everest-base-camp-trek

NEPAL. Everest Region, Everest Base Camp. May 12th, 2012. Everest Base Camp & Khumbu Ice Falls.

My new piece on the Everest Region in Nepal. This was a three-month expedition mountaineering through the Himalayas; across Alpine forests and the desolate Himalayan mountain glaciers and summits.

Photo from the story “Explore. Discover. Enlighten.” Read it on Behance

Everest Base Camp Trek Advice

Getting there

Fly to Kathmandu in Nepal.  Stay some nights to get acclimatized and familiar with the culture.  From here taxi to the airport.

The main cost of the trip is then getting to Lukla, the Nepalese village where the trek begins.  

There are two methods…

Bus ride & 6 day trek

A 16 hr DANGEROUS bus ride to Jiri, followed by a 6 day trek to Lukla staying at tea houses along the way. Recommended by others because there are very few other tourists there but not recommended as it will cost you in time, energy and you will still have to pay for all accom etc.

Spectacular scary flight

Fly for around $260 USD (inc return) from Kathmandu. Worth it just for the flight!  Tiny airport as well and so fun!  Good way to make friends too.  This is officially the world’s most dangerous airport but they are total professionals so don’t worry too much.  (Definitely say a prayer though!)

The Trek

One thing you should know first off is that there actually two “tops” so to speak.  The main one is obviously base camp at 5300m high but the other is Kala Patthar which is a mountain which you get a brilliant view of Everest from at 5550m.  The trek from Lukla to base camp, and also Kala Patthar took us 10.5 days and the return took us 3.5 days.  You could however shave two days of this total, though it is not advisable for two reasons. 

It is much better to go slower firstly for enjoyment and secondly to avoid / limit risk/intensity of altitude sickness.

You most likely won’t get the full on sickness but EVERYBODY feels the effects of it from 3000m onwards if not sooner. Wooziness, headaches, breathlessness are all almost unavoidable at some point unless you are Nepalese.  For me it was only on the final day that I felt sickish, the rest was just the breathlessness, so just prepare to feel elderly haha!

Guides & Porters

Most people have guides and porters, we used neither and would say you definitely don’t need to either if you are fit (dodgy knees should definitely invest in a porter on the way down though).  

Demographics & Numbers

Most of the trekkers were middle aged and then the next largest group were in their twenties.  You can definitely do it solo and meeting others is easy, though it would be more fun to do it in tandem for safety & sharing the experience.  more than 4 people would be a nightmare, especially trying to find accommodation at the top if you hadn’t rung ahead. (Please note you will always get a bed it just might not be such an enjoyable one that’s all)

Meeting other duos who are guideless is a good place for comradary to start.  I made good friends with the guide of another group who we seemed to be trekking at the same pace as and we are still in touch now so there you go.  He was invaluable along the way.

If you can’t find someone to go with, and you are male, still go, people are VERY friendly (both the trekkers and the locals) so even if you are not with the same people the whole time, you can talk to anybody at any point and you will see the same groups repeatedly as you ascend and descend, some of these I am also still in touch with too so also a good sign.  It is such an extreme thing that people bond with each other and at every table they want to talk, share and debrief so its great.

Logistically before you go you need to decide whether or not to include the Gokyo lakes or not.  This is another loop which comes off the main track and is supposed to be breath taking.  It is also apparently a harder degree of trekking terrain and it is not recommended to go without a guide.  We were short on time and didn’t go so I can’t really comment other than to say it is a spectacular place and just doing Everest is certainly plenty!

Also after spending two weeks there I think going the extra 5 or so days is not necessary just for a few more stunning views, and if you are on your own I think it would be more advisable to avoid it not just for safety but also for sanity.  Having said that you can book open return tickets for no extra cost so you could decide up there, just make sure you have the right gear.

Money

-The currency is Nepalese Ruppees
-There are two permits you need and you can get these in Kathmandu or on the mountain, they are about 10 or 20 USD each.
-Beds are between 150 - 400 rupees per night and you basically just rock up.

-Hot Water is about 100 - 200 rupees a bottle but if you take water purifying tablets you can use the tap water.  But we used our bottles as heaters at night.

