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KHUMBU HIMAL: "In the Shadow of Everest "


From the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar the well-trodden trail to Everest base camp, known locally as the 'yak-route', can be a frustrating, single-file queue but on a return visit I took a circular route crossing two high passes on quiet trails with secluded campsites to explore more fully the grandeur of the Khumbu Himal.

Mt. Kang Taiga on ascent to Thyangboche

Mt. Kang Taiga

on ascent to

Thyangboche

Beyond Thyangboche with its renowned gompa and fabulous view up the beautiful Imja Khola Valley to Everest ( or more appropriately Chomolungma - 'Goddess Mother of the World' ), protruding above the great Nuptse-Lhotse mountain wall, I branched off with my trekking crew beneath the graceful Ama Dablam into the less frequented Chukhung Valley.

Everest and Lhotse - Nuptse Wall from Thyangboche

Lhotse-Nuptse Wall

and

Everest Summit

from

Thyangboche

On a bright, clear morning I crossed the sparkling waters of the Imja Khola from our campsite in a stone-walled yak-pasture at Bibre to climb steep, tussock-grass slopes onto a small plateau directly beneath the towering North Face of Ama Dablam.

 Mt. Taboche from the Imja Khola at Bibre

Mt. Taboche

from the

Imja Khola

Far below lay the cluster of grey, stone-built houses of Dingboche, the highest permanent settlement in the region, while further to the south the white cone of Numbur jutted above the long, jagged arete of Kwande Ri. A faint breeze rippled the surface of a lochan to distort the reflections of the shapely Taboche and Cholatse prominent to the west. On the northern flank of the Chukhung Valley, rising sheer above great moraines and scree slopes, loomed the massive wall stretching between the great peaks of Nuptse and Lhotse ( the world's 4th highest mountain ).

 Nuptse and Lhotse from the Imja Khola Valley

Nuptse and Lhotse

from the

Imja Khola Valley

In the afternoon we moved camp higher up the boulder-strewn valley and, next day, I trudged to the top of Chukhung Ri overlooked by the black, banded summit of Lhotse. I seemed to be on a level with the summit ridge of the nearby Island Peak ( the most popular of the so-called 'trekking' peaks ). Across the valley a long arete of rock and ice culminated in the dramatic pyramid of Ama Dablam.

Two days later on the stiff ascent from Bibre to the Kongma La we enjoyed a superb vista of the giant peaks of Baruntse and Makalu ( the world's 5th highest mountain ) soaring skywards above the ice-walls at the head of the Chukhung Valley. We encamped at the entrance to a wide rocky amphitheatre with a magnificent outlook over to Ama Dablam.

Sunset on Nuptse - Lhotse Wall

Sunset

on

Nuptse-Lhotse

Wall

Late in the afternoon I scrambled to the top of a small peak where I huddled amongst the rocks and watched its silhouette edge higher on the vast Nuptse-Lhotse wall directly opposite. As the sun and temperature dropped the huge snow fields faded from dazzling, marble-white, through silver to leaden grey before suddenly glowing golden in the final rays of the setting sun.

Next morning we headed through the craggy amphitheatre and climbed into a higher cwym. Skirting two lochans, a short scramble gained the cairn, bedecked with multi-coloured prayer-flags, on the narrow col of Kongma La. Above us loomed the jagged ridge of Nuptse while beyond the sapphire-blue lochans a fine view unfolded of the heavily-glaciated, upper Chukhung Valley.

On the far side we rapidly lost height as we plunged down steep, rough scree towards the great, stony river of the Khumbu Glacier. The pleasant meadows of an ablation valley provided a fine, secluded campsite with a spectacular outlook on Taboche and Cholatse.

Mts. Taboche and Cholatse from the Khumbu Glacier

Mt. Taboche

and

Mt. Cholatse

from the

Khumbu

Glacier

Before breakfast in the cold shadow of Nuptse I climbed to the top of a spur falling from its lofty summit to gain an excellent vantage point. Immediately below lay the opaque, green waters of the Lingten Pokhari ensconced beneath the moraine wall of the Khumbu Glacier. Across the glacier, bare, barren tundra led up to the charming, perfectly-conical Pumo Ri. It was only a half-day to traverse the rugged moraines to rejoin the 'yak-route' at Lobuje.

 Mt. Pumori and Kallar Pattar from Gorak Shep

Mt. Pumori

and

Kallar Pattar

from

Gorak Shep

The following day, with Nima, my Sherpa guide, I made the pilgrimage to Kallar Pattar at the foot of Pumo Ri to gaze in awe at the snow-plumed summit of Everest floating serenely high above in an azure sky - a fatal loadstone for many mountaineers.

Everest and Nuptse from Kallar Pattar

Everest

and

Nuptse

from

Kallar Pattar

Leaving the Khumbu Valley we climbed past the picturesque, turquoise-green waters of the Tshola Tsho nestling beneath the elegant Cholatse and encamped beside a stream beyond the small cluster of lodges at Dzongla.

