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Everest Ultimate Trek: The Three Passes  The Natural Adventure Company

Everest Ultimate Trek: The Three Passes

Overview

Everest Ultimate Trek: The Three Passes explores the Everest region in full, from Namche Bazaar to the Gokyo Valley and Everest Base Camp crossing the dramatic Renjo La, Cho La and Kongma La high passes. It is quite a demanding trek compared to the standard Everest Base Camp route or even the Gokyo Lakes Circuit, but it offers amazing views, and as it is a circular trek, there is almost no backtracking. Provided that you have the experience and stamina, this is one of the finest mountain adventures you are ever likely to undertake in your lifetime.

The trek makes a complete high-level circuit of the Khumbu valley in a clockwise direction. It crosses the three major passes that link Thame, Gokyo, Khumbu, and Imja Khola’s valleys. Starting with an overnight in Kathmandu before flying to Lukla and walking through Sherpa country past cultivated fields and small villages, you will have enough time to acclimatise. Experience Namche Bazaar and follow the Bhote Khosi river towards Tibet, before turning eastwards to cross the stunning Renjo La (5340 m). Then you will reach Gokyo – besides the turquoise lakes themselves, a highlight is the ascent of Gokyo Ri which offers incredible views of Cho Oyu and Everest. Crossing the Ngozumpa Glacier, we then trek up and over the Cho La (5420 m) to reach Everest Base Camp and the dramatic viewpoint summit of Kala Patar (5550 m). Our trek then takes us via the Kongma La (5535 m) before joining the main Everest Trail and continuing down via Dingboche, Pangboche and the monastery Tengboche. 

All our Nepal and Himalaya treks are private departures, so you are free to choose your date (between September and May), and companions (minimum group size is 2 people) and our trekking support crew will be with you during the entire trek – we provide one of the highest staff to client ratios on the trek: one trekking guide per party, one Sherpa assistant for every four trekkers and one porter for every two trekkers. During the trek, you will need to carry only your daypack. 

On this ultimate Everest circuit, you will spend 3 nights in a nice hotel in Kathmandu on a twin share basis and 17 nights on a twin share basis in traditional mountain lodges (tea houses).

Highlights

  • Explore vibrant Kathmandu and Namche Bazaar
  • Experience authentic Sherpa villages, meet locals during tea house stays and soak up the Sherpa culture
  • Visit Thame monastery, the oldest in the Khumbu region, and the ridge-top monastery of Thyangboche  
  • Cross the Renjo La, Cho La and Kongma La high passes
  • Reach the renowned viewpoint summits of Gokyo Ri and Kala Patar
  • Explore the beautiful Gokyo lakes and valley
  • Take in incredible views of Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and Ama Dablam
  • Reach Everest Base Camp, following in the footsteps of the great climbing parties 

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Kathmandu

Upon arrival at Kathmandu Airport (you can choose any flight you wish), you will be met by our representative and transferred to your hotel in Kathmandu. Relax at your hotel, then explore the streets of Kathmandu.

Day 2: Kathmandu Sightseeing & Trek Preparation

After a lovely breakfast in the morning, we start a guided sightseeing tour to four UNESCO World Heritage sites of Kathmandu that have historical and spiritual values. We will visit Pashupatinath, Temple Swoyambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu Durbar Square and Bouddhanath Stupa. Meet your trekking guide at the hotel lobby and get the all information about your trip, and also feel free to get his help for last-minute gear shopping in Thamel.

Day 3: Flight Kathmandu – Lukla; Trek to Phakding | 4 h | 2610 m

We drive off to the airport early in the morning and take a scenic flight to Lukla. Make sure you sit on the left for your first great views of the Everest region. The landing at Lukla is an adventure experience by itself, but the pilots are highly skilled. Upon arrival at Lukla, we meet our other crew members, and after some packing and arrangements, we start our trek through the village of Lukla until we reach Phakding village. We will follow the Dudh Kosi, the river that flows down from the Himalayas, crossing many hanging bridges along the way. There are some monasteries in the vicinity that are worth a visit.

  • Walking for the day: 3-4 hours, ↓200 m, final elevation 2610 m

Day 4: Phakding to Namche Bazaar | 5-6 h | 3440 m

Walking through a beautiful pine forest, the track leads us along the Dudh Koshi River through series of suspension bridges, one of which is the famous Hillary Suspension Bridge with a wonderful viewpoint of the gleaming Mt Thamserku (6618 m). We pass through the last village of Jorsale before finishing with a challenging uphill climb to Namche Bazaar. Enjoy the first glimpse of Everest.

