2020 Virtual Nepal Expedition

2020 Virtual Nepal Expedition

We were feeling sad that our Autumn Nepal 2020 trip was postponed until ww decided to run a 2020 Virtual Nepal Expedition instead.  So, we cordially invite you all to join us.  There are key differences between this one and a real visit. It doesn’t cost a penny and you can enjoy it from your own home! 

Unfortunately, we can’t easily share the warmth of the Nepalese people through a screen. We certainly can’t share the feeling of turning another corner on the trail and seeing the latest stunning vista either. Maybe though, if you feel inspired at the end, you might choose to join one of our real Nepal expeditions  

What is the 2020 Virtual Nepal Expedition? 

It is with heavy hearts that we have postponed all remaining overseas trips for 2019.  The situation both in the UK and in many of our destination countries remains too unpredictable for us to consider journeying overseas yet.  But, we hope to come back stronger and better in the coming years. Infact we are still hopeful that our 2021 trips and expeditions might be able to run. Our current provision is detailed in our October 2020 COVID-19 Update

We have been reflecting on this over the last few days. It would be just about now when we’d be heading back to Nepal for one of our autumn expeditions.  We really wish our bags were packed again for another adventure this year.  

So, the next best thing we can do at the moment is relive last years Nepal autumn adventure. We really hope you’ll join us for the ride. Last year we had groups trekking from Jiri to Lukla and from Lukla to Everest Base Camp.  We also had a team visiting the Langtang Valley. 

Each day we’ll add just one photo to the blog reliving the adventures and add a short explanation.  A simple way to share the magic of Nepal together.  So, please do join our 2020 Virtual Nepal Expedition!  

Yes please.  I want to join the expedition

Welcome.  Let’s start the journey.  We are going to pick up the expedition with our second team leaving for Kathmandu on October 20th 2019.  By the time this group arrived another hardy team had walked for an extra week from Jiri to arrrive in Lukla to meet us.  They had faced had some tough days and significant challenges, but it was great to get the whole team together to start the second leg of the journey.  

This meant that our new arrivals had to get from Kathmandu to Lukla.  At the moment there are considerable problems with domestic flights in Nepal.  Many flights are now leaving from the the airport of Ramenchap which means a lengthy extra journey.  Fortunately, this can be avoided if you choose to take a helicopter to Lukla.  Guess what the remainder of our Nepal 2019 team chose to do?!

2020 Virtual Nepal Expedition
Helicopter Flight to Lukla

Lukla to Phakding

Once we had arrived in Lukla it was time to assemble the team and begin our trek. The first day is relatively easy as you lose height from Lukla and drop to the Dubh Kosi river. Once in the valley it is a pleasant wander along the tranquil trails to the village of Phakding. This is a day that gives a feel for what lies ahead as you see the small settlements, the porters loaded with trekkers duffle bags, the friendly children playing and the intricately painted prayer stones. Finally, you cross another of the cable footbridges and our teahouse home for the night lies ahead. This day is only about 3 hours trekking time at an easy pace.

Although they would soon become very used to them, for many of our team this would be their first night in a teahouse. These guesthouses are an integral part of trekking in the Everest region and we wrote a Nepalese Teahouse Guide which will give you a flavour of what these places are like. Please do have a read.

As this was the first day our 2019 team were together we thought a photo of us entering the Sagarmartha National Park was in order. Please do keep following our journey. Tomorrow we make the long climb to the famous Namche Bazaar.

2020 Virtual Nepal Expedition
Entering the Sagarmartha National Park

Phakding to Namche

The climb to Namche Bazaar offers anybody trekking in the Everest region a taste of things to come later. It is a long steep climb. It involves crossing several long cable bridges. The altitude starts to kick in. But, despite the challenge, it is a stunning day to enjoy the views, the tranquility and the ambience.

You’ll also appreciate, as you finally turn the last corner and the village spreads out ahead, that you are somewhere special. It is a joy everytime, but especially the first time. Today photo shows that view.

