High Above the Treeline: Gokyo Lakes and Everest Base Camp

7 February, 2021 | Reccy Guide

Mount Everest is the highest peak in the world at an astounding 8,848m. Every year, thousands of trekkers, climbers, and mountaineers travel through the Himalayas for unbeatable views and the chance to see this mountain peak. Many travelers also hope to reach Everest Base Camp, the launching point for Mount Everest climbing expeditions.

The Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes Trek is an incredible journey through some of the most popular and most remote regions of Nepal. In addition to base camp, this trek takes you through pristine natural areas and allows you to become fully immersed in Sherpa culture.

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The journey starts in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Your destination lies to the northwest in the Sagarmatha National Park, home to Mount Everest many other record-breaking peaks. To make your way to the EBC trek gateway, you’ll first board a plane to Lukla.

View of Gokyo lakeView of Gokyo lake

The flight to Lukla is astoundingly beautiful and undeniably nerve-wracking. You’ll be able to see Kathmandu fade into the distance as you rapidly approach the first sheer cliffs, small peaks, and forests of the Khumbu region.

Once you deplane and attend to your gear, you’ll head downhill to the Dudh Kosi river. This milky-white waterway will intertwine with your path more than once along the trek. Your first destination is Namche Bazaar.

Halfway through the ascent to the Himalayan trading town, you’ll see the first views of Everest and Lhotse peaks. They rise in the distance to mark a destination nearly two weeks away. Most travelers choose to spend the night in Namche Bazaar to explore the stepped village and its many temples.

Once you depart from Namche Bazaar, you will choose which way to approach the circuit trek. This trip can be completed starting toward either Mongla or toward Kala Patthar. We recommend trekking first toward Mongla to allow for easier acclimatization and to set Everest Base camp as your (very rewarding) destination.

You’ll encounter an assortment of unique structures, wildlife, and native plants as you travel through the Khumbu region. Unlike the main EBC trail, this portion of the trek sees very few travellers, and you can expect to have the path largely to yourself. Suspension bridges cross over deep canyons and rhododendron forests make for vibrant surroundings. You’ll spend an evening in Mongla.

Mongla is a collection of lodges at 3,970m in altitude. During this entire trek, most travelers elect to stay in local teahouses, which allow you to learn more about fellow travelers and the residents of Nepal. The Mongla lodges are surrounded by birch forests, which gives way to a rocky ridge. Across the canyon, you can glimpse Phortse and its walled fields – a destination later in the trek.

The path winds onward to Mochermo and Dole. Alpine waterfalls, juniper forests, and yak herds distinguish this village, while the monolithic pea of Cho Oyo rises in the distance. Machermo serves as another acclimatization point with an altitude of 4,410m.

Reflection of snow peaks on the lakeReflection of snow peaks on the lake

Another few hours of hiking will bring you to the first highlight of this trip: The Goyko Valley, Lakes, and Peak. The Goyko valley is located above the tree line, where vegetation gives way to the stark beauty of glaciers. The lakes are surrounded by sweeping fields of snow and glacial rocks. It provides a stunning backdrop for the turquoise-hued water lapping against the shores of three separate lakes.

Goyko village lies against the shore of Dudh Pokhari, the third lake. Most trekkers choose to climb Goyko peak to overlook the lakes, village, and dozens of Himalayan peaks. When you’ve drank your fill of the Goyko area, the trek to Everest Base Camp begins in earnest.

You’ll once again pass through Dole and Machermo, but this time head for Phortse. This small village is surrounded by patchwork fields and short stone walls to help protect crops from the cold and wind. From there, the journey continues through the Chhukung Valley, where Island Peak can be seen in all its glory.

A brief descent through Pheriche Valley marks your arrival to the Everest Base Camp. You’ll walk below the Khumbu Glacier during your approach and pass memorial cairns for those who have passed during expeditions. EBC will let you meet fellow mountaineers and look out to great views across the surrounding valleys.

Instead of staying at EBC where you must camp, most trekkers stay at teahouses in Gorak Shep. In the morning, you’ll pass through Kala Patthar – the highest point of this trek at 5,545m – and enjoy some final alpine vistas. Then the path winds downward to Namche Bazaar and back to Lukla for your return trip.

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