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Failed Three Passes Trek


Before we even started this trip we knew we wanted to go trekking in Nepal and specifically attempt to do the Everest Base Camp Trek.

But as the trip went on and we realized how out of shape we were for mountain hiking, we thought, maybe we would do a less ambitious and short trek.

Then my friend Susan and her cousin came into the picture. Knowing that they were going to be in Nepal when we were there I figured I would leave all the trek planning to them and was ready to be on board for whatever plan they came up with.

Dave wasn’t thrilled about the trekking but figured he would last about 2 weeks max, though he would rather do a 5-10 day trek if possible.

As we sat in the hotel room in Kathmandu all together trying to decide whether to do a 6-8 day Lang Tang trek or a 2-3 week Three Passes Everest region trek, we weighed the options. Lang Tang would be more of a cultural trek, whereas Three Passes would be more of an “epic” mountain views trek.

I didn’t know what we should do, I couldn’t decide. The thought process got a bit fuzzy from there.

We tentatively decided on the Everest trek and planned to talk to a trekking agent in the morning. In the middle of the night I woke up and blurted out I think we should do Lang Tang. It must have been a premonition…

The next thing I knew we were buying plane tickets to Lukla and hiring a porter for 18 days in the Everest region.

Big mistake.

As we got into the plane, we were all giddy with excitement mixed with fear about flying into the world’s most dangerous airport, in a toy sized plane, but our minds quickly switched gears as we saw the views from the window.


And minutes later we safely landed in Lukla at 2800 meters, to be greeted by our porter. I was expecting a large man, whereas we were met by Dunbir a young guy skinner and shorter than me.

And so the trek began with day 1 taking us to Phakding at 2600 meters.


With everyone still feeling good we set off on Day 2 to get to Namche Bazaar at 3400 meters, and the last big village on the trek.


We passed by streams, saw glimpses of the mountains, got caught behind animals, crossed shaky suspension bridges and eventually had to make the grueling climb up to the village.

day 2

traffic jam


By dinner time Dave wasn’t feeling so well. We had Diamox with us but had been advised to start taking it at 3700 meters so had not yet taken any.

Day 3 was meant to be an acclimatization day – meaning we should do a day hike, go up to a higher altitude and come back down to Namche at 3400 in order to get used to the higher altitudes.


Dave was not feeling up for it.

So the three of us set off to the Everest View Hotel at 3900 meters.


Though the day started off clear, the weather quickly took a turn for the ominous and cloudy. By the time we reached the top there was absolutely nothing to see at all.


We trudged back down, in hopes that Dave would be feeling better.


He wasn’t. He had gone to see the health center at Namche and the nurse there told him not to ascend until he felt better, and if he didn’t feel better the following day to descend.

I kept my fingers crossed all night, but the following morning Dave made the dreaded announcement; we would be going down.

After a near tearful farewell from Susan we were on our way.

With each step we took I felt an incredible sense of dread and disappointment. Though I know it was not Dave’s fault for getting altitude sickness it didn’t make me feel any better. I had been so excited about trekking the 4 of us and being able to spend time with Susan, one of my closest friends that I really did just feel sad to the core.

Not even the adorable goats we passed could make me feel better.


What there something we should have done differently? Should Dave have been drinking more water everyday? Should he have started taking the Diamox earlier? Should we have picked a shorter and less ambitious trek?

What did we do wrong? Why didn’t we do things differently?

These questions, I kept playing over and over again in my mind. I have a bit of an obsessive ‘what if’ personality and will dwell and dwell and dwell on the various alternatives to the situation and what we should have done differently.

For both of us this was the first failure in our trip and as silly as it was, it really did have us feeling down.

I quietly sulked my way back down to Lukla, where we were stranded for a couple more days before we could get our flights changed.


Barely had we landed in Lukla that we were taking off again.

take off

As a side note, Susan and Paul continued on and completed the trek within the 18 days without even a single symptom of altitude sickness. 

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12 Responses to Failed Three Passes Trek

  1. Sorry to know that you could not complete the Trek as planned. This post even is more important now for those people who want to do Everest Trekking and want some advice before taking decision.

    Bijaya Ghimire January 16, 2014 at 10:09 AM Reply
    • Yes you really have to be very careful with altitude sickness, and while it was disappointing to have to come down, it would have been even worse if we continued going up and Dave got worse.

