EBC, Gokyo - The 3 passes trek (Kongma La/Cho La/Renjo La)

Along with 2 other friends (Shyam and Sanjay Bhutani) I had done the 3 passes trek in Apr/May 2011. At that point of time I did not have a blog nor did I have a camera to take pictures -:). But I have had many questions on EBC/3 passes treks on public forums (like IndiaMike, yahoogroups like himalayan_trekkers) so I am posting some relevant information here for everyone's benefits.

My Itinerary for 3 passes trek
- Apr 22nd Blr to DEL/KTM
- Apr 23rd Lukla to Jhorsale
- Apr 24th Jhorsale to Namche Bazaar
- Apr 25th Acclimitization day @ Namche Bazaar : Sherpa Villages of Khumbu
- Apr 26th Namche Bazaar to Pangboche
- Apr 27th Pangboche to Dingboche
- Apr 27th (2nd Half) Climb to Nangkartshang Gompa & then to Nangkartshang Peak (5100m)
- Apr 28th Dingboche to Chukung (and to Island Peak Base Camp & return)
- Apr 29th Acclimitization day @ chukung. Climb to Chukung Ri (5546) and return
- Apr 30th Chukung Lobuche (via kongma La (5535m) )
- May 1st Lobuche to Gorak Shep (EBC & back to Gorak Shep)
- May 2nd Gorak Shep to Dzongla
- May 3rd Dzongla Gokyo (via Cho La Pass (5420m)
- May 4th Side Trips @ gokyo : Gokyo Ri
- May 5th Side Trips @ gokyo : Sacred Lakes (4th and 5th lakes)
- May 6th Gokyo Thame (Crsoss Renjo La Pass (5345M) )
- May 7th Thame Lukla
- May 8th Lukla KTM/Del/Blr

On 10 continuous days (marked in bold italics above) a height above 5000m was reached

Photos of this trek are here. All these photos have been taken by Shyam.

Permits Required for this trek
1) TIMS Permit : If you are taking porters/guides/flight tickets from any agent he can give you a TIMS permit for 10$. If you are going indvidually the TIMS permit costs 20$ and you can get this from the NTB (nepal tourism board office) near durbar marg...There are different coloured permits for each. See this site for more info ( ).
2) Sagarmatha National Park Entrance Fee : This can be purchased on the trail (at Monjo/Jorsale). For Indians (& SAARC Nationals) it costs 100 Nepali Rupees (or maybe 200 NRS).

Location of NTB office in Kathmandu. See this link

For more info on Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) see this site. This site has good information on trekking permits and TIMS

Best Months for trekking :
Well the best months to trek are Mar/Apr and the 2nd best is Oct /Nov. The reason this is often said to be the best months is because of the weather/clear skies. However, Mar/Apr are also the month where there are a lot of "tourists/trekkers". I think 2nd half of Apr/May is a good compromise between crowds and weather. However, that is a personal choice. If you are prepared to bear the cold you can even do this in winter -:)

My views of the 3 passes :
- Knogma-la : The ascent from Chukung is tiring. The snow-field is not big. During the descent there is a bit of snow and some loose rock. Be careful not to dislodge rocks onto trekkers below. A slip here looks dangerous. The glacier crossing after Kongma-la before reaching Lobuche can be tiring.

- Cho-la : The snowfield is bigger (than kongma). But because of the number of trekkers you should be able to follow their footsteps easily through the snow. During the descent from Cho-La towards (Tagnag/Gokyo) the snow would make the descent slippery and you may slide a bit. However, even if you slide (which I did) it is not dangerous as the route is such that you should normally slide only a few metres. I went straight to gokyo from Dzongla. That is a stretch. There is an intermediate place called Dragnag after the Cho La pass where one can stop and then go to Gokyo the next day. There is a glacier crossing between Cho La and Gokyo. There are stone cairns there but sometimes it can get confusing. I was tired and nearly got lost there and since it was late in the afternoon there were no other trekkers. I thought I might have to spend the night there -:). This was the scariest moment of the trek. Luckily for me another porter came that way and showed me the way up a 100 m ridge, which one has to climb after the glacier. I trudged, really slowly up this ridge, hungry & fatigued, and then got the first sights of Gokyo...

