Everest Region Trekking
The Everest region has always been popular among trekkers. You’ll meet few trekkers who haven’t been up that route. The name Everest evokes awe. Located in eastern Nepal, the Everest region offers a wide range of trekking experiences. From the Everest Base Camp trek (listed as one of the ten best trips in the world) to treks in remote semi-wilderness areas, there is much to choose from.
Solukhumbu district is the home of the legendary Sherpas and also the most popular region in the Himalaya. The northern part of the district (Khumbu) lies within the Sagarmatha National Park, which was established to protect the fragile ecosystem of the alpine region. To the east of the Sagarmatha National Park is the Makalu-Barun National Park, a remote and wild stretch of mountain peaks and deep, densely forested valleys. To the west is the Rolwaling valley, a well protected microcosm of cultures. The southern part of the district, Solu is less frequented by tourists but could be a very rewarding destination in its own right.
Mount Everest naturally is the major attraction here, but there are other 8,000 meter peaks in the region such as Lhotse, Cho Oyu and Makalu besides the many lesser peaks which are no less stunning. There’s more to Khumbu than just mountains. The stark beauty in the form of glacial lakes, resplendent rhododendron forests, native flora and fauna, charming villages and ancient Buddhist monasteries all add up to make this region an irresistible tourist destination.
Permits and Fees
As long as trekkers refrain from climbing up mountains, no special trekking permits are required for visiting this area. An entry fee paid before entering the Sagarmatha National Park is all one needs to pay and this can be taken care of at the National Park desk in Thamel. However for treks to the east of the main Everest trail, an addition permit is required to enter the Makalu-Barun National Park obtainable from the same location in Thamel. Visitors must also carry a TIMS card obtainable free of cost from the Nepal Tourism Board office when they enter this national park.
Access to the Everest region is generally by air or on foot as the road head stops at Jiri which is 8 to 10 hours by bus from Kathmandu. An alternate route is a trek via the Arun valley where the road head is at Basantapur. These are no tourist buses to these destinations hence taking the local bus is the only option. Buses to Jiri leave from the old bus park in central Kathmandu. For the alternative route, buses leave from the Gongabu Bus Park for Hile, from where there are local buses to Basantapur.
By air, the most popular destination is Lukla which has daily flights leaving from Kathmandu. The other option is to fly up to Phaplu air strip, which is also served by daily flights from the capital city. This is ideal for treks in the southern parts of the region or for Everest trekkers who want to take their time acclimatizing.
People and Culture
The heart and soul of the Everest region is the Sherpas. This is their heartland and their cultural influence is seen everywhere; in their traditional costumes to their distinctive houses and village monasteries. There are also minorities of various other groups, notably Rais, Limbus and Tamangs in the lower hills and the Brahmin and Chhetri farmers of the valleys.
Flora and Fauna
The region ranges in altitude from less than 2000m above sea level at Jiri to the high peaks of the Himalaya at over 8000m. Hence the flora and fauna is diverse with dense forest of pine, oak and the flowering rhododendrons up to 4000m. The latter are one reason to make a trip to Nepal in the spring when the hills between 2000 and 3500 m are a riot of colors.
Crops under cultivation depend on the season that you visit but expect to see wheat, barley, corn and potatoes at some stage. Villagers here keep cattle, buffalo, goats and pigs and the all-purpose beast of mountains, the yak
Wildlife seen here is mostly in the form of birds including the national bird of Nepal-the Impeyan Pheasant, (danfe in Nepali), which is quite commonly found around Namche Bazaar. Other notable birds include the ravens and crows of the middle hills and the coughs which soar to seemingly impossible heights in the mountains. Look out for flocks of snow pigeons wheeling about the hillsides.
Land animals in these regions are elusive, so keep an eye out for mountain goats (most common are the Himalayan tahr) and if lucky, you may chance upon the rare musk deer or the common barking deer in the forest.
How and When to go
Trekking in the Everest region depends entirely on the route that you have chosen. On the main trekking trails to Everest Base Camp or the route to the pristine Gokyo valley a teahouse trek is perfectly possible and the easier choice. The trail in from Jiri is also endowed with many conveniently located teahouses although generally not of such high standards as those to the north. Other trekking routes will however, almost certainly require camping gear which means organizing trekking staff and equipment. See the following individual route description for detail.
When to Visit
The best time to trek in this region is from October to November and from March to May which are peak season time. At these times, the weather is mild and generally dry, making walking conditions ideal. The spring season brings out the wild flowers, particularly the rhododendrons, while the autumn season is generally good for clear mountain views, as the air at this time is crystal clear.
Winter treks are possible but risky particularly in late winter as chances of snow are high and passes may be closed at short notice as snowfall cannot be accurately predicted. Teahouses also may be closed for the winter. The summer/monsoon period is generally unsuitable for trekking as the trails are slippery, leeches abundant and mountain views are unpredictable. However, it can be a rewarding time if these drawbacks can be tolerated, as the wild flowers are at their best around this time and the fact that there are fewer tourists encountered on the trails is an added advantage.
Given the hardship of finding a guide at Lukla, you are better off hiring one in Kathmandu before departure. The extra cost of his airfare will outweigh the possibility of not finding a good guide at Lukla, especially during peak season when it is practically impossible. Porters are always available at Lukla. Pure yaks however are not available, because of its low altitude, but yak crossbreeds can be found. For a small group only carrying personal gear, there is no need for yaks, so porters are preferable. The cost will depend on the seasonal demand for their services.
If your trek starts at Jiri, then look for your porter there, it’s the only place where they are available. As for guides, bring them from Kathmandu.
Looking after the environment
The deteriorating environment of the Himalaya has been the subject of much debate. Consequently, action has come in the form of environmentally conscious overseas expeditions and organizations such as the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee and our own Nepal Mountaineering Association, who organized education programs and clean-up campaigns that have, to a large extent, solved many of the pollution problems.
However, the environment of the high Himalaya is a very fragile eco-system that is easily put out of balance. Certain initiatives within the National Park area such as the banning of bottled beer and soft drinks, has shown promising results with a reduction of the amount of non-biodegradable rubbish accumulating. However, temporary measures like these are not sufficient and a concerted effort on a regular basis must be made, particularly by trekkers, in order to make a difference. The KEEP code of trekking conduct is a perfect example and should be followed