AdventureNepal

Trekking to Pikey Peak, Nepal

Trekking in the Pikey Peak region has been gaining in popularity, but still a much-less travelled option than most in the Everest area. My journey began when guide Wangdowa Sherpa made a group for his friends in his new home in the Eastern Sierra Nevada, USA, after he married a woman living there.

Although I or my group had never heard of Pikey Peak, the idea of a culturally rich trek through several Sherpa villages hugging the hillsides was irresistible, as was the promise of visiting Wangdowa’s own home village of Phapre, several gompas and stupas, and one of the most spectacular vistas in Nepal. At 4065 meters, Pikey Peak provides views of eight of the world’s peaks over 8000 meters. That is, when visibility allows. The view from Pikey Peak is said to have been Sir Edmund Hillary’s favorite view in all of Nepal.

Trekking to Pikey Peak, Nepal

Photo: Elizabeth Kenneday-Corathers

Our journey began in Kathmandu, with a few days of touring. Then, seventeen of us boarded our bus bound for Jiri Bazaar. We camped on a hillside above Jiri the first night, then followed the route through Shivalaya, a traditional provision stop for Everest trekkers, walking along the river before a steep ascent to the Deurali Pass. The trails in this region make sheer ascents through exquisite rhododendron forests, followed by sharp descents into lush valleys. Switchbacks are virtually unknown here, and only an occasional level path rounding a mountain is encountered.

A heavy rain began during our ascent, and we opted to stay in Wangdowa’s cousin’s guesthouse at the top of the Pass. Wangdowa had cousins all over the hills, who ran very welcoming lodges and teahouses.

The next morning was beautiful, as we descended into an agricultural area. We took the path south, heading for the magnificent Kinggurding Gompa, with spectacular views of part of the Himalayan range. We visited the gompa the next morning with the Lama and community of monks who gave us tea and blessings. Exquisitely perched on the hillside surrounded by wooden monks’ huts, it was tragically destroyed in the 2015 earthquake and will not be rebuilt.

Arriving at Phapre that evening, we stayed for two days, with our tents overlooking the terraced hillsides growing rice, wheat and barley. We were treated to a lovely traditional women’s dance, raksi being distilled, butter churning, threshing and other glimpses into village life. This was followed by a lively community dance in which everyone participated–even my husband, who had only danced publicly at one wedding in the twenty years of our marriage!

Wangdowa opened his family’s private 700-year-old Buddhist temple to us, too. Although small in size, the treasures it contained included rare ceramic icons, thangkas, traditional scrolls, banners and a very old drum.

The villagers had founded a local school not long before our visit, and we brought books, materials and art supplies for the students. In a charming ceremony, we were introduced to the students and their work. They performed a traditional dance for us, and then mingled as the donation was disseminated to the teachers. Our mirrored sunglasses especially delighted the children, who crowded around us to see their reflections.

Trekking to Pikey Peak, Nepal

Photo: Elizabeth Kenneday-Corathers

We moved on from this village and its wonderfully hospitable community, heading for Pikey Peak. The plan was to camp below it and rise at 3AM to climb to the top and catch the astonishing vista we’d heard so much about. But a light drizzle turned into a heavy rain, and, as the trail steadily climbed, snow began to fall, unusual for the time of year. Taking shelter in a yak camp, our tents were set up in the snow. The fog was so thick that we could barely find the dining tent that evening despite numerous headlamps.

Our ascent of Pikey Peak itself had been thwarted, and we began our descent that morning, trekking another two days to Phaplu before flying back to Kathmandu. Despite the disappointment of missing the grand view, the Pikey Peak trek was one I would not have wanted to miss, as the cultural highlights were so memorable.

Article by Elizabeth Kenneday-Corathers.

Top photo: Bastien Roquier

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