Bucket Lists and Difficult Journeys

Trekking to Everest Base Camp-Are You Up To It?

You’ve read great posts about the Everest Base Camp Trek and want to go but are you ready for it?

You don’t need to be an athlete nor a mountain climber to trek to Everest Base Camp. You don’t have to be seasoned hiker either. For many people who trek to Base Camp it is their first experience of anything like this. I was one of these people.

Everest Base Camp is achievable to the average person. Training before you go is highly recommended. Your training is part of the bigger journey. It certainly was part of mine. The Trainer kept reminding me, you know the quote, the journey is not just about the destination. Oh and the question of age. I’m in my fifties and there were plenty of people older than me on the trail.

Above the yak pastures on the trail to Dingboche.

One of favourite days walking into Dingboche past yak pastures.

If you are healthy, have trained and mentally prepared Everest Base Camp is possible.

Main Everest Base Camp Trail

Great things are done
when men and mountains meet.
William Blake

Levels of Difficulty and Lessons Learnt on the EBC Trek

How difficult something is, is relative. Trekking to EBC might be a piece of cake for an extreme sportsmen or mountain climber heading for Base Camp to acclimatise there and climb Everest, but I’m not that person. I had never done anything like this trek previously. Never trekked, or hiked with a pack. However I did train for both treks under the watchful eye of the Trainer who had experienced the Annapurna area in the 80s and had a sense of what tracks and conditions would be like.
So my HARD DAY is from the perspective of someone who trained for six months prior to setting out for Everest Base Camp. Most importantly our trek was designed using the altitude gain golden rule and we never ascended more than 300 metres per day. It is the altitude that makes the trek hard. We managed the altitude well with the help of Diamox had no problems.(Link to our experience with altitude and Diamox).

Every Day on the Everest Base Camp Trek is Different.

Each day is a big day even if some days are a bit easier. There are big climbs and big views.

First up, a few general points :

  1. DOWNHILL means generally downhill, you go uphill to go downhill.
  2. Ditto for UPHILL.
  3. Downhill is harder than going uphill. Downhill impacts more on your knees. It is much easier to slip going downhill, even without mud or ice involved, just pesky pebbles that you can slip on and then others to trip on as you gain momentum slipping down. Trekking poles are good for when this happens.
  4. My level of difficulty assumes six months steadily training building muscle strength and the last three months stepping up the training frequency and intensity. That’s what we did anyway . (Link to our training program here).
  5. If you haven’t trained it will be very, very difficult increasing the probability of pain and blisters being involved. And it doesn’t matter how young you are. Young people need to train too.

    It’s Not a Race Even if an 80 Year Old Carrying 40 Kilos Passes You

  6. It’s not a race – for those really competitive people out there. The photograph below is shows me, in the red jacket on Day 3 of our 2013 trek. We had left Monjo and entered through the gate of the Sagarmatha National Park.
    The afternoon before we had explored Monjo and I had seen an old woman in her eighties sitting on the door step of a house. The next day I saw the woman at the top of the hill only she was carrying a basket of at least twenty large cabbages, probably weighing about 40 kilos. She passed me and this is her steaming ahead down the hill. Don’t try to pass or keep up. Learn the lesson of where and how the person overtaking you is  walking.
Old lady carrying cabbages

Still ahead of me with those cabbages

The Bigger or Harder Days

Day 1 Lukla to Phakding

DIFFICULTY : Relatively EASY and DOWNHILL but read on

TIP 1 : Take it slowly – it isn’t a race. Take lots of rests

Retrospectively this day is an easy day. First days are big whether it is your first time or not. Day one – you are getting to used the walk and conditions. It might be a longer day because flights to Lukla can be delayed due to haze or fog. This happened for our 2013 Trek.