  • Walking for the day: 5-6 hours, ↑1000 m ↓100 m, final elevation 3440 m

Day 5: Namche Bazaar Acclimatisation Day | 4-5 h | 3440 m

Today we walk around the Khumjung valley. Hillary School and Khunde Hospital are the places we can visit in this valley. We hike to a viewpoint to enjoy the great view of Mount Everest, Ama Dablam, Thamserku, Lhotse and then trek back to Namche. Acclimatisation days are crucial for a successful trek to Everest Base Camp and we take them very seriously. 

  • Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, ↑450 m ↓450 m, final elevation 3440 m

Day 6: Namche Bazaar to Thame | 5-6 h | 3820 m

Today we follow an ancient Tibet trade route which is still in use, mostly by the Tibetan nomad traders. You’ll have seen them with their products in Namche’s open market, crossing over to the Nepal side by Nangpa La pass. A gradual ascent follows the whitewater of the Bhote Koshi on the left while the centuries-old trail negotiates rocky outcrops and takes us through forests of fir and juniper.

  • Walking for the day: 5-6 hours, ↑510 m ↓230 m, final elevation 3820 m

Day 7: Thame Acclimatisation Day & Thame Monastery | 4-5 h | 3820 m

Today we have a spectacular walk up the valley leading to the Tesi Labcha on a high trail above Thame. We will visit the monastery located high above the town (3928 m), the oldest in the Khumbu region. 

  • Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, ↑500 m ↓500 m, final elevation 3820 m

Day 8: Thame to Lunden | 5-6 h | 4368 m

Today’s walk is quite easy but important for acclimatisation as the altitude is gained gradually with no steep sections. The scenery is quite different from anything we’ve seen so far. The trail goes above the tree line and the landscape is one of vast expanses of dry barren land with distant white peaks on the horizon. Lunden is just a group of lodges, not a true village but it is a convenient base to climb the Renjo La pass. For all your effort, you’ll be rewarded with grand views of Rolwaling and Kwangde.

  • Walking for the day: 5-6 hours, ↑500 m ↓140 m, final elevation 4368 m

Day 9: Lunden to Gokyo via Renjo La Pass | 6-8 h | 4790 m

Today is the first major challenge of your trip. Renjo La is the high pass that connects the Thame and Gokyo valleys and it certainly offers some of the best views in the Everest area. The trail immediately rises steeply which will be the norm for the day until you’re over the pass. The trek to the base of the pass will take about 3 hrs, including an hour climbing up the steps. The gradient further increases as the hour-long climb leads us right up to the top (5360 m). Take in the unmatched panoramic views west to the mountains of Rolwaling Himal and the Tibetan border and east to the entire Everest range; Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Baruntse with the Gokyo Lakes in the valley far below. We then start descending and the path drops very steeply for about 10 minutes but over the next 3 hours, continues to ease until we reach our destination for the day.

  • Walking for the day: 6-8 hours, ↑1200 m ↓830 m, final elevation 4790 m

Day 10: Climb Gokyo Ri | 5-6 h | 4790 m

Get up early for a climb up to Gokyo Peak (5483 m), which offers some of the best panoramas in the Khumbu region. Everest, Lhotse and Makalu will all be visible in the early morning sun. Then we will retrace our steps to Gokyo and have plenty of time for exploring the Gokyo valley and eventually hike to the fifth lake.

  • Walking for the day: 5-6 hours, ↑693 m ↓693 m, final elevation 4790 m

Day 11: Gokyo to Tragnag | 5-6 h | 4990 m

Today the trek is shorter as we prepare to cross Cho La tomorrow. Just about halfway between the first and second lake, a trail leads across the moraine to the east. This involves a glacier crossing on the eastern side before finally reaching the small hamlet of Tragnag.

  • Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, ↑900 m ↓1000 m, final elevation 4990 m

Day 12: Tragnag to Dzongla via Cho La Pass | 7-9 h | 4830 m

We wake up earlier than usual to prepare for the challenging trek across Cho La (5368 m), often considered the hardest day of the trek. Approaching the pass, we cross a large boulder field; the climb to the pass is steep in places, involving easy scrambling. The upper part can be snow-covered. From the top, there are excellent views, including a completely different aspect of Ama Dablam. The pass’s descent involves crossing a small glacier, and then the route to Dzongla is quite straightforward.

