Three Passes Trek

Three Passes Trek

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Incomparable.  Stunning.  Choose your superlative…none will do the Everest Region justice.  Nowhere else on earth is like it.  Walking amongst the world’s largest mountains, admiring deep valleys and snowcapped peaks, will be one of your life’s highlights.

Here even view from the outhouses are spectacular…

There are two treks in the area.  Far and away the most popular, hiked by thousands annually, is the Everest Base Camp Trek.  It is a 14-16 day direct route to Everest Base Camp, the tent city that supports climbing expeditions.  While the allure of summiting the world’s highest peak attracts the masses, there isn’t much to see at base camp, nor is there a good view of Everest itself.  The views from the rest of the hike will be unforgettable, but if you’re traveling all the way to Nepal, you’d get a better experience on one of these alternatives.

Everest Base Camp, beautiful, but not the area’s most memorable scene.

The ultimate Everest hike is the Three Passes Trek which is what we chose.  This slightly longer trek provides unparalleled views of stunning summits and enchanting valleys.  Take in the entire Himalayan Range from Chukking-Ri and Gokyo-Ri including the best views of Mount Everest’s summit.  Even better, the extra 3-5 days among the natural wonders helps you acclimatize, making your hiking experience breathtaking for it’s beauty, not lack of oxygen.  This hike also visits Everest Base Camp, but subtracts the headache of hiking with hundreds of hikers, porters and guides on the main, narrow, path.  Completing the Three Passes will undoubtedly provide the himalayan experience of dreams.

Looking down from Cho-La Pass illustrates the scale of the Himalayas.  Hikers amongst these giants feel even smaller than appear.

For most people seeking spectacular views hiking the first two passes of the Three Passes and skipping the final pass will provide the highlights, but cut the workload. This is my own variation of the Three Passes Itinerary from Lonely Planet’s Trekking in Nepal.  The major change to the LP’s itinerary is skipping Renjo-La, the final pass, and heading back to Namche Bazaar in one or two days.  This route makes sure you take in the bests of the region, but saves you an extra climb to 5345 M.

Get up-close and personal with the glaciers of Ama Dablam and others on the walk towards Island Peak from Chhukung.

The not-to-miss highlights are in Chhukung.  Spend two nights there after the short walk from Dingboche.  Check into a hotel and grab a quick bite before hiking towards Island Base Camp taking in the stunning glaciers and Lakes.  Wake early the second day to climb Chhukung-Ri, arguably the best view of the region.  These days in Chhukung provide the opportunity to get up close to rock and ice features not seen on the traditional route.

The view from Kongma-La on the Three Passes Trek or my modified “Two Passes” trek.

Later on the hike, after visiting Everest Base Camp and Kala Pattar, spend a night in Dzongla.  Dzongla is the most beautiful mountain town on the hike, ringed by snow-capped peaks.  After crossing rugged Cho-La enjoy the lake town of Gokyo.  Make an early morning climb of Gokyo-Ri to take in the magnificent view of the world’s tallest mountains.  From Gokyo head back to Namche in one or two days.  Start to finish in Lukla, this hike takes 16-18 days, two to four days more than the standard Everest Base Camp route, but substantially more beautiful.

Reflecting Gokyo Lake is a great way to finish your Everest Region hike.

No matter how you choose to hike the region you won’t be disappointed.  The scenes you will see are one-of-a-kind and will be in your memory forever.

—————– THE DETAILS —————–

THE BIG DRAW: Mount Everest is what attracts people.  The other giant peaks will fill your camera’s memory card.

WHERE IT STARTS: Lukla.  If you want to avoid flying, you can walk to Lukla from Jiri, adding 5-7 days in each direction.  To ensure you are in good hiking condition for the Everest Region, flying into Lukla is recommended, but costs about $100 more each way than hiking.

HOW LONG IT TAKES: Everest Base Camp-15 days; Three Passes-20 days

HOW MUCH IT COSTS: $15/day/person unguided, walking to Lukla; $40 unguided, flying in/out of Lukla; $70 with private guide; $100+ with a tour group.  If flying, only buy a confirmed ticket, not an “open ticket”, on a flight earlier than 8AM.  Flights after this are often canceled with passengers on canceled flights having priority over all open ticket holders.  We met people who had waited five days to get out with an open ticket, some who had to pay hundreds to reschedule international departures from Nepal.

WHEN TO GO: March/April or October/November

DIFFICULTY: It is a hard hike, mainly due to acclimatizing to altitude.  The Three Passes Trek has more hiking days and vertical change, but substantially more time for acclimatization.

WHAT TO BRING: Permits obtainable in Kathmandu or Pokhara (“TIMS” card and Park Permit); travel insurance with evacuation coverage; down jacket; wind/waterproof jacket and pants; sleeping bag rated at 0-10 degrees fahrenheit; sunscreen with titanium or zinc oxide as the active ingredient; hiking boots are highly recommended.

LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Learn about the accommodations and food in Teahouse Trekking; Nepal Travel and Photo Guide; the Lonely Planet’s Trekking in Nepal is a must-have guide to plan and prepare.  Do you need a guide?  Read Himalayan Hiking to decide for yourself.


Interested in visiting Nepal yourself?  Check out our money saving tips, photos and get help planning by clicking here to read our Nepal Travel Guide.


Reality beats what Photoshop could create in the Everest Region of Nepal.

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{ Sep 14, 2012 - 04:09:14 } Living If | Annapurna Circuit Trek
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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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