Days 1 & 2
After an overnight flight from London Heathrow to Kathmandu, via New Delhi, we catch a transfer from Kathmandu airport to our hotel in the city. Here, we meet our lovely challenge leader for a pre-trek briefing. He’ll discuss the trekking program and co-ordinate any last-minute arrangements and of course, you’ll have the opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the challenge ahead. This evening, we have a wonderful welcome dinner at one of Kathmandu's fine restaurants.
London – Kathmandu
This morning, we get to see one of the biggest Buddhist shrines in the world, Boudhanath Stupa, on a fascinating tour around the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu. Wandering through the monasteries that surround the shrine and seeing the Buddhist monks in prayer, this is the perfect calm before the storm!
Getting an insight into not just one religion today, we also visit Nepal’s most famous Hindu temple, Pashupatinath, which sits on the banks of the Holy Bagmati River, where Hindu Sadhus, Holy men and pilgrims perform their ritual bathing. The early afternoon is free to relax at the hotel or you may wish to visit Thamel, which, having been Kathmandu’s tourist centre for over four decades, is the best place to pick up some souvenirs and do some last-minute shopping. Later in the afternoon, we’ll supply you with your trek pack and trek departure information.
Kathmandu | 1,360m/4,488ft
Early in the morning, we leave Kathmandu and catch an approx. forty-minute flight to Lukla, a mountain town sitting very close to Everest. The flight itself is awe-inspiring, as we fly parallel to the Himalayan giants bordering Nepal and Tibet. We touch down at the airstrip built by Sir Edmund Hillary and the Sherpas in the mid-sixties. Now at 2,600m, we have a chance to acclimatise and get used to the high altitude, while exploring the quite literally breath-taking town. We also have the special opportunity to visit the ‘Classrooms in the Sky Project’. This wonderful charity school was set up by Dawa, our challenge leader, and is dedicated to improving the educational opportunities in this remote mountain region of Nepal, so that children can explore and develop their potential.
In the afternoon, we start our challenge with an easy walk and descend on a wide trail towards the Dudh Kosi, the highest river in eastern Nepal, which flows between two towering cliffs. We join the main trail just above the village of Chaurikharka (2,731m) and follow it to Namche Bazaar, the bustling capital of the Khumbu region. Continuing on, we pass through the small village of Ghat (2,550m) and cross the Dudh Kosi river again to our accommodation in the beautiful village of Phakding.
Kathmandu – Lukla - Phakding | 2,600m/8,580ft
Leaving Phakding, we head up the valley on a trail, busy with porters from the lower Solu district as they ferry supplies to Namche. We’ll pass many Sherpas leading their Zopkios (half yak, half cow) to higher valleys, laden with trekking or climbing expedition equipment. We follow the river valley, which flows through beautiful alpine scenery, blue pine and rhododendron forest. Upon reaching Benkar village, we re-cross the Dudh Kosi and catch tantalising glimpses of the mountains Kusum Kanguru (6,369m) and Thamserku (6,623m). We stop in the village of Monjo for lunch, before continuing on towards Namche. Then it’s back across the river again to the western bank at Jorsale (2,805m) and enter Sagarmatha National Park.
Continuing upstream to the intersection of the Bhote Kosi and Dudh Kosi rivers, we cross a large, stable suspension bridge high above the river and then start the steady two hour climb to Namche. We have fantastic photographic opportunities as the peaks of Everest (8,848m), Lhotse (8,511m), Nuptse (7,879m) and Tawoche (6,542m) come into view for the first time. After arriving in Namche, we have the rest of the day free. You may take this opportunity to relax and rest your legs or you can wander the local shops for Tibetan artefacts, all the while enjoying the amazing scenery.
Phakding - Namche Bazaar | 3,446m/11,372ft
Today is a day for rest and acclimatisation and to ensure we acclimatise properly this high up in the world, we remain at Namche for a second night. Namche is a stunning and prosperous village, tucked in a large, protected hollow. Originally a trading town dedicated to the trade of Nepalese lowland grains for Tibetan salt, a limited amount of trade exists today in Namche and Tibetans are often seen in the village trading rugs and Chinese-manufactured goods, clothing, salt and dried meat.
We recommend you also jump upon your once-in-a-lifetime chance to enjoy both the sunrise and the sunset views from the National Park Headquarters above the village. The view is stunning with a heavenly panorama of the Khumbu peaks and spectacular views of Everest. (Don’t forget your selfie stick!) After breakfast, the area is your oyster. You can take a walk towards Thami (3,810m) above the beautiful Bhote Khola river valley or a visit to the National Park Headquarters to see the interesting displays of Sherpa lifestyle and culture. Our challenge guides will be more than happy to offer advice and escort you on your walks. Alternatively, the climb to Shyangboche is great for acclimatisation and a visit to the Everest View Hotel for morning tea is an unforgettable experience.
From Namche, we trek around to the village of Kyangjuma on a wide, undulating trail, with fantastic views of Ama Dablam, Thamserku and Everest. This is a fab place to buy some Tibetan jewellery, which, being small and unique, is the perfect souvenir for your challenge. From here, we only have a short walk up to Khumjung and the Everest View Hotel. Along the way, we’re likely to pass plenty of local wildlife, including Danphe pheasants and Himalayan thar, a ridiculously fluffy type of mountain goat, often seen on the high ground above the trail.
