to go, what to visit, the most happening restaurants + the best hotels in Kathmandu and the beautiful Kathmandu Valley.
Happenings in Kathmandu

Gear

Travel Photography Gear Guide
The Complete Guide to Gear for the Landscape Photographer

Gear List
This is a guideline, not a bible, for the gear you will need on the trek. Ask if you have questions! One 15 kg (33 lbs) maximum weight limit for the duffel bag for flights. 20 kg (50 lbs) weight limit for treks.

  • Duffel Bag
  • Day Pack (35-45 L)
  • Sleeping Bag (-20F/-30C recommended)
  • Down Jacket
  • Trekking Boots
  • Air Mattress
  • Crocs (evenings & washing) 

  • Hiking Sandals | Running Shoes (REQUIRED for river crossings - Crocs will also work)
  • Trekking Pants (2-3)
  • T-Shirts (3)
  • Long-sleeve Trekking Shirts (2-3)
  • Trekking Jacket
  • Gortex (or similar) Jacket & Pants
  • Fleece or Thermal Top (evenings)
  • Fleece or Thermal Bottoms (evenings)
  • Lightweight Long Underwear (to sleep in or layer under clothes)
  • Socks (5)
  • Gloves (lighter & heavier for passes)
  • Wool Hat
  • Baseball Cap or Wide-brimmed Hat
  • Camp Towel
  • Trekking Poles (optional, recommended)
  • Down Booties (optional, recommended)
  • Sunglasses (2)
  • Water Bottles | Nalgenes (2-3)
  • Bladder (optional, recommended)
  • Toiletries, Sunscreen with SPF, Lip Balm with SPF
  • Watch (with alarm)
  • Extra Batteries
  • Battery Chargers
  • Head Lamp 
(2)
  • Yak Trax (for treks with icy passes)
  • Water Purifying Tablets, Small Water Filter or Steripen
  • Camp Washing Bowl (optional, collapsible for clothes)
  • Laundry Detergent (Kathmandu) or Bio-degradable Clothes Soap
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Small Solar Panel (optional, recommended for iPods, iPhones, camera batteries, Kindles)
  • Book(s)
  • Zip-Lock | Plastic Bags
  • Soft Toilet Paper | Tissues (we supply toilet paper but you will want something softer for blowing your nose)
  • Baby-Wipes | Wet-Wipes (for personal cleaning)
  • Handi-Wipes, J-Cloth or Chux (optional: easy for a quick daytime clean, fast drying)
  • Rehydration | Electrolytes
  • Snacks!
  • Personal Medical Supplies

NOTE: We have a 'dress code' for the evenings in the tent, which essentially means you'll be changing out of your trekking clothes and into clean, dry evening clothes!

Medical Supplies
We strongly suggest bringing Western meds with you as there are a lot of Indian fakes on the market!

Suggested: Diamox, Azithromyacin, Ciprofloxacin, Tinidazole or Flagyl & Augmentin. Bring COMPEED for covering blisters & good tasting electrolytes &/or rehydration salts (Emergen-C is a good American brand). The local versions aren’t very appealing.
We also recommend bringing strong knee & ankle supports & braces, ACE bandages for sprains & strains, Tegaderm &/or other would coverings. Duct tape is always useful. We're happy to take excess medical supplies off your hands when you leave if you won't need them and pass them on to others. We use lots of the large amount we have with us to treat locals as well as our own trekkers ...

Comments on Gear
Layers are essential for trekking. Quality is more important than quantity. It’s worth investing in the great, newer lightweight trekking gear available in all gear shops, online or in Kathmandu.

Kim's Gear Suggestions: I generally wear a trekking t-shirt, light trekking pants, a mid-weight shirt, a lightweight synthetic jacket (instead of a fleece), a lightweight jacket and pants for wind and rain. If the weather looks stormy or it’s a pass day I carry a lightweight down jacket and a storm-weight jacket. I always have a pair of lightweight gloves (heavier ones additionally for pass days), a hat, a baseball cap and an extra pair of socks in my day-pack. I generally trek in low Merrill hiking shoes, and Keen boots on very cold days and over passes. I always carry Crocs with me in case of river crossings, or to air my feet at lunch. I carry a 38 L (although it looks larger) Black Diamond day pack although I also love Osprey packs. On pass days I carry Yak Trax and trekking poles, and I always have an extra pair of sunglasses, electrolytes, my camera, a medical kit, a Steripen, snacks and lots of water in my pack. My favorite gear brands available in Kathmandu are Sherpa Gear, Mountain Hardwear and Marmot. I wear lots of Patagonia gear although it's not available in Kathmandu.

Good trekking boots are essential. High boots are best, but you don’t need climbing or plastic boots (for mini-crampons or micro-spikes). You can also get away with low, sturdy trekking boot, which I wear quite often except for over the passes. Trekking poles are not required but strongly recommended, especially for going down passes which are often steep and icy and for treks with river crossings. Bring gators if you tend to use them but they’re not required if you don't own a pair. Micro-spikes (mini-crampons) or YakTraxs are almost always useful (or essential) for the pass crossings. We will have at least one ice ax with us. It’s also good (possibly essential) to have a pair of plastic Crocs for washing and to wear in the lodges in the evenings. Tevas take a long time to dry and are relatively heavy.

Good, polarized sunglasses are essential. Do bring an extra pair. Don’t forget a sun hat and/or a baseball cap, an extra headlamp and have plenty of sunscreen and lip balm with SPF!

The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip (although they do tend to weigh more). We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & rips.

Nights are chilly to cold, so a down jacket and a WARM sleeping bag are essentials. For your sleeping bag, we recommend a DOWN bag of 0 to -20 F (-18 to -28 C). Mine is -20 F. At lower altitudes I open it and sleep under it like a quilt and up higher am toasty warm during the cold nights. Campsites near passes can get COLD. Rentals available. The dining tent is a Tibetan style ‘yurt’, with blankets and camp chairs on the ground. It warms up in the evenings with the gas lamp but it is still important to have warm clothes for the evenings. I always use down booties which are great when it’s cold, but a pair of thick wool socks also work.

Bring extra large plastic bags or stuff-sacks in case of rain. You can pack electronics in them or stash your sleeping bag and clothes. The weather is changeable in the Himalaya, so again I recommend that everyone has a strong, WATERPROOF duffel bag for the trip. We supply covers that go over the duffel bags to protect them from rain, dirt & thorns.

Tents
Everyone gets their own Marmot Thor 2 tent without a single supplement. Singles have a 2-person tent and couples share a larger, 3-person version.

Daypack
We recommend a 35-45 liter daypack (ask at your gear shop if you’re not sure of the capacity). Better to have it too large than too small as on pass days you’ll need to carry more warm gear. Most have internal water bladders built in, which are good for ensuring that you stay hydrated. Make sure it fits and is comfortable before purchasing!

