Khumbu Three Peak Climbing
Day 01: Arrive Kathmandu
Day 02: Fly to Lukla
We are taken to the airport for one of the great flights of the Himalaya. If the sky is clear during our flight, we get our first views of Everest and the region in which we will be climbing. The Twin-Otter aircraft takes us to the hillside village of Lukla, which is the start of our trek. In Lukla, we meet our camp staff and porters and set off straight away for Phakding on the banks of the Dudh Kosi River, which drains the whole of the Khumbu. Lukla is at an altitude of 10,000ft/3,000m and everyone will feel the tiring effect of the altitude. It is just as well that the first day's trekking is mostly downhill!
Day 3: Trek to Namche Bazaar
We continue up the banks of the DudhKosi River, crossing it twice by small suspension bridges, before reaching the village of Monjo, which is at the entrance to the Khumbu National Park. We then cross the confluence of the DudhKosi and BhoteKosi rivers on a high suspension bridge and climb steeply for about two hours to Namche Bazaar. This is a prosperous trading town and is the capital of the Khumbu region. Many Tibetans cross the nearby border to trade their wares and the local market is a fascinating spectacle. This is a good place to buy genuine Tibetan artefacts. Just across the valley to the east stand the peaks of Thamserku and Kangtega, both very impressive mountains.
Day 4: Rest day and acclimatization in Namche Bazaar
We spend a day in Namche Bazaar, resting and allowing our bodies to become more acclimatized to the altitude of 11,300ft/3,450m. Team members may like to take a slow walk up to the Everest View Hotel (c3,900m), which provides awesome views of AmaDablam, Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse.
Day 5: Trek to Deboche
From Namche, the well-worn Everest trail contours around the side of the valley high above the DudhKosi. Passing by several villages and numerous tea shops, we will cross the DudhKosiriver and make a steep climb to Thyangboche, home of an impressive and recently rebuilt monastery. We have plenty of time to look around Thyangboche and have a cake at the bakery before dropping down to the river and the village of Deboche (3,700m/12,135ft) a little further along the trail, where we will stay in a relaxing lodge.
Day 6: Trek to Dingboche
Shaded by rhododendron trees, the path leads gradually down to the river once again and is crossed by another airy suspension bridge. An hour's walking from here brings us to Pangboche, an excellent viewpoint for AmaDablam. Contouring up the valley side we re-cross the river to reach Dingboche at the entrance to the Imja Valley.
Day 7: Rest and acclimatization in Dingboche
This is an important day as our bodies become accustomed to the ever-increasing altitude. The day can be spent relaxing and enjoying the delights of this charming village or we may walk across to Pheriche to visit the local hospital for their daily talk about altitude sickness.
Day 8: Trek to Pokalde base camp
We walk up the Imja Valley for about 1½ hours before turning left to follow the stream draining the south side of Pokalde and KongmaTse. This leads to a secluded cirque where we camp beside a cluster of lakes.
Day 9: Ascent of Pokalde (5,806m/19,048ft)
This time will be spent practising climbing techniques while we acclimatize to the altitude. As soon as everyone is feeling ready, we will climb Pokalde. This is an enjoyable route offering superb scenery down the Khumbu Valley. The climb is relatively easy with a scramble to the rocky summit, preparing us well for Island Peak and Lobuje.
Day 10: Trek to Island Peak base camp
We descend due south to re-join the Imja Valley and the huge cirque containing the south face of Lhotse, Baruntse and the north side of AmaDablam. The valley also contains our next objective, Island Peak. Passing a cluster of teahouses at Chukhung, we continue to our base camp by a stream near the snout of the Imja Glacier. Altitude: 16,400ft/5,000m. Alternatively, we may make base camp a little further on in a site nestled between the glacier's moraine and the lower slopes of the mountain.
Day 11: Ascend to Island Peak high camp
Today we move to camp 1 from where we climb the mountain. The path leads up beyond base camp for several hundred metres before striking off left up the steep hillside. Initially sandy, the path soon turns to grass before becoming boulder strewn. As we climb the hill, the slope narrows and the path enters a steep rock gully. We camp just below the gully on the left.
Day 12: Ascent of Island Peak (6,189m/20,305ft)
Our first task, early in the morning, is to climb the rock gully. This involves grade 1 scrambling, with several short rock steps to climb before we emerge on the right side of the gully. The route then follows a ridgeline, which leads to an exhilarating and exposed traverse onto the snout of the summit glacier. We need to rope up for the glacier as it contains several crevasses but it leads without difficulty, to the bergshrund and a 350ft/100m snow and ice slope on which the guides fix a rope. From the top of this slope, 3 rope lengths along a sharp summit ridge lead to the top. After enjoying the summit views we descend all the way to our base camp.
