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Go trekking in Tibet and Nepal with a Cicerone guidebook - Sample Route

Cover of Everest: A Trekker's Guide
2 Jun 2017
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.6cm
1st Published
27 Jan 2012
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Everest: A Trekker's Guide

Trekking routes in Nepal and Tibet

by Kev Reynolds
Book published by Cicerone Press

Guidebook to treks in the Everest and Khumbu region of the Himalaya in Nepal. All the main Nepal trekking routes, including from Lukla (and Jiri) to Namche Bazaar, and routes to Thame, Gokyo, Thangboche, Lobuche, Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp. Includes two routes in Tibet from Tingri to the Rongbuk monastery and Kharta to the Kangshung Face.

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The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal is a trekker’s dream world. The dramatic beauty of its mountains is legendary, from the lush foothills stepped with immaculate terracing, to the stark upper regions of snow, ice and towering walls of rock, they are a series of unfolding landscapes that impress all who wander through. None who are lured along this trail need fear disappointment.

This guidebook covers just one region of this magical land, Solu-Khumbu - home of the legendary sherpas – and its northern neighbour in Tibet. This guidebook describes 9 treks, with Everest as the focus, as well as a trek to Rongbuk and another from Kharta to the Kangshung Face, on the Tibetan side of Everest. The nine multi-day treks vary from 1 to 11 days in length with the longest trek covering 65km and the shortest, 18km.

Each of the routes described will open the eyes of trekkers to scenes of unbelievable grandeur. Although trekking in the Everest region can be pretty demanding at times, the majority of trails are so well travelled that it’s almost impossible to get lost. The main treks have been broken into groups of several days, with each multi-day section divided into sub-sections, rather than manageable day-sized stages.

From Nepal

Trek 1 Jiri to Namche Bazaar
Trek 2 Lukla to Namche Bazaar
Trek 3 Namche Bazaar to Thame and Gokyo
Trek 4 Namche Bazaar (or Khumjung) to Gokyo
Trek 5 Gokyo to Lobuche via Cho La
Trek 6 Gokyo to Lobuche via Phortse, Pangboche and Pheriche
Trek 7 Namche Bazaar (or Khumjung) to Lobuche, Gorak Shep,
Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp

From Tibet

Trek 8 Tingri to Everest Rongbuk Base Camp via Lamna La
Trek 9 Kharta to the Kangshung Face

  • Seasons
    Pre-monsoon (March-May) and post-monsoon (October to late November) are ideal. Monsoon and winter treks are possible, but much more difficult.
  • Centres
    Access is via Kathmandu. Namche is the central village; Thame, Dingboche also have facilities. Tea houses everywhere.
  • Difficulty
    Technically no great difficulties, but the need to acclimatise and manage the transition to altitude are crucial to having a great trek. Some of the high passes (Cho La) will have snow.
  • Must See
    For the mountain lover, some of the greatest views on earth, but the friendly Sherpa people, Bhuddist gompas and local culture make this a much greater experience.


August 2012

Trekking regulations have been constantly modified over recent years, so you will need to check the latest changes when planning your trek. Information on the internet is often not up-to-date, so when you arrive check in Kathmandu or Pokhara. Even as guides go to press, changes occur that may affect independent trekkers. The latest rules require all independent trekkers to have a porter/guide. As usual, these rules are not entirely clear, nor is it clear how they are to be implemented. Such schemes (usually instigated by the big trekking outfits) have been imposed in the past, but subsequently abandoned with equal speed. Previous schemes actually harmed many small or fledgling local tourist operatives, porters and guides – particularly all those outside the Kathmandu valley. The reason cited for the latest changes is security – mainly because some individuals who trekked alone and off the main trails sadly came to grief. How long they will last, and how these new regulations will affect trekking in Nepal is not clear. Information about the independent Trekkers' Information Management System (TIMS) cards is also subject to change.

