Six years ago, the lure of Everest caught us too. But we did not want to do what everyone did. We did not want to be a part of the EBC crowd. Yes, traffic jams happen on the trail to the base camp too and just like on the famed summit! So, we took an alternate route to Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Ri.
But it was not only about doing something different. We wanted to experience the region to its fullest.
When we researched more on the various trails in Sagarmatha National Park, we came across this hidden treasure trail the region had. This alternate route to Everest Base Camp led us to huge alpine lakes, a trail that got us up close to Asia’s biggest glacier, a trail that took us through an adventurous high pass and a trail that showed us the rarely seen side of Everest.
This was the Everest Base Camp trail through Gokyo Ri.
This trail took a little longer and is a little harder but offers rewards many times more than the traditional route to EBC.
So today in this blog, I give you 5 reasons why this alternate route to Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Ri is infinitely more rewarding than just trekking straight to EBC.
1. Why There’s No Crowd On This Route To Everest Base Camp
The EBC trek is like an international highway. When you trek here, you meet people from around the world. You see individuals, couples, families with kids and groups. Some people almost look like tourist groups with a guide at times. To service this load of people, you also see big herds of yaks.
Like you wait for traffic in cities, you may have to wait for trains of yaks to pass on the trail. All this is amusing on the first couple of days, but in no time you wonder if this will be the story all the way up to EBC.
Yes, the main trail to EBC gets crowded. A short favourable weather window of 2-3 months does not help the cause either. You cannot wish away the 40,000 to 50,000 trekkers the trail sees every year.
But some well-kept secrets of the Sagarmatha National Park come handy here.
There are many detour trails that lead you to Everest Base Camp from Namche Bazaar. Each one takes you on a unique adventure. And the best part is that the crowd instantly vanishes the moment you veer away from the main trail.
On this particular alternate route to Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Ri, you move off the main trail soon after Namche Bazaar. In less than ten minutes you feel you are in another world. It is only you and the trail with an occasional trekker or a few yaks. You are suddenly back in the mountain world of solitude and seclusion. I think this is what you want when you think of going to the mountains.
There are many detour trails that lead you to Everest Base Camp from Namche Bazaar. And the best part is that the crowd instantly vanishes the moment you veer away from the main trail. Picture by Ramapriya Ranganath
2. What’s So Adventurous About This Alternate Route Via Gokyo Ri
The EBC trail is like a song with a crescendo. The entire 8/9 day build-up is for EBC and Kala Phatthar. You go up, experience that high and come down. The Gokyo Ri EBC trek, on the other hand, takes you on a high, shows you the most spectacular alpine scenery in this world and keeps you intoxicated there before gradually bringing you down to earth.
To give you a tangible count, this alternate route to Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Ri is a combination of three ultimate high altitude adventures. Gokyo Ri climb, Chola Pass traverse and the EBC/Kala Patthar combo.
The Gokyo Ri climb is a thorough test of your stamina as you climb to 17,500 ft.
Along with spectacular scenery, each one of them is a challenge, giving you a big feeling of accomplishment. These are by no means easy challenges. The Gokyo Ri climb is a thorough test of your stamina as you climb to 17,500 ft.
The Ngozumpa glacier traverse is all about getting your footwork right.
The Chola pass crossing after these two comes as an ultimate test of endurance.
After emerging through these challenges the final climb to your dream destination EBC and Kala Patthar may seem like just another day on your epic adventure.
I must throw in a word of caution here. The Gokyo Ri route takes you to 17-18,000 ft not once, not twice, but three times. It takes months of preparation to get your body ready for this kind of a challenge.
The Gokyo Ri route is much more rewarding than the main EBC route, climbing up to 17,000 ft three times! Picture by Geet Tryambake
3. The Stunning Variety On This Alternate Route To Everest Base Camp
All the challenges this alternate route to Everest Base Camp puts you through come with rewards that you have perhaps never imagined to see in your life.
At Phortse Thanga, the first campsite off the main trail, you stay right next to a river confluence at its level.