The steep climb to the snow-covered Chola Pass was aleviated by frequent stops to admire the splendid view back down the valley to the great pyramid of Ama Dablam. From the col at the head of the easy-angled neve there was also a fine view across the snow fields to the lofty spire of Lobuje Peak. Steep, loose scree led downwards to boulder-strewn moorland and on to the huddle of dwellings at Thangna.

Ama Dablam on ascent to Chola La

Ama Dablam

on ascent to

Chola La

In the morning we traversed the broad, shattered moraines of the Ngozumpa Glacier and joined the trail to the popular trekking destination of Gokyo Village. The 5300 metre hilltop of Gokyo Ri above the small summer settlement affords a superb outlook extending from the turquoise waters of the lake across the Ngozumpa glacier to the jagged teeth of Cholatse and Taboche and the black, rocky summit wedge of Everest protruding above a high escarpment. Some claim it is a better viewpoint than the more frequented Kallar Pattar.

Ngozumpa Glacier and Mts. Taboche and Cholatse from Gokyo Ri

Ngozumpa Glacier

and

Mt. Taboche

and

Mt. Cholatse

from

Gokyo Ri

From Gokyo we continued up the savagely glaciated valley to encamp in splendid, silent solitude at the picturesque Khumbu Panch Pokhari ( a set of five small lakes ) amidst a tremendous cirque of himalayan giants:- Cha Kung, Gyachung Kang and the immense, 8000 metre Cho Oyu ( the world's 6th highest mountain ) festooned with hanging glaciers and tumbling ice-falls.

Mt. Cho Oyu from Khumbu Panch Pokhari

Mt. Cho Oyu

from

Khumbu

Panch Pokhari

In the afternoon I climbed on huge boulders to the top of a rock peak to command a close-up view of the mighty ramparts of snow and ice sweeping round the skyline from Cho Oyu to Gyachung Kang. Beyond the shining white-ice and grey moraines of the Ngozumpa Glacier the stately twin summits of Kang Chung formed a prominent landmark Also visible was the merest tip of Everest. Far below I could see our tents amidst the cluster of bright blue lochans. Returning to camp the still, dark waters of one of the lakes mirrored perfectly the cubic, castle-like Cha Kung.

It was with some reluctance that we departed from the spectacular beauty of the Khumbu Panch Pokhari - a himalayan campsite to be long remembered.

Back at Gokyo we were entrapped for five days by a freak, unseasonal snowstorm and had to be airlifted out by helicopter to Namche Bazaar.


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    Everest Exposed Everest West RidgeMount Everest Reconnaissance 1935 Trekking in Nepal - D'Abbundo  Lost in the Himalayas

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    Lonely Planet Nepal Nepal - Rough GuideRough Guide Nepal Lonely Planet - Kathmandu Map Kathmandu Valley Map Trekking and Climbing in NepalLonely Planet - Trekking in NepalThe Trekking Peaks of Nepal Trekking in Nepal

    Rough Guide India Footprint Tibet Handbook Into Thin Air - John Pilkington Sepu Kangri Bonnington Alpine / Himalayan Climbing Into Thin Air - the Everest DisasterClimbing High - the Everest Disaster On Top of the World - climbing the 14 highest mountains Nepal Mountaineering Guide

    On Top of the World - Rebecca Stephens Seven Summits - Quest to reach the highest peaks Seven Summits Eric Shipton - Everest and beyond Edmund Hillary - View from the SummitKurt Diemberger OmnibusChris Bonington's Everest My Vertical World - Climbing the 8000m Peaks - Jerzy Kukuczka

    History of Mountain ClimbingEverest: The West Ridge Return to Everest - DVD Return to Everest - Video Lost on Everest - Video Conquest of Everest Everest: A Trekkers Guide The Climb - Anatoli Boukreev The Naked Mountain - Reinhold Messner

    Mountains of the Mind - A history.. Mountains of the Mind - ExperiencesEverest: Summit of AchievementEverest: 50th Anniversary VolumeEverest: Alone at the Summit The Villain: Life of Don WhillansLeft for Dead: Journey Home from EverestTrekking in the Everest Region

    Tilman: The 7 Mountain Travel BooksMountaineering: Freedom of the Hills Rope Techniques: The complete guideHistory of Mountain ClimbingBelow another Sky by Rick RidgewayFacing Up; A journey to the summit of Everest Everest: To the Top Coronation Everest

    Epic Stories of Survival on the World's Highest Peaks The Snow Leopard Himalayan Quest - the 8000m Giants Trekking in the Indian Himalaya Trekking and Climbing in the Indian Himalaya Nepal Trail Map - Nelles

    World Mountaineering Climbing the World's 14 Highest Mountains Climb: Stories of Survival Sherpas & Himalayan Mountaineering K2 Cho Oyu








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