Nepal Trekking Days 8-9: Gokyo and Dragnag

A popular variant on the Everest base-camp trek, for those looking for just a little more adventure and scenery, is to detour via Gokyo then rejoin the main route by crossing over Cho-La. It is certainly worth doing; Gokyo is beautifully situated in its own right, with excellent day-walks to the other lakes in the district, and a world-beating panoramic view from the top of Gokyo-Ri (the mountain adjacent to Gokyo village). For this reason though it was a bit more crowded than we were used to from the last couple of days, and after arriving slightly later than planned we ended up in the porters' accommodation on the first night.

The rest day scheduled for Gokyo turned out to host the first truly breath-taking view (I appreciate this is all relative), one of my top three spots from the trek. We went on a walk, just of a few hours, up to the "fifth lake" (there are six in the Gokyo district, and Gokyo village is located on the third). What made it all the more special is it turned out to be the only spot that we truly had to ourselves; remarkably almost no-one else knew about this particular lookout! Score one for hiring a guide. We asked him how he came to find out about it; apparently fourteen years previously when he'd been working as a porter (there is a strict progressing in the trekking industry, with all guides required to start as porters and work their way up) he had come there on a trek, and instantly knew he would take people there when he was a guide himself!

The spot itself overlooks a glacier, with a panorama of some of the world's largest mountains behind and around it, and for some reason they appear to be much closer than any other spot I can recall. Everest is on the right in the panoramas below, just behind Nuptse. Also visible are Lohtse (8516m), Cho Oyu (8201m), and Makalu (8485m).

It was also a great example of just how lucky we got with the weather. October is the peak season for trekking because you are most likely to get clear weather, but it was actually quite overcast for much of our trip (which also played havoc with the flights in and out of Lukla, manifesting itself as bursts of other trekkers as they cleared the backlogs). We saw quite a few "scenic" flights heading towards Everest with everything shrouded in clouds! For the most part though, every time there was a major view point it seemed to clear for us, and this short hike was no exception: it was quite dreary as we set out, and only started to clear about half an hour before we reached the lookout... when it was almost perfectly clear and sunny! It was clouding over again as we headed home from memory.

The next morning we climbed Gokyo-Ri, for one of the world's definitive mountain views (for my mind it beats the view from the more famous Kala Patthar). Again the weather was perfect; we had wisely gone up about breakfast time, where-as the poor folk* who had got up before dawn to see the sunrise apparently had a spectacular view of clouds.

*I say "poor folk" quite charitably, since that group includes the loud American banging on the doors of all his compatriots saying "It's 3am, time to get up!", apparently forgetting that the walls are thin plywood and that other people were staying. But I digress.

In the afternoon we left for Dragnag, which is a short couple of hours walk over a glacier and lies right at the base of the next pass: Cho-La.

Mark Hepburn 27 December 2010
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