The 3 pass circuit in the Everest Region

05 Dec 2016 21:57 #70327 by AndrewP
While passing through the Jiri to Kinja section of the GHT, I heard talk of a 3 pass circuit. A glance at the map told me what I needed to know. This was for me - it adds a whole lot of fun to the conventional Everest Base Camp trek. It is logical to extend the trek with a few additional peaks which give great views of the area.

You typically get a loop that starts and finishes in Namche Baazar (3440m). It includes Chukhung Ri. (5550m), Kongma La (5535m), EBC (5364m), Kala Patthar (5550m), Cho La (5420m), Goyko Ri. (5360m) and Renjo La (5360m). A detailed look at the map suggests that about 2/3rds of this are above 4500m. Wild, can it all be done in a single day? Clearly acclimitisation is critical, and you really want to do this at a time when the sky is clear to get the best views. I had intentionally planned my trip to take advantage of the stable weather and typically clear skies of November, even though it is by now getting rather cold due to a rapidly approaching winter.

I flew into Lukla on the morning of 4 Nov. The flight is pretty exciting. You are in a 12 seater plane and as they only fly in good weather, good views of the snowy peaks are a given. The runway is incredibly short, in part due to its steep angle. The door to the cockpit does not get closed during the flight, so as you come in to land, you get a view of exactly how short the runway is! More impressive to me though is the turnaround time. The plane will land, every gets off, baggage is off loaded and the new passengers and baggage are all in place within 10 minutes. They have to. The weather plays a major role for flights and this is the only way to get in more than a handful of flights a day.

I had a pleasant walk as far as Chheplung, chatting most of the way to a chap from the UK. This was his third trip to Nepal, and on the previous one, he spent a week in Kathmandu trying to get a flight into Lukla. Eventually he gave up and went to Pokhara instead, so he was very relieved this flight made it.

Here, we parted ways as I decided to have breakfast. Food was due to occupy a large portion of my time in the days to come.

The walk to Namche Bazaar went fairly smoothly. I overtook a lot of people, and several trains of yaks. I decided to stop here for lunch. Dahl bhat typically takes an hour to prepare, so it gave me a good rest, and a chance to re-acclimitise to 3400m. (A week earlier, I had been at 4000m and 3 weeks before that at 5500m, so I did not need too much time to sort it all out)

After lunch, I set off for Thame at 3800m. I had now done just under 30km and had done 4 days worth of hiking in one.

I had a pleasant evening in a lodge in Thame. Next morning, I set off at 7 (it was too cold to start earlier) and by 9:30 was in Lumde. I had breakfast and an enormous pot of tea. I was now ready to tackle the first pass. Renjo La went slowly, with heavy breathing and a pack that suddenly felt rather heavy. It occurred to me that I was not as acclimitised as I had initially thought. 5340m is pretty high up. The pass is very steep and rocky near the top on both sides. Pretty dramatic stuff.

Most importantly though, as you reach the summit you get a sudden view of the world in front of you. Everest looms directly ahead and you can see Makalu as well. It is a very impressive sight. Not a cloud in sight. I took the obligatory photos, and raced down to Gokyo. The lodges were all full, so I was told I would have to sleep in the dining room.

I had a pot of tea in Gokyo and a lazy afternoon. By supper time, I had a bad headache and no appetite at all. I forced down about 4 spoons of dahl baht. Eish, I would normally have tucked away two entire plates. The lodge owner had a device to measure oxygen levels, so I gave it a go, expecting the worst. I came out okay, and most importantly, the lodge owner (who of course sees this all the time) said I looked fine. All except for a cold that was starting to form.

I slept fine and by the next morning had my appetite again. Yay.
It was freezing cold, with iced up condensation on the windows, and the water in the bucket for the toilet had a layer of ice. A Russian girl was wearing 2 down jackets inside the lodge.

I knew I should take it easy this day, so I went for a casual walk up towards Cho Oyu. You get great views of the mountain itself, the glacier next to you and later, of Everest. I then did one of the things that I needed to do to call the trip complete - I went for a swim at 4950m. Ice on the side of the lake told me exactly how cold it would be. I took more photos and then returned to the lodge.