As a novice trekker starting out in 2013 wasn’t what I would call EASY at the time. It didn’t seem like it was downhill and didn’t feel easy. And that was the Trainer’s Morning Trail Report prior to setting out from Lukla – a nice easy walk down hill. I spent some time muttering to myself about the unreliability of the said Trainer’s Report.

Seasoned Trekker’s Tip :

A guy we met on his eighth or ninth trip to Nepal always had an agreement with his porter/guide to stay the night in the first available lodge. A town can be quite spread out. From the bottom of the town to the top can be quite an elevation. If you are trekking without a tour company but with a porter or porter guide and haven’t booked accommodation, walking backwards and forwards to checking out different lodges before deciding on where to stay at the end of the day can be tiring.

You will welcome your bed. I almost fell asleep at dinner and was in bed asleep by 6:30.

EBC Trek trail

Day 2 Phakding to Namche Bazaar

DIFFICULTY : HARD day – it took us about seven hours plus an hour stop for lunch

TIP 2 : Packing your pack takes time, so get up early so you can start out early.

The 600 metres climb to Namche is hard. But you know ahead that it is, so you can do it. Steel yourself. You will have done lots of incline training, outdoors hill training, step training and or lots of squats for this day. Plus you get some practice climbing up to the bridge first. And crossing the Sir Edmund Hilary bridge across the Dudh Kosi will give you an adrenalin kick to get you up the hill.

Actually getting into Namche Bazaar seems to take forever. The TIMS card check point where you sign in is still quite a way from Namche.

We learnt the Nepalese word bistari  on this day on 2015 Trek. Bistari bistari – slowly slowly

Reminder : Leave space in your day pack for layers you take on and off during the day.

Fruit sellers climbing to Namche Bazaar EBC

Women selling fruit at the rest stop on the ascent to Namche Bazaar.

Day 3 Acclimatisation Day in Namche Bazaar

DIFFICULTY : EASIER day – especially after a hot shower

TIP 3 :  This is not a rest day it is an acclimatisation day – do the work

For our 2013 trek  I referred to this day as a Rest Day, from memory so did the Trainer. Possibly he didn’t want to scare me as I was tired. Mistake. We did walk to the top of the town around the helipad and monastery areas. Retrospectively we should have walked the Khunde and Khumjung circuit and climbed an additional 340 metres and come back down, which is the idea for an acclimatisation day, not resting. My advice if you are going on to Tengboche or Phortse for Day 4 is do the circuit. Khumjung is great and worth the walk. I still haven’t seen Khunde. It is a steep climb up and steep coming back down. Taking a guide will save you getting lost finding your way back to your lodge, Namche’s dead end paths can be a bit frustrating.

Day 5 Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (2013 Trek)

DIFFICULTY : HARD day – From  Namche Bazaar  you can take a short hard climb out of Namche or you can take the trail through Khumjung. We took the option straight out of Namche along the trail to Tengboche. After the ascent the path flattens out and there is a slow ascent to a stupa in memorial to Tenzing Norgay. A steep descent (600 Metres) down to the river follows then the relentless 800 m HARD climb to Tengboche. HARDER than the climb to Namche.

Ignore the signage which says Two Hours to Tengboche every two hours. It really should say Two Hours to the Next Two Hours to Tengboche Sign. The trek took as eight hours on this day. I really was not mentally prepared. The Trainer’s Morning Trail Report was wrong again. Not sure why.

TIP 4 :  Mental preparation is everything.

When you return  from Base Camp this same steep 800m ascent makes for a slippery descent so guess the next tip?

TIP 5 : Don’t leave home without your trekking poles. This also implies that you purchased them at home and have trained with them.

On the trek to Tengboche also learnt another valuable lesson  – Two Hour to Tengboche post and you tube

Day Eight Acclimatisation Day in  Dingboche (2015 Trek)

DIFFICULTY : HARD morning then a restful afternoon

TIP 6 : Do this walk and climb as far as you can. It will help with the altitude.

