Everest Trek 101: The "Three Passes trek consists of a 111.9 mile circuit trek of Kongma La (18,209 ft / 5,550 m), Cho La (17,782 ft / 5,420 m), and Renjo La (17,560 ft / 5,360 m), three of some of the highest points along the trail. It is said to be the most challenging of treks int the Khumbu (Northeastern Nepal side-the Nepalese side of Mount Everest) region. In this post we talk about our trek along the incredible Cho La Pass.
Day 11: Dzongla to Dragnag (5/15)
Trip Duration: 7 hours
Elevation at Dzongla: 4,830 meters (15,850 feet)
Maximum Elevation (Cho La Pass): 5,420 meters (17,782 feet)
End Elevation at Dragnag/Thagnak: 4,700 meters ( 15,420 feet)
Total Ascent/Descent: 699 meters (2,293 feet) / 831 meters (2,726 feet)
Elevation Loss: 130 meters (426 feet)
Distance: 8 km ( 5 miles)
We woke up at our tea house in Dzongla at 5 a.m. to continue our trek from EBC (Everest Base Camp) to Gokyo Ri. Today our route would take us from Dzongla to Dragnag via the Cho La Pass one of the more technical of the popular “Three Passes” treks. We were out the door by 6 a.m because we had a long hike ahead of us and as the weather in the Himalayas can be unpredictable. Because of this you want to get across the Cho La Pass by early-mid morning.
Our trek started with cloudy weather, which created dreamy mountain views.
The Cho La Pass was the highlight of the days trek. There was a lot of hiking leading up to the Cho La Pass and a lot more to go. But a lot of the Cho La Pass has steep inclines with some significant cliff drops-offs. We definitely recommend you take your time and be careful! As mentioned, the trek to Gokyo via the Cho La Pass is one the most difficult to traverse of the “Three Passes” in the Himalayas.
We were told crampons (shoes for ice and snow climbing) were highly recommended. We took into consideration many different opinions and decided not to invest in a pair. However, to make this a safer trek we would recommend to get a pair of lightweight crampons or trekking poles. We’d also recommend having some more substantial hiking boots overall for comfort and performance. We only had low-cut hiking shoes because we only had so much we could carry in our backpacks fro our 7-month RTW trip. Did we get rocks/snow in the shoes. You bet. BUT, we surprised many by completing treks in such varied terrains.
The trail up the pass is a rocky uphill scramble which definitely required us to be on all four at various times. The steep incline also has some substantial cliff drop-offs. This was the most dangerous part of our 15-day trek in the Himalayas. If we weren’t careful we could get in some serious trouble. We were happy we had Govinda to usher/guide us through safely.
When we arrived at the path along the Cho La Glacier we realized we had to be very cautious and safe.
This region was a gorgeous unspoiled valley where we were often the only ones on the trail adding to the majesty.
Walking the path above the Glacier, we wondered what was on the opposite side of the Cho La Glacier? We said to each other (hopefully), “maybe a snow leopard” as snow leopards can live up to 18,000 feet up in the mountains. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any big cats during our trek.
Walking through the path with know one else but ourselves and Govinda, we couldn’t help but wonder “who will find us if something happens”?
Towards the end of the Cho La Pass there is a steep descent across the snow-covered moraine (accumulation of rock and sediment carried down from a glacier) towards the town of Dragnag/Thagnak. At several points we had to slide down slowly on our butts (since we did not have crampons) to be safe. The day prior to our hike, a female trekker actually slipped along this route and luckily Govinda’s brother was there to stop her fall or she could have had a life threatening fall.
Trekking Cho La Pass 101: We 100% recommend hiring a guide when taking the Chola Pass to guide you safely along the best route.
The terrain was now a rocky moraine, we were getting close to our home for the night.
Alas, we have arrived to the village of Dragnag.
What a day! The Cho La Pass is home to some of the most stunning and incredible landscapes ever. We had survived the treacherous icy terrain and felt we earned our rest this day.
We stayed at Chola Pass Resort in the Dragnag (also known as the Thagnak) region, nestled between a valley of hilly mountains. At such high altitudes we did not have the luxury of a sit down toilet. Instead, a hole in the ground had become the “norm”.
What is really interesting about this teahouse is that it uses parabolic solar water heater out in front to heat a variety of things around the teahouse.
That night we tucked ourselves into our chilly beds and tried to contain our excitement. The next day we were set to arrive in Gokyo, home to the most treasured lakes in Nepal.