If you just come across the idea of doing three pass trek in the Everest region, you should know How Difficult is The 3 Pass Trek is? It could be various reasons that you are planning to embark on this trail, but you are certainly one of those who would not just want to tick off the bucket list for going Everest Base Camp via classical route but taking the most advanced off the beaten path.
Over crude is a growing issue not only in the Mount Everest but also a classical trail like Everest Base Camp. In the recent data published by Sagarmatha National Park in 2019/20 shows about 58,000 tourist visits Khumbu region of Nepal annually. And over 70% of the visits between October to November and March until May. The logical question! Why is everyone drowning all at the same time? It’s Because of the pleasant weather window, and you may don’t want to miss that as well. However, what if you are someone like me, who wouldn’t stand a chance overcrowding? Well, that’s when Everest Three Pass Trek comes first in hand.
As much as it sounds interesting to follow three pass trek itinerary, It is probably one of the most challenging high pass treks in Nepal. My name is Raj, and over a decade, I was a mountain guide in the Himalayas. In this article, I will share my experience as a guide, especially covering difficulties and its prevention.
Difficulties as It is a long-distance trail.
Including two acclimatization days and Its side trips to Everest Base Camp Kalapatthar, it is around 202 km (126 miles) to complete three pass trek in 18-19 days. It is roughly 9-11km (6-7 miles) of walking per day. While designing the itinerary for the Everest region, its combination of the hour of hike and distance both. Since it involves a lot of ascending and descending 1 mile may take up to 3 hours while downhill of 4/5 mile could be done just in 1/2 hour. Best to look at the map here.
Difficulties as you gain elevation
The trek starts from Kathmandu (1,300m/ 4,265ft) by taking a flight to Lukla. It’s a small mountain village located at 2,850m (9,350ft) with an effective oxygen level of about 73%. The higher you go, the lower the oxygen level will become. By the time you reach Everest Base Camp and Kalapatthar 3 of the high passes (Khongma-La, Cho-La, Renjo-La), the oxygen level is only 50% of that at sea level.
A majority of trekkers who come to visit Nepal are from lowland or sea level. Where as Kathmandu itself is already at 1,300m, Lukla airport at 2,850m, and your final destination Kalapather at 5,550m (18,208ft). Throughout the treks, you will gain 500m to 700m (6 to 8 hours) of elevation per day. If you have not experienced any high altitude trek in your life, it could be challenging to reach certain heights in just a couple of days.
For example, the trail to EBC requires a change of 1500m in only one day alone! The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla takes you to 2,860m just in 25 minutes! For someone who is not used to this kind of change, your body may not adapt quickly. Therefore, the best way to put yourself fit at this elevation is to have some extra days for acclimatization.
Difficulties as finding a route
There are several options to take, but in my opinion, it is best if you follow a route that increases elevation gradually. Some routes (from Namche to Thame is the clockwise route) take you to the first high-pass in just five or six days. Unlike the counter-clockwise route from Dingboche takes at least 8-9 days before reaching the first high pass of Khongmala.
Not choosing the right itinerary, the route could be risky, given that the altitude of these passes is above 5,000m. Therefore, I always suggest trekkers take the other road from Namche, or as others refer to it, the counter-clockwise route. On this route, you follow the classical EBC trail all the way to Dingboche, and then from there, take the path that goes to the first pass, Khongma-la. This is a good route for acclimatization and to avoid altitude sickness. However, not the best option to avoid the crowd as you spend more time in the classical route to EBC that has more volumes of hikers. Make a wise decision that you think is best for your fitness.
Read More: Everest Base Camp Best Time Of the Year
Difficulties as the weather and temperature is so low
The temperature at the Base Camp or in the high passes can drop to -12°C (10°F) in Mid-November 2019 the temperatures of the Basecamp was measured maximum 15°C (59°F) and minimum -12°C (10°F) and the wind speed around 5 to 6 mph. However, during the same time of the year at Lukla, (where you begin the hike) the temperature was a minimum 8°C (46°F) to Maximum 20 °C (68°F).
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 Passes Trek, however, you also need to be mindful of the constant weather change and be prepared to walk on a melting glacier or fallen rocks.
Difficulties as season
Time is crucial for this trek. Due to the high passes, the weather might be challenging. Trekking in the perfect season with perfect weather is the success behind this trek. Typically there are two best seasons throughout the year, which are considered safer.
High season (September to November and March to May)
During the period from September to November, Nepal offers a clear cloudless sky against which you can see stunning views of the Himalayas from any corner of the country. For this trek, I would recommend a slightly different window from mid-October till mid-December. Although all available online reference suggests from September to November is best, from my experience and recent weather changing parten, the monsoon stays continued until the second or third week of September. So this could be challenging for someone traveling in a short time frame as the Lukla flights are always uncertain due to weather, particularly during the monsoon.
