Click PLAY or watch a 1 minute preview on YouTube.
In 2020 trekking mostly stopped due to the COVID pandemic.
The Everest region wasn’t as badly affected by the April 2015 earthquake as were Langtang, Manaslu and Annapurna.
Attention – In 2019, most flights to and from Lukla were flying into and out of Manthali airport, not Kathmandu. At least a 4 hour drive added each way.
Attention – Since October 2018, a new new local entry Khumbu permit is required for the Everest treks. If flying to Lukla, buy it there. If trekking from Jiri or Salleri buy it in Monjo. You can’t get it anywhere else. Cost is Rs 2,000 (approximately $20) for most foreigners.
The Trekker’s Information Management System (TIMS) Card is no longer required on Everest as this Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality of Solukhumbu district replaces it.
In summary, permits needed for foreigners as of 2019:
- Khumbu permit – Rs 2,000 (approximately $20) at Lukla or Monjo
- Sagarmatha Park permit – Rs 3,000 (Approx. US $30) in Kathmandu at the Tourism Board Office — or in Monjo at the Park Entrance Gate.
Easiest would be pay for both at Monjo Park Entrance.
If you sign on with a trekking guide, they will get all required permits for you.
Everest Base Camp / 3 Passes
Every hiker wants to see Sagarmatha – goddess mother of the world
There’s NO shortage of information on how to hike to Everest Base Camp (5,320m / 17,450ft) in Sagarmatha National Park, Nepal.
But the best route is fairly new, via three high passes:
Kongma La (5,535m)
Cho La (5,380m)
Renjo La (5,388m)
You can do one, two or three of those.
If 3 Passes are not challenging enough, you add a side trip to any of these trekking peaks:
- Kala Pattar (5,545m) … the most popular
- Gokyo Ri (5,483m) … similar vista to Renjo La
- Nangkartshang (5073m)
- Chukkung Ri (5,550m)
Sacred Gokyo Lakes is a superb side-trip.
The focus of this page is this difficult 3 Passes route. For independent trekkers. (Many sources wrongly state that a guide is mandatory.)
AT A GLANCE
- in 2013 we moved 3 Passes to our list of top 10 hikes in the world, replacing the Annapurna Circuit
- majority of hikers in the Everest region hire a guide, porter(s) and/or pack animal(s) but it’s fairly easy to do independently
- guided trekkers stay in lodges, or sprawling tent encampments
- October to November best months
- beginning of March to mid-May next best
- 16-18 days minimum for 3 Passes. 21 days would allow for rest / illness / sidetrip / and other unanticipated delays.
- if you don’t have time, it’s recommended 14 days just to get to Base Camp and back safely.
- generally easy hiking on good trails with a light pack. Some very challenging, potentially dangerous sections, if you cross any of the 3 Passes
- on the main trails buy food as you go and stay in simple “lodges”
- Everest trails are not expensive, but many spend more than they anticipate on luxuries
- be clear — you might have to QUIT if by bad luck or rushed ascent you suffer altitude sickness (Acute Mountain Sickness or AMS).
- many suffer respiratory problems. And fatigue.
Why We Like This Hike
- wonderful photographic opportunities
- it’s fun to leave the main trails, take to the paths less traveled
- very little gear is needed
- you can easily get pack weight down to 10kg (22lbs)
- walk with no tent, stove or food. Stay in lodges, eat in simple restaurants. Books are often available for rest days.
- safe and easy to hike solo
- no need to speak Nepali, only English
- food is good and quite safe (compared with Kathmandu)
- Everest is the goal. But our favourite peak is Ama Dablam, much more visible en route.
- guest houses sell “hot (luke warm) showers”
- at altitude, food tastes GREAT. The bakery in Tengboche is particularly good.
- Maoists never have bothered trekkers much in the Everest region because the one bridge entrance can be so easily policed
- keep your pack light by resupplying at stores like this one in Dingboche
Tred in the footprints of the great Everest mountaineers. Here’s the shrine of Babu Chiri Sherpa at Dughla Pass
First concern of many is the flight in to Lukla Airport 9,380ft (2,860m), officially named Tenzing-Hillary Airport since 2008.
Click PLAY or watch a flight on YouTube.