See also: – immigration department for visa and permits – information on TIMS cards – Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal

(With thanks to Siân Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons)


Everest and the Solu-Khumbu Region
Everest Treks
Trekking and Trekking Styles
When to Go
Pre-Departure Preparations
Getting There
Permits and Visas
Pre-Trek Health Matters
On-Trek Healthcare
Equipment Checklist
Minimum Impact Trekking
Cultural Interaction
Nepal – Facts and Figures
Time in Kathmandu
About this Guide
From Nepal
TREK 1 Jiri to Namche Bazaar via Lukla
Prologue Kathmandu to Jiri
Section 1 Jiri to Kenja
Section 2 Kenja to Manidingma
Section 3 Manidingma to Choplung
TREK 2 Lukla to Namche Bazaar
TREK 3 Namche Bazaar to Thame and Gokyo
TREK 4 Namche Bazaar (or Khumjung) to Gokyo
Section 1 Namche Bazaar to Dole
Section 2 Dole to Gokyo
TREK 5 Gokyo to Lobuche via Cho La
TREK 6 Gokyo to Lobuche via Phortse, Pangboche and Pheriche
TREK 7 Namche Bazaar (or Khumjung) to Lobuche, Gorak Shep, Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp
Section 1 Namche Bazaar to Pheriche (or Dingboche)
Section 2 Pheriche (or Dingboche) to Lobuche
Section 3 Lobuche to Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp
From Tibet
TREK 8 Tingri to Everest Rongbuk Base Camp
TREK 9 Kharta to the Kangshung Face
Appendix A Summary of Treks
Appendix B The Story of Everest
Appendix C Trekking Peaks in the Solu-Khumbu Region
Appendix D Useful Addresses
Appendix E Glossary
Appendix F Useful Phrases
Appendix G Further Reading

Sample Route

Jiri to Kenja
StartJiri, 1905m (6250ft)
Distance24km (15 miles)
Time1½–2 days
High PointDeorali (2705m: 8875ft)

The first few stages of any trek in Nepal have their own indefinable quality. Following a long road journey, such as that from Kathmandu to Jiri, one longs for the peace and tranquillity of the hills, becomes restless and eager for physical exercise after being cramped in an overcrowded bus for many numbing hours. Even if you've travelled in more comfort by taxi or minibus, the lure of the trail is a strong one. This, after all, is what you've come all this way for and although a ‘road’ continues to Shivalaya and beyond, only those who are really short of time need consider taking it. The walk to Shivalaya is a good warm-up introduction to trekking in Nepal, while starting in Shivalaya would make an extremely wearying first morning's climb to Deorali.

For those on a group trek the first day's walk will necessarily be a short one as porters have to be organised by the sirdar, and by the time that's accomplished the morning will be well advanced. Shivalaya has long been accepted as the limit of the first day's trek for groups, but even if you're on a teahouse trek don't plan to cover too much distance for a few days, until you've become used both to the terrain and the trekking routine. From the very start, try to establish an easy rhythm of walking; adopt a comfortable, unhurried pace and absorb the atmosphere of the countryside you're passing through. Don't think too far ahead, but accept each moment for itself.

With the extension of the road to Shivalaya you may prefer to follow that all the way, although you'll probably not save much time by doing so and your feet may feel as though they've been walking on razor blades. But since road walking is not what you came to Nepal for, the traditional route is described here. A pleasant undemanding climb leads to a ridge-crest where the first view of distant snowpeaks may be seen across a succession of foothill ridges from the Patashe Danda, followed by descent to the valley of the Khimti Khola, a descent that is more tiring than the ascent on account of the steepness of the slope below Mali.

