everest base camp trek khumbu valley

Exploring the Khumbu Valley – Day 3 Trek to Everest Base Camp

It’s Day 3 of our trek to Everest Base Camp.  We arrived last night in Namche Bazaar and today is our rest day.  Of course, a rest day is just another way of saying that there is a walk, but you’re staying in the same place tonight.  Today we’ll be exploring the Khumbu Valley and taking 2 optional hikes.  I use the word optional loosely.  They’re highly recommended for altitude acclimatization.

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Read a Day by Day Guide to Trekking to Everest Base Camp

What Happens on an Everest Base Camp Trek Rest Day?

Because a rest day doesn’t actually mean you rest.  It means you acclimatize.  And to do that, you climb up a little higher in altitude and then walk back down.  “Climb high, sleep low” goes the adage.   But this is optional.  Just 6 of us take the optional 5 am hike, for the longer hike through the Khumbu Valley we all go.

Sunrise Hike Above Namche Bazaar

On this, the first of our “rest days”, I got up at 05:00 to go on the first of two “optional” hikes.   After the last 20 minutes of yesterday, when I was convinced that this was a special kind of hell and how I could have possibly missed reading that this wasn’t just going to be a walk in the park it seems like the only way to do this is to push on through.

And while there hasn’t been any more snow since last night, there is a covering and the pattern established last night of a couple of hours sleep before my bladder complains and needs emptying of the days four liters continues.  The night sky is glorious.  And the silence is beautiful.

Dawn over Namche Bazaar

Apart from the bell that rings on the hour.  Every hour.  And the dogs that bark in between the hours.

0500 Start in the Dark

But at 5 am I’ve no thoughts about wanting to stay in my sleeping bag.  Nige and I join Darryl, Rod, Michael, and Manny, along with Ramesh and Lapka.

We’re going to see the sunshine.  And while that seems like a bizarre thing to say, it’s true.

We can’t see the sunrise, because by the time the sun hits the mountains it has more than risen.

Hiking to see the sunshine Namche Bazaar

It’s just a short walk.  It’s uphill of course.  It takes us perhaps 15 minutes of heavy breathing.

Above Namche Bazaar

The ground is frozen underfoot.  The frost crunches deliciously.  Stamping on fresh white crusts is like being a kid all over again.  Our breath is visible and audible.  It’s truly a winter wonderland and it’s all ours.  There’s no one else here.

Frost on the ground above Namche Bazaar

That feeling of being alone with the mountains here in Nepal is one that will come to me over and over.  Despite the crowds on the main route, step around a corner, rest on a boulder, or pause on a bridge and there’s an amazing feeling of calm, solitude, of stillness.  It’s magical.

Sunrise or sunshine at Namche Bazaar

The Sun Over Everest

We’ve come this morning to see the sun over Everest.  As the sky brightens behind the statue of Tenzing Norgay I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

Watching the Sun Rise at Namche Bazaar

The mountains are still so far away, but the hour or so we spend here is incredible.  It’s hard to stand still and just watch.

sunrise namche bazaar

My instinct is to spin in a circle and try and record it all onto my memory, not the camera.

Views above Namche Bazaar

It’s not just in the direction of Everest where we catch stunning views, but all around, and it’s hard to leave, but a high calorie, high carb breakfast is waiting for us, and seeing as it’s our rest day, we’re going to need it.

Namche Bazaar

Our Rest Day Trek Exploring the Khumbu Valley

Khumbu Valley Map

Khumbu Valley Map of Hike

We’ll start after breakfast and trek to the villages of Khunde and Khumjung.  Then we’ll head back down to Namche for a late lunch.  We get to rest for the remainder of the day.

Namhe Bazaar

We head back out the way that we went for our sunshine over Everest.  There are a few last-minute stores to purchase stuff, a prayer wheel and then it’s up, up, up all the way.

Hiking above Namche Bazaar

This is a goat track.  Built for goats.  And Sherpa.  Not Australians and Europeans.

Looking down on Namche Bazaar

Actually, you’ll see it’s a pretty well-made goat track.  It just feels like hard work.

Namche to Khumbu Valley Trail

Spectacular Views In the Khumbu Valley

The views though continue to be spectacular.  Not as incredible as early this morning when there was no one else here and the sun was low in the sky, but this country is just stunning.  In every direction.

Prayer Flags Khumbu Valley

And it’s so easy to stop for photos and to just look, before shaking yourself and moving on.

The walking is not “hard”.  My legs don’t hurt.  I don’t ache.  And I don’t necessarily feel tired.  Breathing is hard work though.    I feel as though I’m constantly taking lots of shallow breaths.  Breathing deeply doesn’t seem to have any effect.   It just seems to take longer to get the air into my lungs.  I come to think of the wind as an accelerated way of getting precious oxygen into me.  We haven’t done any specific training for this, other than being on the road since May 2014, we have been hiking in most countries though – there was Huashan in China, Hallasan volcano hike in South Korea, and hiking in Sri Lanka.  