  • Walking for the day: 7-9 hours, ↑900 m ↓700 m, final elevation 4830 m

Day 13: Dzongla to Lobuche | 4-5 h | 4910 m

We wake up earlier than usual to prepare for the challenging trek across Cho La (5368 m), often considered the hardest day of the trek. Approaching the pass, we cross a large boulder field; the climb to the pass is steep in places, involving easy scrambling. The upper part can be snow-covered. From the top, there are excellent views, including a completely different aspect of Ama Dablam. The pass’s descent involves crossing a small glacier, and then the route to Dzong La is quite straightforward.

  • Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, ↑300 m ↓200 m, final elevation 4910 m

Day 14: Lobuche to Everest Base Camp & Return to Ghorak Shep | 7-8 h | 5160 m

Today we’ll spend the whole day trekking via Ghorak Shep to the Base Camp (5364 m) and then back to Gorak Shep alongside the Khumbu Glacier. Whether occupied or not (depending on the season), Everest Base Camp is an inspiring place. After exploring it, taking in the atmosphere and admiring the mighty Khumbu icefall, we return to Gorak Shep where we overnight.

  • Walking for the day: 7-8 hours, ↑550 m ↓300 m, final elevation 5160 m

Day 15: Climb Kala Pattar; Ghorak Shep to Lobuche | 6 h | 4830 m

Wake up early morning and walk up to Kala Patthar (5550 m) for the sunrise over Everest, Nuptse, Lhotse and Pumori. The views are amazing, and Everest is magnificent. We continue our descent to the sandy flat expanse of Gorak Shep, back to the lodge for breakfast and then onwards to Lobuche.

  • Walking for the day: 6 hours, ↑600 m ↓800 m, final elevation 4830 m

Day 16: Lobuche to Chukung via Kongma La Pass | 6-7 h | 4730 m

From Lobuche, we make a crossing of the Khumbu Glacier. We then ascend to the Kongma La (5535 m). The climb is steep and follows a path which zig-zags its way to the top of a scree slope. The summit comes into view from the top of the scree, but we have about one more hour over boulders and scree to reach the prayer flags at the top. The panorama includes Everest’s tip, the Lhotse-Nuptse wall, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Pumori, and the distant peaks of Tibet. After crossing the pass, we follow an improving trail across yak pastures down into the Chukung valley – one of the most beautiful walks of the trip. 

  • Walking for the day: 6-7 hours, ↑600 m ↓1000 m, final elevation 4730 m

Day 17: Chukung to Tengboche | 4-5 h | 3860 m

We set off and make a short climb through the woods to Tengboche Gompa, with the mountain views opening up to become very dramatic as the steep climb approaches the holy ground of Tengboche. Monastery, yak pastures and world’s highest place of worship combined! Tengboche is the largest monastery in Nepal situated on a high ridge with views in all directions. You should be able to attend a prayer ceremony.

  • Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, ↑300 m ↓800 m, final elevation 3860 m

Day 18: Tengboche to Namche Bazaar | 4-5 h | 3440 m

After enjoying again the magnificent views from Tangboche, you will descend down to Phunke Tenga, and then it is another few hours uphill hike to Namche.

  • Walking for the day: 4-5 hours, ↑350 m ↓750 m, final elevation 3440 m

Day 19: Namche Bazaar to Lukla | 5-6 h | 2840 m

It’s a long but enjoyable and rewarding walk from Namche Bazaar to Lukla. Take your time to take in Sherpa village life on your last day of trekking in the Himalayas. Check-in for the overnight and relax with an ice-cold beer after the rigorous adventure you’ve just completed.

  • Walking for the day: 5-6 hours, ↑350 m ↓750 m, final elevation 2840 m

Day 20: Flight Lukla – Kathmandu & Overnight

Recall the memories from the trek and enjoy the flight back to Kathmandu. Back in Kathmandu, you can spend some leisure time.

Day 21: Departure

Private transfer to Kathmandu Airport or optional extension.

Optional Chitwan Jungle Safari Extension (2 nights)

Experience the other side of Nepal in the jungle of the Chitwan National Park. Once home to a royal hunting reserve, Chitwan is now widely recognised as one of Asia’s best national parks. The park offers protection to numerous species including the one-horned rhinoceros, Bengal tiger, leopard, sloth bear, wild elephant, striped hyena, Gangetic dolphin, crocodile and wild bison.

