This segment of the Three High Passes Ultimate Guide covers days 7 – 9, including some acclimatization hikes from Chukhung and the Kongma La Pass.
This guide picks up from the previous post: Everest Three High Passes Trek Day 4 – AMA DABLAM BASE CAMP
The map above will highlight the general route for the next part of the trek. Remember to disregard any Google time predictions, because they certainly aren’t accounting for altitude. Also, it’s crucial to have a physical Everest Three Passes Trek map when hiking in the Khumbu. This guide should not replace a proper map and should be a complement to individual research and preparation efforts.
THE ACCLIMITISATION HIKES FROM CHUKHUNG AND THE KONGMA LA PASS ROUTES ON THIS MAP INDICATE DIRECTION ONLY. A DEDICATED MAP MUST BE USED FOR THESE SECTIONS.
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Day 7: Dingboche to Chukhung
TREKKING TIME: 2 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 405M ASCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4730M
The trek from Dingboche to Chukhung in the upper Imja Valley is one of the first segments where hikers will truly feel like they’re off the beaten Everest Base Camp trail. A relief to adventurers seeking an authentic Himalayan hiking experience, this segment is relatively short but peaceful.
The trail from Dingboche starts on the moraine slope on the southeastern side of the village. Take the upper path and begin the steady ascent through the valley. Roughly halfway, you will notice a small teashop almost in the center of the valley at Bibre.
As you continue, the shifting shape of Ama Dablam continues to surprise as the peaks seem to merge into a mountain almost unrecognizable.
Take the time to enjoy a tea break or rest your legs before continuing on the wide path to Chhukung. The trail is less obvious in some stretches of this segment, nevertheless, it is a clear heading to the village of Chukhung speckled in the distance. As long as you continue in roughly the same direction, it’s very difficult to get it wrong.
Once you arrive in Chukhung, there are several lodges to drop your bags and get ready for an acclimatization hike before tackling the Kongma La Pass in the coming days. I would definitely recommend the Khangri Resort, which offers fair prices and will often have several trekkers staying there that you can join for the pass.
Side Trip: Imja Tse (Island Peak) Base Camp
Since the trek from Dingboche to Chukung was quite short, you’ll have plenty of time to tackle an important acclimatization hike on the same day, as long as you’re feeling up to it. Keep in mind, many trekkers experience symptoms of AMS at Chukhung. Only attempt further acclimatization if you are feeling healthy and free of symptoms.
The Island Peak Basecamp is an excellent side-trip which takes 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.
For this trip, you will gain an additional 250 M of altitude. However, this gain is quite gradual compared to Chukhung Ri.
For many trekkers, this is one of the most beautiful areas in the Khumbu. Take time to admire the frozen lakes and look back for a breathtaking panorama of your already claimed ground back to Dingboche.
Imja Tse (Island Peak)
Island Peak is the most popular trekking peak in the Everest Region. the peak rises to 6189 M and is typically attempted for a sunrise summit from the base camp at 4970 M. If you are looking to make a peak summit on your Three Passes journey, then you will need to organize a climbing guide, gear, and a climbing permit.
All of this can be organized in Kathmandu prior to reaching the mountains. However, it’s also possible to join in on other summit expeditions by speaking to guides and teahouse owners in Chukhung. The possibility will depend on the season and whether any groups are submitting while you are there.
Day 8: Acclimatization in Chukhung – Climbing Chukhung Ri
TREKKING TIME: 4 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 815M ASCENT 815M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4730M
After a solid day of trekking, you’ll be rewarded with a very important acclimatization day in Chukhung before attempting the Kongma La Pass the following day.
In saying that and as you might have already guessed, you’ll still need to do strap up the boots and clock some altitude to prepare.
READ THE FULL BLOG POST FOR CHUKHUNG RI AND ISLAND PEAK BASE CAMP
Chukhung Ri Trail
The best and most popular side-trip and acclimatization hike from Chukhung is to hike to the summit of Chukhung Ri (5546 M). The return trip will take approximately four hours and is very steep.
It’s best to depart early for the best views and the best chances of reaching the top. Begin by picking up the trail at the Northeastern side of the village, just past the Makalu Lodge.
Chukhung Ri Summit
The first segment is rocky, with the trail winding up the start of the hill before leveling off to reveal a steep, almost ski-slope like path. As the altitude rises quickly, it’s important to take your time and take plenty of rests. The first viewpoint is marked by prayer flags and chortens. From here, you’ll have 360-degree views of the valley beyond, including Imja Tse, Ama Dablam, Baruntse and Makalu.
You’ll also get a glimpse of the Kongma La Pass trail on the other side of the valley.
If you’re feeling fit and healthy, it’s possible to keep trekking up the northern side to the prayer flags indicating the top of the Chukhung Ri. This segment is a little more difficult and requires some rock scrambling. Keep in mind that the wind tends to howl here, and the cliffs are very steep. Once you reach the top, you’ll be at a higher altitude (5546 M) than the Kongma La.