After a cup of tea, we pass through the village of Trashinga, where the trail drops steeply to cross the Dudh Kosi at Phunki Tenga (3,250m). We take a break here and admire the series of water driven prayer wheels, before taking a steep climb to Thyangboche, an ascent of approximately two and a half hours through a gorgeous forest filled with pine, fir, black juniper and rhododendron trees. The municipality of Thyangboche is set in a beautiful meadow, high on a ridge surrounded by towering Himalayan peaks, like Kangtaga, Ama Dablam (perhaps the most beautiful peak in the region) and of course, Mount Everest.
This evening, we have time to visit the monastery, which was founded, according to legend, in the 17th century AD by Lama Sange Dorjee from Tibet's Rongbuk Monastery. The original building was destroyed by an earthquake in 1933, rebuilt and again badly damaged by fire in 1989. Since then, the monastery has been reconstructed in 1992.
Namche - Thyangboche | 3,875m/12,787ft
We start the morning by descending through a similar gorgeous forest to the one we climbed through yesterday, lush with birch, fir, juniper and rhododendron, to the peaceful nunnery at Deboche. From here, we cross the Imja Khola glacier and gradually ascend to the village of Pangboche. We take our lunch break here and enjoy the view of Mount Ama Dablam, which dominates the village. We also have a special opportunity to visit the old monastery in the village that once housed the legendary Yeti Scalp, a piece of the centuries-old abominable snowman.
Now rested and ready to get back on track, we follow a trail high above the Imja Khola, passing the tea houses at Orsho before crossing over another section of the Imja Khola and the old glacial moraines to our lodge in Dingboche. Words cannot do justice to the scenery we enjoy in this area. Now well and truly above the tree line, we can’t see Everest from here, but we have the amazing sight of the Lhotse Nuptse ridge. This evening, keep your fingers crossed for clear conditions, so that we can experience the stunning sunset from our lodge. It’ll be the perfect end to a tiring day’s walk.
Due to the altitude, today it’s really important to take notice of our challenge leader’s advice and recommendations regarding rest and fluid intake.
Thyangboche - Dingboche | 4,360m/14,388ft
Today, we can enjoy a day of rest and acclimatisation, having now reached a very high altitude. As mentioned above, Dingboche makes a wonderful place to rest. This quaint Sherpa village is made up of a beautiful patchwork of small fields, growing barley and potatoes. Stone walls surround the fields to protect the crops from the cold winds. During the monsoon months (which you’ll be pleased to know we avoid), Sherpas from the surrounding areas bring their yaks here to graze on the valley pastures.
You can spend the day as you wish and again, our challenge leader, Dawa, will be at hand to make any recommendations of things to do in this charming area. You may want to take advantage of this opportunity to relax and simply chill out at the lodge, while absorbing the delightful scenery. Alternatively, you can take your camera on an excursion up the Chukung valley for the spectacular views; the towering south face of Lhotse to the north, Island Peak in the centre of the valley and the fluted ice-walls of un-named peaks that line the southern end of the valley form a hauntingly beautiful sight.
If you’re up for a more strenuous trip, you can take the steep climb to the hill above our lodge. The hike is well worth it for the fantastic hilltop view of the fifth highest mountain in the world, Makalu (8,481m), which is not visible from the valley floor.
Another walk you could embark on, if you wanted to get really off the beaten track, is a scramble up the hillside opposite Dingboche to the Ama Dablam Lakes. From here, you can look down at where we came from yesterday and lopk up at where we’re headed in the days to come. You’ll, of course, also have the view of the mountain to which the lakes belong, Ama Dablam, as well as the Lhotse Nuptse wall and Makal. You can quite easily spend the entire day sitting at the turquoise lakes and marvelling at the panoramas here, before scrambling back down the hill to our lodge.
Dingboche | 4360m/14388ft
This morning, we start off with an ascent to the top of the small ridge and reach the chorten (stupa) behind the village. From here, we have a gradual climb high above the Pheriche valley. The Tawoche (6,542m) and Cholatse (6,501m) mountains lean towards us from across the valley in the West. To the North, Lobuche peak (6,119m) and the snowfields of the Cho La dominate the skyline. Now we can enjoy trekking on fairly flat terrain, walking on wide, open fields, until we come to a short descent to cross the Khumbu Khola at Dughla (4,620m). This makes a beautiful lunch stop and we have a break at the foot of the huge terminal moraines of the Khumbu glacier, which flows from Mount Everest.
This afternoon, we have a short but steep climb over a rocky trail to the top of the moraines. On the crest of the ridge, we pass a line of memorial cairns, built in memory of Sherpas and climbers who have died on various Everest expeditions over the last 50 years. The view here is breath-taking, with Pumori (7,145m), Lingtren (6,697), Kumbutse (6,623m) and across the border in Tibet, Changtse (7,550m) visible at the head of the valley. Mount Everest is still hiding behind the towering walls of Lhotse and Nuptse; but perhaps this is a good thing. Any more to see and our eyes might explode with the beauty of it all. After a short descent over more moraines, we cross a pretty stream and follow a narrow trail on the western side of the huge lateral moraines of the Khumbu glacier, until we come to the tea houses and our lodge at Lobuche. Today is a tiring day, but with ridiculous panoramas all the way, we enjoy every step of the trek.
