Finally, I did it, the Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass! It was since a long time on my bucket list and was worth it! As for my experience of the Everest Base Camp Gokyo Trek and the Cho La Pass, well, you'll get to read all about it in this short description of what I experienced.
Counter-clockwise or clockwise?
First, I had to decide whether to trek the Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass in a counter-clockwise or clockwise direction. The main difference is that following the more traditional counter-clockwise route; I would first reach Everest Base Camp and then only the Lakes of Gokyo and crossing the Cho La Pass. I decided I wanted to best for last and so choose the clockwise direction and leave Everest Base Camp as my previous highlight of the trek. I booked my trekking package for me, and my close friend through a local agency in Kathmandu called Himalayan Asia Treks Nepal. The owner Apar Datta was very knowledgeable about the area and showed us the best-planned itinerary for the Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass.
How challenging is this trek?
Before booking the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass, I had to make sure that my condition and physique were in top shape and decided to hit the gym a few months before my departure to Nepal. And thank god I did that as this trek is quite challenging with a daily elevation of +500m. The most difficult part of the trek was crossing the Cho La Pass at the height of 5,367m! It was a matter of keeping myself positive and pushing on as every time I reached a resting spot to catch my breath, I quickly realized the fantastic views all around me, making the tough trekking days worth every step.
What itinerary did I take for the Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri and Cho La Pass?
The trekking agency in Nepal suggests a couple of different itineraries consisting of additional trekking days, with or without extra sightseeing in Kathmandu. As we were already in Kathmandu, we also didn't need an arrival day or departure day, just from Kathmandu to Kathmandu. So Himalayan Asia Treks made us a perfect fit 15 days itinerary for the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass.
Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri and Cho La Pass Itinerary
Day 01: Kathmandu fly to Lukla (2,800m) and trek to Phakding (2,680m)
Day 02: Trek to Namche Bazaar (3,443m)
Day 03: Acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar
Day 04: Trek to Phortse Thanga (3,680m)
Day 05: Trek to Machhermo (4,470m)
Day 06: Trek to Gokyo (4,800m)
Day 07: Acclimatization day at Gokyo with an excursion to Gokyo Ri (5,357m)
Day 08: Trek to Thagnak (4,750m)
Day 09: Trek to Dzongla (4,830m) via the Cho La Pass (5,367m)
Day 10: Trek to Lobuche (4,910m)
Day 11: Trek to Gorakshep (5,164m) with a visit to Everest Base Camp (5,364m)
Day 12: Early morning hike to Kala Pathar (5,545m) and trek to Pheriche (4,371m)
Day 13: Trek back to Namche Bazaar
Day 14: Trek back to Lukla
Day 15: Fly back to Kathmandu
The best part about this itinerary was that it was the same, which I imagined it holding Everest Base Camp back as last.
How much did I end up paying, and what about permits?
After finalizing my 17 days Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass itinerary, it was just a matter of payment, and the next day in the morning, my friend and I would depart to Lukla! We ended up paying about 1,350$ USD per person and were assured that our permits and TIMS card would be all ready by the morning. We had to give a couple of passport size pictures, and that was it. We didn't know the exact payment of the permits and included the package price with airport transfers, 2-way flight Kathmandu-Lukla, accommodation, food, porter, and guide we didn't bother much. We were just eager to depart on our adventure!
My experience of the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Ri and Cho La Pass
As we sat ready in this tiny airplane filled with other trekkers and guides, I started to get a bit nervous as I had heard that the flight to Lukla is one of the most dangerous in the entire world! However, it was not soon after that the airplane took off, and before I knew it, I was flying through the clouds with incredible views below. About 30 minutes later, the aircraft started to descend, and it was spectacular seeing the runway of Lukla Airport appearing out of nowhere in the middle of the mountains.
