Highly popular for tallest mountains, breath taking landscapes, unique highland culture, beautiful forests and endangered species, Everest region is home to many incredible trekking routes from soft trekking in lower altitudes to longer treks along the high mountain passes. For travelers seeking more challenges, less crowd and journey of a lifetime with unparalleled views and fascinating culture, Everest Three Passes Trek is an ideal adventure that takes you to the off beaten path with some of the most astonishing sights Nepal has to offer. Even the experienced hikers find this trail a true challenge. So, if you are up to take the challenge, this trek has the best of Khumbu in reserve.
Three Passes Trek offers an amazing scenic trails and adventurous crossing of Renjo La (5340 m), Cho La (5420 m) and Kongma La (5535 m) passes that join the four valleys of Imja, Khumbu, Gokyo and Bhote Koshi. Besides the panoramic views of some of the world’s highest mountains such as Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Cho Oyu, Makalu, Ama Dablam and captivating valleys, you can also experience the rich cultural heritage of Sherpa people of the region during the trek.
Considered as a longer trek, Three Passes Trek takes about 18 days to complete. This adventurous trek commences from Lukla towards the Dudh Koshi valley on a well-marked trail and crosses the green dense forest, scattered rhododendron bushes, beautiful flora and fauna, ever flowing mountain gorges and culturally rich villages like Phakding, Namche Bazaar to reach Tengboche, a hilltop settlement with its iconic monastery standing sentinel overlooking the valley. From Tengboche, the trail contours on the side of the valley which offers the stunning views of beautiful mountains of Khumbu including Mt. Everest (8848 m), Lhotse (8516 m), Nuptse (7861 m), and Ama Dablam (6812 m). The path descends downhill and crosses Imja Khola to reach the beautiful village of Dingboche and gradually hikes to the last village of Imja valley; Chhukung, which is famous for a marvelous view of Lhotse’s massive south wall.
Continuing from Chhukung, the trail passes through one of the three Everest High Passes, Kongma la (5535 m) and descends to the section of scree and boulder fields towards Lobuche. The trail then proceeds towards Cho La (5420 m) along the ridge curving towards west with amazing views of Arakam Tse (6423m), Cholatse (6335m), Taboche (6367m) and reaches Dzongla. Out of Dzongla, the trail heads northwest and descends to Dragnag and continues through the treacherous glacial walk across Ngozumpa glacier to a beautiful village of Gokyo, by the side of an enormous turquoise Gokyo Lake. Furthermore, path leads to Gokyo Ri, a perfect viewpoint of remarkable views of Gokyo Lake, Everest, Cho Oyu, Makalu and Cho-Oyu Base Camp.
After the rewarding climb, the trail traverses through the northern shore and slowly ascends towards Renjo La (5340 m) which offers the astonishing views of Makalu and Rolwaling range. The last section of the trail, then, gradually descends on a flat trail marked with cairns and stony steps to the quiet village, Thame and passes through a steady trail strewn with prayer flags and mani stones to Namche Baazar, which then retraces back to Lukla completing the exciting Everest Three Passes Trek.
It’s a known fact that Everest Base Camp Trek is a very rewarding highland adventure. Flying to thrilling Lukla Airport, walking past quaint Sherpa villages and breathtaking landscape, and finally getting real close to Everest, the highest of all peaks in the world, Everest Base Camp Trek is definitely a whole new level of experience. As expected of any trekking in Nepal, it also involves a lot of walking (continuously for about 11/12 days) in the alpine terrain. So, anyone interested to undertake trekking in Nepal is sure to ask mandatory questions like how high? how far? and how many hours. However, there is absolutely no reason to get worried – we are making things easier for you! Below we have listed some major facts on distance, time and elevation involved in Everest Base Camp Trek. Please note that we have used a standard itinerary to provide a general overview of the trek, though there can be some side treks and different stopovers depending on individual requirement.
Summary of distance, time and elevation
Distance in Everest Base Camp: The total distance in Everest Base Camp trek (Lukla-Everest Base Camp-Lukla) is about 130km round trip (65 km each way). Normal number of days to cover the distance is 11/12 days. So, you will be walking roughly about 11 km in about 6 hours a day in average. As the terrain is rocky with switchbacks (gradual ascent and descent), the pace will be slow about 2.5 km an hour. So, distance in Everest Base Camp Trek is achievable for people of all ages. As you need to acclimatize while going up, it takes 9 days to reach the Base Camp (including the 2 acclimatization days) and just 3 days to return to Lukla.
