EVEREST , the significant of knowning Nepal all around the world.From the alarming airstrip at Lukla airport, the trail leads north into mountainous Khumbu, the dizzyingly high Sherpa homeland.The trail forks above the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar gateway to everest and one route leads to Everest Base Camp and the viewpoint of Kala Pattar; the other for the beautiful Gokyo Lakes. Relatively few trekkers now take the switchback hike from the roadhead at Jiri through Solu, the lower, greener, more populous and more ethnically diverse country to the south. It’s a stunning route, and offers a great way to acclimatize, but the extra five to seven days’ walking is too much for many people. You should leave slack in your schedule even if you’re flying, though, as getting a place on a plane out of Lukla can be problematic if bad weather causes cancellations to stack up.
Everest is also the coldest of the major treks, so you’ll need a good sleeping bag, several layers of warm clothes, and sturdy boots that will keep out snow. The rental shops of Namche, in Khumbu, allow you to stock up on high-altitude gear and return it on the way back down. Because of weather, the trekking “window” is especially short in Khumbu – early October to mid-November, and late March to late April – and this, in turn, creates a seasonal stampede on the trails and at the Lukla airstrip. Winter isn’t out of the question, but it’s just that much colder.
While Everest isn’t as heavily trekked as Annapurna, its high-altitude environment is even more fragile. Khumbu, with less than four thousand inhabitants, receives anything from ten to twenty thousand trekkers a year, and probably twice as many porters. Lodge-building almost destroyed the Blue Pine and Silver Fir forests around Lukla, and the demand for firewood is many times the regeneration capacity of the area. Near trekking villages, up to half the juniper shrubs have vanished in smoke. The Sagarmatha National Park, which covers most of Khumbu, has done some fine work in reforestation (funded by the Rs1000 entry fee), but it can’t be said often enough: have as little to do with wood-burning as possible.
The popular trails through Solu-Khumbu are well equipped with lodges, some basic, some fancy and surprisingly expensive – until you consider the costs of portering in all supplies this far. Prices rise as you ascend; near the top, most lodges offer basic bunk beds only. The main Jiri–Lukla–Namche–Base Camp route is very straightforward, as is the alternative high-level spur, to the Gokyo lakes, but a guide is advisable for pretty much anything else.