Complete trekking guide to the Kala Patthar trek from Gorak Shep in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal
Kala Patthar is a natural landmark and popular side trek in the Khumbu region of Nepal, near the base of Mount Everest. Standing at an impressive height of 5,644 meters (18,519 ft), it offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding Himalayan mountains, including the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest.
After climbing Kala Patthar in Nepal twice, I’ve compiled this short trekking guide based on my experience. Here, I break down everything you need to know about the Kala Patthar trek as an amazing side trip from Gorak Shep on your own Everest Base Camp trek.
- About Kala Patthar
- Booking a Sherpa Guide to Kala Patthar & EBC Trek
- Can’t Trek in? How to Climb Kala Patthar Via Helicopter
- Travel Insurance for the Kala Patthar Trek
- The Kala Patthar Trekking Guide
- The View from Kala Patthar
- Tips for Trekking to Kala Patthar
- What’s the Best Time for Trekking in the Everest Region?
- More Himalayan Trekking & Adventure Guides to Nepal
By Olly Gaspar, traveler, travel blogger & photographer for 5+ years with 600+ published travel guides. I visit every place I write about & share real tips from what I learn.
About Kala Patthar
For the English translation, Kala Patthar literally means "black rock" in the local Nepali language. It's easy to see why once you approach it, as it's a prominent rock sticking out from the south ridge of Pumori (7161 m), not far from Gorak Shep (5164 m).
Kala Patthar is a very popular trek, primarily due to most Everest Base Camp trekkers including it on their itineraries in order for them to get views of Mount Everest.
The rock itself isn't a peak but instead is considered a natural landmark that doesn't require any special training or climbing equipment to the summit. In saying that, due to its location, the Kala Patthar viewpoint offers spectacular panoramic views that some much higher peaks just can't offer.
At a high altitude of 5,644 meters, this is usually the highest point reached by Everest Base Camp trekkers and those hiking the Three High Passes.
Booking a Sherpa Guide to Kala Patthar & EBC Trek
While I trekked to Kala Patthar independently, as of April 2023, this is no longer permitted. The Nepalese Tourism Board has advised that all trekkers in Nepal must now be accompanied by a guide.
So, if you're looking for great service and excellent value for money, I can recommend my favorite trekking company in Nepal for the Kala Patthar or EBC trek– Himalayan Masters.
This is a small but very professional company run by my good friend Sandip, with who I do all my trekking and climbing in Nepal. Use the code OLLY5 at checkout for a discount of 5% off any of his trips.
Kala Patthar Video - Sunrise Timelapse
Here's a timelapse taken from the top of Kala Patthar, showing all of the mountain peaks and the clouds breezing past the Himalayan gods.
Can't Trek in? How to Climb Kala Patthar Via Helicopter
While I would recommend that everybody trek into the Khumbu region to make the most of the amazing landscapes and culture, I understand that some people simply can't.
Luckily for you, there is an epic Everest helicopter tour that you can book directly from Kathmandu if you are unable to trek to Everest Base camp.
This trip will take you all the way to base camp and Gorakshep, where you can tackle the short climb up Kala Patthar before flying back to Kathmandu to enjoy a nice, warm bed at your hotel (this blows my mind).
Travel Insurance for the Kala Patthar Trek
It goes without saying, anyone trekking in the Himalayas should get backpacking insurance to protect from injury and cover an expensive helicopter evacuation.
However, since regular travel insurance usually does not cover altitudes above 4,000 m, you'll want to check out the options for dedicated trekking travel insurance.
How to Get to Gorak Shep for the Kala Patthar Trek
Kala Patthar isn't usually a destination on its own, but more of a side trip on bigger Khumbu trekking itineraries such as the Three Passes Trek and the EBC trek. These routes typically begin with a flight to the mountain village of Lukla, through to Namche Bazaar, and entering the depths of Sagarmatha National Park.
I'm sure that many other trekkers share my views when I say that Kala Patthar is more of a trekking highlight than Everest Base Camp itself. Not only is it a more rewarding hike as you'll need to climb to a higher altitude, but it also offers much better views.
That's because you can't actually see Mt. Everest's summit from basecamp, and of course, you'll get to see the summit of the tallest mountain in the world, Mount Everest, standing proud in the Himalayan landscape at 8848 meters high.
Read about my experience trekking to Everest Base Camp
The Kala Patthar Trekking Guide
The Kala Patthar hike begins on the other side of the sand bowl at Gorak Shep. You'll notice a sign pointing up the hill towards a rocky outcrop wrapped in Prayer Flags at the top. It's difficult to miss the trail since you'll no doubt already have spotted trekkers walking up and down as you entered Gorak Shep.
The trail itself begins by winding up the bowl along rock and dirt in a series of switchbacks before leveling off and continuing upwards in a straighter direction to the summit.
It will take you roughly 1.5 hours to reach the Kala Patthar viewpoint for the average trekker. However, the descent will be much quicker, as it is all downhill. I spent a total of 4 hours, including time at the top to enjoy the views.
How Steep is the Kala Pathar Trek?
The trek up is fairly steep, reaching an altitude of 5644 m, however since trekkers will begin at an altitude already well above 5000 m, it's a much easier climb than other Three Passes and Everest Base Camp side-trips such as Chukhung Ri.
The steepest part is towards the end of the trek, however, you'll have the black rock wrapped in Prayer Flags well in sight, making the ascent a lot easier.
The View from Kala Patthar
By now you'll have heard so much about that Kala Patthar view. But what mountains can you see from Kala Patthar?