Path To Namche Bazaar
Arrival at Namche Bazaar

Namche Bazaar Rest Day

As part of our acclimatisation process a rest day in Namche is very important.  Having said that, our 2019 soon learnt that when we say rest day we are actually talking about active rest.  It is still important to have some level of activity for a part of the day and so we generally take a stroll up to the aptly named Everest View Hotel.  It sits a few hundred metres above Namche and, as its name suggests, the terrace of the hotel gives teams their first view of Everest and some of the other Nepalese giants.

Once we’d enjoyed the ambience of the hotel terrace we completed a loop back to Namche and passed my favourite view enroute. The mountain in the photo is surely the most beautiful mountain in the world. The mountain is Ama Dablam.

Ama Dablam-View
Ama Dablam View

Namche to Dhole

After the rest day in Namche our team headed further into the mountains.  Today’s route heads out of Namche village and the first section follows a long traversing path to a fork.  One path then heads for the Gokyo Valley and the other leads towards Everest.  We were bound for Gokyo but, all being well, we’d pass this point again on our return journey down the Khumbu Valley.

Once we took the left fork, the route ascends to the windswept Mong La col.  This is the place shown in the photo. It sits at a lofty altitude of 3950 metres and when we arrived it was a cold and cloudy day. You’ll see the team are very well wrapped up. Once over the col a long descent and final climb brings you to the small cluster of buildings at Dhole.  At this point you really start to feel you are getting in to the heart of the mountains.

Mong La Viewpoint
Mong La Viewpoint

Dhole to Machermo

The walk from Dhole isn’t too long or particularly difficult. It is, however, stunning. You follow a beautiful valley and ahead sits a line of jagged peaks. There are a few tiny settlements dotted on the nearby slopes but, that aside, the route feels remote. It also feels like you are very much in the heart of the mountains.

Then, you eventually climb the final ridge and sitting ahead is the tranquil Machermo village. Machermo sits just below the terminal moraine of the Ngozumpa Glacier, the longest glacier in the Himalayas. The team are due to spend two nights here as part of their acclimatisation schedule. After all, Machermo sits at 4470 metres which is not much lower than the summit of Mont Blanc!

Trekking To Machermo
The Trail to Machermo

Machermo Rest Day

The team spend a rest day in Machermo to aid the acclimatisation process. This isn’t a hardship. It is actually a great place to spend a day. It is in a stunning location. There are a couple of bakeries. A tranquil stream flows through the base of the valley and the rest house has showers and a comfy lounge. Until early this year you could also attend an afternoon lecture at the medical base there. Unfortunately it has now closed and you can read the reasons for that here.

It is also important that this another active rest day. With this in mind, the team have a walk onto the long ridge that sits above the village. We walk up at a leisurely pace and gain a few hundred metres in height. It is a beautiful walk and a chance to glance towards the route we’ll take tomorrow. The photo for today shows team member Cath enjoying the view from our highpoint.

Machermo Viewpoint
Viewpoint above Machermo Village

Machermo to Gokyo

After a rest day in Machermo our journey for today leads up to the settlement of Gokyo.  It is possibly my very favourite Himalayan trekking day.  The journey follows a long valley before climbing up to a small col that gives access to the emerald coloured Gokyo Lakes.  The remainder of the journey traverses the lakes and eventually leads up to Gokyo.  

Out of lots of great trekking days on this route I’m not exactly sure why I’d call it a favourite.  I think it is the changing landscape, the varied mountain vistas and the beauty of the lakes.  It is also the feeling, once at Gokyo, that you are firmly committed.  There are no easy ways out from Gokyo unless you retrace your steps down the valley.  Every onward route involves significant and challenging ascent.  Today we’ve added a few photos.  One shows the beauty of the Gokyo Lakes, another shows trekkers traversing the lakes shore line and the last shows the team arriving into Gokyo village.  It was too hard to pick today!   