In your daypack, you will be carrying your camera, 2 liters of water, a jacket, wind & rain pants, hat, gloves, extra socks, sunscreen, snacks, electrolytes, water purifying tablets, filter, or Steripen camera, hand sanitizer, a pack-cover and often a down jacket. I slip my Crocs on the back in case of unexpected stream crossings or for lunch. Lhakpa & I carry small medical kits in our daypacks.

Water
We bring KATADYN expedition-sized water filters along on the trek for fresh drinking water, ecologically the best way to get water in the Himalaya’s fragile trekking regions. Bring your own filter pump, Steripen/UV purifier or iodine/chlorine tablets for fresh water while trekking. NOTE: To be extra safe with your drinking water, you can drop one purifying tablet into your water bottle after filling with our filtered water. Make sure you wait the required amount of time before drinking, and don’t add anything with Vitamin C as this negates the iodine.

Please bring at least TWO (and better three) Nalgene, Sigg or other unbreakable plastic/metal water bottles. Camelbacks and other bladder systems are good for trekking but can leak, so as a back-up it’s best to also bring a Nalgene or other water bottle.

NOTE: We do not provide boiled water for drinking on either our tea-house/lodge or our camping treks although there is endless hot water for herbal, black or green teas, hot chocolate, hot lemon as well as Indian chai and Kashmiri tea.

Snacks
You will NEED snacks hiking at altitude, even if you’re not a snacker. People crave unusual foods at altitude!  Energy bars, ‘GU’ gels, chocolate bars, dried fruit & nuts, beef jerky (or whatever) are important to have along for long days, pre-lunch bonks and passes. Lemonade mix, Emergen-C or similar drink mixes are great to have for hot days in your water bottles, and it is ESSENTIAL to bring electrolytes with you every day.  

Bring something to share in the tent in the evenings if you want. Cheese is great as a treat on a cheese-board before dinner (Blue, Stilton, Yarlsburg, good Cheddar, Brie, etc). If you would like, bring a bit of your favorite and we’ll throw it on a cheese board for appetizers one night.

NOTE: Nothing besides your personal snack food is required, but it’s fun to see what everyone comes up with!  Almost all basics available in Kathmandu, so no need to over-load.

Rentals
We have Western down jackets to rent for $1.50 per day.  We also have good super-down sleeping bags to rent (0 to -10 F) for $2.50 per day.

Duffel Bags
We have North Face-style duffels with Kamzang logos for sale, L & XL. They’re very good quality and come in Yellow (L) for $35, Orange (XL) for $40 or Orange (XS) for $30.

Packing & Storage
It’s easiest to pack and unpack from a duffel bag, especially when the temperature drops, and easiest for porters to carry. Inexpensive and decent quality duffels are available in Kathmandu but it’s best to invest in a strong, waterproof duffel such as a North Face. You can store extra gear in Kathmandu at the Kathmandu Guest House storage room free of charge. Valuables can be stored at the Kathmandu Guest House in private safety-deposit boxes for 2 NRP per day.

Shopping
Almost all gear is now available in Kathmandu, from real (North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Sherpa, Marmot shops in Thamel) to inexpensive knock-offs. The real gear shops take credit cards.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Kathmandu 1340m
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'll go over some of the logistics of the trek and get to know each other over a few beers ...

Day 2 - Kathmandu
Morning meeting at 9:30 AM in the back garden of the Kathmandu Guest House. The day is free to explore Kathmandu, take excursions into the Kathmandu valley, shop, visit the spa, have a massage or just read a book in the lovely Kathmandu Guest House gardens. We'll have time for a bit of gear shopping in Thamel for anyone who needs to, and in the evening will head out for dinner of wood-oven pizza at the Roadhouse Cafe.

Sightseeing in Kathmandu
Kathmandu is filled with World Heritage sites and sacred destinations, crowded with traditional neighborhoods and colorful festivals. Spend a few days exploring Nepal's exotic capital and the history-laden Kathmandu valley. We can arrange sightseeing guide, vehicles and guides as required. See Kathmandu Heritage + Happenings for more details.

We recommend beginning with Pashupatinath in the early morning, and moving on to Boudhanath mid-morning. Hindu Pashupatinath on the sacred Bagmati river and its sacred temple complex is one of Nepal's most important sites, a powerful cremation site and Nepal's most important Hindu temple. 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. Local guides can explain the significance of the complicated ceremonies. Please be respectful when taking photos.

Boudhanath, in the midst of traditional monasteries (gompas) and hung with long strings of multi-colored prayer flags, attracts Sherpas, Tibetans and tourists alike for daily circumambulations (koras) of the iconic stupa. 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. There are wonderful spots for lunch at Boudhanath (Roadhouse Cafe has wood-oven pizzas and a breathtaking view of the stupa and colorful Nepals circling it), and it's a good place to learn the technique of thanka painting and purchase a thanka (Buddhist mural). See also Bhaktapur for more options for shopping for thankas.

Wander through the many temples, pagodas, courtyards and the museum at Kathmandu Durbar Square, a timeless gathering spot and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Kathmandu Durbar Square, including the old royal palace, is Kathmandu's 'Palace Square', a showcase for the world renown artisans and craftsmen of Kathmandu and a synthesis of Hindu and Buddhist palaces, temples, stupas and statues. The Malla and Shah kings ruled over the Kathmandu Valley during the centuries of the building of the layers of this Durbar Square. Along with their opulent palaces, the square surrounds numerous courtyards and temples, all works of art with intricate and often erotic carvings. Kathmandu Durbar Square is known as Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square, a name derived from a statue of Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Lord Ram, at the entrance of the palace. The social, religious and urban focal point of the city, Durbar Square is often the site of festivals, marriages and other ceremonies such as Teej. Some important structures are Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Kumari Ghar (Abode of the Living Goddess), Taleju Temple, built between the 12th and 18th centuries, the 17th century stone inscription set into the wall of the palace with writings in 15 languages.

In the evening (take the interesting back streets from Durbar Square) climb the many steps to the gilded Swayambhunath stupa (known as the monkey temple) which rises from the Kathmandu valley floor at 1420 meters and is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal. . Swayambunath, the 'self created’  stupa, was founded over 2000 years ago at a time when the Kathmandu valley was filled by a large lake, with a single lotus in the center. Mythology says that Manjusri, a bodhisvatti, drained the lake with one cut of his sword and the lotus flower was transformed into the stupa. From its commanding views of Kathmandu, circumambulate Swayambunath's white-washed stupa, painted with distinctive Buddha eyes, the complex a unique synthesis of Buddhism and Hinduism. Another interesting time to visit Swayambunath is in the mornings, when Nepalis visit the temple dedicated to the God of Smallpox to with colorful offerings for the goddess.

Stop to photograph reflections in Kathmandu's many pokhari's, or ponds, including the beautiful Rani Pokhari (queen's bath) near New Road, and the Naga Pokhari (pond of the snake gods of the underworld) just beyond the palace gates. The many bathing ghats, square enclosures with steps leading down to water spouts, often decorated with naga heads, are also interesting and colorful gathering spots.

