WHAT IS IT REALLY LIKE TO TREK TO EVEREST BASE CAMP?
Ever wondered what it’s really like to trek to Everest Base Camp? Well, today I’m here to tell you.
I completed the 12 day Everest Base Camp trek in November of 2019 — It was magical, challenging, and life-changing all in one. After taking some time to really digest what I experienced, now I’m here to give you all the nitty-gritty details; the itinerary, the altitude, the teahouses and more!
Flight from Kathmandu to Lukla / Lukla (2860m) – Phakding (2610 m)
After the infamous flight from Kathmandu to Lukla (the world’s most dangerous airport), your trek will begin with a relatively easy hike to Phakding. There will be short bursts of gradual uphill climbs, but for the most part, the majority of the journey is downhill. You will be following the beautiful Dudh Koshi River for a few hours before reaching Phakding.
Phakding (2610m) – Namche Bazaar (3440m)
The first big day of the trek! Today you will be walking for around 6 – 8 hours through very steep terrain. You’ll cross many famous swing bridges, you’ll enter Sagarmatha National Park, and you’ll spend hours walking uphill on rocky, uneven ground. This is one of the most difficult days of the trek due to the long uphill climb to Namche Bazaar.
Namche Bazaar Acclimatisation Day
It’s a “rest” day… But you won’t really be resting! You’ll spend the morning ascending a few hundred metres to the Everest View Hotel where you’ll get to see your first glimpse of Mount Everest and the beautiful surrounding peaks. This day is vital in the acclimatisation process, so don’t skip it! Once you reach the top, you’ll have a cup of tea and take in the view, then descend back to Namche to spend the rest of the day relaxing and exploring.
Namche Bazaar (3440m) – Thyangboche (3860m)
Today will begin with a nice hike along the Nepali flat… (A little bit up, a little bit down). You will then steeply descend into a small village for lunch, before beginning the long uphill climb through the forest to Thyangboche. The total walk is around 6 hours, and the last half of the day is pretty tough!
Tyangboche (3860m) – Dingboche (4410m)
You will descend through the forest of rhododendron, cross a suspension bridge and then ascend towards Dingboche. This walk isn’t as strenuous as many of the other days, but you will still be on your feet for around 6-7 hours. Today is when the landscape will dramatically change and you’ll get up close and personal with some huge peaks!
Dingboche Acclimatization Day
Today you will go on a short hike for acclimatisation; you will ascend a few hundred metres, take a short rest, and return to Dingboche to recoup and recover. Another important day to help your body adjust to the high altitude.
Dingboche (4410m) – Lobuche (4940m)
The day will begin walking along the Nepali flat for a few hours. You will cross a beautiful, rocky river and ascend to Dughla for lunch. From there, you will climb steeply to the Everest Memorial site where you’ll have the chance to reflect on those who have passed away in the attempt to climb Mount Everest. You will then make your way along the stream to Lobuche. The total walking time is around 6-7 hours.
After taking a short rest, you will then climb a nearby hill to around 5100m, before returning back to your teahouse to rest. Again, acclimatising is very important.
Lobuche (4940m) – Everest Base Camp (5364m) – Gorak Shep (5164m)
It’s the big day! You will be on your feet for around 8 hours today… You’ll begin by walking across the rocky, glacial terrain to Gorak Shep. You will stop there for lunch before continuing on your journey to Everest Base Camp. You’ll spend around 20-30 minutes at this wonderful site, before heading back to Gorak Shep where you’ll spend the night celebrating your incredible achievement!
(Optional – Kala Pattar 5545m) – Gorak Shep (5164m) – Pheriche (4370m)
For those that are feeling up for the challenge, you will have the option to get up in the early hours of the morning and climb Kala Pattar for sunrise. This is where you’ll have the most incredible view of Mount Everest from the high altitude of 5545m. After returning back to Gorak Shep for breakfast, you will then continue on your journey past Lobuche, and down the valley to Pheriche. It’s a big day of walking, you will be on your feet for around 8 hours today.