The trek from Lukla to Phakding
We got to touch down! The whole plain celebrated in applause to the two pilots for a successful and safe landing, and we are starting to make our way out. The first thing I noticed, and I think anybody would, was the incredible scenery around where mountains reach into the clear blue sky; the air also felt so much purer than in Kathmandu. Yes, we are here in the Nepalese Himalayas! Our guide that we hired from Himalayan Asia Treks Nepal spoke fluent English and introduced us to our porter, a young man originally from Namche Bazaar. We didn't have much baggage and left all our heavy items at our hotel in Kathmandu for safekeeping. We only needed one porter for the two of us. After a quick break and a power snack, our guide did I final check if we had got everything for our adventure, and we headed out. The first part of the trail was easy going downwards through lush forested ridges and paths until reaching the edge of the beautiful alpine river. A bit further by crossing a bridge was our first village, Phakding, at the height of 2,680. The guest house was clean and comfortable, and having already had an exciting first day, we decided to turn in a bit early to be ready for our first full day of trekking to Namche Bazaar at 3,443m.
The part of Namche Bazaar and the trail to Gokyo
The trek from Phakding to Namche Bazaar was a good reminder that we are in the Himalayas! It was pretty tough, and not being used to these altitudes, we decided to take it a bit slower. Heading gradually up the trail towards Monjo, where we had to check our permits and enter the Sagarmatha National Park, was still doable. It was from here that we started to feel the burn of ever trekking upwards. Our guide assured us this is normal for first-time trekkers and that during our acclimatization day in Namche Bazaar, we would get more used to the high elevation.
Interestingly, as we reached Namche Bazaar, the jungle was left below. The entire landscape changed into a hilly, mountainous area with some greenery here and there, and in the distance, our first Himalayan Mountains! Namche Bazaar itself was a relief to see, knowing that we made our second day of trekking. We were exhausted, and after eating, we headed to our room which we shared, and went to sleep.
The following day my friend wanted to relax in our room for a bit, so I decided to head out and explore a bit around Namche until breakfast. The views from the village are incredible, and the streets are filled with handicraft shops, pharmacies, restaurants, and trekking equipment shops. No wonder this is the most significant settlement of the region; it's a commercial marketplace! But luckily for us, that was just what we needed on our first "relax" acclimatization day. After our breakfast, our guide suggested taking a short hike up to Everest View Hotel a bit further in Syangboche. This short trekking would help us acclimatize, and apparently, the views from there were magnificent. We hiked for about 2 hours upwards until reaching a hillside restaurant with a terrace viewing out over the valley and Mt Everest in the distance. Worth it! In the afternoon, we headed back to Namche Bazaar and visited the Sherpa Museum. This evening we tried out a national dish of Dhal Bhat Tarkali, achar, and Chicken. That's lentil soup, rice, vegetables, a spicy pickle sauce, and Chicken in the common language. Delicious! Our guide did tell us that from after Namche Bazaar, we should not order any non-veg items as the quality of the meat can be questionable in the smaller and more remote villages. Good to know!
It would take us three days to reach Gokyo and Gokyo Lake. We headed west from Namche towards the Dudh Koshi River and overnighted at Phortse Thanga first. The next day we crossed the river and made our way up north towards Machhermo. It mainly was rough terrain of rock and sand with occasionally a yak caravan passing us by. As for my friend and I were struggling to get forward at an acceptable pace, we were shocked to see that our porter just passed us by every time, caring at least 20kg! That's when we decided to call him superman! After we stayed the night at Machhermo, it would take us one more day to reach Gokyo and its incredible lake. The best highlight of this day was when I saw the sights of Mt Cho-Oyu (8,201m), the 5th highest mountain in the entire world! The scenery of the Ngozumpa Glacier was also quite stunning. Finally, in the late afternoon, we reached Gokyo Lake and at the other site on Gokyo Village banks.
Gokyo Valley and Gokyo Ri, I had never seen such views in my entire life!
