'It is always nice when a plan goes, well, according to plan and this season it certainly did!'
The Everest the Hard Way trek does, as another cliche goes "exactly what it says on the can". It is certainly not easy and if you just want to tick Everest Base Camp, don't bother with this trek but it is in my opinion by far the best trek in the Khumbu. It is a mountain adventure away from the crowds with some excellent and not undemanding trekking and the finest views of Everest, Makalu, Lhotse Cho Oyu and many more that can been seen anywhere. This autumn we were also blessed with the good weather that has continued throughout the season. Wall to wall blue skies but temperatures that I would consider more normal for a month or so later. It was cold.
The Renjo La is the first major pass that we cross in this three passes trip and the most recent to be opened to trekkers. Access to it is gained from the Thame valley which itself is the historical access route for the nomadic traders from Tibet who bring their yaks over the glaciated Nangpa La to trade in Namche Bazaar. At the moment this ancient access route is closed so this season it was pretty much just us and the last of the summer grazing yaks on the high pastures in the valley.
After the Renjo La we drop into the settlement of Gokyo. Its a stunning setting below the huge ice face of Merchamo Peak and with Cho Oyu dominating the head of the valley. The settlement has changed a lot since I first visited here in 1991 when I witnessed the first and only hot air balloon flight over Everest!
'The second pass is another favourite'
It is as near to mountaineering as you can get without mountaineering (if you define mountaineering as requiring ropes and so on). Easy scrambling leads to a glacier topped pass which when crossed opens up to an astonishing, even jaw dropping view of Ama Dablam, Cholatse and Tawache. We then descend to rejoin the masses to reach Everest Base Camp and Kalar Pathar before heading off into the wild again for perhaps the remotest of the three passes on this trip, again an old favourite the Kongma La. Scrambling towards and from the top of this pass requires a bit of concentration. This isn't easy when you are faced with the view on the other side. It's an enormous wall of ice that continues all the way from Lhotse the Kantega,across nearly 180 degrees in front of you.
To complete the loop we then descend back down through the Khumbu visiting Tangboche Monastery and Namche Bazaar before finally returning to the warmth and luxury of KEs home in Kathmandu the delightful Shanker Hotel.
Thanks to Chris, Debbie, Uli, Tyson, Sarah Lesley and Simon for being great company, loads of fun and digging deep when they had to and especially thanks to Karma, LB and Nabin for making it happen.