Arrival transfer to the hotel. The evening is free to relax or explore Kathmandu.
After breakfast there will be a trip briefing to run through the rest of the trip together. You then have a half-day sightseeing tour visiting the temples of Bodnath and Pashupatinath in Kathmandu. Bodnath is one of the largest Buddhist Stupas in the world and home to a large Tibetan population, whilst Pashupatinath is the most important Hindu temple in the country. The tour will end after lunch and there should be time for individual exploration of the Durbar Square area of Kathmandu or Swayambunath, the Monkey Temple, with its all seeing eyes of Buddha overlooking the whole valley.
A long drive today as you leave Kathmandu very early in the morning and head north through the hilltop resort of Dhulikel to the Tibetan border. After finishing with border formalities in Nepal you will cross the Friendship Bridge and enter Tibet. Chinese immigration often takes a while and our passports, visas (and often luggage) will all be thoroughly checked. Once in Tibet our Tibetan guide and four-wheel-drive cars will meet us and we then drive to Zhangmu, the first town in Tibet. A typical border town Zhangmu thrives on the trade between Nepal and Tibet and the narrow streets are lined with busy shops. Leaving Zhangmu, a winding road heads up a spectacular gorge to Nyalam (3,780m), where you stay tonight. The basic hotel in Nyalam will have multi-bedded rooms with common toilet facilities. Please note that if you are delayed with border formalities, you may have to stay in Zhangmu tonight, which is 1.5 hours drive (37km) before Nyalam.
You wil spend today getting used to the altitude in Nyalam's spectacular surrounding hills. Nyalam hosts the Shishapangma Massif and the valley is buttressed along its western flanks by the Jugal Himal, a rugged, unbroken chain of peaks along the frontier with Nepal. There are various options for day walks, but a decision can be made on the day about what to do, based on the group's condition. One of the most spectacular is a hike up towards Draabochhan. This is a beautiful 3 hour walk along the tumbling Tshongde Phu Chhu. As we ascend, the valley opens up with views of the Jugal Himal in Nepal from large meadows filled with colourful alpine flowers, which bloom in July. Draabochhan means 'Big Rock' and it is the first campsite for those trekking to Shishapangma South Base Camp. In the afternoon you will return to Nyalam.
Scenically this is a spectacular day's drive, although parts of the road will be rough. The road climbs steadily to the Tong La Pass (5,100m), from where the panoramic views of the Himalaya lie behind yu; looking south to our right is a splendid panorama of Shishapangma, the only 8,000m peak entirely within Tibet and to the north is a vast open landscape with several mountain ranges visible beyond. Continuing across the Tibetan Plateau the scenery becomes ever-more barren as you head west towards Piegtsho Lake. Before we reach the lake we leave the Friendship Highway at km5266 and enter a broad desert valley. After 29km the road forks and we follow the left hand turn off towards Shishapangma. 15km before the base camp you pass through Selung, the only village in this area. The people here are nomadic farmers and in the climbing season many of the men work with their yaks for mountaineering expeditions.
The lone summit looming over the road beyond Selung is Ghangbenchhan (7,211m), the tallest of the peaks forming the watershed between the headwaters of the Trisuli and Arun Rivers. As the road swings around to the south Shishapangma (8,013m) and its pointy neighbour Phola Gangchhan (7,702m), 'Big Snow Grandfather' come into view. We set up camp at 4,900m near a glacial stream. We are now in the Shishapangma National Park, which is situated among vast, rolling, boulder strewn valleys leading up to the base of the mountain. Although still 20 miles away, the mountain wil appear magnificently in front of you. The environment here is stark but as it is far less visited than the Everest region (which we subsequently head to), we have a good chance of spotting some of the rare wildlife such as gazelles, wild asses (kiang), black necked cranes and vultures.
Shishapangma is the fourteenth highest mountain in the world and is the only 8,000m peak wholly in Tibet. Its height is estimated to be between 8,013m and 8,027m and it has two summits. The central summit is 8,013m and the 'true' or main summit is estimated to be 8,027m. Although technically not the hardest of the 8,000m peaks, it was the last to be climbed, due to its isolated location. It is the highest peak in the Jugal Himal and in Nepali it is called Gosainthan, the abode of Shiva. First climbed in 1964 by a Chinese expedition, it was only opened to foreign climbers in 1978. The Chinese built the road to the north base camp (4,980m) and this is the side that is most frequently climbed by commercial expeditions. There will be time to explore the area and the high ridges around the base camp for great views of the entire Shishapangma-Piegu Tsho region.
You pack up this morning and drive back to the Friendship Highway on which you head east to Old Tingri (4,390m), where, on a clear day you can get the first distant views of Everest and the closer, towering Cho Oyu. Amongst the dusty, windblown landscape, Tingri has about 100 houses tightly packed along the base of an isolated hill. Its true name is Ganggar and the village offers fascinating glimpses of real Tibetan life. The crumbling walls on Ganggar Ri, the hill above Tingri, are the remains of a dzong (fort). This Chinese built fortress was erected as a line of defence after the Nepalese army captured the area in the late eighteenth century. Turning off the main road you will be driven for about two hours on a dirt track across the grassy plains to the old Chinese base camp for Cho Oyu. The base camp (4,850m) is located on a patch of grass at the foot of high gravel moraines below the Kyetrag Glacier, in the Ra Chu Valley.