Pheriche (4370m) – Namche Bazaar (3440m)
Another loooong day! Although you’ll be descending close to 1000m, you won’t be walking downhill all day… You will experience a lot of Nepali flat, but you will ascend steeply into Tyangboche before heading back downhill for lunch. You will then have a long steep, uphill journey followed by some Nepali flat back towards Namche. You will be on your feet for 8 hours and cover around 20km… The return hike is actually the hardest part of the whole journey!
Namche Bazaar (3440m) – Lukla (2860m)
Today will begin with a fun, dusty downhill journey from Namche! The first half of the day is spent downhill and on Nepali flat until you exit Sagarmatha National Park and reach Phakding. From there, you will have a steady uphill climb back to Lukla. Another 7 hours on your feet and around 18km of trekking, but you made it!
Flight back to Kathmandu
Today you will fly back to Kathmandu. If you’re unlucky like us, you might spend most of the day waiting for the cloud to clear so that your flight can arrive, but that’s just part of the fun! You’ll return back to Kathmandu for a much-needed shower and an amazing night’s sleep.
Keep in mind, this is the itinerary I had when travelling with Outfitter Nepal. Things might vary depending on the company you trek to Everest Base Camp with!
The Trek Difficulty
Now, the difficulty of the Everest Base Camp trek is entirely dependent on you, your personal fitness, and how your body copes at high altitude (and in the generally exhausting environment).
For me personally, I didn’t find the hike itself overly difficult… What made it VERY HARD for me, was coming down with a stomach parasite on Day 5 of the trek. From then on (and for a few weeks that followed), I couldn’t keep any food in my system and I had hardly any energy as a result. Let me tell you, some days of this trek were a serious struggle; battling feelings of extreme nausea and lightheadedness while having to walk 10-20km was haaaard… There were many moments where I threw down my pack and slumped to the ground in a heap.
But with that being said, I made it. And although I had some help from my guide/friend at the time, there was never a point where I felt like I had to call it quits. I am of average fitness (maybe slightly above average) and found that the walk itself was definitely doable. It wasn’t “easy” by any means; you will be walking 10-20km for around 6-8 hours most days, and many of those hours will be spent walking at a very steep incline. But hey, you’re in the mountains… That’s what you should expect.
Now here’s the big question… DID YOU TRAIN? The answer is yes! I started preparing around 3 months out, and here’s a snippet of what my training week looked like:
Monday: Strength – Tuesday: Cardio/Endurance
Wednesday: Rest/Yoga – Thursday: Stair climb
Friday: Rest – Saturday/Sunday: Hike
You don’t need to be a marathon runner or a professional athlete by any means… But training will definitely help you enjoy the trek a little more. It won’t stop you from being affected by the altitude, but being of average fitness is important as you need to be comfortable with being on your feet for hours each day!
I am 24, but I saw people that were in their 70’s doing this trek. It’s hard — no doubt — but it’s definitely achievable to all who have the physical and mental capabilities. Honestly, if I can complete this trek while not being able to hold down any food, then I’m sure you can do it too!
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Once again, this is a factor that depends entirely on your own body. Some people don’t experience any symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), whilst others suffer from it very early on…
You begin in Lukla at 2860m and finish at Base Camp at 5364m (or 5545m if you climb Kala Pattar). As you can see in the table below, you will be in the extreme range of altitude, meaning that there is only 50% of oxygen in the air compared to what you would have at sea level.
You need to take this very seriously… But thankfully, I didn’t experience any major symptoms. I started taking Diamox after getting food poisoning (at around 4400m), but it was purely as a preventative. I didn’t have any symptoms, but I didn’t want to risk having a poorly stomach and combining it with altitude sickness too… That would have been a recipe for disaster.
But it’s important to note, that no matter whether you suffer from altitude sickness or not, you are bound to feel different when you’re in the mountains. Experiencing slight headaches, heavy legs, loss of appetite, and of course… shortness of breath, are pretty much inevitable! However, AMS is not something that should ever be taken lightly. Make sure that you’re aware of the symptoms, and if you begin to experience anything out of the ordinary, always listen to your body and consult with an expert around you.
