Chhukhung to Lobuche via Kongma La Pass
Kongma La is the first, and at 5535 meters the highest pass on the 3 Passes Trek. After taking in the majestic views at the pass we would still have a challenging trek down a rocky cliff face and across the Khumbu Glacier to Lobuche.
Not wanting to chance clouds spoiling the pass crossing we left just after 6AM. It was a beautiful clear morning but quite cold. A couple of other groups left about the same time we did but compared to the Everest Base Camp (EBC) route there were very few people on the trail and no yak trains.
The track first climbs the hillside to the north of Chhukhung and heads back east. For the entire walk we had the sun at our back with beautifully lit views in front of us. Early on there were a few clouds down the valley and Ama Dablum to the south remained in shadow.
The narrow track winds up the hill, steep in sections but quite manageable. Once at the top of a ridge the trail levels off and curves around the hill to the north.
The rest of the way to the pass climbs in a series of levels, hanging valleys of a sort with a steep climb up a wall followed by a level section across a meadow, sometimes with a lake, to the next wall.
As we reach the top of the valley we can see the prayer flags at the pass in the far distance. A beautiful blue lake lies in the valley.
Behind us, the range to the south becomes increasingly impressive as we climb. As the air thins the climb seems never ending.
At the pass the groups ahead of us are enjoying the sunshine. There isn’t a lot of space on the rocks under the prayer flags, but the views of the surrounding peaks make up for the tight conditions.
Over the pass to the north is the first view of Lobuche and the imposing range behind it.
However, despite facing into the sun at 11AM the range to the south, with a blue lake at its foot, is the more eye catching scene.
After a short rest and the requisite photos we make our way down. We still have a long hike to Laboche.
Lonely Planet says the way down is harder than the climb. It could be depending on how well you do with rocky trails compared to altitude. I didn’t find the first rocky section so difficult but they could be tricky if you’re not used to walking on rocks or if there is ice on the trail. The rocks are followed by an unpleasant steep, slippery dirt track which I found worse than the rocks.
When we finally reached the bottom (which seemed like an eternity) we took a short break before climbing the moraine and crossing the glacier. Exhausted from the long climb and descent, the rough crossing of the glacier just added insult to injury.
The glacier crossing, picking our way on a meandering track through substantial boulders with many short steep ups and downs, was one of the most challenging sections of the day.
The way changes from time to time as new fissures develop in the ice beneath. It is therefore best to either know what you are doing or go with a guide. Finally across, there is one last ridge before you descend into Lobuche.
The porters had gone on ahead of us and arrived in Lobuche early hoping to get us a room, but no luck. The town was completely full. Big tour companies are booking up the rooms so there are fewer and fewer options for independent trekkers – even those with a guide. To add to the congestion, days of cancelled flights meant more trekkers came in when the flight could land again.
Our guide arranged for a tent for us to be set up next to the New EBC Guest House underneath the clothes line.
October 13, 2018
For links to all the posts in this series see the 3 Passes Trek page.