Three Passes Trek

 The three passes trek in the Everest regions Nepal is becoming more popular after being featured by many international sites and magazines. (New York Times) It is one of the less crowded and off the beaten trail in the Khumbu region.  Many travellers hike the Everest Base Camp (EBC) every day while very few hikers choose the three-passes route.   
 
The three passes trek is a high altitude circuit trail that goes through three of the highest valleys in Nepal and in some occasion does intersect with the standard EBC route.   More information regarding this route is provided below.

Why Everest Three Passes trek?

The three pass circuit trail in the Everest region includes some of the major destinations such as Everest Base Camp, Gokyo lake, Gokyo Ri, Kalapatthar, Khongmala pass, Chola Pass, and Ranjola Pass.  So you will see the same places as in a standard EBC trail, but with many additional bonuses!
 
⇒ It is a remote and off-the-beaten-path in the Everest Region. Only 5-10% of the 30,000 EBC trekkers follow the Everest three-pass trek. You can enjoy the scenery without too much tourists!
 
 ⇒ In this trail, expect to be surrounded by four of the highest mountain in the world including Mt. Everest.  Not to mention, that the three high passes are all above 5,000m.  Very few places on this earth will have these combinations! 
⇒ Three-pass trek offers a lot more side-trips than any other trail, You can spend more than 3 weeks and venture into different places. 
⇒ It is the only trail in the entire Khumbu region that follows a circuit.  Unlike the Everest Base Camp classical trail, every day is a new route as you make a loop in this trek.
 
It is part of The Great Himalayan Trail (GHT).  The three pass trek in Everest region is one of the major parts of "The Great Himalayan Trail' - a single long distance trekking trail from the east end to the west end of Nepal, includes a total of roughly 1,700 km hiking path. Check out this cool short video from Luca and Liz

Where does this trek start from?

This trek starts from Lukla (you will need fly from Kathmandu to Lukla), a small mountain village with a small local airport.  Statistically speaking the Lukla airport and flight itself is the most dangerous flight and airport in the world.  This is because of the weather, altitude, airstrip for landing, and the size of the airport. But don’t worry, this is the usual jump-off point for any EBC trails and many survived it!
 
After two or three days of following the classical EBC trail from Lukla to Namche, the three-passes trek takes you to Thame or Dingboche, depending on the route you decide to take.

How many days will this take?
For a hiker with some basic trekking experience, this can be completed in about 3 weeks, so roughly 20 to 21 days.

Which route should be taken?

There are a number of options to take but it is best to do this trail gradually, in my opinion.  Some routes (from Namche, go to Thame. This is called to clockwise route) could take you the first high-pass in just two days.  This could be risky given that the altitude of these passes are above 5000m.  Therefore, I always suggest to take the other road from Namche or as others refer to as counter-clockwise route,  where you follow the classical EBC trail all the way to Dingboche, and then from there take the trail that goes to the first pass, Khongma-la.  This is a good route for acclimatization and to avoid high-altitude sickness.  Everest region actually has the highest probability of experiencing mountain sickness.  So we advice that you take as much side trips as you can to make sure you complete your trek safely.

How difficult is 3 high passes trek?

The difficulty level of this trek is graded 9 out of 10.   So it is not an easy trek. The challenge for the classical Everest Base Camp route is altitude sickness.  For the three-pass trek, however, you also need to be mindful of the constant weather change and be prepared to walk on a melting glacier or falling rocks.
 
While it is an amazing experience, there are also some perils along the way, and it is important that all trekkers are aware of this.  Altitude sickness, getting lost in the high passes due to the constantly changing weather is one of the most common risks, but this can be mitigated (in most cases)
 
⇒ Follow the proper itinerary, which includes enough acclimatisation days
 
⇒ Cover the right amount of distance and elevation each day.  Elevation changes should not be more than 400-500 meters each day.
 
⇒ Always check the weather forecast.
 
⇒ Choose the right trekking gear for you and good enough for the three-pass trek.
 
⇒ Give yourself some training before embarking on a trail.  Even regular basic exercises like swimming, yoga, aerobics, running makes your breathing in high-altitude mountain easier and also helps with blood circulation.

When is the best time for Three Passes Trek 

Time is crucial for, Three pass trek, due to the high passes the weather might be challenging.  Trekking in a perfect season is the success behind this trek. Typically there is two best season throughout the year, consider as safe to travel and also the busiest. 

High season (September – November and March to May)
During this period from September to November, Nepal offers a clear cloudless sky to see a stunning view of the Himalayas from any corner of the country. I would recommend a slightly different window from Mid-October till Mid December.  Although all available online reference insists from Sept to Nov. In my experience past couple of years the monsoon is continued until the second to the third week of September so  It might be challenging for someone travelling in a short time frame as the Lukla flight is always uncertain. 
Read more: Everest Base Camp Trek Best Time of the year 

Can travellers hike the Everest Three Pass independently?

The short answer is YES! You can do this trek alone or independently with a group without a guide. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of independent trekkers on the EBC classical route however in the three pass trail you will find a very few people trekking without a local guide. It's all because of the constant change in weather condition and the trail goes through a moving glacier. That means every day the trails in glacier could be wiped out!
 
