After walking the Annapurna circuit, when I said goodbye to Nepal I was sure I would return to go to Everest Base Camp. As mentioned in the section on the Annapurna circuit , one of the things I loved about that trek was its circularity, that is, walking almost always in different landscapes.
This premise is fundamental to the choice of trekking. In fact, I was certain that the next trek in Nepal would be to the Everest area, but the round-trip walk to Everest Base Camp did not convince me. The same Lonely Planet recommended the ‘extreme challenging’ Three Passes: this trek would still have included the EBC and Kala Patthar, but would have included three additional passes, all well above 5,000 meters.
After finding a good flight, I also incredibly found companionship: after the walk up to the Margherita Hut in Italy and up to the summit of Kilimanjaro, the good Gaddo decided to accompany me, at least for one leg of the walk.
As soon as we arrived in Kathmandu, we underwent what one should never do before trekking to high altitude: in fact, we toured the city’s main bars, partly to forget Italy’s defeat to Sweden, a match valid for the World Cup playoff-qualification. Barely recovered from the hangover, we finally put in the organizing machine: we booked a flight for the next day and walking around Kathmandu I bought some very useful trekking poles.
Length: 2 hours (5.85km) Elevation gain: 126 meters. Difficulty: 1/10. Landscapes: 3/10. STRAVA TRACK.
We bought the very famous Kathmandu – Lukla flight with Sita Airlines (I cannot recommend it in the slightest, and the reason why can be guessed from the videos: however, all companies are blacklisted): the flight left five hours late and the plane was incredibly uncomfortable: we literally had to crawl over cardboard boxes to get to our seats.
So here we are in Lukla, with our nice 70-liter, 11-kilogram backpacks. We arrived in Lukla around 1 p.m., and after a hearty meal where the basic question was ‘but are we really starting to walk for 17 days?’ we left. The first day was a simple walk to Ghat: the sun was setting and there was no point in continuing. The feelings were more or less positive, ready for the long walk the next day.
Distance: 7 hours (13.19km). Height difference: 1390 meters. Difficulty: 3/10 (the last part is quite steep). Landscapes: 7/10 (the bridges are spectacular, and you see Everest for the first time) . STRAVA TRACK.
The day from Ghat to Namche was definitely long, both on the trails and in the bars. Shortly after Ghat we entered the Park, and from there it was a slow climb. After a lunch break in Manjo, we arrived in Jorsale: from here, across a couple of beautiful bridges, the trail definitely begins to climb. In this part I had no particular problem, while Gaddo did not really enjoy the first hard slopes and started to think about a possible sherpa.
Having arrived in Namche somehow, we started celebrating my 33rd birthday: after a couple of beers outside, we moved on to eat and drink at Cafe Danphe Bar. This bar presented itself as the only bar open 24 hours in all of Namche: if you ask ‘Why would a bar be open 24 hours at 3400 meters?’ the answer in our case was ‘There is the return of Italy-Sweden.’ After eating the first yak of the trek, we greeted the owner by confirming our attendance for 1:30 a.m.
Confident in the comeback, we showed up punctually at the bar: the door was at lock, but with a fist on the door the owner woke up and greeted us with a ‘I hope you are thirsty. After several beers and several Nepalese rums, we returned to the hotel at 3:30 a.m. tipsy and eliminated from the World Cup.
Distance: less than two hours (4.39km). Height difference: 428 meters. Difficulty: 2/10. Landscapes: 9/10 (wonderful!). STRAVA TRACK.
Of course, you must be wondering: but did these people go to Nepal to drink or to walk? Actually, the idea of combining Namche Bazar with my birthday and Italy-Sweden was perfect as we would ‘rest’ the next day. Here, we may not have expected such a big hangover, but we still managed to walk to the Everest View Hotel where….we obviously saw Everest (great imagination in names!) After refreshing ourselves and filling our eyes with so much beauty, we returned to Namche, where Gaddo found his good porter, to whom he would rifle the 12-kilogram backpack.
Distance: 5 h 30 min (10.96km). Height difference: 1053 meters. Difficulty: 3/10. Landscapes: 7/10. STRAVA TRACK.