Day 13: Spare day in case of bad weather
Day 14: Descend to Dingboche
In the morning, we retrace our steps back down the Imja valley to Dingboche. We stay at a lodge and have the afternoon to relax.
Day 15: Trek to Lobuje base camp
We re-join the Everest trail and trek up a broad valley beyond Pheriche towards the small hamlet of Dugla. The views of the North Face of Taweche are inspiring, as is the sight of our next objective straight ahead of us - the South Ridge of Lobuje East. Just under two hours beyond Dugla, we make a base camp in a pleasant, secluded valley right below the mountain.
Day 16: Climb to high camp
Today we slowly climb up to a high camp (5,300m), where the rock ridge and the glacier meet.
Day 17: Ascent of Lobuje East (6,119m/20,075ft)
We climb the long undulating snow arete to the summit ridge. This can be quite heavily crevassed and some interesting climbing may be required to by-pass them. Although long, the ridge leads without undue difficulty to what is called, by most parties, the summit of Lobuje East (c6000m). The true summit is considerably further along the ridge and involves some complicated and technical climbing and has only been climbed a few times. The summit gives fantastic views over the whole of the Khumbu and, in particular, of Everest itself. We descend by the same route and make the short walk to Dzongla, where there is a small lodge.
Day 18: Spare day in case of bad weather
Day 19: Cross the Cho La (5,420m/17,782ft)
The high pass of the Cho La gives access to the Gokyo Valley to the west of the Khumbu Valley. The pass is not difficult but it is a fairly strenuous and steep climb, and a rope is sometimes required to negotiate the icefall at the foot of the glacier which straddles the pass. However, in normal conditions, the route is straightforward, with no technical problems. On the far side of the pass, it is a long descent on rocky ground, before reaching a better path and descent down the valley into Dragnag, where we have lunch. The trail from Dragnag now weaves across the lunar landscape of ice and moraine of the Ngozumpa Glacier. On the far side of the glacier we turn north, passing the second and third lakes to reach Gokyo Resort (8 hours).
Day 20: GokyoRi (5,300m/17,385ft)
It is well worth the effort to make an early start for the 3-hour ascent to the summit of GokyoRi, a small hill which rises immediately to the north of the third lake. This day also increases the likelihood of us having clear views of the west ridge and south-west face of Everest, beautifully framed by Changtse and Nuptse. Makalu rises further to the east, and in the foreground to the north lies the chaotic moraines of the Ngozumpa Glacier.
Day 21: PhortseTenga
Today we walk down the trail back towards the main Khumbu Valley and have lunch at the Fanga View Point. After contouring the valley side for most of the day, we eventually descend steeply into rhododendron forests and down to a new lodge by the river at PhortseTenga (5 hours)..
Day 22: Trek to Monjo
With a reasonably early start, we will reach Namche Bazaar for an early lunch. At first the trail climbs steeply out of the valley floor for an hour, providing superb views across to Phortse, with AmaDablam in the middle distance. If it's a clear morning, the light striking Phortse's terraced fields can be stunning. A big Chorten marks the high point on the trail, which then descends at a pleasant gradient to eventually meet the main Everest trail, taking us back into Namche Bazaar in about 3 hours. We should have a few hours to spend in Namche, which is enough time to shop and relax in the bakery with a coffee and a cake, or even to check the Internet, before walking for a couple more hours to Monjo. A steep descent for 600m/2,000ft down Namche Hill leads to the suspension bridge crossing the DudhKosiriver and the small village of Monjo (2,835m/9,300ft). Not only is Monjo a quieter place to stay than Namche, it also means our porters have a less strenuous walk back to Lukla tomorrow.
Day 23: Trek to Lukla
The trail now flattens out and we cross the river twice more before a rising traverse up the hill-side, past numerous tea-houses to Lukla. Our last day on the trail will be a real joy as at lower altitudes, with over three weeks behind us, and nothing left to prove, we can soak up the atmosphere in each of the villages we amble through. All excess energy is guaranteed to be exhausted at our party this evening with our Nepalese crew.
Day 24: Fly Lukla to Kathmandu
An early morning flight to Kathmandu, freshen up and then time for relaxing in the gardens of the Summit Hotel, or a trip into town.
Day 25: At leisure in Kathmandu
Today, we have another opportunity to visit the bazaars and to shop for mementoes of our visit. In the evening, we can choose from a host of venues, ranging from the famous KC's, the Nepali Kitchen or even the Summit Hotel itself, in which to celebrate the success of our expedition in fine style.
Day 26: Fly back to home by international flight