Most Extreme Airports, broadcast on The History Channel in 2010, rated the airport as most dangerous in the world.
There have been plenty of accidents. Statistically, however, riding a Nepali bus to the Jiri trailhead may be even more dangerous. About 95% of Everest trekkers fly leaving the Jiri walk-up uncrowded.
- assuming your plane lands, this is a surprisingly safe adventure. Even for solo trekkers.
- if you acclimatize well, and have enough days, it’s relatively easy to get to Everest Base Camp
- but the 3 passes are challenging. For example, Kongma La 5535m, is about 9hrs. No facilities. Remote. Rugged. Here’s Pokhalde Base Camp.
- all 3 passes are weather and health permitting. It’s easy to skip any one of the 3 if you are hiking independently.
- November 1995 a freak snow storm killed dozens (46 some say) of hikers, porters and guides throughout the Himalaya, most by avalanche. Bring suitable clothing. This Yak knows how to dress.
- Main trails are easy. But crossing glaciers can be difficult and dangerous. Get local advice before you do so. When hiking independently, we’d follow guided groups.
- some hikers buy Diamox in Nepal. It’s called Diamox Sequels in the USA.
- some even bring a course of antibiotics, just in case
- both men and women are advised to wear modest clothing respecting local culture
- treat water
- do not buy bottled water on the trek
- “squater” pit toilets are the norm though western toilets are increasingly available
- you’ll be tempted by pizza, beer, German bakeries and everything else. Almost everyone spends more money than they expect.
- bring a combination padlock for your door in lodges
- be wary of crossing bridges if you see pack animals — or heavily laden porters — approaching from the opposite direction. You might be knocked down.
All guides and lodges have phones. More hikers are carrying them.
In Kathmandu buy a SIM card from Nepal Telecom Namaste , the best network for the mountains. Data inexpensive. It works well at least up to Namche.
You might want to avoid telephone in the “wilderness”. But consider how many lives have been saved by modern communication.
- slow internet is available too. At cost. Right up to at Gorak Shep 5,164m.
Visa on arrival for most nations at Tribhuvan International, Kathmandu in 2019:
Multiple entry 15 days US$ 30
Multiple entry 30 days US$ 50
Multiple entry 90 days US$ 125
You can pay with credit card or other major currencies. The visa on arrival process is much faster and simpler than in the past. No need to bring passport photos as machines now take your mugshot photo.
In 2016 you could do an Everest trek for $400-$500 (2-3 weeks) to and from Lukla, independently. Frugal Sam and Danielle only spent about $40 / day (or $20 USD/day/person) carrying their own packs.
In 2019 while on the trail Nikki spent about $20 / day hiking up to Namche. About $45 / day above Namche.
Budget and carry at least $40 / day / person in cash to be on the safe side.
Up high, solar showers cost $4-6. Hot water bottles for your sleeping bag $3. Battery charging as high as $7. It adds up.
Bringing a stove & fuel for making your own hot drinks saves money. As does carrying a solar powered battery bank for recharging.
In case of emergency, carry more cash than you need. Nepalese rupees. It’s a cash economy in the mountains.
In 2019 the most we could take out of a bank machine at one time was 35000 NPR (about $300). We used Nabil Bank machines withdrawing directly from our bank cards, not credit cards, to reduce the transaction fee cost and avoid interest.
There is a currency exchange and ATMs in Namche. But the withdrawal limit is lower. The fee higher.
Evacuation by helicopter is expensive. Payment must be guaranteed in advance. Bring your credit card, just in case.
Consider purchasing good insurance coverage for this trip. World Nomads, for example, offers policies covering hikers up to 3000m, 4500m or 6000m.
In 2019 we bought 30 day visas for Nepal. And World Nomads insurance for those same 30 days.
- get a trekking guidebook well in advance and decide on your destination each day. That way you can adjust for weather and fitness. It’s fairly common to take a rest day while ascending to acclimatize for altitude.
- The solid red line on the map below shows the standard Base Camp trek. We recommend you add one, two or three of the high passes:
Kongma La (5,535m)
Cho La (5,380m)
Renjo La (5,388m)
- if you want to fly out as most do, consider buying your flight out of Lukla in Kathmandu in advance. You can change the date of your return, if necessary. It might be difficult to get a seat on a plane for the day you want if you try to buy in Lukla.
