EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK DIARY DAY 8
THANGNA TO DZONGLA
Starting Point: Thangna (4,700m/15,420ft)
Finishing Point: Dzongla 4,860m/15,950ft)
Trekking Time: 7 Hours
Accommodation: Hotel Green Valley
Day 8 of our trek to Everest Base Camp started quite early – 4:30am to be exact. As the route from Thangna to Dzongla is quite a long and taxing day, it’s important that you get out as early as possible. It’s considered a tough day as we are set to hit our second high pass of the route – Cho La Pass (5340m). Heading out early gives you better odds at enjoying the views atop the high pass before the moody weather of the afternoon rolls in. It’s also safer that way as well. After forcing down some porridge oats and bundling ourselves with multiple layers, we set off on one of the more challenging days of our adventure.
The trail leaving Thangna started just behind our teahouse and didn’t waste any time getting steep. I thought Prem was joking when he said that was the route we would be taking.
The path descends into the valley and makes its approach towards the pass. The closer you get, the higher that wall gets and the more that the challenge ahead starts to sink in. Through the valley and approaching the wall we were climbing over rocks and massive boulders. You could hear the echoes of falling rocks all around us – it was clear that we needed to stay vigilant.
The path zigzagged up and across massive hills for about two hours before we finally arriving at the main ridge. In the distance we could see the ominous wall of mountains that somehow we were going to trek up and over.
We took a short break at the base of the path to the high pass. Looking up, it funnily reminded me of the Wall in Game of Thrones. We were in Westeros and needed to scale the wall to get to whatever was on the other side. Instead of White Walkers, it’s more probable that we would encounter the Yeti.
After a short break at the bottom of the pass we began our ascent. Unlike the Renjo Lo Pass that has what seemed like a million steep steps to the top, Cho La Pass (5340m) had boulders and scree pathways. If you have ever ascended a scree path then you know the gravel moves under you. Every two steps forward has you sliding one back. The sun was rising on the opposite side of the pass, which luckily meant that the scree was still frozen and easier to ascend on.
After about an hour’s steep ascent we made it to the top of the Cho La Pass. Prayer flags cracked in the wind as we made our way along the platform.
The view initially wasn’t as stupendous as the Renjo La Pass. Looking forward there were great views of hanging glaciers across the valley. Looking back the direction that we came, we could see the town of Gokyo in the distance, as well as the popular alpine ice/rock climbing peak of Kyajo Ri (6,186 m).
It was great to be at the top, but I felt very underwhelmed by the experience. There was a substantial amount of work getting up there, and the views paled in comparison to those of the Renjo La Pass.
Our initial descent took us out on the Chola Glacier. The pathway for our feet was likely less than a foot wide and was very icy. The general rule of thumb when it comes to Chola Pass is that it is safe for trekkers if the weather is good and if there is no snow. If you have inclement weather then it’s likely your crew will not want to cross the glacier. While we had great weather, it had been snowing the previous couple of days. Honestly, there was no real manicured path. The only way to get across in this instance is being being prepared and popping on a pair of crampons.
As this is a glacier, there are crevasses that you need to keep your eyes peeled for. I actually remember looking at the pathway around one of the bends thinking to myself that I wasn’t going to be able to get around it. I even asked Prem if he had a rope handy and the right way to slide into the crevasse if I slipped.
This stretch between Thangna to Dzongla was the only time that I was scared during our trek to Everest Base Camp. There was a bit of slipping and sliding going on, but we made it across the glacier without any major issues.
The trail continues onwards and eventually arrives at a breathtaking viewpoint. Obviously, this was still part of the Chola Pass – so I learned a little lesson in patience that day. I finally got the vista I wanted and it was just as nice as the Renjo La Pass.
The top of the Chola Pass gives you views of many of the well-known Himalayan peaks. You’ll get a glimpse of the Lobuche Twins – the eastern summit sits a 6,119m and is a popular trekking peak and the western summit, while only slightly higher at 6,145m, is frequented by expedition teams. Also in view are the famous Nupste Wall, the fifth highest mountain in the world – Makalu (8,481m) and Mt. Everest (8,848m).
As you look straight down the valley you will also see the emblematic Ama Dablam (6,812m) and Cholatse (6,440M). The whole vista is full of Himalayan legends – and it was nice to be able to stop for a bit and admire them.
Knowing we needed to make a move onwards, we began the steep descent towards the little village in the distance – Dzongla (4,830 m). En route we passed more crevasses, dodged falling rocks and gave encouraging smiles to the trekkers who were heading up towards the Chola Pass. I can’t place whether our break at the top made me forget how tough our ascent was, but as we were descending, I couldn’t help but think that I was glad we went the direction we did. The route to the high-pass in this opposite direction looked pretty brutal.
Upon arrival in Dzongla, we checked into the Hotel Green Valley. It’s a basic teahouse but you don’t even notice as it’s nestled in the middle of the gorgeous landscape.
The little village of Dzongla sits under the soaring Cholatse – like, you could actually walk to the base of the mountain where expeditions start their journey. It’s a strange feeling being directly in the middle of the world’s highest mountains.
The rest of the afternoon was spent exploring the surrounding area and soaking up the views of Ama Dablam and Lobuche. In the distance we saw the pathway that followed alongside Cholatse Lake and head around the ridge towards our next destination – Lobuche. Lobuche would be the first stop into the famous Khumbu Valley and one stop closer to reaching Everest Base Camp.
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Check out the day as recorded by Stava. See the trails taken, overall elevation gains, trekking times and how fast (or slow) we made it from Point A to Point B.