Trekking Nepal’s Three High Passes, Sagarmatha
Posted in 15th Aug, 2019
For a group of three Australians who love adventurous walks and exploring far-flung and wild places, the three high passes trek in Nepal’s Sagarmatha National Park exceeded all expectations. An exhilarating 40 minute helicopter ride from Kathmandu to Lukla, acclimatising by climbing minor 5,000m ‘hills’ with no name, cautiously traversing some of the largest glaciers in the world, being immersed in age-old Sherpa culture, abundant forests and wildlife, Buddhist music and prayers and finally standing in the midst of giants to admire the most spectacular and awe-inspiring views in the world. At one point – Gokyo Ri – you see four out of the world’s 6 highest peaks – Everest, Cho Oyo, Lhotse and Makalu. This walk has it all and more.
But the trek was also very challenging. At only 130 km it’s not a long walk, but the extreme altitude (extreme for us living at sea-level) means that the 20 odd days to complete the walk is regularly hard and slow going. “Bistari, bistari” (slowly, slowly) our ‘best guide in Nepal’, Pratap Gurung would often say as we laboured up each slope drawing in as much air into our unaccustomed lungs as we could. Taking our time and the careful acclimatising meant that we had no problems with the altitude – apart from being very tired at the end of each day!
Our trek provided many incredible highlights, including a side trip to Ama Dablam base camp. The mountain itself is one of the region’s most striking but is also a great place to acclimatise (walking the trek anti-clockwise) and escape the crowds that pound along the main route to Everest base camp. We also glimpsed Nepal’s national bird, the Danphe or Himalayan Monal, among many other birds, and on two occasions got very close to the stunningly beautiful Himalayan Tahr, a wild goat that is almost the size of a cow covered in luxurious, long brown hair. The abundant Yak, often labouring under heavy loads, are equally magnificent. We suspect that we also saw a Himalayan weasel scampering and foraging among rocks on Kalapathar, the highest point of the trek at 5,555m (or 500 hec to Pascals – halfway up the atmosphere– in terms designed for meteorologists such as ourselves). Unfortunately, we didn’t see any Yeti, but the monastery in Khumjung does display a Yeti scalp that adds yet another level of speculation, mystery and wonder.
By the time we returned to Kathmandu, this time by plane, we had time to reflect on a walk that we will remember all our lives. We thank the Keep Walking Nepal team and especially our guides Pratap and Chapel for sharing with us their expansive knowledge, keeping us safe and providing a window into the exceptionally tough lives and peaceful culture of the Sherpa who we always found welcoming and friendly – oh, and the card games were fun too! We also thank Yem and Yuba, our two porters – you guys are supermen! Since returning to Australia our main aim has been to find a Dahl Bhat as good as the ones enjoyed in Nepal. We are still searching so may have to return soon for another adventure in the mountainsNamaste,
Dave, Rob and Deb