Asia,  Nepal,  Three Passes

How to Do the Everest Three Passes Trek Independently

This is going to be a pretty big post with everything you need to know about the Three Passes Trek, so before I jump into it, I’m going to give you a little table of contents. It’s a full three passes trek blog with loads of information about doing the three passes trek solo.

A Brief Summary of the Three Passes Trek

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: mountains with prayer flags

Not too many people know what this trek is! They know its a 3 pass trek, but that’s about it! I’m here to clarify.

The three passes trek is a two-week trip that follows the Everest Base Camp route before splitting off and taking you over three passes that give amazing views of the Himalayas and Mount Everest. It’s been dubbed one of the most beautiful treks in the world, and for good reason! While going on the Everest Base Camp route is nice because of its commercial status, the three passes trek takes you beyond that side of the region and show you even more of its beauty. The Gokyo Lakes trek is another popular trek in Sagarmatha National Park, and this takes you through the end point of that route.

Three Passes Trek in June?

The three passes can be a dangerous trek. You’ll only want to go when the weather is the best. The best months are November, December, and May. You want to avoid from June to September because it’ll be rainy and hazy, and flights to Lukla probably won’t operate. Furthermore, teahouses won’t be open. You also want to avoid from January to March, as it might be too snowy.

How hard is the Everest three passes trek?

You have to remember that this trek goes over three high passes. It’s definitely not easy, but it’s doable! There are some very technical paths over the passes, but if you’re fit and have mountain and altitude experience. You should be fine. That being said, I wouldn’t go alone- always make sure you’re going over a pass with other people! Everest three passes trekking is tougher than trekking just to base camp because of the tough terrain and high altitude over the three passes.

Three Passes Trek Itinerary

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: mountains and teahouses during sunrise

Day 1

Fly to Lukla, walk to Phakding* | 3 hours | 2610m

*Alternatively, you can walk to Monjo, which is about 3 hours further, if you arrive early or are feeling up for it

Day 2

Walk to Namche Bazaar | 6 hours | 3440m

Day 3

Acclimatisation Day | A half day trek to Everest Viewpoint Hotel or up to Tenzing Norgay Statue

Day 4

Walk to Tengboche | 4 hours | 3870m.

Day 5

Walk to Dingboche | 5 hours | 4410m

Day 6

Acclimatisation Day | Walk partly up Nagkartshang Peak

Day 7

Walk to Chukkung | 3 hours | 4730m

Day 8

Acclimatisation Day | Walk to Chukkung Ri

*Some choose to climb Island Peak from here, though you need to have a guide and proper training for that summit.*

Day 9

Walk to Lobuche via Kongma La Pass (5535m)| 10 hours | 4940m

*From here, you can split from the Three Passes trek and go on to Everest Base Camp / Kala Patthar following THIS itinerary*

Day 10

Walk to Dzongla | 3 hours | 4200m

Day 11

Walk to Gokyo via Cho La Pass (5420m) | 10 hours | 4750 m

Day 12

Rest Day | Go up Gokyo Ri or around the lakes

Day 13

Walk to Lungde via Renjo La Pass (5340m) | 6 hours | 4380m

Day 14

Walk to Thame | 3 hours | 3800m

Day 15

Walk to Namche Bazar | 3 hours | 3440m

Day 16

Walk to Lukla | 7 hours | 2850m

Budget for the Three Passes Trek or EBC

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: Man with arms up facing away from camera towards mountains

I’ve written a full budget breakdown of the Everest Base Camp trek HERE. The budget accounts for all necessary permits and your daily budget and includes a section on how much getting in and out of Lukla will cost. I would stick to this budget breakdown as a guide for the three passes trek as well.

How to Get In/Out of Lukla

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: Overlooking a large town from above

From Kathmandu, you’ll need to get up to Lukla for the start of the trek. You can do this many ways.

Aeroplane

The most popular method of getting to Lukla is by aeroplane. Flights to Lukla only operate in good weather conditions (and while inconvenient, this is a good thing because the runway is VERY short), and they’ll only fly out of Kathmandu if they are sure to be able to do a round trip flight. There are often delays and cancellations, so make sure you have a couple days to spare before flights in and out of Kathmandu. You can book flight tickets online, but I recommend booking from a tour office in Kathmandu or emailing your hotel before you arrive to organise your tickets. Buy round trip! You can always cancel for a 10% (of the ticket price) fee, or if your flight is cancelled due to weather, you are entitled to a full refund of that ticket.

