The High Passes of Everest

The High Passes trek is one of the most challenging treks available in Nepal. Located entirely at the Everest (Khumbu) region, you must cross three individual passes which are above 5,000 meters.


Overview

It is comparatively a lengthier trek compared to most other treks in the region. Kongma La 5,535 m, Renjo La 5,360 m and Cho La 5,368 m are classified as the 3 high passes.

  • The first leg of the trek begins at Lukla, a small airport town in Khumbu. The trail ascends up towards Renjo La and Gokyo valley.
  • The second leg of the trek passes through Cho La Pass, and towards the Everest Base Camp. You can hike up the Kala Patthar 5,643 meters as well.
  • The third leg takes you towards the Kongma La Pass, and concedes at Lukla.

Renjo La Pass

Renjo La is one of the high passes located in Everest region at an elevation of 5,360 m (17,585 ft). It is the first pass you reach, following the path leading to Gokyo.

The Renjo La trail is quite strenuous; snowfall during winter makes it difficult to attempt the pass. Renjo La and surrounding regions are culturally Tibetan and Sherpas are the indigenous tribesmen.

Cho La Pass

Cho La at 5,420 m (17,782 ft) is another high pass located along Gokyo trail in Khumbu valley. It connects the village of Dzongla to the east and the village of Thagnak  to the west.

One can cross Ngozumpa glacier on the way to Cho La. To the east the trail joins the classic Everest Base Camp route.

Crossing Cho La can be physically demanding. One can get best view of Lobuche peak from the top. Crampons come handy while crossing the snows.

Kongma La Pass

Kongma La at 5,535 m (18,160 ft) is another high pass located between Chjukung village and Lobuche. it is the final pass located to the east of Everest Base Camp. It is also the highest pass among the three passes. The panorama of surrounding mountains is quite amazing when seen from Kongma La.


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Annapurna Conservation Area (ACAP)

ACAP is one of the first conservation projects undertaken in Nepal to conserve, protect and decentralize the nature conservation attempts. It spans over 5 different districts and covers the entire Annapurna massif. It is also the largest conservation areas available in Nepal.


Overview

Annapurna Conservation Area or ACAP is located at the mid-western region of Nepal. It covers 7,629 sq.km and spans over 5 different districts, namely; Manang, Mustang, Kaski, Myagdi and Lamjung. The ACAP HQ is located at Ghorepani village, one of the most visited tourist places in Nepal.

ACAP
ACAP

The area has two distinctive climatic regions within a span of 120 km. The southern hills of ACAP region receive frequent rainfall, whereas, the northern most parts receive no or less rainfall, hence, the latter are known as rain-shadow areas.

The deepest gorge in the world – Kali Gandaki, and Annapurna I – Eight-Thousander, is located inside the ACAP.

Gurung and Magar are the predominant ethnic tribes in the lower ACAP regions, whereas Thakali, Manange and Loba are mostly found in the higher regions.

Tourism is undoubtedly one of the major benefactor of the ACAP project. The proceeds received from the permits are used for the local conservation programs.

Wildlife & Flora

ACAP is rich in biodiversity and is a haven for the 1,226 species of flowering plants, 102 mammals, 474 birds, 39 reptiles and 22 amphibians.

History

ACAP was launched in 1986 with the initiation of King Mahendra Trust for Nature Conservation (KMTNC) to protect the environment with sustainable community development in Annapurna area by the local people without any intervention from the Nepalese Government and/or any other institutions.

It was gazetted in 1992 and is managed by the National Trust for Nature Conservation. The main motto of the project is to conserve the resources, tourism management, community development, education and extension.

ACAP with the participation of the trekkers have been able to increase the standard of living of the local population, protect the environment and develop sustainable tourism.


Trekking

A trekker is required to obtain an ACAP permit before entering the region.

The ACAP covers;

  1. Annapurna Base Camp
  2. Ghorepani-Poon Hill
  3. Lower/Upper Mustang
  4. Annapurna circuit
  5. Sikles trail

Hence, anyone doing these treks must obtain the ACAP permits. The region receives more than 100,000 trekkers in a year, mainly due to the popularity of the base camp and circuit trails.

Entry Permit/Fee

  • SAARC National – Rs. 200/ USD 2
  • Non-SAARC National (Except Nepalese) – Rs. 2,000/USD 20

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Gosainkunda Lake

Gosainkunda is one of the most revered sites inside Nepal. The lake situated at Gosainkunda is visited by millions of devotees and tourists throughout the year. It’s mostly visited during the local festival of Janai Purnima.


