Feature Image, Dorje Points at Everest

Pattale to Pikey Peak, Solukhumbu, lower Everest

In Travel, Nepal by tony1 Comment

Featured image: Dorje Points to Everest near Teahouse above Pattale

ORT_Logo   Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony,  1 October 2018

(Other posts on Nepal and Nepal trekking on this site are: Boudhanath StupaEverest Trekking 1Everest Trekking 2Muktinath to ABC TrekAnnapurna Sanctuary Trek and Pattale to Juke Trek.)

Pattale to Pikey Peak

Trek 2 Pattale to Pikey Peak, Junbessi, Taksinda La & Paphlu, November 2017

Preamble

In the last article Pattale to Juke, I described a visit to the Pattale Health Centre, which we are supporting and a short trek from Pattale to Juke, There and Back, in March 2013.

In November 2017, we returned to Nepal to undertake another trek to Annapurna Base Camp. Then, we wanted to return to Pattale to see what had changed in the village and the clinic after five years. And, to undertake a new trek from Pattale via Pikey Peak in a large circuit, with almost constant views of the major peaks in the Himalayas. The trek was to end in Paphlu where we hoped to fly back to Kathmandu.

Women at Friday Market

Women at Friday Market


Pattale

Denise, Lesley, Dot and I were to go up to Pattale ahead of the others so as to spend more time in the village. Denise in particular wanted to prepare a report on the health centre for the foundation. Dot who is involved in a charity in Kathmandu was curious to see another aid project.

We were up at 5.15 am. This time with eight of us we had a jeep or 4WD vehicle to ourselves. Despite the early start, with fiddling around, we didn’t get underway until 6.30 am and took an unusual back route to Bhaktapur to avoid traffic. Once we reached the main road the traffic was heavy up to Dhulikhel when we turned off the main road.

Hem Examines Baby at Pattale Clinic

Hem Examines Baby at Pattale Clinic

After a short piece of good road, the road deteriorated until we reached the Japanese Road along the Sunkoshi River. This was marvelous and quick. The bridges were all completed unlike five years ago. We stopped a couple of times at reasonable places and unfortunately ate all the cinnamon rolls we’d brought with us from Kathmandu. We crossed the Sunkoshi on a real bridge this time and headed into the hills before where we stopped for lunch at a spot where there is a large market nearby.

Poster Promoting Big Buddha at Pattale

Poster Promoting Big Buddha at Pattale

Despite a gorgeous looking teenage girl serving, one of two sisters, the place was indescribably filthy. We barely ate anything but I foolishly asked for a second cup of tea. It was only lukewarm, probably not properly boiled and was the cause of my troubles for the next three days.

Once we got into the hills proper the road became tar and the forests and the hills were lovely all the way to Okhaldhunga. From Okhaldhunga the road to Pattale was also tar, though rising rapidly up through many hair-pin bends. We arrived in Pattale in the late afternoon — a nine-hour jeep ride — but with enough time to be dropped off for a half hour walk into town, admiring the views and the scenery.

I had to rush to the toilet as soon as we arrived at Dorje’s house, managing to crack my head on the door lintel, and continued unwell for three days until I resorted to antibiotics.

Dorje's Father Buys Rooster at Friday Market

Dorje’s Father Buys Rooster at Friday Market

We did many of the things we’d done before in Pattale, as outlined in Pattale to Juke. The views of the mountains were even more spectacular than in spring. Two new things were a visit to the school for morning assembly and a visit to the Friday market. Market attendance had been on decline on our last visit five years ago, but with the tarring of the road and its new status as the main route to Salleri, the district headquarters, the market was booming.

Other changes were:

  1. The presence of a large police station (which didn’t intrude much into the village), whose interest was smuggling and people trafficking to India rather than local issues.
  2. There was also more accommodation on the main road run by the wealthiest extended family in the village.
  3. The planning for a huge Buddha mentioned in the Pattale to Juke article, and the presence of a new guru towards Tuhure, who was gradually building up a mini-monastery and rediscovering ‘so called’ important Buddha relics on granite rocks. He seemed a smart operator and will probably ‘piggy back’ on pilgrims to the big Buddha.
  4. Perhaps the biggest change for me was that new construction in the village was being done using power tools. There were only hand tools five years ago. Dorje had said that many buildings were damaged in the earthquake of 2015, but required restoration rather than rebuilding.
  5. New houses were also being constructed. A European Union group had built the new school next to the old one. More money was flowing into the community.