Day 3 - Fly Tumlingtar 395m
After an early breakfast we'll head to the airport for our flight to Tumlingtar in eastern Nepal, the starting point of our trek through the Arun & Salpa valleys en route to the Khumbu region. It's a beautiful flight over terraced fields and traditional villages with a range of Himalayan 8000 meter peaks peeking over the haze in the distance. The landing is classic old-style Nepal; a sharp turn, a steep descent to a once-grassy and now newly-paved airstrip, backed by a small, dirt track that's the main 'street' in Tumlingtar.

We are staying in rooms in a local-style guest house, Makalu Hotel, as there are no longer any good sites in Tumlingtar, but our cook Junar will cook our meals for us. We'll introduce you to our 'Kamzang-style' way of running treks, have some lunch and you'll have the afternoon free to reorganize and explore the rustic village of Tumlingtar. Kim, Lhakpa and the staff will go into town to buy some supplies for the trek, and you're welcome to tag along if you want. There's a local barber for any of the guys wanting a quick pre-trek shave and haircut!

The next few nights will be warm, so dinner will just be in a t-shirt; enjoy it while it lasts, and have a cold beer to wash it down as we're sleeping below 400 meters.

Day 4 - Trek Kartiki Ghat 315m
The Arun Salpa Valley trek will be wonderful days of 'old-style' trekking through the idyllic middle hills of eastern Nepal, a very diverse region of many ethnic groups, shamanistic religion interspersed with Buddhism and Hinduism, traditional thatched and bamboo villages, green, terraced rice paddies, patterned fields of grains, small, riverside trails, local schools, basic 'bhattis' (teahouses) and lots of hills walking.

With the mountains rising in the hazy distance, Chamalang to the left and Makalu to the far-right, we set out with our crew from Tumlingtar, following the small road through the long village and adjoining series of small, lively villages and colorful tea-houses. There will be many locals sharing the trail with us, as well as trains of mules carrying cardamom, the biggest cash crop in the region, and other supplies. After an hour, we reach a fantastic suspension bridge with side ties stretching across the wide Arun River (which we don't cross) and drop down to the sandy riverside, peppered with rounded beach rocks. Following the river closely, we pass terraced rice fields, buffalos, thatched huts and villagers working in the fields. Soon, the Chewa Besi primary school appears on the right, a scenic spot under banana and papaya trees, followed soon afterwards by the small, local tea-houses of Chewa Besi where we stop for a packed lunch. Notice the bee hives in old logs attached to the top decks of many of the houses.

After a game of 'karam board' at the tea-house, we continue to the small village of Kartiki Ghat, where we cross the Arun river on a long suspension bridge. The village, known for its bees and honey, stretches out just past the bridge, and our campsite is not far past the village, a scenic, green campsite right on the Arun River, between two gurgling streams. Enjoy the warmth of this 'tropical' site, and pick up some cold beers from town ...

Day 5 - Trek Gothe Bazaar 685m
We start the morning with an easy twenty minute walk to the lovely village of Balwa Besi, where we cross a small, sparkling stream on a wooden bridge and then start climbing past a few local teahouses where bananas and oranges are often available. We continue through a lush, tropical forest and past thatched and white-washed huts to a 'chautara' (local rest-spot, here also a spectacular viewpoint) high above the hazy valley and the Arun River. Leaving the lovely Arun behind, we have 600 meters (in total from camp) to climb before lunch, and the trail of red mud can be slippery if the weather has been damp. Contouring around hillsides and continuing to climb, we reach the lovely small village of Marduwa and pass other scenic hamlets surrounded by terraced rice paddies and fruit trees (including one nut used for making Hindu 'malas' (prayer beads). We walk right through more terraced rice paddies and clusters of ochre and cream mud-brick houses built in the local style, eventually stopping for lunch near Nepali Danda, also called Charlissay, named after a Chettri caste that lived here many years ago and have reputedly migrated to the Kathmandu area.

Soon we reach the intersection of the old trail from Dingla, and after contouring around a hillside through more rice paddies (this is actually the main trail), we reach a larger trail near a cluster of banyan trees. The forest thickens again as we ascend and then drop back down on a muddy, slippery trail to the Irkhuwa River . We cross two more bridges, the second one a long suspension bridge, and following a riverside trail through a small hamlet where locals might be threshing their dried rice, for another 45 minutes. Keep your eyes out for brilliant, blue Kingfishers looking for fish in the river. After reaching a small teahouse perched on a low ridge where we often find bunches of sweet bananas and tangerines for sale, we descend once more and after 10 minutes arrive at Gothe Bazaar. Here, the inhabitants a mix of Gurung and Rai and it's a local stop for Nepali porters traveling with loads. We should be able to find some local pumpkins for soup, delicious ...

Day 6 - Trek Salpa Phedi 1520m
Another misty morning start as we head towards Dhobane, a village of paper-makers (the same that you see in the Kathmandu markets) en route to Salpa Phedi. We leave Goethe Bazaar by crossing the stream and the tea-houses on the opposite side and soon pass many thatched huts in the middle of more terraced rice paddies; most of these are shelters for buffalos. Delicious tangerines are sold along the trail again by local villagers, so don't miss the chance to pick up a bunch for the day. After an hour of flat walking through more harvested rice paddies, we cross the river on a flexing bamboo bridge, and hike up through the picturesque whitewashed village of Lankuwa, a hamlet of only three houses. We reach the suspension bridge that connects us to the trail the porters will take, climb again and soon reach Negdaha village, slightly larger, with the same thatched roofs and ochre and cream whitewash and banana trees for shade. Soon afterwards we start on a steep, uphill climb past a few small waterfalls and over one more suspension bridge to Dhobane; the staff often eat their morning meal at some local tea-houses. Taking the stone steps just to the right of this stop, we'll have another few hours of gradual climbing through tropical forests; notice the long, green leaves of the cardamom plant throughout the day and the traditional fishermen with their long, bamboo nets along the river below.

We'll have lunch at a local house an hour before Tendo, a large and attractive Rai village where they also make traditional Nepali paper. Half an hour past here is a school of 350 students that goes up to class 10. We'll stop for a cup of chai at a small teahouse (we bought great Kyunri knives here last year) before hiking another hour uphill, on a lovely hill-side trail backed by undulating grasses, rocks and fruit trees until we reach the grassy campsite at Phedi, a welcome site. Someone will undoubtedly be around with a basket of expensive but much needed beers and cokes.

Day 7 - Trek Jau Bari 2315m
We divided a long day into two short ones to avoid a 1500 meter ascent in one day, but if people are fit we can do it all the same day; we did this the past two years but it's a bit daunting.

