You can’t prepare yourself for how you will feel when you see the top of the world for the first time. Mt. Everest and it’s surrounding peaks invoke a feeling of appreciation for this planet that is comparable to the most beautiful beaches. It will leave you in awe and at the same time humble you and make you aware of your true significance. We are grateful we had the opportunity to trek to Everest Base Camp and want to share that experience with you here.
What you quickly realize is that this is a popular trek and one that virtually anyone can do. There were people from all over the world, most were with local trekking companies, but some more experienced and bold trekkers took on the journey alone or in small groups. There was evidence of children as young as 5 who have done the trek and we had the good fortune to be a day away from base camp when a man celebrated his 70th birthday. If you have ever wondered what it would be like to be surrounded by giants, but didn’t think you could do it, go. The way that this trek is organized, it can be done and you will not regret it.
There are plenty of things to think about leading up to the trek. What is the correct packing list, what should I expect day to day for physical demands and food. What will the weather be like and where will I sleep? These, and more, are all great questions to be asked prior to leaving Kathmandu for the Himalayas.
With our chosen trekking company, Take on Nepal, the answer to these questions was readily available on their well thought out website. If we couldn’t find it there, we found their e-mail correspondence to be fast and reliable as well. When choosing a trekking company, you have an outstanding number of options. For us, we considered the following when choosing:
- Are they local and will be supporting the local economy rather than foreign owned and operated?
- Do they treat their employees well (the guides and porters) and are they paid fairly?
- Will they be English speaking so that we can converse with them and get to know them and their culture?
- Do they have a solid background of knowledge and are they experienced enough that we feel safe with them.
With Take on Nepal, we found all these to be affirmatives and that is why we chose them to lead us into the Everest region.
Most companies offer a 14 day trek to base camp. This is a bit misleading as it is actually more like 12 days of trekking with 1 day in Kathmandu prior to leaving and one travel day on the back end. That is fine, 12 days is plenty, but just something to be aware of. The first day out of Kathmandu starts at 2am and includes a 3-4 hour chaotic bus ride to a rural airport where you get to take an amazing flight to the legendary Lukla airport! It is possible to add days of trekking to your trip and not take this flight, but we highly recommend the experience.
Note that because of the weather, flight delays and trip delays are common here.
After the flight you have about an 8km hike to Phakding, where you spend your first night. Even with the early wake up and long day of travel. We found the excitement of being in the mountains to carry us along on that first day of trekking. After a great meal we passed out early, happily dreaming of what the next couple of weeks would bring us.
From there, your days become a series of beautiful walks surrounded by ever changing mountain landscapes and surprisingly delicious meals from menus that had an array of options. Another hack we discovered for this trip. Find a “food buddy” that you can share meals with and you will not only be able to sample more flavors, but if your appetite is big after a day on the trails, you can order one Dal Baht (a local favorite), which is bottomless at most places, and another tasty meal to share so that you are sure to get your fill.
Besides the delicious food and unbelievable daily treks, we found the tea houses where you start and end your days to be cozy, comfortable and social. They are typically set up with a main room that everyone hangs in to eat, play cards, read, and recap their days. This is a great time to recharge your own energy or your devices as well if needed. As you go further up in elevation and get more remote, the prices for charging, WiFi, showers and other extras increase as well. Many of the little villages have some coffee shops that are busy with trekkers looking to escape their accommodations for a few hours. There you can find daily movies, a wide menu of coffees, teas, pastries and beers as well as warmth. Many of the tea houses in which we stayed had stoves that they would burn with yak dung, but they did not keep these going all day like the local cafe’s did. Once we got to higher altitudes and cooler weather, sitting in the cold was not very appealing so we were happy to find these cafes.
As far as the actual daily treks go, for us, they were not too difficult. There are plenty of tough parts where you are climbing up and the thin air slows you down, but the days are long and there is no hurry so it is easy to take your time, find a comfortable pace and enjoy your surroundings. Most companies build acclimatization days into their itinerary so that you can more easily adjust to the altitude. Be sure to do this to help decrease the chances of altitude sickness. Some of the trails get pretty busy, but never for very long unless you want to stay in a big group. The longest day we had was around 18km. This was mostly downhill and didn’t feel that long because we were coming into more oxygen with every breath as well as our conditioning from the previous days.
The changing weather was something else we loved to see. You literally go from summer to fall, to winter and back to summer by the end. You must pack accordingly and additionally know that your sleeping accommodations will not be heated. Be sure to have a low temp sleeping bag and plan to sleep with layers on, especially once you arrive to the higher villages. We had a couple days were we woke up to some light snow, but were happy to see it as it made the area look and feel as we felt it should. When we would wake up to a blue sky sunny day, it would energize us to get out on the trail! The views of the mountains, passing through little villages and seeing how the local Sherpa people live is truly memorable.
The key to making the most of the experience is solid preparation. The good news is that you can find anything that may have missed before heading to Nepal, in Kathmandu and that is why we suggest adding some days on the front and back end of your trip. This will help you to overcome any jet lag, make sure you have everything you need for your packing and on the back end, account for any possible weather delays you may have flying out of Lukla.
Making the decision to trek to Everest Base Camp is something that we feel you will not regret. Bring a good attitude, a solid pair of shoes and plenty of layers and you will be fine. Seeing the Himalayas and the world’s highest peaks is such an incredible feeling that should be had by all. Test yourself to get off the grid for a couple of weeks and away from the comforts that we are accustomed to. It will give you a new appreciation for what you have and what this wonderful globe of our has to offer.
Be sure to check out our daily recap of our journey to Everest Base Camp in podcast form here.