Khumbu Heritage Trail

Understanding the life of Nepali Sherpas

Khumbu – the roof of the world. Home of the highest mountains of our beautiful planet and home of probably the most famous mountain people in the world: the Sherpa. Especially the 8.848 m high Mount Everest has made this formerly extremely remote mountain region one of the most sought-after destinations for hikers and mountaineers.
And with good reason: there will hardly be a traveler whose mouth did not drop open at the first sight of Mount Everest and all the other six-, seven- and eight-thousanders. In addition, there is a cultural heritage that will accompany and fascinate you on the whole trip: Buddhism characterizes the life of the Sherpa and is visible at almost every corner. Just think of the Buddhist flags hanging everywhere, the gompas with their monks and the chortens in every village. Combined with the hospitality of the Sherpa people, this makes for an almost irresistible package for open-minded outdoor enthusiasts.
On the “Khumbu Heritage Trail” not only the landscape, but above all the life of the Sherpas is the central theme. You will travel with them and take part in their daily life and culture. Discuss with them how they farm or what significance the yak has in one of the highest inhabited regions on earth. You will travel off the beaten track and be guests of Sherpa families – and always accompanied by Mingma Sherpa, our well-traveled Fair Trails expert from Namche Bazar. If you return home feeling that the region has so much more to offer than “just” Mount Everest, then we have achieved our goal!

01 — THE MYTH

The world famous
mountain ethnicity

01

The landscape shapes life: The Sherpas from the Khumbu region at the foot of Mount Everest are probably the most famous indigenous people in the world and live in one of the highest areas on earth. © Anuj Adhikary

Sherpas are certainly the most famous ethnic group in the world. Pictures of Sherpas leading their clients to one of the most hostile places in the world, the summit of Mount Everest, went around the world. And the phrase “I’m not your Sherpa” has probably been heard by everyone. A sign of how well known the Sherpas are – but also a sign of how little we know about the people. The word “Sherpa” means neither “Nepalese mountaineer” nor “carrier”; but is – as already mentioned one of the many Nepalese ethnic groups. The people who live in the Khumbu region in one of the highest populated regions on earth around Mount Everest, Lhotse and Cho Oyu.
The region was extremely secluded until the start of tourist interest. The Sherpas, like any mountain people, had adapted perfectly to the remoteness and the harsh and barren local conditions. They were farmers and lived from trade over the passes of the Himalayas. Life was strongly influenced by Buddhism, as evidenced by the many gompas and chortens.
This life is still visible today. But of course tourism and the better accessibility especially through the adventurous airport in Lukla has changed the life of the Sherpas. In places along the famous trekking routes more and in villages far away much less. Along the famous trekking routes, many Sherpas work as guides or in lodges, while others engage in farming. Many Sherpas also spend a period of their lives abroad – outside of the Khumbu, the second most Sherpas are found in New York.

This is how the Sherpas have learned to master the balancing act between tradition and change. On the Khumbu Heritage Trail, accompanied by your Fair Trails expert Mingma Sherpa, you can gain a deep insight into the life of the Sherpas between tradition and modernity – off and also in the middle of the famous trekking trails. And – we bet – you will be so impressed that you will take home a part of the Khumbu in your heart.
+

Yak caravans along the historic trail from Paiya towards Everest: In the past, expeditions without this important form of transportation were unthinkable. © Trail Angels

Spectacular suspension bridges are one of the most famous symbols of the Khumbu region and require a certain head for heights. However, they are not only breathtaking in the true sense of the word, but also very important connecting lines over deep gorges. © Trail Angels
The transport of firewood is very arduous, especially in the higher villages, because with the increase in altitude the tree population becomes less and less. For this reason, dried yak dung is often used as fire material. © Anuj Adhikary
Two symbols of the Khumbu in one picture: the summit of the 6.814 m high Ama Dablam, one of the most beautiful mountains in the world, and in front of it a yak. © Anuj Adhikary
Bhote Koshi, a typical original Sherpa village with its small-scale agricultural structure. © Trail Angels
Encounters with the people – from young to old – are the real highlights of the trip. They make even the imposing glacier giants fade into the background. © Trail Angels
Namche Bazar with a rugged peak in the background is the bustling center of the Khumbu. © Trail Angels
A stupa in front of the imposing Ama Dablam – Buddhist symbols like this can be found everywhere in the Khumbu and are signs of a deeply rooted and practiced Buddhism. © Jay San Photography

