APPROACH TO EVEREST
At the head of the Khumbu valley, behind the khumbu icefall and the western Cwm, lies the highest mountain on earth. Symbolic of mankind's struggle to overcome the forces of mountaineering achievsment for decades, Mount Everest is today the focus of commercial expeditions and the aspirational high point of many people's Journeys to Nepal. Surrounded by a host of only marginally lesser peaks, Everest has never yielded its secrets easily. However, by trekking beyound the last shelters at Gor5ak Shep and ascending to the vantage point of Kala Pattar you can experience for yourself the awesome grandeur of this, the ultimate mountain.
Few people that visit the Khumbu do so without seeking a viewpoint from which to gaze upon the summit of Everest. Whilst the view from Gokyo Ri is arguably more spectacualr, that from Kala Pattar is the more famous and it is along this trail that the vast majority of tekkers in the area head. The route is well serviced by trekkers lodges, and even the highest of these now stay open practically all winter, such has been the increase in traffic recently. Preferably begin by walking to Namche Bazaar from Jiri (trek 17).
Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
The first day of this trek, from Namche to Tengboche, offers a couple of options at the start. The easiest, but least interesting, heads out of town along the reasonably level main trail that begins at Chhorkung and traverses around the hillside into the valley of the Dudh Khosi. The route suggested here, however, is slightly more strenuous, climbing to the airstrip at Shyangboche (built to service the now defunct Everest View Hotel) before crossing a low ridge and descending through Khunde and Khumjung to join the main trail near the collection of teahouses and 'antique' stalls that has become known as Sanasa. From Shyangboche, and the trail to Khunde, superb panoramas that include peaks such as Thamserku, Kwangde, Kang Tega and Ama Dablam are revealed. For those staying in the area, Khunde and Khumjung provide a welcome alternative to the kitsch and hype of Namche. Both villages have maintained a far more traditional feel than their famous neighbour below, and the surrounding hills and ridges offer fine day hikes.
From Sanasa, the trail to Gokyo climbs away north, whilst the trail to Tengboche and Everest base camp descends to cross the Dudh Khosi at Phunki. This is the lowest place in the Khumbu - worth remembering if you do have the misfortune to come down with serious altitude problems. beyond Phunki the route climbs again to reach Tengboche, where you may wish to spend a couple of nights, to acclimatise, soak up the stunning views and visit the monastery. Be particularly thorough with your water purification here, though, as peak season traffic far exceeds the accommodation available and what sanitation facilities there are simply cannot cope. The water source is below the ridge-line, and it should be considered polluted.
Tengboche to Kala Pattar
Most people travelling this way spend nights at Periche and Lobuche on their way from Tengboche to Gorak Shep. The stages are meant to be short to help you acclimatise, and at least one other rest-day should be incorporated in your hike to Gorak Shep and base camp. This is particularly true if you are intending to cross one of the high passes in the area. At Periche the wind howls relentlessly, making it among the coldest places in the Khumbu. Periche-ing cold! There is a trekkers health post here, run by the Himalayn Rescue Association (HRA), providing informative daily lectures on altitude physiology and other trek-related medical issuse.
Many people stay no higher than Lobuche and climb Kala Pattar in a long day from there, but, assuming you want to be3 on the top at sunrise or as soon afterwards as possible, a night's discomfort at Gorak Shep may be worthwhile. If struggling out of your sleeping bag in the dark and staggering off up by the light of a head torch is as much an ordeal for you as it is for me, sleeping that bit higher and staying warm in bed for an extra couple of hours may be irresistible. This strategy works best if you are camping though, as the 'lodges' at Gorak Shep are pretty rudimentary.
Unless you're a connoisseur of piles of garbage on glaciers, there is not much to recommend going beyond Gorak Shep to Everest base camp at the foot of the Khumbu icefall. The mountain itself is actually hidden from this cold and squalid spot, and most people forgo the dubious pleasure of the six hour round trip, preferring instead to head off up Kala Pattar. It takes a couple of hours to reach the top from gorak Shep, and only from the slightly higher summit of Upper Kala Pattar is the South Col visible. From either top, however, there is an array of awesome Himalayan giants that more than makes up for the lung-bursting climb up there. Immediately east across the Khumbu Glacier, Everest soars like a great black pyramikd beyond the jagged white fang of Nuptse, complemented by a 3600 panorama that includes Ama Dablam, Kang Tega, Thamserku, Pumori and Changtse. Carry spare film and batteries for your camera!
Walk-out to Namche Bazaar
You'll make much better time on the return leg to Namche (two days is easily possible) - though why come all this way to walk straight to Gorak Shep and back? Carry the superb Schneider majp of the Khumbu Himal, and plan your own odyssey.