Trekking in Nepal - the high pass Nangpa La
TThis page shows pictures of a great 5 days trekking tour in the Everest area. The Nangpa La is a 5700 m. high pass connecting Nepal and Tibet.
These pictures are rather small to allow a faster download, however, if you want to see them larger, just click in the corner of the picture.
About 800 years ago people of the Tibetan Khampas started to migrate west from eastern Tibet. They settled on the Cho Oyu and on the north side of Everest (called Chomolongma in Tibetan). Some of
them continued to the south and crossed the Nangpa La to reach Khumbu. Today they are called Sherpas. Even now Khampas from Tibet and Sherpas can understand each other.
The high pass Nangpa La connects Tibet with Nepal
Knowing this, it is a magic feeling to stand there looking deep into Tibet. For centuries Nangpa La was a major trading route. After the Chinese occupied Tibet trade went down and the area became a
military site, strictly forbidden for all foreigners. Many Tibetans fled over the pass to freedom.
Since I was first in Khumbu in 1991 I dreamed of going there one day, and when the first permits were given to organised tours in 2003, I nearly joined one. But it was too expensive and I much prefer to
travel on my own. In spring 2004 I was planning to go for a long trekking tour to the Everest area when I read in a Nepalforum that it was possible to go to Nangpa La on your own, and that the police checking
post no longer there. So I decided to try it.
Nowadays there again is much trade over Nangpa la and Namche Bazar bursts from goods brought over it. For example, there are down jackets, polyester blankets, boots, and technical goods like solar
panels. I have also seen heavy ore ovens and have drunk Chinese Coke. Normally goods from China have a good reputation and are cheaper than the ones carried up from Lukhla.
Initially I had planned to go just with my Nepali friend Bachan, with whom I already have done many interesting treks. I must admit that I was a little afraid, first because I did not know the way, and
secondly, there were rumours that in the year before some adventurous tourist had been robbed by Tibetan Khampas who easily fled back to Tibet, completely out of reach. For centuries the Khampas
have a very bad reputation of being robbers.
We started in Namche with a tent, a stove, many packets RARA noodles and the excellent German Schneider map ”Khumbu”.
We stopped in a little village before Thame to have some dal bhat in a little local lodge where I had had some tea the day before. This day it was
not the nice landlady serving us, but her husband. While we were waiting for lunch to be ready, Bachan saw many certificates saying the landlord was a climbing Guide, had summited Ama Dablam, and has taken part in
Everest and Cho Oyu expeditions. His name was Thukten.
In the little village Thukten’s lodge has no signboard, as they would have to pay higher prices for electricity and lodge taxes.
Soon we agreed that Thukten would join us, as he already had gone many times to Nangpa La, and currently had no other engagement .
Look at his eyes, aren’t they exactly like the ones on the Stupas?
We continued to Thame where we stayed in the Everest Summiter lodge of Apa Sherpa and his wonderful wife. We had met Apa Sherpa before in EBC, where he was preparing his 14th ascent of
Everest! Thukten joined us the next morning and we rented a bigger tent from the lodge. We started about 11 o clock from Thame.
The view from the hill above of Thame Og into the Bhote koshi Valley
the beautiful big stupa in Thame Teng
IIn the beginning the trail leads on the west bank of the Bhote Koshi river, where you come along several little villages. Soon we met Thukten’s wife with their little son who were on their way help the
family to plant potatoes in the village of Tarnga. Once there we had a delicious potato lunch with all the family.
In Maralung the trail crosses the river and divides short after the bridge. The right trail goes up to Lungden and the Renjo La support lodge, the left one is going to Nangpa la.
Aire ~4300 m
We followed the trail in the main valley and reached the little settlement of Aire. In fact. Aire is just a few little houses. There are now two very basic lodges with dorms, serving mainly the many Tibetan traders
coming over the pass. They love to drink Chang after their hard days and so these lodges are busy and open till the very end of the season. I loved to stay in this lodge painted with the name ”Nangpa la
If you descent from Renjo la until the bottom of the main valley you also can see these lodges, and stay there if you have missed Renjo la support lodge in Lungden.
Little “Nangpa La Teahouse Lodge” in Aire
The landlady with her little niece
The next morning we continued , sometimes seeing a lot of yaks, but soon we where on the side of a big glacier hidden behind a huge side moraine. About 2 hours after Aire there are some beautiful
campsites along a little river.
After crossing a glacier coming from the north we soon reached the excellent campsite Lunag
Lunag 5070 m
Just below a huge black rock wall you can find a sweet fountain with crystal clear water. It is on the right side near to big boulder rocks. As this is a very well known camp, the Tibetans have build several
basic stone shelters, but we preferred to stay in our tent.
Campsite Lunag, 5070 m
Just before Lunag we have met this Tibetan lama, he was waiting for a yak caravan to bring him back to Tibet.
Refugees from Tibet
In the afternoon we met the first group of Tibetans. From them we heard that a bigger group of about 50 persons was crossing Nangpa La, fleeing from the Chinese occupation and hoping to be able to
reach Dharamsalla and the Dalai Lama in India.
Some of them had warm jackets, but many of them were very poorly equipped, none of them had a sleeping bag or a tent. But far worse was the lack of proper sunglasses, and a few where already
snow-blind and were guided by their friends with a little rope.