- Namche Bazaar — one of our top 10 hiking towns in the world — is the end of civilization.
Almost no independent hikers tent. Yet BestHike editor Rick McCharles did (a few nights).
Tenting is absolutely unnecessary. But Rick enjoyed the experience. Surprisingly, dispersed tenting is not illegal in the National Park. But it’s best to be discrete.
Here’s the goal for every Base Camp trekker. Kala Patthar as seen from Gorek Shek. The intimidating mountain in the background is Pumori 7161m (23,494 ft).
And there is the BIG mountain as seen from Kala Patthar.
From the Nepal side, it’s difficult to get a good look at Everest. You must earn the privilege.
Many also trek to Everest Base Camp. It’s a harsh place.
This Google Earth flyover of a Base Camp trek via Cho-La gives you an excellent idea of the terrain. It includes a climb of Island Peak (6,189m/20,305ft) after acclimatization.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Hiking independently gives you the freedom to decide each day where you want to go next in the Khumba. There are many, many options once you get there. Decide day-by-day.
related – trekking to Everest North Base Camp in Tibet
Should you sign on with a guide?
Consider that you will then be tied into the group itinerary. You’ll travel only as fast as the slowest person in your group.
If not sure, go independently. And — if it turns out you need help — hire a porter, porter-guide or guide and porters yourself on the trail. That can be arranged next day from most lodges.
If you wait until you arrive Nepal there are dozens of local companies eager to sign you on. Some are great, others less reliable. We would join up only with a company for which we had personal references.
Only TAAN registered trekking agencies in Kathmandu and Pokhara can legally organize treks and provide the services of a guide and/or porter with insurance. Be aware that no one else, no hotel, no street broker, no nice person you just met, not even a trekking guide is legally authorized to organize a trek. During the main seasons the agencies run regular group treks, both tea-house and camping styles …
A guide will show you the way, but not carry your gear. They may be Nepali or foreign. Many hikers are happier to be led — though you certainly can do this hike on your own without a guide. A good guide may enrich the trip for you.
A porter guide from the Trekking Workers’ Association of Nepal is a local who speaks English who may also carry a limited load, perhaps 15kg (33lbs). You can hire a porter guide if and when you need one on the trail for something like US$20 / day plus tip (2019). There is often an insurance fee added.
Check the website of one such porter guide to give you an idea of how it works – Devendra Pun.
Certainly, trekkers regularly have trouble with guides:
- some can be insistent on where they want you to stop each night. This sometimes leads to conflict.
- they ask for more money, or gear they “forgot” to bring
- they may want to change / shorten the itinerary
- they may ask you hire an additional porter once you get on the trail
Kristen loved her trip with Anywhere Plus.
Compare some of these:
- Nepal Trekking Holidays 3 Passes
- Himalayan Wonders
- Jagged Globe 3 Passes
- Crusade Himalaya 3 Passes
- One World Trekking – 3 Passes
- World Expeditions Everest High Passes
- Third Rock Adventures
- Mountain Kingdoms 3 Passes
- Unique Paths High Passes
- International Mountain Guides 3 Peaks & 3 Passes
If you sign on with a guide, let them organize everything. You are there simply to follow. And enjoy. There’s plenty of time to go off day hiking on your own.
For independent hikers …
- get a guidebook early
- decide on what weeks of the year you could trek
- finalize how much time you can spend on the trail (3 weeks being the goal)
- get to Lukla on foot or by air
- weather permitting, there are dozens of flights everyday Kathmandu to Lukla.
- the alternative to flying is to walk in from Jiri, 5-7 trekking days west of Lukla. You probably want up to 4 weeks for the Jiri itinerary.
- once in Lukla, decide day-to-day
- best hike is 3 Passes
- second best hike is 2 Passes, skipping Renjo
- you can try to change your flight to an earlier day if finishing earlier than expected
- visit Kathmandu after you trek, not before. Many get sick in Kathmandu. Get sick after trekking, not before.
