Last night I ordered the vegetable chow mein for breakfast and the chef didn’t approve (apparently it’s not breakfasty enough a dish to warrant early-morning cooking). Fortunately, he comes around and I have a mediocre vegetable chow mein waiting for me at seven o’clock when I meet my crew in the common room.
My friends from yesterday are making a detour to Everest Base Camp today before continuing the Three Passes Trek. To anyone thinking about doing Everest Base Camp, I would strongly suggest that you look at doing the Three Passes Trek and adding Base Camp as a detour as these three have chosen to do (Base Camp by itself can be a bit underwhelming).
If I really wanted to, I expect that I could make it over the second pass, Cho La, today. However, that would turn today into an effort on par with yesterday’s crossing of Kongma La, and given that I have the luxury of time, I’m not going to kill myself doing two passes in a row. Instead, today’s destination is the village of Dzongla (also spelled Dzonglha, Zongla, or Zonglha), which is actually at a lower elevation than Lobuche (where I spent last night).
Heading south out of Lobuche I follow the EBC track until it forks approaching the top of Thokla Pass. I take the right fork and follow the ridge around the south side of Awi Peak (17,208 ft / 5,245 m).
The well-defined trail curves west and offers awesome views of Arakam Tse (21,073 ft / 6,423 m), Cholatse (20,784 ft / 6,335 m), and Taboche (20,889 ft / 6,367 m). Below is the currently frozen lake, Chola Tsho, and further up the trail, I imagine seeing what I think is Cho La (tomorrow’s mission) – it’s not. The trail does a lot more up and down than I had hoped for, and I end up descending quite a bit before eventually beginning a climb up to Dzongla (frustrating given that it’s 364 ft / 110 m lower than where I started this morning).
Only a couple of hours after leaving Lobuche and I’m nearing Dzongla. Today’s been a little strange because I haven’t seen anyone else on the trail (I didn’t see anyone else yesterday either, but I was hiking in a group of four).
Things don’t change when I arrive in Dzongla.
The village appears empty and the first lodge I pass is closed for the season. The second is open, completely vacant, and reeks of cigarettes. The third looks nice and so I take a seat in the empty common area where I promptly fall asleep (I’m basically Goldilocks).
Many of the lodges close during the off-season, especially those located along the principal trekking routes up to Everest Base Camp or Gokyo. Dzongla is not a very popular stop and so when I wake up, I find myself still alone.
I haven’t put my things in a room yet (aka I’m not committed to this place) and so after a pizza lunch, I decide to explore the village a little more (because it would be nice to find some friends to go over the pass with tomorrow).
Across the village (a matter of some fifty yards), I find another lodge where there’s an Italian couple who have just come over Cho La and a Czech couple who are planning on heading over tomorrow (aka my new friends). I’m still worried about the success of my footwear on this pass as reaching it involved crossing a (supposedly) icy glacier.
Everyone has microspikes except for me.
Speaking with the Italians I learn that there is a fair amount of ice on the pass and that they would definitely recommend using microspikes. Where am I going to get said equipment? I’m going to buy theirs, of course! For the excellent price of 1,500 rupees (~$15 US), I get myself a pair for tomorrow’s trek (nevermind that they’re definitely too small for my shoes).
The Czech couple tells me that they just came from Everest Base Camp where guides are telling trekkers that Cho La is closed because of snow. The owner of our lodge then tells us that the guides and porters do not like going over Cho La and so they frequently tell trekkers that the pass is closed (something to look out for if you’re keen on hitting the passes).
While eating dinner, a familiar face from the airport shows up, Mr. Tim (an American photographer living in Hong Kong); my crew for tomorrow’s hike grows by one. I ask Tim if he’s got microspikes and he tells me that another hiker who had just come over the pass gave him some earlier today. I guess I met the wrong guy.
It’s a nice night so I decide to try my luck at some nighttime photography. However, I cannot seem to locate any of my camera’s batteries. I go back to the other lodge and ask the woman there if I had maybe left them when I ate lunch; I can’t tell if she’s really bitter I am not staying there or incredibly nice and I’m horrible at reading Nepalese folk.
Regardless, no luck with the batteries.
I head back to my room, now in a bit of a panic, and end up finding them inside of my sleeping bag (where I store my electronics at night). Camera in hand, I head outside with Tim and one of the Czech hikers to get a lesson in the taking of pictures before heading to bed in preparation for another early morning tomorrow.
- Start: Lobuche (16,210 ft / 4,940 m)
- End: Dzongla (15,846 ft / 4,830 m)
- Distance: 4.1 mi / 6.6 km
- Sleeping elevation change: -364 ft / 110 m
- Day’s elevation change: +1,153 ft / 351 m
- Total time: 2:27:08
THREE PASSES TREK DAY: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13
NOTE: I have no guarantee that this route is correct, nor that it can be accurately relied upon for navigation. It should serve only as a general guideline for what the trail is expected to look like. Also, Dzongla is sometimes spelled Zongla or Zonglha (because the Sherpa language is unwritten).