The Gokyo Ri Trek: An awakening with the mountains.
We live in such interesting times! While the Nepal Government has closed its border, revoked all the permits for climbing/trekking in the Everest region and there is chaos across the world because of the growing impact of the Coronavirus: COVID-19. I decided to utilize my time at home by doing something productive. Self-quarantine time took me back to my first ever trek in Nepal to the Gokyo Lakes on the Gokyo Ri Trek. My first ever trek in Nepal was indeed a great experience for me. While the experience of trekking through the magnificent landscapes of Solu Khumbu region gave me a chance to understand my abilities to trek in the higher altitude, the overall journey and the experience of travelling with total strangers gave me some unforgettable memories.
Interestingly, the Nepal trip was my first ever international trip. A series of unforeseen events made the journey not only adventurous but also once in a lifetime experience. The adventure started even before I boarded my flight to Kathmandu. It rained heavily in Pune while I was coming back home after some last-minute shopping from a nearby grocery store. Because of the sudden change in weather, I got a really bad cold. While it was still raining heavily, I somehow managed to catch my flight to Delhi on time. Luckily, I had booked my Kathmandu flight from Delhi on the next day which allowed me to rest properly in the night at a friend’s place. I took an early morning flight next day and after witnessing a gorgeous sunrise from the flight here I was standing at the Kathmandu Airport waiting for my fellow group members.
We were picked up from the airport by the Adventure Pulse Team and were transferred to our hotel which was located in the heart of the famous Thamel Market. I loved the vibe of this place. The narrow lanes were full of tourists from across the globe. With hundreds of trekking equipment shops, this place is a shopping paradise for trekkers and travellers. Here we could buy any of the equipment we couldn’t get and needed on the Gokyo Ri Trek. We explored the market in the evening and after a team briefing and dinner called it a night. I was worried because I still had cold and infection in my throat. However, our trek leader Samir Patham assured me that once we will be away from the city and its polluted air, the clean air in the mountain will help me recover quickly.
Next day we were ready with our luggage to start this 11-day journey through some of the most beautiful regions of Nepal. The plan was to catch a short 1-hour flight to Lukla, a mountain village situated at the altitude of around 2860 meter which is the start point of any treks in the Everest valley and then hit the trail towards Phakding, our first stop. We waited at the Kathmandu Domestic Airport for about 4-5 hours only to find out later that all the flights to Lukla were cancelled due to bad weather.
Adventure Pulse team with their strong base in Nepal managed to book next day’s flight and we returned to our hotel in Thamel with the hope of getting clear weather the next day. We utilized the rest of the day by visiting some tourist attractions in Kathmandu. To our utter disappointment, the weather in Lukla did not improve the next morning as well and there were very thin chances of any flights landing to Lukla during the day. Which left us with only two options.
1. Book a helicopter to reach Lukla
We didn’t want to let go off the opportunity to see Mt. Everest from its best vantage point Gokyo Ri, so everyone agreed upon booking the helicopters for Lukla. The Gokyo Ri Trek is famous for its views of Mt Everest and the beautiful Gokyo Lakes.
The Adventure Pulse team quickly made the arrangements and soon I was ready for my first ever helicopter ride. I had never imagined that helicopter ride was that much fun. I was literally on cloud nine. We had covered almost 40% of the distance when we were in for a surprise.
The weather got bad and the visibility was poor due to rain. The pilot informed us that for the safety reasons he will have to land the helicopter at a nearby airstrip and wait for the next update from Lukla Air Traffic Controller for a green signal to fly again. The pilot decided to land the helicopter at a place called ‘Rumjatar’. There were already eight more helicopters with trekkers who like us were stranded on this airstrip in the middle of nowhere. The weather didn’t improve, and in the evening, we got an update that the helicopters will not take off today. The weather so far did not want me to go for the Gokyo Ri Trek.
Rumjatar was a small village which used to be a base for the British Army in the past. There were almost 30-40 trekkers in this tiny village which had only one restaurant and few houses. Our trek leader proactively approached the local residents and arranged for our accommodation and food for the night in an old British Army cottage. Sleeping in a wooden cottage with no electricity was something any of us didn’t expect. We enjoyed playing some card games and went to sleep with the hope of getting clear weather the next day. The weather god listened to our prayers and after a short flight next morning, we reached Lukla, the start point of our trek where other members of our team were eagerly waiting for us. Let me quickly take you through the Gokyo Ri Trek.