02 — THE EXPERIENCE

Dive into the life
of the Sherpas

02

Yaks serve not only as transport animals, but also as one of the main sources of food for the Sherpas: they provide milk, and their meat for nutrition and their skin and fur are processed into clothing. They are also used as riding animals. © Trail Angels
THE ROUTE
Panoramaweg Südalpen Panorama am Hochplateau
The Khumbu Heritage Trail takes you first on the historic land route of the first expeditions to Namche Bazar and then follows a loop through typical Sherpa villages back to Lukla © Trail Angels/Raj Gyawali
The Khumbu Heritage Trail through the Khumbu region in the heart of the Himalayas starts like all trips to Nepal in Kathmandu. Here you have time at the beginning of the trip to get to know the two philosophies that determine life in Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism, and to make your first contacts with the Sherpa people.
However, you will not approach the Khumbu by flight to Lukla like most tourists, but you will drive like the locals with off-road vehicles a breathtaking route to Phaplu and further to Paiya, where your trekking begins. Now you follow the historic trail towards Everest, which was walked by all the Everest pioneers before the airport was built. This part of the trek via Surke and Chaurikarka is very quiet and paints a pristine picture of the Khumbu region and the Sherpa people, before you meet the popular main trek towards Mount Everest between Lukla and Phakding. It is like a shock of civilization after the quiet time, but this is also an inseparable part of today’s Khumbu. The landscape becomes more and more spectacular: rugged gorges are traversed, suspension bridges are crossed and more glaciated giants line your path. So it goes on via Monjo to the famous Sherpa villages of Namche and Thame. From Thame, you can climb the approximately 4.800m high Sundar Peak, the highest point of the trek and a fantastic vantage point, before reaching the two villages of Mende and Khumjung off the main trail, along paths only used by locals.
Now it’s downhill back to Namche and via Monjo to Lukla. Here it is time to say goodbye to the Khumbu and the Sherpas: From the adventurous airport in Lukla you will take the plane back to Kathmandu. Here you still have time to enjoy this breathtaking city before heading back home.

THE FAIR TRAILS EXPERT

Panoramaweg Südalpen Panorama am Hochplateau
Mingma Sherpa is our competent Fair Trails expert for the Khumbu Heritage Trail. He has worked on the idea of the trail himself and can tell a lot of interesting things due to his strong involvement in the Khumbu. © Mingma Sherpa
Mingma Sherpa was born in Namche, right in the heart of the Everest Region, and at a very young age, came to Kathmandu to start his studies. Once he finished his studies, he travelled to the US to continue studying, and eventually even started working for the UN, in Nepal and abroad. The draw of his home village has now brought him back, and he went back to managing the family-owned Panorama Lodge, famously used by mountaineers since it started several decades ago. Today, he is a board member of the Namche Youth Club and an active proponent of taking the Sherpa culture back to it humble roots. He is one of the many young Sherpas who have come back, with a rekindled zeal and a passion to take the Sherpa image beyond just mountaineering, for which they are renown worldwide.
THE PROGRAM AND ITS HIGHLIGHTS
Panoramaweg Südalpen Panorama am Hochplateau
The Khumbu offers an intense cultural exchange with the Sherpas as well as spectacular trails in a breathtaking mountain landscape. © Anuj Adhikary
The Khumbu Heritage Trail has set itself a great task. It is not only satisfied with the undoubtedly breathtaking landscape of the Khumbu with its glaciated six-, seven- and eight-thousand-meter peaks and the many wonderful witnesses of a living Buddhism such as chörts and gompas. He wants to show much more: namely to give deep insights into the life of perhaps the most famous mountain people in the world – the Sherpas. To do this, you will approach the Khumbu cautiously via the land route of the locals and slowly ascend to higher altitudes.
You will be constantly accompanied by a great expert of the Sherpa culture, who himself tries to preserve the traditions: Mingma Sherpa will be happy to answer all your questions about Sherpas and open some doors for you, which remain closed to “regular” tourists. You will get deep insights into Sherpa life in villages off the beaten track like Khumjung, Surke or Mende. But also in villages like Namche and Lukla you will experience the change of the Khumbu through tourism with all its positive and negative effects. You will get to know the special relationship between Sherpas and Yaks at a Yak farm. With your impact on the trip, you can help to ensure that the yak in the Khumbu will not disappear from the scene. You learn about the everyday things like the difficulties of an energy supply. And the Sherpas will show you how local agriculture and forestry is done. In short: On almost every day there is more than trekking on the program, so that you can dive deeply into the life of the Sherpas. Pictures will remain in your memory that will probably be even more impressive than your first view of Mount Everest. And that means something!