When you climb up from there to Dole you trek through some astoundingly tall waterfalls set in thick Rhododendron forests.
Then start the first green meadows of the region. The expanse of these high altitude meadows that are bordered by high mountains make you wish that the walk lasts forever. But soon things get better. Cho Oyu, the massive eight thousand-er, comes up right in front of you like a white wall. It beckons you in its direction and you head there.
Ama Dablam, whose stunning classic view you saw from above Namche, shows a totally different face of herself.
As you walk in this faraway mountainscape, you come to the first of the high altitude lakes. Water is aquamarine blue and you rub your eyes to see ducks at that altitude. More lakes follow and the lakes get bigger and more beautiful. Honestly, I don’t know another trek where you can see lakes as big as a football field set at that altitude with an eight thousand meter summit towering over you.
You walk further ahead towards Cho Oyu, you see that a massive glacier runs down between you and the mountain. At the seclusion of 16,000 ft being in between these massive Earth forms is a humbling experience, to say the least.
As you cross the Chola pass, you start seeing another set of mountains, all together. Ama Dablam, whose stunning classic view you saw from above Namche, shows a totally different face of herself.
On this trail, the Everest makes its appearance only a few times. But one thing that you can see, feel and experience on this trail is that you are in the elite company of the massive mountains of the world. This feeling is a lot more pronounced on the Gokyo Ri route because it takes you totally off the route, deep into the mountain alleys.
One of the most beautiful mountains you’ll see on the EBC Gokyo Ri trail, Mt Ama Dablam. Picture by Christopher Immanuel
4. Five Lakes Enroute EBC That No One Talks About
Though everyone knows about the lakes on this alternate route to Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Ri, I can’t help feeling that they are terribly underrated.
The fact that you don’t come across such settings anywhere else in the world, seems to be kept under the wraps. For me personally being besides these lakes in their high mountain and a glacial setting was an ethereal experience.
Lake one and two are like an introduction to the existence of very high altitude lakes. Lakes 3, 4 and 5 of Gokyo are huge. Lake 6, the highest of them all lies very close to Cho Oyu and remains frozen always.
The village of Gokyo sits right on the bank of Lake 3. When you stay at a Gokyo tea house you will have to make tough choices. You have to choose between a room with either the lake view or the Cho Oyu view. A lucky one may get both.
The Gokyo village by the lakeside (~16,000 ft). Picture by Trek Leader Karthik Maddineni
The Gokyo Ri summit rises right between lakes three and four promising some astounding aerial views of the lakes.
These lakes fed by the melting snow reflect the inky blue skies above and the snowy Cho Oyo on one side.
The 2,500 ft climb to summit Gokyo Ri brings into a single frame the aerial view of the first three Gokyo lakes, the Ngozumpa glacier, tiny settlement of Gokyo village and the many named and unnamed mountains of the region. This for me is the view of the trek.
5. Best views Of Mt. Everest From Gokyo Ri Route
Let’s get this straight. When you do the EBC trek, you want to get your eyes full of the best of Everest. The best views of Everest. Not many would know this, but Mt Everest is actually not visible from the Everest Base Camp.
You are right below the mountain and do not get to see it. So, the prized view of Everest is actually there to be seen from Kala Patthar. When you stand at Kala Patthar, Khumbu glacier and Nuptse dominate the frame. Everest emerges between other mountains.
Mt Everest seen from Kala Patthar. Picture by Santhosh Govindarajulu
On this alternate route to Everest Base Camp via Gokyo Ri route, you see another side of Everest. I would actually say you see a bigger portion of it as compared to Kala Patthar. While the view from Kala Patthar is a close-up view of Everest, the Gokyo Ri view is from a distance. The right distance I would say. Gokyo Ri gives an aerial view of Everest and the surrounding mountains. On the whole, I would say that the view of Everest is grander on the Gokyo side.
To conclude, I would say what all our trekkers say. You sign up for the trek because of EBC, but you love the trek because of Gokyo Ri!