Our trip begins today in Kathmandu, Nepal. After clearing immigration and customs, we are met by our friendly staff and transferred to our host hotel in colorful Thamel, a city filled with restaurants, unique shops and outdoor outfitters to help you acquire any last-minute trekking gear. The afternoon is left open to rest and explore this unique area. Perhaps take a walking tour with our guide to become more familiar with the city. Meals on your own.
Today we enjoy a guided tour of the ancient cities of Kathmandu and Patan that will last most of the day. Nepal is a country rich in religious diversity and our visits today to Hindu and Buddhist sacred sites including Swayambhunath (the Monkey Temple), Boudhanath and Patan's magnificent Durbar Square will open many windows into these fascinating and ancient worlds. If time permits, we'll take an optional side-trip to the Tibetan Refugee Carpet center in Jawalakhel. The rest of the day will be on your own to explore before our evening orientation to review the trip's itinerary and gather recommendations on repacking your bags for tomorrow's departure. Breakfast included.
Early this morning (prior to 6am) we transfer to the airport to catch our scenic flight to Lukla. There our supplies and gear are loaded onto yaks for our hike down terraced hillsides and along stone fences to the Dudh Kosi River. We note a huge boulder inscribed with the Buddhist prayer, "Om mani padme hum." Throughout the trek we encounter the local Buddhist people reciting this mantra. Arriving in camp in Phakding, we receive a bowl of hot water at our tents after we arrive—great for washing up or for doing a bit of light laundry. Then there is time for hot drinks and well-deserved rest. This is our arrival routine in camp most afternoons/evenings, and we grow to appreciate these little extras along with the exceptional care we receive from our trekking staff. All meals included.
Trekking: 4.5 miles, 3 to 4 hours. From Lukla (9,320') we lose 920' over the first 3 miles, then hike a relatively flat final 1.5 miles to arrive in Phakding (8,560').
Our morning wake-up call each day is delivered complete with a cup of hot tea and basin of warm water brought right to our tents. After a hearty breakfast, we set out on the trail as it wanders through rolling terrain, past traditional homes, plowed fields and forests. As we ascend slowly to the entrance of Sagarmatha National Park, the snowy peak of Thamserku (21,680') gives us a taste of the unmatched mountain scenery to come. Lunch provides fuel for the final push, a steep 2,000'-hike to the village of Namche Bazaar, a large Sherpa village and has long been the primary staging area for major Himalayan expeditions. It is a major establishment since it’s a source of abundant fresh water and because of its lively bazaar on Saturdays. We are certain to enjoy this very special place where we spend two nights on our way up the mountain. All meals included.
Trekking: 5.6 miles, 6 hours; elevation gain: 920' over the first 4.2 miles, then 2,000' in the final 1.4 miles for a total of 2,920 to reach Namche Bazaar (11,285').
Temple horns and yak bells awaken us to a sunrise surrounded by snowy summits over 20,000' high! Today is an acclimatization day, meaning we plan to hike high to gain strength, then descend again to sleep low, enabling our bodies to better adjust to the altitude before we continue our ascent. A slow and steady pace with adequate time for acclimatization is key to an enjoyable trek. Peaks we view as we set out today include Kwangde (20,930'), Thamserku (21,680') and Kangtega (21,932'). And what's more, as we ascend to around 12,500' we earn truly stunning views of Nuptse (25,790'), Lhotse (27,605'), Ama Dablam (22,493') and even Mount Everest (29,029'). Tonight we overnight again in Namche Bazaar. All meals included.
Trekking: 3 to 3.5 miles, 4 to 5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 1,250'.
From Namche Bazaar our trek leaves the standard Base Camp trail for the next two days. Crossing the valley, we ascend through a rhododendron forest traversing the beautiful southern slope of Khumbila, the sacred mountain of the Sherpas which cannot be climbed. We trek over Moung La pass (13,000') stopping for lunch with the spectacular peak of Thamserku looming in the near background. Then we descend to Phortse Tenga alongside the Dudh Koshi River, fed by the glaciers of the tenth highest peak in the world, Cho Oyo. Finally, we ascend another 45 minutes through picturesque birch and rhododendron forest to Phortse where we stay for the night. Watch for iridescent impeyan pheasants, tahr mountain goats, and possibly musk deer when walking through the forests and among the high farms today. All meals included.
Trekking: 5.3 miles, 6 to 7 hours; elevation gain from Namche to Moung La pass: 1,705' covered in 3.3 miles; elevation loss: 920' in 1 mile to the Dudh Koshi River. Crossing a bridge there, our final ascent to Phortse (12,500') gains 425' in just under 1 mile. Total elevation gain: 2,130'; total elevation loss: 920'.
