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Are you considering a trek in the Nepal Himalayas and can’t decide between the Three Passes Trek Vs Everest Base Camp Trek? Both popular hiking routes offer opportunities to experience the region’s beauty and culture, but there are some crucial differences to consider before choosing.

The Three Passes Trek is a more challenging route, with greater altitudes and harsh hiking conditions. It requires traversing three high mountain passes: the Kongma La Pass (5,535 meters), the Cho La Pass (5,420 meters), and the Renjo La Pass (5,340 meters). As part of the trip, you will also visit the base camp of Mount Everest, which is 5,364 meters high and the world’s tallest mountain. It usually takes 18 to 21 days to complete the trek, which is about 166 kilometers long. 

On the other hand, the Everest Base Camp Trek route is shorter and less strenuous. It includes a trip to Mount Everest’s base camp but does not require traversing high mountain passes. You’ll travel through Sagarmatha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site with breathtaking vistas of the Himalayas, including the majestic Mount Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse. The trek covers around 120 kilometers and typically takes 12 to 14 days, offering a unique and captivating experience.

If you love a good adventure and enjoy pushing your physical limits, the Three Passes Trek might be the perfect fit. If you have moderate fitness levels and prefer a more manageable trek, the Everest Base Camp Trek might be a suitable choice. 

Everest Base Camp Trek
Three Passes Trek vs Everest Base Camp Trek 4

Quick Facts about Three Passes Trek vs Everest Base Camp Trek

Three Passes Trek

  • Location: Nepal, Everest Region
  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Duration: 18 – 21 days, depending on the itinerary
  • Highest Point: Kongma La Pass (5,535 meters)
  • Key Passes: Kongma La Pass (5,535 meters), Cho La Pass (5,420 meters), and Renjo La Pass (5,340 meters)
  • Start/End Point: Lukla
  • Best Season: Spring (March-May) and Autumn (September-November)
  • Distance: 166 kilometers
  • Accommodation: Tea houses and lodges

Everest Base Camp Trek

  • Location: Nepal, Everest Region
  • Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
  • Duration: 12 – 14 days
  • Highest Point: Kala Patthar (5,545 meters)
  • Key Landmarks: Namche Bazaar, Tengboche Monastery, Dingboche, Lobuche
  • Start/End Point: Lukla
  • Best Season: Spring (March-May) and Autumn (September-November)
  • Distance: 130 kilometers 
  • Accommodation: Tea houses and lodges

Highlights of the Treks

Three Passes Trek

  • You can cross the three high mountain passes: Kongma La Pass (5,535 meters), Cho La Pass (5,420 meters), and Renjo La Pass (5,340 meters).
  • You can explore Mount Everest’s base camp, the world’s highest peak at 5,340 meters.
  • You can visit Khumbu Glacier and Gokyo Ri.
  • You can see the breathtaking majestic mountain views, including Mount Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse.
  • Interact with local communities and learn about their culture and way of life.
  • You can explore Sagarmatha National Park, which has distinct and magnificent scenery. 
  • Discover the rich flora and wildlife, including endangered animals like red pandas, blue sheep, snow leopards, and Himalayan tahr.
  • From Viewpoints of Everest, you may explore snow-capped mountains, sunrises, and sunsets.

Everest Base Camp Trek

  • You can visit Mount Everest’s base camp, the world’s highest peak at 5,340 meters.
  • Hike through the Sagarmatha National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and encounter various flora and fauna.
  • You can see the breathtaking views of the Himalayas, including Mount Everest, Lhotse, and Nuptse.
  • Explore the Everest region’s final Sherpa settlement, Gorakshep.
  • You can interact with local communities to understand their culture and way of life.
  • You can visit Tengboche Monastery, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Khumbu area.
  • Make a side trip to Kala Patthar, a viewpoint with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. 
  • You can reach the tallest mountain base camp, Everest Base Camp, 5,340 meters above sea level.
  • You can acclimatize at Namche Bazaar, a legendary Sherpa capital.

Difference Between Treks

Three Passes TrekEverest Base Camp Trek (EBC Trek)
The Three Passes Trek is challenging due to the high altitudes and the three passes over 5,000 meters. Trekkers need excellent fitness and endurance.The EBC Trek is moderately challenging and doesn’t cross high passes, making it suitable for trekkers with good fitness levels.
The highest point is 5,545 meters at Kala Patthar or 5,535 meters at Kongma La Pass. These high elevations offer stunning news but can be physically demanding.The highest point is Kala Patthar, 5,545 meters, and Everest Base Camp, 5,364 meters. The elevation is significant but generally more manageable compared to the high passes of the Three Passes Trek.
The highlights include stunning views from the high passes, the beautiful Gokyo Lakes, and trekking through remote and less-traveled valleys. The highlights include reaching Everest Base Camp, climbing Kala Patthar to view Everest, and experiencing the Sherpa culture and famous monasteries like Tengboche.
The cultural experience is moderate, with less frequent interactions in remote Sherpa villages. The focus is more on the natural environment and the challenge of the high passes. The cultural experience is rich, with numerous interactions with Sherpa communities and visits to important monasteries. Trekkers have many opportunities to engage with local culture. 
Basic mountaineering skills, including dealing with snow and ice, are beneficial due to high passes and challenging weather conditions. No technical skills are needed for the EBC trek. The trails are well-marked and commonly traveled.

