Everest Base Camp Trek – via Gokyo and the Cho La Pass – Part 1

How to lose the crowds, cross a glacier and stand on the foothills of giants.

Part 1 – Intro & Routes to Everest
Part 2 – Difficulty
Part 3 – How to cope with altitude sickness & acclimatise
Part 4 – Guidebooks & maps
Part 5 – Surviving Kathmandu
Part 6 – Getting to Lukla
Part 7 – Budgeting & Kit list
Part 8 – Route description

Trekking through the Himalayas towards the roof of the world may well be this planet’s greatest adventure. The Everest Base Camp trek (EBC to its friends) takes you on a journey across valley-spanning suspension bridges, high altitude farmland, forests and rivers; eventually traversing lunar landscapes and thawing glaciers; until finally reaching the base camp where Edmund Hillary and beyond have launched successful ascents of Everest. The route is the stuff of legends.

Since Hillary, as of the end of 2016, 4,469 different people have reached Everest’s summit. These days Everest is big business, and you can pay the going rate of $45k for a tour operator to take you to the 8,846m summit, mountaineering skills optional. But for us mortals that don’t have $45k tucked casually behind the sofa, trekking to Everest Base Camp (5,400m) promises an unforgettable adventure, layered with Buddhism, Sherpa culture and a smattering of human madness.

On route to Lobuche - Everest Base Camp trek

Spectacular 7,000m peak (no, not Everest), passed on your way to Lobuche.

The Route(s) to Everest

The standard EBC starts at Lukla (2,800m) and takes 13 days (including two acclimatisation days) to complete. If you want to be a Hillary purist, you can add 5 days to the route (10 for a return trip) and start at Jiri instead of flying straight in to Lukla.

Both these variations take the same route up as down. And although trekking in the Himalayas could never be boring, a more interesting route (for the adventurous only) is to combine the EBC trek with the Gokyo lakes to make a round trip. The two treks are connected via the Cho La pass (5,420m), a crossing that at first sight seems like an impregnable wall, shortly followed by descent off a glacier on the other side (if you cross west to east).

This route (13 days total) is challenging and somewhat treacherous, but worth it to see more of the beautiful mountain range away from the EBC highway. It’s an exaggeration to say this route takes you off the beaten track, but it’s certainly less beaten, and as a result the atmosphere in the lodges is more akin to staying in a family guest house, as opposed to the impersonal bunk houses you find on the main trail. For these reasons, the route is an excellent variation on the EBC trek. This article, and the below day-by-day route description, details the Gokyo-Cho La-EBC round trip route.

Map of Everest Base Camp trek via Gokyo lakes and Cho La Pass.

Map showing the Gokyo lakes trek (left red branch), the standard EBC trek (right red branch), and how to connect the two treks together via the Cho La pass. Source: http://www.nepalguideinfo.com/

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