Read More: Everest Base Camp Trek Difficulties
Challenging for independent Hiker
YES! You can do this trek alone or independently without a guide. As a matter of fact, there are more numbers of independent trekkers on the EBC classical route. However, on the three pass trail, you will find very few people trekking without a local guide. Mainly because of the constantly changing weather conditions and the fact the trail goes through a moving glacier. That means every day the trails near the glacier could be wiped out!
The trail between Chukung and Labouche on the way to the first pass is the most dangerous. According to reports, the glacier in this area moves faster than usual. We advise that you gather as much information from locals before you proceed to high pass. Do not forget to bring your own GPS device and follow the track as it’s shown.
Despite the fact that hiker can actually proceed independently in Three Passes trek. However, for safety, we suggest you to hike with a local guide.
How to find a local inexpensive but good company in Nepal?
Here are some tips on how to find a suitable travel company for your next adventure. Some of my suggestions below could save you a couple of hundred dollars but you will 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 that the company you choose has all of this!
- Look for a company that is not listed on the top advertising section page of Google because these companies would pass on the cost of advertisements to the clients.
- Check out the companies that are ranked on a second or third page of Google, as local companies in Nepal do not have enough resources or finance to compete with large international travel companies who may appear on the first page of Google.
- Avoid third party booking agencies 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’s legal document page to make sure they are registered and appropriately licensed by the Nepal Government.
- Check what other travelers say about the company such as on 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 concerned about your safety. If they have proper contract and a good relationship with a helicopter rescue company and approved international hospital in Nepal. You may not need this service, but in emergencies, this is VERY important.
- “Heli scam is real, but not all companies to be blamed” Especially Be careful with a company with a low amount of reviews online. Before their guide called the helicopter, make sure the local company has policies that guide has a Plush Oximeter to monitor your acclimatization status. This small device will help to track if your body has acclimatized or not. Do you really need to cancel this trip in the middle and go to the hospital? By keeping track of your blood oxygen levels and blood pressure, in the high altitude, you can monitor and act at the first signs of altitude sickness. It is the first responsible sign of the local company if they trained their guide on how to use the device. We at Nest Adventure and our team know how to use this device and well trained to keep success ration high for all high altitude treks. Draft us an email if you want to know more about NEST Adventure and our team.
- Compare prices with a 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 a price. Stay with a medium one.
- Make it easy and safe with payment gateways like Paypal e-transfer etc. Do not pay 100% in advance. However, most of the companies require at least some percentage of the total amount as a booking confirmation.
- Agree to meet with a guide prior to the departure. so you get an idea as to the level of his experience and whether you are compatible or not.
- Bring cash instead of paying by card. You will save 4.2% if you pay in cash
- If you would like to know more about our company and the feedback from our recent customer check out our Tripadvisor page or contact us at email@example.com
How to be safe
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 and getting lost in the high passes due to the continually changing weather are two of the most common risks, but these can be mitigated by:-
- Follow the proper itinerary, which includes enough acclimatization 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 which is good enough for this trek
- Give yourself some training before embarking on the trail. Even regular basic exercise like swimming, yoga, aerobics, and running makes easy breathing in high-altitude and also helps with blood circulation.
Death and Casualty
Accidents and unfortunate news from Everest region are often and reach globally. However, most of those incidents pertain to the expedition and not trekking. An avalanche claimed the lives of 19 climbers in camp II in 2015. The cause of most of the death is by the snowstorm. There is no actual static available online about how many people die in Everest Base high pass trek? However, a rough estimate we heard from the news is about 3-5 people die each year on the whole EBC out of roughly 60,000 people. This is a death rate of less than 0.01%, mainly due to the high altitude sickness.
How to prevent
For someone who is physically fit, three pass trek is NOT as hard as you think. In general, if you follow some advice, you can do this hike, even if this is your first high altitude trek in your entire life. Acute mountain sickness due to high altitude is the main problem if they are no proper acclimation. Since people from around the world trek this trail, it has significant medical to rescue by helicopter facilities, which could mobilize immediately.
Choose the right gear
As every sport played with the right equipment, it is essential that multi-days high altitude trek should not be compromised. The following items could equip you with basic requirements: Keep in mind, If you are traveling multi different countries and not ready for hiking (cold weather). There are chances you can rent a hiking gear in Kathmandu.