Best Time for the Trek

Spring (March to May)

Spring is one of the ideal times for trekking in the Everest region. This season, the skies are usually clear, making it easy to enjoy the views of breathtaking mountains and beautiful scenery around you. You can see majestic vistas of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, and other peaks. During spring, rhododendron woods come alive with vibrant colors. You will travel through stunning red, pink, and white rhododendron flowers, which makes hiking more pleasant. There will be moderate to high numbers of trekkers on the path, particularly around renowned locations like Everest Base Camp and Namche Bazaar.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn is another perfect time to trek in Nepal. It provides some of the most transparent and spectacular mountain vistas. The skies are usually clear, offering panoramic views of the Everest range and other majestic peaks. During autumn, Nepal comes alive with vibrant festivals like Dashain and Tihar. This makes your hike more interesting culturally because you can see and participate in local festivals. The trails may become busy, especially in October and November. So, you should book your accommodation and flights to Lukla in advance. 

Which Trek is Suitable? 

The Three Passes Trek is considered quite challenging, making it perfect for experienced trekkers with previous high-altitude experience and stamina. This trek includes traveling three high mountain passes, passing through remote villages, and taking in breathtaking scenery. Because of high elevations and passes, extensive acclimatization is required. This trek is ideal if you like challenging treks and want to discover less-visited, rural locations. It takes 18-21 days to complete.

The Everest Base Camp trek is moderately difficult and suitable for trekkers with basic fitness levels. It includes seeing the breathtaking views of Everest, learning about Sherpa culture and villages, and exploring Everest Base Camp. You’ll spend much time getting used to high elevations to avoid altitude sickness. It’s best for people who love adventure, have around 12-14 days to spare, and are ready for a challenging yet rewarding journey.

Three Passes Trek vs. Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary

Three Passes Trek

  • Day 1: Arrival at Kathmandu
  • Day 2: flight from Kathmandu to Lukla then, trek to Phakding
  • Day 3: Trek from Phakding – Monju and Namche Bazaar
  • Day 4: Acclimatization in Namche Bazaar
  • Day 5: Trek from Namche – Tengboche
  • Day 6: Trek from Tengboche – Dingboche
  • Day 7: Trek from Dongbche – Chhukung
  • Day 8: Chhukung – Lobuche via Kongma La Pass
  • Day 9: Lobuche – Gorkshep (5,164 meters)
  • Day 10: Gorkshep – Kala Patthar (5,545 meters) – Zongla
  • Day 11: Zongla – Chola Pass (5,420 meters) – Thagnak
  • Day 12: Thagmak – Gokyo (4,790 meters)
  • Day 13: Rest day
  • Day 14: Gokyo – Renjo La Pass (5,340 meters) – Marlung (4,210 meters)
  • Day 15: Marlung – Thame – Namche Bazaar
  • Day 16: Namche – Phakding – Lukla
  • Day 17: Fly back to Kathmandu

Everest Base Camp Trek

  • Day 1: Arrival at Kathmandu 
  • Day 2: Flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, then trek to Phakding
  • Day 3: Trek from Phakding – Namche Bazaar
  • Day 4: Acclimatization in Namche Bazaar
  • Day 5: Trek from Namche – Tengboche
  • Day 6: Trek from Tengboche – Dingboche
  • Day 7:  Rest day at Dongbche
  • Day 8: Trek from Lobuche – Gorakshep – Everest Base Camp, then back to Gorakshep
  • Day 9: Trek from Gorakshep – Kala Patthar – Pheriche
  • Day 10: Trek from Pheriche – Namche
  • Day 11: Trek from Namche – Phakding and then to Lukla
  • Day 12: Flight back to Kathmandu

Trek Difficulty

The Everest Base Camp Trek is moderately challenging, but the Three Passes Trek is very demanding. The three high-altitude pass climbs lead to elevations over 5,000 meters. Trekking to these difficult areas involves significant risks and difficulty. Altitude sickness, harsh weather, low temperatures, and snowfalls may all cause issues for trekkers. You need careful planning and tactics for this trip. You’ll also traverse a landslide region, which is quite dangerous. These are the areas where the land is very loose. 

Three Passes Trek
Three Passes Trek vs Everest Base Camp Trek 5

The Everest Base Camp Trek is more accessible than the Three Passes Trek, so it poses no significant risk. However, the EBC trek still involves some high-altitude locations over 5,000 meters. Furthermore, weather and altitude issues are typical in this location. Even though this trip is not as tough as crossing three passes, proper planning and preparation are necessary. A person with a breathing problem should completely avoid this trek.

