Thanks to Kristian Soltesz from Sweden for helping you all out with a report from his trip to the Everest Region of Nepal in the hope that it will make it easier for preparing your own trip. Thanks Kris!
After an attempt of running/fastpacking the GHT in 2014, which ended in a dislocated shoulder and subsequent crawl to the nearest air strip, I am back in Nepal. This time without any big plans on the agenda, other than to run and enjoy the scenery. Being my forth visit in the country and still not having seen that mountain that seems to be on very many peoples’ minds, I decided to give the Khumbu (Everest) area a go. Here is an account, and all the practical info you need to get going.
As opposed to more remote places, you can rely entirely on existing infrastructure for lodging and food in the Khumbu. There is even a wide availability of wifi and sometimes 3G along the route. Also, trail quality is generally very good and there are no real risks of getting lost, but do check the weather forecast before attempting to cross any high passes. Starting in Jiri has some benefits over flying to Lukla: You gain altitude more gradually, which is good for your acclimatization, you get an additional landscape and culture aspect with a less touristy feel (as most people do fly in) and you are brought back to earth from day one, by the many steep tall hills along the way to Lukla.
The weather was generally very good in the mornings, dictating sunrise starts, with breakfast around 6 am. In the foothills up to Lukla, there was quite a lot of rain in the afternoons. Higher up, afternoons featured occasional clouds, but no precipitation. Going from Lukla to Gokyo and back down via Thame was surprisingly flat to me. There were some distinct hills, but a fair bit of the trails were runnable. Favorite spots along the way included the apple-producing village of Junbesi, the trail from Namche to Gokyo and the surroundings of Gokyo, with good mountain views from virtually all hilltops you climb up. Lukla and Namche are prospering towns, but I found them less interesting than most any other place along the route.
Below is what ended up being my itinerary. There are lodges every 1-2 hours, so no big need to plan ahead, but be careful not to push on as you can gain altitude quite quickly. Also, it can be a good idea to buy your flight out of Lukla, already on the way up as they sell out during high season. (It is possible to change departure date cost-free at any time.) If everything fails, you can reach the road head in Salleri within two days from Lukla and jeep out to Kathmandu (at approximately NRP 3000).
The part from Jiri to Lukla is calm and peaceful. Then you join the “Everest base camp circus”. This is the reason I avoided going to Everest base camp/Kala Pathar, and instead headed up the less busy Gokyo valley. If you want it even more peaceful, take the trail on the east side of this valley. In Gokyo there is a manned health post where you can do a blood oxygen saturation test for NRP 100, and more importantly, seek help if you experience any (altitude related, or other) health problems. As a final note, the below stages have a fair time margin, if ran. I am confident that you could hike them at a fast pace and still get in before dark each afternoon. [Editor’s note: this acclimatisation profile may be too fast for many people. Please read this about proper acclimatisation in Nepal for treks and running.]
- Day -1: Kathmandu (1400 m) Walk to the Nepal Tourism Board aka NTB (see map), to obtain required TIMS card. Then walk to bus station (also see map) to buy bus ticket from Kathmandu to Jiri.
- Day 0: Jiri (1900 m) Bus travel from Kathmandu to Jiri – it is a full day activity.
- Day 1: Sete (2450 m) The running/fastpacking begins. The hills are relentless (but after Lukla it gets easier). Stop in Shivalaya to buy required permit for Gaurishankar.
- Day 2: Junbesi (2600 m) More hills, and one pass. Junbesi is a neat place, could be worth an extra night.
- Day 3: Buhpsa (2300 m) Small neat village on the hill.
- Day 4: Namche (3400 m) There are three check points within an hour or two, keep your TIMS card at hand. At one of them you buy the Sagarmatha National Park Permit. Also stopped in Lukla to buy flight ticket. Morning flights are your best bet, as the weather is normally clearer and less windy early in the day. There is a big grande finale hill just before Namche!
- Day 5: Lapharma (4200 m) This is a lonely lodge with a nice view over the Gokyo valley.
- Day 6: Gokyo (4800 m) Arrived early and headed up Gokyo Ri (5400 m hill) where I spent 4 hours, waiting for the sun to set over the everest massif.
- Day 7: Gokyo (4800 m) There is a nice and “flat” trail leading up the moraine of the glacier to Cho Oyu base camp. There are some scenic lakes along the way and stunning glacier views from the hill next to base camp.
- Day 8: Thame (3800 m) From Gokyo, cross the Renjo la (5400 m) after which follows a long non-technical down hill.
- Day 9: Lukla (2900 m) One more relaxed down hill day.
- Day 10: Kathmandu (1400 m) Fly back.
There are well-equipped lodges along the way. If you want to travel really light, you could skip your sleeping bag, but it is indeed nicer to have one, than relying on the availability of blankets along the way. I ended up carrying 5 kg (of light weight gear) plus water. This is what I brought:
- backpack (with rain cover)
- dry and mesh bags
- Source hydration system (2 L)
- clothes: running shoes, two pairs of socks, gore tex over-socks, orienteering shorts, long legs, short sleeve, long sleeve, puff jacket, rain jacket and pant, rain over-mits, two underwear, hat, cap, buff,
- sunglasses (and normal glasses)
- yak-trak “cramponettes” (for icy conditions)
- sleeping bag with liner and compression bag
- hygiene and safety: tooth brush, soap, Leukoplast tape, gauze, diamox, reflective emergency blanket, water purification tabs, headlamp, altimeter and comass watch, map
- valuables: cash (NRP, USD), visa card (did not use), passport, permits, emergency contact info, smart phone with charger
This is to give you an idea of costs, as of 2014. Permits were NRP 2000 for TIMS, NRP 2000 for Gaurishankar and NRP 3000 for Sagarmatha National Park. Bus from Kathamndu to Jiri was NRP 750 and the flight from Lukla to Kathmandu costs USD 165. Sleeping at the lodges ranges NRP 0-300 and includes the expectation that you eat your meals (dinner, breakfast) at the lodge.
Prices increase with altitude. I averaged NRP 1600 per day for a healthy vegetarian diet with lots of black tea. In addition to this, you probably will buy an NCELL refill SIM card for NRP 100 and charge it with something like NRP 1000 for calls and internet.