The first exploration of the Rolwaling area dates back to 1951. Visits became more intense in the years that followed with the British expeditions to Everest and Cho Oyu. In 1952 Eric Shipton, together with Alf Gregory and Charles Evans, climbed Tesi Lapcha and then attempted Parchamo. At the time they thought it more sporting to climb without crampons, but a steep section forced them to turn back. Shipton continued to explore the Drolam Bau glacier, which leads north towards the Tibetan border, and he consoled himself with a first ascent of one of the peaks at the end of the valley. The "Merseyside Himalayan Expedition", led by Alf Gregory in 1955, was one of the most intense and succeeded in climbing 19 peaks including Parchamo.
Sunset on Chobutse from Na Gaon
The Rolwaling Himal mountain range is locked between Dudh Kosi (the river that flows in the Khumbu valley) to the east and Bhote Kosi (the river that flows from Tibet) to the west.
There are no 8000m peaks in this area but Menlungtse (7181 m), Gauri Shankar (7134 m) and a vast array of beautiful 6000ers are situated in this area.
The river Bhote Kosi flows through the valley which runs west/east, borders with Tibet in the north, and is dominated by Gauri Shankar. Menlungtse is located further back and can only be seen by climbing up to Menlung La (5510 m) above Beding.
The valley is closed to the east by the massive Bigphera Go (6700 m) and Tengi Ragi Tau (6900 m), beneath which the Drolam Bau glacier extends. It is characterised by high valleys and the Tsho Rolpa, a lake situated at 4500m created by a slender natural dam of glacial moraine. A valley leads down south from Yalung La (5300 m) to the Ripimo glacier, dominated by the beautiful Chobutse (6690 m) skyline. Both are interesting deviations from the main path on the valley floor and offer beautiful views and a chance to acclimatise properly.
The Tesi Lapcha pass (5700 m) is situated on the eastern side of Drolam Bau, between Tengi Ragi Tau and Parchamo, and links Thame to the Khumbu valley. This pass is not an easy trek, but the local people cross it regularly in gym shoes.
The valley is inhabited by a small Sherpa community based in Beding (3690m). Unlike their neighbours in the Khumbu valley, the Rolwaling Sherpa are notorious for making trekkers' lives difficult. In reality any good Nepalese trekking agency is capable of finding a good "sirdar" (head Sherpa) who is able to deal with the locals.
The Trekking Peaks
Rolwaling is the starting point for Ramdung (5925 m) and Parchamo (6187m), two of the eighteen trekking peaks. The permit for these costs comparatively little, is granted by the Nepalese government and is easily obtainable.
Ramdung belongs to the mountain group around the Yalung La (5310 m), pass, to the south of Na (see the route description) and, even though it is relatively low and simple to climb, offers excellent views from Langtang to Everest, from Gauri Shankar to Menlungtse. The start is at Na and the summit is reached after a couple of camps.
Parchamo (6273 is not indicated on the Scheneider map and is an almost obligatory ascent for those crossing the Tesi Lapcha, since it is only 500 m higher than the pass. A simple undulating snow crest thins out but the last 20 m don't create any real difficulties to those who reach the pass in good condition. Technically it can be compared to Monte Rosa's Castore ,climbed from the west. One word of warning based on my own personal experience: pay special attention when visibility is poor at the lower section near the start of the crest and the wide slopes that lead down to the pass. Beware of losing direction and ending up on the unfriendly seracs below!
Everest and Lhotse
Even if it is renowned as the hardest classic Nepalese trek, both the glacier and the pass have no sections which cannot be overcome by an experienced trekker. What renders this trek demanding is its isolation, rescue difficulties and, from Tsho Rolpa onwards, the difficulty in turning back if the weather is bad.
The stages described here were walked taking it easy and acclimatising properly. It is possible to walk faster and cut down on the overall duration of the trek, but I do not recommend this. After Beding it is paramount not to force things but to save as much energy as possible, for even the slightest illness can render the situation extremely difficult.
I recommend a program that allows for a couple of extra days - in any case the area is so beautiful it deserves to be walked through slowly.
It is obligatory to use a local trekking agency and my personal advice is to choose one which has plenty of experience. Problems in the Khumbu valley or around Annapurna are irritating, but having an agency which is incapable of giving adequate support in the Rolwaling valley can be very serious indeed.
In my opinion the best time of year is at the beginning of autumn, in early October. It may rain in the beginning but the temperatures aren't too high and Kathmandu isn't yet in the grips of tourist turmoil. In any case I recommend you finish before mid-November as the temperatures plummet.
This trek requires very little mountaineering gear. Take with you a 50m double rope for every 3-4 people, an ice axe, crampons, walking boots, some ice screws and some dead-men, also called snow-bars in Nepal. Stock up with plenty of goodies since these are almost impossible to get hold of in Nepal.