Acclimatization on the Trek

As the path constantly ascends, you must dedicate some time to physical health and well-being in Everest Base Camp and Three Passes. Before ascending, you must adapt to the changing climatic conditions and weather. 

People who want to trek to Everest Base Camp should usually stop and rest at least three times during the trip. On the other hand, professional hikers find the trail to base camp easy, so they skip one or two days and continue up the path without stopping. Meanwhile, trekkers of Three Pases can’t skip the adaptation process, especially since they are more likely to get altitude sickness. Trekkers must rest entirely before ascending to higher altitudes with low barometric pressure.

For acclimatization, people hiking Three Passes and Everest Base Camp stop at Namche Bazaar. Later, trekkers have to go on different paths. Travelers going to Everest Base Camp take a break at Dingboche, and people traversing Three Passes stop at Chhukung Valley.

The Crowd at Everest Base Camp Trek

EBC is the most popular trekking location and is more crowded than Three Passes. Travelers worldwide trek from the Everest Base Camp to Kala Patthar to experience the fantastic views of Mt. Everest, Ama Dablam, Cho Oyu, and Nuptse. The main EBC path is used by those who want to view Kala Patthar, ascend Mount Everest, or hike Island Peak. 

Hikers find the main EBC route packed and unpleasant. Due to tourist overcrowding on the paths, most trekkers need more time to reach their destination. It is challenging to keep pace and enjoy the isolation on such terrain. With more hikers on the trail, finding accommodations and food will likely be problematic. 

Accessibility and Preparation of the Trek

Accessibility

The Three Passes Trek and Everest Base Camp have comparable difficulty levels. Both begin in Lukla and proceed via Phakding and Namche Bazaar on their way to Namche. Unfortunately, the trail splits ahead, making the trip to Three Passes harder and longer. Three Passes has a rougher hill-walking trail that is harder to get through as a multi-day trip. Hikers get tired quickly because the paths get higher and smaller after Chukhung. So, many people prefer to avoid jagged rocks, moraines, and difficult-to-navigate valleys. 

Everest Base Camp is more accessible than Three Passes, with shorter trekking pathways. It treats you fairly by offering an accessible and easy-to-complete hiking path. You can begin your adventure by flying to the scenic Lukla with a spectacular view. The path to Dingboche is quite steep and includes stone steps, although it is not as tricky as Three Passes. Most hikers struggle to manage the path from Dingboche because it is rugged and full of large stones.

Preparation

Three Passes Trek

  • You must do intense, strenuous exercises concentrating on the main muscle group and endurance. 
  • You have to do at least one month of intensive cross-training and exercise.
  • You must do cardiovascular training to increase stamina: jogging, cycling, brisk walking, and running.
  • You should focus on balance improvement through specific exercises, as the terrain will be challenging. 
  • You should be prepared for uneven and jagged trails by sound short or long walks on various terrains. 
  • You must be in top physical condition.

Everest Base Camp Trek

  • You must do moderate exercise that focuses on general fitness and endurance. 
  • You can do less than one month of consistent training and fitness maintenance. 
  • You must do cardio exercises for general fitness.
  • You must focus on improving balance with standard exercise routines. 
  • You should have good general fitness. 

Conclusion

The Three Passes Trek and the Everest Base Camp Trek are challenging journeys that demand high physical health. The Everest Base Camp Trek takes about 12 days of hiking, with only one night spent above 5000 meters. But you’ll spend a few nights above 5000 meters on the Three Passes Trek. Staying at such high elevations may be pretty difficult, particularly for individuals who come from sea level. There is no wrong choice among these trails. It depends on your time limits, budget, and other factors.

FAQs

How many days does Three Passes Trek take?

It takes 18 to 21 days, depending on your itinerary, as it is one of the most challenging treks in Nepal.

How do you train for the Three Passes Trek?

You must do intense, strenuous exercises concentrating on the leading muscle group and endurance. You must also do at least one month of intensive cross-training and exercise and cardiovascular training to increase stamina: jogging, cycling, brisk walking, and running.

What is the hardest trekking trail in the world?

The Great Himalayan trail is, without a doubt, the most difficult single path in the world. However, few people may spend the months necessary to cover the thousands of miles of path.

How long does it take to trek base camp?

The trek to base camp takes 12-14 days, depending on your itinerary. The traditional route has lengthier versions, such as the Jiri to Everest Base Camp and the Gokyo Lakes trek.

What is the difficulty level of Everest Base Camp Trek?

The Everest Base Camp trek is somewhat demanding and ideal for hikers with basic fitness levels. It involves some high-altitude locations over 5,000 meters.

Tej Bahadur Gurung

With an experience of almost two decades, founder Mr. Tej Bahadur Gurung has established Nepal Alternative Treks as a widely recognized and reliable tourism operator. His degree in Tourism Studies and devotion to the sector has given him in-depth knowledge about trekking, climbing, cultural, and geological aspects of the country. He is a pioneer in introducing the concept of ‘off-beaten tracks’ and ‘alternative routes’ as well as treks and tour packages surrounding it.

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