Although the basic linear distance between Shivalaya and Bhandar is not great, the trail makes additional demands on account of height gain. This is not excessive either, on paper, but the initial uphill section out of Shivalaya will be quite steep enough for trekkers not yet in Himalaya mode. There are two or three route options between Sangbadanda and Deorali, and more options to consider between Bhandar and Kenja. The alternative route to Deorali visits the Thodung cheese factory, while the descent from Bhandar to the valley of the Likhu Khola begins innocently enough, but soon develops into a sharp, knee-straining descent. In the late 1990s a new trail was opened (also described) which avoids the original very steep descent, and reduces the walk to Kenja by about 1 hour. It is still, however, a demanding trek.

Trail Note

A result of so much road construction in the foothills is that the trail is sometimes hard to find when a road cuts across it. This is especially true if you have walked along the road for some distance. Trekkers without guides will have to be vigilant in order to avoid taking the wrong paths, and should ask frequently or risk a time-wasting diversion. The dirt roads will probably be modified by nature during the life of this guide, so please keep us informed of any changes in trail routings. Please also remember that lodge names mentioned can change.

Jiri to Shivalaya (3½–4hr)

Head east out of central Jiri across the small bridge and through the bus stop area. Follow the new stone-surfaced road that continues along the left-hand side of the valley on the way to Those and Shivalaya. Follow the road for about 10min, cross a stream, and just beyond another ‘new’ farm a dirt road heads uphill to the left off the main road. At the same point is the unmarked trail up left for Shivalaya.

Climb through the shady forest for 15min to the settlement of Bharkur. Cross the dirt road and seek the trail off to the right through the houses. Soon out in the open, the path continues high along the hillside on a charming belvedere above terraced fields. It contours below the dirt road and then makes a sharp turn uphill left to rejoin the road. Follow this to a corner where the trail goes off right, then turn left uphill to the school of Ratomate. Climb through the village and rejoin the dirt road again, going right here. Shortly by a stream bed turn uphill left on an indistinct trail (take care here). Continue up and around the hillside. In about 1h 15min or so from Jiri you come to the spread-out settlement of Chitre, passing the Solu Khumbu lodge. Beyond this the way leads across an area of shrubs, with fine foothill views to enjoy. Continue up the path to the dirt road once more at the crest of a ridge. From here, either follow the dirt road or the trail below, which joins the road higher up. The dirt road soon winds round to the left, and the trail goes ahead to the pass on the Patashe Danda (2400m: 7874ft, 1½–2hr from Jiri). On the northern, far horizon is a jagged line of snow peaks above Rolwaling.

Roads in Nepal

It has been fair to say thus far that as soon as a road comes to a hillside in Nepal the immediate environment is altered in a negative way. With smoke belching, noisy engines, squeaking brakes, loud ear-piercing horns and reckless driving, the hills are definitely alive with sound, but not of music. With the road extended from Jiri to Shivalaya and beyond, much the same might be expected here. However, on a more positive note, this rocky, shockingly rough, UN Food Program-sponsored road is so bad that little traffic dares to use it. (Even the UN in Kathmandu do not possess a survey map of these new roads.) All other so-called roads are just dirt, and many are already badly gullied.

The path goes steeply down the left-hand side of the Danda through trees to an open area, where there is a teahouse on the left and the dirt road is rejoined. Follow the road to Mali, a Sherpa settlement, where drinks will be welcomed. The Numbur and Karyolung snowy range, the southeast ridge of which forms a wall to the Dudh Kosi valley below Lukla, peep out from here to whet the appetite. Follow the road down and around a corner to a solitary house. The trail is beside the house down to the right and is quite steep all the way down to the quaint farmhouses of Dovan below. Care should be taken in wet weather.

Shivalaya, in the valley of the Khimti Khola

If you are contemplating the alternative routes to Deorali from Sangbadanda tomorrow (and have a good digital camera), take a photo of the entire Deorali pass hillside to aid route finding if you are an independent trekker.