      Vicky March 15, 2014 at 1:53 AM Reply
  2. Altitude sickness sucks and there is no predictor as to who will be affected. I have always been fine but Jason seems to suffer more. How disappointing. 🙁

    Gillian January 16, 2014 at 10:11 AM Reply
    • It really was just a huge disappointment. I’m glad we went back to Nepal though to start (and complete) the Annapurna trek. That at least makes me feel like we did complete a trek in Nepal which is what we set out to do there.

      Vicky March 15, 2014 at 1:52 AM Reply
  3. “I have a bit of an obsessive ‘what if’ personality and will dwell and dwell and dwell on the various alternatives to the situation and what we should have done differently.”

    I’m the same way and I know it sucks and when you get into that mood, it’s hard to get out again.

    But look at it this way: you’ve done so many great things already and there are still other great things coming your way. I know this is a cliche thing to say and it wouldn’t exactly make me feel better either, but when you look at the bigger picture…

    Fingers crossed for your next stop!!!

    Sofie January 17, 2014 at 8:05 AM Reply
    • Oh yes I too have the same obsessive dwelling trait. It just drives me crazy sometimes! You do just have to remember all the great things you’ve already seen and just be grateful for everything else — but at the time, sometimes it’s just easier to dwell and be sad/frustrated! : ))

      Vicky March 15, 2014 at 1:51 AM Reply
  4. Oh guys, I feel for you. As you know I got struck down with AMS when we did the Everest Base Camp trek and I couldn’t finish the trek either. There is nothing you could have done to avoid AMS. It is a bit of a bastard and strikes when you least accept it. The only thing you can do is to have more rest days really and stay in one place for a bit longer to acclimatise. But it is tricky if you are on a strict schedule. I am still not over my failed attempt to get to base camp. Maybe one day I will… 🙂

    tammyonthemove March 5, 2014 at 5:07 PM Reply
    • Oh man it really was such a blow to have to turn back. When we were back in Lukla I actually was thinking about you and what happened to you on the trek. You got so much closer than we did though! That whole time in Lukla I kept dwelling on what we could/should have done to prevent the altitude sickness and was just driving myself crazy.

      Vicky March 15, 2014 at 12:57 AM Reply
  5. Flying in to Lukla is a recipe for disaster – most people who do this get altitude sickness to some degree. The best way to do this trek is to walk in from Jiri or Lamosangu that way you develop fitness and altitude conditioning along the way. I first did this trek in 1974 from Lamosangu and as you might imagine, facilities in those days were very limited but it was a real adventure. I suffered early on from my lack of fitness but did not have any altitude problems. I did the trek again in 1981 but this time, I went jogging regularly for 6 weeks before the trek. This time, I had no fitness or altitude problems. In my opinion, jogging is the only way to get fit enough for a tough trek like this. Walking and cycling just don’t build up your aerobic strength enough.

    Here’s what I recommend. Starting say 2 months beforehand, go for a 5km walk but include a small amount of jogging. It could be as little as 200m. Gradually then increase the jogging component until you are doing half a kilometre, then a full kilometre etc. You will be surprised at how quickly you find you can run the distance. I always plan to go 7 days a week but reality tends to get in the way which means I actually get out say 4 or 5 times a week. When you go on your trek you will be stunned at how easy it is with this regular running as preparation.

    Lance June 21, 2014 at 8:54 AM Reply
    • Yea flying in to Lukla was definitely not the right decision for us as Dave did get altitude sickness very quickly into the trek. I’m sure the trek in 1974 was definitely a bit different and not so touristy back then! We are actually trying to get into running a bit ourselves – not in preparation for any upcoming treks but just as a bit of exercise. Definitely think being in better shape for the trek would have helped as well. Doing any more treks anytime soon?

      Vicky June 25, 2014 at 5:41 AM Reply
      • As a result of going on the Everest trek, I became a marathon runner. At 63, those days are behind me but I’m still a keen hiker. My wife and I are about to do a walk across England following Hadrian’s wall but it will be gentleman’s hiking – we will use a baggage service and stay at B&B’s. At the end of this year, however, we will spend some of the kids inheritance going to South America where we will do the Inca trail then some backpacking style walks in Patagonia (Mt Fitzroy and Torres del Paine). No one on his deathbed says “I wish I’d spent more time at work”.

        Lance June 26, 2014 at 7:53 AM Reply
        • An incredible like you have lead Lance! Completely agree with you regarding work! We are currently on a US road trip and loving the incredible scenery in the states, especially in Utah!

          Vicky March 12, 2015 at 12:33 PM Reply

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