Helicopters

When flights are cancelled or delayed for days at a time, or for those who are on tight schedules, helicopters are the way to go. Helicopter flights are significantly cheaper going INTO Lukla than they are going OUT of Lukla. Helicopter prices depend on the season and demand. I’ve heard of people paying as little as $150 USD to fly into Lukla and as much as $500 USD to fly out. When there is a backlog of people in Lukla due to cancelled flights, helicopters are in high demand and the local “Lukla mafia” will charge as much as they please for a seat on a heli back to Kathmandu. It is standard to pay about $250 for a helicopter flight back to Kathmandu, but if there are many people who want to fly out of Lukla during peak season, I’d expect to pay $500.

That being said, if you are stuck in Lukla, you can take a helicopter to Phaplu, then a 10-hour jeep or bus ride. The helicopter will cost about $200 USD, and the jeep will cost 13,000r to 20,000r depending on the demand. I’ll go into more detail about this option in the last section.

Walk

Finally, you can walk in and out. It takes about 4 days of walking to get to Jiri or Salleri. It is hot and there is a lot of up and down, but you escape the touristy part of the trek and I’ve heard good things about this (if you like walking!).

Essential Items for Trekking in Nepal

After trekking in the Everest region multiple times, there are a few things that I’ve come to really appreciate bringing up into the mountains with me.

These are:

  • Babywipes
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • Extra Pair of Socks
  • Trekking poles
  • Sleeping Bag (some people think relying on teahouse blankets is enough- its not!)
  • TRAVEL INSURANCE – this is very important in case you need to be helicopter evacuated out. Make sure your insurance covers this!
  • Some people like to take Diamox for altitude sickness. When I did EBC, I felt the altitude at Gorak Shep. On this trek, I didn’t feel the effects of altitude as much (excluding going over Kongma La).

Day By Day Overview / What to Expect / My Recommendations / Three Passes Trek Blog

Day 1

While you can book flights to Lukla at around 8 or 9am, I’d go for the earliest flight, as those are the most likely to take off.

Our flight was early, and we got to Lukla no problem! In Lukla, you have to buy your trekking ticket. Just walk down the main street and you’ll be stopped to buy one. From there, head onto the trail! The walk to Phakding is downhill and pretty easy. Remember to walk left around the stupas and mani stones. We arrived in Phakding at about 11am, so we kept going onto Monjo, which is at a slightly higher altitude. There was more uphill on this section, but nothing so steep it was memorable.

Recommended teahouse: Mount Kailash in Monjo

Day 2

The day starts off nicely. You’ll have to stop to get a national park permit and for a ticket check, and then you start walking along the river. I personally find this bit absolutely stunning! There’s a beautiful view of two suspension bridges. You’ll eventually cross the higher one. After this viewpoint, it’s all uphill to Namche. About an hour and a half into the uphill section, you’ll come up to a public bathroom. From there, you can see Everest. This is also halfway up the uphill section. You can refill water here. Continue uphill, and eventually, you’ll get to another ticket check. At this point, you’re only about 20 minutes from Namche!

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: two suspension bridges over a river

Namche Bazaar is the biggest village on the trek, and it feels like paradise! I love going to the Liquid Bar at 3pm for a movie. Ordering popcorn is a must. There’s a Himalayan Java right next to the Khumbu Lodge that offers free wifi and charging if you purchase something. If you’re feeling the need for a massage, someone who summitted Everest and tried ALL the massage places in Namche recommended the one inside the Khumbu Lodge.

Recommended teahouse: Khumbu Lodge. We splurged on a room with an electric blanket, charging, an attached bathroom (with a hot shower!), and a double bed for $25 USD.

Day 3

The weather for us was poop. We wanted to walk up to the Everest Viewpoint Hotel, but since it was so cloudy, we were sure we wouldn’t get a view and only went about a third of the way up. Instead, we walked to the Visitor Center and Tenzing Norgay Statue, which is the acclimatisation walk I usually do anyway. I love the Visitor Center and highly recommend going! Note that it is open from 8am to 4pm Sundays to Friday, and that it is closed Saturday and public holidays.

Day 4

You’ll love the start of this day: it’s flat! And there are great views! Eventually, you’ll start going downhill. I’d stop at the river for a pot of tea or lunch, because after you cross the suspension bridge over the river, it’s a ticket check, then a lot of uphill! I always used to remember this bit as the WORST, but this time, I took it slow and steady, and it really wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Tengboche is absolutely beautiful. If you can, head into the monastery at 3pm for the prayer. You aren’t allowed to take photos.

