Since the release of Jon Krakauer’s sensational bestseller Into Thin Air, the trail that leads to Everest Base Camp has become increasingly crowded every trekking season. With the news that Nepal plans to build a paved road between the towns of Jiri and Lukla, the gateway to Sagamartha National Park, many will soon find an easier path across this well-traveled region. While the masses are following the standard route across one of the world’s most popular treks, there are opportunities for adventurers to forge new paths to the less visited areas of the Khumbu region.
Makalu Base Camp
Leading to Makalu, the world’s fifth highest peak, the trail to base camp is remote, strenuous, and more adventurous than the road to Everest. Beginning with a flight into Tumlingtar, a remote airfield in Eastern Nepal, and well under the elevation of Lukla, the 12-day trail to Makalu ascends over 3,000-feet (1,100-meters) in the first four days. The teahouse lodges are simple, and trekkers pitch tents on the more remote sections of the trail. Starting from a rhododendron grove, the trail ascends into a valley of towering monolithic granite walls, cascading glaciers, and soaring waterfalls. Base camp is set in a lush valley with the titular peak rising dramatically in the background. Makalu’s sharp black pyramid pierces the sky above a jagged skyline that includes Everest, Lhotse and Baruntse.
Three Passes Trek
Following a breathtaking trail around the opposite end of Everest Base Camp, the Three Passes Trek traverses Kongma Ra, Cho La, and Renjo La, a series of alpine valleys that gaze on the world’s highest peak but receive a fraction of the trekkers that follow the standard path. After following the familiar path, trekkers veer east from Tengboche and track towards the emerald-like Ama Dablam. From just under her twin summits, the trail ascends to a lookout over the Khumbu Icefall, the treacherous moving glacier that guards the Everest climbing route. A high traverse descends into the Gokyo Region, famous for its jade-colored lakes and a panorama of several 8,000-meter peaks from Gokyo Ri. After several days at 16,000-feet, trekkers descend to the town of Thame and follow the standard route to Lukla.
Ama Dablam Base Camp
Ama Dablam is without a doubt one of the most unforgettable mountains in the world. With twin summits, a hanging glacier across the face, and pure white slopes, the peak’s sublime beauty is one of the highlights of a trip into the Khumbu. The trek to its base camp is a shorter and less crowded sojourn up a nearby ridge. From here, there are unobstructed views of Ama Dablam, Lhotse, Nuptse, and Cho Oyu. Camp is established just below, and the climb to the ridge starts well before dawn, concluding with a magnificent golden alpenglow bathing the Himalayas. Afterward, the descent to Khumjung, where Edmund Hillary established a hospital and school, offers views of Kongde Ri’s massive wall overshadowing Namche Bazaar and the jagged Kantega.
Rowlwaling Valley Trek
The Western Khumbu is a remote land thats rarely explored or even talked about. There are no teahouses here, no established tourist trade, and no amenities just for trekkers. Known for its collection of 6,000-meter peaks and high alpine passes, the Rowlwaling Valley requires skillful route-finding, preparation, and off-trail experience. Settled between the Bhote and Dudh Kosi rivers, the isolation of this region makes rescue extremely difficult. The villages on the Tibetan border retain their authenticity with sparse Western influence other than the traders who travel from China. Ascending up one of the Valley’s many passes, the view to the east looks at the Solokhumbu, but even more unexpected, the western view looks on the mysterious Langtang region including the fearsome Langtang Lirung.