8,700 ft. / 2,651m

First day of trekking in the Himalayas

Hiking to Phakding usually is the first day of hiking in the Himalayas for many trekkers. It is a great introduction to the Himalayan mountains. You’ll hike beneath massive mountains, near and across a river (many times), and through pastures and small villages. There’s not much better hiking in the world.

Lukla to Phakding

After you’ve hiked for roughly two hours from Lukla, you’ll reach Phakding. This small village is a good stopping point since it lies close to the midway point between Lukla and Namche Bazaar. It’s a good ‘first day’ of trekking, especially if you live close to sea level back at home. Phakding’s elevation is a good balance between Kathmandu (4,600 ft.) and the higher elevations of the upper mountain.

Nepali way of life

While trekking from Lukla to Phakding, you’ll have the privilege of witnessing firsthand how the Nepali people survive at such high elevations. They farm their own crops such as onions, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, etc. The fields are beautiful and are fun to walk through.

Suspension bridges

You’ll also have the chance to cross four suspension bridges on your way to Phakding. There are five more after Phakding on the way to Namche Bazaar. The suspension bridges can be adrenaline producers, depending on your experience and level of comfort with heights.

Yield to animals

The one precaution to keep in mind is to not go on the bridges while yaks or donkey trains are crossing. The bridges themselves can easily handle the weight, that’s not the issue. The issue is the chance to get hung up on a yak horn. It’s best to wait your turn and let the animals go first.



9,301 ft. / 2,835m

Check-in: Sagarmatha National Park

35 minutes up valley from Phakding is Monjo. It’s a small village along the trail but worth mentioning since the border of Sagarmatha National Park is found here, not to mention the national park border patrol and check-in point.

It is here that you’ll need to present your TIMS card and pay the national park entrance fee ($30.00)

Western comforts

It also offers a peaceful night’s rest for those on their way down or for those who pushed a little harder the day before in order to get in a little more mileage on their first day of trekking. The Yeti Mountain Home, a western-style hotel can be found here.

If you’re looking for a hot shower, heated bed, and the comforts of the western world, you can find them here…for a price. Compared to other tea houses, the Yeti Mountain Home’s prices are out of this world; but can be so worth the luxury.

Sagarmatha National Park & Buffer Zone

Sagarmatha National Park & Buffer Zone

“Sagar” and “matha”

Sagarmatha National Park was created by the Nepali government in 1976. The word ‘Sagarmatha’ is Nepali. It’s another name for Mt. Everest. “Sagar” means sky, and matha means “head.”


The terrain within the Sagarmatha National Park is quite varied. As you may imagine, the elevation range is staggering, which leads to different climates within the park. Lower elevations (below 9,800 ft. / 3,000m), or forested temperate zones, include rhododendron forests and grazing lands. The subalpine zone (9,800 ft. / 3,000m) is a transitional zone. The forests start to thin out and the temperature begins to drop. The alpine zone (13,000 ft. / 4,000m) has very little vegetation. The landscape begins to become more rocky and barren. The nival zone begins at 16,000 ft. / 5,000m. When trekking on the Everest base camp trail, all climate zones will be encountered. Be sure to gear up accordingly.

Buffer Zone

In January of 2002, a buffer zone was created around Sagarmatha National Park in order to protect and conserve forests, wildlife, and cultural resources. Due to overcrowded trekking seasons, the environment in the park has suffered. Locals have cut down trees in order to fuel cooking fires to feed the trekkers. Whole forests were being chopped down to support the tourists’ presence, which destroyed natural habitats for local population of animals. Great efforts have been made to preserve the environment and animals within Sagarmatha National Park. Efforts have also been made to preserve the local culture, seeing how it is of ancient date and very unique. One example is UNESCO listing the upper regions of Sagarmatha National Park as a World Heritage Site.

Flora and fauna

Sagarmatha National Park holds many species of plants and animals within her borders. Notably, the large rhododendron forests and the elusive snow leopard. Other notable plants include birch, juniper, blue pines, firs, and bamboo. Other notable animals include the musk deer, red panda, Asian black bear, Himalayan tahr, and marten. The national bird, monal, can be seen on the trail to Mt. Everest base camp. The male monal is flashy and surprises any trekker  who has not seen it before. The bright colors contrast the barren land’s monochrome hues.

Sagarmatha World Heritage Site

Sagarmatha World Heritage Site

Protection and preservation

In order to further protect the unique and precious landscape and resident culture, UNESCO listed the upper regions of Sagarmatha National Park as a World Heritage Site. This was completed in 1979. It’s easy to see that Mt. Everest’s attraction would take it’s toll on the environment and the resident Sherpa culture. As more foreigners visit the beautiful and pristine lands of the Nepali Himalaya, the land and culture bear the brunt and slowly give way. Western-style food and clothing can be seen throughout the national park. Whole forests are simply gone due to over-harvesting.

Accountability: What’s your impact?

As you trek through this wonderful and unique place on earth, take a moment to reflect upon your own impact, and try to lessen it. 

As the Nepalis say, “While visiting this special area [Sagarmatha National Park], visitors are encouraged to:” 

  1. Refrain from taking life
  2. Refrain from anger
  3. Refrain from jealousy
  4. Refrain from offending others
  5. Refrain from taking excessive intoxicants

“Enjoy your visit!”


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