The trail between Chukung and Labouche on the way to the first pass is the most dangerous pass. According to reports, the glacier in this area moves faster than usual.  We advice that you gather as much information from locals before you go for the first pass. Do not forget to bring your own GPS device and follow the track as it's shown. 

How much does it cost?

This is probably the most common question from a hiker. The answer depends on which company you are hire and what service you have chosen. There are many quotations available online, however, let me break down a fair price so you have an idea of how much to spend and you will know if other companies are charging you the right price:
 
  • Experienced English-speaking licensed guide - USD 22-25 per day
  • Round trip Flight from Kathmandu to Lukla - USD 177 each way or USD 354 round trip per person
  • Flight cost for the guide - USD 60 each way or USD 120 return
  • National park fee and TIMS card = USD 45 per person
  • Food (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) = USD 18-20 per day
  • Accommodation - USD 3-5 per night 
The cost breakdown above may vary depending on the company you choose. The international company definitely would charge three times more than a local company. For first-time travellers, you would normally go with the international agencies because of their branding and you could be sure of your safety.  However, I assure you that local agencies in Nepal could deliver a perfect service and the same level of quality at a fraction of the price.  It actually doesn't matter whether you go with the more expensive or the cheaper one, as everyone sleeps in the same category of tea houses.  There is no such thing as a 5-star tea house in the mountain region.  In addition, you are also assured that you will be served the same quality of the meal.

How to find a local cheep but the best company in Nepal

Here are some tips on how to find the suitable travel company for your next adventure. Some of my suggestions below could save a couple of hundred dollars but still end up with the best service. At the same time even if you choose to go with big brother (expensive company) you should make sure if the company you choose has all of this! 
 
⇒ Look for a company who is not listed on the top advertising section page of Google.  Because these companies would pass on the cost of advertisement to clients.
⇒ Look for a company who has been listed at least on the second or third page of Google, as local companies in Nepal do not have enough resources or finances to compete with large international travel companies on the first page of Google.
 
⇒ Avoid third party booking agency like Bookmundi as it is likely the local travel companies are required to pay at least 15%-30% commission to these third-party websites.
 
⇒ Look for a company legal document page to make sure they are registered and appropriately licensed by the Nepal government.
 
⇒ Check what other travellers say about the company such as Tripadvisor.  These are independent reviews done by clients and verified by Tripadvisor so you can be sure of the type of service these companies are capable of.  If they treat 90% of their clients well, chances are, you will experience the same service.  
 
⇒ Check with a local company if their guide has a license, first aid and high altitude training, insurance, and accompanied with the right hiking gear.  
 
⇒ Check with a company if they are concern about your safety. If they have proper contracting and a good relationship with a helicopter rescue company and approved international hospital in Nepal.  You may not need this service, but in emergency situations, this is VERY important.

⇒ Before your guide call to the helicopter company make sure the company provides advice called Plush Oximeter. This device will help to track, if your body has acclimatised or not? Do you really need to cancel this trip in the middle and go back to the hospital? which also to prevent altitude sickness that keeps tracks of daily report of Blod oxygen level (SPO2) and Blod pressure BPM. 
 
⇒ Compare prices with at least few other companies so you know you are getting a good deal. At the same time do not go with too low or too high. Stay with a medium one. 
 
 A local company would appreciate if you write a positive review or recommendation in other travel forum or websites.  You may get a discount for you and your friends!
 
 Make it easy and safe payment gateway! Like Paypal e-transfer etc. Do not pay 100% in advance. However, most of the company requires at least some percentage of the total amount as a booking confirmation.

⇒ Agree to meet with a guide prior to the departure, so you know the level of the guide.

⇒ Bring Cash! instead of paying by card. You will save 4.2% if you pay in cash

⇒ If you would like to try how we do in our company please give us a quick inquiry at nestadventure@gmail.com

Summary

EBC is the most famous base camp trek in Nepal, but you do not have to follow the classical trail like the other 30,000 travellers.   Instead, take the three-passes trail for a different EBC adventure and authentic Everest experience.  This is definitely not an easy trek, so you need to be extra cautious and prepare your body and mind for this adventure. Trust me, while it is difficult, it is definitely worth it and only reserved to those who want to experience an off-the-beaten version of EBC…  

About Rajendra Khanal (Raj)

Rajendra Khanal (Raj) Born and raised in Gorkha, Nepal, I am proud to call the Manaslu region my home! I have been in the travel business for over a decade from being assistance guide to being a guide/leader to being a manager and finally a founder of NEST Adventure. So you could say, I know my way well enough in the Himalayas especially in some of the off-the-beaten trails in Nepal like Manaslu, Kanchenjunga or Mustang
I am passionate about travelling and I strongly believe that seeing the world shouldn't break the bank (at least not too much!).  I studied in the UK and three years of living experience in the United States taught me how to deliver quality customer service in the business. I have backpacked to over 15 countries in Asia, Central Americas USA and Canada, one-third of Europe, Caribbean Island and  Latin America. As a backpacker myself, and travel expert of Nepal Himalayas I'm happy to share my experience with you. If you believe I can be helpful in planning your next trip to Nepal, then please do not hesitate to contact me. at nestadventure@gmail.com. I am also available 24x7 on Whats app and Viber +977- 9851052042 Or direct phone call +1(702) 465-9789. If you are interested to know more about my travel journey follow me on  Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
 
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