- Renjo La : During the ascent there was not much snow. During descent there is snow but the trail is well laid out (if I remember right there are even some steps cut out..) so this should not be a problem. A day after I crossed, when my friends tried to cross it snowed. You get the most astounding views of a number of the 8K peaks from the Renjo La pass. I spent about an hour on the pass. An Irishman who was trekking from the other side met me on the pass and he took a couple of photos of mine with the peaks in the background and sent it to me later (a big thanks to him)

Missed opportunity of the trek : On the morning we wanted to climb Kalapathar it was snowing like crazy. My friends Shyam and Sanjay braved the snow and trekked up someway on Kalapathar but could not get any views of Everest. Seeing the amount of snow I chose the option of staying back at GorakShep hotel as I thought in no way was I going to get any views of Everest with this level of snow. After Shyam and Sanjay returned we heard that the sky cleared up for a brief window. Anyway I did not attempt Kalapathar and headed back to Dzongla the same day. As they say "It is for Nature to decide if it wants to allow you to have a look at its ethereal beauty"

AMS in the trek (??) and meeting with the first Indian to climb 5 8000M peaks : On Apr 28th morning we walked from Dingboche to Chukung, a relatively short walk of around 2 hours or so. After eating @ Chukung we decided to walk to the Island Peak base camp in the afternoon. I did not have a backpack (or if I had it was a very light one) and yet I found myself lagging behind the others and being pretty slow that day. Interestingly we met Bachinepally Shekhar Babu who is the first Indian to summit 5 8000 M peaks (I hope I am not mistaken...). Records nevertheless, it was a privilege talking to him and hear his summit stories (look him up on facebook if you want to see what he is doing next). He was there trying to help 2 indians climb Island peak. Anyway after I returned had a whole lot of water and the next morning I was fit and raring to go to Chukung Ri.

Some useful links

http://www.trekinfo.com/ : You can go to the Message board (forums) and go to the trekking Companinons section if you want to find partners online for your trek
http://trekkingpartners.com/ : As the name suggests this is a good place to find trekking partners (esp for Nepal) online
http://www.yetizone.com/ : This site is no longer being maintained but still contains a wealth of useful information for independent trekking in Nepal
http://www.thegreathimalayatrail.org/ : Probably one of the world's longest trekking trails. There is talk of GHT being explored in India as well.
Budget for the trek (if done independently)
1K-1.5K INR/per day for food and accomodation. The food (dal/bhat) price increases with altitude. The trip average cost would be somewhere in this range.
Flight charge to and from Lukla (if you are flying in to Lukla) : ~5K INR
TIMS permit (10$ or 20$) depending on get it through an agency or if you are travelling independently (Free Independent Trekker)
KTM stay 2 nights (~1K per day including food and lodging)
Duration (roughly 15 days)
Should be able to do the trek ~30K INR.

Additional items one need to budget for

  1. Personal insurance if you want to be covered for Helicopter Evacuation in case of emergencies (around 5K-7K ?? - not sure). It is costlier if you do this in Nepal. Check if you can get this done in your country beforehand...
  2. Porter/Porter Guide : You can get one through an agency in KTM between 800-1000 INR/day. You can get independent porters @ Lukla easily and they would be much cheaper (say around 1000 NRS/day - I am not 100% sure). If you are getting a porter/guide from an Agency in Nepal they might ask you to bear the flight cost for the porter to/from Lukla. You can negotiate -:). Remember the flight costs for Nepalis are much lesser than for tourists. Ensure that your porters are insured as it is not only you but even the porters who may suffer from altitude.
  3. Everything costs on this trek including hot water, cell phone charging , hot shower etc.
  4. If you are buying Mineral Water bottle, Energy bars on the trek the cost can add up significantly. So buy your chocolates/energy bars below and carry them
  5. Tip your staff. 1 day's pay/staff (or about 10%) is about par for the course.

IMPORTANT NOTE : Please, please treat the porters with respect. A number of us will not be able to do these treks/climbs if not for them. Remember though one may be paying them they are not our slaves. Please don't ask them to do unreasonable things like washing your socks in the cold water in winter (when it is bitterly cold..). Very often if you are suffering from AMS it is these porters who would have to bring you down. One may not realize but in times of adversity our life is in their hands (and I am not being dramatic or sensational..).