Make sure you talk to your doctor before departing and always listen to your guide; they are very knowledgable and know exactly how to help you! Tell them how you feel, talk about your symptoms, and then you can decide what the best course of action may be. You might need to spend an extra day acclimatising, you might need to take Diamox, you might need to take it slow, or you might even need to descend. Your health is your number one priority, remember that.
So, what should you expect from your accommodation on the trek to Everest Base Camp? Well, it’s very basic, but it’s more than suffice!
The rooms will consist of two single beds; each equipped with a pillow and a blanket… And that’s about it! If you’re trekking solo like I was, you might even be graced with a double bed… But don’t have high hopes! When it’s the busy season, you might even have to share a room with someone due to lack of space.
It will be a shared bathroom with western or squat toilets (surprisingly, 80% were western). Sometimes they’ll be flushing toilets, other times you’ll need to pour water down them to flush. But honestly, toilets are the least of your worries; you will have a place to poop, let’s just leave it at that. As for the showers… You just gotta embrace the stink! There might be a couple of times when you’ll have the option for a shower, but prepare to pay for it and don’t expect the water to be very hot. Baby wipes will be your best friend!
There will be a large communal dining area where you can warm up in the freezing cold, eat your food, socialize and play cards. This is where you’ll be spending most of your time, and it’s also the area where you will charge your electronics and use the wifi (at a cost of course). But yes, that’s right… You can get wifi at almost every stop, and it was actually pretty fast considering that you’re in the middle of the Himalayas!
The teahouses are basic — no doubt — but if you remove any expectations they quickly start to feel like home.
Let’s just say… Don’t expect to have a 5* meal when you’re in the mountains.
The menu generally doesn’t vary from teahouse to teahouse. It normally consists of dal bhat (a traditional Nepali meal consisting of lentil soup, vegetable curry, rice and spicy pickle), noodles, momos (dumplings), soups, potatoes etc. You can sometimes get burgers and pizza too! In the mornings you will have the option of toast, porridge, eggs, omelettes, pancakes and the like.
For the carnivores, it is suggested that you stop eating meat after leaving Namche Bazaar (Day 4). This is for your own health reasons, as all of the meat has to be carried up the mountains by porters… The meat won’t be fresh and has been in an environment that is a recipe for bacteria growth, so take the advice and please look after yourself!
You can buy water (boiled or bottled – I suggest boiled), soft drink, chocolate, chips and other snacks the whole way to Base Camp, but be warned… The prices rise drastically the higher you get – you could even say they rise with the mountains. I bought a chocolate bar for $10 AUD at one point (yes, drastic times call for drastic measures).
Basically, don’t expect a lot! The food on the EBC trek is basic, it can get rather repetitive, and it isn’t always fresh… But that’s all part of the adventure, right?
The total cost of my trek to Everest Base Camp was around AUD 2600 (excluding travel insurance and flights to Nepal).
The tour was AUD 2200 which included the flight to/from Lukla, all accommodation on the trek + 3 meals per day. The extra $400 was spent on buying boiled water, hot drinks, toilet paper (yep, no shame here) snacks and alcoholic beverages at the world’s highest Irish pub (because why not)… And of course, the tips for the porters and guide.
The total cost will obviously vary depending on the company you travel with and how tight you wish to budget. But please make sure you have enough money for tips… It’s vital in being a responsible traveller. There are ATM’s at Namche Bazaar and Lukla, but I suggest getting some cash out before leaving Kathmandu as they aren’t always reliable.
The Way It Changes Your Life
Prepare to come away from those mountains a different person to the one who walked in. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I can attest… Those giants will impact you like no where else in the world ever could.
Everything from the physical and mental challenge of a multiday trek, to the sheer power and beauty of Mother Nature… Your life will certainly be changed forever. Take it one step at a time and soak up that magic.
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