The highlights of the Fair Trails Experience at a glance:

  • Cultural sights of Hinduism and Buddhism in Kathmandu.
  • Trekking along the historic “old” trek towards Everest with its charming villages
  • Impressive contrast between non-touristy trails and famous trekking stages
  • Optional ascent of Sundar Peak with its fantastic views of the glaciated giants of the Himalayas
  • Dive into the Sherpalife in villages such as Monjo and Thame
  • Experience Sherpa lifestyle in non-touristy places
  • Deep insights into topics like agriculture, forestry and energy supply in one of the highest populated regions on earth
  • Visit a Yak farm and learn about the special relationship between Sherpas and Yaks.

+

THE FAIR TRAILS PROJECT

Panoramaweg Südalpen Panorama am Hochplateau
Yaks are historically inseparable from the Sherpas and the Khumbu. In order to ensure that yak caravans will continue to be a welcome sight in the Khumbu in the future, Mingma Sherpa has dedicated itself to the protection of the yaks. © Anuj Adhikary
Just like cows for the Alps and horses for Mongolia, yaks are a symbol for the Khumbu region. Who does not know pictures of these shaggy animals in the middle of a rough high mountain world? Yaks have long served as the livelihood of the Sherpas and can perform many tasks: They served (before the closure of the border with Tibet) as transport animals for trade, were used as pack animals in large expeditions and are used as riding animals. Yak milk and the products derived from it, as well as yak meat, have long been the food source of the Sherpas. Yak fur can be spun into yarn for clothing and the leather was also processed. Last but not least, yak dung served as an important fuel in a partially tree-free region.
Nowadays, however, helicopters and porters from other regions of Nepal have taken over many of the yak’s transportation functions. At the same time, more and more other livestock species are entering the Khumbu and displacing the yak – last but not least, more and more Sherpas are pursuing activities outside agriculture. This leads to the fact that the yak disappears more and more from the landscape and the culture of the Khumbu.

For this reason, Mingma Sherpa – your Fair Trails Expert at the Khumbu Heritage Trail – has started a Yak Farm. With the aim to re-establish the Yaks in the Khumbu region. For you, this means a good opportunity to have a close encounter with the yak and to better understand the ancient relationship between Sherpa and the Yak.
Your impact on the project: Part of the proceeds from your participation in the Khumbu Heritage Trail will go towards the maintenance of the yak farm and the ambitious attempt not to let ancient traditions be forgotten.
+
Chörten and mani walls on the way between Phakding and Lukla: The whole Khmubu is decorated with Buddhist shrines. © Trail Angels
Tradition and change in a very confined space: Sherpa society has also changed in recent years and, like all societies, will continue to change in the future. © Anuj Adhikary
One never forgets the first view of the 8.848 m high Mount Everest! Here from the vantage point above Namche Bazar (in the picture at the very back left of the center of the picture; the prominent peak to the right of the center of the picture is the 6.814 m high Ama Dablam; © Trail Angels
The view of the glacier giants of the Khumbu from Sundar Peak, the 4.800m highest point of the trek, is breathtaking © Mingma Sherpa
Small-scale agriculture on a self-sufficient basis still characterizes the image of the Khumbu. The farmers are supported by animals. © Mingma Sherpa
If you also laugh like this together with the locals we have reached our goal! © Anuj Adhikary
The combination of wonderful cultural assets with breath-taking scenery creates fantastic motifs on the Khumbu Heritage Trail. © Jay San Photography
Yaks were once used as transport animals for the great expeditions as well as for trade with Tibet. © Anuj Adhikary
Khumjung is one of the typical Sherpa villages off the beaten track, which we visit to get to know the life of the Sherpas better – in this case you also spend the night in this place. In the background the omnipresent Ama Dablam. © Trail Angels
A smile as a gift: the exchange with the Sherpas is one of the central points of this trip and will remain in your memory forever. © Trail Angels

03 — THE OFFER

The Fair Trails® Experiences

03

Khumbu Heritage/Buddhism Trail:
Media Explorer Tour

Guided trekking tour

Start date: 03 November 2021
Duration: 17 days
Price: € 2.318,- p.P.

KHUMBU HERITAGE TRAIL:
The main route

Fair Trails Experience®
Guided trekking tour

Start date:
Duration:
Price: from € 2.550,- p.p. in shared rooms

KHUMBU HERITAGE TRAIL:
Variation I

Fair Trails Experience®
Guided trekking tour

Start date:
Duration:
Price: will be announced soon

KHUMBU HERITAGE TRAIL:
Variation II

Fair Trails Experience®
Guided trekking tour

Start date:
Duration:
Price: will be announced soon

Fair Trails® Newsletter

Want to be kept up to date on our Fair Trails® trips?