After soaking in what will undoubtedly be one of the most incredible views in the world, make the much faster but knee-buckling 800-meter descent back to Chukhung, where hot tea and warm Dahl Baht awaits.
Day 9: The Kongma La Pass to Lobuche
TREKKING TIME: 8-9 HOURS
ALTITUDE: 800M ASCENT 620M DESCENT
SLEEPING ALTITUDE: 4950M
By this time, assuming you have made the appropriate acclimatization stops, you should be fit and ready for the first pass: The Kongma La Pass.
Be prepared, the Kongma La Pass is ranked by many Three High Passes trekkers as the most difficult by far. The trail is also incomparable to previous segments and is best attempted in a larger group. Many independent trekkers are anxious about this pass, ask around your lodge to see if there are other people who are willing to walk together.
Starting the Kongma La Pass Trail to Lobuche
Sound advice is to leave at first light from Chukhung, as this will increase your chances of better weather on the trail and avoiding crossing the glacier in the dark.
There are also no facilities or food available on the entirety of the Kongma La Pass. It’s important to pack both food and water.
The trail can be difficult to find, however, all lodges will be happy to guide you to the start of the trail, just past the Chukhung Resort on the northwest section of the village.
Follow the visible path up and over the first hill, making sure to keep the distant trail in sight to avoid getting lost. Continue up, around, down and back up the rolling hillsides until you reach a steep and slippery incline beside the Niyang Khola Valley.
This particular segment is very steep and slippery. Depending on the weather, it may also be difficult to follow a path due to ice and snow cover. Take your time heading up until you reach the top of the bluff, revealing a flatter valley with several lakes.
The Kongma La Pass
Continue over the first hill until you have views over the larger lakes. From here, you’ll see the Kongma La visible in the distance where prayer flags flap at the low point in the range.
However, before you gain the pass, you’ll need to get around the frozen lake. If you’re lucky, there may already by footprints in the snow from other guided Three High Pass trekkers. Be careful not to cross the actual ice. Instead, there is a track that wraps around to the right and up a small hill.
After getting passed the lake, you’ll need to scramble up a steep segment of loose scree and boulders before arriving at the top of the Kongma La (5535 M).
The Kongma La Pass View
After approximately 5 hours of trekking, you’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the lakes and glacial landscapes. In the distance, Makalu, the fifth tallest mountain in the world stands tall above the rest.
Looking down to the other side of the pass, you’ll see a daunting, slippery descent with dangerously loose scree and boulders. You’ll also see a hanging glacier which somehow, is still holding on.
Take your time to have a rest before attempting the most dangerous and difficult part of the Kongma La Pass.
Meticulous care will need to be taken when descending from the Kongma La Pass down to Lobuche. This is particularly true in the first section, where steep, loose rocks often slip, creating dangerous landslides and falling rocks. It’s best to clear this section quickly and carefully, watching for any signs of falling rocks.
This section can also be very slippery, passing over several sections of flowing or frozen water.
After a nail-biting descent, you’ll reach a softer and rounder section, where you can catch your breath and take a drink. That being said, you still have plenty of knee-straining decline in front of you.
After finally reaching the bottom of the valley, you’ll see the last final that needs to be climbed before reaching the glacier. This section is steep, however, can easily be cleared in 20 minutes. Be careful not to take the more obvious trail to the right. Instead, follow the fainter trail up the hillside further to your left.
Due to the rapid movement of the Khumbu Glacier, the crossing point has shifted several hundred meters, forcing those who take the right-most trail to switchback along the top of the rugged hillside before making a descent to the glacier crossing point.
Crossing the Khumbu Glacier
Now for the final stretch before finally being able to throw down your packs and a well-deserved meal (or two).
Many unprepared trekkers make the dangerous attempt of crossing the glacier by walking directly over the ice. Fortunately, there is a clear section whereby to cross along a stretch of rock. It should be immediately visible from the top of the hill.
As you cross, listen for the powerful cracks and creaks of rock and ice as the ancient glacier snakes itself down the Himalayan landscape.
Once you reach the other side of the glacier, it’s a short trek up and down several rolling hills before finally making the satisfying descent into the township of Lobuche.
What a day. No doubt after clearing the Kongma La Pass, you’ll be exhausted and in dire need of hot food and tea. Luckily, Luboche is on the Everest Base Camp trail, and therefore has many excellent lodging facilities.
There’s even a bakery here, noted as being the highest bakery in the world. Apparently, they also make incredible cappuccinos that are said to take you down to human altitude for the duration of the cup.
I would highly recommend the Above The Clouds Lodge, located at the back of the village. The owner is extremely helpful and a beautiful person, offering those that have crossed the Kongma La Pass free tea and discounted lodging.
Free Three Passes: Independent Trekking Guide Ebook
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Keep Reading the Everest Three High Passes Trekking Guide
That’s it for the Three High Passes guide days 7 – 9 and the Kongma La! Keep reading in the next articles below.
Also, don’t miss this Three Passes itinerary for a run-down on everything you’ll need to know before heading out on the Three High Passes Trek.
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