At 8,210m, Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world. It lies 30km west of Everest along the same Himalayan ridge. Cho Oyu means 'Turquoise Goddess' in Tibetan and this beautiful mountain was first climbed in 1954 by Herbert Tichy, Joseph Jochler and Pasang Dawa Lama. The north side is considered one of the technically easiest 8,000m peaks to climb and so attracts many commercial expeditions in spring and autumn. At the top of the valley a few kilometres west of Cho Oyu is the Nangpa La (5,716m), a glaciated and extremely dangerous pass that serves as the main trading route between the Tibetans and the Khumbu's Sherpas and we may well see many Tibetans with their huge herds of yaks carrying goods to Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa capital in Nepal. You have the day to explore the area and its surrounds. If permitted, we will walk or drive further up the valley to an interim camp for even closer views of this magnificent mountain, otherwise we can hike up onto the ridges behind our camp.
Day 9 - 11
These three days will be spent trekking from Cho Oyu Base Camp to Rongbuk and Everest Base Camp. The trek takes you through typical deserted plains across the Dagar La and the Pang La. There are now jeep tracks across some of this area but we will avoid them where possible. Semi nomadic yak herders inhabit this area and we may well see 'kiang', the Tibetan wild ass and gazelles roaming the area. The high point of the trek is the Pang La (5,010m), from where, on a clear day, you get magnificent views of Gyachung Kang and Cho Oyu.
The vegetation on this east side of the pass is more lush and capable of supporting hundreds of yaks. The trail drops down to meet the jeep track near Zommug. At 4,790m, this is one of the highest permanent settlements in the Everest region. It is set high above the valley in a moonscape of barren hills. Crops cannot survive at the altitude and the families here rely totally on animal husbandry. Yaks and dzos are their livelihood and apart from milking and trading the animals, the villagers supply yaks to haul gear for the many Everest expeditions.
From Zommug you trek down to the road and then follow the Dzakaa Chhu to Rongbuk. Everest comes into view just before we reach Rongbuk (4,900m) and finally the monastery explodes into full view, with the massive North Face of Mount Everest dominating the entire head of the valley. We camp close to the monastery.
You will spend today exploring the area and making a visit Everest Base Camp. Situated at 4,900m, Rongbuk is the highest monastery in the world. The monastery and its hermitage retreats were introduced to the world in the 1920's through the accounts of the first British mountaineering expeditions (look out for the old black and white photo in Rongbuk monastery of the 1936 British expedition receiving their blessing from the monks before their attempt on Everest). The place was a thriving place for the study of Tibetan Buddhism and by the 1950s there were nearly 250 monks and nuns settled here. Many fled to Nepal in 1959 and today most of the retreat cells are abandoned and only one of the six monasteries is functioning.
You will camp close to the monastery, from where you can take in the spectacular views of the North Face of Everest at the end of the valley, and you can watch the sun set behind the highest mountain on earth. Today we trek the 9km to Everest Base Camp. (There is the option to go by vehicle for anyone not wanting to walk). At base camp we are allowed to go as far as the check post and up to a rock strewn with colourful prayer flags, where we get close up views of the whole of the North Face of Everest. From here, you can trace almost the whole route that Mallory and Irvine followed in their ill-fated attempt on the mountain. Just to the left of the prayer flags that serve as memorials to Mallory and Irvine. After lunch we return to our camp at Rongbuk.
After our final sunrise on Everest we pack up and leave Rongbuk. The drive takes us at first on the main track out from the monastery. After half an hour you turn off the main road and make the way on a bumpy jeep track across country to the Dagar La. Descending we pass through an incredible landscape inhabited only by nomads. Just before passing through Lungjang village look back and on a clear day Cho Oyu bursts into view. You arrive at the Friendship Highway via Old Tingri, where it's probably time for lunch. Leaving Old Tingri we get a final glimpse of Everest, before heading slowly up to the Tong La, where we have a last magnificent view of the Himalaya and our last view of Shishapangma to the right. The road then drops down to Nyalam and further down the forested gorge to Zhangmu, the last town in Tibet. We stay in a small guest house in Zhangmu and have time to explore this busy border town where Nepalis and Tibetans trade everything and anything with one another.
You drive down to the Friendship Bridge where you complete the Chinese border formalities. Once across the bridge, we are in Nepal, and as soon as the Nepalese border formalities are complete, we pick up our bus. The road follows the Bhote Kosi valley down to its junction with the Sun Kosi at Barabise. We continue down the Sun Kosi past rice terraces, small villages and scrub woodland to Dolalghat where you will leave the river and complete the journey to Kathmandu. The roads in Nepal are not as good as most in Tibet and so the bus drive back to Kathmandu is quite bumpy.
After breakfast.Depart Transfer.