The walk up the valley from Lukla to Namche Bazar is the greenest stretch of the 20-day 3 Passes Trek. With numerous small towns and locals transporting goods by mule or yak many find this introduction to the Everest region one of the most interesting of the trek. Still, with a steep climb at the end to Namche Bazar the day is not without its challenges.
After the delayed start yesterday the plan was to catch up and make it all the way to Namche Bazar, a long 8-9 hour day.
We were on the trail at 7:30 after a 7:00 breakfast. Low clouds clung to the mountain tops with a mix of cloud and sunshine. Cool, but a pleasant temperature for hiking.
This part of the trail follows the river up the valley and is the most developed of the trip, passing through frequent small villages with prayer wheels and large stones covered in more carved prayers as well as prayer flags crossing the hills and bridges. Ghat is particularly charming for its shrines. In the valley, locals grow crops – frequently cabbage and corn at this time of year, while monasteries dot the steep green slopes.
There is also more foot traffic. In addition to trekkers, trains of mules or yaks carry goods up and down the valley. Having started the morning further down we are behind most of the trekkers and don’t see many until near to mid-day when we hit those returning towards Lukla.
Although you don’t gain much altitude until after Monjo, which is about the same altitude as Lukla, you continually climb and descend and, according to our guide Indra, cross 20 bridges if you include the small ones. We reach Monjo at noon and have lunch before the last and hardest part of the day.
The double bridge, Larja, marks the start of the steep climb up to Namche. Just before it is one of the prettiest sections of the day where the trail follows closely along the river bank. Near here is also supposedly the first view of Everest, but we didn’t see it either on the way up or down.
As high as these green slopes appear there is another higher layer of snowy peaks hidden behind the low clouds.
It’s a short climb to the bridge with dramatic views from high above the confluence of two rivers.
Once on the other side we met a train of yaks waiting for the bridge to clear so they could cross. From here starts the unrelenting 610m climb from 2830m to 3440m, where many first start to feel the altitude. Along the trail groups of trekkers stand about to catch their breath.
Just when we think we are almost there we hit a check point 15 minutes outside of Namche with a long slow queue. We sit on a bench and wait for Indra to process our papers. The weather gets colder and damper as the clouds close in. By the time he’s finished, 45 minutes later, it has started to rain. It’s a wet slog up through Namche to our guest house for the night.
The AD Friendship lodge is a bit nicer than most with rooms with ensuite bathrooms available. No amenities but a good hot shower. The problem is nothing dries and even our quick dry towels were wetter in the morning than they were night before.
Dinner is the usual fare and not very good. The momos (dumplings) were OK but the dal bhat (vegetarian lentil plate) and noodle soup are better choices.
October 6, 2018
For links to all the posts in this series see the 3 Passes Trek page.