If you want to see raw mountains, listen to the rumbling of glaciers and generally drown yourself in rocks and ice galore, then the Everest area is probably the best region to visit in all of Nepal, perhaps even the world. But even culturally, this part of the country does have a lot to offer, if you take your time and are prepared to occasionally hop off the beaten track.
Basically, there are three distinct pieces to the Everest trekking picture; all can be done in teahouse trekking style (ie on your own, without a guide):
- The region above Lukla (the proper Khumbu): this is the bit mountain lovers will relish most. Owing to the large number of tourists who fly-in to Lukla, especially with sometimes horrendously big groups, the Khumbu is nowadays more a Disneyland for trekkers than a genuine, authentic part of Nepal. Having said that, even we (and other old hands we know) always come back: there must be something in the stupendous views, the wildness of nature, the bleak landscapes that manages to pull us back.
It is a cold, harsh region, but with some preparation this is no big deal. The daily altitude gain can be a problem, especially for those fast and fit walkers who ignore guidebooks and instead run up the mountains. The actual walking is not too strenuous, not least because of the recommended altitude gain of just 300 metres per day.
- The walk-in/out via Jiri: this is a seven-day trek that crosses three high passes (Deorali, ~2700m; Lamjura La, ~3500m; Trakshindo La, ~3100m) and meets the trail from Lukla one day below Namche Bazaar. The villages en route, though used to tourists, are for the most part authentic. Along the way, there are of course decent mountain views to be had but for us the most interesting aspect of this walk is watching and interacting with locals. And although this trek leads mostly through the middle hills, the days can be quite strenuous: days with ascents of 1000 metres or more are not unheard of.
Compared to the number of people flying in to Lukla, not many do the Jiri-Namche trek, but even in the cold months there is a steady trickle of people. It is quite possible to extend this trek by doing side trips: there are many monasteries, lakes and other interesting diversions.
- The walk-in/out via the Salpa-Arun: this trek is similar to the Jiri trail. It takes seven to nine days and its greatest attraction is that it is actually devoid of tourists. We've done it twice (once in 2003 and again in 2008) and we've never met more than a couple of other trekkers. Like the Jiri trek, it crosses three high passes (Pangum La, ~3100m; Surke La, ~2700m; Salpa ~3500m) before finally dropping down to the Arun river and Tumlingtar (at just 400m) from where there are buses and planes. This trek also offers a few interesting possibilities for side trips, not least the continuation to Chainpur and up the ridge of Milke Danda.
Given enough time, it is quite feasible to combine these three treks into a single longer trek: anything between 20 and 60 days is easily possible. Jiri is easily reached after a seven-hour “express bus” journey from Kathmandu; from or to Tumlingtar there's either the plane (one hour) or a lengthy 24-hour bus ride via Hile, Dankuta and Dharan (we break that journey into two stages by staying in Dankuta, a nice hill station).
Two other possibilities to reach (or leave) the Khumbu area are the approaches via the Trashi Laptsa (sometimes also spelt Tashi Laptsa) and the Amphu Laptsa. These are two high passes, the Trashi entering the Khumbu from the Rolwaling area and the Amphu from Hinku valley. Both require mountaineering skills, preparation and support by a guide and a few porters. It is easily possible to arrange permits and crew in Kathmandu but it won't come cheap: probably a couple of thousand dollars for two people.
And there is still more: during the last years the Nepalese have invented two more trekking circuits in the Everest Region. The first and more well-known is the Pike Peak/Dudh Kunda walk, a ten to 14-day trek which takes in the viewpoint of Pike Peak and the Dudh Kund, a holy lake high in the mountains north of Junbesi. The second is the funnily named Numbur Cheese Circuit, a trek that starts not far from Jiri and, as the name implies, visits quite a few cheese factories in the middle hills (plus some monasteries).
Both treks require some organised support (guide, porters, tents) because, unlike in the Khumbu, there are a few stages without lodge accommodation and food supply (though an ascent of Pike Peak can be done without porters as there are some basic lodges on and near the mountain). Again, this is easy to arrange in Kathmandu or perhaps even along the way as there's no permit and no mountaineering involved.
$updated from: Trekking Regions.htxt Thu 22 Nov 2012 14:35:20 trvl2 (By Vero and Thomas Lauer)$