  • Take a boat along the Rapti river, which shelters about a quarter of the world’s remaining gharial population
  • Jump on a jeep safari and spot a range of wild animals
  • Spend some time in a local village, visiting the wildlife display centre and learning about local life
  • Accommodation on twin share basis in a comfortable local hotel
  • Meals included: 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 2 dinners (excl. beverages)

Important: You will see other tour operators offering elephant riding activities and many tourists taking part in them during your time in Chitwan. However, we have an elephant welfare policy, and as such, we discourage travellers from riding elephants in Nepal or anywhere in the world. See the Responsible Travel section for more information.

Day 1: Kathmandu – Chitwan National Park

We walk off to the tourist bus stand, which is around 15 min walk from your hotel. Take the tourist bus and ride past river valleys, terrace fields, and highway settlements to southern lowlands (5 h). Upon getting off the bus, meet the staff, who will drive you to the resort. After having checked in, enjoy the lunch and make yourself comfortable amidst the beautiful garden. The manager will brief you about the activities schedule. In the afternoon, drive to the nearby river where alligators, birds, and rhinos can be spotted along with the mesmerizing sunset view. Overnight.

Day 2: Chitwan Activities

Early in the morning, we drive to the river and start canoeing through the jungle to spot alligators and various species of birds. After canoeing, we walk through the forest and take the jeep back to the resort. After lunch enjoy a jeep drive into the national park where we can spot more wild animals, and if lucky, Royal Bengal tigers. After we drive back to the resort, enjoy the dinner, and walk to the community hall to view the cultural show. Overnight.

Day 3: Chitwan – Kathmandu

After breakfast, the staff will drive you to the bus station and you will board the tourist bus. You can get back to Kathmandu or opt for Pokhara.

What to Expect

Accommodation

On this Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes Circuit, you will spend 3 nights in a nice hotel in Kathmandu on a twin share basis and 17 nights on a twin share basis in traditional mountain lodges (tea houses). Lodges are very comfortable except for a few nights at higher elevations when they are fairly basic. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Tea houses are mountain lodges that are located along many of the trekking routes in Nepal that provide meals and accommodation. They are similar to mountain huts in the Alps except that in Nepal you primarily get private rooms and a wide choice of food. The tea houses, in general, offer simple but adequate accommodation; please be realistic about what to expect in the high mountains and in remote areas. Most tea houses are built specifically for trekkers, but some, in the more remote regions of Nepal, may double as the family’s home.

The teahouse’s centre is the heated eating hall (some lodges charge a fee to switch the heater on). The bedrooms are almost all twin-share (note that you may still be asked to share with 2 or 3 during peak season on very rare occasions). Bedrooms are not heated, and you will need to bring or hire a sleeping bag. Most tea houses have only one or two basic toilets, and sometimes these are located outside the main building. Toilet paper is not provided so you should bring your own or buy it from the tea house. If there is not a flush handle, there should be a container of water to use.

The owners make most of their income from the meals and beverages. For this reason, you are expected to eat all your meals at the teahouse at which you’re staying. Most teahouses sell snacks, soft drinks, tea, coffee and other essentials such as soap and toilet paper. Almost all tea houses have electricity, but power outages are quite frequent. Electricity is available to charge your cameras and other electronic devices for a small fee at the dining rooms of most tea houses. A few of the lodges on this trek have WiFi which varies in quality of signal. Some lodges now have hot showers (you will be charged a small fee for using them). Note that sometimes this is simply a bucket of hot water and not a proper shower head.

Click to view standard hotels

Click to view upgraded hotels

Meals

Several years ago, tea houses’ choices were limited and pre-booking the lodge fixed menu was often the only option. Since then, as the lodges have improved in quality, so has food choice, with most tea houses now offering an extensive menu. To give our customers choice, we now operate our trek on a lodge only basis (welcome dinner and breakfasts in the Kathmandu hotel are included). You will need to plan £25-30 per day in total for all meals.

  • For breakfast, you can have toast, tea, eggs, and porridge. It gets served at around 7-8 am which is ideal for the early morning trek.
  • Dal Bhat which consists of rice, dal (pulses), lentils, spinach, gundruk, optional meat, and others is a typical meal offered for lunch, or you can opt for a noodle soup.
  • For dinner (normally, it’ll be served around 7:30 pm to 8:00 pm), where once there was a choice of 2-3 different rice or lentil-based meals at the lodge, most now offer a menu of 20 or more choices from the basic (such as dal bhat) through western-style (pizza, spaghetti) to more sophisticated (yak steak with blue cheese sauce).

Difficulty & terrain

This holiday is graded strenuous, due to the extended length of time spent trekking at high altitudes. It is our toughest trek in Nepal. You should be in excellent physical shape and have experience in multi-day trekking before undertaking this circuit (read more about difficulty grades).