From Dovan the trail continues its steep descent into the forest and some way below drops to a bridge in the Yelung Khola valley. Wander down the valley, heading east to cross the Khimti Khola River on a suspension bridge, and into Shivalaya about 1½hr from Mali. Contrary to expectations, Shivalaya (1800m: 5905ft) has not changed or expanded much, with only a couple of modern buildings beside the road. It remains a sleepy bazaar village with a few shops and lodges, its peace only shattered by the pre-dawn bus departure for Kathmandu. When researching these updates in 2011, Siân Pritchard-Jones and Bob Gibbons were told at the village bus office that a vehicle goes to Deorali and perhaps Bhandar, but they found it hard to believe. ‘We did see a bus parked in Deorali,’ they said, ‘but could not confirm if it ever moved.’

Shivalaya to Bhandar (4–4½hr)

Be sure to drink plenty of liquids before beginning this heart-pounding ascent; there are not many drinks opportunities along the trail these days, as trekkers and local porter numbers decline on the route.

Leaving Shivalaya, the path crosses a concrete bridge over the Chamja Khola, where there are more houses with alpine views of mountains crowding the head of the Khimti Khola's valley. Go ahead to find the trail, which now begins a steep climb up the hillside on a series of stone slab steps. Initially the climb seems relentless, but it eases slightly in 15min as you come to some simple houses overlooking the lush terraced hillsides of the Khimti valley, and with a view of the previous pass.

Head up past the Shanti ‘hotel’ at Mane Danda and continue up to a grassy unfinished farm track. The muddy trail opposite climbs steeply and crosses a dirt road, which is recrossed in another 5min. It's hard to believe any vehicle could possibly use this. The road is crossed once more and the trail is uphill to the left on some log steps. In a little over an hour from Shivalaya, you come to Sangbadanda village (2240m: 7349ft, 1½hr), which has a school. The path makes a right turn in the village after a lodge with drinks. Continue ahead through the narrow street. According to the locals, the trail to Thodung is by a green sign up to the left along the narrow street (see box below).

About 5min from Sangbadanda, cross the dirt road and continue climbing – up a narrow muddy gully – to reach the road again at a corner near to a substantial house. There is a large flat ‘parking’ area here as well as a couple of electric pylons. Follow the dirt road a short distance before taking the main trail again. Be very careful around here when seeking out the main trail, as it is not obvious. Ask for directions. The path becomes more level and passes through an area called Khasrubas (2300m: 7546ft, approx. 30min from Sangbadanda). From here the way is mostly in thinning woodlands, crossing a number of minor streams and later heading through dense rhododendron forest as the trail climbs to Deorali. The road appears just before the village and stays on the north side, leaving the village mani walls intact. By this route Deorali (2705m: 8875ft) is reached in 3–4hr from Shivalaya. There is now a dirt road heading up the ridge from the pass towards Thodung.

High Trails to Deorali

These alternatives will give adventurous trekkers, who preferably have a guide, a couple of different options to reach Deorali. For the first 400m in height gain, the trail is the same, but in upper Buldanda (also appearing as Mahabir on some maps) there is a choice. Heading across country, south from the upper Buldanda farmhouses, you can rejoin the dirt road into Deorali, taking not much longer than the main route. Be sure to ask the way if unguided on this route, as it is not a recognised ‘tourist’ trail.

The other trail via Thodung is little used and isolated in dense forest. It is not recommended without a guide. Longer than the standard route, it will take about 2½hr or so to reach Thodung, plus a further 1hr from there to Deorali, where the trails converge. However, this alternative has its advocates, not least for the big mountain views. THODUNG (3091m: 10,141ft) is the site of Nepal's first cheese factory, established by the Swiss in the 1950s but now run by the Nepalese Dairy Corporation. There's also a lodge here. From the ridge a fine panorama includes Gaurishankar looming on the northern horizon. From Thodung to Deorali, the trail follows the ridge-crest southward, passing a gompa on the way.

