Trekking to Everest Base Camp is high on many people’s wish lists. It is a great destination for walking enthusiasts, whether they want to enjoy the breathtaking scenery, savor the iconic history or just say ‘I was there’. Here is our brief guide to hiking the world’s tallest mountain.
When to go
Traditionally, the two most popular times for Khumbu trekking are spring and autumn. In spring the trails are lined with colorful wildflowers, but temperatures can be hot and humid during the day and clouds often form in the afternoon. After the monsoons, the skies clear and temperatures throughout the day are pleasant but this means the trails and lodges are at their busiest.
To avoid the crowds and take advantage of the crystal clear skies, late November or December is the best choice, although it can be quite chilly at night.
- Here’s what you need to do before you go on your hiking vacation:
- Get your visa from the Nepalese embassy or alternatively you can get your visa on arrival at Kathmandu airport.
- Visit your doctor or travel clinic to check which vaccinations you need.
- Get travel insurance for treks up to 5,500 meters.
- Get fit It’s best to walk a lot with lots of ascents and descents.
- Gear up. For a comprehensive checklist of the clothing and equipment you’ll need on your trek to Everest Base Camp see this kit list
Accommodation during the trek
Tea houses are the traditional type of accommodation on the trail. These simple lodges offer hearty meals and a welcoming refuge with a warm communal area for dining and relaxation. The bedrooms are basic but adequate, as are the toilet facilities.
There is no running water in the rooms so the water is centrally heated and provided in bowls for washing. Tea houses built and run by local Sherpas are an invaluable source of income for this remote region.
More luxurious lodges are recent and popular additions to the Base Camp Trail. They usually have comfortable, en-suite bedrooms, hot running water and more ‘sophisticated’ food.
Meals and drink
The staple diet of most Nepalis is dal bhat – a rice meal with soupy lentils, sometimes with spicy vegetables. Full of energy, it is the perfect meal to eat while trekking. In addition, tea houses and lodges serve a variety of food that is as surprising as possible to the western palate.
Black tea is the ubiquitous drink for trekkers. Served in large flasks for every occasion, it’s a comforting and essential part of your trekking diet. If you are not a tea drinker, other hot and cold drinks are readily available.
Dealing with altitude sickness
One of the biggest fears of first-time hikers is altitude sickness or mountain sickness. Simple precautions can help minimize the effects of altitude and ensure that most people will experience minimal symptoms such as mild headaches, insomnia, shortness of breath and occasional nausea.
Walking slowly, taking regular rests, eating and drinking plenty (not alcohol) and climbing slowly are the keys to staying healthy. Make sure your trekking itinerary includes rest days as well as ‘high altitude, low sleep’ opportunities. A 10-day trek to reach base camp (with an additional three days back to Lukla) is about right – anything less and you’re compromising on adaptability, so check carefully when you book your trek.
Road to Everest base camp
After a short and memorable flight from Kathmandu, the trek begins from Lukla. At Lukla you will be met by your Sherpa guide and trek team and after your first cup of tea (locally known as chai), you will soon be ready to hit the trail.
The scenery is breathtaking from your first step and for the next two days you will follow the stunningly scenic Dudhkoshi River Valley to Namche Bazar, the main Sherpa town in the Everest region. It’s the perfect place to relax, acclimatize and buy any kit you forgot to pack. During the arduous climb up to Namche, you will enjoy the first breathtaking view of Mount Everest.
From Namche, it’s a two- or three-day trek to Thangboche – your next major destination on the trail. A more direct route runs through Syangboche, while a longer route runs northwest through the Nangpa Drangpo Valley to the small village of Thame. This optional route isn’t on every itinerary, but adding an extra day at Thame really helps with flexibility.
From Thame you return to the main trail and drive through pretty villages, rhododendron forests and impressive mountain scenery to Thangboche, the region’s main Buddhist monastery. If the weather is clear, the view of Mount Everest from here is simply stunning. Once a year, the monastery comes alive with the lively music and masked dance of the Mani Rimdu festival.
After Thangboche you will notice a change in the scenery and as the air gets thinner the landscape changes, becoming increasingly stark and dramatic. Your progress will be very slow as you adjust to the high altitude and there should be plenty of time in your itinerary to acclimatize properly, including rest days. Eventually you will reach the tiny village of Lobuche from where you’ll make the final push to base camp itself.
The trek from Lobuche is a long and strenuous one over rocky terrain but, after several hours of hard trekking, you will step foot on one of the most iconic places in the world. During the spring climbing season you may even see expedition teams camped out as they prepare for their attempt at the summit.
From base camp you can’t actually see the summit of Everest, but you will have fantastic views of the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. For close-up views of the summit itself, you need an extra day in your itinerary to trek from Lobuche to the small peak called Kala Patter which sits directly across from Everest. From here there are truly spectacular, panoramic views of Everest and other Himalayan peaks.
The three-day return trek to Lukla seems like a walk in the park compared to the grueling trek outside. Once back, you will surely enjoy a celebratory beer with your fellow trekkers and toast your achievement in completing the world’s most famous trek.