A spectacular view while trekking in the Khumbu.
Day 1: Arrive Kathmandu: Your journey is about to begin! When you arrive to the Kathmandu airport we will have someone waiting to pick you up and transport you to your hotel in the heart of the bustling city. Take this time to wind down, get some rest, and start the process of getting over jet lag.
Day 2: Explore Kathmandu: The bustling town of Kathmandu can be quite the culture shock, especially after a long travel day (or likely two) to reach Nepal. We’ll explore the dusty, busy streets, beautiful in their sheer display of such a wide range of humanity. We’ll browse the various markets in the heart of the city, selling everything from yak wool scarves, to prayer flags, incense, and counterfeit North Face summit parkas. If you need to pick up any last minute gear for your climb, there are also some legitimate gear shops where we can purchase additional items for your kit after gear check, for a similar price to stores in the west.
Spinning prayer wheels in Kathmandu before departing for an Island Peak expedition.
Day 3: Fly to Lukla/Trek to Phakding: From the Kathmandu airport (which can be a unique and chaotic experience), we’ll hop on a small plane for a scenic flight over the terraced, vibrantly green foothills of the Himalaya. Try and sit on the left side of the plane in if you can; if the day isn’t too cloudy you can catch glimpses of the regions loftiest summits, nearly at level with the plane’s cruising altitude. There is still quite a bit of farmland in the lowlands, and foods are generally of greater variety and higher quality.
Day 4: Trek to Namche: From Phakding, we will trek through the foothills of the Khumbu, past Mani Stones (massive boulders carved with Tibetan Buddhist mantras, like “”Om Mani Padme Hum“; always be sure to go around these to the left), prayer wheels, and idyllic creeks. The highlight of the day is crossing several suspension bridges, hundreds of feet above river gorges, with prayer flags blowing in the wind. Make sure to not start across these bridges when a mule team is headed your way, and try to give right-of-way to porters carrying loads. We will make a couple of stops along the way to deal with paperwork, permits and entry into Sagarmatha National Park, so be mentally prepared for a bit of a wait, depending on lines. At this point in your stay, it will be apparent to you that the Nepalese system of bureaucratic organization is quite different from that which you’re likely accustomed.
Day 5: Explore Namche: We will take a day to enjoy the bustling village and Sherpa trading center of Namche Bazaar, the epicenter of trekking in this region of the Himalaya. Perhaps consider a shower in your teahouse to wash off the dust of the lowlands, as the showers (calling them such is a bit of an overstatement) higher on the route tend to get progressively worse as you gain elevation. We have a chance here to visit the Sherpa Museum above town, or trek up to the Everest View Cafe.
Day 6: Trek to Tengboche Monastery, overnight in Deboche: From Namche we will ascend on dusty, forested trails through hilly terrain to the stunning and colorful Tengboche Monastery, where the lama of the Khumbu region resides.
Day 7: Trek to Dingboche: Along the ascent from Dingboche to Deboche, we will begin to enter a different landscape; gradually emerging from the jungles of the lowlands into a more alpine environment. In the Himalaya, this environment transition is marked by us no longer encountering mule trains; supplies higher up in the mountains are carried exclusively by yak trains and “dzho,” hearty yak/cow hybrids. While these animals carrying large burdens over rugged trails to the backdrop of spectacular mountains makes for a great photo, make sure to give these creatures a wide berth on the trail, and stop when they pass. There have been unfortunate stories of yaks and dzho knocking trekkers off the trail in precarious spots.
Dzho carrying loads up a steep section of trail.
Day 8-9: Explore and Acclimatize in Dingboche: We will take a day to rest and take in the stunning views surrounding the quaint high mountain village of Dingboche, home to arguably the best pastries along the trek, and some stunning views of Ama Dablam. This day we might alternatively continue to Lobuche and use this acclimatization day further along the trek, depending on how everyone feels and how our weather outlook is for the coming days.
Day 10: Trek to Lobuche: The temperatures begin to get colder from this point on, with the evening cloud layer blocking the sun, and the distinct bite of alpine chill in the air. At this point in our trek, we will be just over 16,200′.