We start the morning with a steep climb on stone steps, passing through the many dwellings of upper Salpa Phedi, and then keep climbing with increasingly amazing views down the valley, the layers of hills various shades of icy-blue below us. It will take us several hours of climbing to reach Jau Bari, a village where they grow the best barley in the region and where there is a Sherpa gompa (monastery) just below a small campsite below the Sherpa Lodge. We set up camp here, have lunch and enjoy the lazy afternoon.

Day 8 - Trek Gurase 3000m
We have another short day of steep climbing, first past the last terraced fields of Jau Bari, afterwards past several walled, grassy resting spots with views and then through rhododendron and oak forests, increasingly thick. Over an hour of climbing later, the shrill forest birds signalling our path, the trail leaves the cloud forest, hugs the side of the hill, opens up and after passing a large rock in the middle of the trail we crest the small 'Guranse La'. Just after a short descent, we pass the turnoff to Salpa Lake where there is an important summertime festival and two others at various times during the year. There is also an alternative trail to the Salpa La (3430m) from here. Soon afterwards we reach Gurase, a small hamlet with three Sherpa houses which translates as 'best rhododendrons'. The village below us is called Chayaksila. We set up camp in back of one of these houses on one of the only flat plateaus in sight, and are treated to a breath-taking sunset and sunrise. It will be colder here, so you'll want your down jacket for the evening. Collect some firewood to keep warm and we'l build a blazing fire when the afternoon clouds move in.

Day 9 - Trek Tiu 2670m
Onto the pass! The Salpa Bhanjyang (3360m) with its single, large chorten on top, is the border of the Bhojpur and the Solu Khumbu districts. We've now entered the predominently Sherpa section of the Solu Khumbu region. It's a short ascent, just over an hour, to the chorten-topped and windy pass where we have wonderful views of snow-capped Karylung Peak to the west. We descend steeply through the forest on a stone-step trail that is always snow-covered and pass a small local doksa half-way down. Following the small stream and several mani walls to the Lidung Khola, we cross to the north bank and continue on to Whaka with its few Rai tea-houses; we'll stop for lunch here. An hour or so afterwards we reach the picturesque Sherpa village of Sanam. Sanam, 'the land of the sky', is a lovely village with traditional Sherpa houses, terraced fields, a large, white-washed chorten and an intimate village gompa. From Sanam it's an easy half an hour further descent through open forest to camp at the small hamlet of Tiu, where we set up camp in a grassy site and get ready for a few beers in the evening. We'll have the afternoon free, enough time to explore and enjoy the scenic surroundings behind the bamboo grove ...

Day 10 - Trek Gudel 1965m
Leaving pleasant Tiu, we contour along a high trail with broad views, and soon arrive at the rustic gompa at Nimtsola village with its new Guru Rimpoche statue; past this village, Sherpa influence ends and the land of the Rai begins. The Rais, who speak an ancient, non-written language called Kiranti, were some of the earliest hill-inhabitants of the Nepal middle hills, a stout, attractive and proud ethnic group which you will see all over the Everest region, and winning most of the high-altitude races. The trail is now larger as we contour another few hours along the hillside, passing a local paper 'factory' en route, and finally reaching the many buffalo huts and terraces fields of the large Rai village of Gudel Phedi. The equally sprawling village of Bung and the Naulekh mountains are visible in the distance, as is Mera Peak to the far right as we enter the village. Just over the ridge, we descend steeply on slate steps to our campsite in back of Namaste Lodge at Gudel.

Gudel is a very interesting, picturesque and traditional village of Kulung Rai, with approximately five hundred houses and a large school partially funded by an Australian INGO with 650 students. We have scheduled a long afternoon here to explore and take photos of the colorful dwellings and chat with the welcoming villagers. The Rais grow a diverse variety of crops, which include wheat, corn, potatoes, barley, millet and 'sag', a local spinach-like green. You'll see the corn, actually maize, drying from racks above the ground, wicker baskets stacked on the decks and pigs, chickens and roosters freely roaming the village. The village is also reported to grow the most delicious taro in the region, so we'll search out some for dinner.

Last year we arrived in time for two Rai weddings, very social events involving unending brass and copper vessels of chang and raksi, roaming Nepali musicians playing Central Asian instruments, dancing and endless plates of Rai fare. Lots of fun!

Day 11 - Trek Kiraunle Gompa 2540m
We'll start early as it's a long day, beginning with a steep, six hundred meter descent through rice paddies and cardamom plants, on slippery stone slabs, to the bridge over the river far below us (1325m). We cross a long, wooden bridge and begin the equally steep ascent to the large, Rai village of Bung. Following the stream on a rock trail, we ascend a switch-backing trail after crossing the Hungu Khola; Bung begins soon afterwards and continues upwards, built on the hillside, the lowest houses of the village about three hundred meters below the upper reaches. Bung means 'beautiful flower' in Rai, and is indeed a lovely, bustling village renowned for its tongba, or millet beer. It has received much development aid recently as partly because so many of the Rai men from Bung are trekking porters, guides or cook at the lodges in the Khumbu. Villagers will be selling oranges at the start of the village, and half way up there is a big school. We usually trek up to the school with the kids, who seem always to be late for the morning exercises and skip up the steep, stone steps. A few minutes above the school are several shops where you can pick up a coke, snack or possibly oranges. The entrance to the Makalu Barun National Park is just across the trail. We keep climbing, eventually the trail flattens a bit, and we continue to trek with great views and cooler temperatures until we reach a small cluster of houses and a grassy plateau where we'll stop for lunch. Soon afterwards, there is a small, friendly tea-house where we might stop for a glass of chai and give the owner some business. Just afterwards is the local school of Kiraunle, with the green, Sherpa village of Kiraunle to the right, and a last steep climb on stone steps brings us to the grounds of Kiraunle-Chambaling Gompa, recently built, our campsite for the night. There is no permanent monk or lama in the gompa, but you can walk the mani-lined perimeter and take a look around inside the gompa walls.

If the porters arrive late, wander into the cozy kitchen of the Kiraunle Lodge, where the friendly owner might be brewing a pot of salt-butter tea. The temperature begins to cool down as we ascend, and the clouds often move in during the afternoons. Be ready for a chilly morning as well!

Day 12 - Trek Sibuje 2660m
Another pass day, this time a two and a half to three hour hike up to the crest of the Surkie La. Heading straight up out of the campsite to the ancient, moss-covered chortens and mani walls on the ridge, we pass through an ancient rhododendron forest dripping with Spanish moss. After nearly two hours of hiking we reach the Kulung Rai hamlet of Charakot, really just a small group of tea-houses and a grazing 'ghot'. Soon afterwards past another few tea-houses and more mani walls we reach the Surkie La (3070 m). There are better views at the sightseeing platform just above the narrow 'pass' ridge where we'll be able to see Karyolung, Khatang and Numbur, so head up for a look. The descent is steep, down a rocky trail and through a forest of bamboo, and soon we arrive at the scenic grazing area of Najing Dingma, a tiny hamlet and grazing area with a few small tea-houses and shops, set on a flat, green section of the hillside.