Bridge Crossing Enroute to Gokyo
Bridge Crossing Enroute to Gokyo
Gokyo Lakes
Gokyo Lakes
Arrival At Gokyo
Arrival at Gokyo

Gokyo Rest Day and Gokyo Ri

Our teams always take a rest day at Gokyo. This is to rest, but also to aid acclimatisation. But, as you have become used to in this expedition account, rest days are best served with a dose of activity. In this case the obvious choice is an ascent of the 5,357 m Gokyo Ri. This is a peak located directly above Gokyo village and, as well as a superb acclimatisation walk, it offers what is certainly up there with the best views in the Nepalese Himalayas.

To reach the top it often works best to head up early and that’s what our team did on this day. It is a tough but steady climb taking a couple of hours. Fortunately, at every rest you can enjoy sublime views. They draw you upwards. The top arrives soon enough and, in choosing today’s photo, there was only one choice. I think this shot of team member Cath is perhaps the best photo I have taken in the Himalayas. It sums up the mountains, the setting and the serenity of this range perfectly. It also shows a very happy Cath. I hope you like it as much as I do!

Gokyo Ri Summit
Gokyo Ri Summit

Gokyo to Dragnag

From Gokyo the journey continues towards the small cluster of teahouses at Dragnag. It is a short walk but it has its challenges. The route involves crossing the mighty Ngozumpa Glacier. This chaotic and ever changing sea of ice is the largest glacier in Nepal and reputed to be the largest in the whole Himalayas.

The route across the glacier changes every year and always involves a fair share of navigating glacial pools, traversing under loose rocky slopes and managing slippy paths. The photos below give a flavour. It keeps you on your toes. Fortunately, once across there is only a short hop to the comfort of the tea house. Time to relax and time to plan. Tomorrow we head to the mighty Cho La Pass.

Gokyo To Dragnag
Leaving Gokyo with the Ngozumpa Glacier ahead
Ngozumpa Glacier
Traversing the mighty Ngozumpa Glacier

Dragnag to Dzongla via the Cho La Pass

A big day. A pre dawn start in frigid temperatures. Around 700 metres of ascent followed by a further 600 metres down. Snow, scrambling terrain, altitude and challenging snow slopes. It’s a fun and yet challenging link up day between the Gokyo Valley and Khumbu Valley. A crucial link.

We dress quickly, eat a quick breakfast and set off by head torch. The route climbs steadily and eventually daylight arrives as we reach a plateau before the final steep climb to the 5420 metre Cho La pass. It is worth the effort. The top of the pass gives the most stunning views and opens access to the next part of the journey. The descent to the small settlement of Dzongla involves steep snow slopes and scrambling ground. Finally, a long valley footpath leads to our home away from home. It is a challenging and yet extremely rewarding mountain day.

Traversing under the mighty Cholatse
Cho La Pass
Ascent to the Cho La Pass

Dzongla to Lobuche

Waking up in Dzongla is cold. You are at high altitude and the site is barren, windswept and exposed. On this morning there was ice on the inside of the bedroom windows and the snugness of my Rab sleeping bag was hard to leave. The beauty of Nepal is that you head from the unheated bedroom to the warmth of the lounge and, once breakfast has been enjoyed, the warmth of the spreading morning sunlight hits the teahouse.

Our route today heads down into the valley base and we then follow this to the small settlement of Lobuche. The walk is fairly gentle and the beauty of today’s route is the ever changing vista. Soon we are staring up at the perfect pyramid of Pumori and the Everest cirque holds the promise of a stunning day tomorrow.

Arrival In Lobuche

Lobuche to Gorak Shep

At the head of the valley, deep in the cirque housing Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, sits the barren and windswept cluster of tea houses known as Gorak Shep. It is the staging post for Kala Patthar and for any mountaineers heading to Everest Base Camp.

The walk up from Lhotse is steady, but the glacial moraines make for interesting ups and down. The nature of the terrain also means that you don’t see Gorak Shep until you are almost there. On this day we arrived for afternoon tea and relaxed in the busy dining room. Then, despite the chill, headed outside as the sun went down. As the photo below shows, it was worth braving the cold. You can’t beat seeing a few of the world’s giants on fire. Tomorrow we leave early for Kala Patthar. Come and join us.