Acute mountain sickness

AMS is a significant concern when trekking above 3500 m. Although our itinerary is designed to minimise the chances of you suffering from AMS by providing enough acclimatisation days and ensuring a gradual increase in altitude, each individual is affected differently by height. If you have any pre-existing health conditions that you think may make you more susceptible to AMS, we recommend that you consult your doctor before booking this trip.

When to go

The main trekking season in Nepal is from September to May when daytime temperatures at most altitudes are generally comfortable for walking, the sky is clear much of the time and rain and snow are occasional occurrences. Different seasons offer different advantages for the Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes Circuit. The best times are in spring ‘pre-monsoon’ (February, March, April and May), and in autumn ‘post-monsoon’ (September, October and November). The summer months are very wet as it is the monsoon season and winter is extremely cold. 

  • Post Monsoon: September to November. This is the main trekking season in Nepal. Skies are usually clear and days on trek are sunny and mild with clear mountain views. Nights will be colder with temperatures dropping as low as to minus 10ºC at the highest altitudes.
  • Winter: December to February. Despite the cooler conditions, this is a good time to trek in Nepal. Skies are usually very clear especially in December and the mountain views are at their best. Nights will be very cold with temperatures down to minus 15ºC to minus 20ºC at the highest altitudes but days are pleasant and sunny. The trails are also much less busy at this time of year. If you want to trek during the winter months you need lots of warm clothes.
  • Pre-monsoon: March to May. Both day and night temperatures will be warmer in general but often a haze will build up in the afternoons. Flowers bloom in this season and this is one of the reasons many people chose to trek in spring.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Tipping

It is customary in Asia to tip service providers such as waiters, at approximately 10%, depending on the quality of service. All our staff in Nepal (guides, assistant guides and porters) are fully insured and paid a fair wage; however, tips are not a substitute for wages. The amount is purely a personal matter but we would suggest a tip per day of 15-20 USD for your guide, 8-10 USD for your porter and 5-6 USD per day for assistants and other staff. These apply to the whole party, not per person. Obviously, this is very much a rough guide and you are completely free to give whatever you feel is appropriate.

Inclusions

Included

  • All airport transfers as listed in the itinerary (one arrival and one departure transfer per party)
  • 3 nights quality accommodation on a twin share basis in Kathmandu 
  • 17 nights twin share accommodation in the mountains
  • Full day sightseeing tour of Kathmandu including entrance fees 
  • 3 breakfasts in Kathmandu
  • Welcome dinner in Kathmandu
  • Return flights from Kathmandu to Lukla with 10 kg check-in baggage and 5 kg hand baggage 
  • All national park fees and trekking permits 
  • 1 English-speaking tour guide in the lowlands
  • 1 English-speaking trekking guide in the mountains
  • 1 Sherpa assistant for every 4 trekkers
  • 1 porter for every 2 trekkers 
  • Detailed pre-departure information pack including guide book, city maps and trekking maps 

Excluded

  • International flights and international airport departure fee
  • Visa fee
  • Lunches and dinners in Kathmandu (except for the welcome dinner) and all meals in the mountains (plan £25-30 per day in total for all meals)
  • Hot shower, water, WiFi, charging mobiles and cameras etc during trekking (if you plan on using the internet and showering every day, then you should budget around £8-10 per day)
  • Drinking water (beverages)
  • Extra expenses due to unforeseen events such as natural disaster, roadblocks or health conditions of a fellow traveller
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses and tips
  • Any items not specifically mentioned as included in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • Single room supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room (Kathmandu only – ask our experts for a quote); in the tea houses you may ask the owner if there are single rooms available and you can pay locally for them
  • Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate solo travellers on the Everest Base Camp Trek
  • Breakfasts in the mountains (17 breakfasts)
  • Full board in the mountains (17 breakfasts, 18 lunches and 17 dinners)
  • Kathmandu upgrade to a superior 4 or 5-star hotel
  • Extra nights in Kathmandu (highly recommended – Lukla airport is notorious for being shut to fog. If you have no flexibility regarding your international flight schedule, this can cause huge problems for you. When fixed-wing planes are unable to fly, but helicopters to Lukla are available, clients may choose to travel by helicopter; in this event, the extra cost will be approximately US$500-600 per person. So, if you have the time, it is worth booking extra nights or arranging fully flexible international flights.)
  • Optional Chitwan Jungle Safari Extension

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