We left Namche Bazar in three therefore: me, Gaddo and his porter. The day was very easy, with beautiful views of Ama Dablam: this mountain is definitely a symbol in these parts, and it is also one of the hardest to climb. We decided not to sleep in Tengboche, a town that houses a monastery, but in Dibuche: going down 150 meters and sleeping at 3750 meters was a great idea!
Distance: 5 h 30 min ( (9.94km). Height difference: 704 meters. Difficulty: 2/10. Landscapes: 8/10. STRAVA TRACK.
From Dibuche to Dingboche was another nondifficult day, although we definitely exceeded 4000 (Dingboche is already 4300 meters).The most scenic spots were toward the end of the walk, when you can see Ama Dablam in all its grandeur in front and the beautiful valley leading up to Chukkung. In Dingboche we spent two nights (a second acclimatization day before climbing to higher altitudes is strongly recommended): the first night was not exactly relaxing as I suffered from sleepwalking. From here on, we would have no phone connection: we would have to buy 200MB wifi cards for 6 euros.
Distance: 2 hours (5.26km). Height difference: 694 meters. Difficulty: 6/10. Landscapes: 9/10 (wonderful valley and Ama Dablam!) . STRAVA TRACK.
The second day of ‘rest’ took us on an easy hike up to Nangkartshang Peak: easy in the sense that it is a short hike, less easy because of the elevation problem, as we got to exactly 5,000 meters! The views from this Peak are truly incredible: you can see Ama Dablam and its lake, Lhotse, Nuptse and Tobuche.
After happily returning to Dingboche, I noticed that the SLR had a problem: black dots were noticeable in the photos taken. I tried to fix this problem by cleaning the room all afternoon: suddenly Gaddo, who in the meantime had become world champion of various games for the Iphone, decided to help me and as the first and only result broke the SD card. The guesthouse we were staying in had just a 16 GB SD card, which at that altitude was worth 50 euros (typical ‘see money, give camel’ situation, and in this case the camel i.e. the SD card was essential, since the black spots were practically gone in the meantime).
Difficulty: 1/10. Landscapes: 10/10 (the lakes in front of Ama Dablam are crazy!).
Since the day included an easy 7-km hike to Chukkung, I decided to go to see the Ama Dablam lakes in the morning. It takes a little over an hour from Dingboche to get to these turquoise-colored lakes that are exactly opposite Ama Dablam-it is a highly recommended detour! In the afternoon, Gaddo, the guide and I arrived at Chukkung: at 4650 meters the cold was already decidedly unbearable, and Gaddo especially suffered through the night.
Distance: 8 hours (10.63km). Height difference: 900 meters. Difficulty: 10/10 (really exhausting, both to get to the top of the pass and the glacier part, which seems to go on forever). Landscapes: 10+/10 (perhaps the most beautiful view of all 17 days). STRAVA TRAIL.
The day of the first step. From Chukkung there are basically three big steps to get to the 5535 meters of Kongma La Pass. At one point, when your breath is already short, you pass by some spectacular lakes: but it is the view from the pass that really takes your breath away, in every sense! The descent to Lobuche is long, and the Everest Glacier part (which is not a glacier, but a sassaia) is really endless. I arrived in Lobuche very tired, while Gaddo was definitely cooler than I was: happiness was aplenty, and reading in the guesthouse that lung capacity at those altitudes is halved made us quite proud.
Distance: 2 hours (4.78km). Height difference: 287 meters. Difficulty: 1/10. Landscapes: 2/10.
And: Everest Base Camp. Distance: 3h30min (6.95km). Height difference : 272 meters. Difficulty: 1/10. Landscapes: 7/10 (simply put: you get excited about being at the base of Everest, the world’s highest mountain!)
From Lobuche with an easy two-hour hike we reached the 5100 meters of Gorak Shep. Here we had lunch, dropped our backpacks, and walked to Everest Base Camp: here I had a great feeling of reverence, both for the mountain and for all the great expeditions that have departed from here. Honestly, I still have the feeling of respect for those great climbers who slept there waiting to climb the highest mountain in the world. We went back to sleep in Gorak Shep.
