Nepal: The trek to Everest Base Camp

December 5, 2013

I’ve hiked to Everest Base Camp and I’m not going to lie; it’s easier than everyone makes it out to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a walk in the park either but you’re rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet.

Most tours complete the trek in about 12 days and even though this is manageable there is no room for unforeseen circumstances such as sickness or weather. Try squeeze in at least a few extra days as contingency, even if you don’t need them you’ll be thankful for the extra time to soak up the amazing atmosphere and scenery on the way down.

Without sounding overly dramatic – this is a life changing event, and comes highly recommended from me.

Here are my top 5 for anyone considering the trek.

1) Get used to Nepalese time

Flights to Lukla are often delayed due to weather as pilots can only do a visual landing, always plan on spending a couple of extra days at the airport. Don’t book your international flight on the day your Lukla flight is supposed to land.

Unseasonably strong snow closed the trail for a couple of days as we were hiking up. We passed people coming back down that didn’t make EBC as they didn’t have enough time to wait a few days for the snow to thaw.

Hygiene standards are pretty lax, my girlfriend got a really bad stomach bug for three days but we couldn’t stop as we didn’t have the time – amazingly she still pushed through.

2) Go slow, go safe

This trek is a marathon not a sprint. Even though I said it isn’t physically that hard it doesn’t mean you should sprint off ahead, we saw many people pass us and a couple of them had to head back down as they got the early symptoms of HACE.

Altitude sickness affects people seemingly at random. That super fit guy is just as likely as you in getting struck down. Help improve your chances by taking it slow – one step, one second is a good rule to follow. This is particularly true once you hit the snowline (around 4000m).

3) Porters and yaks always have right of way

Everything, and I mean everything is ported up to all the tea houses that you visit along the way. If there’s meat on the menu, it’s probably been ported up without refrigeration. All the locals eat lentils and rice (Dhal Bhat) or Sherpa Stew, I’d recommend sticking to the same.

If the tea house has a refrigerator, someone has carried it up. Our guide told us the maximum weight that a mountain porter can carry is 120kg down “low” or 80kg up high. Even though the tourist industry has limits on what the trekking porters can carry (35kg) the locals have no such qualms about using mountain porters who are paid by the kg. As you get up higher just remember that every board, nail, and furnishing of the lodges that you stay in have been carried up by someone. Appreciate that, especially as you’re struggling for oxygen as you get higher up.

Kala Patthar

4) Everyone has mobile phones

One thing I was looking forward to was being completely disconnected for 12 days. Unlike NZ, free WIFI is widely available in major cities in Asia so it’s way too easy to keep in touch. Much to my surprise, there’s even pretty good cell coverage on the trail up and you can get WIFI at most teahouses for a price. It can be quite bizarre seeing a porter set down his load to take a phone call 5000m above sea level! I left my phone off and my surface disconnected; sometimes it’s great to take a break.

5) It’s all about the journey

To be honest EBC itself is pretty underwhelming, just a pile of rocks next to (an amazing) glacier but, without sounding too cliché, it’s not the destination that’s important, it’s the journey. The trek to EBC is spectacular, you will soak up amazing scenery, meet the legendary Sherpa people, get enveloped in the culture, and push yourself not only physically but mentally also. The Himalayas is truly one of the most beautiful, unspoilt and mystical places I have been lucky enough to visit. It doesn’t really matter if you actually make it to EBC or not – it’s the journey that will define you.