Everest and Nuptse
Everest and Nuptse at sunset

Kala Patthar

A very cold bedroom, a pre dawn start, a very cold morning and a steep ascent. Kala Patthar is not a giveaway. But, boy is it worth it. Kala Patthar sits in prime position central to a cirque of simply stunning peaks. From the beautiful Pumori to the might of Everest, the scary looking Nuptse and all the way to the glory of Ama Dablam. It is a glorious place to be.

On this day our team, although certainly challenged, made good progress. It is one of those peaks where you can see the destination for quite a while before you arrive, but we got there in time to take in all the majesty and enjoy group hugs for the end of the outward leg of our trip. We still had plenty of road to travel, but this morning still felt like the culmination of a lot of effort. The only negative was that some of our team had needed to retreat before this point, but we knew they were safe and well and we’d meet again.

The photo below shows the team at Kala Patthar with Everest and Nuptse behind. We’ve also included a short video run through of the peaks visible from KP summit. Hopefully it inspires you to make your own trip there one day.

Kala Patthar
The summit of Kala Patthar
Kala Patthar Panorama

Kala Patthar to Pheriche

In essence, from Kala Patthar it is all downhill. Of course, this being the Himalayas, there are plenty of ups as well as downs. What I really mean is that we will gradually be losing height from now onwards. This means it is possible to cover quite a bit of distance and on this day we were able to get all the way from Kala Patthar to the lovely village of Pheriche.

This is a magical section of the journey. There are stunning views in all directions, tranquil settlements to travel through and the emotional memorial garden at the Thukla Pass. We have previously written about this place in the blog posts Lifeline to More Tomorrow’s and Memorial to Eve Girawong. Please do check these posts out as they mean a lot to me. The photo below shows the Thukla memorial to Scott Fischer mentioned in the Lifeline blog post.

From the memorial garden there is a steep descent to the Thukla settlement and from there a beautiful valley leads to the village of Pheriche. It is a brilliant place to spend a night. The second photo today shows the final descent to Pheriche with the might of Ama Dablam behind (but more about that mountain tomorrow!

Thukla Memorial Garden
Thukla Memorial Garden
Ama Dablam
Descent to Pheriche with Ama Dablam ahead

Pheriche to Kyangjuma

From Pheriche the team put in another long day to Kyangjuma. This involves plenty of downhill and passes through the tranquil settlements of Pangboche and Tengboche. Pangboche holds many special memories for me and Tengboche is home to the famous and beautiful Tengboche Monastery. This is a day full of contrasts.

There are also some steep ups and plenty of cable bridges to contend with though. But, that all done, we eventually top the last hill and arrive at Ama Dablam Lodge in Kyangjuma. This is my very favourite home away from home in Nepal and many of my expedition friends will also have spent many happy nights there. It is owned by the irrespressible Tashi, has great facilities and has a stunning view. It’s a happy place.

Tengboche Monastery
Tengboche Monastery
Nepal Panorama
Panorama enroute to Tengboche
Nepal Bridge Crossing
One bridge crossing of many

Kyangjuma to Monjo

The walk from Kyangjuma follows an easy contouring path which leads back to Namche Bazaar. It’s only a short walk and the team were back in the hustle and bustle of Namche by mid morning. We had a few team members who had had to return early and it was great to all meet up again and catch up on all the news. We had a trip to my favourite of the Namche bakeries and then set off on the long descent back down to the Dudh Kosi river. It is always amazing how quickly this ground can be covered on the way back. Once at the valley we walked along the valley to Monjo.

By now the team felt like they could relax and enjoy the final few days. This meant a few luxuries like a couple of beers with dinner and later nights enjoying the gradual return to civilisation. There are also more meal options to vary the diet a bit. It is a great time on an expedition. For today we’ve included a few photos of the valley scenery, a very fine meal and one of the evening hydration!