– Climbing Ropes is not necessary
– Ice ax is not necessary
– Full body down Goretex is not necessary
What you need are:
– Hiking boot and crampon (high ankle boot recommended)
– Sleeping bag (not necessary but recommended to have one)
– Down Jacket
– Pair of the thermal sweater to keep you warm inside
– A couple of comfortable dry hiking pants
– Hiking socks (thick and it should give warm enough)
– Hiking bag (minimum 50l+10)
Additionally, you could consider taking, warm hat/ head cover, scarf, sunglass, lip guard, sun cream, trekking pole, headlamp, windproof gloves, water bottle, water purification drop, camera accessory, first aid kit, etc.
Acclimatization & itinerary
Acclimatizing shall be on top of your list for a satisfying Everest Three Pass Trek. Depending on where you come from, plan an itinerary with enough days of acclimatization in between. This route may take between 18 – 19 days with at least 2/3 days of acclimatization in the middle.
I have experienced dealing with customers who has reasonable fitness are attempting EBC as their first high altitude trek with 98% success. It is vital to identify the right company who can advise and suggest you the best EBC trek itinerary according to your experience and level of fitness.
“Helicopter scam is real and make sure you don’t deal with a company that has no stabilize reputation online.”
A certain degree of physical fitness required for any trek, but that does not mean you need a professional trainer or particular mountain experience. From my experience, let me break down some of the necessary training you can do at home or the park nearby as part of the preparation. Trust me, and this is going to help dramatically. If you keep regular for at least one or two months.
- Running in the park: At least one month before the date of departure, a minimum of 5-8 miles a day. This will help breathing and blood circulation in addition to building up your thigh and torso muscles.
- Swimming: Holding your breath and swimming helps to store oxygen that will ease short breathing in the high altitude.
- Yoga or Aerobic: Give some time doing yoga, stretching your body, jogging to tone up your body and muscles, etc.
- Gym: If you plan hiking with a loaded backpack, we suggest extra exercise, mainly leg Squat, Leg press, Deadlift, Leg extension, Wall sits, Leg curl, etc.
- Test your gears: It is quite common that some trekkers cannot complete EBC trek due to blisters on their feet. This happens if you just bought a new pair of trekking boots and haven’t tested for size and adjustment. Always remember your hiking boots should have enough room for fingers. Generally, hiking boots for mountain trails should have at least 0.5 sizes bigger than your regular size.
- Hiking shocks also play a major role in creating blisters on your feet. It should be thick and be able to regulate temperature to keep your feet from getting sweaty. When you purchase trekking shocks, you should consider buying woolen socks. Wool is naturally antimicrobial, so it tends to retain smells less than synthetic fabrics.
- Don’t be nervous, feel confident, and feel like an experienced hiker.
- Drink enough fluids and always remain hydrated, dehydration might cause symptoms of being sick as well.
- Always give enough space for oncoming Yaks, Nyak, Ghokpe, Mule on the way, and make sure you still lean upon the sidewall.
- Always drink purified water and bring some water purification drop/tablets with you.
- Be aware of uncooked food; keep yourself vegetarian as meat in the mountain is not fresh.
- Carry some extra calorie light food.
- Always make sure you will pack the right gear that fits for Everest Base Camp Trek
- Stay away from alcohol, smoking, or any drug in the high altitude.
- Bring your own basic first aid box you are comfortable with. Do not use any medicine that you are not sure about the brand.
- Do not sleep during the day at high altitudes. Its recommended to move around and keep yourself active.
- Don’t think that this might be the symptoms of Altitude sickness if you have a little headache or slight fever. It is normal to get these symptoms while adjusting to the varying altitude.
– Be strong physically and psychologically
– Did you want a trekking company that is specialized and has a good track record or rating in every aspect of your safety?
– Is the itinerary you chose fits your level of fitness and desire?
– The time window is very important. Did you book your trip at the best time of the year?
– Insurance is not compulsory but good to have one in case of an emergency. Did you find an insurance company that includes emergency and medical or other associated expenses in case of evacuation on the trail?
Everest’s three pass trek is off the beaten path in the Khumbu region, otherwise also known as the Everest region in Nepal. Its well-established trekking trails in the world itself. Checkpoints along the way are provided for your safety. It has all the logistics and communication facilities available at designated places. Almost each guest house offers wifi, including base camp, to communicate with your family or friends. A little preparation before you start will raise your confidence and make your trek enjoyable till the Base Camp of the world’s highest mountain. Over 20 adventure travelers every year books trip with us. If you want to join with them, feel free to inquiries us. If you enjoy reading this article, share with your friends and family who’s been missing this exclusive information about EBC. We would also appreciate it if you rate us below.