EBC Trek Dingboche Ridgetop

As high as we went on the Ridgetop

The acclimatisation day in Dingboche, just above the town to the Dingboche ridge-top is the standard acclimatisation day activity . It is a steep climb with such rewarding amazing views. Do it in the morning, take your time – bistari bistari – and you will be back in your lodge for lunch with the afternoon to rest and catch up with your social media posts to show your beautiful photos to all friends and followers over the best pastries ever. Yes Dingboche is a great place for internet access and has at least one great bakery – a great EASY activity for the afternoon.

Day Eleven Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Kala Pattar

DIFFICULTY : HARD DAY – for me the second hardest day

TIP 7 : Be mentally  prepared and enjoy it. Climbing that brown hill is HARD work.

Gorak Shep the end of the Everest Base Camp trek

Walking into Gorak Shep the end of the Everest Base Camp Trek

You need to start out early from Lobuche for a very full day. The trek to Gorak Shep is mostly flat with a few hills where you will have to rest, take a few photos when you do. We climbed Kala Patthar after a light lunch. For me it was the hardest climb, I guess because of the altitude. My legs were burning. The Trainer made it to the top before me and yelled out encouragement when I suggested I was happy not coming all the way to the top (the flag pole). He yelled out that it was what I had trained for. He was right I could and should come to the top. So I called on my reserves and joined him for the best view of the trek.

Day Twelve Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp to Lobuche

DIFFICULTY : HARD DAY – without a doubt the hardest. The day before is a big day too. Sleeping at the highest altitude and not getting a great night’s sleep. The side trips to Kala Patthar and then the walk into Base Camp is quite tricky.Then you pick up your day packs and walk back to Lobuche. Two big days back to back.

TIP 8: Get to bed early

The Itinerary is Key to Success

Most importantly our trek itinerary was designed using the altitude gain golden rule and we never ascended more than 300 metres per day. It is the altitude that makes the trek hard. We were fortunate and handled the altitude well with the help of Diamox.

For our 2015 trek we deviated from this route instead what we did was: –

Day 4 Namche Bazaar to Khumjung (2015) – this allowed us to see Khumjung. The weather stopped us from seeing Khunde. A night in Khumjung was in a sense another acclimatisation day at just a bit higher altitude. We were able to do this as we had originally planned to only trek as far as Monjo from Phakding but then we decided to trek all the way to Namche Bazaar. This meant we had another day up our sleeve.

Path to Khumjung Everest Base Camp Trek

The days following to Pangboche and Shomare depending on the number of days of your trek won’t standout as being particularly hard. If you are doing a shorter 10 or 12 day trek as opposed to 14, 15 or 16 days obviously your days will be longer and more tiring.

On our 2013 Trek the day’s walk to Tengboche was an undoing day for us. We did continue on to Pangboche and stayed the night there. The following day we walked to Shomare and decided to turn back. See the story here. On our second trek two years later when we made it to Everest Base Camp.

EASIER DAYS

Day Seven Shomare to Dingboche (2015 Trek)

One of my favourite days. The hill up out Shomare is steep but only a short distance not anything like the steep hills to Namche or Tengboche. The walk to Dingboche has lots of flat areas and wide paths. What I would call an EASY day.

Day Nine Dingboche to Dughla ( 2015 Trek )

EASY DAY  -Dingboche to Dughla is a short distance and an easy walk. Most organised treks don’t stay at Dughla and there are only two lodges there. We were sticking to the altitude ascending rule so there we stayed.

OTHERS THINGS CAN AFFECT THE LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

The Weather

The season you trek makes difference to the difficulty. Trekking in November December can be cold. For our first trek everyone coming back down from Base Camp had a cold. At night in the lodges everyone seemed to be coughing.

Getting Sick

Avoid meat and stick to a vegetarian diet on the trek. I also took Travelan on the trek. Starting tablets one per day before flying to Kathmandu. It can make you constipated by the end of the trek though.