But, basically the village hadn’t changed all that much.

We could have stayed in Dorje’s parents house again, but Dot and Lesley would have had to stay separately, so we all moved to the eco-lodge down the hill. This was very good accommodation for the Solukhumbu as it was new and well thought out, but a sad story. The husband had planned it as his dream venture, but died of cancer before it was finished. His young wife in her thirties was running it, with help from her father for the season. They were lovely people and we enjoyed staying with them for four nights. Teresa and the other two Canadian women joined us for the last two nights, so we all attended the Friday market, as did the whole community.

Friday Market Pattale

Friday Market Pattale


Pattale to Japhre (Day 1)

We were weighed down with marigold malas and khatas (the white silk scarves). Our hostess at the eco-lodge cried to see us go. On the road the early morning view of the Himalayas was spectacular. We proceeded up the tar road down which we’d arrived; diverted onto a local path with stupendous views; and arrived back on the tar at a teahouse where we had a refreshment stop. There was a turn off here onto a rough jeep track, which we followed for the rest of the day. Our trip was around the rim of the hills in summer pastures. The yaks and cattle had already left in preparation for the winter. Transhumance is the term for migration to summer pastures. In Nepal it is only partial, as the whole community doesn’t move between summer and winter quarters only the herdsmen. It was rare that we were out of sight of the Himalaya chain, for much of the trek over the next several days.

Girl Kicks Ball Japhre

Girl Kicks Ball Japhre

Japhre was a tiny village with a few lodges and a lovely old gompa. It was a long but not particularly hard day — the pattern for the remainder of the trek. The main lodge was old. The sleeping quarters were new but basic with great views, but the communal area was nice and the family was very friendly.


Japhre to Lamuje (Day 2)

We visited the gompa after breakfast. It had some nice paintings. The morning was spectacular, the climb slow but relentless all day.

Clouds Fill the Valleys

Clouds Fill the Valleys

The views from Dudh Kunde through the Everest range all the way to Makalu in the west and even Kanchenjunga in the far east, we saw almost every day. The sky was cloudless and the sun strong. Teresa had funded Kancha to build a lodge at Lamuje because there was no accommodation here and it was a convenient staging post. We were eager to see it.

Gompa Painting Junbessi

Gompa Painting Junbessi

Teresa jokingly asked Kancha if there was a shower. He replied ingenuously ‘Didi, there is no toilet.’ Denise was there and she said that Teresa was furious. Kancha, Akal and Ramesh were sent on ahead.

When we arrived, there was a very serviceable pit toilet with fresh leaves around the hole to cover one’s deposit with and woven grain sacks forming a privacy screen. The leaves had been gathered by Sumitra, Kancha’s eldest daughter. The toilet was a splendid edifice for a one-night stand and hopefully a proper one would be made for next time. The fire for the stove was incredibly smoky at first and we all exited the lodge for a while. Otherwise when we arrived the lodge smelled of fresh pine resin and some of the windows had only been put in that day.

Durga, Kancha’s wife, and Sumitra had toiled up the steep slope from Juke with the food. Durga had complete control of the kitchen, but Bir and Akal did the cooking. The food was delicious.

Some of us had a mini-bucket bath in the open behind the old chorten. It was freezing in the light wind, but enervating. The sunset was spectacular and the open fire outside welcome, until it got too cold.

Fire Outside Kancha's Lodge

Fire Outside Kancha’s Lodge

Kancha’s lodge was on a steep spit of land beside an old chorten, with the site falling away steeply on three sides. Because it was so close to the chorten, Dorje thought there may be some problems with the locals who were talking about renovating it. They could ask Kanche to pull the lodge down. A better site would have been fifty metres away on a flat area, beside a disused summer camp. Dorje still smarting from the lack of the toilet, said quietly that Kancha sometimes ‘doesn’t make the best decisions’. This was as much a criticism as he’d ever make of his brother-in-law.

That night we played cards and I learned Thirteen for the first time. It was an hilarious game and a great addition to group dynamics from then on. We played it almost every night. The nicest thing about Thirteen was that although intelligent and ruthless, you didn’t mind losing to someone else’s cleverness or luck.

The wind blew ferociously most of the night, making us glad of our good shelter. About three in the morning the wedges on the new window gave way and it fell on my head. Fortunately, it was light and no real problem, except that I was trapped. My mummy sleeping bag felt like in a coffin. I couldn’t move, until Denise rescued me.