Spending the night at Gokyo was fabulous; it was so quiet at night, and in the morning, seeing the sun rising over a turquoise-colored lake was breathtaking in itself. Little did I know what was going to happen next! After breakfast, we hiked up for about 2 hours to Gokyo Ri, a small peak with an incredible 360-degree view over the entire Himalayas. There were at least four over 8,000 Meter Mountains visible. Mt Everest (8,848m), Mt Lhotse (8,516m), Mt Makalu (8,481m) and Mt Cho-Oyu (8,201m). Imagine seeing a whole horizon in every direction with snow-topped mountain peaks stretching as far as you can see, and all under blue sky heaven! This hike was one of the best and most rewarding highlights of the Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass. I was making it worth choosing to do the tour in a clockwise direction.
The rest of the day, we relaxed and roamed around Gokyo Lake, seeing some of the local Green Brainy Ducks and interacting with some of the locals and other trekkers that came to spend the night at Gokyo.
The cross of the Cho La Pass at 5,367m
Our first obstacle is crossing the Cho La Pass was getting there. Leaving Gokyo behind, we head over the massive Ngozumpa Glacier. It was challenging to find my right footing on this part, but the trail was well marked and led down into a small trench that allowed us to get off the Glacier. From here, we headed to our next destination Thagnak. Our guide told us to take an early sleep as we had to leave early then the Cho La Pass would be most accessible. So the following day, the real challenge began. I was already getting used to the high climate and lack of oxygen as I felt getting lesser symptoms of fatigue, but boy did I not expect the steep climb up the Cho La Pass. It was hard, and we had to stop a couple of times to catch our breath, but we got closer to the mountain pass with every step. After some time of climbing and scattering around, we finally began to see prayer flags marking the top of the Cho La Pass! Yes, we made it! Faces all red and breathing frantically from exhaustion, we finally made it! We took a well-deserved break at the Pass before heading down and making our way to Dzongla and the next day to Lobuche. The village of Lobuche marks the trail of the Everest Base Camp and has made it this far; the realization that Everest Base Camp was just one day away made it difficult to get sleep.
We did it, Everest Base Camp and Kala Pathar!
I finally found my sleep and got a goodnight's rest. The following day on day 11 of my Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass, I was ready and eager to depart. However, before reaching Everest Base Camp, we head to trek for about 2 hours towards Gorakshep, the last village before EBC. The trail was rocky with incredible mountain views! After reaching Gorakshep, we checked in the guest house, left all of our heavy luggage in our rooms, and got ready for our hike up to Everest Base Camp.
It took us a good 2 hours before reaching the incredible Khumbu Glacier that lies at the foot of Mt Everest. And then we say its prayer flags and a big rock on which said EVEREST BASE CAMP! It was cold and windy, but my god, what a view! So this is it we did; we made it to Everest Base Camp. All those days of trekking and struggling to go further and further was worth it! We took a whole bunch of selfies and photos to mark this event forever!
And Although the view of Mt Everest itself was not perfect from Base Camp the following day, we woke up at about 4 am and hiked up to Kala Pathar. We made sure to have our headlight batteries fully charged and made our way up the hill in the dark. Reaching the top of the Kala Patthar, the sun already began to appear, and it was breathtaking to see a sunrise view over Mt Everest and its neighboring mountains!
From there on, we began to make our way back to Namche and Lukla. It took us another three days, and on our 15th day, we flew back to Kathmandu. We visited the trekking agency Himalayan Asia Treks after a short rest back at our hotel, thanked them for the trip of a lifetime, and assured them that we'd be back for more!
Conclusion: My Experience of the Everest Base Camp Trek via Gokyo Ri and Cho La Pass
Wow, what an adventure we had! My experience of the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass was incredible! Yes, it was tough and challenging, but then again, where else can you get those types of views? I recommended it if you like nature, mountains, and a Himalayan adventure! Make sure to do the Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo Ri and the Cho La Pass like me in the autumn season (mid-October); I guarantee you the views will be breathtaking!