A reminder that you should have good comprehensive travel and medical insurance to do this trek, a medical evacuation by helicopter will cost at least US$5,000. Get a price for instant coverage from World Nomads here – they even cover you after you’ve left home. Get a quote here.

Trail Markers Khumbu Valley

Namche Bazaar to Khunde

Our rest day hike will take us to Khunde and then onto Khumjung.  We’ll be gaining valuable altitude, that we’ll lose again when we go back to Namche to sleep tonight.  We’ll also get to visit the Hillary hospital and hear about healthcare from one of the local doctors.

The flattish piece of land that we’ve reached is an old airstrip.   There were moves to put a tarmac surface on it, but they went away.  It was the threat that it would bring to the local economy, which relies so much on the strong backs of the local porters and yaks.

Dzo and Nepali family

We are in yak country now, they can’t survive below 3,000 meters, but they’re in their element here just above Namche.

Namche Airstrip

While there might not be a proper landing strip here, helicopters have been flitting in and out while we’ve been in Namche.  There’s no airport security here, just the advice to hold onto your hat and everything else.  It’s mid-take-off that I consider the loose rocks and other items that might make me a prime target.  I can’t resist watching as I’ll never get this close to a take-off again.

Each time we stop there’s silence as we take in another viewpoint on what seem to be the same peaks.  The names all merge, but the views continue to gain in sheer breathtaking wonder.  It seems each time I look up there is another peak, another sight, that eclipses what I’ve seen before.

Khumbu Valley Views

The exclamations of “wow” of “far out” or “awesome” feel inadequate.  As if words that can encompass the sheer magnificence of this place haven’t been invented yet.

The incredible Khumbu Valley Nepal

Everywhere it seems, there are prayer flags, there are prayer stones and there are stupa.

Walkng to Khunde

It feels just right, that here in this glorious land, there is homage paid, there are thanks given, and prayers offered.

Prayer Stones Khumbu Valley

I could stay here forever and not grow bored of these views.

Trail to Khunde

Bush Toilets in Nepal

But nature calls and I take to the side of the track and find myself a boulder.  Keeping my wits about me for fellow trekkers, I avail myself of a bush toilet.  We’ll soon be in Khunde there are no public toilets.

Prayer Flags Nepal

Khunde

And this is Khunde, where the dry stone walls are works of art.  The signs that this is a short growing season are all around us, as planting takes place and as fertilizer is spread.

Khunde Nepal
Khunde Stone Walls Nepal

Trekking at altitude carries risks. We insured ourselves through World Nomads – buying specific altitude coverage in case of altitude sickness. We were also able to renew our policy while out of our home country. Get a price for your travel and health insurance now.

Khumbu Valley

The Edmund Hillary Hospital, Khunde

Here is the only hospital, here are the only doctors for miles.   It’s vaccination day.  Women have walked for three or four hours to bring their children for childhood jabs.  So we wait and spend 30 minutes with the doctor learning about the care that they dispense here.

Khunde Hospital Khumbu Valley

It’s a sobering thought that the healthcare that we all take for granted is so hard to come by.

Kunde Hospital

Khumjung

Our next stop is Khumjung, where we’re heading for a monastery that has the skull of a Yeti.  You could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the Yorkshire Dales.  Here, for once, we’re also heading downhill, or at least on the flat for a while.  This hiking is much easier than yesterday, where the steps up from Monjo to Namche were killers.

Khunde to Khumjung

There’s no water source in this valley, so it’s channeled through and over the mountains, yet the currently brown land looks rich and ready to grow for the season ahead.

Khumgjung

Khumjung Monastery

There’s disappointment at the monastery.  It’s closed.  It’s lunchtime.  We can wait perhaps an hour, or keep going and head back to Namche.  We’ll be heading through Pangboche later in the trek, where another Yeti skull is held.

Prayer Wheels Khumjung

We decide to head back down.  Which of course is up.  And down and a few ups again.

Back down to Namche Bazaar

And it’s still stunning.

Prayer Stones Khumjung

And so on our first “rest day”, we’ve climbed high, we’ve visited Khunde and Khumjung.  We missed the Yeti skull but donated to the hospital so that local patients might continue to receive care.  Now we’ve returned to Namche to “rest”.  We’ll load up on another carb-fueled dinner ahead of tomorrow’s trek to Phortse Tenga.

Namche Bazaar Lodge DIning Room

Essentials for an Everest Base Camp Trek

And… the most important thing…

Travel Tips for Exploring Nepal

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