Dubh Kosi River
Dudh Kosi River
Khumbu Meal
A change of diet
Dubh Kosi Valley
Dude Kosi Valley Settlement
Sherpa Beer
Sherpa Beer

Monjo to Lukla

And so the circle is completed. From Monjo the team had the simple job of retracing their steps to Lukla. After all that time in the mountains it feels strange to complete the trek. It is a special moment and yet also tinged with the thought that the trip is nearly over. The journey from Monjo follows the Dudh Kosi river and then climbs steeply up from the valley. Legs might be tired, but it is amazing how easy this hill now feels after all the acclimatisation time.

Once in Lukla the team can settle in for the evening, make a trip to enjoy the cafes and bars of the village and prepare for some fun times in Kathmandu. However, the only other thing we had to wonder on this trip was whether we’d be able to leave Lukla at all. We’d walked up into rain and thick cloud and there was uncertainty whether any flights would leave at all the next day. Do check in tomorrow to find out what happens.

Paradise Lodge
The team in Lukla

Lukla to Kathmandu

It was touch and go. We’d been told to get up for the first flights but the first flights never came. In the end we sat waiting for a good chunk of the day, but finally the word came to head to the airport. Our lodge was only a 3 min walk to the mini airport and so we were there in double quick time. Some more waiting at the airport and finally we were away. We were out of the mountains and back to the sights, sounds, smells and comforts of Kathmandu.

And so our final time in the city revolved around sightseeing, late nights, lovely meals and a general celebration of all the team had achieved. It was a special finale to a fantastic adventure. We hope you enjoy our final few photos from Kathmandu.

But please don’t sign off from our expedition just yet. After the team had left Paul and Cal are ready for a new adventure. We are staying in Nepal for a trek into the Langtang Valley. We cordially invite you to join the team and this new leg starts tomorrow.

Ama Dablam
Lukla Airport
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
Sam's Bar Kathmandu
Sam’s Bar, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Flags
Boudhanath Prayer Flags
Kathmandu Temple
Kathmandu Temple
Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa
Evening in Kathmandu
Fire and Ice Restaurant, Kathmandu

Heading for the Langtang Valley

I’ve visited Nepal a lot and yet the Langtang Valley was a new destination for me. I’d heard a lot about it, but finally the stars had aligned and it was time to explore this valley that many called the most beautiful in Nepal. The Everest team had left and Cal had arrived. It was time to head back to the trails.

The road journey from Kathmandu takes about 7 hours (depending on traffic). It is a bumpy and dusty trip, but eventually we arrive at the staging village of Syabru Besi. It is a pleasant enough place sitting close to the China border. We spent our first evening stocking up on a few last minute supplies, visiting the local hot springs and enjoying the anticipation of a new adventure ahead.

Langtang Trek Syabru Besi
Syabru Besi
Langtang Valley Syabru Besi Hot Spring
Syabru Besi

 Syabru Besi to Lama Hotel

After an early breakfast we were excited to hit the trails. We initially walked through open land passing small homes and sleepy dogs. It was a gentle start. The trail then led us through healthy deciduous forest as we climbed above the river. There is a rich dampness and life to this section of the trek as we listened to the birds and brushes past the mossy rocks. Eventually we dropped back to the river for lunch at the idyllic tiny settlement of Bamboo.

After lunch we climbed steeply through the forest and crossed the huge run offs of large landslides before eventually reaching Lama Hotel. In contradiction to its name, Lama Hotel is actually a large cluster of tea houses sunk into the base of a deep valley. A good meal, some cards games with the staff and a comfy bed were all that was needed to make the day complete.

Langtang Valley Bamboo
Descent to Bamboo
Langtang Trek Bamboo
Langtang Khola River

Lama Hotel to Langtang

Wow. What a day! The route from Lama Hotel to Langtang has to rank with one of my top five days in the mountains. It is stunning. Infact, I’m going to have to concede that the photos below really don’t do justice to it. This was also a very emotional day on the trail for us, but more of that later.

The journey from Lama Hotel starts by climbing through thick forest with the river flowing over huge blocks in the valley below. Gradually, the valley closes in until you are walking through a fairly narrow channel. But, just as you are wanting to stop for lunch, it broadens again into a stunning wide mountain fringed oasis. We sat enjoying Dahl Bhat in the Nepalese sunshine wondering at the beauty of this very special place.