- Lukla to Monjo (via Phakding)
- Start: Lukla (9,380 ft / 2,860 m)
- End: Monjo (9,301 ft / 2,835 m)
- Distance: 12 km
- Day’s elevation change: +2,985 ft / +910 m
- Total time: 5-6 hr
We were welcomed by the local staff at the airport in traditional Nepali style and after having breakfast at a tea house Khumbhu Resort, we were ready to start the journey into the Everest valley. We crossed some beautiful villages and soon reached Phakding where we stopped for lunch at Tashi Tagey Hotel. After a sumptuous meal, we continued walking towards Monjo. It was an easy walk with trails passing through beautiful villages alongside ‘Dudhkoshi’ river with hanging bridges and waterfall in between.
We reached Monjo, a beautiful village surrounded by mountains and stayed at Mt. Kailash lodge. After the struggle of getting to Lukla, we were now finally at peace as everything now was as per plan. We were really impressed with the way the entire team worked hard to manage all the logistics in the remote areas and made sure we were comfortable all the time in these difficult circumstances.
- Monjo to Namche (via Jorsule)
- Start: Monjo (9,301 ft / 2,835 m)
- End: Namche Bazaar (11,286 ft / 3,440 m)
- Distance: 5 – 6 km
- Day’s elevation change: +2,471 ft / +753 m
- Total time: 4-5 hours
Today we started early and slowly made our way towards Namche Bazar, the gateway to Everest Valley. We reached Jorsule, the entry point of the Sagarmatha National Park Zone. I was really looking forward to trekking on this route as this is the day you get to see the first glimpse of Mt. Everest on the way. We crossed the iconic ‘Double Bridge’ which has been featured in the movie ‘Everest’. Walking along the Dudhkoshi river on narrow trails, we reached Namche Bazaar and stayed at the Green Tara Hotel. Later in the evening, we went to visit the Tenzing Norgay Museum and explored the Namche village. It was great to meet Mr Pema Sherpa who holds multiple records of climbing 8000 meters including Mt. Everest.
- Namche to Mong La
- Start: Namche Bazaar (11,286 ft / 3,440 m)
- End: Mong La (13061 ft / 3,981 m)
- Distance: Approx. 7 – 8 Km
- Day’s elevation change: +1775 ft / +541 m
- Total time: 6 hours
We left Namche Bazar after a delicious breakfast around 7:15 am. The first part of the trail was relatively flat and easy which led to some stone steps as we moved up. The altitude difference was almost 550m today. We crossed beautiful Stupas with Mt. Ama Dablam in the background. After crossing the ridge, we entered the small settlement of Mong La, our destination for the day. We stayed at the Hilltop Hotel which was perfectly situated in a flat area at the end of a ridge. Though it is a very small settlement the place offered magnificent views of Ama Dablam, Taboche, Kusum Kangri, Kongde etc.
It was a most memorable day as our trek leader Samir Patham who is also an Everest Summiteer shared his Everest Expedition journey with us. His story of grit and determination filled us with new energy and motivation. In the evening the sky put up a show and I captured the beautiful evening sky and sunset over surrounding mountains on my camera.
- Mong La to Luza
- Start: Mong La (13061 ft / 3,981 m)
- End: Luza (14271 ft / 4,350 m)
- Distance: Approx. 8 km
- Day’s elevation change: +1210 ft / +369 m
- Total time: 6 hours
As usual, we started early today to reach before afternoon. Our bodies were acclimatized properly by now and everyone was feeling strong and energetic. We covered the distance of around 8 km on the easy trails with some breathtaking views of Thamserku, Cho Oyu and Machhermo. We stayed in a small teahouse called Paradise lodge. Even though there wasn’t anything fancy about this place, I was really impressed with the cleanliness and quality of food offered at this teahouse.
Due to the delay in reaching Lukla, we had to completely modify the itinerary. We were skipping the destinations to cover up the loss of one day and hence stayed at different locations than the standard itinerary followed by most of the other groups. This really worked in our favour as there was very less crowd on the trail and we had most of the teahouse all by ourselves.
