AdventureNepal

Trek to Pikey Peak & Dudh Kunda

Pikey Peak used to be a popular trek, but since the Tenzing Hillary Airport at Lukla was opened in 1964, the upper Khumbu region has become more accessible. Many trekkers now prefer to get their views of Everest from the overcrowded Kala Patthar and Everest Base Camp. The trekkers who do make it to Pikey Peak are rewarded with quiet trails, delicious home-cooked food made from local produce, unparalleled views of Everest and accompanying peaks, and the option to visit Dudh Kunda (or milk lake), a remote yet accessible site sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists.

Pikey Peak is a ‘small hill’ by Himalayan standards, at 4,065 metres. Legend has it that Sir Edmund Hillary himself declared the peak to be the best place from which to gaze upon Mount Everest. It’s sometimes written as P.K. Peak, with the suggestion that it was named after Hillary’s sirdar, P.K. Other sources claim the name Pikey originates from Sherpa culture, being the name of a deity who was fond of the mountain, or the joining together of the names of two local Sherpa clans.

Trek to Pikey Peak & Dudh Kunda

Photo: Hannah Straw

While the origins of its name remain shrouded in mystery, one thing is pretty clear from Pikey Peak: the immense views. Everest South, Lhotse, Makalu, the ranges of Annapurna and Manaslu to the west, and Kanchanjunga to the east. You can also spot Thamserku, Numbur Himal, Gauri Shankar, and the Langtang range. As the mountain itself is not so high, trekkers can enjoy the luxury of lingering at the summit to take in the views.

Stay overnight at Pikey Peak Base Camp Lodge, or Ngaur Gompa Lodge, depending on the direction of your trek. From Ngaur Gompa it is an approximately two-hour hike to the top, so be prepared to hike by headlamp if you are keen to catch the sunrise from the peak. Alternatively, you could set up camp just below the col between Pikey I and Pikey II, especially if you have brought your tent for a later visit to Dudh Kunda. The path has been revised since the earthquake of 2015, so be critical when following trail markings. Opt for the newer-looking ones, marked by orange circles spray-painted onto tree trunks.

Trekking to Pikey itself is a delight as you pass through forests of birch and rhododendron; visit in spring (March-May) to see the latter in full bloom. Aromatic juniper bushes, sacred to the Sherpas who live here, keep the landscape green throughout the winter months. Fields of wheat, barley and millet provide hues of green or russet, depending on the season. From May-October you will see cattle out to pasture all over the area, reminding you of why the newly opened trails from Shivalaya are dubbed the ‘cheese trail’.

Trek to Pikey Peak & Dudh Kunda

Photo: Hannah Straw

The Sherpas who inhabit these lands maintain a largely traditional existence, living off the land (in addition to providing excellent hospitality to visitors). Indulge in some delicious slices of yellow Numbur cheese to accompany your salty butter tea. These relatively lower altitudes afford a milder climate, and wildlife flourishes. It’s easy to sport Nepal’s national bird, the danfe. Predatory mammals can also be spotted in the area if you are lucky: I narrowly missed a snow leopard sighting in Junbesi, but did see a dog that had survived a mauling.

Take the path from Taksindu La to Dudh Kunda, a lake that laps the feet of Numbur Himal mountain. During the full moon in August, many Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims converge on Dudh Kunda to take a purifying dip in its waters. It is thanks to them that the path to this otherwise quite remote place is so well-trodden and easy to find. It is sacred to Hindus as the former abode of Lord Shiva. It’s not a very popular trekking destination, largely because visiting the sacred milky lake requires a night spent out in the open, either in a tent or in a cow-herder’s hut. It is possible that will change in the next few years, so go sooner rather than later to enjoy its more remote state. I had the whole lake to myself.
The milky hue of Dudh Kunda changes depending on the location of the sun. It’s milky in the morning and the evening, and deeper in colour in the middle of the day. It is possible to circumambulate the entire lake; be sure to do this in a clockwise direction, in keeping with Hindu and Buddhist customs. Get a closer look at Numbur Himal while visiting the lake. Its distinctive shape can be viewed from many angles, and you’ll see why local Sherpas view it as the protector of the lower Khumbu region.
Trek to Pikey Peak & Dudh KundaTrek to Pikey Peak & Dudh Kunda

Photo: Hannah Straw

You can combine visits to both Pikey Peak and Dudh Kunda as part of the Solukumbu Cultural Trail, where you can visit Junbesi, Thubtencholing (aka ‘Little Tibet’), the Taksindu Pass, and catch views of Everest from the ridge between Junbesi and Ringmu. On this trek you can also learn about and experience Rai, Sherpa and Bahun village culture.

A possible rough itinerary looks like this:
Jiri – Bhandar
Bhandar – Ngaur Gumba
Ngaur Gumba – Pikey Peak – Lamjura
Lamjura – Junbesi -Thubten Choling – Junbesi
Junbesi – Taksindu La
Taksindu La – Dudhkunda (camping required)
Dudhkunda – Taksindu
Taksindu – Phaplu

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