After lunch the journey continues until you glimpse around to see a huge rock scar on the huge mountain named Langtang Lirung. A rock scar that marks the single biggest loss of life in the 2015 Nepalese Earthquake. I wrote about in detail in my blog post Living With Loss. Please do have a read of that here. Our night in Langtang Village was poignant, but special.

The route from Lama Hotel to Langtang
Lunchstop enroute to Langtang
Lunch stop enroute to Langtang
Langtang Landslide
The Langtang Landslide site with Langtang Lirung behind
Langtang Memorial
Langtang Memorial with the scar on Langtang Lirung behind
Langtang Village
Langtang Village

Langtang to Kyanjin

The onwards route from Langtang heads up through the village and then continues along the broad valley. This leads to the last settlement in the Langtang Valley. This is Kyanjin. It is an extremely tranquil place situated in a broad cirque of mountains. It is stunning actually.

The walk from Langtang to Kyanjin is constantly interesting, but only takes a few hours. We arrived here by lunchtime and that was great. It left time to wander around the village, visit the famous Kyanjin Yak cheese factory and the small monastery. It also left time to relax in the sun and prepare for a very early start tomorrow. Stay with us. Tomorrow we ascend Kyanjin Ri.

Kyanjin Gompa
Kyanjin Gompa
Kyanjin Village
Kyanjin Village

Kyanjin Ri Summit

Above Kyanjin village sits a rocky peak. You can see it clearly. It isn’t a technical ascent, but it offers a challenge. It is worth the challenge. From the summit of Kyanjin Ri you have the most stunning viewpoint. Stunning.

We got up before first light and fought our way out of of snuggly warm sleeping bags and into the deep chill of the morning. It is worth an early start if you can reach the summit at sunrise, but it doesn’t feel worth it as you try to force down a bit of early breakfast. We got under way as soon as possible and ascended steep loose slopes and crossed bouldery ground. Eventually we could see, through the early light, the fluttering prayer flags. A little further and the world opened around us. The photos will give you a flavour.

Kyanjin Ri Summit Cairn
Kyanjin Ri Summit Cairn
Kyanjin Ri Summit
Kyanjin Ri Summit

Kyanjin to Thulo Syabru

From Kyanjin we retraced our steps a long way down the Langtang Valley passing many of the now familiar places we’d passed on the way up. Eventually you come to a junction. You can carry on down to our starting point at Syabru Besi or take a left and climb steeply to the rural village of Thulo Syabru. We headed left. It is a long ascent through lush forest and then climbing into open ground above the tiered fields.

As we entered the village on this day we were drawn to a small guesthouse near the base of the village. It was a neat single storey building with a carefully painted picture of Buddha on the door. We always seek out the smaller more personal guest houses whenever we can and immediately knew we wanted to stay here. The story of our time here is told in our blog post ‘Here’s To The Little Ones’. Please do have a read. It was a special evening and a perfect last place to stay on this trek. We’ll finish the journey tomorrow.

Here's To The Little Ones
The Little Buddha Guesthouse, Thulo Syabru

Return to the big city

So, we spent our night in the tranquility of Thulo Syabru and it was time to leave the mountains. We were looking forward to a few fun days in Kathmandu, but it was also sad to say goodbye to the peace, beauty and simplicity we had enjoyed.

As always, everything in Nepal is an adventure and leaving the mountains was no exception. We walked out to the Dhunche and the next day took the long drive back to Kathmandu. Two punctures on our four wheel drive and heavy traffic didn’t dampen our spirits and by the evening we were enjoying the comforts of the Manaslu Hotel and a delicious meal at The Third Eye in Thamel.

Then, before we knew it, it was time to leave for home. I really hope you’ve enjoyed our 2010 Virtual Nepal Expedition account. Our thanks if you’ve stuck with us and we would love to share a Nepalese adventure with you one day.

Changing Tyres
Changing Tyres
Manaslu Hotel
Manaslu Hotel
Everest Beer
Everest Beer, Cheers!