Guide to hiking to Chhukung Ri & Island Peak Base Camp from the village of Chhukung in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal.
The small Sherpa village of Chhukung in the Khumbu region of Nepal sits at an altitude of 4750 meters (15,584 feet) in the Imja Valley. It’s a popular stop for trekkers on the Three Passes Trek, and Island Peak expeditions.
So, whether you’ve made it to Chhukung for the views, or in preparation to climb over the Kongma La or to summit Imja Tse, this guide will walk you through the two most popular acclimatization hikes, Chhukung Ri and the detour to Island Peak Base Camp.
- Getting to Chhukung Village
- Acclimatization Hikes in Chhukung
- Trekking to the Top of Chhukung Ri
- View from the Top Chhukung Ri View
- Trekking to Island Peak Base Camp (Imja Tse)
- More Himalayan Trekking & Adventure Guides to Nepal
Update: I've recently been back to Chhukung Ri on an Island Peak expedition and have uploaded some new photos alongside the original ones from 2019.
Getting to Chhukung Village
Chhukung is a small lodging village dotted on the outskirts of the Chhukung Valley.
To get to Chhukung, you'll need to walk for at least a week from the Himalayan gates of Lukla.
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Acclimatization Hikes in Chhukung
The Kongma La Pass is commonly recognized by trekkers as one of the most difficult and draining passes on the typical Three High Passes route. It takes anywhere from 8-12 hours to complete and takes you to an altitude of over 5500 m.
Chhukung is also the village immediately before the Island Peak base camp. Therefore, no matter which route you are taking, a bit of acclimatization time and training is highly recommended once you reach Chhukung.
Equally, Chhukung Ri serves as an ideal acclimatization hike to prepare for the Island Peak summit.
Which Hike to Do from Chhukung
If you're strapped for time, you might be on the fence about which acclimatization hike you would prefer to do. By far, the most popular option is Chhukung Ri, as it takes hikers to a much higher altitude and only takes 4 hours for the return trip, compared to a 7-8 hour trip to Island Peak Base Camp.
However, if you're attempting the Kongma La, it's highly recommended to stay in Chhukung for an extra night, giving you plenty of time to reach Island Peak base camp, or as I did, complete both acclimatization hikes over the two days.
Trekking to the Top of Chhukung Ri
Chhukung Ri is a rocky peak at the top of Chhukung Village. There are two main peaks, the taller reaching 5546 m, which is even taller than the Kongma La Pass!
For this reason, trekkers should attempt the hike slowly and follow adequate acclimatization strategies.
For many, this peak is one of the hardest parts of their Three Passes hiking journey. This is due to the relative steepness and the rapid increase in altitude. Furthermore, it'll most likely be the first time trekkers reach an altitude above 5500 m.
How Long Does it Take to Hike Chhukung Ri?
The side trip will take you roughly 4 hours of trekking time for the return trip. However, it's recommended to take your time in order to avoid any issues with AMS, since the ascent is decently steep.
Picking Up the Chhukung Ri Trail
Depending on the season and time of day, you may already have seen other trekkers walking up or down the sloping hill above Chhukung. The trail is quite obvious from any point in town.
Begin by walking to the northeastern side of the town and taking the track behind Makalu Lodge. Leave the town and cross a small flowing creek before starting the winding walk up the first rocky hillside.
The Ascent of Chhukung Ri
After a series of switchbacks, you will have reached the top of the rocky section in front of a smooth, round hill to your right and a very steep sloping hill in front of you.
If you’re looking to get to the top of Chhukung Ri, then you’ll need to begin the long and tedious ascent up the slopey hillside.
For those not confident in their acclimatization, it’s possible to finish this little hike on the hill to your right. Getting to the top of this will see trekkers hit 5000 m of elevation which may be enough for many people.
If you’re feeling good and up for it, continue up the worn track up the slope straight up to the Chhukung Ri viewpoint.
View from the Top Chhukung Ri View
As you approach the top, you’ll notice the first peak immediately to your right, indicated by several chortens and prayer flags. From here, you’ll have 360-degree views of the valley beyond, including Imja Tse, Ama Dablam, Baruntse, and Makalu.
On the other side, you can also pick up the faint sign of the Kongma La pass trail.
If you’re feeling fit and ready, you can continue back across the top of the slope and begin the scrambling ascent to the top of Chhukung Ri. You’ll notice the second peak indicated by more prayer flags.
This section is a little more tricky, and the wind is known to howl through here. However, once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with a slightly more rewarding experience of the same view, since you would have just reached an altitude of 5546 m!
Trekking to Island Peak Base Camp (Imja Tse)
Another half-day acclimatization hike from Chhukung is to walk to Island Peak (Imja Tse) base camp, which sits at 4970 m.
The Island Peak base camp is an excellent side trip on the Three Passes, taking roughly six to seven hours for the return trip. The trail is gradual, but sweeps along the moraine of the Lhotse Glacier and passes the beautiful Imja Tsho alpine lakes.
Related:Gokyo Ri Trek in Nepal
Island Peak Expedition Trekking
Imja Tse is one of the most popular trekking peak in the Himalayas alongside Mera Peak. The peak gives novice to intermediate trekkers a taste of proper mountaineering climbing. While it is one of the easier summits in the region, the peak still sits at 6189 m, so it is no joke and certainly requires a dedicated climbing guide.
It's also a huge step up from regular Himalayan trekking. So if you're looking to go all the way to the summit, you'll need to arrange a guide, permit, and trip in Kathmandu or join a crew in Chhukung.
Related: Top Things to do in Kathmandu
Picking Up the Island Peak Base Camp Trail
The Island Peak Base Camp trail starts at the opposite end of Chhukung to Chhukung Ri. Instead of taking a left at the end of town, take a right, and cross another makeshift plank bridge over the overflowing creek.
There is a clear path, and depending on whether or not it's Island Peak season, there might be some porters and expedition guides making the same heading.
The path winds up to a small raised hill, then continues around on top of it, before dipping down into a flat valley.
The Imja Tsho Alpine Lakes
After approximately two and a half hours of trekking, you'll reach the large Imja Tsho Alpine Lakes. However, if you're only sticking to the trail, you might miss the best views.
Along the Island Peak Base Camp track, you'll see raised hillsides which you walk through and around. At any point, it's possible to scramble to the top of these for a better view of the lakes on the other side.
For me, looking out over the lakes and listening to the powerful cracks and groans of the Lhotse Glacier was a surreal moment. It really makes you appreciate the hardships of the people living in this otherworldly landscape.
Island Peak Base Camp
Just past the lakes, the trail continues down a gently, flat gradient for another hour before reaching Island Peak Base Camp. The altitude is 5087 m.
Summit trekking seasons are in April to May and October to November, so depending on the season, you'll either see plenty of expedition tents or just an empty, flat landscape.
Either way, it's an amazing landscape and a perfect acclimatization hike before attempting the Kongma La Pass!
Three Passes: Trekking Ebook
Since internet connectivity is limited in the Khumbu, I've written a comprehensive trekking guide to the Three Passes which you can download as an eBook for use on your mobile, tablet, or e-reader.
More Himalayan Trekking & Adventure Guides to Nepal
I hope you've found this quick guide to Chhukung Ri and Island Peak base camp from the village of Chhukung useful. While you're here, make sure to check out some of my other guides for more inspiration for your adventures in Nepal.