On the way to Everest Base camp, above Dingboche, there is the beautiful and little known Imja Valley. It follows the Imja Khola (river) and leads up to the little village of Chhukhung that sits almost at the base of Island Peak.
Walking up the Imja valley is a beautiful way to spend 2 days acclimatizing on the way to Everest Base Camp or for the Three Passes trek. Behind the village is Chhukhung Ri which at 5550m makes a wonderful viewing point to see the mountains that spread out to form an amphitheater.
We chose to include this side trip because Makalu is clearly seen from the top of Chhukhung Ri and as I am on a mission to see all the 8000m mountains, we had to go. Peter needed no encouragement either, he wanted to see Island Peak.
We left Dingboche and headed out to meet the Imja Khola. The track followed the river loosely winding up a gentle valley, something quite rare in this area. As we walked the valley widened out and and all around us were majestic mountains.
As we continued up the valley we stopped at a herder’s cottage that was serving tea. It is hard to think of a better place than this to sit in the sun, in the quiet, sipping tea and looking out at snow covered mountains.
We reached Chhukhung for a late lunch and then went out to explore the glaciers that fed into the Imja Khola. It started to get really cold so we retreated to our tea house and settled into our room before going to the dining room for tea and then dinner. There were a few groups there, but it was not overcrowded. Chhukhung is the starting point for climbing Island Peak and you can engage a climbing sirdar and hire equipment here for the climb. Most of the people in the tea house where there to climb and there was general buzz of excitement.
We woke early next day to a bright blue sunny day. Today we were to climb Chhukhung Ri. We left and from the very first moment we knew it was going to be a very special walk. The scenery is stunning. Mountains all around, in every direction. The walk is straight forward, just up, up, up and the air is definitely thinner up there. We took it easy and made the summit in a couple of hours. On the summit you are surrounded by majestic mountains. It seems that you can reach out and touch both Nuptse and Lhotse. Then panning out in a semicircle are Peak 38, the beautiful Cho Polu, and Makalu away in the distance. Between them are stunning ice cliffs and glaciers and rocky, snow covered summits. Standing right in the middle is the aptly named Island Peak (6189m) and looking further down the Imja valley you can see Ama Dablam with it’s glaciers feeding into the Imja Khola. It is a stunning view.
We made our way down to the village, picked up our gear and wandered down the Imja valley awed by its beauty until we reached Dingboche where we spent the night.
Our two days in the Imja Valley were one of the highlights of our three weeks in Nepal.
It was beautiful.
It was quiet.
It offered stunning views.
It was so much more that just an acclimatization hike.