We leave Najing Dingma and descend through a leafy woods for an hour to Gai Kharka (a kharka is a seasonal grazing settlement in Nepali, and gai means cow), another small village of only a few thatched huts, and continue descending steeply to the rickety bridge (built by the Himalayan Trust, obviously many years ago) high above the Inkhu Khola. From here, we've got a steep ascent of which the owner of the small Nepali tea-house near the bridge said 'it's so steep that even the monkeys fall off'. Enough said, it's a steep climb of two to three hours to the next village, but as we gain altitude we're treated to spectacular views up and down the Inkhu Valley, eventually spotting Mera Peak looming in front of us. Sibuje (the local Sherpa name is Ningso, which means dense bamboo forest) is a large village at 2660 meters, spread out over the hillside, market by Tibetan prayer flags at the lower end, with two local tea-houses just past the flag and a small gompa at the upper reaches. We'll be happy to reach our campsite in lower Sibuje, a lovely, a grassy plateau carved out from the hillside, in back of which is a friendly Sherpa lodge. Tongba sometimes available ...

Day 13 - Trek Pangum 2900m
After breakfast, we'll only have an hour of climbing to reach the two small tea-houses below the pass, and then another hour to reach the Pangum La (or Satu La) pass, at 3175 meters. We see the trail from Jiri, the Trakshindo La and the incredibly scenic Sherpa village of Pangum below, and in half an hour reach our scenic campsite in back of a friendly Sherpa lodge. Pangum now has a few quite nice lodges, a Hillary school, fields marked by wooden fences and a Tibetan Buddhist gompa off to the northern side of the village. We'll have a fantastic sunset out over the wide open valley, with Karyolung rising majestically in front of us, across the Dudh Kosi (the 'milk river' that leads to the Khumbu region).

Day 14 - Trek Phakepani 2775m - Christmas Day
The camping has been great, but we'll welcome the next few nights in cozy Sherpa lodges from now on. Heading out of town past the long rows of old mani walls, we look out at the hilltop village of Kharikhola in the distance, but veer right on a smaller, wooded trail towards the small hamlet of Kharte two and a half hours away and then the Khari La ('wide pass'). Once fortified with a cup of tea at Kharte, it will take us a good hour and a half of contouring and climbing to crest the pass at 3075m meters, but the views are amazing from the top. We'll have our first view of the sacred Sherpa peak, Khumbu Yul Lha (Khumbila), and Gyachen Kang, and then Kusum Kangaru just around the corner. It's a quick descent on a rocky trail to the main Jiri trail, and then just another half and hour to the charming village of Puiyan, where we'll stop for lunch at the Beehive Lodge. Another enjoyable hour of hiking along a wide trail with broad views and over a small ridge brings us to Phakepani, where we'll bed down at Ang Dali's Mountain View Lodge for the night, a real Sherpa experience. Showers, cold beer and tongba are available, so clean up and head to the warm kitchen table for the evening ...

NOTE: Some of our great trekking crew will head down from here, and we will continue on with Lhakpa and some of the porters. In the evening we will hand out tips and buy a few bottles of raksi for the staff heading to Lukla tomorrow.

We'll celebrate Christmas Day with some 'cheer' at the intimate lodge at Phakepani, one of our favorites ... Merry Christmas!

Day 15 - Trek Monjo 2840m
After a good night's sleep and a lodge-cooked breakfast, we head through the long village of Puiyan, past the lively school, and stay relatively level for a few hours. Getting closer to the upper Khumbu region, we continue to contour around hillsides, just below a small pass called Chutok La to another small hamlet of Surke from where we have a glimpse of the Kongde Massif (Nupla peak) and across (up) the valley, Lukla. After crossing a suspension bridge, a gradual incline and gentle series of cobbled steps leads us below Lukla to Chaunrikharka, where we amble along an old, walled trail pass many traditional Sherpa houses, mani walls and fields of barley, potatoes and vegetables, a dramatic entrance to the Upper Khumbu region. We continue through this magical village pasts more mani walls until we reach Chheplung, a village of checkered fields and a few small lodges.

Many wonderful days later we have met the main Lukla trekking route to Everest Base Camp and the Gokyo Valley, so will see a few more trekkers, although not so many in December. From here, the mountain views keep getting more and more spectacular as we head north towards the turquoise Gokyo Lakes. Ahead of us is Karyolung 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 Kailash Lodge for the night. Monjo is a spectacularly situated Sherpa village where Kim taught English years ago.

Day 16 - Trek Namche 3450m
After a short walk past the school from Kailash Lodge with Khumbila (or Khumbu Yul La) rising majestically ahead of us, 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 cross one more long bridge before 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 (new in 2013) 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; local women sell delicious oranges at the resting point. Another 45 minutes or so and we arrive at the old trading village of Namche Bazaar, now a thriving trekking metropolis. We'll have a short tour of the shopping and bakeries in Namche before heading up steep stone steps to our guest house, Natang & Pemba's wonderful Moonlight Lodge, scenically situated at the top of Namche (3500m).

Namche Bazaar, once called Nauje and 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 17 - Namche
Today is an acclimatization day in Namche. Everyone is free to relax and explore the crowded main streets of Namche, the Sherpa Cultural Center (photographic museum, fantastic), the reconstructed traditional Sherpa house (next door), the National Park Headquarters Museum (where you'll have easy views of Everest, Lhotse & Nuptse+), colorful Namche Gompa with its own new museum and the Tibetan market. The Tibetans are often encamped in the center of town in a muddy bazaar (potato fields in the summer) touting their goods from China. Indulge yourself at one of the many bakeries, shop for some yak bells or hand-woven Himalayan hats, chat with the sociable Sherpas in the village, or just relax in preparation for the trek. There are now new Mountain Hardwear and Sherpa gear shops as well as Tsering's older shop with a variety of real trek gear if you find that you're missing something (or just want to shop). 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 (above the huge mani stone at the top of the steps), just past Syangboche airstrip, worth the effort for the panoramic views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Thamserku, Kantega, Kusum Kangaru, Taboche and Ama Dablam.

Moonlight 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 if you're feeling lazy (or feeling the altitude). Later in the afternoon you might spot yaks wandering into the back yard of the Moonlight Lodge. They will be ours, with our yak-driver Kaila, and will accompany us for the rest of the trek.

DAY-HIKE OPTION:
Kim & Lhakpa will lead whoever wants on a loop through the Khunde and Khumjung valley. Taking advantage of the crisp morning light we 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 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 might also hike higher along a beautiful ridge trail to another slightly broader viewpoint at 3900 meters and the Everest View Hotel, continuing back down to Chhukhung along a scenic trail. We may see some Himalayan tahr grazing on the hillsides, and possibly Danphe and Chukkars. We will visit the old 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.

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 ...

