NEPAL: Gokyo/Everest, Annapurna Sanctuary, Kathmandu, Pokhara

In a month in Nepal, we trekked to the wonderful Annapurna Sanctuary 10 days and to spectacular Chhukhung and Gokyo Ri in the Mount Everest area 14 days, in fall 2007. This was a long awaited return to Nepal after my trek to Kala Patthar in spring 1981 (click to read story). Nepal offers amazing diversity in a small country, with Hindu and Buddhist cultures living everywhere from near sea level well up onto the slopes of the world’s highest mountains.


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Below, read travel tips and view many more images, expanded into several collections:

Mt. Everest region: Chhukhung and Gokyo Valley Trek, 14 days in November 2007


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In Fall 2007, Carol and I flew from Seattle via Hong Kong to stay one night in Bangkok, Thailand, in 25 hours transit time. In the morning, we flew 3.5 hours from Bangkok to Kathmandu, which we explored for 6 days with a group of Seattle friends.

On a classic trek to Chhukhung and Gokyo Valley in the Mount Everest area November 3-17, 2007, our group flew from Kathmandu to Lukla airport and hiked for 14 days, gaining 26,000 feet in total. This trip was longer, higher and harder than Annapurna Sanctuary, but very rewarding. Three people dropped out for health reasons in the first two days, leaving five trekkers. We walked 2 days to Namche Bazaar and acclimatized for 2 nights. At Tengboche Monastery, fog obscured views. Dingboche was our base for a spectacular day hike to Chhukhung (15,520 feet) on the north side of beautiful Ama Dablam mountain. We trekked back through Pangboche then cut across to Phortse then up Gokyo Valley. An exhilarating climax was reached at 17,580 feet elevation atop Gokyo Ri, a breathtaking 360 degree mountain panorama including four of the world’s highest peaks (Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu), plus the largest glacier in Nepal and the attractive turquoise lakes of Gokyo.

Sagarmatha National Park was created in 1976 and was honored as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

Mt. Everest region: Kala Patthar trek, April 1981

In 1981, our group trekked the old fashioned way in tents for 23 days, from the low Terai jungle to 18,192 feet on Kala Patthar (or Kala Pattar/Patar) in the valley of the Khumbu Glacier. Read my story illustrated in a 35-page PDF file: Nepal 1981: To the Abode of Snow. In comparison, Gokyo Ri (done in 2007) has wider views and smaller crowds of trekkers.

Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, 10 days in October 2007


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Our group of seven trekkers loved hiking 10 days from Phedi through lush rain forest to the gorgeous Annapurna Sanctuary, returning via Naya Pul, gaining a total of 21,000 feet, October 22-31, 2007. Compared to the Everest area (from Lukla to Tengboche), the Annapurna Sanctuary trek is less crowded and more relaxed, with much less likelihood of altitude sickness. See practical advice further below.

Kathmandu Valley


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In the dense cities of the Kathmandu Valley, cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, and pedestrians crowd the narrow medieval streets creating a wonderful chaos and cacophony. The original inhabitants of Kathmandu Valley are Newars, who speak the language “Nepal Bhasa,” but Nepali is now the most widely spoken language in Nepal.

The Newar rulers of the Malla Dynasty controlled the Kathmandu Valley and nearby areas from the 1100s to 1600s. Kantipur, capital of Kantipur Malla kingdom, became known as Kathmandu. From 1765-73, the Gorkha (or Gurkha) ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah forcefully unified several separate kingdoms into one Nepal. The resulting Shah Dynasty of Hindu kings ruled with Kathmandu as the capital from 1769 to 2006. A ten year Civil War by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) and mass protests led to significant political change in 2005. In 2008, Nepal abolished the monarchy and adopted a federal democratic state.

View palaces of the Malla and Shah kings in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square (“Palace” Square, or officially Hanuman Dhoka). Kathmandu Valley bustles with three cities separated by rivers: Kathmandu (population 700,000; elevation 6235 feet / 2230 meters), Patan (190,000 in 2006) and Bhaktapur (78,000). UNESCO honored the seven monument zones of Kathmandu Valley on the World Heritage List in 1979, including the following featured here in photographs: the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu) and Patan, and the Buddhist stupa of Swayambhu. All sites are protected under Nepal’s Monuments Preservation Act of 1956.

Practical advice for trekking in Nepal

To organize your complete land package in Nepal, I highly recommend my friend Ang Dendi Sherpa (email: angdendi@gmail.com), who runs HIMALAYAN WORLD ADVENTURE (P) LTD based in Kathmandu. I traveled with Dendi in 1981 and 2007, and he visited us in Seattle in September 2008.

Meals, Lodging, Guide, Porters

Throughout our 2007 treks, we slept in comfortable teahouses with private double (or triple bed) rooms, with shared bathroom down the hall, usually without hot shower. The good quality hot meals on the standard teahouse menus were usually prepared with good sanitation. Hire a guide and/or porters (like we did) to help carry your sleeping bag and extra clothing, and to run ahead and reserve rooms early in the day, since in high season (October-November), lodging can fill up in the evenings on both the Annapurna Sanctuary and Gokyo treks.

Himalaya mountain weather forecasts
Health tips

Read about how to acclimatize to high altitude.

The common cold virus infected most of us. Dry high altitude air and dusty trails gave most people coughing problems. Bring prescription codeine cough medicine from home in case you must suppress night coughing, as we five needed. Kunde Hospital was too distant to help us until near the end of the trek. At altitudes above 10,000 feet, wear a scarf over your mouth to hydrate the air and filter dust. Wash hands frequently using soap and water (or waterless hand sterilizer, like Purell).

Severe jet lag: After Pacific Daylight Savings Time ends, on the first Sunday in November through the second Sunday in March, Seattle time is minus 13:45 hours from Kathmandu.

Compared to my Nepal trip in April 1981, in 2007 I found ten times more tourists and yak trains, better reforestation, more comfort in teahouses, improved meals, and better health conditions.

Global warming: climate change in Nepal

Glaciers in the Mount Everest region of the Himalayas are all in a state of retreat. Of 15 glaciers examined from 1976–2007 in the Khumbu region, all retreated significantly, averaging 28 meters or 92 feet per year [Bajracharya and Mool, Annals of Glaciology 50(53) 2009].

Recommended Nepal guidebooks from Amazon.com:

Search for latest “Nepal travel books” on Amazon.com (look for updates every 1 to 3 years).

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