Day 11: Trek to Gorak Shep: We will continue up to the village of Gorak Shep, which occasionally gets a bad reputation among trekkers. This is perhaps not the place to buy luxuries such as Snickers bars, since the prices at the teahouses are much higher than lower villages. For many continuing up to Everest Base Camp, this is the culmination of their journey. However, many people ascend to this point too quickly and fall ill with the notorious Khumbu cough.
Sunset alpenglow on Everest (left) and Nuptse, seen from Kala Patthar.
Day 12: Visit Everest Base Camp/Climb Kala Pathhar: This day is certainly a highlight of the trip. We will trek up the rugged trail along the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier to visit Everest Base Camp at around 17,600′. If you’re visiting Base Camp in the spring, you will be able to see the tent city situated down below the notorious Khumbu Ice Fall, of climbers attempting Everest from the south and other routes.
The trek along the lower Khumbu Glacier to Everest Base Camp.
Day 13: Alternate day for Kala Pathhar, trek to Lobuche: If we don’t ascend Kala Pathhar on our first day in Gorak Shep, we will prioritize doing so on this day. Then, we will descend back down to Lobuche to be in a good position to head up and over.
Day 14: Trek over Kongma La Pass to Chukkung: From Lobuche, we will cross a portion of the Khumbu Glacier, mostly covered in boulders, but with some open icy ponds and crevasses. After crossing a stretch of the glacier, we will begin our ascent up Kongma La Pass. From the top of the pass we will have great views towards Island Peak, Lhotse’s impressive south face, and down to Chukkung. If the team is feeling like they would prefer to conserve energy, there is also an option to circumnavigate the pass and go a flatter, easier way with a few extra miles. However, the views of Island Peak from the summit of Kongma-La definitely make up for the higher elevation gain.
Trekkers on the summit of Kongma-La Pass
Day 15: Climb Chukkung Ri/overnight in Chukkung: We will have the option to do an acclimatization ascent of Chukkung Ri if we’re feeling good and would like to get some good views of the area and an extra acclimatization bump before heading to Island Peak.
Day 16: Trek to Island Peak BC: We will continue on a rolling, rocky trail through talus fields above Chukkung, along a stream and glacial moraine to reach Island Peak Base Camp. The ascent route is still not yet entirely visible from below and from our approach aspect. Island Peak Base Camp is a semi-permanent camp, near Imja Lake. Once at Base Camp we will prepare all of our gear for the climb, briefly chat about the route, practice fixed line and rappel technique, and turn in early for hopefully a restful sleep before the climb.
Day 17: Climb Island Peak!: We will begin our day very early, likely between midnight and 1 a.m., with a quick breakfast in the dark at Base Camp before beginning our climb.
Roped up for the glaciated portion of the approach to Island Peak.
Day 18: Contingency/Weather day: This day is built into the itinerary in case weather prevents us from going to the summit, and will allow us to take advantage of the best window possible.
Day 19: Trek to Pangboche: We will descend to Pangboche after our climb, our first time below 14,000′ in nearly a week.
Day 20: Trek to Namche: Namche seems like a bit of a paradise after a long time above 12,000′. We might even enjoy a celebratory beverage at the local Irish pub, which seems a bit out of place, but is a welcome reprise from the alpine and the exertion of the past week.
Flowers blooming in Namche Bazaar.
Day 21: Trek to Lukla: Heading back to Lukla, you will feel like you are as light as a feather, and the air seems rich with oxygen. Depending on the weather, we may spend an extra day here.
Day 22: Fly back to Kathmandu: Return back to the lowlands, where you will feel like a superhuman back down in the dusty streets of Kathmandu. Enjoy all the luxuries the city has to offer.
Day 23: Contingency/Weather day: We have an extra day built in to the itinerary in case of flight delays from Lukla back to Kathmandu, which are quite common, especially in the early spring and late fall.
Day 24: Flights Home: We suggest that you book your flight back home in the afternoon on day 24, unless you prefer to stay in the area a bit longer, explore more of Nepal, or continue on to other adventures in Asia.