Everest Base Camp 06: Chukkung!

The Chukkung valley is comparatively flat and short and a beautiful side trip if you have a spare couple of days to fill in.

Wandering up the valley 

It was only a couple of hours up a gentle slope from Dingboche and a much easier day than the previous ones. As we moved up the valley, the mountains seemed to enclose us and more peaks, glaciers and rock faces appeared.

Our accommodation felt like a Swiss ski resort (at least, what I imagine one to be like!) without all the first world luxuries inside. The slate patio and seating area was hot from having the sun shining on it all day.

The patio area – a heat trap!

I sat admiring the views of Ama Dablam (a 6856 metre peak) directly in front of me. I spent ages staring at the steep peaks wondering how on earth anyone could summit it. Sheer rocks, vertical ice faces, pointy ridges. I still can’t figure it out, but people do summit it…somehow!

Ama Dablam

And it was a pretty cool backdrop for doing a spot of laundry – although it took my hands a good hour to thaw out after washing my clothes in the icy water!

Doing laundry

Island Peak is a 6189 metre mountain a couple of hours walk further up the valley and a lot of people head there to climb it. A glacier flows into a lake near Island Peak base camp and so we set off to find them both.

Base camp
Dry lake

The lake was actually several lakes on the other side of a steep, rocky moraine just before base camp. A couple of the smaller lakes were a stunning aqua-blue colour, while the larger ones were a dirty, silty brown.

Blue and brown lakes

Stunning views but freezing winds

And despite the icebergs floating in the largest lake, Kent decided to go for a swim! To his credit, he was in there about 1-2 minutes while the rest of us stayed wrapped up, sheltered from the wind, taking photos and taking bets if we would need to dash down the steep slopes and rescue him.

Heading for the water
No pulling out now
Mad man!
Going for gold
Anyone else want to come in???
Warm again!!! Success!!!
Sheltering in the comparative warmth

The next day was a climb up Chukkung Ri, a 5535 metre peak. It was made slightly easier for me as Mingama carried my day pack, leaving me with only my camera to carry.

We were heading for the top of the dark peak on the right
Halfway up

I had a mantra going around in my head… “The last part of the hill is the hardest, the view from the top is worth it!” I have no idea who to attribute that one to, but they were right.

We scrambled across loose shingle and rocks in our final bid to reach the summit and then suddenly, we were there. A flat area about 2×3 metres marked the summit, along with the obligatory Buddhist rock piles linked by prayer flags.

On the summit

The view was the most awe-inspiring I saw on the whole trek.

All of us up the top

Directly in front of me was the towering Nuptse wall ranging from about 7500-8000 metres high. I sat in silence taking in all the cracks and crevices, the snowy ridges and the ice-blue-white colours that contrasted starkly against the dark brown-black rocks. The ridge line was sharp and jagged and stood out plainly against the brilliant blue sky.

Nuptse wall behind us
Mingma in deep thought

All around us, other snowy mountains rose up competing for our attention.

Makalu in the background, Island Peak in the front

The 8550 metre triangular peak of Makalu (the 5th highest peak in the world) was just visible over the nearer ranges. It was perfectly clear when we summited, but clouded over quickly. And in the opposite direction, I thought I could see the 8188 metre Cho Oyu. Pretty amazing to look out on so many of the worlds highest mountains from one tiny vantage point!

Triangular peak of Makalu

What topped off the climb and the views was a super tasty packed lunch. I think dry crackers and water would have tasted pretty good then, but we had ordered a packed lunch from our ‘resort-chalet’ of hard boiled eggs, Tibetan bread, a hunk of yak cheese and some orange juice. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a sunny afternoon than sitting on (what felt like) the top of the world!


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