After lunch and of course more tea, I gunned up the 580m vertical climb to Gokyo Ri. I took only 51 minutes and was pretty psyched with my time. Lovely views from top in all directions. Similar to that from Renjo La. I forgot to take my camera along, but was planning to do this hill a few times over the next few days, so was not too concerned.

The next day was still designated as an acclimitisation day. I tried to do a loop of Henjo La and Sundar La. Both passes are marked on the map as only the pass top itself without any paths. I completely failed to find Henjo La, which I assume is the Nepalese word for Yeti, it is so hard to find. The valley is very intricate and route finding almost impossible. But, I did get up Sundar La. The top of this pass was iced up, so I got to use my crampons. I had by now carried them for weeks and was glad to finally put them to use. I did not exactly get lost on the way back, but was not entirely found either.

That evening, my cold really set in, and it became obvious I was going to have to cut down on my plans somewhat.

The following day, I slept in and had breakfast and the usual flask of tea before setting off. I crossed the glacier and started heading towards Cho La. By the summit of that, I had overtaken most of the people who had started at the intermediate village. I felt really great and literally ran about on the glacier to get self timed photos. My crampons might have been more excited about this than me.
I ran all the way down to Dzongla, which was the busiest village I encountered on my entire trip. I just timed it badly to share it with a few large groups all passing through on the same day. Almost every bed was taken before lunchtime, all pre-booked even though it was empty when I arrived.

The following day, was my final day at high altitude, so I was planning a really big day out. I wanted to run up to Kala Pattar, and do Kongma La and a few of the other peaks in the area. That night, the cold symptoms got bad enough that it would be foolish to do anything big. So, I skipped the remaining high stuff and started the walk out. I did after all have only 3 days to get all the way (about 100km) to Salleri if I wanted to catch my flight home to SA. In the end, I made it out comfortably and had a really exciting bus ride back to Kathmandu. The bus might be more exciting than the flight!



A typical bus. No suspension. Goes faster round a blind corner if you hoot.



It is so much more colourful and pleasant lower down. And cheaper too. This is the village of Jubing.



This is actually a 30 second video clip. The horses can just stand and stare. They are not going to move until you get out of the way.



Footwear for snow. On Cho La, I could run past everyone else. So much fun.



The first (of many) batch of trekkers on Cho La.



Sundar La heads up to the left of the lake (semi frozen) and then breaks sharply left up a hidden gully.



That saddle is not Henjo La. Good view of the maze to cross as you head up the valley. The path goes left of the boulder, up the slope and through the next scree field. If you can find the first boulder... It was a really cool day out, and I saw no one at all. And in that part of the world, that is something to treasure.



I wish I knew what he was pointing at. Taken from the 5th lake, on the hike towards Cho Oyu.


Yaks roam through the Gokyo village



Playing silly bugger at 5200m

Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.

The following user(s) said Thank You: AdrianT, saros

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
05 Dec 2016 22:03 #70328 by AndrewP

Namche Bazaar in late 2016. Me thinks it is getting a rather commercial.



The view from Renjo La on a clear day. Spectacular stuff

Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.

The following user(s) said Thank You: intrepid, ghaznavid, tonymarshall, AdrianT, KylePease

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Nov 2019 09:06 - 26 Nov 2019 10:17 #75475 by Stijn
We just got back from a 16-day trek along the Three Passes route - my first time in the Himalayas and it certainly exceeded expectations! For some reason I had always been convinced that hiking in the Himalayas was more of a cultural village experience, with a distant view of the "real mountains" in the background. Boy was I wrong! It is by no means a mountain wilderness experience, but the combination of good trails, friendly people, a new cultural experience and being completely immersed in the big mountains really blew me away. On the Three Passes trek at least, you are surrounded by the famous peaks, towering 3000m+ above you, right up close!

