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Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park

Sagarmatha (Everest) National Park
Nepal Travel Destination


Sagarmatha National Park is home to the most famous celebrity in Nepal, and the highest point in the world with a peak of 8848 meters, and besides the other seven 8000+ meter mountains, Mount Evereststill manages to tower over anything and anybody around it. It is home to a variety of animals, people, glaciers and the upper-catchment areas of rivers and is the dreamland for many travelers and mountaineering enthusiasts.

Shortly after Sagarmatha was listed as a National Park in Nepal, it earned the title of a UNESCO “World Heritage Site” because of its unique natural, cultural and landscape features. The park spreads across over 1100 square kilometers and is for the most part entirely over the 3000 meter mark.

The first travel group to successfully climb to the 29,029 foot high peak of Mt. Everest using supplemental oxygen were Sir Edmund Hillary of New Zealand with his comrade a Nepali Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. They reached the summit at 11:30am on 29 May 1953. The first mountaineers to reach the peak without any assisted oxygen supply were Reinhold Messenger of Italy and Peter Habeler of Austria on 8 May 1978.

For the hardcore mountaineering travelers, Sagarmatha is the challenge of a lifetime and should not be taken lightly. The climate here is extreme and only a seasoned and prepared climber, or a novice who is willing to pay a substantial sum to hire professional mountain guides, are recommended to try an ascent to the peak.

However, you do not need to be a professional mountaineer to enjoy the park as there is a trek for every level of traveler. The warnings are mostly for those destined for the top. Although altitude sickness is something everyone should be aware of.

The friendly well-known ethnic group originally from eastern Tibet, more commonly called Sherpas, live in the high altitude villages. There is a population of over 3,500 people living in and around the different settlement areas of the park. If the goal is to hike the monstrous mountain, a Sherpa would most likely be your porter and guide. They are mostly Buddhist and this is reinforced with the multitude of shrines, monastaries, prayer banners, gompas, mantras written on walls, and other gathering places to celebrate festivals found all over the region.

These many religious sites are very captivating for locals and the visiting traveler alike. Namche Bazaar is a centrally located and is a popular resting town for most trekkers. There is a natural history and culture museum that can be of great interest. In Tengboche, you can see amazing views of the mountain as well as visit the famous Thengboche Gompa.

Below 3500 meters, the vegetation is mostly pine and hemlock forests and above this mark is dominated with birch, silver fir, and juniper trees. Nepal’s country flower, the rhododendron, is also found all over these elevations in a variety of different colors (especially after the Monsoon season). If you travel to the higher elevations in the park, you could find one species of rhododendron that survives over 5000 meters.

Some of the wildlife a traveler will find in the Everest region are pikka, musk deer, Himalayan tahr, and ghoral as well as over 100 species of birds. The more commonly sighted birds are the yellow-billed chough, snow cock, snow pigeon, and Inpeyan pheasant. There are a few other less seen animals in the area like the Himalayan black bear, lynx, snow leopard, and wolf.

A few water-based attractions besides the snow covered peaks of the Sagarmatha National Park are its rivers and glaciers. This is one area where the glacial and snowmelt water along with rain combine to create some of Nepal’s gushing rivers like the Dudh Kosi, Bhote Kosi, and the Imja. Some of the prominent glaciers of the area include the Khumbu, Imha, Nangpa and Lhotse. (For more info about Nepal’s rivers, see the river rafting & kayaking page.)

The two most popular destination towns to fly into, in order to start travel through the park are Lukla and the highest airstrip in the world at Syanboche. There are regular flights from Kathmandu to Lukla. If you prefer to do more trekking to reach the park and less flying, there are alternative ways of reaching the park. One way is to fly from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar and walk 10 days, or fly to Phaplu and trek for 5 days. Taking a bus to Jiri is also followed by a 10 day walk to get into the park.

Most of the park is explored by foot and some of the more popular places to check out are Chukung Valley, Thame Valley, Kala Patthar Base Camp (also known as Everest Base Camp), Lobuche, and Gokyo Valley.

The best times for travel to the Sagarmatha (Everest) park are March through May or October through November. Although these times are the warmer and clearer days of the year, the nights can still drop below 0 at higher elevations. If you are camping you should be well equipped and stocked with food, fuel and any other supplies.

Motor bikes and mountain bikes are prohibited in the park as well as beer bottles and other glass bottles. You should either bury any trash or dispose of it in designated refuse pits. Using firewood is prohibited, locals and visitors are required to buy kerosene for an alternative form of energy. Dole, Pheriche, and Syangboche are all designated places to buy this fuel.

For those wishing to travel by climbing any peaks below 6000 meters will have to buy a permit from the Nepal Mountaineering Association. For those wishing to travel the peaks over 6000 meters, you will have to get permission from the Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation.

Travelers should always be aware of their body and any signs of high altitude sickness because it can be dangerous or even fatal, especially since the elevation changes are so great in this region. If climbing over 3000 meters, doctors do not advise ascending more than 400 meters a day. If you do get ill and need medical attention while in the park, there is the Pheriche Aid Post (which also has a communication center) and the Kunde Hospital, they also offer medical tips to travelers and locals.

A short myth about the infamous Yeti- or Abominable Snowman:

About three hundred years back, Monk Sangwa Dorje from the Thyangboche Monastery, had gone to a remote cave to have no distractions so he could concentrate on his meditation. One day a Yeti, described to be 10-12 feet tall with white hair covering his face and most of his body, came to the cave and brought him food and water. This routine went on every day until the Yeti died. On his death the Monk cut off the Yeti’s hand and scalp and placed it in the Thyangboche Monastery where it is still there for viewing.

The Snowman-Yeti exists to the Sherpas in the region. Although there is no hard evidence besides the hand and scalp, some have claimed to see one or large mysterious footprints. Some skeptics believe that the sightings are a result of high altitude hallucinations.

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