2014 IMG 3 Peaks 3 Passes Everest BC Trek
by: Tye Chapman
What a trip! The first step to any successful trip is smooth travel to the destination. Luckily all of the 3 Peaks 3 Passes trekkers and Lobuche climbers arrived in Kathmandu on time and with all of their bags. We jumped right into it... the afternoon of the first day was spent knocking out gear checks, picking up a few last minute odds and ends, and getting things packed up.
Day two was a little more formal. We had a morning team meeting, followed by a city tour where it absolutely poured rain, monsoon style. We did our best to take in the local sights, but in the end, we retreated to Hotel Tibet. Maybe the rain was good luck because that's the last we saw of it for three weeks! Day two was capped off with our official team welcome dinner alongside our Ama Dablam Team who was roughly on the same schedule as our team.
Day three is an important day! The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla is just a 45 minute hop, but these flights are often delayed or even canceled because of weather. The good news for us is that once the fog lifted we were the third flight in the air! Kazi met us in Lukla, and we were at the bakery by 10:00am and on the trail by 11:00am. Pretty seamless if you really think about it! Day one on the trail is an easy downhill to Phakding. We pulled in around 4:00pm, relaxed a bit, had dinner and called it a night knowing we had the Namche Hill tomorrow morning our first real test.
The morning of day four was a nice one. As would be the pre-breakfast routine over the coming weeks, the group packed up their duffels and their packs and rolled into breakfast. A couple hours on the trail in the morning to get warmed up then it was up, up, up to Namche Bazaar. Namche sits at just over 11,000ft. The team did great. This group wasn't big on long rest breaks. A few short breaks to catch their breath and grab a sip of water, and they were good to go. Once at Namche, it was time to rest, hydrate and eat. Three nights here.
Our first full day in and around Namche was a good one. After breakfast we ventured out for the better part of the day, stopping at the Everest View Hotel for some coffee, Kumjung for lunch and eventually back around to Namche for some downtime in the afternoon. Our second day in Namche was spent in town where we checked out the famous Namche Bazaar Market, The Everest Museum and the Sherpa Museum, all before lunch. The afternoon was spent exploring, napping or grabbing a shower. Off to Pangboche in the morning.
The morning started with a standard breakfast (porridge or eggs and toast) for most folks, then it was time to move. Three nights in Namche to get acclimatized was great, but people were itching to head up valley. We hit the trail and after a few hours we reached Pangboche in time for lunch. After lunch (veggie fried rice) we ventured up the hill behind town where Robin flew her kite. I've been on the trail with Robin before (Patagonia) and knew she'd have her kite along. We hit the ridge and had a nice steady breeze, perfect kite flying weather. The rest of the afternoon was spent checking out the monastery and relaxing (read acclimatizing). Tomorrow Tengboche.
Tengboche sits at the top of a ridge with great views up and down the Khumbu Valley. We pulled into Tengboche, hit the bakery then toured the monastery. Another great day!
Tengboche to Pheriche is a nice hike. Four hours (ish) has been the recipe on the trail the past few days as we continue to inch higher and acclimatize. Two nights here. The tea house in Pheriche is a nice one. Folks enjoyed the wifi and the tunes played in the dining area. Acclimatization hike tomorrow up the ridge.
If you know anything about altitude, then you know that the adage 'climb high, sleep low' is a great way to acclimatize. Pheriche, which sits at 14,340ft., gives us a great opportunity to do exactly that! After breakfast we headed up to the ridge that separates Pheriche and Dingboche then continued uphill no hurry today and no huge need to stick together today either. It's nice to be able to climb at your own pace so the team naturally split up into a couple groups, and we all enjoyed the day at our own pace. Some went to the top, others stopped a little short. Robin flew her kite again. A great day all around. Back down to Pheriche for a late lunch and a nap. Tomorrow we move to Chukkung.
Chukkung is a two tea house village just a few hours from Pheriche. After an afternoon exploring and soaking in the sun in Chukkung we got to bed early in anticipation of climbing our first of the three trekking peaks in the morning.
Climbing Chukking Ri (5550m) is a fun day. It starts out with a simple stream crossing then follows a trail up to gain the ridge, once on the ridge the trail fades and the climb/scramble begins. The rock footing is solid but the exposure is real. We pushed on, getting to the summit around noon. The afternoon sun made the walk back down to Chukkung all the better. Early dinner and off to bed with Khongma La Pass on the agenda tomorrow.
The longest and probably the toughest day of the trek is Chukkung to Khongma La Pass to Lobuche. Though tough, it's an incredibly rewarding day. We got an early start on another prefect day. The group moved pretty well in the chill of the morning.