Definitely go to the bakery to get a slice of apple crumble. It is necessary. And delicious.

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: Path in the clouds

Recommended teahouse: Tashi Delek

Day 5

Our whole time in Nepal, the clouds had been really low and it was foggy, but this day, it cleared up! Tengboche is BEAUTIFUL on a clear day.

Your day will start with a downhill walk before it flattens out. The flat bit is full of blooming rhododendrons in March-May.

Once you hit the river, you’ll start heading uphill again. It’s a pretty bearable uphill hike to Dingboche. The land seems very vast and very barren here. It’s awesome.

In Dingboche, the first lodge you’ll hit is the Snowlion lodge. It’s attached to a French Bakery. I love this lodge and I love the chocolate truffles (more like a dense fudgey cake) at the bakery.

Day 6

This is an acclimatisation day! Just above the Snowlion lodge is a stupa. Walk up there, and then further up the hill. There will be a rest stop. You can either continue up or stop around here. On my trips to this region, I’ve acclimated by going all the way to the top, to the rest area, and somewhere in between. I honestly don’t think that the height of your acclimatisation hike makes a huge difference, just make sure to get a hike in.

If the weather is clear, the peak offers some stunning views, but if it’s cloudy, I wouldn’t bother.

Day 7

The walk to Chukkung is a very gradual uphill. It’s quite windy in this valley. I really liked this day because there was a great view, a gentle hike, and only 3 hours of trekking!  We stayed at the Khangri Resort. Their dal bhat is fabulous and Skye (the manager) is soooo lovely! Again, the views from Chukkung are beautiful.

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: man overlooking mountains

Day 8

Another acclimatisation day! Walk up to Chukkung Ri. This is a pretty steep trail with a couple false peaks. You think you’re almost there, you make it over the ridge of the hill, and bam. Another hill to climb. That being said, the views are worth it! Once you get to the prayer flags, the rest of the trip up to the summit is a little scramble-y. It was really cloudy and we didn’t feel safe on the loose rocks, so we didn’t actually get to the summit, but maybe 30 meters below. Just be mindful of where you step! On the way down, you’ll be proud of how far you walked- it’s so much longer than it seems!

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: mountains from Chukkung Ri

I would bring trekking poles with you- it’s a steep climb and on the way down, your knees will want that extra support!

Day 9: Kongma La 

The day of the first pass! We didn’t really know what to expect regarding how long this pass would take… Lonely Planet said it would take 7 hours, online resources said 6, our guesthouse owner in Chukkung said 9. It took 10. This is a LONG day, guys.

You start by walking down towards Dingboche on the side of a hill. It’s a pretty gradual uphill. The walk isn’t too bad at the start, but it gets a lot steeper. Once you see the big frozen lake, it’ll flatten out. Even though it’s flatter, I found this section REALLY tough. I started seeing double, feeling nauseous, and feeling faint. I thought I’d have to be med-evac’d out, but I powered through. It’s a steep scramble up to the pass. The view from the pass is amazing if you look behind you. Looking forwards, towards Lobuche, isn’t that impressive.

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently:

We spent about an hour at the top of the pass, but I would have a quick snack and water and keep moving. Though the uphill part of the pass is over, the hard part isn’t!

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: Hiker under prayer flags on a mountain

Going down, your walking on scree. It’s very slippery so watch out! There also isn’t a distinct trail, so look out for rock cairns to guide you. After a couple hours of this, you’ll reach a valley. Unfortunately, you go down the valley only to go back up it. The uphill isn’t too bad, and it’s pretty short.

Once you get back to the top of the valley, you’ll meet the Khumbu Glacier. You have to cross this. Again, there isn’t a distinct trail, so follow the rock cairns. Lonely Planet describes crossing this glacier as “a final sucker punch,” and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a LOT of up and down. Also, if you go in late May, the glacier will be melting from under you and rocks will be falling around you. It can feel a bit dicey. If you’re a solo trekker, DEFINITELY try to link up with others for this bit.

After you cross the glacier, you just have to walk up one last steep uphill bit, then go downhill, and Lobuche is there!