Overview

Gosainkunda is a fresh water oligotrophic  lake located inside the Langtang National Park of Rasuwa district. Situated at the altitude of 4,380 meters, you must trek for days before reaching the holy lake. It has a surface area of 13.4 ha; and it was declared a Ramsar site back in 2007.

The lake freezes and remains inaccessible throughout October-February. Spring (March-June) and Autumn (September-October) are the best times to visit Langtang region. The weather remains clear during these times of the year.

It makes up for many sources forming the Trishu river. There are 108 smaller/larger lakes in the area.

Legend & Pilgrimage

Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva

The Hindu mythology of Puranas attributes Gosaikunda as the abode of the Hindu deities Shiva and Gauri. The Hindu scriptures and the epics Ramayana & Mahabharata refer to Samudra manthan (Churning of the Sea), which is directly related to the origin of Gosaikunda.

It is believed, Lord Shiva created the lake when he thrust his trident into a mountain to extract water to quench his thirst after swallowing the poison.

The water of the lake is considered holier and significant during the events of Gangadashahara and Janai Purnima. Thousands of pilgrims make a visit on foot to Gosainkunda during these festivals.

Trekking

Gosainkunda forms a greater trekking trail in Langtan region. It can be reached during both Dhunche-Helambu trek and Langtang trek.

Lauribina La Pass at the altitude of 4,610 meters forms the toughest part of the treks. The surrounding mountains of Langtang Lirung and Ganesh Himal are clearly visible during the trek. The farthest you can reach is at Kyanjin Gompa inside the national park.

Langtang National Park was established in 1976 as the first Himalayan national park in Nepal. It covers an area of 1,710 kmand covers 3 different districts, namely; Nuwakot, Rasuwa and Sindhupalchok.


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The Highest Mountain Pass in the World

Thorong La is a mountain pass located at Damodar Himal in the mid-western region of Nepal. At 5,416 meters, it is known as the highest mountain pass in the world. The access to the pass is only possible on foot, unlike Zatwar La Pass of Ladakh which is accessible through road.


Overview

Thorong La or Thorung La is situated at the elevation of 5,416 meters in the Damodar Himal and inside the Circuit trail. The pass connects two different villages, Manang and Mustang.

It is the highest point you may reach during the Annapurna Circuit trek. It is advised to start the treacherous hike early morning to avoid any worsening weather at the pass. It’s easier to cross the pass from east to west because its safer and you can stay overnight at Thorung Phedi before approaching the highest point.

The western side of the pass, Muktinath, is drier compared to the eastern side, mainly because the massive Annapurna mountain ranges blocks the monsoon clouds from reaching the area.

Due to its sheer elevation, trekkers are recommended to acclimatize properly before crossing the pass. The safest time cross the pass are March-April and September-November. The weather at the pass is likely to worsen during other seasons, and may bring avalanches, snowfall and storm. The altercation in weather can prove to be fatal to your life.

The Annapurna Circuit

The Annapurna Circuit spanning over 200 meters encompasses into one of the longest treks in Nepal. It may take well over 2 weeks to complete the trek and covers a great sparse of geography. You will get to cross 4 different districts during the trek, namely; Lamjung, Manang, Mustang and Myagdi.

You will witness people of varying tribes and ethnicity. The villages, settlements and lifestyles found along the trail may differ in every 30 km.

Along with the Annapurna Base Camp, the circuit receives over 130,000 trekkers annually.

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The Last Nomads of Dolpo

People of Dolpo region in Nepal are one of the last nomadic trading caravans in the world.  For more than 10 decades, the locals of Dolpo have depended for their survival on a biannual journey across the Himalayas.

Once the summer harvest is over, the people of Dolpo sew flags and red pommels into the ears of their yaks, rub butter on their horns and throw barley seeds to the cold wind. Then they leave the fertile middle hills of their homeland and head north, to the plateau of Tibet, where they carry out an ancient trade with their Tibetan neighbors.

Located to the far western reaches of Nepal bordering Tibet, Dolpo resembles Tibet culturally. It is a vast landmass with wild and mountainous terrains and can only be accessed through days of trekking or mules. Once part of the ancient Zhang Zhung kingdom, it claims some of the highest inhabited villages on earth.

A restricted region, Dolpo remains a discreet place with lesser influence of the modern world. Fierce winter snowstorms ensure that these routes are impassable for up to six months of the year, when it is isolated from the rest of the country. But during the summer months, when the alpine fields are alive with yellow poppies and the lower slopes are furrowed with barley and buckwheat, the paths are navigable again.