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Namche VDC 56000, Nepal

GPS: 27.9325902613, 86.701622556171

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Sagarmatha National Park is located in the Khumbu region of north-eastern Nepal. A land of adventure and legends, it is part of the mythical mountain range of the high Himalayas. This park encompasses three of the ten highest peaks in the world: Everest (8,848 metres), Lhotse (8,516 metres) and Cho Oyu (8,201 metres) over an area of approximately 1,250 km² in the Solukhumbu District.

The first successful ascent of the Mount Everest massif (Sagarmatha in Nepalese) dates back to 1953. It is credited to the New Zealand mountaineer and explorer Sir Edmund Percival Hillary, accompanied by the Nepalese guide of Tibetan origin, Tenzing Norgay. Since this resounding exploit, many experienced mountaineers have been trying to repeat this risky performance, often at the risk of their lives. Created in 1976 to protect its natural resources, Sagarmatha National Park displays grandiose landscapes crossed by the Dudh Kosi and Bhote Kosi rivers. They are perched in the Himalayan peaks, the lowest point of the park reaching some 3,000 metres above sea level.

Despite its difficult access, harsh climatic conditions and very isolated nature, Sagarmatha National Park is inhabited by Sherpas. This people, originally from the Tibetan province of Kham, have a spiritual relationship with the mountains, which they consider sacred. Discovering the gorges, glaciers, high valleys and rugged terrain of the Himalayas is the ultimate experience for any mountaineer or hiker seeking to conquer the world’s highest peaks. The long hike to Everest Base Camp, perched 5,300 metres above sea level, is undoubtedly the most popular route for international visitors. To achieve this goal, the expertise of the high mountain guides and the courage of the Sherpa porters, in their ability to carry incredibly heavy loads on the backs of men in the rugged terrain, are essential. A pack saddle, such as the yak, dzo or mule, used for transporting goods at high altitudes, are also valuable for getting to the roof of the world.

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  • Some of the highest mountain peaks in the world (Everest, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Pumori, Ama Dablam, Thamerku, Kwangde, Kangtaiga, Kala Patthar, Tawesche, Gyachyung Kan…)
  • Gokyo lakes, the highest in the world (5,000 metres above sea level)
  • The Khumbu Valley teeming with glaciers
  • The fauna (red panda, leopard or snow leopard, black bear, tahrs, bharals or blue sheeps, marmots…) and the mountain flora of the park (forests of birch, juniper, pine, bamboo, rhododendrons…); the observation of nearly 200 species of birds including the golden eagle
  • Climbing, mountaineering and adventure hikes on steep cliff faces or high mountain trails (the most popular of which leads to the Everest Base Camp)
  • Tibetan monasteries (in Nyingma, Tengboche and Thame); temples and sculptures in the Kathmandu Valley built by the Newars (a people of farmers and craftsmen); prayer flags (loungta) decorating the roofs of houses, temple entrances, passageways and mountain peaks
  • Sherpa culture and villages (Pangboche, Monju and Khumjung)
  • Sherpa Culture Museum in Namche Bazaar
  • The Mani Rimdu Festival in May in Tengboche; the Dumji Festival in June in Khunde and Khumjung
  • The Himalayan range was born from the meeting of two tectonic plates several tens of millions of years ago. The collision between the Indian and Eurasian plates eventually formed a line of almost 2,500 kilometres of high mountains straddling the countries of Nepal, Bhutan, India, China and Pakistan. Before this geological uplift, this region of Asia was submerged by the ocean.
  • The Sherpas, mainly of Buddhist culture, settled in this hostile region of Nepal in the early 16th century to escape political and military oppression in China. Guardians of the spirit of the place and the preservation of its natural resources, around 6,000 of them live in this part of the Himalayas through some 20 small villages (a little less than half of them is established in the boundaries of Sagarmatha National Park). Turning more and more towards mountain tourism (as guide or porter), the Sherpas have traditionally made a living from commerce and agriculture (yak farming and subsistence crops) in one of the harshest environments in the world.
  • The highest mountain in the world has many names depending on the country: Sagarmatha in Nepal (“goddess of the sky”), Chomolungma or Qomolangma in Tibet (“Holy Mother”), Shengmu Feng in China (“Holy Mother Peak”). In 1865, it was named Everest by the British in homage to Sir George Everest, Surveyor General of India under colonial domination between 1830 and 1843 (this peak was until then called Peak XV by the Westerners). In the mid-19th century, a British team studying the Himalayan range established that it was the highest mountain in the world (although the exact size was not agreed with other countries such as Nepal and China). This survey was confirmed in 1852 thanks to the work of the Indian topographer and mathematician Radhanath Sikdar. At 8,848 metres above sea level, it officially supersedes the Kangchenjunga, another Himalayan peak 8,586 metres high located on the Indo-Nepalese border.
  • Mount Everest could have had a new name if the proposal by Chinese leader Mao Zedong to divide the mountain into two equal halves had been accepted by the kingdom of Nepal (he wanted to symbolically call it the Sino-Nepal Friendship Mount). Moreover, the Mount Everest region has been the subject of a dispute between Nepal and China over its territorial affiliation since the 1960s.
  • Mount Everest may have been first climbed not by Westerners in 1956 but by the Chinese in the early 18th century. Ancient documents reveal that the Chinese Emperor Kangxi (Qing Dynasty) sent surveyors and sophisticated measuring instruments to this region to map and measure Mount Qomolangma.
  • Above 8,000 metres altitude, oxygen is extremely scarce. Combined with the effect of atmospheric pressure, the human body loses 80% of its physical and mental capacities in this “death zone” (the life expectancy of a trained person is estimated at best at 12 hours in this area).
  • More than 300 people have died trying to climb Everest since 1922 (corresponding to the first British expedition) due to avalanches, collapsing ice or rocks, falls, mountain sickness and hypothermia. Half of the victims lay mummified under the snow because they could not be repatriated down the mountain, and a third of them were Sherpa porters. This sad record of achievements gives this Nepalese peak the title of the highest cemetery in the world. With global warming, some of the corpses lying among the 200 bodies on the road to Everest are emerging from the ice and thawing.
  • More familiarly known as the Abominable Snowman, the yeti is said to inhabit the high mountains of the Himalayas according to local beliefs originating in Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan. This mythical creature is believed to have been first seen in the mid-19th century in the neighbouring Makalu Barun National Park through a series of giant footprints observed on a glacier. The Pangboche Monastery, erected at an altitude of 4,000 metres, is said to have preserved hairs from this immense primate without this information having been scientifically proven (no bones or fossils have been unearthed in the region). According to researchers and biologists, the tracks found several times on the snow could in fact correspond to those of brown or black bears inhabiting the Himalayan summits.
  • After the South Pole and the North Pole, the Himalayan mountains contain the largest reserves of frozen water on the planet. About a quarter of the world’s population depends on the waters of the rivers that originate in this region.
  • Mount Everest is home to the world’s highest weather station (it is installed on the Balcony, 500 metres from the summit).
  • The southern base camp of Everest is nestled at an altitude of 5,000 metres, at the limit of the breathable atmosphere for humans. It holds the title of the highest village in the world. Its layout is only temporary, as it takes shape every year in the spring to serve as a shelter for mountaineers.
  • Tenzing–Hillary Airport, based at the foot of the Everest Base Camp at an altitude of 2,860 metres, has one of the world’s smallest airstrips (500 metres long with a 12-degree slope and a 600-metre drop over a valley). It is considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world (three fatal accidents have occurred in the last 10 years). It was renamed in 2008 in honour of mountaineer Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
  • The number of visitors to Sagarmatha National Park has increased fivefold in 30 years to reach 25,000 people per year. As a result of this over-visitation, tens or even hundreds of tons of rubbish are abandoned each year at the foot of the Himalayan mountains. The Nepalese army, supported in its task by non-governmental organisations (including the Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee), occasionally carries out large-scale clean-up operations to collect the waste or debris left by the mountaineers (which are burnt or flown to Kathmandu for treatment in the absence of local infrastructure). Other initiatives aim to transform this rubbish into works of art. In Syangboche, for example, an interpretation centre located at an altitude of more than 3,700 metres will allow artists to exhibit objects and artistic pieces created from waste collected in the Everest region. This space will also aim to raise awareness of environmental protection among the various stakeholders.
  • The easiest way to reach Sagarmatha National Park is to fly to Lukla from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu (30-minute flight) and then take a two-day adventure trek (accompanied by a Sherpa guide) to Namche Bazaar.
  • The periods between October and November then March and May are the best times to explore the Himalayan Mountains. Climbing can become impossible and extremely dangerous on bad weather days (visibility is reduced to nil).
  • The purchase of a permit is required to be allowed to enter the perimeter of Sagarmatha National Park. Foreign hikers wishing to reach the Himalayan Mountains are also required to take out special insurance.
  • Two to three weeks of adventure trekking are necessary to reach the Everest Base Camp from Lukla.
  • The Khumbu Icefall is one of the most perilous passages to reach Mount Everest via the South Col route. Nestled at an altitude of almost 5,500 metres, it lies at the foot of the world’s highest glacier (the Khumbu). This place has the peculiarity of being in perpetual movement (it moves an average of one metre per day). Large blocks of ice are likely to break off under your weight and avalanches can be triggered suddenly. It is therefore strongly recommended to cross this site early in the morning before the sun weakens the ice surface.
  • The visit to the park’s sacred places and monasteries is clockwise.
  • Centres have been set up by the authorities in several places in the valley to optimise recycling. Since 2014, a cleaning fee in the form of a $4,000 deposit has been imposed on visitors wishing to climb Mount Everest (each climber is required to return from his or her expedition with a minimum of 8 kilograms of waste with them for reimbursement). The use of single-use plastics is now prohibited in the area surrounding Mount Everest.

Where to eat

  • Ama Dablam Lodge Kyangjum
    (restful stopover)
  • Hermann Helmers Bakery
    (artisanal bakery)
  • Panorama Lodge and Restaurant
    (unfailing hospitality)

Where to go out

  • Qomolangma National Nature...
    (biosphere reserve)
  • Langtang National Park
    (close to Tibet)
  • Makalu Barun National Park
    (park with rugged summits)

Where to sleep

  • Himalaya Lodge
    (practical and well-organized)
  • Rivendell Lodge
    (neat hostel)
  • Hotel Everest View
    (masterful view)

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