Lamuje to Dairy (Day 3)

Himalaya Views

Himalaya Views

Another day of stunning mountain views, we are becoming blasé. We are off the jeep track, even though we were only passed by one vehicle yesterday. We are onto a local walking track at last. The track was up and down and the walk seemed quite long, even though we arrived at Dairy in time for lunch. We passed one place of potential accommodation on the way, but it was unenticing.

Denise on Dairy Trail

Denise on Dairy Trail

Dairy was a cluster of buildings named after the small cheese factory that had closed for the winter a couple of days before. Dairy was a seemingly bleak location, a windy, cold place looking out over a sea of clouds with the odd hill poking through. It was much nicer next morning, without the wind.

A Sea of Clouds

A Sea of Clouds

I’d had another bout of queasy bowels mid-walk, so did not accompany the others when they started for Pikey Peak after lunch. The climb was only 400 m, but this is always hard at altitude. I set out after them an hour later, accompanied by Akal and Ramesh who’d remained behind. We made good time and met the main party just as they were descending from the peak about 4pm. Denise decided to accompany me back to the top.

We put all our warm gear on just below the peak, but the wind and the cold at the top were ferocious. Despite this the views were splendid in all directions. Cloud was coming in fast into the lower valleys, as it does every afternoon at this time of year, but the mountains were magnificent. We could see all the way to Kanchengunga near Darjeeling, the Everest Himalayas and Makalu towards Pokhara in the other direction. A better view than at any other time. Although it was freezing we were all — the four of us — buoyed and excited by the experience, and we stayed for forty minutes until the cold seeped into our bones. Akhal and Ramesh took selfies and I photographed them, but the photo I’ve included is the better one!

Akal & Ramesh on Pikey Peak

Akal & Ramesh on Pikey Peak

It wasn’t quite sunset, but it was certainly dusk by the time we returned to Dairy.

We danced to local music after dinner in the dim old dining room with all our party and a couple of pretty young French women and their guides. The music was played by two men on stringed-instruments called Serangi.


Dairy to Jastabanijang (Day 4

We climbed and then descended a long, steep, shaley slope where you had to concentrate hard to keep your footing. We had morning tea at a lovely open spot with further views, a summer camp with the skeleton of a tent. We had lunch on an equally grassy peninsula with spectacular views. Afterwards we began to traverse the side of the ridge. We were walking through a riot of small rhododendron thickets, almost impenetrable, crunching on dry leaves with a crackling sensual glee.

Bir & Summer Camp

Bir & Summer Camp

This was the shady side of the hill and we passed several frozen waterfalls and had to cross their streams on steep-slopes. These icy passages were slippery and dangerous. I wouldn’t have wanted to cross them without the collective help of our guide/porters. We met a couple of very fit young Western males diverting from the Everest track to climb Pikey Peak and heard of some more, who were coming down the steep and dangerous direct routes from the peak.

Careful on the Ice

Careful on the Ice

The thing about trekking in Nepal is that it is sometimes only a small step from treacherous to catastrophe. The guides and locals swap information continuously. They know the terrain and the dangers. I sometimes think that it is a false economy to trek without support in Nepal,especially alone, no matter how fit and experienced you are.

Jastabanijang (‘Just a bunny jump’) was reached again for a late lunch. We are ‘slow trekking’ after all and we had the afternoon off. Jastabanijang is a saddle joining two valleys. The flag on the chorten or stupa was flapping wildly and the wind was strong all afternoon. However, the terrace where we had our lunch was completely sheltered. While we were eating, the first of a large contingent of 23 police in blue dungarees arrived, some carrying riot shields, and a few automatic weapons. Funnily, it was the younger ones who looked buggered. They’d walked up from Salleri (much further than we could have walked) and were headed for another district HQ, beyond the other side of the saddle, to provide security for the national election in a week’s time (not that any trouble was anticipated). They were quite friendly and were staying the night with us.

Looking Down on Where the Planes Fly Through

Looking Down on Where the Planes Fly Through

The senior policemen shared a bunkroom with our guide/porters. The rest bunked down on the dirt floor of a covered workspace, with their sleeping bags and rubber mats, below where we were sleeping. We expected a cacophony of snoring, but they were as quiet as ‘church mice’ during the night (if one doesn’t mind a mixed expression), and we barely heard them get up to leave at 5 am.