Gear related queries

  1. Is sleeping bag required for the trek as this is a teahouse trek ? Depends on the time of the year and your tolerance level for the kind of beds you will sleep in. I took my sleeping bag along (comfort rating -5 C) and it was sufficient. Used it at Gorakshep and lobuche only. I would say take one though one can manage without it, especially since the lodges provide blankets. And if you are not in the peak season you can ask for additional blankets. Conversely I have heard (not experienced) that in the peak season you may not find space in the lodges and hence might have to sleep in the dining rooms -;)
  2. Are down jackets required ? Yes. It is not required while you are walking during the day but in the afternoons/evenings when you are resting in the lodges it can get cold and down jackets are helpful then.
  3. Any technical gear required (like ropes, crampons, ice-axes) ? For the period I went it was not needed and am pretty sure in the peak trekking seasons these may not be required. That is not to say that it wont be required in winter -:).

Currency related info

  1. 1 IC = 1.6NRs
  2. IC 100Rs is accepted through the trek though you may find yourself with the calculator doing calculations for the lodge owners at some places -:)
  3. 500/1000 Rs would not be accepted on the trek though they may be accepted in KTM.
  4. Please carry sufficient cash and dont expect to find ATMs @ Lukla or Namche. If in case of real emergency you can get money against your credit card @ certain places in Namche but then they would charge you a hefty fee.

Food & Drink related information
- Nepali Dal bhat is going to be food on your trek ( Rice / Dal (lentils) / Subzi -usually Sag (spinach) / alu (potato) combination, with Khorsani (chilli ) or Hari Khorsani (green chilli) and sometimes Papad )
- The dishes on the menu would be mostly variants of spinach/potato which is what grows locally.
- Veg Thukpa & Shepa Stew are good items to eat
- Momos are available and you may indulge in it once a while
- For breakfast Tibetan bread is a good option
- "Nun Chiya" (butter tea) or black tea are good and the local favourites. Tibetan butter tea is supposed to be good for acclimatization
- If you are a veg think twice before having the Noodle soup because most likely you are going to get Ra-Ra or Wai-Wai Noodles as it has chicken stock. Definitely check the pack they are making as Veg Noodle soup would mean Chicken flavoured Ra-Ra or Wai-Wai instant noodles with chopped vegetables in it -:). Garlic Soup is good for acclimatization
- Being on 5 star trekking trail you will get your cornflakes/muesli/milk/tea/coffee etc...
How about Water ?
- I just drank normal cold water (chisopani - ). Sometimes I used to drink water that has been boiled (IMHO that is good enough).
- If you find it too difficult to do that you can buy "Piyush" (the local liquid disinfenctant) and a few drops of it to a litre of water should be good enough. Some of my trekmates did that and it seemed to work fine.
- If you are sipping from a hydration pack you can take "Gatorade" packets from here (or Tang etc..) and mix it and drink. Just gives the water more taste.
- Some folks take iodine tablets to purify water before drinking. Personally, I dont like the taste of water once the iodine tablets are added to it.

Flights from KTM to Lukla

  1. Yeti Airlines (also known as Tara Airlines) & Agni Air operate flights from KTM to Lukla and back
  2. There is no way to book the tickets online yourself. You can call them up and reserve a ticket or use the e-mail to reserve a ticket
  3. The easiest way though is to go through a travel Agent. These Travel agents can get you better discounts (say upto 20%) than booking directly with the airlines
  4. Also note that the price for Indians are much lesser than for western tourists. For Nepali Citizens it is much lesser. Talk to your travel agent to get the price.
  5. It might be prudent to have an open return ticket from Lukla to KTM as you may not know the exact date of your return. You can get the ticket confirmed from Namche when you return. You can do this yourself by giving the airline office/travel agent a call or give your ticket to your hotel/lodge owner @ Namche and he will do it for you.

Mobile Phone

  1. The easiest is to get an NCELL pre-paid connection. You just need a photograph and a xerox copy of your passport and you should get it quickly.
  2. It is best to buy the connection from an NCELL shop (as opposed to any other shop). The new connection is about NRS 100. If you buy from an non-NCELL shop they may ask a commission (maybe ~NRS 50)
  3. Call to India are about NRS 3/min and incoming calls are free. So works out pretty economical.

Other treks that can be combined with this trek

  1. Jiri-Lukla walk in. Budget another week for this. Though the buses go upto Bhandar please dont take the bus upto Bhandar as the road from Jiri to Bhandar is horrible. You are better off walking from Jiri to Bhandar.
  2. Rolwaling Trek (have not done this)
  3. Arun valley trek (i.e Lukla to Tumlingtar).

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