DEORALI (2705m: 8875ft, 3–3½hr by the main route) is a group of lodges clustered on the ridge that separates the valleys of the Khimti Khola and the Likhu Khola. Running between the lodges is a large mani wall. Meaning ‘Pass’, Deorali is aptly named, for the ridge dips to a saddle here. Wilfrid Noyce, a member of the successful Everest expedition of 1953, commented (in South Col) that the mani wall has Tibetan rather than Nepali characters, and that the pass marks the beginning of Sherpa country. Tenzing led some of the party to an old gompa up the ridge towards Thodung. To Noyce, the gompa 'seemed to be a jumble of stone buildings, full of sheep-shearing and cloth-making, but not, apparently, of monastic life'. The caretaker showed them to a dark upper room which contained ‘the usual erotic paintings … two conch shells and a teapot [which] stood before the Buddha’. It would appear that they were the first foreign visitors.

The Sherpas of Solu-Khumbu

It should come as no surprise to find that Sherpas speak a Tibetan dialect, since they originated in the province of Kham in eastern Tibet (Sherpa means ‘people of the east’) and migrated across the Himalaya more than 500 years ago. One of their migration routes crossed the Nangpa La which brought them into the Khumbu, known to be a beyul, a hidden valley of refuge made sacred by Guru Rimpoche, founder of their religious sect. But it was not only to the Khumbu that they came, however, for Sherpa clans spread throughout eastern Nepal and along the Indian border. Until the early 20th century they carried on a more-or-less nomadic or semi-nomadic way of life, influenced by a Buddhist theocracy that underpinned every aspect of their lives. Many carried on cross-border trade with Tibet, journeying over long-established passes with their laden yaks, while others settled in the high valleys to grow barley or potatoes and tend their herds.

In 1907 AM Kellas, a shy Scottish scientist with an interest in the effects on men of high altitude, made a visit to Sikkim, hiring a small group of Sherpas to carry loads. Perhaps as a result of his experience, Sherpas were recruited as porters for the Everest reconnaissance expedition of 1921. Kellas was a member of this reconnaissance, but died of a heart attack before reaching the mountain – and Sherpas have been associated with Mount Everest in particular, and Himalayan mountaineering in general, ever since. The advent of trekking in the mid-1960s brought new opportunities for those with influence and entrepreneurial skills. At first it was as guides and cooks that Sherpas accompanied trekking parties to the Khumbu and other high regions of the Nepal Himalaya. Then they began to open their homes to visitors, and soon established a reputation for hospitality, reliability and humour. Lodges grew from family houses, and the new-found income brought a taste of prosperity which has enabled some to travel the world, while others have stayed at home, adapting to change where change would bring benefits, and making the most of business opportunities as they occurred.

The second half of the 20th century was a period of rapid and sometimes bewildering change in the Khumbu region, but the main product of all this change was choice. At last Sherpas could choose whether to tend yaks, grow potatoes, climb mountains, accompany foreign trekkers or open their homes as hotels – or none of these things. Today there are some 3500 Sherpas living in the shadow of the mountains in Khumbu, and another 13,000 settled in the easier farming landscapes of Solu district. Despite adopting some of the outward trappings of Western society, Sherpa culture remains largely intact; the Buddhist faith and close family bonds are still important. Sensitive trekkers who choose Solu-Khumbu for their holiday of a lifetime will doubtless be enriched by their day-by-day meetings with these ‘people of the east’.

Cross over the pass and descend steeply (to the right of the Crystal Youth Club), and in 2min bear left where the trail forks. Bhandar can be seen below, nestling on a broad, sloping hillside shelf, and the trail now crosses the new ‘road’ a number of times on the way down to it. The way is quite easy, and in places is paved with stone slabs. There are several mani walls, and as you come to Bhandar (1hr 15min from Deorali) you will notice two chortens and a gompa standing within the village, with the lodges nearby.