Jastabanijang to Junbessi (Day 5)

Markers for the Pikey to Everest Marathon

Markers for the Pikey to Everest Marathon

Rhododendron Trunk

Rhododendron Trunk

We were expecting an easier walk today descending from 3500 m to 2900 m but as is often the case in Nepal it wasn’t to be. We climbed steeply to a magnificent view looking down on a saddle that all the planes go through to flying Lukla and on the scenic Everest route. The view here was magnificent. Dudh Kunde and Numbur were quite close, but across the whole eastern horizon was Everest, Lhotse and even faraway Kanchenjunga was just visible. (As you can see we had a reason for being blasé.)

Then, we walked through rhododendron and Himalayan Cedar forest with giant trees. Lower still we walked root-crossed tracks through deciduous forest. Until we emerged, on a rock-filled track like the ancient bones of the earth. This was the beginning of the old Everest trail from Jiri, which had descended from the saddle that we saw the planes flying through. The rest of the walk was on high trails above and occasionally descending to farmland, until we reached Junbessi.

We arrived in the late afternoon and had some time to explore the delightful and unexpected village of Junbessi before dark.


Junbessi rest day (Day 6)

Junbessi is an exquisite old village, well-off and with good farming land along the valley. One can see some earthquake damage, but it is relatively minor.

First Dwelling on the Way Down

First Dwelling on the Way Down

We stayed at the Apple Garden Guest House at the beginning of Junbessi, which is an old lodge but well-run, with good food, hot showers and a nice garden. The husband was away but the wife and staff were terrific.

Lodge & Houses Junbessi

Lodge & Houses Junbessi

The whole village is charming. Indeed, Teresa found a new lodge hidden away with a rather up-market flavour and a quirky splendour. We could have done a walk of a few hours up the valley but instead we washed clothes (they had a brand new Samsung washing-machine, so we didn’t hand-wash), got clean, and enjoyed hanging around doing not much at all.


Junbessi to Ringmu (Day 7)

We began in a leisurely fashion. Dot had opted to descend to Paphlu for her health. We ascended a long slow trail along the hill, delightful and around into the next valley. Our lunch spot just around the ridge was an old way point for trekkers and mule trains, with a wonderful view of the mountains around Everest. We spent too long here, so found the descent and the climb into Ringmu slightly harder than it need have been. We stayed in a well-known lodge in lower Ringmu with pleasant rooms and helpful owners, looking over fields over fields with mountain views.

Lunch Spot before Ringmu

Lunch Spot before Ringmu

The only downside of Ringmu is that it isn’t quite as delightful as Junbessi. It is primarily a trekking lodge and farming community, at the juncture of the Everest trail from Jiri and the road up from Paphlu.

Mule Train

Mule Train


Ringmu return, walk to Taksindu La (Day 8)

We ascended the hill above Ringmu until we came to Taksindu La or Pass, which is the gateway to the upper Everest Region and Lukla. We could see about half the walk to Lukla from the saddle. Taksindu is not a high pass, as in many places in Nepal, more a stopping place or saddle leading into the hinterland. There is an arched gateway!

Man Ploughing

Man Ploughing

The view from Taksindu is great, but it is not that attractive a place because it is a staging place for mules to transfer loads and is very dusty. Nevertheless, the lodge cum store here is nice and one only has to walk fifty-metres along the ridge in either direction to find a more pleasant spot. After the obligatory photos, because this was as close to the Everest Region as we’d get, we walked to the right through forest to the trig point above. This was a pleasant grassy place and we took more obligatory photos and admired the view of the mountains, yet again.

We returned to Taksindu La for lunch, which was good, and walked back to Ringmu in a leisurely fashion, passing more trekkers on the way.


Ringmu to Paphlu (Day 9)

The walk down to Paphlu next day on a jeep road was easy but we passed through lovely forest on the first half and through interesting farmland the rest of the way.

Kitchen Apple Garden, Junbessi

Kitchen Apple Garden, Junbessi

Paphlu is basically the airport for Salleri. One reaches the end of the runway before gets into town and there is an interesting old gompa here. Paphlu is basically a dusty main street containing a small bazaar. There are a few basic hotels, which are of a slightly higher standard than the trekking lodges. The hot showers in ours were superb, despite the dodgy plumbing and the food was slightly more varied.


Paphlu to Kathmandu (Day 10)

Kitchen at the Ani Gompa

Kitchen at the Ani Gompa

We used the early morning to visit the Ani Gompa (old nunnery) at the end of the runway, which is moribund but still has a small group of residents. Our flight was late morning and surprisingly was within half-an-hour of the scheduled time. Paphlu airport doesn’t have many flights, most of them to Kathmandu come down from Lukla. If the weather in Lukla is problematic, which it often is, the flight may not come or may skip Paphlu. Hence although one is hopeful, the other option is the long (10 h) jeep ride through Pattale. We were lucky and were at Kathmandu in half-an-hour.


