Nepal 2011 – Everest the Hard Way

I went back to Nepal in 2011, this time to the Everest region, for a trip organized by KE Adventure Travel in England. The itinerary made a complete high-level circuit of all the major valleys of the Khumbu, utilizing three high passes which link the valleys of Thame, Gokyo, Khumbu and Chukung.

We began with a spectacular flight to the airstrip at Lukla and took two days to reach the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar. Beyond Namche we turned off the main Everest trail and ascended a quieter valley to the less visited but important Sherpa settlement of Thame. After a visit to the monastery here we continued on to cross the spectacular Renjo La (5340m / 17,520ft) and descended to the peaceful lakes of Gokyo beneath Cho Oyu. We spent two nights here, using the time to rest and explore the other lakes and peaks in the valley, then crossed the Ngozumba glacier to a base camp for our next high pass, the Cho La (5420m / 17,780ft.) I went into this trip in probably the best shape of my life, and yet found the ascent of this pass the most physically demanding day I have had in my hiking career. It was also one of the most rewarding days. From here we descended into the main Khumbu Valley and made our way to Gorak Shep, a small cluster of lodges on a dried up glacial lake bed and close to Everest Base Camp on the south side of Everest. After visiting the base camp at 17,650ft we descended the Khumbu valley and made our way to Dingboche, along the Imja Khola in the Chukung valley. Our return journey to Lukla passed through Tengboche, perhaps the most famous monastery in the Khumbu, then on to Namche Bazaar and ultimately back to where we started. This trip really was an ultimate challenge and a great way to see the whole Everest Region.

Of course a trip like this is never without drama, and I had my share. The last week of the trip I contracted some kind of lung ailment that affected me the rest of the trip, and the weather deteriorated. After more than two weeks of glorious sunshine, the clouds came down and our team was hiking in cloud layers and dense fog. When we reached Lukla we discovered the airport was closed down by the Nepalese Army and we were stranded for four days before being evacuated from Surke by helicopters organized by our trekking company and the Army. The delays caused almost everyone to miss international flight connections and I was not able to complete the second part of my trip – a four day extension to tour the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia. In spite of all this it was totally worth it, and that after all is what makes trips like this Adventure Travel.

Special thanks for permission to use the following images in this gallery: Will Fawcett ( for “Arriving at the Cho La”, “Trekkers taking a break on the trail” and “Everest at Sunset”; Don Deane for “Climbing the Cho La Pass”; Josh Hafran for “Helicopters arriving at Surke for ‘The Evacuation’"; Ray Butler for “The Team on top of the Cho La, Nepal” and “The Team at Everest Base Camp”.