Elevation in Everest Base Camp Trek : Everest Base Camp Trek is not a very technical trekking. However, elevation is a bit of challenge that needs to be considered of. The very starting point of the trek, Lukla Airport itself is at an altitude of 2860m. Lukla Airport, known as Tenzing Hillary Airport, is popularly known as one of the most adventurous airports in the world due to its tricky runway perched on a cliff. The highest point you reach is 5545m (Kala Patthar), an amazing viewpoint to savor the beauty of Everest and her sister peaks. Though the altitude variation looks extreme, the itinerary is planned in such a way that your body gets enough time to acclimatize. An average elevation gain ranges from 400m to 800m per day. When you gain significantly high altitude in a particular day, the next day will usually be the rest day to acclimatize. As a whole, elevation in Everest Base Camp Trek defines both the challenge and joy.
Day to day distance, time and elevation
To get a more comprehensive idea on the distance, time (walking hours) and elevation, here is a day-to-day break down of the standard Everest Base Camp Trek with en-route highlights.
Day 1: Lukla to Phakding
2860m – 2656m
En-route Highlights: mani walls and boulders, villages like Cheplung, Lhawa and Ghat, suspension bridge (first one of six such bridges in the trail)
Day 2: Phakding to Namche
2656m – 3440m
En-route Highlights: Monjo (National Park Entry point, Entry Permit Check Point), Jorsalle, 4 suspension bridges (3 above Dudh Koshi and 1 above Imja Khola, the iconic one seen in movies), approximately 700m vertical climb before reaching Namche – shouldn’t be taken lightly as you will set off for the climb right after your lunch and when you have to walk uphill in altitude right after meal, it can’t so easy. This uphill climb is the first of the two tough climbs you will have in Everest Base Camp Trek.
Day 3: Rest Day at Namche
3440m – 3880m – 3440m
Visit to Sherpa Culture Museum, Sagarmatha National Park Museum ( about 100m above Namche) & Monastery
Hiking to Khumjung/Khunde (3790m- about 2 km from Namche) – about 400m climb from Namche to Syangboche Airport and continue to Khunde and Khumjung
Hiking to Hotel Everest View (3880m – about 2.5 km from Namche) – about 400m climb from Namche to Synagboche Airport and continue to the hotel
Hiking in a loop Namche-Syangboche-Khunde-Khumjung-Hotel Everest View-Namche; you can also choose to stay overnight in Khumjung or Hotel Everest View
En- route Highlights: Views of Everest, Nupste, Lhotse and Ama Dablam; Khunde Hospital, Khumjung School, Khumjung Monastery, Hotel Everest View (one of the highest hotels in the world) etc.
Day 4: Namche to Deboche
En-route Highlights: Views of Everest, Nupste, Lhotse and Ama Dablam; a suspension bridge over Imja Khola , after about 300m downhill walk to Punki Tenga; about 500m of climb to Tengboche (second of the two vertical climbs after Namche climb), Tengboche Monastery (3867m – 10 km, 5 hours)
Day 5: Deboche to Dingboche
3734m – 4410m
En-route Highlights: Views of towering Amadablam and Nuptse; Everest starts to hide behind the Nuptse wall; Pangboche Village (3985m- about 3 km, 2 hours) combination of 2 settlements lower and upper; Pangboche Monastery with its famed yeti skull; Pangboche is also the last village for Amadablam expedition – climbers go to Amadablam Base Camp via Pangboche; consistently flat trail throughout; crossroad one leading to Pheriche and other leading to Dingboche
Day 6: Rest Day at Dingboche
i. 1.5 km (if Nangkar Tshang Hill)
ii. 11 km (if Chhukung Village & Chukkung Ri)
i. 3 hours (includes steep climb)
ii. 6 hours
i. 4410m – 5083m
ii. 4410m – 4730m – 5550m
Hiking to Nangkar Tshang Hill (5083m, about 700m high from Dingboche, 2.5 hours) which sounds like Nagarjun (Nepali word of Sanskrit origin), at first steady climb and later on steep. Nangkar Tshang hill is right behind Dingboche village.
Hiking to Chhukung Village (4730m, about 5km, 1.5 hours) – the last village before Island Peak, can continue to Chhukung Ri (5550m, about 820m high from Chhukung Village, 3 hours) if you want to push yourself a bit harder – in this case an early start from Dingboche is required.