Day 18 - Trek Dole 4050m
Leaving Namche and heading back up the hill, we turn right at the large mani stone at the top of the village and hike along a wide trail to the prayer flag on the pole at the next corner. From here it's easy trekking high above the Dudh Kosi heading north, contouring around several ridges and past the large, newly erected memorial chorten where we'll be treated to fantastic views of Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam rising high above the valley. About an hour later we reach 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 some of 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 of Gokyo and Tengboche, and take the steep trail up to the bridge which intersects with the old trail from Khumjung. We climb gradually, first on stone steps and then on a smaller trail, for another hour of so to Mong La, where we will have lunch on the deck of Boudha Lodge, perched spectacularly on this 4000 meter ridge. It's a wonderful spot overlooking both the Gokyo and Kala Pattar valleys, with a breath-taking panorama of peaks: Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Malan Palan, Taboche and the newly named Kamzang Peak. Phortse, one of the oldest villages in the Everest region, is perched at the intersection of the Khumbu & Gokyo valleys in front of us. The misty layers of the hills and valleys south of us are visible down-valley, as are Monjo and the bridge to Jorsale. Walk out on the ridge and look down on Tengboche Gompa on the ridge across the Dudh Kosi.

After lunch we descend steeply, through a forest of pine and rhododendron on a steep switchbacking trail and then on stone steps, to Phortse Tenga. Tenga means riverside, so after descending we immediately ascend again on the higher trail at the intersection of Phortse and the Gokyo valley. The route is beautiful, past frozen waterfalls, up cathedral-like stone staircases, through old rhododendron and Himalayan Birch forests, across small rivers and past tiny Sherpa settlements. The forest is home to several musk deer, shy creatures which peer out at us through the tangle of rhododendron. We arrive a few hours later, having had our first view of the 8000 meter Cho Oyu, at the summer herding settlement of Dole, where we stop for the night at either Kami's Himalayan Lodge or Urkien and Kanchi Maya's Yeti Lodge. Dole translates as 'plenty of stones', and anyone who has extra energy can cross the stony streambed and ascend either of the neighboring ridges for some good Himalayan views. It's a cold spot; the sun drops below the ridge at 2:30, but it comes up early in the morning to make up for a chilly evening. Huddle around the stove and enjoy a Himalayan evening ...

Day 19 - Trek Macherma 4430m
We continue up the Gokyo valley on similar tundra-like terrain with well-worn trails cutting paths in the hard-packed earth. We'll be gaining elevation as we trek along the ftrail high above the valley floor, Cho Oyu looming in front of us at the border of Nepal and Tibet for the later part of the walk. We pass some small Sherpa herding huts en route, the first a singular lodge above local Sherpa huts. and after a few more hours of trekking we arrive at the charming yak-herding settlement of Luza. This is one of the many seasonal settlements of the Khunde and Khumjung inhabitants; the next one is Macherma, which we reach 45 minutes later, having climbed steeply out of Dole to a set of prayer flags marking the end of the settlement, and ascending and descended once again to Macherma. Macherma is the name of a local female goddess, who we hope will bless our stay here!

We'll get some rooms at the quite luxurious Tibetan-styled Namgyal Lodge, and enjoy some good Sherpa cooking around the warm dining room stove. Try the 'thukpa'. Namgyal is half Sherpa and half Tibetan and plays the 'damye', or Tibetan guitar. Again, anyone wanting an afternoon hike can climb up the ridges on either side of Macherma.

Day 20 - Trek Gokyo 4800m - New Year's Eve
Another sublime trekking day heading to Gokyo and the Gokyo lakes at 4800 meters. Another climb to start the day; we hike up to the prayer flags and cairns on the ridge and then descent gently with Fanga, a single lodge across the river from the seasonal village of Nha, a half hour ahead of us. Past Fanga where the trail narrows, we descent and then climb on stone steps on an often icy trail, with frozen waterfalls to our left. We reach the confluence of the Dudh Kosi coming from the Gokyo valley and the stream coming from the Nzozumba Glacier and cross this river on a small metal bridge. We've reached the idyllic Gokyo valley, with the small first lake, now partially filled with algae, surrounded by sculptural cairns just ahead. Ruddy Shelducks float on the far end of this lake as well as the next two.

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; we continue trekking on a rocky, winding trail for half an hour to the second lake and soon after 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. 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, our host, is always ready with a smile and a laugh, and with her son Tenzin and daughter Ang Tashi helping at the lodge you'll feel right at home. (We'll stay at the Gokyo Resort or Namaste Lodge if Cho Oyu is closed for the season).

Lured into the wonderful sun-room, it is easy to spend the rest of 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 lake-side views. Wander along the lateral moraine overlooking the Khumbu glacier for sunset, just a ten minute walk above Gokyo ...

It's New Year's Eve, and although 4800 meters isn't the optimal altitude for a drink, we'll have a celebration anyways. And perhaps just a little slug of mulled wine ...

Day 21 - Gokyo
After breakfast we'll cross the small, glacial stream, jumping over the stone 'bridge' to get to the base of Gokyo Ri (5360m), just five minutes from the lodge. It will take us about two hours of switch-backing to reach the prayer-flag festooned summit; take your time as the views down valley past Gokyo lake are great the whole way up. From the top, we are treated to a spectacular, 360 degree panorama of the Gokyo lakes, the glacial moraine and the surrounding Himalayan giants; Cho Oyu, Everest, Lhotse and Makalu among many others. To the west is the Renjo La (4515 meters) pass, the gateway to the Thame Valley and the Nangpa La, which the Tibetans cross with their yaks en route to Namche.

A free day in Gokyo, with lots to do! If you didn't get up Gokyo Ri yesterday you'll have another chance to get to the top and enjoy the views today. Another option is a beautiful day hike up the Gokyo valley, past two or three more glacial lakes, heading towards the massive, white massif of Cho Oyu. There are several trails that snake up this 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 views of Everest and the Himalayan range. The unobstructed view of Everest from Scoundrel's Point (4995m) is a great 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 22 - Trek Phortse 3780m
A truly epic day of wonderful hiking on high mountain trails which skirt the ridges on the west of the river. We trek back along the lakes, across the metal bridge and to a few minutes below the stone steps, where we cross the river on a small bridge to the small hamlet of Nha. We stay low and hike through old grazing settlements and soon after gradually climb back up, contouring on a high trail along the western side of Cholatse and Taboche peaks. The trail undulates, so although we lose 1000 meters during the day it's a challening hike. We pass lichen-covered rocks, ancient mani walls and large mani stones en route, and looking back we have a continuous unobstructed view of Cho Oyu and the glacial valley, and ahead of us Ama Dablam. There are several very traditional seasonal Sherpa villages, with yaks and Tibetan Snowcocks in the walled enclosures; we'll stop for lunch about four hours after leaving Gokyo at Thore, the second seasonal village. After lunch we'll have two or three more hours to hike, a few ridges topped with chortens, magnificent views of Taboche, and lots of wildlife, so enjoy the day.

