Everest base camp trek
This trek was my very first trekking trip of my life. Walking in the footsteps of legendary adventurers and mountaineers, seeing Everest and enjoying the incredible kindness of the nepali people made this trip of my lifetime. It is not just me, most people who done this trek had an experience of a lifetime and returned back to Nepal since.
Few quick facts of EBC
There are 2 Everest Base Camps one is on the north side which is in Tibet (China) and the south side lies in Nepal. Trekking from the south side is much more rewarding as there is no road there at all. On the nepali trek you walking through buddhist sherpa villages and you are able to look into their daily life and get to know their culture when passing through. On the north side the Chinese built a road leading up to basecamp. If you opt to go from the north side a jeep will take you on most of the way.
The classic Nepali Everest base camp trek usually takes 13 days to complete. The main seasons are from March to May and from September to end of November. End of the May is the ending season of climbing to top of Everest, just like the end of EBC trekking season. End of May is when the monsoon arrives from India and last for about 3 months. The advantage of going in the spring season that you will be able to see the little “town” of hundreds of colourful expedition tents and advertising banners (who sponsored the expeditions) at base camp and the blooming Rhododendrons en route.
Everest becoming higher every year by 4mm as a result of the upward thrust generated by two opposing tectonic plates. The rock at the summit of Everest is marine limestone which was a seafloor around 450 million years ago.
The altitude at EBC is 5365 meters Everest itself is 8848m. There are 4 camps after basecamp to go up to the top. However the most dangerous part is between basecamp and camp 1. The climbers need to traverse the Khumbu glacier with its gaping crevasses. The basecamp is also on Khumbu glacier but not to worry as that part is very safe.
Last but not least the original Yeti (not me) is from this area and you can see his scalp in a Khumjung monestry.
I done Annapurna circuit, Annapurna Sanctuary and Manaslu trek in October-November 2015 but met many people who live in Everest region or trekked there recently and they said that everything was very quickly rebuilt after the earthquake. Everest region was already ready to take trekkers in 2015 autumn season however hardly any trekkers came.
How fit you need to be to do this trek?
You do not need to be super fit, but some fitness level is definitely a big advantage. It is more about mental toughness than muscle work. In high altitude human body moves very slowly which means less muscle is used than in low altitude trekking. But even breathing burns lots of calories and I lost 3 kgs doing this trek.
In high altitude distance is not measured in kilometres but in hours of walking just because of the higher you go the slower you become. It would not be accurate to measure it in kilometres.
To get ready for the trek I would suggest loads of cardiovascular excersise like cycling, running and most importantly loads and loads of stair walking.
How to book?
Go with a group
If you don’t have outdoors experience and a you only have 2 weeks holiday from work than the group trip is for you. The agency takes care of everything for you from booking a hotel in Kathmandu to all the transport and permits. This is how I choose to go. When I had problems with my internal flights (don’t go in winter) due to bad weather my agency sorted everything which I would not been able to sort out by myself.
If you are a fairly experienced hiker and have a good few days to spare than you can go self-supported. You need extra days as if any circumstances changes you need to sort everything by yourself which can take time. Also you need to sort out the permits in Kathmandu. Before setting off you need to register with Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) in Kathmandu also you need an individual trekking permit from the same office.
The route is pretty straight forward (well trodden paths) but if you get lost the sherpas (mountain people) will put you in the right direction.
Also don’t forget to take a tent as teahouses can be full pretty quickly in peak season.
My journey to Everest base camp
I visited EBC at Christmas time in 2012 (this is winter in Nepal too). Even though I signed up with a group I was the only person on this trek (no surprise in off season). My guide treated me like a friend and gave me many information of Nepal and nepali people.
Day 1 Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla (2804 m), 3 hours trek to Phakding (2610 m)
The weather was not good in Kathmandu (normal winter weather). After flight cancellations two days in a row, decided to take a risky helicopter flight to Lukla in bad weather.
After this trek I returned to Nepal in peak season and never had a problem with any flights.
Upon arriving at the helipad I saw 2 guys kicking and squeezing heavy ricebags into the back of the helicopter. I was told to keep my luggage in my lap as there is no space in the storage (obviously as there were tons of rice there).
The helicopter pilot didn’t have any navigation equipment only using his naked eye to navigate in the dark clouds. Which was already bad enough, but for some reason he was wearing fake dark Rayban pilot sunglasses, I guess just look cool or this is how he saw in American films. We flew very near to mountains almost touching the treetops. I never knew when he was flying too near to treetops it is because he is using as a help him navigating or he just can not lift up the heavily overweight helicopter. After stressing so much and seeing a nepali guy praying next to me I decided to sit back and basically give up on life. My brain just could not take any more fear, I became very calm and was just waiting to happen. As soon as possible. I don’t know how long after, I opened my eyes and “heaven” had opened up looking like that:
After 30 min when I came in terms that I am actually alive we started our trek. We had to trek 3 hours to Phakding. Which was an easy slightly downhill walk, and after I felt reborn I felt ecstatic.
Day 2 5 hours trek to Namche Bazaar (3440 m)
The first few days the trial crossed the Dudh Kosi river several times with many exciting suspension bridges.
Before Namche Bazaar I found myself completely out of breath but it was not the altitude but those hundreds of steps which felt absolutely never ending.