If you still have some energy and conditions are clear, a walk up onto the large ridge behind the lodge provides an even better sight for sore thighs.
Dingboche - Lobuche | 4,930m/16,269ft
We rise and shine with an early start today and follow the broad valley running parallel to the Khumbu glacier. We have a gradual ascent, which gets us into slow and steady rhythm we need to walk at high altitude. Soon, we reach the moraines of the Changri Nup Glacier, before taking a series of small ascents and descents over a rocky trail, lined with cairns, stacks of rock, which mountaineers use to mark their trails.
Rounding a bend, we come to the flat, sandy basin of Gorak Shep (5,160m). We have a quick bite to eat and then set off for the Everest Base Camp (5,360m). The rough track takes us along a glacial lake and then up onto the Khumbu Glacier itself. Along the way, we’re very likely to pass yaks and porters supplying food and equipment to expeditions.
Upon reaching Base Camp, we can take a moment to enjoy the overwhelming sense of achievement, having reached the highest point of our trek. From here, we again don’t see Mount Everest itself; but again, the views we do get are stunning enough without it. We can admire the notorious Khumbu Ice Fall that flows from the Western Cwm and is regarded as technically the hardest and most dangerous section of Mount Everest (don’t worry – we don’t attempt it). After taking in these mesmerising vistas, we return to Gorak Shep to rest for the night.
Lobuche - Everest Base Camp - Gorak Shep | 5,160m/1,7028ft
You won’t be surprised to learn that today involves another physically demanding trek. (We don’t call it a Dream Challenge for nothing!) Leaving Gorak Shep early, we take a slow and steady trek up to Kala Patar (5,545m), a small, rocky peak on the South West ridge of Pumori. It’s a tough climb, but we’re rewarded with our best views yet. (I know – just as you thought the panoramas couldn’t get any better!) Huge glaciers surround us and creak as we walk.
In front of us lie the mountains of the Khumbu as we trek towards the incredible panorama, comprising Pumori, Nuptse, Changtse, Ama Dablam, Tawoche, Kantega and of course, Sagarmatha. Our visions now enriched with vistas that few have seen, we descend to Gorak Shep for a cup of tea and return to Lobuche for lunch. After our break, we descend further still, heading past the terminal moraines at Dughla. We then follow a gorgeous route through the wide alpine valley covered in scrub juniper, to the temporary settlement of Phulung Karpa (4,343m) and finally to today’s finishing point of Pheriche.
Gorak Shep - Pheriche | 4,243m/1,4002ft
We cross the Khumbu Khola this morning, which leads us to a steep ascent to the top of a small ridge. Enjoying exquisite views of the Imja valley, Ama Dablam and Kantega, we trek down through the settlements of Osho, Pangboche and Deboche and then on to Thyangboche for lunch. Re-energised, we descend further and pass through the juniper, rhododendron and fir forest to Phunki Tenga. Our rest stop here will be familiar to us as we once again enjoy the sight of the small stream and its water-driven prayer wheels and a welcome cup of tea. Resuming our trek, we cross the Dudh Kosi, before walking up a dusty trail to Trashinga. We then contour round to Shanasa, where Tibetan traders with numerous "artefacts" bargain hard to persuade trekkers to part with a few rupees. We then trek high above the river valley and reach the wonderful Namche Bazaar, where we spend the night.
Pheriche - Namche Bazaar | 3,446m/1,1372ft
This morning, we wake to our last day of trekking and we start with a descent down the steep trail to the Bhote Kosi. Crossing the river, we follow the bank for a short distance to where it meets the Dudh Kosi and from here, we trek to the village of Jorsale. Crossing back over the Dudh Kosi to Monjo., we retrace our steps along the river and cross to the western bank at Benkar. It is a beautiful and easy walk through blue pine and rhododendron forest, with views of Kusum Kangaru behind us. Reaching Phakding for lunch, we then start the gradual climb out of the river valley back to our finish line at Lukla. We arrive late in the afternoon, filled with a sense of triumph like no other. This evening, we celebrate our achievement of this incredible challenge together with a farewell dinner. This may be followed with a few celebratory drinks and dancing with our Sherpa companions.
Namche Bazaar - Lukla | 2,827m/9,329ft
Days 15 & 16
We get up early in the morning on Day 15, to catch our flight back to Kathmandu. From the airport, we’re transferred to our hotel. The next day is yours to spend as you wish in Nepal’s bustling capital, sightseeing, shopping and exploring the colourful bazaars.
Lukla - Kathmandu | 1,360m/4,488ft
After breakfast, we transfer to Kathmandu airport and catch our flight back to London. Here, we part ways and head back to home sweet home, brimming with anecdotes, unforgettable memories and a camera full of awesome photos!
Kathmandu - UK