- Luza to Gokyo
- Start: Luza (14271 ft / 4,350 m)
- End: Gokyo (15584 ft / 4,750 m)
- Distance: Approx. 6 – 7 km
- Day’s elevation change: +1313 ft / +400 m
- Total time: 5 hours
The stretch from Luza to Gokyo was probably the most scenic part on the Gokyo Ri trek. We crossed some pretty waterfalls on the way and after crossing a small metal bridge we entered the Gokyo Valley. Our guide spotted the first lake of the Gokyo Lakes at a distance and encouraged us to move quickly as the weather was turning bad. The walk from the first to the third lake was tiring due to an increase in the cold.
After a long day, we were sitting in our cosy teahouse which was located right in front of the lake, sipping hot coffee and admiring the beauty of this gorgeous place. I could sense a happy vibe and a feeling of joy and satisfaction in everyone’s eyes. We spend the rest of the day inside the common sitting area, interacted with fellow trekkers and played some fun indoor games. Dinner was served early as we were supposed to leave as early as 3:00 am to catch the sunrise views from Gokyo Ri peak.
Gokyo Ri Summit
The experience of reaching the top of the Gokyo Ri (Ri = Peak) was unforgettable. Our group started climbing up around 3:45 am at night. Moonlight wasn’t so strong, but the rays were creating a surreal reflection on the partially frozen Gokyo Lake. Slowly and gradually we moved up further to finally reach to the summit of Gokyo Ri (5360 m) around 7:15 am. The Sun was still behind the mountains and the peaks were covered with clouds. Eventually, the clouds disappeared, and the Sun was shining bright right behind Mt. Everest! For a moment, everything felt like a dream. One of my biggest dreams was fulfilled. My dream to see the tallest mountain on the Earth, the Holy Sagarmatha, Mother Chomolungma.
People always say, “Seize the moment”. I think it is the other way around. I think, “Moment seizes us.” This was one such moment.
· Gokyo to Dole
After a full day’s rest at Gokyo village, we were ready for the journey back to Lukla. It was hard to say goodbye to this nature’s wonder. We retraced our way back and within 5 hours reached a place called Dole. Our stay was at the Riverside lodge.
· Dole to Namche
After having reached to 5360 meters, the descend to lower altitude was totally refreshing. Our body was receiving more oxygen and the excitement to reach back to the comfort of our Hotel rooms motivated us on this long journey. After a gradual climb, it was an easy walk on ‘Nepali flats’. We crossed a waterfall and passed through a dense forest. We stopped at Mong La for some tea and snacks and recharged ourselves for the last leg of the journey to Namche Bazar. After a long hike through narrow trails, we finally reached Namche around 2:00 pm. We stayed at Hilltop Lodge; a newly built teahouse run by a lovely family of four members. The owner of the teahouse was very kind and made sure we had a great time during our stay.
· Namche to Lukla
This was probably the toughest part on the Gokyo Ri Trek as it’s a long walk of almost 8-9 hours on descending trail through mountain villages. We had lunch en-route at Phakding. The last stretch was challenging but with constant motivation from our guide and trek leader, we managed to reach Lukla by 3:30-4:00 pm where celebratory dinner and beers were waiting for us. We invited all the guide and porters to join us for the celebratory dinner and thanked them for their services and efforts to make our journey comfortable. We partied till late and danced crazily on the tunes of Nepali songs. I won’t spill beans on the details because, “What happens in Lukla, stays in Lukla”. I just want to say that I had the best day of my life and I’m sure everyone in the group had a ball at the party.
· Lukla to Kathmandu
With the hope of getting clear weather, we reached airport around 10:30 am and finally got a flight around 12:30 -1:00 pm to reach Kathmandu. We had an entire evening to explore around Thamel market and nearby places. I went to visit the Swayambhunath Stupa and Baudha Stupa and joined the group for our last dinner together before we bid adieu to Kathmandu.
This trip was a life-changing experience for me. I learned a very important lesson that embracing the challenges in our life with a positive attitude and patience will lead you to success. Though the journey was full of difficulties due to logistical challenges and bad weather, with a strong mindset and willingness everyone could achieve their dream of finishing the Gokyo Ri Trek and to witness Mt. Everest in all her glory! I want to take this opportunity to thank the amazing team at Adventure Pulse for believing in me and encouraging on every step of this adventurous journey to the most beautiful place on Earth! Thank you and Namastey!