Day 3 Acclimatisation day in Namche Bazaar (3440m)
Namche Bazaar is the last “civilised” village before EBC. This is where I spent my first acclimatisation day. This means you sleeping at the same altitude for 2 nights without gaining sleeping altitude. Acclimatisation day also called as “rest day” but still on this day people usually do an acclimatisation walk. Which means going up the nearby hill gaining at least 300 meters in altitude and then come back. This if for the body to get familiar with the higher altitude.
Make sure you stock up everything you need in Namche Bazaar. After this village you only gonna have a few basic teahouses. Namche Bazaar even have an ATM.
I did not need more money though as signing up for a teahouse trek means they will provide 3 meals a day and I only needed to pay for beverages. I usually bought 2 liters of boiled water in the evening which I used for hot water bottle putting into my sleeping bag for the night. Night can be pretty cold in winter, in main season the weather is much milder.
Every evening I had dhal bat for dinner which is the most popular nepali dish. Dal means lentil and Bhat means boiled rice, which is a great mountain food. It has all the energy you need for trekking.
Day 4 5 hours trek Tengboche Monastery (3860 m)
On day 4 the trial continues along the rushing glacial waters of the Dudh Kosi river with magnificent views of many 6 and 7 thousender mountains. It is a very steep uphill climb all day. Acclimatisation day the day before came definitely handy. After a few hours arduous trekking reached Tengboche Monastery which is the spiritual centre of Khumbu region.
Day 5 6 hours trek to Dingboche (4350 m)
This was a very tough day and had to gain 500 meters in altitude to reach Dingboche.
On the trial I came across many dzos (which are animals born from the love between a yak and a cow) carrying supplies to villages. The trial is also an ancient Sherpa trade route. When dzos approaching on trial always stand on the uphill side of the trial as they can push you down easily. They are very peaceful just for precautions.
Day 6 Acclimatisation day at Dingboche (4350 m)
Another acclimatisation day when we were walking to Chukung valley. Looked around in a school which was built by Sir Edmund Hillary.
There are many buddhist stupas on the trial and always had to make sure to go around them in clockwise direction.
In Nepal the mountain regions are all Buddhist and in lower altitude Hinduism is the main religion.
It was a gentle easy stroll. After the walk dinner in the teahouse and then go to sleep around 7-8pm, like every day. Being in high altitude is very tiring on the body, even going to toilet is pretty tiring too, never mind trekking. It has been never a problem to fall asleep at 7pm during the trek.
Day 7 5 hours trek to Lobuche (4910 m)
The trail continues along the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier and passes by stone memorials for climbers who have lost their lives on Everest. It might looks familiar this one for people who read Jon Krakauer’s book: Into Thin Air or watched the film Everest. Everybody who comes on EBC trek reads the book, it will definitely will give you a hype up for the trek.
At this altitude the vegetation is basically disappeared, there are no trees any more and less animals, to see. At the end it looks like you are on the moon no vegetation at all. Everywhere you look you can only see snow and rock.
Every evening my blood oxygen level and heart rate was checked by my guide. A little device which you needed to clip on your finger and gives you result within 3 seconds.
Day 8 8 hours trek to Everest Base Camp (5365 m) and then back to Gorak Shep.
It takes a few hours on the moraine to reach base camp. It was a very mind blowing place despite there were no expedition tents at all (in autumn and winter hardly anybody climbs Everest).
The wind was blowing so bad in base camp that I couldn’t even stand up properly. That is why I am actually squatting. Posing to the camera not realising yet that purple bag above my head is a gentlemen’s ashes called James (his name was sewn on the little bag). First I just did not get it, what it can be. So I looked inside of the open bag and saw of the ashes. Wanted to make sure I will not be accidentally covered with James’s ashes in the wind so quickly left base camp.
So where is Everest??????
It is hiding behind the mountain on the lefthand side.
After getting back to teahouse I melted my body next to a yuk dung oven in the common room (only place with heating in the teahouse). Burning yak dung gives loads of heat and this method is used by all the teahouses in the area.
Day 9 7 hours hike up to Kala Pattar (5555 m) then trek down to Periche (4200 m)
4 am wake up to go to top of Kala Pattar and see the sunrise over Everest. It was a very difficult hike up and was out of breath after every 10 steps. Somehow managed to get to the top though. There was only my guide and me not a single soul nearby.
I felt top of the world and after I got back my breath. Sheer quiet settled in. You could only hear from distance the ever moving Khumbu Glacier’s air bubbles under the ice and the cracking ice making spooky noises. After looking at the highest peak in the world for a while (you could never stop looking at it, but at one point you need to go down) we started to go down. I was a bit sad as I knew from here we gonna make our way down.
Day 10 11 hours trek to Namche Bazaar (3440 m)
According to the schedule to reaching Namche bazaar takes 2 days. But the lower we got more oxygen my body received and it energised my body like 10 Redbulls, so I was basically flying down the mountains till Namche Bazaar in 1 day.
Day 11 7 hours trek to Lukla (2804 m)
Day 12 Flight from Lukla to Kathmandu in the morning
This trek changed my life. This was my very first trekking trip in my life. I was completely unexperienced (did not matter much though when you have a guide). My life never gonna be the same as before, the mountains took a corner of my heart, like the nepali people.
PS: many people wondering how the toilets look like on the trek. So here is the answer: