Michael Kelly

Gokyo Lakes and the Cho La Pass are breathtaking. “Do Everest Base Camp Trek”, is an item on almost any nature lover’s bucket list - and rightly so. It’s a trek which offers jaw-dropping panoramas of the world’s most majestic mountains. Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam will take your breath away as much as the challenging altitude of which us non-sherpa human beings are simply not accustomed to.

However, to see the Khumbu region of the Himalayas as merely a straightforward path to the hallowed rocks of Everest Base Camp (EBC) means to miss some of the most spectacular sights on offer in this mountainous landscape. Whilst there are many add-ons and detours you can take, adding the Gokyo Lakes sideshow via the Cho La pass will take you over more challenging terrain and treat your eyes to visual nirvana.

Everest Base Camp

The Cho La Pass

The Cho La pass (5,420m) is your pathway from the standard Everest Base Camp trek to the small lakeside town of Gokyo. It provides an achievable but challenging hike, leaving discernible trails behind in favour of rocky paths, ice and glaciers. It’s advised you bring lightweight crampons if you’ve never walked on snow before. Coming back from Eeverest Base Camp, Gokyo aspirants take a detour just before the Thokla Pass (between Lobuche and Dingboche), and wrap around a pleasantly flat ridge on the side of Awi Peak before arriving at Dzongla.

Early the next day, the path continues onto Cho La. Like any pass, Cho La is steep, providing ample physical challenge. Make sure you bring enough water unless you enjoy being dehydrated - it’s around five hours to your next checkpoint. The viewpoint half-way up Cho La is mesmerising. Ama Dablam, a mountain you’ll be used to seeing by now, stands regally at the back of this natural mural, with peak-lined ranges sprawling out to your left and right.

Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes

From there, it’s time to tackle ice and snow. The pass can be slippery and challenging, though achievable with a sterling guide. The upswing to the terrain change is you now really feel like you’re hiking in the Himalayas. Off the beaten path. Trudging through crackling snow. I’ll take that over cobblestone every day. Once you’re through, you’ll be standing at the top of the pass. For many of you, this will be the first 5,000m+ pass you’ve done. Savour it, and enjoy rest and food. The view isn’t as nice here, though the sense of achievement makes up for it. Be careful descending the icy rock path down the pass: an ankle roll up here won’t be fun.

Green Grass, Glaciers and Gokyo

A two hour, downhill walk from the bottom of the pass to your lunch pit stop will be largely uneventful provided you have enough water. I didn’t, but that’s a story for another day. Grass splays out around you across the landscape for the first time in days, the sound of a gentle stream can soon be heard in the distance.

After lunch, one trial remains before the heaven called Gokyo. You must cross the Ngozumpa Glacier, which somehow takes almost every tone of grey, throws some brown and murky green in there and turns it into beauty. Once you descend into its belly though, it’s nothing but a constant stream of mini hills to trudge over.

Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes

After a long day, it feels cruel, and it ends in a sapping vertical switchback to freedom. Upon hauling yourself out of the glacier, feelings of absolute fatigue are simply washed away by your first sight of Gokyo Lakes. Natural beauty has always brought out the best in my writing, so here’s my diary entry from that day:

The sun is shining, shimmering off the surface of a humongous, turquoise lake. Snow-capped peaks perch proudly behind the water, and a small village sits at the base of the lake, a short walk from here. The chirping birds are back and the air is silky smooth. The afternoon sun’s soft hue laps the atmosphere tenderly, stripping away the pain in my body. The scene in front of me cannot be of this world. I’ve gone to heaven.

Everest Base Camp & Gokyo Lakes

Gokyo Resort is right on the lake and will provide you the nicest Himalayan lodging outside Namche Bazaar. As you settle into your weary body and reflect on one of the hardest days of the trek, the sun fades and the lakes’ sparkle settles into a demure glow. Dusk continues to fall, and it dawns on you: this Everest Base Camp sideshow has become the main attraction, giving you everything you could ever want from a trek in a mere day.


Michael Kelly is a fairly regular Aussie guy with the yin-and-yang ability to find his way into awkward, weird, thrilling or gross situations. He's been spending the past year in Nepal, traversing the Himalayas and working in Kathmandu. If you'd like to keep up with him, check Michael out on Instagram or visit his website.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.