The most popular trek in the region is naturally the Everest Base Camp route, but I would urge you to avoid it like the plague if you have at least a little more time available. It is extremely commercial, with 500+ other hikers sharing the route with you on a daily basis. Also, it follows the least scenic route possible, by staying in the Khumbu valley the entire time and returning the same way. If you do find yourself doing the EBC trek anyway, adding a few out-and-back day trips which get you out of the valley and really open up the views is highly recommended. A good option here is the hike to Ama Dablam base camp at 4600m, just 4km off the main EBC route.

If you have 2-3 weeks at your disposal, look no further than the Three Passes trek (you get to "tag" EBC as a side-trip along the way anyway if that's important to you). The passes are extremely scenic, and while some days are shared with the EBC route, a big portion of the trek is in more remote valleys, away from the big crowds. The trek gets described as extremely difficult by many guidebooks and online resources, but in comparison to normal hikes in the Berg, the hiking itself is some of the easiest I've done. No need for a guide. No need for porters. You only end up carrying 8-10kg anyway as all food and accommodation is catered for by the very-affordable Tea Houses (costs on the trek worked out at about R350 per person daily, for accommodation, all meals, snacks and other extras, eg wifi/showers). The main challenges are the altitude and the cold. If you've given yourself enough time to acclimatise on the way up, the altitude challenges are reduced - we took 8 days to cover the first 40km up the valley to 4700m at the base of the first pass, following the rule of not sleeping more than 300-400m higher each night, and doing side-trips to trek high / sleep low on most days.

OK, enough rambling! Here are the photos and my strava links for each day:

https://ar.attackpoint.org/viewlog.jsp/user_4372/period-16/enddate-2019-11-19





Our first view of Everest!




Leaving Namche Bazar, on the way to Pangboche

Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.

Last edit: 26 Nov 2019 10:17 by Stijn.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Nov 2019 09:12 #75476 by Stijn

Ama Dablam Base Camp (4600m)



Nangkartshang summit (5076m)


Chukhung Ri summit (5546m)

Lhotse South Face at sunset


Kongma La Pass (5520m)

Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Nov 2019 09:17 #75477 by Stijn


Kala Patthar summit (5643m) with Pumori, Everest and Nuptse in view!

Everest Base Camp (~5300m), out of season



Cholatse North Face!



Cho La Pass glacier (5360m)

Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.

The following user(s) said Thank You: firephish

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Nov 2019 09:20 #75478 by Stijn
Gokyo Ri (5360m) sunset 

Heading up to Renjo La Pass (5400m) from Gokyo



The village of Dhole, finally below 4000m again!

Please login or register to view the images attached to this post.

The following user(s) said Thank You: JonWells, firephish, PeterHowells, Smurfatefrog, tonymarshall, AndrewP

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Nov 2019 09:22 #75479 by Stijn
And finally... 16 days squeezed into a 3 minute video :-)

The following user(s) said Thank You: firephish, ghaznavid, MarkT, Grandeur, Herman, supertramp, Dave

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Nov 2019 09:32 - 26 Nov 2019 09:33 #75480 by Stijn

AndrewP wrote: After lunch and of course more tea, I gunned up the 580m vertical climb to Gokyo Ri. I took only 51 minutes and was pretty psyched with my time.


P.S. Andrew - you'll have to go back now ;) 39m13s is the new time to beat! https://www.strava.com/activities/2868580295/segments/71279845348
Last edit: 26 Nov 2019 09:33 by Stijn.

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Nov 2019 10:08 #75482 by MarkT
Amazing pictures, thanks for the report!

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
26 Nov 2019 12:08 #75483 by Riaang
Stijn,

Stunning pics!!!

The sunset pic on Gokyo-Ri is really cool. We (like most people) climbed it at sunrise, but I reckon your pics looks much prettier. 
Quick question - How did you find Renjo pass? Not sure if I have the name correct, but you mentioned it in your write-up. The one going past Gokyo-Ri. Last time we didn't have enough time for this one, but it looked like a good pass to explore.

Ditto on your view of the typical EBC route. Too busy, and the views are not the best, except right towards the end where you approach Gorak Shep. 

Oh, one last question - When you crossed Cho-La pass, was it all frozen up or was there a small lake right at the top, immediately before the top of the passhead?

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

More
Powered by Kunena Forum