When trekking in Nepal, the country’s extremely varied altitude is something you have to always keep in mind. The trails here go higher than the peaks of the tallest mountains in Europe. So, how is it to cross the famous high passes of the Himalayans? It will test your muscles and lungs to the breaking point. Your knees will suffer even more as you descend. High passes treks are only for those seasoned trekkers who are looking for a new adventure. Here, we have listed down Nepal’s top five high passes treks for true adventurers.
Everest Three Passes Trek
Since you have landed on our blog, you surely know about the Annapurna Circuit Trek. But, what about Everest Circuit Trek? Today, on our list of Nepal’s top five high passes treks, we will tell you all about it. For starter, the popular Everest Three Passes Trek is the ultimate Everest circuit that comes full circle in Lukla.
After ascending from Lukla to Chhukung, you will cross the Kongma La pass (5,535m) to Lobuche and Everest Base Camp. From there, you will continue over the Cho La pass (5,420m) to Gokyo, and finally, cross the Renjo La pass (5,345m) to Thame and Namche Bazaar. It’s a trail tailored only for the truly adventurous ones. In the last decade, improvements in the mountain region have made it possible to complete this complete circuit of Khumbu from Lukla.
Under most circumstances, crossing the “three passes” isn’t difficult. But, since all these routes climb above 5000m, acclimatisation is crucial. Thus, it is one of the most strenuous treks in our list of Nepal’s top five high passes treks. Don’t forget to take all the necessary steps to acclimatise properly. Otherwise, you will fall victim to AMS, and we don’t want that! Under favourable weather condition, you can conquer all three passes without crampons, axes, and ropes. But, ice and snow may sometimes create dangerous situations.
Some sections of the route were affected during the 2015 earthquake. For instance, the loop from Gokyo to Namche Bazaar via Renjo La. But again, it has been three years since the earthquake, and the route is once again trekkable. But, it is still essential to check if accommodation and food are readily available or not. Fear not, we will promptly do that for you!
Thorung La Pass Trek
The 5,416m Thorung La pass is the highest in Nepal and crossing it can be potentially dangerous. However, the gratification you’ll feel after crossing it precedes the hazards of completing it. And, that is why it is on our list of Nepal’s top five high passes treks.
The trek commences from Besi Shahar in Lamjung and ends at Pokhara. However, in some trekking itineraries, the trek begins from Jagat in Kaski. The trek up to the pass from Manang is not very difficult, but it is a long way at high altitude. Therefore, you must plan your itinerary very wisely to avoid AMS. God forbid it happens, be prepared to return all the way to Besi Shahar.
Thorung La is usually always snowbound and shut from mid-December to March, although we can’t guarantee the exact closure dates. Moreover, the route can be impossible to locate in fresh snow. Once again, be prepared to return or stay in your lodge if that happens.
We don’t mean to scare you, but the storms and cyclones created in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea can shut the trail with massive snowfalls. So, make sure you are well prepared for the trek. Once you embark, the only ways out are to head back to Besi Shahar, cross the pass to Jomsom, or catch a flight from Hongde airport near Manang. It is undoubtedly the most difficult one in our list of Nepal’s top five high passes treks.
Kangmara La Pass Trek
A high route to Dolpo will lead you across the Kangmara La pass (5115m). In short, we can say that it is a high pass crossing offering a wild variation on route traversing Jumla to Dolpo, and a shortcut to Phoksundo Lake. This less trodden path will take you to the beautiful Rara and Phoksundo Lake. On top of that, it goes through the isolated and hidden Dolpo. These are just a few among many reasons why we have featured Kangmara La Trek on our Nepal’s top five high passes treks.
The trek duration can be anywhere from between 23 and 25 days. It depends upon your itinerary. The trek starts from Juphal in Dolpa and ends at Talcha. The region suffered little to no damage during the 2015 earthquake. But, long days and significant altitude gains characterise the route. Therefore, be wary of signs of AMS and sudden weather changes.
On the day of crossing the pass, make sure that you begin at the crack of dawn. The last 90 minutes of ascending will certainly involve a lot of snow. And, the rewards? Fantastic mountain views and perhaps a blue goat and a snow leopard.
The trek and the cross might not be challenging, but you might face problems finding porters willing to make the journey. It is the most isolated and rarely visited region and trekking route from our list of Nepal’s top five high passes treks. We don’t recommend embarking this trek from November to early May. During these months, the path is generally covered in snow and potentially dangerous. Under normal circumstances, crossing the path takes about four days from Kaigaon to Sumduwa.
Ganja La Pass Trek
Ganja La Trek is the most dangerous and challenging trekking route in the Langtang area. But, it is still our pick for Nepal’s top five high passes treks. More on that later. The sharp crossing of Ganja La (5,106m) from Kyanjin Gompa in Langtang to Tarke Ghyang in Helambu will be one of the best journeys you will ever make.
From the pass, you can have surreal views of Langtang Lirung and Tibetan peaks including the Shisha Pangma (8,103m). The 14-day loop trek envelopes the best of Langtang Valley and Gosainkunda treks, including the need to backtracking.
But, the crossing of the path involves a very steep climb through an avalanche-prone valley. In short, the trek is challenging and requires extensive camping equipment. Under any given circumstance, do not try crossing the path alone or without enough equipment. Usually, the route is closed from November to May. It may also be closed during other times because of sudden snow.
Like other trekking routes in the Langtang region, the Ganja La Trek route suffered extensive damage during 2015 damage. However, that was three years ago. The locals here earned admiration from all over the world for the quick restoration of the routes, accommodation, and so on. Their warm hospitality is alone a reason enough for us to include this trek as one of Nepal’s top five high passes trek. But, still, make sure to check with the travel agencies and locals to know about the condition of the route. In retrospect, we’ll happily do that for you.
Do Tarap Loop Trek
Do Tarap Loop Trek is the second route in the Dolpo region on our list of Nepal’s top five high passes trek. In short, the trek is a long walk to an isolated reserve of rich Tibetan culture, then two over high passes, through the remote yak-herding country to emerald Phoksundo Lake. First of all, Tarap is a beautiful, secluded valley of complete Tibetan influence.
You can visit the village by making a loop to Tarap Chu from Dunai, across two passes to Phoksundo Lake and back to Dunai. Alternatively, you can also trek in the reverse direction, beginning from Dunai or Jumla. The best highlights of the trek include wild gorge of Tarap Chu, a valley adorned by Tibetan monasteries. Between Do Tarap and Phoksundo, you can witness Western Nepal’s amazing alpine scenery. The versatility of the region and route is one reason why we have featured the trek on our Nepal’s top five high passes treks list.
Crossing the Numa La (5,318m) and Baga La (5,190m) passes are indeed a challenging adventure, which will take you through some wild, high country without communication or rescue facilities. The passes usually are at least open until late October. Also, it is possible to trek through during monsoon. However, flights are subjected to delay due to sudden rainfalls.
The region did not face any damage during 2015 earthquake. However, given Dolpo’s isolation, you might encounter difficulties regarding accommodation, food, and finding porters. It’s always wise to first do your bit of research. Or, we can do that for you, of course!