Comment

Trekking in the upper Everest region is wild and dramatic (see Everest Region Trekking 1 & 2, but there are few real villages and an endless stream of trekkers who head in a seemingly mindless line to Everest base camp. The region is large enough to swallow large numbers of people, especially if you have the time. On our trip in 2013, we met a friend of Teresa’s Charlie in his late 60s at a tea-stop. He was trekking for a month around Everest mostly on his own, but he’d join up with a companion, whenever he wanted to go over a high pass.

Pattale offers an excellent gateway to the Solukhumbu and the lower Everest region. At the moment far less people come here and one is exposed to more variety including village life, meeting local people and good mountain views. It is just that you aren’t among the mountains.

The two treks or a combination of the two covered in this article and Pattale to Juke give an excellent overview of what is possible, but there are plenty of other different places and routes to choose from in the Solukhumbu. Similarly, I’d recommend Dorje, Teresa or Subas highly to organize things for you, but there are also plenty of other options.

An Easier Way to Travel

An Easier Way to Travel

For more photographs go to Pattale to Pikey Peak Trek, November 2017.

Other posts on Nepal and Nepal trekking on this site are: Boudhanath StupaEverest Trekking 1Everest Trekking 2Muktinath to ABC TrekAnnapurna Sanctuary Trek and Pattale to Juke Trek.


Key Words: Pattale, Pikey Peak, Solukhumbu, lower Everest, Mount Everest, Himalaya Range, village life, trek, trekking, Nepal, Junbessi, Taksindu La, Paphlu


Further Information

Responsible Trekking

Dorje & Teresa

Boy on the Trail Before Japhre

Boy on the Trail Before Japhre

We choose to go ethical trekking rather than relying on commercial companies or hiring porters individually. Although we began trekking in Nepal by hiring our guide through the Internet. More ethical or responsible trekking can sometimes be slightly more expensive, but for a middle class Westerner Nepal is always cheap. Teresa only does package tours (she is responsible for you from landing to departure). Dorje does both packages and daily rate treks.

Dorje Tamang comes from Pattale in the Solukhumbu District or Lower Everest Region though he now lives in Kathmandu. I have known Dorje well for over ten years and would recommend him highly as a trekking organiser and guide. His email is: [email protected]. Dorje is honest, trustworthy and extremely experienced in organising and conducting treks anywhere in Nepal.

Dorje Tamang is also known as Nawa Tamang or Chyang. All Nepalese have these different nicknames. Tamang is Dorje’s ethnic group, other ethnic groups from the mountain areas of Nepal are Sherpa, Gurung, Rai and others.

Teresa Williams of SlowTrekking offers both full trekking and a cultural tour, which is a great introduction to the country. Her website also contains useful information about conditions, what to wear and what to expect in Nepal. This is an ethical company that respects the local culture and treats her guide porters well and responsibly. Dorje and Lahar are her senior guide/organisers.

Subas Lek’s son is Dorje’s next door neighbour in Pattale. I had Subas as my own guide/porter on our second Langtang trek in 2009 and on our Everest Trek on 2013. Subas is a charming and intelligent young man. On our first trek I could see he had great potential but he was unsure of what he could do given the limitations of work in Nepal. As well as improving his English, labouring and teaching, he developed his ambitions on his own. He also worked in a Chinese Restaurant in Pokhara for a time and learned to speak Chinese. I met him on our ABC trek in late 2017 and was very impressed with how far he has come. He has formed his own trekking company and conducts tours for English speakers, other Europeans, especially French and Italians and Chinese speakers.

Subas’s Step Himalaya Trek Pvt Ltd website

What trip advisor says about Subas and Step Himalaya

Pattale Community Health Centre and Bright Futures

I have included below the latest newsletter for Pattale Community Health Centre 2018 to Download. Doantions are always welcomed! The website for the Trust is Pattale Community Health Centre Trust.

Bright Futures is another small NGO in Patan in Kathmandu that we support.

Both can be accessed through Teresa’s Website, as can an outline of Dorje’s good work after the earthquakes. Dorje is still involved in other development work with individual supporters. Donations are always welcome. Donating direct to worthwhile small NGOs is in my view a far better approach than donating to large organisations because every dollar of your support goes directly to the project.

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