Kala Pataar, spelled many different ways, is a trekking peak in Nepal and offers some of the best photographic opportunities to capture large amounts of Mt Everest. Not really a mountain in itself, it is more like a big bump on a spur of neighboring Pumori. From the summit of Kala Pataar you also get great photos of Nuptse and portions of Lhotse. Mount Everest webcam is on the summit of Kala Pataar.
You will most likely spend your last night before summiting at Lobuje. There is an ascent through a valley, and then a bunch of sand and scree. A bit past Gorak Shep the route steepens sharply up a series of switchbacks. After about 4 or 5 hours from Lobuje and a couple hours from Gorak Shep you will make the summit ridge. The summit is easily seen from here and is a relatively short hike to the summit covered in prayer flags.
Kathmandu to Lukla
My buddy and I did a month through China Tibet and Nepal on a shoestring budget and had a great time. I highly recommend Lonely Planet's guide "Trekking in Nepal" for lots of good info. Flights from Kathmandu to Lukla do get delayed and cancelled a lot so plan some slack time, but we were lucky and got out the first flight the first day we tried. We flew into Kathmandu from Gongar airfield near Lhasa, Tibet. But there are many other ways to get to Kathmandu.
Once you get to Katmandu you will have basically two options:
1 - Take a Twin Otter flight to Lukla. A small air strip about ten days from Everest Base Camp (eight from Gokyo peak allowing for acclimitization) 1 hour flight approx. The Lukla airstrip has been modernized since I was first there in 1992. It is paved and has accomodations for about 5 Twin Otter aircraft. The approach to Lukla is through a valley and there is a mountain at the end of the runway so there are no go arounds. Consequently, the weather has to be just right before leaving Kathmandu. Cancellations and delays are common. On return to Kathmandu the Twin Otter's will take the entire runway. There is a considerable drop off at the end of the runway.
2 - Take a local Mini Bus hired by you or your Sherpa provider to Jiri. This is a small village at the end of the road. From here it is about a 14-16 day trek to the Everest region.
If you have the time do the walk for three reasons:
1 - You will have a chance to walk through one of the most lush and beautiful lowland areas in Nepal. This is an area that a lot of trekkers miss when flying to Lukla. You will also cross over two high passes with excellent views in all directions.
2 - By taking 2 weeks to arrive in the Khumbu are and having already crossed over two high passes you will be better acclimitized once you arrive in the high peaks area. You will enjoy this more as you will be huffing and puffing less.
3 - You will be following the route taken by most of the early expeditions. There is a lot of history along that path, why not soak it up. You will also have the bragging rights that you did the same route as they in years gone by.
Flying is fast and that has its advantages. But if you have ever been at Lukla after several days of no flights after bad weather you will understand this ie trekkers fighting over seats to make their connecting flights home.
Lukla to Kala Pataar
There is basically one route to Kala Pataar... from the airfield in Lukla up the same trail to near the Mt Everest base camp. Spectacular views of Everest and many other beautiful Himalayan Mountains along this route. It is getting popular and booking from Kathmandu to Lukla can be an adventure. We did it on our own and saved a bundle of money over the commercial travel agencies. You can book a porter and/or guide in Lukla if you want, but if you have a topo and can follow trails you really dont need them. You should plan on taking at least about 8 days from Lukla to Kala Pataar to properly acclimatize. But if you feel the effects of altitude, I would recommend planning another 2 "slack days" in your schedule so that you can acclimatize even more if necessary. No point in going half way around the world and planning your schedule so tight that you cant acclimatize and make the summit.
This peak is a nice trekking peak that offers spectacular views of Mt Everest and is quite near Everest Base Camp.
Take your time and smell the rhododendrons. Staying in the teahouses will be lifetime experiences. I saw many get sick trying to do it too fast (and by drinking too much chang on the way UP). Take your time going up, and party coming down.
We had been in Tibet before coming to Nepal so had a bit of acclimatization- but for what it is worth here is how we did it:
Day 1- arrive Lukla... original plan to stay in Phakding, but we were really feeling good so went on to Jorsale.
Day 2-Namche Bazaar- a major trading village along the route.
Day 3- acclimitize day again at Namche...minor exploratory treks.
Day 4-Tengboche- be sure to visit the monestary there.
Day 5- set out for either Dingboche or Pheriche (depending on how we were feeling and how high we wanted to sleep) stayed at "Island Peak View Lodge" in Dingboche. Speaking of hydration- I read my trip notes and saw that this day I drank 2 liters water, 10 teas, and 2 bowls of soup.
Day 6- Chunkung side trip for some really neat scenery and a bit more acclimatization. Stayed the night again in Dingboche.
Day 7-Lobuje- the highest tea house before Kala Pataar.
Day 8- Summit Kala Pataar- Just past Gorak Shep and a bit before Everest Base Camp you turn off the "trail" up a class two ridge to Kala Pataar. You will have great photo ops of Pumori as well as great photos of Everest. Try to get there early as the top of Everest is in the jet stream and you will get the blowing effect and the summit may be hidden later in the day. I would plan on leaving Lobuje by 5 or 6 AM. Back to Lobuje that afternoon for a well deserved rest.
Day 10- Lukla-- 8 days up, 2 days down.
Permits and Entrance Fees
The system in place in Nepal is called TIMS (Trekker Information Management System). Be sure you have a TIMS card with you when trekking independently or organized. Individual TIMS is obtainable only from Nepal Tourism Board offices and the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal office. These can be purchased in Kathmandu. The offices are closed on Saturday. Police check points and Park officers can at any time check your permits.
Sagarmatha National Park (Everest area) will require trekkers to pay a small entrance fee. I believe the current fee is about 1000-1200 Rs.
When To Climb
March -May tend to be best...out of season you get the monsoons and that can make for a miserable trip. During the March- May time you may even possibly run across an expedition atempting Everest.
William Marler adds:
Late September, October and early November are the busiest times. The reason for this is the best visibility in the mountains. The Monsoon of June, July and early August have passed and the dust from the plains of India has not made its way back into the atmosphere. It is tradeoff with the "crowds" though. February, March and April are less travelled and you still get good views but as April approches the sky can get hazy.
Raina adds: December is a great time to trek the Khumbu. The crowds from the fall have left, and it is still not deep winter. It is statistically dry, clear and crisp.
Camping and Tea Houses
Lodging is readily available in the small villages along the trail. Local inn keepers will rent you a bunk and a breakfast at their "teahouse". Water is available along the routes as is beer and other essentials. Prices rise the higher up the mountain you go. You can camp also, but the tea houses are nice and give a chance to mingle with others from around the world.
Very good maps are available at book stores all along the streets in the Thamel district of Kathmandu. Trails are well marked trails. Take your camera as this is quite an adventure. I highly recommend this climb. The only downside is that tourism has changed the landscape and the environment there. The area is now becoming quite the tourist hotspot.
Helping the Sherpa Community
There is nothing sadder than to see people come from around the world and trash and destroy this beautiful area and not give back. Please consider supporting the Sherpa community by making a donation to any of the following organizations:
The Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation- provides direction and financial support to community based humanitarian programs around the world. Currently the foundation is involved in establishing a climbing school for Sherpas as well as the Babu Chirri School Project to build schools in the Khumbu region where Babu was from. The organization is also active in promoting climbing safety and technique in Mongolia. There is very little overhead in this operation, and a very high percentage of donations go directly to benefit the projects.