Kala Patthar (The highest point of the trek at 5545 meters). Distance: less than three hours (4.21km). Height difference: 443 meters. Difficulty: 5/10. Landscapes: 10/10 (another beautiful postcard, with Everest just ahead). STRAVA TRACK.
And: Gorak Shep – Lobuche via ‘Italian Pyramid’. Distance: 2 hours (5.35km). Height difference: 92 meters. Difficulty: 2/10. Landscapes: 4/10. STRAVA TRACK.
This was another great day. In the morning we climbed to the highest point of all 17 days-Kala Patthar. To get there, you have to walk up a very steep path, but the result is truly something indescribable. Picking up the backpacks we had left at Gorak Shep, we descended back to Lobuche via the Italian pyramid.
Distance: 2 h 30 min (9.12km). Height difference: 154 meters. Difficulty: 1/10. Landscapes: 6/10.
The day of farewells to Gaddo and his porter. Gaddo by now had arrived at a #enough situation: from Dingboche onward we had always been above 4,000 meters, never having a shower, sleeping in cold guesthouses. Understandably, Gaddo decided to return to the valley: the moment of farewell was a long one, as I was a bit dubious about continuing alone. Gokyo was calling me, however, and at the Dzonghla shelter (where the night temperature was -2 Celsius, in the warmest room) I found company and, amazingly, also some mini crampons that would be needed for the next day.
Distance: about 7 hours (9.12km). Height difference: 630 meters. Difficulty: 8/10. Landscapes: 6/10 (it is in my opinion the least beautiful pass). STRAVA TRACK.
Day 12 involved the ascent of Cho La Pass, the only pass with snow. The crampons helped me a little, although I must admit that in the last part of the ascent I found myself in a bit of difficulty. This step is in my opinion the least beautiful of the three, but it has the merit of uniting the EBC area with Gokyo. I arrived in Dragnag exhausted but ready for Gokyo, which was now close by.
Distance: 2h30min (4.71km). Height difference: 165 meters. Difficulty: 2/10. Landscapes: 10/10 (the arrival in Gokyo is something indescribable). STRAVA TRACK.
In the afternoon, Gokyo Ri. Distance: less than 2 hours (4.21km). Height difference: 576 meters. Difficulty: 7/10. Landscapes: 10/10 (superb views of Gokyo Lake and Everest). STRAVA TRAIL.
In two and a half hours, the other guys and I arrived in Gokyo. We decided to sleep in a Guesthouse near the lake, where I became friends with Cameron and Raoul (with Tom we would meet in Namche instead). In the afternoon I decided to climb the 500 meters that lead up to Gokyo Ri, and my eyes were filled with beauty one more time: the climb up to Gokyo Ri is definitely steep, although by now I was acclimatized and therefore climbed quickly. The view from the top is majestic: the lake, Gokyo, Everest and other mountains are an incredible memory!
Distance: 5 hours (13.20km). Height difference: 310 meters. Difficulty: 3/10. Landscapes: 6/10. STRAVA TRACK.
In the morning I went to visit the Gokyo Lakes, from which I honestly expected something more in terms of beauty (not meaning that they are ugly, but that other views in these 17 days are absolutely wonderful!). In the afternoon, I left the GoPro out in the cold and frosty weather while I ate some excellent cakes in Gokyo’s bakery: with a full belly, I enjoyed the resulting timelapse! In the evening I greeted Cameron and Raoul with some whiskey.
Distance: 7 hours (12.34km). Height difference: 672 meters. Difficulty: 6/10. Scenery: 10/10 (about the same view as Gokyo Ri: a little closer perhaps). STRAVA TRAIL.
The third and final pass is Renjo La: at 5320 meters it is the lowest of the three, but as a vantage point it is dazzlingly beautiful. To get to Renjo La you don’t climb much but you have to pay attention to some parts that are slightly icy. My smile explains all my happiness: by now I had to get off, the most was done. Lumjung was the only village where I could not find wifi.
