Trek to Gokyo Ri

Posted in 15th Aug, 2019

We started our adventure from Junbesi where we had been helping with a medical clinic and headed to Lukla by helicopter. Flying through the breath-taking mountains on a clear morning to arrive at the challenging Lukla airport is exhilarating! Our trek started with a 3-day walk to Namche Bazaar (3440m), stopping at Phakding (2610m) and Monjo (2850m). The first couple of days involved 3 – 4 hours walking in the morning leaving time for a quiet afternoon or some local exploration. In Monjo, after lunch, we headed east towards Thamserku for a couple of hours in beautiful woods, no other trekkers in sight, visiting an old chorten on the way back. The lodge had private bathrooms! The trek up to Namche became more challenging, but 4 – 5 hours is very achievable, with plenty of time for rests. The bridge at Larja Dobhan is spectacular and as it was a clear day we were rewarded with a great view of Mt. Everest.

A “rest” day at Namche was much appreciated, although the walk up to the Everest View Hotel is pretty steep and becomes fairly congested. On the way up you won’t miss the newly built “Sagarmatha Next” complex, a recycling, upcycling and arts centre, due to be opened in 2019, which will use the rubbish currently dumped at Everest Base Camp (EBC).

After a visit to the Sherpa museum, some shopping, a great coffee and a final opportunity to get cash out of an ATM, we were all ready for the next challenge.

Day 5: While there is a long steady climb in the morning, one of the attractions of this day was that after lunch at Mong we left the main EBC trail and headed off to Phortse Tenga (3680m). While we still met plenty of other trekkers, the steady stream heading to EBC had gone their own way, and we were able to enjoy the peace and beauty of the birch and rhododendron forests.

The River Resort at Phortse Thanga is tucked into a gorge and a lovely place for a walk along the river for some peaceful bird watching. The sign in my room started “Dear Voluble Guest” which made me think they had been forewarned about my snoring! For the next couple of days, we gradually gained height, stopping at Dole (4210m) and then Machhermo (4470m.). It was getting colder at night but, as the sky was generally clear, they were fantastic days for walking. Leaving the forested areas, we trekked through the low juniper scrub, covered in berries, perfectly bonsai-ed, contrasting with the autumnal colours of reds and browns. At Machhermo we walked up the valley in the afternoon, across the moraine fields and wished we had a geologist with us as we scrambled over the jumbled rocks. A visit to the mountain rescue health centre for their daily talk about altitude sickness and the dangers of drinking the water in Nepal was well worthwhile, before returning to the warm lodge. And then off to Gokyo (4790m), on a clear morning just above freezing, but with the sun on our backs we were soon peeling off a few layers. After 2 and a half hours along one or two fairly precipitous tracks, we reached the first lake. As we crossed the bridge, the sounds of the roaring river disappeared, replaced with the relative calm of the lake. It also provided the first good view of Gokyo Ri, our target for the next morning and it did look rather challenging.

Another hour and we reached the third lake and checked into the relatively new Eco Lodge which is very comfortable. After lunch, a walk around the edge of the lake and then up the short hill behind the lodge to look at the glacier – not quite the blue shining glacier you might hope for but impressive none the less.

The Big Day, Gokyo Ri (5357m), the “Trekkers’ Everest”. Wake up at 5 am and set off by 6 am just as the sun was breaking into the valley. It is a steep and slippery climb, but with plenty of breaks and encouragement from our excellent guides, Pratap, Parbu and Yam we reached the summit by 9 am. Not a cloud in the sky and it is hard to describe how exhilarating it was to stand among the prayer flags with unimpeded views to Everest, Cho Oyu, Nuptse, Lhotse and many other peaks. The return trip back down to Gokyo was also challenging but once our thighs had stopped complaining the coffee was very welcome. A couple of us walked up to the fourth lake in the afternoon, an easy 2 hour trip, through the grazing yaks, offering different views of the peaks.

Back downhill to Lukla over the next 6 days; through Dole and Machhermo but branching off to Phortse village (one of the most beautiful settlements in the area) and via Tengboche to Khumjung, a large Sherpa village tucked into a valley above Namche, housing the famed yeti skull at the monastery! Rejoining the main track to Lukla was almost a shock as we met what appeared to be even larger crowds than before. Perhaps the peace and quiet of the wilderness we had encountered had coloured our views.

This was a fantastic trip, challenging but quite possible for all age groups (we ranged from 14 to 65) with a reasonable level of fitness. The pace was just right, giving us all time to acclimatize properly with no gruelling long days, and the excellent guidance of Pratap, Parbu and Yam ensuring we could all walk at our own pace. A very big thank you to Ang and the whole team at Keep Walking Nepal.

Mark Mackintosh