The sprint hike to Chukung Ri

April 6, 2015

Ama Dablam shrouded in clouds

Ama Dablam shrouded in clouds

As part of my continuous efforts to explore more of the Khumbu region, I took a day to do a sprint hike up to Chukung Ri, a 5550 m peak behind the town of Chukung, which is a town up the valley carved out of the Imja Khola river, which has its source on the mountains of Island Peak, Amphulapcha, Lhotse, and the North Face of Ama Dablam. Chukung is the stepping off point for expeditions up Island Peak (Imja Tse), 6189 m.

But I’ve been eyeing Chukung Ri on the map, at the same height as Kala Patthar, and close enough to turn it into a long day trip, it looked like a great peak to “bag” for an acclimatization hike to better prepare for mountains like Lobuche East (6119 m) and Island Peak. Reuben was supposed to join me for the day, but wasn’t feeling well, so off I go on another solo adventure in the Khumbu.

The trail from Pheriche to Dingboche

The trail from Pheriche to Dingboche

In spite of the long distance to be covered during the day, I took the hike out rather casually. After crossing the hill from Pheriche to Dingboche, I stopped in at the Snow Lion Lodge, where Renee’s research medical student is staying, to catch up with him and accept a cup of Sherpa Tea from the proprietress.

The Stupa in Dingboche

The Stupa in Dingboche

Decisions, Decisions.

Decisions, Decisions.

The trail from Dingboche to Chukung offers some great views of Imja Peak, which is also known as Island Peak. It is a relatively easy 6000 m peak, and for some reason seems very popular with Asian tourists. It has a distinct black diamond on its Southwest Face. Renee and I are planning on summiting this mountain in May.

The Southwest face of Island Peak with its distinctive black diamond.

The Southwest face of Island Peak with its distinctive black diamond.

Ama Dablam, apparently beautiful from any angle

Ama Dablam, apparently beautiful from any angle

Just before arriving at Chukung, I catch up with Scott Simper, an Emmy Award winning photographer and friend of my advisor, Scott McIntosh. He is out here working on some video projects, and will be climbing Everest later in the season. They’re headed to Island Peak as an acclimatization climb for Everest.

Memorial to a Polish Climber who died on the South Face of Lhotse (in the background)

Memorial to a Polish Climber who died on the South Face of Lhotse (in the background)

With Scott Simper on the trail to Chukung

With Scott Simper on the trail to Chukung

I enter Chukung, another hole-in-the-wall place that has a series of lodges and not much else, and look for the Sunrise lodge on the advice of Katie. The proprietor is kind enough to refill my water bottles and point me in the direction of the trail up Chukung Ri.

The town of Chukung with the South Face of Lhotse and Island Peak behind.

The town of Chukung with the South Face of Lhotse and Island Peak behind.

The trail is a dusty uphill battle, and almost immediately I catch up with a group of Chinese trekkers. Katie, Reuben, Renee, and I have discussed this on several occasions. It’s funny to feel so comfortable travelling these trails alone, only to constantly pass trains of trekkers clumped together with a guide in the front and another behind. The freedom of being able to explore these mountains and trails at your leisure, with all your needs on your back, free of guides, clients, and porters, is a freedom elusive to those who spend thousands of dollars for the chance to trek to Everest Base Camp.

Following the Chinese up the trail to Chukung Ri

Following the Chinese up the trail to Chukung Ri

But on this occasion, the group of Chinese trekkers worked to my advantage. I was able to get advice from their guides about the route, and at the summit, they were friendly enough. One of them was even a Pathologist in China. He was kind enough to take a couple of “summit shots” of me with my camera.

The trail up Chukung Ri

The trail up Chukung Ri

Island Peak from half way up Chukung Ri

Island Peak from half way up Chukung Ri

Getting to the top of Chukung Ri was a race against time, however. As I climbed higher, I was watching the clouds slowly gobble up Ama Dablam, Island Peak, Lhotse, and finally as I reached the summit of Chukung Ri, the clouds were threatening this small peak too. I wasted no time, and quickly descended. After all, getting to the top is just half the journey; I still had to get home.

Island Peak shrouded in cloud

Island Peak shrouded in cloud

Ridge line to Chukung Ri

Ridge line to Chukung Ri

Summit of Chukung Ri

Summit of Chukung Ri

Luckily, the return trip is an uneventful slog retracing my previous steps. I arrive back to Pheriche in time for dinner, tired but happy to have made one more assault in the Khumbu.

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One Response to “The sprint hike to Chukung Ri”

  1. Bonnie hankinson said

    Hi Poiken! Sounds like there is (literally) no grass growing under your feet! BUSY..BUSY..trekking & seeing such incredible sites.
    I was at Target &Jerry’s today! We are having beautiful (74) spring weather…wanting rain. Golfers & gardeners are happy–
    Hope this fines you in good spirits..stay healthy & safe. XO
    Auntie Bonnie

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