Everest Region Trekking
Located in the eastern half of Nepal, the Everest region offers a wide range of trekking experiences. From the well-developed trail to Everest base camp to treks in remote semi-wilderness areas, there is a choice to suit all-corners.
The most frequented part of the region is located in Solukhumbu district, the home of the legendary Sherpas. The northern part of the district (Khumbu) is encompassed in the Everest National Park, which was established to protect the fragile environment of the alpine region. To the east of the Everest National Park is the Makalu-Barun National Park, a remote and wild stretch of mountain peaks and deep densely forested valleys. To the west is the Rolwaling valley, a well protected microcosm of cultures and ecology. The southern part of the district, Solu is much less frequented by tourist and be a very rewarding destination in its own right.
Beside Mount Everest there are other 8,000 meter peaks in the region. Lhotse , Cho Oyu and Makalu and in addition numerous other peaks lesser altitude but no less stunning. Add to this glacial lakes rhododendron forest, native flora and fauna, traditional villages and ancient Buddhist monasteries, all go to make this region a spectacular destination.
Permits and Fees
No special trekking permits are required to visit this area provided that the trekker's do not climb any of the peaks. An entry fee is charged for access to Everest National Park . This is payable at the national park desk in Thamel. For treks to the east of main Everest trail an addition permit is required to enter Makalu-Barun National Park obtainable from the same location.
Access to the Everest region can only be made by air or on foot. By road, the only practical road ahead at this time is Jiri, a seven to ten hour bus ride from Kathmandu. A new road is under construction to Salleri, the district headquarters, but this will probably be complete for another five years at least. It is also possible to trek to the Everest region via the Arun valley where roads head is at Hille, a twenty ride from the capital. These times are all by local bus as there is no tourist bus service available at this time. Private cars and taxis could be used and would reduce the traveling time considerably but obviously at extra cost. Buses to Jiri currently leave from the old bus park in central Kathmandu.
By air there are three options. The most convenient for Everest treks is Lukla, which is serviced by many daily flights from Kathmandu. Three days walk to south, near the district headquarters, is Phaplu air strip, which is service by daily flights. This is useful for treks in southern parts of the region or for Everest trekkers who want to gain extra acclimatization and see some of less developed part of the district.
The last choice is the small air strip at Syangboche, which is located above Namche Bazar. While this is an option, its altitude (3760 meters) makes it an impractical and unwise choice as an arrival destination for acclimatization reasons.
People and Culture
The main ethnic group that visitors will encounter in the Everest region is the Sherpas . This is their heartland and their influence is to be seen everywhere from their traditional dress to their distinctive houses and village monasteries. There are also minorities of various other groups, notably Rai/Limbu and Tamang in the lower hills and the ubiquitous Bhramin and Chhetri farmers of the valleys.
Flora and Fauna
The flora and fauna to be seen are quiet diverse since the region ranges in altitude from less than 2000 meters above sea level at Jiri to the high peaks of the Himalaya at over 8000 meters. Up to 4000 meters you will find dense stands of forest including pine, oak and the spectacular flowering rhododendrons . The latter are one reason to make a trip in Nepal in the spring when the hills between 2000 and 3500 meters are a riot of colors.
The crop under cultivation will depend on the season that you visit but expect to see wheat, barley, corn and potatoes at some stage. Domesticated animals will range from cattle, buffalo, goats and pigs to the all-purpose beast of mountains-the yak
There is a good chance of seeing wildlife, mostly birds including the national bird of Nepal-the Impeyan Pheasant, or danfe, which is quite common around Namche Bazar. Other notable birds will include the ravens and crows of the middle hills and the coughs which soar to seemingly impossible heights in the mountains. Also in the mountain look for flocks of snow pigeons wheeling around the hillsides.
Land animals can be most elusive but look out mountain goats (most commonly the Himalayan tahr) and, if you are lucky, musk deer or barking deer in the forest.
How and When
How to trek in Everest region depend entirely on the route that you choose. On the main trail to Everest base camp or the route to Gokyo valley then teahouse trekking is perfectly possible. The trail in from Jiri is also endowed with many continently located teahouses although generally not of such a high standard as those to the north. Other trekking routes will almost certainly require the use of camping and organization of trekking staff and equipment. See the following individual route description for detail.
When to Visit?
The peak season of October/November and March/May are obviously the most popular. At these times the weather is mild and generally dry, making the walking conditions good. The spring season is good for wild flowers, particularly the rhododendrons, while the autumn season generally gives the best mountain views, as the air at this time is crystal clear.
Winter is possible but the chances of snow are higher and passes may be closed, particularly during late winter. Also during this time many of the teahouses will close. The summer/monsoon period is generally unsuitable for trekking period, as the trails are slippery, leeches abundant and the mountain views are unpredictable. It can be rewarding time, however, if you are prepared to tolerate these drawbacks, as the wild flowers are at their best at this time and there are fewer tourists on the trails making interaction with the locals easier.
Looking after the environment
Much has been said about the deteriorating environment of the Himalaya. Over that past few years, due to effort by many overseas expeditions and organizations such as the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee and Nepal Mountaineering Association, education programmes and clean-up campaigns have, to a large extent, solved many of the problems.
Having said that, the environment of the high Himalaya is a very fragile eco-system that is easily put out of balance. The locals lived for generations in relative harmony with their surroundings but the recent influx of tourist has put pressure on the indigenous populations to supply more and more services in the name of tourism development. While the Everest National Park is somewhat protective from the worst ravages the same cannot be said about the area immediately to the south. Here, uncontrolled timber collection for fuel and building has led to a marked loss of timber cover. Certain initiatives within the National Park area, such as the banning of glass beer and soft drink bottles, had resulted in a reduction of the amount of non-biodegradable rubbish being left behind. Much more can be done, however, particularly by the trekkers themselves. The KEEP code of trekking conduct is a perfect example.
Permits and fees
The northern parts of the area largely fall within the boundaries of Langtang national park. Entry permits should be obtained in Kathmandu before starting to trek. Helambu, to the south, and Ganesh Himal, to the west, are the exceptions although to reach Ganesh Himal from Kathmandu an entry permit is required as the motor road is partly within the park. No trekking permits are required in this area. If accessing Helambu from Kathmandu a permit to pass through the Shivapuri watershed area, recently declared a national park ticket counter in Kathmandu.