Day 10

If you are skipping Everest Base Camp, go to Dzongla. We skipped EBC for two reasons. 1) I’ve already been there and the views are not that incredible. EBC is mainly something you visit to tick off the bucket list. 2) We were really effing tired.

The walk to Dzongla is amazing. It’s a gentle downhill, then a gentle uphill, and then you walk along a side of a mountain, so it’s flat! It takes 3-4 hours at a leisurely pace.

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: Trekker in the mountains
Recommended teahouse: Green Valley Lodge

If you are going to Everest Base Camp, read this post.

Day 11: Cho La

We woke up at about 5, had breakfast at 5:30, and were off by 6! I was honestly dreading another pass… Kongma La nearly killed me. But don’t worry if you’re feeling the same- Cho La is MUCH better.

It’s a gentle uphill for about an hour or two, and then you’re climbing up big boulders. Once you make it up the big boulders, you’ll see a string of prayer flags. There’s a great view from here, but it isn’t the pass.

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: Prayer flags in front of mountains
not the pass

Keep going up the gentle uphill. You’ll have to cross some very icy paths, which is technically challenging. If you have microspikes, I’d put them on for this section.

You’ll walk up a frozen glacier, then up maybe 10 meters of rocks, and you’ll have made it to Cho La!

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: glacier

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: prayer flags of cho la

The way down is steep and rocky. It was a little icy but not too bad. You’ll be walking on loads of boulders, and again, the path isn’t so clear, so follow the cairns. Once you make it through the boulders, you’ll have to walk up and down to a valley, from which it’s all downhill. You’ll go down the valley to Thangnag, a small town. You can either stop here or continue onto Gokyo. I recommend continuing on- Gokyo is THAT much more amazing when you’ve had a really tough day.

If you’re continuing onto Gokyo, you’ll have another glacier to cross. This one isn’t as tough as the Khumbu Glacier, navigation wise. Once you make it over the glacier, another uphill and downhill, and you’re in Gokyo!

I HIGHLY recommend staying at Thanka Inn. It’s a new hotel (only around 2 months old!) and it’s absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It’s right on the lakefront and the rooms are amazing. They have real duvets (a LUXURY to not have to use a sleeping bag), double glazed windows, and delicious food. I couldn’t recommend this place more.

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: beds

Day 12

This is the day most people go up to Gokyo Ri. We decided not to because we were feeling a little sick. Phil ended up having a bad cold with fevers and chills, and I just had some stomach troubles. We walked around the lake, which was more than enough for us.

The lake is beautiful.

Day 13: Renjo La

The third pass- Renjo La! Follow the trail to Gokyo Ri, but instead of going up, continue straight. There is a sign that will make it easy to follow. It’s a very gradual uphill for about an hour, and then a steep uphill section all the way to the top. This is the easiest pass. That being said, I still found it quite tough- I think my body was just exhausted!

Luckily, once you make it to the top, it isn’t too bad. There was a LOT of ice when we were up there, so we had to be VERY careful for about 30 minutes on the way down. It was windy and cold, and the fog came out, so we couldn’t see very far in front of us. Total whiteout. If the weather is good, this part should be no problem.

How to Trek the Three Passes Independently: renjo la prayer flags

It’s a steep downhill section, and then the trail flattens out. After about an hour and a half of walking on flat(ish) ground (HEAVEN), you’ll start going downhill again. It isn’t rocky so it’s easy to go down quickly. After losing 1000m from the pass, you’ll get to Lungdhen. There are a couple teahouses here, but we chose to just stop for tea, then continue walking down. 30 minutes below Lungdhen is another town called Marulung, but we continued down another 3 hours to Thame. The road is pretty flat and the scenery is absolutely beautiful, so it’s a nice day. It’s one of my favourite days on the trek. You get away from the commercial EBC route and get to see how people actually live.

Day 14

You’ll be super excited to get going this day, because you’re heading to NAMCHE BAZAR! Namche feels like paradise after 2 weeks of trekking. There is a LOT of up and down the whole way to Namche, but with lower altitude is a lot more oxygen, so it doesn’t feel too bad.

It does feel quite warm compared to what you’ll be used to though, so wear short sleeves this day! You’ll make it to Namche in time for a movie at the Liquid Bar. We planned on doing that, but we accidentally fell asleep for about half the day. Our bodies were tired.

Day 15

The trek down to Lukla is a lot tougher than you’ll have remembered. It’s steep downhill for the first hour or so, then lots of uphill and downhill, then just uphill. Again, it’ll feel really warm. Load up on sunscreen- I got SUPER burnt this day.

