Take some precaution with weather conditions, but don't believe everything you hear about passes being closed.
2 people, no porter, no guide. Very do-able for fit, adventurous people. An unusually wet March affected our attempts at doing the trek clockwise starting with renjo-la, but rerouting and working counterclockwise with windows of decent weather led to great pass days over kongma-la and cho-la.
Itinerary / Report (Feb/Mar 2020)
– Day 0: 12-hr cold Jeep ride from Kathmandu to Salleri/Phaplu, windows down the entire ride, four adults squeezed in back. We paid 2200pp through our hotel but could have spent less buying direct.
– Day 1: Phaplu (2468m) -> Nunthala (2220m), 18k. We’ve agreed that trekking 8am – 15h30pm with a one hour lunch break is perfect, so we continue with that rhythm the following days too.
– Day 2: -> Juving (1680m) -> Bupsa (2284m), 11k, 8h-15h15. This was a hard day for me due to the heat. We hiked down to our lowest altitude (1460m) then back up (2800m) through lush landscapes.
– Day 3: -> Surke (2290m), 8h-16h, ie “mule highway” was a bit stop-and-go as we shared 13km with hundreds of mules carrying rice to sell and gas canisters up to Lukla.
– Day 4: -> Monjo (2822m), 8h-14h30, easy 15k as we entered the Everest tourist zone, obvious from the price bump, advertisements for healthy and organic food, and tourist groups. Stopped right before afternoon downpour.
– Day 5: -> Namche Bazaar (3440m), 5.3km, 8h-11h30 with 30min mule delay waiting to cross one of the many bridges.
– Day 6: REST, easy 6km acclimatization hike to Khumjung and Everest viewpoints.
– Day 7: -> Thame (3822m), 9km, 8h15-12h, easy and lovely morning. After lunch, walked to monestary (4000m) before a storm rolled in.
– Day 8: -> Lungdhen (4360m), 9km, 8h-12h15, stayed with very friendly couple at Khongde lodge (maybe also only place open?), no other trekkers in seemingly deserted town, hiked part of Renjo-la to scope out the route which at that point was mostly free of snow.
– Day 9: -> RENJO pass attempt-> retreat to Namche (3440m), 24km, 6h-16h30. Woke up to lots of new snow, decided to try the pass anyways. We worked our way up slowly trying to follow the path in maps.me until 8h30 but the weather (visibility and snowfall) seemed to be getting worse so we turned around. We saw worse weather set for the coming days, so we decided to try counterclockwise where there might be more foot traffic. Our walk back to Namche ended in more heavy snowfall.
– Day 10: -> Tengboche (3867m), 9.6km, 8h20-14h20, lots of snow and ice, but also lots of people and an obvious path.
– Day 11: -> Dengboche (4310m), 10km, 8h-12h10 plus afternoon hike to 4600m viewpoint.
– Day 12: -> Chhukhung (4730m), ~5km, 7h309h40h + afternoon hike ~13km to Inje Tsho near Island Peak base camp (5000m), first bit of altitude sickness which subsided before bed.
– Day 13: -> KONGMA LA (5550M) -> Loboche (4910m), 10km, 6h45-16h40. Sunny and beautiful pass day. A little snowy scrambling and path-finding required but otherwise just a nice long hard day. After the pass descent, mentally prepare yourself for the glacier crossing, follow the flags and NOT maps.me.
– Day 14: -> Italian Pyramid (5050m) + hike to Kala Patthar (5648m), 12.5m, 7h50-16h. Hiking times: 1h40min to Gorekshep, 3h for kala patthar (including hanging out on top- VERY WINDY!), 2H return to Italian Pyramid due to feeling altitude sickness again. The inn there is expensive but totally worth it. Lovely place!
– Day 15: -> Dzongla (4820m), 7.7km, 7h10-10h10. Woke up with intentions to do Cho-la due to the small window of sunny weather, but arrived to Dzongla already tired and worried about starting so late in the morning. Decided to wait and start early the next day and hopefully beat the afternoon snow forecast. Ultimately a great decision. Rested in the afternoon.
– Day 16: -> CHO LA (5368m) -> Gokyo (4796m), 12km, 6h30-12h30 pass to Dragnag + 13h30-16h45 to Gokyo in heavy snow and low visibility. The pass crossing (with gaitors and microspikes) was great, no problems, lots of people in both directions. Fixed ropes help with some of the steep descents. Seems obviously easier coming from East. After lunch, we decided to continue on to Gokyo knowing that the snowfall would start and continue for another day. Finding the trail in heavy snow was challenging. Again: follow cairns and blue dots, not maps.me until the super steep final ascent out of the glacier. I found this more mentally challenging than the pass itself, but of course depends on the weather conditions. The following day, it took groups with guides four hours to cross (should only take 2).
– Day 17: full rest day, hung out all day at Thanka Inn. Wish we stayed there.
– Day 18: -> Dhole (3985m), 12km, 8h-13h, lots of snow on the path, a few nerve-racking traverses, poles and microspikes helped a lot.
– Day 19: -> Namche (3440m), 11km, 8h-13h, enjoyed this “last” day in the higher altitudes thoroughly, stopping for lots of photos and conversations with new friends.
– Day 20: -> Lukla (2860m), 3h to phakding then 3h to Lukla with some stops.
– Day 21: fly back to Kathmandu. Easy to buy ticket through hotels or directly in Lukla.
- Backpack, Down Jacket, Gaiters, Hiking Poles, Sunglasses
No need for a sleeping bag in the low season.
Microspikes and gaiters very useful for pass and glacier-crossings.
Baseball hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, spf lip balm, and buff critical for sun and wind protection.
Heavy-duty gloves critical.
Poles very helpful.
Includes flight from Lukla. Doesn't include cost of flights from home or costs before and after. We were frugal but very comfortable.