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Trekking to Gokyo and the Cho La, Everest Region of Nepal

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Contributed by Ian Stuart   
In autumn 2006, Marianne and I visited the Gokyo valley in Nepal Himalaya. These notes summarise a talk that I gave to the Club at The Grouse and Claret in May 2007. Photos from the trip can be seen in the Gallery here . Hopefully these will be of interest to any members or other visitors to the website who may be thinking of doing this trek. Anyone wanting further info please contact

After crossing the Cho La, the route enters the Khumbu Valley and visits the main Everest (South) Basecamp and the summit of Kala Patar. Whilst very spectacular and rewarding, this segment of the trek is very well known, and so the pictures and description here concentrate mainly on the Gokyo segment.

Just about all treks in Nepal begin and end at the ancient capital city of Kathmandu. Sadly, most organised trekking groups spend only a day in Kathmandu before heading for the hills, but if time is available it is well worth taking a few days to visit the important historical and religious sites in the Kathmandu Valley (pic 1).

Although it is still possible, and very pleasant, to walk in, most trekkers to the Everest region save time by flying to Lukla, the little airstrip perched on a shelf at 2900m above the Dudh Kosi valley (pic 2). From here a short decent to a campsite by the Dudh Kosi (Phakding - pic 3), and the next day, after entering the Sagarmatha National Park, there follows a stiff climb (pic 4) up to the Sherpa 'capital', Namche Bazar, 3440m (pics 5 and 6). Since I was last here in 1985, Namche, and indeed the whole region, has developed enormously, mostly in response to the huge increase in the number of trekkers visiting the region.

Altitude acclimatisation is a major consideration, and just about all organised treks, and independent trekkers with any sense, spend a couple of nights at Namche before going higher. Above Namche, the length of day stages is controlled by altitude gain between overnight stops. The trek from Namche to Gokyo is normally taken in 4 day stages plus a rest/acclimatisation day. Our first night above Namche was at Kangjuma (not to be confused with Khumjung), where the first views of the big Khumbu peaks are obtained - Ama Dablam and Lhotse (pics 7-9). A hour above Kangjuma the route divides. The right fork heads up the Imja Khola into the Khumbu - most trekkers go this way; and the left follows to upper Dudh Kosi to Gokyo. The day ended at Dole, from where pics 10 and 11 show the view back down-valley to the peaks of Kang Tega and Thamserku. The next day stage reached Machermo (4400m); here we spent a rest and acclimatisation day climbing up a ridge above the village to obtain our first views of Everest (pic 14). Also from Machermo, Cho Oyu (pic 13) starts to come clearly into view; this hill lies at the head of the Gokyo valley and increasingly dominated the valley as we moved higher.

The trek from Machermo to Gokyo passes the three Gokyo Lakes, pics 16 and 17, which also show Gokyo Ri. Pic 16 clearly shows the route up Gokyo Ri to the rounded 5360m summit. Gokyo (4750m or 4790m depending who you believe) sits by the third lake and is as far as most trekkers get, though I believe it is possible to trek a bit further up the valley towards the Cho Oyu basecamp. Gokyo has expanded in recent years from a few shepherds' huts to a substantial trekkers' village of lodges and camping areas. Next day we ascended Gokyo Ri to the 5360m summit, an easy enough walk, though hard work at this altitude (not, by the way, to the 5483m north summit shown on maps - this lies along a jagged-looking ridge and did not look a like a peak for trekkers). The view from Gokyo Ri (pics 20-26) is superb - 4 of the world's 6 highest mountains in view - Everest, Lhotse (4th), Makalu (5th) and Cho Oyu (6th), as well as Gyachung Kang - the 15th or 16th highest peak in the world, depending on which list you believe. Pic 26 is looking down to Gokyo village with the third lake (Dudh Pokhari) and the great Ngozumba Glacier. After descending Gokyo Ri, the route retraces down valley for a couple of hours to the crossing point on the Glacier (pic 27). The next day we crossed the Cho La, 5420m, pics 28 and 29. Not a difficult crossing as we were by now well acclimatised to the altitude, though the top of the pass climbs a slightly steep snow field where we used ice axes (though a pair of poles would likely have been sufficient).

Although the Gokyo valley is now frequently visited, the number of trekkers there is small compared to the Khumbu valley. We descended into the Khumbu and made our way up through Lobuche to Gorak Shep (pic 33), from where we were able to visit the Everest Basecamp and the Everest viewpoint peak of Kala Pater. Pic 32 shows the summit of Kala Pater - a superb position but not exactly a wilderness experience.

The remaining pics show a few aspects of the walk-out - 4 days back to Lukla.

We undertook the trek as part of an organised group with KE. I would imagine that the trek up to Gokyo would be perfectly straightforward for independent trekkers sleeping in the lodges, though I am not so sure if the Cho La would be feasible for independent trekkers unless very experienced and with a local guide.

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