This morning we enjoy a leisurely half-day ascent to Pangboche. This gentle hike leads along a scenic contour, gradually gaining another 400' as we approach our Pangboche camp situated among small traditional homes and fields. After lunch and a bit of rest, we enjoy a unique opportunity to visit Pangboche Monastery, the oldest monastery in the Mount Everest region. Lama Sangwa Dorji, believed to be the reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche, founder of Buddhism in Tibet in the eight century and one of its most significant figures, is said to have founded Pangboche Monastery. The ancient and very special nature of this place is easily felt by visitors. Returning to camp for dinner, we enjoy sitting among the 400-year-old juniper trees as we gaze across the valley at the magnificent mountain scenery. All meals included.
Trekking: 3 miles, 3 to 4 hours; elevation gain: 400' to Pangboche (12,895').
Today's hike is an extended half day, with a challenging and scenic climb to Dingboche (14,400'). After ascending fairly gradually along the river Imja Khola for the better part of the morning, our trail swings off the main track to the east and climbs slowly up to the windswept potato fields of Dingboche Village, the highest permanent Sherpa settlement in the region. Ama Dablam's razor edges are particularly dramatic here. We expect to arrive and enjoy a late lunch by around 1pm, so consider packing an energy bar or snack in your daypack as we set out in the morning. After lunch the remainder of the afternoon is yours to rest, journal, read, enjoy the views or soak in your surroundings. All meals included.
Trekking: 4 miles, 4 to 4.5 hours; elevation gain: 1,575'.
We've scheduled another important acclimatization day today. To this point in the trek, we've ascended over 5,150', and before we attempt to sleep any higher, we once again hike high today then descend to sleep low for one more night. There are many options available to us, and the most likely is one of our Sherpa guides' favorite hikes. Few visitors to the Everest region will ascend the base of Nangkar Tshang peak, and this 3.5- to 5-hour roundtrip leads past cliff-side, sacred sites to a stunning view of Makalu, the world's fifth highest peak at 27,762'. We hike as high as we reasonably can, reaching our top elevation somewhere between 15,700'and 16,400' before descending back to 14,400'. This should help our bodies acclimatize more effectively, as the next three days bring ever increasing challenges. All meals included.
Optional trekking: 3 to 4 miles, 3.5 to 5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 1,300' to 2,000'.
Today begins with a gentle climb along the upper trail toward the Pheriche valley. Well above Pheriche and the valley floor, we hike through alpine scrub and yak pastures, enjoying panoramic views of Tawoche (20,890') and Cholotse (20,785'). Directly behind us, Ama Dablam appears to rise directly from the valley floor to its fullest, snowy height. After about two hours of gradual ascent, we reach Thokla Pass and begin a challenging but relatively short ascent of about 690'. The scenery becomes even more exceptional as we crest the pass to panoramic views of Nuptse, Lhotse, Lhotse Shar and other 7,000+-meter peaks. We continue hiking beyond Thokla Pass to reach Lobuche, a sparse outpost set amid dramatic scenery where we'll stay tonight. The next two days will be very challenging, so we eat well and drink lots of water tonight. All meals included.
Trekking: 5 miles, 5 to 6 hours, elevation gain: 690' over 2.5 miles before ascending Thokla Pass, gaining 690' over a steep, short .5 mile section. Then, 265' over 1 mile to reach Lobuche (16,110'). Total elevation gain: 1,645'.
The next two days host some of our trek's most exceptional highlights. Today we pick our way through rocks and boulders while trekking about three hours to the small settlement of Gorak Shep, which rests in the shadow of Kala Patthar. We arrive in time for lunch and then evaluate conditions before moving on. If the weather suggests clear views, we set out for Kala Patthar to enjoy the exceptional view of Mount Everest (29,029') from its summit. If views seem less likely, we will instead head up on the three- to four-hour hike to Everest Base Camp, saving Kala Patthar for the following morning. In either case, we may descend in the dark back to Gorak Shep, so bring warm clothes, a headlamp and check your batteries before setting out. You’ll be glad you saved some energy for these optional but exceptional hikes. All meals included.
Trekking from Lobuche to Gorak Shep (16,865'): 3 hours; elevation gain to camp: 755'.
Round trip Gorak Shep-Kala Patthar (18,519'): 2 miles; 3 to 4 hours; elevation gain/loss: 1,654'.
Round trip Gorak Shep-Everest Base Camp (17,600'): 4.5 miles, 3 to 3.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 735'.
Note: While we travel to the Everest Base Camp area, we do not visit the climbing camp out of respect for the climbers' health and privacy.
Today we pick up where we left off yesterday by completing the hike we haven’t yet attempted (although you may opt out of the hike this morning if you prefer). If we set out for Kala Patthar, we must start very early so that the light affords us the best views of Everest. We start hiking before sunrise with headlamps and return for breakfast. After breakfast, we have time to descend as far as Thokla or Phulung Kharka. If we instead hike to Base Camp, we'll set out in the morning twilight and will likely descend to Lobuche this afternoon. The specific site of tonight’s accommodations (Lobuche or Thokla) will depend on how the day unfolds. While we can celebrate some significant accomplishments tonight, there are still many highlights remaining on the descent, which will feature some different trails and very special sights along the way. All meals included.
