Day 16: Machermo - Gokyo
This is an exhilarating day of hiking, gaining 340 meters and taking around 3-3 1/2 hours to Gokyo. despite the conservative elevation gain the breathing becomes more labored by the time you reach your destination.
You immediately climb a rather steep hill out of Machermo (4410 meters), which levels after about 20 minutes. Crossing a slightly elevated grassy slope the trail more or less levels off once you pass the tiny village of Pangka at 4480 meters, where lodges were rebuilt in the 1990's after an avalanche destroyed both lodges and killed several Japanese trekkers and their guides. Following the trail along a slope views of Ngozumpa Glacier appear as you enter a glacial valley. The trail becomes narrow as you climb stone stares and short slopes walking closer then away from the Dudh Kosi river. In the snow, parts of this section can be a little slippery in the early morning or late in the evening. You soon curve around a rock wall and traverse crossing a tiny bridge over a pristine stream coming from the first lake. As you can see from the slide show the hike to Gokyo was snowy from an unusual mid-October storm and in the colder months the trail can freeze as you get close to the first lake so be careful. As you pass the small first lake take a look around as dozens of carins are scattered around and the views of the lake sparkling in the sun's rays is stunning. Keep going and you will come to the larger 2nd lake where we saw several orange & brown ducks in the turquoise water. This lake, called Tawujung is sacred to Sherpa's in the area and swimming in it is frowned upon. Another 15 minutes up the trail you pass the words "Welcome to Gokyo" painted on a boulder. If hiking from Jiri, Lukla, or further beyond take a moment to contemplate how hard you worked to get to this point and enjoy the moment. Another 10 minutes up the trail is the 3rd lake and soon Gokyo (4750 meters) comes into view. Walking into Gokyo felt triumphant and the views of the 3rd lake, surrounding mountains, and Cho Oyu in the distance are mind blowing. We initially stayed at the large Gokyo Resort at the high point of town, a large lodge with dozens of rooms and really good food. However, we changed lodges due to a broken window in our room. We moved to the Cho Oyu Lodge close the the lake which was run by a friendly Sherpa woman who treated us like family and cooked the best food we had since the lower sections below Lukla.
***Note: Even if you acclimatize properly you may experience altitude sickness in Gokyo. Our Austrailan friends that we had been trekking with since Bhandar (day 3) had to head back after arriving in Gokyo after one of them became moderately ill with a AMS. We talked to them at the end of the trip and she reported that once they reached Machermo she immediately felt better.