Distance: 6 hours(19.23km). Height difference: 367 meters. Difficulty: 8/10 (long way to first beer and first shower after 12 days). Landscapes: 3/10. STRAVA TRACK.
From Lumjung to Namche was a long walk through the Everest valleys-I even found a group of crazy people who were running the 42km Everest Marathon. This was the first day after day 4 below 4,000 meters: that means I spent 12 nights above 4,000 meters. Arriving in Namche, I met up with Tom and we went to celebrate the now imminent end of the trek with the marathon runners at the Irish Pub. It is worth mentioning that I was in the shower for 25 minutes-a wonderful time after 12 days!
Distance: 6 hours (18.47km). Height difference: 733 meters. Difficulty: 6/10 (bittersweet return using the same route as day 1 and 2). Landscape: 7/10 (hello Everest!). STRAVA TRAIL.
The last day of the walk was a bittersweet farewell to Mount Everest: at the last viewpoint I met Raymond Renaud, a very great French climber, who at 77 was still in Nepalese areas taking pictures of mountains. Arriving in Lukla, after the dutiful end-of-trekking beers, we noticed that the weather had definitely deteriorated. So Tom and I decided to pay an extra 150 euros and returned to Kathmandu by helicopter-a worthy ending to 17 epic days!
How difficult is Everest Base Camp? The Everest Base Camp trek does not present any technical difficulties; on the other hand, one should not underestimate the nights above 4,000 meters, that is, when the breath begins to fail: the ‘Three Steps’ circuit is more difficult because it involves 11 consecutive nights above 4,000 meters, while it is ‘only’ six as far as the Everest Base Camp trek is concerned.
How is Everest Base Camp organized? I honestly rented neither porter nor guidebook: the cost of either is about $25 a day, and they can be found easily in Kathmandu and Lukla (a little less easily in Namche Bazar). You don’t have to book anything: there are many guesthouses, although there are fewer villages than on the Annapurna Circuit.
Once you arrive in Kathmandu, you need to book your flight to Lukla: you can book it at any travel agency (unfortunately, all airlines that come to Lukla are blacklisted) at a cost of about $350 round trip (the return is free, meaning you only need to confirm the date once you are back in Lukla: normally you return to Kathmandu the day after the trek ends). You can also get to Lukla without a plane: you have to take a bus about 8 hours to Jiri, a second bus to Shivalaya, and then walk for about 5 days (I met a few trekkers who opted for this option, which is definitely longer, but cheaper and has very beautiful scenery as you pass through the Nepali countryside where you can find interesting villages).
What are the most beautiful spots on the Three Steps trek / Everest Base Camp? This trek has wonderful viewpoints: Kongma La, Kala Patthar and Gokyo Ri are my three favorites.
10 the pounds of the backpack
5 hours flight delay from Kathmandu to Lukla
3 the High Mountain Passes (meters: 5535, 5420, 5365)
7 climbs over 5,000 meters
12 the days without a shower
25 the minutes of the first shower
11 nights above 4,000 meters (2 were Annapurna Circuit nights).
183.75 the miles traveled
10686 meters of elevation gain
6 Everest beers drunk on my birthday
? the number of Nepalese whiskeys drunk on my birthday
-2 the hottest room temperature in Dzhongla (but in Gokyo and Chukkung I suffered the cold even more)
495 my VAM (average ascending velocity) at Gokyo Ri: meaning I climbed 495 meters in one hour (a figure that says a lot about how perfectly acclimatization works: after 12 days the body was perfectly accustomed to the altitude)
24 the daily opening hours of Danphe Bar in Namche (actually we were the first customers in history after midnight)
1:45 a.m., the time of Italy – Sweden
8 hours 9 minutes 1 second is the time it takes to get from Chukkung to Lobuche via Kongma La: the longest time
5590 the meters of Kala Patthar according to my Garmin
6000 Nepalese Rupees paid for a 16 GB memory card, about 50 euros
0 the cost of some guesthouses: the only income is from dinner
7 pounds lost
2 Nepal treks: will I do another one?