Travel Memories: Khumbu Cargo

The Khumbu Region of Nepal, which encompasses Sagarmatha National Park and Mt. Everest, is a remote area with no roads. The Sherpa who have lived there for scores of generations, travel and traded across the area using a variety of cargo transport means.


These days most visitors will arrive by plane, or sometimes helicopter (more expensive), to Lukla. Some cargo comes this route too and there are daily cargo flights for smaller items which fit in a plane.

Flying into Lukla Flying into Lukla

Otherwise, heavy and awkward shaped goods are brought up from lower regions by donkeys, humans or dzokyos (a mix breed between high-elevation yaks and low-elevation cows).

Donkey Transport - Khumbu Porters - Khumbu Dzokyos - Khumbu

Those dzokyos are loaded down with kerosine, needed to fuel all the stoves cooking meals for all the visitors. In the past the region was able to sustainably harvest wood from forests lower in the region, but with the advent on international tourism the need shifted, thankfully so. Kerosine also burns more cleanly than wood, causing less pollution in a region rife with valleys easily choked with smoke.

Higher Up

Higher in the region, from about Namche Bazaar 3,440 metres (11,286 ft) on up, yaks are used. These beasts of burden do not do well at lower altitudes because of their ample coats. That is one reason they are crossbred with cows for lower elevation work.

Yak - Khumbu

Yaks and Ama Dablam
Yaks and Ama Dablam, with the village of Phortse in the foreground

Yaks are used to carry both supplies and trekkers’/climbers’ gear. The photo above shows a typical load of supplies with the yaks’ handler near the end of the caravan.

Lastly, when time is of the essence or when rupees are flowing freely, helicopters are used for both people and cargo. In this case, a Russian built Mil Mi-8AMT Hip drops off guests and cargo at Syangboche Airport (3780m/12,401′). One of the highest landing strips in the world, Syangboche is not often used as its elevation would cause acclimatization problems for anyone coming from Kathmandu.

Russian Mil Mi-8AMT Hip in Khumbu

Syangboche Airport, Khumbu, Nepal

Lastly, trekker and climbers often have their gear carried by porters. These porters typically carry one or two guests’ overnight gear. You can see the duffle bags and packs lashed together on the porters’ backs in the photo below.

Porters and guests - Khumbu

The trekkers are the ones with lighter day packs.

All of the cargo going into the Khumbu (and some trash coming out) is handled in much the same way as it has been for centuries. Manual and animal labor is the backbone of the system that keeps food, fuel and supplies stocked in the world’s highest mountain region.

If you’re interested in exploring the Khumbu region yourself, consider joining one of our tours, including two weeks adventuring through the region on foot.