BHANDAR (2194m: 7198ft) has several good lodges, one of which (just below the chortens) has a pharmacy, which could be worth noting. There are also two or three possible campgrounds. This Sherpa village is located on a broad east-facing slope of meadowland, with views across the valley of the Likhu Khola to the hills of the Lamjura Danda onto which the next stage leads. The new road ‘bus stop’ is known locally as Ratna Jyoti Bazaar.

Bhandar to Kenja (2½–2¾hr)

In recent years the original trail has been abandoned in favour of the shorter, newer trail described here. If possible, check the route out of the village with your lodge owner or porters, as the road interferes with the path.

Below Bhandar, a few paces after crossing a stream, the trail forks by a teahouse. Take the left branch through fields and beside a long mani wall. About 15min beyond the teahouse, branch right where the path cuts directly in front of a white-painted house, then turns left to slope downhill through more fields before the descent steepens to cross a major stream in a coombe. (You will see the road around here and may need to follow it later briefly.) The stream is crossed on a wooden bridge about 30min from Bhandar. Two minutes later the path forks again and you take the upper branch to climb a flight of stone steps.

Below Bhandar the route crosses several streams

For some way the trail rises – frustratingly when you know you'll eventually have to descend all the way to the river – and contours round rhododendron-clad hillsides, crosses numerous streams, and passes a number of simple teahouses. After 1hr 15min the descent proper begins and, although there are one or two minor uphills, to all intents and purposes the way is down – steeply in places – to the valley of the Likhu Khola, which crosses at right angles ahead. Once you reach the bed of the valley, the path leads past a group of houses set among banana and orange trees, then crosses a major tributary on a wooden bridge. The path then forks. Bear right to skirt alongside fields beside the Likhu Khola, and about 2½hr from Bhandar come to a suspension bridge, which you cross to the east bank of the river. Bear left and shortly after cross a second suspension bridge, this one spanning the Kenja Khola, to enter Kenja (1634m: 5361ft).

KENJA (1634m: 5361ft) has grown into a pleasant lodge village at the confluence of two rivers. Inhabited by a mixture of Sherpa, Magar and Newari hillfolk, the village has a school and a number of shops as well as several good lodges. A Japanese aid project brought electricity to Kenja in the late 1980s. On the south side of the Kenja Khola a trail heads off into the hills on the way to Pike Peak (4062m: 13,327ft), a popular twin-summited mountain (pronounced Peekay) and a noted viewpoint on the Toriphule Danda southwest of the Lamjura La.


Leaving Bhandar, the trail slopes down the broad, fertile hillside, heading between a short avenue of trees and past a number of houses. Crossing and recrossing minor streams, about 20min from the upper village you will come to another group of lodges, houses and a covered wooden bridge at DOKHARPA. Cross the bridge and immediately bear left to follow the stream.

The way soon develops as a steep descending path that winds down a heavily vegetated hillside, passing a few simple teahouses. About 20min from the covered bridge you should reach a group of buildings where the trail then drops very steeply to the left, making towards the bed of the narrow Surma Khola valley. Soon after drawing level with the Surma Khola the path makes a long contour, the stream then falling far below once more. The trail is obvious, but when you come to a single house, make sure you take the path that descends left, steeply once more.

About 1½hr after leaving Bhandar cross the Surma Khola on a wooden bridge. On the left bank there are several buildings, a number of which are teahouses. The trail continues down, then curves leftward into the broader valley of the Likhu Khola. Wandering between terraces you will come to a house near a suspension bridge (about 10min from the bridge over the Surma Khola). There is a trail junction. Do not cross the river here, but bear left and continue along the valley path until you reach a second major suspension bridge. Cross to the eastern side, where there are a few teahouses.

The trail maintains direction upvalley and soon becomes something of a switchback all the way to Kenja. The valley is very pleasant, with several teahouses set beside the trail. Eventually you come to yet another suspension bridge. This one straddles a major tributary of the Likhu Khola, across which you enter the lodge settlement of KENJA (3–3½hr). Up the valley, an attractive conical snow peak towers over the river.

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