Table of Contents:
Previous Post: The High Passes of Everest: Planning The World’s #1 Trek
- The Flight From Kathmandu to Lukla
- Day 1 – From Lukla to Phakding
- Day 2 – Phakding to Namche
- Namche – the Khumbu capital
- Day 3 – Acclimatization Day In and Above Namche
Next Post: Namche to Chhukung Days 4 – 7
For most trekkers, The High Passes of Everest Trek begins at Lukla after a thirty-minute flight from Kathmandu. The local Exodus-hired team took care of all the details – bussing us to the airport at 6 a.m., tickets, all the duffel bags, one for each of the 14 clients on the trek, all but me from the U.K.
Good weather meant no problems with take-off, and we were in Luckla by 7:30.
Lukla Airport is reputedly one of the most dangerous in the world! Our flight would be uneventful, though it did seem weird to land at an airstrip that sloped upward!
We relaxed at a Lukla Lodge, got to walk around town a bit in the morning, and had lunch before setting off for our short Day 1 objective, the nearby village of Phakding. It was an easy walk that included a 250-meter loss in altitude!
Lukla to Namche Bazaar
Day 1 – From Lukla to Phakding
- distance: 9 kilometers
- altitude change: from Lukla 2860m to Phakding 2610m
- time: three hours
Our first day was a pretty easy one. The morning was spent in Lukla while the sirdar got everything organized- the food, the tents, the fuel, the porters and the rest of the crew who would be walking with us for the next three weeks. There may have been as many locals as clients on the trek!
Mornings began with a cup of hot tea delivered to the tent door by one of the assistant guides. This would be followed a few minutes later by a bowl of hot water for washing purposes.
Day 2 – Phakding to Namche
- distance: 8 km.
- altitude: from Phakding 2610m to Namche 3340m
- time: 5 hours (2.5 hrs. from Monjo)
The Maoist Insurgency – mid-2000s
My visit in November of 2006 was when the civil war between government forces and the Nepalese Communist Party (Maoist) was still going on. The trek leaders had to pay a tax or entry fee to Maoist representatives for each foreign trekker in the party.
We’d enter the official park boundaries a few kilometres later and pay the government-mandated trekker’s entry fee. (In 2022, that would be about $30. U.S.) By the time I left Nepal in late November, a peace accord had been signed by the Prime Minister and the Maoist leader Prachandra (1954- ). here is a brief intro to his life story –
Prachanda, byname of Pushpa Kamal Dahal … Nepali rebel leader and politician who headed the Maoist insurgency that ended Nepal’s monarchy and established the country as a democratic republic, which he served as its first prime minister (2008–09); he later was returned to that office (2016–17). See here for the full encyclopedia entry
Since my trek, worries about Maoists have been replaced by the impact of the 2015 Gorka Earthquakes on the region’s tourist infrastructure. The Maoist tax issue was followed in 2017 by the decision of the Khumbu municipal government to impose its own tourist tax (N.R. 2000 per visitor) since it rightly argued that it received little of the money taken by the national government’s compulsory Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) fee.
The 2020-2022 COVID pandemic has not helped the local economy of the Khumbu, which has become very reliant on foreign trekkers.
Monjo at 2835m is halfway between Phakding and Namche. By this point, we had gained 215 meters since Phakding and were back at the same altitude as Lukla. The bulk of the day’s ascent was up ahead – the 600 meters up to Namche. Just north of Monjo is the entrance to Sagarmatha National Park.
“What are all these people doing here?”
One of the things that took me a day or two to understand was that this is not a wilderness trek. Once I realized that I was on a pilgrimage and not on a voyage of exploration, things went much better.
The answer to the question- “What are all these people doing here?” is very obvious- “Exactly why you are here! For the stunning scenery, the chance to be up close to Mount Everest, and to finally walk a trail you’ve dreamt about for years….”
Instead of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, we’re all pilgrims heading for one mountain peak or another, with Mount Everest attracting the most devotion.
I should also add that the two crowd-scene photos are from Monjo, not far from the entrance gate to Sagarmatha Park. That would explain the large numbers of trekkers, some probably waiting as their guides dealt with the permits at the park entry gate or just setting off after getting them. Nowhere else did we experience anything like this! The higher up the trail you go, the fewer people you will see. Above Namche, we seemed to have the trail to ourselves.
Namche – the Khumbu capital
The satellite image below gives a view of the final stretch from the confluence of the Dudh Kosi and Bhote Kosi up to the village of Namche, the administrative capital of the Khumbu region.
Namche is nestled in a bowl; the downtown area where the bazaar area is located is at 3440m. Also visible on the satellite image is the start of the trail to Everest Base Camp, which heads from Namche to the top right side of the image.
Since my visit, the local government has spent some tax money upgrading the central market area and paving more of the streets. Compare the image above with the one below for a sample of the changes –
The ready availability of hydroelectricity means that vast amounts of wood do not need to be burned to provide trekkers with hot water. Higher up, though, yak dung patties and wood are still used as energy sources. Our trekking crew brought cans of fuel along for cooking purposes.
Day 3 – Acclimatization Day
An extra night in Namche aids in the acclimatization process. The various trekking companies have worked out a schedule that seems to fit most trekkers. If they didn’t, they would have to continually deal with sick clients on top of all the other logistical challenges that running a trek entails.
During our “rest” day, we did a day hike above the town on a pleasant route which took us to the Everest View Hotel, where we stopped for a bite to eat and admired Ama Dablam. Then it was through Khumjung village and past the airport and down to Namche. The mountaineer’s advice had been followed- “Walk high, sleep low”!
In this satellite view of Khumjung village, the red-cloured monastery building is clearly visible amid all the green roofs! We stepped inside the monastery’s main hall for a quick look at the statuary and thangkas.
Also displayed in a small glass-paned box was what some locals still believe is a Yeti scalp. Since our visit, the 2015 earthquakes did some damage to the building. However, given the monastery’s importance to the Sherpa community, a reconstructed building was opened within two years. The image below shows what it looks like after the rebuild.
We looped back to the Namche bowl- our blue tents are visible on the upper left. The market area can be seen on the bottom right.