From the top, you'll have panoramic views of the world's tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, Mount Nuptse, Mount Changtse, Mount Lhotse and Mount Pumori.
You'll also see the colored tents of Everest Base Camp dotted under the Khumbu Icefall, and of course, the winding Khumbu glacier.
The mountain that everyone wants to say they've seen. Simply having looked at the mother once is enough to tick a huge box on anybody's bucket list.
Soaring above the Himalayan landscape, Mount Everest's peak sits at 8848 m. From Kala Patthar, you'll have views of the summit and the entire south face, which Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay famously summited on May 29th, 1953.
However, as strange as it is, Mount Everest doesn't look like the tallest mountain in the region even from the top of the Kala Patthar summit. This is due to Everest being located much further away than the other giants.
Nuptse is another incredible mountain located only two kilometers from Mount Everest. She sits at an altitude of 7861 m. From the Kala Patthar viewpoint, you'll see the entire mountain standing proudly in front of Mount Everest.
Trekkers have a love-hate relationship with this incredible mountain. For one, it's a truly magnificent peak, but on the other, it completely blocks Mount Everest from Everest Base Camp!
Mount Changtse means the "North Peak" in Tibetan. The peak is 7583 M and is located just north of Mount Everest, in Tibet.
Even though Changtse is physically connected to Mount Everest via the North col, The mountain is not climbed as often as other sub 8000 m climbing peaks due to the administrative difficulty of climbing in Chinese Tibet.
Mount Lhotse is the fourth highest mountain in the world, sitting at an altitude of 8516 m. It's a truly incredible peak and a much harder summit than Mount Everest. It's part of the Mount Everest massif, connected via the South col.
Similarly to Changtse, it also has a Tibetan name indicating its location relative to Mount Everest. The translation is "South Peak".
The Tibetan and Nepali border is drawn using its peak as a reference, with the summit bordering both countries.
Although not the tallest mountain viewable from the Kala Patthar trek and summit, Mount Pumori might be the most spectacular. While it only sits at 7161 m, it certainly looks taller than the rest, due to its very close proximity to the Kala Patthar summit.
In fact, if you read the sections earlier, the Kala Patthar trek forms part of the Mount Pumori ascents. Pumori can be translated into two words in English. "Pumo" means small girl or daughter, and "ri" means mountain. Therefore Pumori can be translated as The Mountain Daughter.
Ama Dablam (6812 m) is one of the most beautiful and iconic mountains in the region, with its unique and striking shape. It is located to the southwest of Mount Everest and is one of the most popular mountains for mountaineering in the region.
While trekkers on the EBC route would have already seen Ama Dablam many times, from Kala Patthar, during sunrise and sunset, the golden light reflects off the mountain and creates a stunning contrast against the surrounding snow-capped peaks.
Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world, with an elevation of 8188 meters. It is located on the border between Nepal and Tibet (China).
Cho Oyu is located in the Mahalangur Himalaya range, which is visible from Kala Patthar on a clear day. However, due to its distance and location behind other mountains, it may not be as visible or prominent as some of the other peaks in the region.
Tips for Trekking to Kala Patthar
Read on for some quick trekking advice before commencing up to the summit of Kala Patthar.
1. Hike in the Early Morning
During peak Himalayan trekking seasons, the trail to Kala Patthar can get very crowded. In order to beat the crowds, I recommend leaving early, just before dawn.
Not only will there most likely be fewer trekkers, but you'll also get the best chance of clear weather and avoid the late afternoon cloud cover. I visited for sunrise both times, which resulted in good, clear views.
2. Ensure That You Are Acclimatized
The Kala Patthar trek will lead you to an altitude of at least 5644 m above sea level. For this reason, proper acclimatization is highly recommended to avoid the risk of altitude sickness, or AMS. Since I am not a doctor, I can't give you acclimatization advice.
However, most trekkers follow strict acclimatization strategies on the way up to the village of Gorak Shep to avoid any issues upon reaching the top of Kala Patthar.
3. Bring Warm Clothes for the Top
This should go without saying for anyone thinking of trekking to altitudes this high. Let me tell you that temperatures at the top of the Kala Patthar trek can get freezing cold! Since you'll probably want to spend a little more time at the top enjoying the view, make sure to bring extra layers!
Related: Packing List for EBC & Three Passes
What's the Best Time for Trekking in the Everest Region?
What's the best time to attempt the Three Passes or Everest Base Camp Treks? Both treks can be completed at any time of the year. However, it is better to trek in the recommended trekking seasons for better weather and for better chances of clearing the passes.
March to May
From March to May, the Khumbu region enjoys Spring climates. This is the most popular season for trekking and expedition climbing. There is little rain during this time, the skies are clearer and the days are warmer. You'll also be able to see blooming plants and lush rhododendron forests in the lower altitudes.
For the Kala Patthar trek, this is the best season as you'll have a higher chance of getting unobstructed views of Everest.
September to November
Another popular season for trekking in the Khumbu and Everest regions is just after the monsoon in September to November. During this period, the clouds are clearing and there the weather is less hot. The landscapes at lower altitudes are also much greener and the weather is typically devoid of storms.
However, during the night it can be a little colder than in Spring trekking season, so be prepared by bringing an extra thick sleeping bag.
Three Passes: Trekking Ebook
Since internet connectivity is limited in the Khumbu, I've written a comprehensive trekking e-book 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 that you've enjoyed this quick guide to the Kala Pathar Trek in the Khumbu and Nepalese Himalayas. Before you head off on the adventure of a lifetime, check out some of my other guides for more inspiration and trek ideas!
If you're up for a more off-the-beaten-path trek in Nepal, try the Manaslu Circuit!