While the trek is pretty tiring, you’ll feel really motivated to make it to Lukla because it’ll mean you’re on your way to Kathmandu. Even if people dislike Kathmandu, after a trek in the Himalayas, you’ll crave comforts in Kathmandu you didn’t even know you had!


And that’s it! The Three Passes trek. Have any more questions? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment or email me.

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How to Trek the Three Passes in Nepal | Everything you need to know to trek independently + Everest Base Camp

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19 Comments

  • RichardRum

    Hello. This looks amazing! I plan to do this trek next year.
    I have a question regarding permits: all the permits can be bought in Lukla? It is not necessary to go to Kathmandu first to get permits? Is it possible to exchange money in Lukla/Naamche Bazar as well? If not necessary I would like to avoid visit to Kathmandu and continue directly to Luka (to save one or two days and money in the process).
    I also have a question regarding shoes: for the last two years I have been trekking only in trail running shoes (adidas terrex), no boots. Would you say that boots are absolutely necessary? Was there snow (deep snow) in the passes in the spring?

    • Anya Carion

      All permits are possible to get in Lukla, however the only flights to Lukla go from Kathmandu. What month will you be going? There’s usually some snow, but not deep! I’d say micro spikes are a must!

      • RichardRum

        Thank you for answer. I will be going in the middle of April-beginning of May. I know I have to go to Kathmandu airport, but after arrival I would like to continue directly to Lukla without visiting the city.

  • RichardRum

    The plane should arrive 9:40 am. I hoped there would be flights around noon, but if all the flights are in the morning then I will have to stay in Kathmandu…

  • The Year I Touched My Toes

    Hi Anya, Could you tell me what dates you did this trek,please? We are leaving in 4 weeks for Gokyo and plan to go over the Cho La Pass but in reverse. Did you meet many people coming the other way? It will be our third trek to the Khumbu. Louise

  • Cat

    Fantastic post. It’s on my bucket list. I didn’t realise you could get flights into Lukla for as low as $150. I have a fear of flying and much prefer that idea to the teeny plane! Will look into it 🙂

    • Anya

      Yes I loved helicoptering into Lukla and I think it would be a great way to make it to Lukla if you’re afraid of flying! But also, the pilots in Nepal that fly into and out of Lukla are some of the most skilled 🙂

  • Nellie Bellie

    Hey there Anya! Awesome post!! Sounds like yall had a fabulous time. May I ask for your advice? I want to do either EBC or the three passes trek solo in late march. I would much rather prefer the three passes trek as it seems far superior to EBC (as your post entails!) I am wondering, do you think I could find guides to take me across just the passes and not have them the whole way? I much rather prefer to hike on my own but am worried about the technical hiking that you spoke of with the glacier and Kongma pass. Would it be advisable for a semi experienced hiker (I am 24F) to go solo? Or should I do EBC? Thanks so much and happy trekking!!

    • Anya

      I don’t think you need a guide IF you meet up with other people doing the same passes! If you can’t find anybody doing the Three Passes the same time you are, I’d definitely recommend hiring a guide, which you should be able to do in Dingboche or the towns right before the passes. The weather could be bad in March and if there’s a lot of snow, I’d do EBC. EBC is also an incredible hike and I loved it!!!

  • Amy

    Hi,

    I am so glad I stumbled across your blog! We are planning to do the Three Passes trek but we won’t be starting until May 22. I realize this isn’t ideal. We are experienced in the mountains, but I am still a bit concerned. Any thoughts?

    Great blog!

    Thanks,
    Amy

    • Anya

      I think you should be alright! I’d definitely go over Kongma La first, then Cho La, and then Renjo La with that timing. If you find Kongma La a little more slippy (and melted) than you like, I’d be careful over Cho La, as that’s the pass where there are crevasses. Definitely make sure other people are going over the passes the same days as you. I would give it a try, and if it feels too dicey, Everest Base Camp is a great backup. You could even hike down and go up to Gokyo if Cho La isn’t possible but Gokyo’s something you really want to see! 🙂

  • Melissa

    This is perfect & made me realize either a) I’m chicken or b) I’m never going to be prepared to do something like this. I’m glad you had an amazing time and got some awesome pictures!

    • Anya

      Haha I guess it’s not for everyone, but there are loads of other amazing treks that are a little less scary in Nepal, too!

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