The Everest Three Passes Trek in the Everest Region of Nepal has become more popular after being featured by many international sites and magazines (such as the New York Times). It is one of the less crowded and off the beaten track treks in the Khumbu Region.  Many travelers 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 at times intersects with the standard EBC route.   More information regarding this route is provided below.

Why the Everest Three PassesTrek?

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, KhongmalaPass, Chola Pass, and Ranjola Pass.  So you will see the same places as on the standard EBC trail, but with many additional bonuses!

  • It is remote and off-the-beaten-path. Only 5-10% of the 30,000 EBC trekkers follow the Everest Three Pass Trek. So you can enjoy the scenery without too many tourists!
  • On this trail, expect to be surrounded by four of the highest mountains 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 have these combinations!
  • The Three PassesTrek 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 trail as you make a loop on this trek.
  • It is part of The Great Himalayan Trail (GHT).  The Three Pass Trek is one of the major parts of The Great Himalayan Trail. The GHT is a single long-distance trekking trail from east to west across Nepal and includes roughly 1,700 km of hiking paths. Check out this cool short video from Luca and Liz.

Where does the Everest Three PassesTrek start from?

This trek starts from Lukla (you will need to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla), a small mountain village with a small local airport.  Statistically speaking Lukla airport and the flight itself is the most dangerous flight and airport in the world.  This is because of the weather, altitude, and size and location of the airstrip for landing. But don’t worry, this is the usual jump-off point for any Everesttreks and climbs and most 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, or roughly 20 to 21 days.

Which route should be taken?

Everest Three Passes Trek

There are a number of options to take but it is best to do this trail gradually, in my opinion.  Some routes (from Namche to Thame is the clockwise route) take you to the first high-pass in just two days.  This could be risky given that the altitude of these passes is above 5000m.  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 trail that goes to the first pass, Khongma-la.  This is a good route for acclimatization and to avoid altitude sickness.  The Everest Region actually has the highest probability of experiencing mountain sickness.  So we advise you to take as many side trips as you can to make sure you complete your trek safely.

How difficult is the ThreePasses 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 PassesTrek, however, you also need to be mindful of the constant weather change and be prepared to walk on a melting glacier or fallen 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 and getting lost in the high passes due to the constantly 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 your breathing in high-altitude mountains easier and also helps with blood circulation.

When is the best time for the Three Passes Trek?

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 in the past couple of years the monsoon has 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 Best Time  of the Year 

Can travelers hike the Everest Three Passes independently?

The short answer is YES! You can do this trek alone or independently in a group without a guide. As a matter of fact, there are a lot 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 constant change in 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 go for the first pass. Do not forget to bring your own GPS device and follow the track as it’s shown.

Overall, despite the fact that technically you can trek the Three Passes alone, we suggest no one ever treks alone in the Himalayas where even a simple incident can be life-threatening if you are alone.

How much does it cost?

This is probably the most common question from a hiker. The answer depends on which company you hire and what service you have chosen. There are many quotations available online, however, let me break it down to 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 return
  • 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 (excluding soft drinks, alcohol, desserts, snacks)
  • Accommodation – USD 3-5 per night

The cost breakdown above may vary depending on the company you choose. An international company definitely would charge three times more than a local company. For first-time travelers, you may normally go with the international agencies because of their branding and your confidence level regarding safety issues. However, I assure you that local agencies in Nepal can deliver 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 ones, as everyone sleeps in the same category as teahouses.  There is no such thing as a 5-star teahouse in the mountain regions.  In addition, you are also assured that you will be served the same quality and choice of meals.

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 clients.
  • Check and look at companies that are listed on the 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 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 calls the helicopter company makes sure the company provides a Plush Oximeter. This 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, you can also monitor and act at the first signs of altitude sickness. Nest Adventure has this device for all high altitude treks.
  • 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.
  • A local company would appreciate it if you write a positive review or recommendation in travel forums or websites.  You may get a discount for you and your friends!
  • 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 the guide prior to 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 contact us at nestadventure@gmail.com

Conclusion

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 travelers.   Instead, take the Everest Three Pass Trek trail for a different  Everest 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.  This is the ultimate trek for those wishing to experience an off-the-beaten version of EBC. If you want to know more please contact us. If you enjoyed reading this article, don’t forget to click our rating box in the right-hand corner. Or if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

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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, leader, to being a manager. And finally today I am the 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 and 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 have backpacked to over 15 countries in Asia, Central America, USA, Canada, one-third of Europe, the Caribbean Islands, and Latin America.

I studied in the UK and moved to the United States. During that period, I had the opportunity of working with multinational companies which taught me how to deliver quality customer service in the business. As a world travelling backpacker myself, and travel expert for the Nepalese Himalayas, I started writing about my own country. Which I would love to share with you. In case you required free information about Nepal or join a group with our existing departure, (particularly If you are a solo hiker for the restricted area) please do not hesitate to visit my office in Thamel. We are located in the centre of Kathmandu called Thamel. I am happy to share a cup of Nepali tea and free information.

Our team at NEST has earned 5/5 star ratings on TripAdvisor. Don't forget to visit our customer feedback page on TripAdvisor. If you believe our expert team 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 WhatsApp  +977- 9851052042. If you are interested to know more about my travel journey follow me on  FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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