En-route Highlights: From Nangkar Tshang Hill 360 degree views of Mt. Makalu, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Island peak, Amadablam, Kangtega , Thamserku , Taboche, and Cholatse ; From Chhukung Ri impressive view of Imja Tse (Island Peak), Imja Glacier, Ama Dablam, Makalu and Nuptse
Day 7: Dingboche to Lobuche
4410m – 4910m
En-route Highlights: Views of Amadablam, Taboche and Cholatse; Thukla – a riverside lunch stopover, A Memorial Park at Thukla Pass – has about 100 memorials (called chhortens in local language) of those who died while climbing Everest and other mountains including legendary climber Babu Chhiri Sherpa; Khumbu Glacier moraine
Day 8: Lobuche to Gorakshep (Base Camp hike)
i. 4.3 km (Lobuche – Gorakshep)
ii. 3.5 km (Gorak Shep – Everest Base Camp)
i. 2.5 hours
ii. 5 hours for round trip (3 hours + 2 hours)
i. 4910m – 5140m
ii. 5140m – 5364m – 5140m
En-route Highlights: Khumbu Glacier, close up views of Pumori, Nuptse, Khumbutse, Lhola, Everest Base Camp,Tip of Everest (highlight of the whole trek)
Day 9: Morning Kala Pathhar hike; Gorakshep to Pheriche
i. 1.2 km (Gorakshep – Kala Pathhar)
ii. 10 km (Gorak Shep – Pheriche)
i. 3.5 hours for round trip
ii. 5 hours
i. 5140m – 5545m – 5140m
ii. 5140m – 4371m
En-route Highlights: Spectacular sunrise view of Everest, Nuptse, Changtse, Lhotse etc. from Kala Pathhar
Day 10: Pheriche to Namche
4371m – 3440m
En-route Highlights: Pangboche monastery; Tengboche monastery; Suspension bridge at Phunki
Tenga; views of Nupste, Everest, Amadablam, Kangtega Thamserku, Kongde Ri etc.
Day 11: Namche to Lukla
3440m – 2860m
En-route Highlights: 5 Suspension bridges, Dudh Koshi River; and of course trees (you might have almost forgotten about them)
The mind is everything. What you think you become. — Buddha! One of the greatest truths Buddha has spoken clearly attests the importance of our mind in our deeds. Our mind’s under working does impact hugely in whatever we do or what we make of ourselves. The prominence of mind is even more pertinent if we are undertaking an adventure in Nepal like Everest Base Camp Trekking, which can be both apprehensive and overwhelming at the same time. Normally people focus on physical fitness only when they think of such adventure, but it’s equally important, or even more, to be mentally prepared to go out of your comfort zone and push your limits.
It is generally considered that mental fortitude is something one is born with. But mental fitness is just like physical fitness that can be developed and maintained. You can adopt some strategies to rely on when you are not in your element, especially when the trek gets difficult and you start feeling your inner self shaking. Below are a few ideas that will help you before and during Everest Base Camp Trekking:
Know What You Are Doing and Why
Be clear about your adventure thoroughly. You also need to understand why you are doing this and what it means to you. Though the adventure is same, people have their own purpose of doing it. Knowing about your trip and your objective prepares you for what to expect. You will be in alignment with your convictions. This way, whatever comes next won’t be shockingly surprising to you. Do a bit of soul-searching interview with yourself. Remember you will be counting on yourself, and no one else!
Just now, we have agreed to think but it doesn’t mean you need to think it over and over. Stop over thinking! It’s ok to be excited about your trip but being anxious or obsessive will just rob you off your peace of mind and you will be tired and drained even before you start your trip. Even during the trip at the time of challenging moments like longer trails, high passes or sheer descent, stay focused and seize the moment but don’t carry the burden of challenges in your mind all the time. If you feel the strain is too much, let your mind relax and wander and think about pleasant things you have done – there is no harm in being a little escapist!
Break into Sections
Everest Base Camp trek is a long and challenging adventure, about 10 days’ trekking in the wilderness of the Himalayas. So it’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed due to the enormity of the adventure. Breaking it into smaller phases will make things achievable. You can divide the trip into sections like pre-trekking, during trekking and post trekking, and even smaller sections while doing trekking. Just concentrate on the section you are doing that day. Like a Zen monk be “here and now”. This way, you won’t be succumbed to the pressure of the adventure.
No Short Cuts
Though slow and steady has been outdated now, it’s still the way of mountains. So, don’t attempt any quick fix as the trail is long and not easy. Don’t haste, learn the art of patience. As mountain life has its own pace, there is no sense in being carried away by your impulses and emotions. Adventure is not a race – Relax, Enjoy and Take Your Time!
Learn to Compromise
Trekking is of course a kind of “me-time” but the plain fact is it’s not an indulgence or luxury. It could be a bit easier in other parts of the world, but in the Himalayas – adventure does come with price. Terrain is rugged, temperature is extreme, region is remote and life is difficult. So, naturally facilities are basic. Accommodation is in basic teahouses with basic food and amenities. And most of the time choices are limited. For a western traveller, you really need to stretch your comfort zone. So, be prepared to have a different kind of experience.
In the land of mountains, we go by their rules. Respect the mountains and people. Be open minded and shed your judgements. Cultivate child-like curiosity. This way you can let go much of the mental strains that can be caused by new environment. The thumb rule is “Wander and Wonder” – the rest will be fine!
Explore Himalaya was excellent.The Tibetan guide, Penba Puchi, and driver were also excellent. We could not have done without her.