-Toilet Paper is gold

-Chocolate is gold
-Washing is expensive at 40 rupees an item and never really dries at that altitude
-Food is 100 - 600 rupees a meal  
-Showers 200-400 rupees and most people have only 1 or 2 maximum 2 whole 2 weeks!  Yep its GREAT haha!  
-All things get more expensive as you get higher up the mountain but overall it is really cheap considering the manual effort it takes them to lug EVERYTHING up there!

Gear

Weather wise it is gloriously sunny most mornings and although we only had snow once the rain does set in at about 1-3pm every day, so a good rain jacket is compulsory and I even took a small umbrella haha.

During the day time you get burnt to a crisp and at night you freeze your butt off, so don’t make my mistake and think you wont get burnt in the morn for a few hours, it is SO harsh!

Hire a goose down sleeping bag in Kathmandu, (not duck down). Also a goose down jacket and polarfleece is what they recommend.  Basically it is bloody cold at night and we did get a blizzard on one of our days. 

Gloves - yes!

Thermals - imperative!

Most important… boots you would happily walk to the moon in because it is flipping rough terrain in spots and you will walk up to 9 hours a day, though you will likely average 6 - 7.

Medication

There are pills you need to get in Kathmandu for altitude sickness, you don’t need to take them but you do need to carry them.  You will hear endless advice about them but I only use them as treatment, and even then start by using a half dose.  If you do decide to use them preventatively only use like a half or quarter dose from 3500m onwards, they messed me up real bad and I only took one in Kathmandu! 

You also need electrolytes which even though I wasn’t sick I had one every day just to keep me hydrated and it worked wonders.  

Also taking immodeum pills is a great idea even though I never used them. 

Hygiene

 Wash your hands / use hygiene gel because diarrhea would ruin your enjoyment levels / energy when you are walking that much.  Also avoid meat and dairy products where at all possible, (everything has had a 2-6 day journey to get to you at that height and it just ain’t worth it!  Also veges are slim picking ups high so inhale them down low while you can! Dhal bhat is available top to bottom so maybe start by eating the more adventurous things so you don’t get sick of it straight away.

We got told to be very wary of bakeries (there are tones along the way) But you will use your head I am sure.  There is a posh German one in Namche Bizzare and the building it is connected to is where you should stay but I forget what it is called.  It is on the intersection though.

Cultural stops

Go to the Hillary School and the HIllary View hotel as your acclimatisation day in Namche.

Go up via Dobuche and back via Tengboche (even if you don’t stay here)  

Technology

Apparently cameras etc can easily freeze up there.  Basically the battery dies really quick after it gets that cold so sleep with it in your sleeping bag I was told but just make sure that you get the shots you want on the way up in case it dies.

Internet

There is internet all the way up it just costs a packet.

Accomodation

The tea houses are better than tents, much less effort and cheap so don’t believe anyone who tries to convince you that tenting is a better option.

There are lots of places to stay but the first one I would say you must go to and avoid all others is on day one.  Walk all the way to Jorsale which is just down the hill from Monju by another 15 minutes and go to the very end of the village on your left is Nirvana Lodge.  This place feels like you are in the Swiss Hills and is cheap.  The hosts are a lovely, well connected Sherpa family.

Ask this family from Jorsale about who their friends are in Namche that they would recommend and they will send you in the right direction.

However I would also recommend Alpine Lodge in Namche Bazaar.  They can be reached on +977-01-038540300 or on cell phone at +977-01-9803323101.  Email at alpinelodge@gmail.com.

Research

Start on youtube to watch the flight into Lukla.

Have a good old explore on Google maps and Google Earth, then imge search for everest trek maps.

I would also recommend you print the wiki travel article for some good detail if you have the chance, was what I used in place of a book:

http://wikitravel.org/en/Everest_Base_Camp_Trek

Final words

Make sure you are covered by insurance and read up on altitude sickness. Also don’t go off track like I did.  I am not even joking, without even knowing what I was doing I nearly died because I did this, dumbest decision ever so please don’t repeat my mistake!

Don’t forget to talk to people and ask questions of those on their way down and have an absolute blast and if you run into trouble you can always get helicoptered off! Enjoy!