IIn the night I was glad that strong Thukten was with us, as three times Tibetans came to our tent and he could speak with them. We were just starting to boil some water for breakfast tea, when more and
more refugees were coming down. They were in terrible condition, freezing and very thirsty. So for the next one and half hours my little stove was constantly heating water which they drank hastily before they
continued on their way to a hopefully better future.
Bachan with his blue down jacket is busy making hot water
Even little children crossed Nangpa La
Kangchung ~5250 m
Shortly after the big black rockwall of Lunag the trails turns to the right and it is there that Nangpa la first
is seen. After about 3 hours we reached the campsite of Kanchung. This is the last solid ground before the trail continue on the glacier. On the way we met a group of English trekkers. They had started from
Kanchung to Nangpa La the day before and now returned. They took the 16 hours and they must have been completely exhausted. Anyway, they were very bad humoured, so it is not advisable to do that!
Just above Kanchung is a beautiful mountain with an enormous ice wall.
The mountain above of Kanchung
Just after Kanchung the trails continues over the main glacier. As it is constantly moving, everything is
changing, new crevasses open and big glacier lakes fill up, while other crevasses are closed. For this reason there is no fixed trail and no map can show the area accurately. The yak-caravans are always
looking to find the best way and will mark it. The whole glacier has a layer of very loose rocks which makes walking pretty difficult. Sometimes you can see the barren ice in a very deep blue through the
The mountain above Kanchung seen from the north
Fortunately the trail is coloured by yak manure , which can be very helpful finding the trail. Sometime you also see some cairns
Definitively you are on the right trail!
Still it sometimes is very difficult to find the trail, as it zigzags over the full width of the glacier. Walking
on the layer of loose rocks is very exhausting as one has constantly to go up and down. And this at 5400 m altitude!
up and down- but always on loose rocks
In the back Nangpa La is seen
The ice pillars are more than 3 m high
Nangpa La is dangerous and exhausting. Despite the many dead Yaks the area is just beautiful.
big glacier lakes
My friend Bachan
it is definitively exhausting to climb all this ice hills above 5000m
but just beautiful
Dzasampa ~5400 m
The upper part of the Nangpa la is a flat glacier covered with snow. This glacier pushes over a rock
barrier in a breathtaking ice fall. Near this sits the small campsite of Dzasampa. You just can find place for a few little tents, but there is water so that you don’t have to melt snow.
The marvellous Ice fall
In the early morning a big yak-caravan came up the trail
and on one of the Yaks the Tibetan lama was sitting.
Going up the ice
in the upper , flat, part crevasses are just 10-30 cm large
The yak-caravan on the snow field
The upper part is pretty flat
Nangpa La 5716 m
From Nangpa La one can see deep into Tibet
Me and Bachan
On the tibetan side you can see Cho Oyu base camp
In April 2004 a few expeditions were there
Looking back to the nepal valley
- You need a tent, stove, and food which can be cooked in high altitude, e.g., Rara noodles, porridge and muesli. NO
RICE! It would take you more than 90 min to cook it there!
- You need to be fully acclimatised before starting this trek.
- You can combine this trek with crossing Reno La from Gokyo. When you continue, go down to the main Valley to reach Aire, or you can sleep in Lungden Renjo La support
lodge and continue the next morning like proposed in day 1. But this means that you have to carry al the stuff over Renjo La.
- A local Guide is a real great help.
- The only good map is the German ”Schneider” map Khumbu which you can buy in Kathmandu. I could not find an acceptable ore useful Nepali map
It took me 4.5 Days from Thame to Nangpa La and back to Thame.
I was perfectly acclimatised, as I was coming from EBC, even then it was very hard to go up for three days above 5000 m, especially walking up the glacier.
I had a local guide, Thukten Sherpa with me, who carried a lot of my load.
Our schedule was:
Day 1: Starting in Thame at 12 o clock, coming to Aire in the late afternoon.
Day 2: Aire Lunag (Camping)
Day 3: Lunag to Kanchung to Dzasampa (Camping)
Day 4: Dzasampa-Nangpa la-Kanchung -Lunag (9,5 walking hours, I was very tired and out of breath for more than 3 hours after we reached Lunag (camping)
Day 5: Lunag-Thame Lunch at Aire
On the way we met a group that had gone from Kanchung to Nangpa la day before and were headed back to Kanchung. They were completely exhausted and very bad humoured. So I would not advise to do this.
I would propose:
Day 1: Start at Thame in the morning -Lunch in Aire and go further for 2-3 hours- Camp
day 2: camping site to Kanchung Camp
day 3 Kanchung-Dzasampa Camp
Day 4 Dzasampa-Nangpa La - Kanchung Camp
Day 5 Kanchung Aire (local and very basic lodge)
Day 6 Aire -Thame
Some additional space pictureres are seen at Khumbu space pictures
Thukten has been a very good companion and Guide. He has no email or phone, but you can contact him in his lodge. He has also been 4 times on island peak.
Palden Sherpa from the Namaste Lodge in Namche Bazaar. He can help you to organise a trek to Nangpa la. He has tents and stoves and all expedition equipemen. He can also orgnise trekking
expeditions e.g. to Island peak. He also knows Thukten Sherpa so you could ask for him. his Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
I also can recommend my friend Bachan . He has a guide license but will still carry about 20 kg for you. He was with me for more than 8 weeks in Khumbu and knows al trekking passes .His email is email@example.com
a great picture of Nangpa la is seen in Project Himlaya
I like to thank Grandma B, well known from the Yetizone trekking board, who helped me to write this page in English.