We arrive early afternoon at Phortse, in time to stop at the colorful Phortse Gompa at the very top of the village. Phortse, a maze of small, walled lanes, traditional houses and now many newer lodges, is one of the oldest villages in the Khumbu. The village perches scenically on the promontory protruding from Taboche, which towers majestically above it. Many daphne, musk deer and blood pheasants live in the woods that border the village, and you can almost always see them early and late in the day.

We stay the night at Ba Nuru and Pasang's Phortse Lodge, which boasts one of the regions nicest dining area, a good sound system and TV, delicious food and a stocked bar, a good thing!

Day 23 - Trek Namche
Continuing back down the valley, we leave Pangboche by passing by the numerous trekking lodges and shops of Lower Pangboche and exiting the town through the open chorten (kane). We descend, on a beautiful and well-worn trail lined with ancient mani walls and whitewashed chortens with Buddha eyes, down to the Imja Khola far below. After crossing the river on a new metal bridge (look below to see the old bridge), we hike on wide yak-trails through the hamlet of Devoche, passing ancient, moss-covered mani stones and the ani gompa (nunnery) of Devoche on the right. Stop for a peek into this old monastery, the equally ancient looking nuns often perform mid-day pujas. Soon after passing the nunnery we pass the few small lodges of Devoche and then ascend a relatively steep, switchbacking trail through a dense rhododendron forest for a good half an hour to reach Tengboche (4000 meters), backed by the massive wall of Kantega and well-known for its large monastery, Tengboche Gompa. Tengboche is the largest monastic community in the Everest region and one of the Khumbu's most important monasteries.

We'll take some time to visit Tengboche Gompa before the steep, hour-long descent on a dusty, hill-side trail to Phunki Tenga. From here, we cross the Dudh Kosi on a new bridge and heading back up steeply through pine forests, and past small local settlements to Tashi and Lhakpa's Amadablam Lodge at Kyangjuma. We'll stop for a scenic lunch on the terrace, gazing out on the majestic Ama Dablam. Don't miss the shopping; Tashi is famous for her jewelry which she also sells in Colorado in the summertime. From here, it's an easy hour and a half contour around many brushy hillsides to reach Namche, the Tibetan market, the Moonlight lodge, hot showers, good food and a glass of wine or a cold beer.

Day 24 - Trek Lukla 2845m
Up early as it's quite a long day back to Lukla. 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 girls Kim sponsors (she's now in school in Kathmandu), and we will probably run into her youngest sibling en route. After one last steep hill to the National Park gate, we reach the welcome sight of Monjo. We might run into Dali, the mother of Dawa Yangi and Nimalee, two Monjo sisters that we sponsor for school in Khumjung. We continue back to Lukla along the same trail, although it always looks different coming from the opposite direction.

We’ll stop for lunch at Shangri La in Phakding, and finish the trek back at Dawa Phuti & Ang Pasang's Eco Paradise Lodge in Lukla, where the adventurous can try some of Dawa's famous 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 works closely with the airport, so we are in good hands for our flight out the next morning.

Day 25 - Fly 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.

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 dinner at one of Thamel's many restaurants and celebrate our trek through the Everest region.

Day 26 - 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 27 - Depart
We take you to the airport for your international flight. Namaste!

Day 12 - Trip Ends
Transfer to the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) for your flight home. Namaste!

Kathmandu | Optional Sightseeing Tour Bhaktapur
One more day in Kathmandu, with an optional sightseeing excursion by private vehicle to Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur which translates as 'Place of Devotees’ and is also known as Bhadgaon, is an ancient Newar city approximately 15 kilometers east of the Kathmandu Valley. Bhaktapur is one of three ancient capitals of the Kathmandu valley, the capital of the Newar Kingdom and a city of artisans and craftspeople famous for its art and architecture: intricate carvings, sculptures, paintings, thankas, pottery, statues and temples, or pagodas. Bhaktapur has a well-preserved ‘durbar square’, or palace square, and has been named a World Heritage site by UNESCO because of its incredible temples, pagodas, wood carvings, stone carvings and metalwork. Bhaktapur is also famous for its yogurt, called curd in Asia, a taste which hasn’t been duplicated anywhere.

Spend a full day exploring Bhaktapur and its rich cultural heritage, where a majority of enthnic Newaris live in traditional ways, and life seems to stand still. There are many great restaurants and cafes to rejuvenate, and it's possibly the best spot in Kathmandu for purchasing a thanka after watching the technique, as well as shopping for endless other locally produced crafts. Bhaktapur is home to countless local festivals, so if you are lucky and arrive on a festival day, enjoy the timeless and colorful events unfold.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Bhaktapur (+$100)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Kathmandu | Optional Sightseeing Tour Patan
Visit the third of Kathmandu's ancient capitals, known as 'The City of Fine Arts', best if you have an extra day in hand as Patan is also rich in cultural heritage, has many lovely roof-top cafes for lunch and world-class museums. Some of the highlights of Patan are its Durbar Square, the Krishna Temple within the palace complex of Patan (entirely made of stone, with 21 distinctive spires), and Hiranya Varna Mahavir, or the Golden Buddha Temple.

+ Kathmandu World Heritage Sightseeing Tour | Patan (+$50)
+ Entrance Fees not Included for Single Person

Kathmandu | Optional Everest Sightseeing Flight
An hour long extravaganza of the world's 8000 meter peaks, including airport transfers. (+$270)

Kathmandu | Optional Extra Days at Shivapuri Heights Cottages
A wonderful get away 20 km north of Kathmandu, Shivapuri Heights Cottages are stylishly designed and personal cottages built around a 'common house', where you can breakfast overlooking the stunningly beautiful Kathmandu valley. Massages available on request. (+Inquire for Price)

Kathmandu | Optional Cycling Trip in Kathmandu Valley
Many options for day trips, or extended trips, in the Kathmandu Valley. We can customize a cycling trip for you in partnership with one of our knowledgeable partners in Kathmandu. (+Inquire for Price)

Extra Days in Kathmandu | Customize your Journey!
We have plenty of great suggestions for extra days, or weeks, in Nepal! See our Nepal & Kathmandu Modules | Customize Your Trip! to put together the perfect journey.

Mountain biking, rafting, vespa tours or yoga retreats around the Kathmandu valley or Pokhara, trips to Bhaktapur or Patan (Kathmandu Valley's other historic capital cities), a visit to the Newari temple of Changu Narayan and a night at the Fort Hotel in Nagarkot for sublime Himalayan panoramas, an Everest sightseeing flight, a luxurious stay at Temple Tree Resort & Spa, paragliding, hiking or zip-lining in Pokhara, a spa & wellness getaway at Dwarikas Resort in Dhulikhel, a relaxing excursion to Chitwan National Park Wildlife Safari & Tharu Villages (staying at Maruni Sanctuary Lodge) or Bardia National Park, a weekend of adventure, sauna and pampering at The Last Resort or five-star treatment in historic Dwarika's in Kathmandu.