Once the sun crept over the ridge we stopped for a nice break. 'Lobuche' joined us, or that's what I called him anyways. He's a healthy looking Rottweiler who latched on to our group for the better part of the day. He just trotted along with us as our bodies begged for more oxygen. He was our very own therapy dog taking the pain away from time to time.
The seemingly endless uphill finally gave way to the pass where we took a nice long break and enjoyed the views. Half way. The view down to Lobuche (not the dog) was a nice one, but we could see our work was cut out for us. Downhill we went. A couple hours down to the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier, then another hour to cross the glacier itself. Lobuche (the dog) pulled ahead on the downhill and was napping as we rolled into town around 3:30. Soup. Dinner. Sleep.
Not a super early wakeup call this morning, a little extra rest was needed. Today's agenda was originally to go from Lobuche to Gorak Shep then on up to the top of Kala Patthar. Dawa and I thought Everest Base Camp would be a little easier on the tired legs so we opted for EBC today and pushed Kala Patthar to tomorrow. A nice easy trail up to Gorak Shep where we had lunch then continued on up to EBC. It's quiet at EBC this time of year, but that doesn't take away from the experience at all. The team hung out for a little bit before heading back down to Gorak Shep for Dinner.
Today was an early morning for the Lobuche Peak climbers, who tagged the top of Kala Patthar by 9am and were off to Lobuche Base Camp shortly thereafter. We'll see them again tomorrow, no need for the big goodbyes right now. After the high fives, the rest of the team continued uphill to the summit of Kala Patthar. Some of the best views of Everest and the Khumbu Glacier are found from the top of Kala Patthar. Worth every step! Back down to Lobuche for the night.
After a few tough days, the team relished the nice and easy walk from Lobuche to Dzongla which sits at the base of Cho La Pass. En route to Dzongla we walked through Lobuche Peak Base Camp and said our official goodbyes to Emily, Rick and Debbie, who were set to Climb Lobuche Peak in the coming days (and they did!). Once in Dzongla the team enjoyed the afternoon on their own (read naps, and wifi). Tomorrow is another big day up and over our second pass, Cho La Pass.
Cho La Pass is a little more technical than Khongma La Pass in that the trail is a little steeper and goes over some rock. The team made quick work on the uphill, looking pretty good as we crested the Khumbu side of the pass. It's another 30 minutes around the corner and up and over the official pass, but the hard work was done. Another break was had at the official pass then it was down, down, down to Thanak. It was nice to know that the next day, Thanak to Gokyo, is a fairly easy one.
By now we've had a lot of tough days so the walk to Gokyo was a welcome relief. Despite the tough days, the team continues to smile and enjoy the trail, always a good thing! Once across the glacier and around the corner, Gokyo sits lake-side, back-dropped by Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world, picturesque to say the least. Three nights here! Another afternoon to rest and seek out the local bakery. Tomorrow is Gokyo Ri (our third peak).
Clouds tend to accumulate in the afternoons this time of year so early starts to ensure good views make sense. And that's just what happened today. 7am breakfast and on the trail by 8 put the team on the summit of Gokyo Ri by 10:00am (acclimatization is working) and back down to Gokyo by noon or 1:00. Lunch then round two at the bakery.
By now everybody is getting a little tired so most of the team opted for a rest day today, not Robin. She and Dawa powered up the valley to 5th lake. Don't worry they made it back in time for the 3rd and final round at the bakery.
Our third pass, Renjo La Pass, will have to wait for another day. Despite the rest day yesterday the immune systems gave way, and a couple folks were a little under the weather. Why push it since we've had such a great trip? No problem, we pointed downhill and made our way to Phortse, the village where most of our Sherpas are from. We stayed at Dawa's tea house, a pleasure to see his home! His son took us up to see and feed their baby yaks awesome! The team really enjoyed this option. At dinner talk of life back home crept into the conversation, a good indication that people are ready to get home! Almost there.
After leaving Phortse we swung by the old stomping grounds of Namche for lunch then on to Monjo for the night. An easy walk into Lukla the following day. We enjoyed a celebration dinner with the team, giving special recognition to our incredible Sherpas, Dawa, Ang Karma and Pasang. We said our official goodbyes the following morning as we boarded our flight back to Kathmandu.
A final dinner at the historic Rum Doodle restaurant put a nice bow on an incredible trek!
Thank you to Robin, Jean, Kev, Val, Bill, Marty, Emily, Debbie, Rick and Ricardo for always smiling and enjoying the moment.
Tye Chapman, IMG Operations Manager & Trek Leader