- donate any clothing or gear you don’t want to take home to the Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP)
- TrekkingPartners.com (find others to hike with you)
- you can now book some lodges in advance online
If you want to hike in rather than take the plane to Lukla, check this post – Everything you need to know about Jeep to Phaplu or Salleri 2018
An intriguing alternative to the terrible 10 hour bone rattling bus rides to possible walking trailheads is flying to Tumlingter instead.
From Tumlingter (460m) you can walk to Lukla (8-12 days) via a little used route, sleeping at the few & rudimentary bhattis (teashops) with simple menus. Mostly dal bhat. Or you could tent en route. This can be done independently or you could hire a guide/porter en route.
Best Trekking Guidebooks
Check to see that you are ordering the most recent edition.
- Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya (2009) – Bradley Mayhew & Joe Bindloss – is the first guide you should pick up. It’s got a good overview of 3 Passes.
- Cicerone Everest: A Trekker’s Guide: Trekking routes in Nepal and Tibet (2012) – Kev Reynolds
- Trek Everest Base Camp: The Ultimate Preparation & Survival Guide (PDF) – Jason Weise
- Trailblazer Trekking in the Everest Region, 5th (2009) – Jamie McGuinness
- The Everest Trek: The Everest Trek in the Nepal Himalaya from Jiri to Solu Khumbu, Gokyo and Kalla Pattar – Ian P Johnson
- Trailblazer Nepal Trekking & the Great Himalaya Trail – (2011) Robin Boustead
Best Travel Guidebooks
Yep. We still like Lonely Planet best.
Other Recommended Books
- Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster – Jon Krakauer
- A Beard In Nepal (2012) – Fiona Roberts
- Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal (2011) – Conor Grennan
- The Snow Leopard – Peter Matthiessen
- Travelers’ Tales Nepal – Rajendra S. Khadka
- The Chomolungma Diaries: What a commercial Everest expedition is really like – Mark Horrell
- Nepal Trek – A Woman Alone (2006) – Kay Petterson Shaw
- The Ascent of Rum Doodle – W.E. Bowman
You are not likely to get lost. Guidebooks are enough. Still, opening up a big map is a good excuse to take a break from walking. 🙂
Online Maps / Apps
Navigation is not difficult in this region. We use the free Maps.me app.
Best Web Pages
- Stingy Nomads – Everest Base Camp independently ($35.60/day)
- The Ultimate Guide To Walking The Everest Base Camp Trek Independently
- KimKim – Everest Region Treks
- Jiri to Everest Base Camp Trek – A Complete Guide
- wikitravel – Everest Base Camp Trek
- Lonely Planet – Top Ten Detours off the Everest trek
- wikitravel – Trekking in Nepal
- living if (2012) – Nepal Trekking Tips
- Nepal Trekking Holidays
- World Nomads travel insurance
- TrekkingPartners.com (find others to hike with you)
- Staying online on Everest Basecamp 2018
Best Trip Reports
ramblin’ boy – 3 Passes Trek
- Stingy Nomads – Everest Base Camp Trek on a Backpacker budget
- Everest 2 Passes (2009) – besthike editor Rick McCharles
- living if (2012) – 3 Passes
- Backpacker – EVEREST CONFIDENTIAL: TREKKING THROUGH NEPAL’S KHUMBU REGION (2012) – Justin Nyberg
- Nepal Trekking Holidays – Paul Darlow – 3 Passes
- Everest Base Camp Trek w porter – FAQ (2013) – Escape Artistes
Leave a comment if you’ve got an up-to-date 3 Passes trip report to recommend.
First, watch Hank Leukart’s 2017 trip on YouTube.
Next PLAY this one or watch it on YouTube.
Click Play or watch Adrian Dmoch’s excellent edit on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch some The Rest of Everest drone footage.
Click PLAY or watch Trigger Happy’s trip walking, rather than flying on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Click PLAY or watch Ryan Van Duzer’s 2016 trip on YouTube.
If you are seriously researching 3 Passes, sit down and watch this longer mini-documentary.
The traveling Freeses go to Nepal and hike to Chukhung Ri, Kongma La, Everest Base Camp, Kala Patthar, Cho La, Gokyo Ri and Renjo La – November 2011.
Click PLAY or watch it on Vimeo.
Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.