Round trip Gorak Shep-Kala Patthar (18,519'): 2 miles, 3 to 4 hours; elevation gain/loss: 1,654'.
Round trip Gorak Shep-Everest Base Camp (17,600'): 4.5 miles, 3 to 3.5 hours; elevation gain/loss: 735'.
Trekking from Gorak Shep (16,865') to Lobuche: 5 miles, 2 hours; elevation loss: 755' to Lobuche (16,110') or from Gorak Shep to Thokla: 7 miles, 3 hours; elevation loss: 1,710' to Thokla (15,155').
Today we cover significant ground and descend thousands of feet into far more oxygen-rich air. We enjoy a stop at the Himalayan Rescue Association clinic in Pheriche, which is an important medical facility for trekkers, climbers and local people. Staffed by volunteer physicians, it is an interesting waypoint on this remote trail. After lunch we emerge from the valley and climb a short distance to Pheriche Pass before descending to cross the river Imja Khola. Climbing on through the park-like rhododendron forests, bursting with flowers on spring departures, we eventually reach Deboche, our destination for the night. Deboche is situated in a picturesque setting and boasts a long and significant religious history. This afternoon we have the option to visit the site of an important nunnery. All meals included.
Trekking: 7.5 to 9 miles, 5 to 6 hours. Groups setting out from Lobuche (16,110') descend 3,970' to the Imja Khola River (12,140'). Groups setting out from Thokla (15,155') descend 3,015' to reach the same point. From the river, the way is mostly flat to Deboche (12,170').
Today is another full day of descent with a healthy dose of uphill hiking mixed in. We depart Deboche and climb a short 330' to Tengboche Monastery. This Tibetan Buddhist temple sits at 12,685' and offers us a glimpse into monastic life. After our visit, we continue descending to the Dudh Koshi River then climb for about 90 minutes to Kyangjuma for lunch. We finish our hike with a gradually descending walk from Kyangjuma to Namche Bazaar (11,285') where we'll once again enjoy the unforgettable panoramic views of Lhotse, Nuptse, Ama Dablam and Everest. We spend the night in Namche Bazaar where we can enjoy amenities like local bars and souvenir shops, as well as internet access. There will likely be time to explore Namche Bazaar on your own before dinner. All meals included.
Trekking: 6 miles, 6 hours. Groups setting out from Deboche ascend 495' over 1 mile to reach Tengboche (12,665'), then all groups descend 2,005' in 1.25 miles to the Imja Khola River (10,660') before climbing 985' in 1.75 miles to Kyangjuma (11,645'). After lunch, we hike 2 miles to reach Namche Bazaar, losing another 360'. Total elevation gain: 985' to 1,480'; total elevation loss: 2,365'.
Leaving Namche Bazaar, we have a big descent today to Phakding. If the weather is clear, take plenty of photos of your final views of the great peaks we've enjoyed so much along the way, including Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam. We'll not see them again after reaching camp tonight. In Phakding we'll camp by the Dudh Koshi River and enjoy another spectacular Himalayan sunset before turning in. All meals included.
Trekking: 5.6 miles, 4 to 5 hours. Descend 2,000' in the first 1.4 miles, then descend 920' over 4.2 miles. Total elevation loss: 2,920'.
Today is a challenging final day of trekking from Phakding. We begin with a descent before a 600'-climb to Lukla, where we leave the long trail behind. After the climb, we enjoy a night in a small lodge where we can shower and then look forward to a truly memorable farewell party with all of the wonderful support staff who have contributed so much to the success of our great adventure. Overnight in Lukla. All meals included.
Trekking: 4.5 miles, 5 hours. Hike from Phakding (8,560') is a relatively flat 1.5 miles before gaining 920' over the last 3 miles to arrive in Lukla (9,300').
We prepare for our return flight to Kathmandu very early this morning. Taking off from the Lukla airstrip is an exhilarating experience, and our last look at the snowy Himalayas is bittersweet. After the flight, we are met by our ground staff and transferred to our hotel for hot showers, clean clothes and a relaxing day. Our staff will have double-checked our flights out and will update us on any important changes. Then the balance of the day is free time. Breakfast is included.
Note about flights: Flights to and from Lukla are not always dependable; weather conditions may cause flight cancellations. Delays are possible any time of year but are more typical on summer departures. Most treks run during the best weather conditions of the year; however, our final full day is designed to accommodate some weather delays (or sightseeing and shopping if all goes as planned).
Enjoy a free day exploring on your own or join us for an optional city tour. The tour is likely to feature Kathmandu Durbar Square or the ancient city of Bhaktapur. The reminder of the day is at your leisure to shop or relax before your journey home. Breakfast included. (Note: reserve day for return flight from Lukla in case of inclement weather).
We transfer to the airport for homeward-bound flights. A transfer is provided and will be tailored to suit your scheduled departure.