Kamzang Journeys can customize any of these excursions for you, just inquire!

Arun Salpa Region

This trek is a feast of green, fertile valleys, dramatic snow-peaks, traditional mountain villages and diverse cultures, a real journey through eastern Nepal starting in one of Nepal's many remote outposts, Tumlingtar. Many of the inhabitants of the middle hills below Lukla are Sherpas, the tough, devout Tibetan Buddhist mountaineers of international repute. They live mainly in the upper Solu region (and of course are the main inhabitants of the Khumbu region), farming barley, wheat and potatoes, tending their livestock, visiting their gompas, celebrating many Buddhist and Tibetan/Sherpa festivals and of course, trekking and climbing the high peaks in the Khumbu region.

Their neighbors, the Rai, tend to live further south, in clean, orderly, fertile villages with lots of opportunity to farm rice, millet and corn. Their dress is different from the Sherpas, who one might mistake for Tibetans; the Rai woman wear colorful lungis, and are adorned with golden nose rings while the men wear woolen vests, their khuri knives hanging at their sides. They often travel for work, many join the army, and you will meet them often working as guides, 'sherpas', cooks or porters in the trekking industry, many opening restaurants and lodges as they become more wealthy. The Rai, like the Sherpa, are of Tibetan descent but speak a Tibeto-Burmese dialect which is still only orally transmitted. Their religion, called Mudum, is an ancient form of animism, worshiped in the home, with shamans and holy men (dhami) enacting the many rituals and ceremonial rites. They are considered some of the oldest inhabitants of Nepal, and are of the Kirat ethnic group.

After our trek through the lush Salpa Arun Valley, we continue north through Sherpa country towards the border of Tibet, trekking up to the spectacular Gokyo valley lakes under clear, blue December skies. Once in Gokyo, there is lots of exploring to be done, Gokyo Ri to climb, and spectacular viewpoints for sunrise and sunset. We spend Christmas day at a wonderful lodge in Goyko, right on the lake. We usher in the New Year in Phortse, at one of our favorite lodges, after trekking down a little used trail on the eastern side of the valley, a wonderful route topped by 8000-meter snow peaks.

En route, we visit many of Kim and Lhakpa's favorite spots in the Everest region; Lhakpa comes from Thame, just west of Namche, and has relatives throughout the Khumbu, and Kim has been coming to the Everest region for years, her home away from home. We'll stay in cozy Sherpa lodges, stop at old Sherpa villages off the usual tourist trail, visit Buddhist gompas in Pangboche and Tengboche, and experience the real Solu Khumbu during our favorite month in the Everest region.

Everest Region

Nepal’s Solu Khumbu region is widely known as the Everest region, a diverse area of spectacular Himalayan panoramas, diverse flora including blue pine, juniper and silver fir, rare wildlife and some of the highest mountains on the planet. The Khumbu is the original Sherpa homeland, a region of Nyigmapa Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, ancient chortens, lung-ta (prayer flags), glaciers, Himalayan passes, high pasturelands and once-traditional villages now often (but not always) crowded with trekking lodges and shops. The region is dominated by the sacred Khumbila peak, which rises above Khumjung and Kunde, two of the larger villages in the area, with Mount Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam towering over the village from the opposite side. The elevation of the Khumbu ranges from 2840 meters to the 8,848 meter summit of Mount Everest.

There are several ways to enter the most commonly trekked part of the Everest region,  the Khumbu. Most people fly into the Hillary Airstrip in Lukla (2840 meters), and the second most popular route is via Jiri, a diverse trek of 7-8 days crossing numerous smaller passes and ridges, and trekking through traditional Hindu, Rai and Tamang villages. The third route is via the old mountaineering trail of Shipton, Hillary and all of the original mountaineers starting in Tumlingtar (or before that, way back when), following the Aun River for a few days before veering west and trekking in very hilly, beautiful country through sprawling Rai villages until the Jiri route is intersected. The last route is via the Rolwaling Tashi Laptsa Pass, a challenging six day trek from Barabise and Chariot, through the realm of the goddess Tashi Tserringma (according to Sherpa mythology), which crosses the somewhat treacherous Tashi Laptsa Pass (5755 meters) to reach the Thame valley. The last route is from Tibet, a trail not open to Westerners and often closed even for Nepalis and Tibetans. From the Tibetan side traders cross the Nangpo La (5710 meters) and trek down several days through a glacial valley where Sherpas have their ‘doksas’, or seasonal herding villages, to reach Thame and Namche Bazaar.

The Everest (Khumbu) region is entered through the Sagarmatha National Park at the top end of Monjo (where Kim taught school in 2001). Tthe Sagarmatha National Park Buffer Zone was established about 10 years ago to give some income to the villages between Lukla and Monjo. Namche Bazaar is a bustling old trading village at the fork of three valleys, situated in an amphitheater of peaks. The far left valley leads to Thame valley and Tibet, the middle valley leads to Gokyo Lake and the far right valley leads to the Khumbu Glacier, formed during the last great Ice Age approximately 500,000 years ago, and Everest Base Camp. This valley branches off to the right about half way up and leads to the Chhukhung Valley and the base of the Island Peak climbing route.

The Khumbu region, with a population of about 4000, gets from 10-20,000 Western trekkers per year, and probably double that amount of Nepali staff and local porters coming to the markets at Lukla and Namche with their goods to sell.

Mount Everest, also referred to in Sherpa and Tibetan as Chomolungma, was recognized as the highest peak in the world in 1856 by the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India (it was until then known as Peak XV). Everest was named after Sir George Everest, the British Surveyor General of India, by the Royal Geographical Society in 1865.

The first mountaineers to attempt to climb Everest were British, and the first attempt made in 1921 from the Tibetan side as Nepal was then closed to foreigners. This 1921 expedition reached 7000 meters on the North Col, the 1922 expedition climbing on the North ridge reached 8320 meters but tragically 7 porters were killed in an avalanche while descending. George Mallory & Andrew Irvine attempted to climb Everest on 8 June, 1924, perhaps even submitting before disappearing. Mallory’s body was discovered in 1999 on the North Face of Everest, at 8155 meters; the question of whether or not they summited Everest still remains a mystery.

Nearly 30 years later Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary succeeded in making the first official ascent of Everest, climbing on the southeast ridge route in 1953 to reach the summit of Chomolungma together!

Notable Himalayan peaks include Everest (8848m), Lhotse (8516m), Nuptse (7861m), Makalu (8462m), Cho Oyu (8201m), Ama Dablam (6812m), Mera Peak (6476m), Island Peak (6189m), Cho Polu (6735m), Khumbutse (6640m), Kwongde Ri (6187m), Thamserku (6623m), Kang Guru (6981m), Kusum Kanggaru (6367m), Changtse (7580m) & Cholatse (6440m).

Namaste & Tashi Delek!

© Kim Bannister

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