Whether your destination is Everest Base Camp, Machu Pichu, Santiago de Compestela or Owner’s Corner (the destination of the Kokoda Trail), whatever your challenge, make it happen and make it soon. A journey like this is one of life’s highlights. It probably will leave you wanting more and reconsidering your usual travel plans to journeys which are not only about the place but also about the effort and amazing experience in getting there. Making the views and the experiences so much richer because of your effort.

If you have a bucket list, put an adventure with a challenging destination like Everest Base Camp on it. I don’t really have a bucket list. But if I did, Trekking to Everest Base Camp would be on it. But I could never cross it off the list because I am addicted.

If you are fit and reading this six months before the beginning of the one of the EBC trekking seasons it is not too late decide to go on the trip of a lifetime and trek to Everest Base Camp. Book your flight and start training. Buy your boots. Now. Just make the decision and do it.
Tara Air flight at Lukla airport

Unloading Tara Air flight at Lukla

Everest Base Camp Trek

Almost there! The infamous climb to Namche Bazaar almost finished.

Ready to go.

Follow the 2015 Trek   2015 Itinerary

If you need more convincing read 25 Reasons to Trek to Everest Base Camp

Visit www.thegreathimalayatrail.org

The Travel Doctor and Altitude Sickness

45 thoughts on “Bucket Lists and Difficult Journeys

    • Oh thank you.yes it is good to read others’ experiences. I will have at a look at your post too. i always scan for who is trek. Can I ask did you find my blog through the wordpress search or did you link out from Out and About? Louise

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  1. Pingback: Wonderlusting around the world – Out an' About

  2. So impressive, not sure I coukd manage this it looks pretty challenging all around. I am definitely sensitive to altitude and heights. I guess as you say its all about being prepared. Utmost respect your way!

    Peta

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  3. Pingback: Life is Great in Retrospect | The Year I Touched My Toes

  4. Louise this is something we have considered but following our challenges with altitude in Peru I’m not so sure it will be staying on our bucket list. i admire your training and your efforts. Very impressive!

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    • Did you take a bus to the area where you had the challenges with the altitude? This happened to my husband years ago. But on the EBC trek if you take enough days around 14 – 16 you should be OK and the Diamox helps. We planned our ascent strictly by the rules and it went really well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Part of our issue is lack of time. We flew into Cusco at 11,000 feet which is significantly higher than where we live. We were there a couple of days and then began increasing altitude. We also didn’t take Diamox right away. so yes better preparation would likely help a great deal.

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  5. Louise, I admire you for doing this trip. I did the Milford Sound Trek in New Zealand several years ago but I think it’s nothing like what you’ve done here. I take my hat off to you. Well done!

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  6. I have to say that doing this trek in Nepal is definitely on my wish list and reading this has been terrific as its super helpful to get all these tips and really great advice. Not being a mountain climber or long distance hiker I can see that it is do-able, but that preparation and mindset is key. I am going to save this post, so I can have it when the opportunity presents itself for this amazing experience.

    Wonderful photographs and wonderful writing.

    Thank you,
    Peta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Peta, I somehow missed seeing this comment. I am really pleased that you have the message that trek is doable. It was one of the main reasons I started the blog to convince people to go on a trek like this in Nepal. It really is one of the best things I have done travel wise and I have been lucky with some wonderful travel experiences.
      Thank you so much for your kind comments. I am looking forward to reading your posts and background stories. Louise

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  7. Great post Louise! I can so relate to your tip about going uphill to go down hill and vice versa. It seemed to me to be all up, up, down, down. Your photo of the stone steps reminded me of the painful steps everywhere. It was great to read your descriptions and tips. Thanks!

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    • Thanks Debbie. It took me a while to put it together. Yes for me the photo of the steps and the up, up,down, down really mentally prepares you for what is ahead. I saw one photo of stone steps somewhere on the trail and I thought I had better keep on and increase my stair training.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I am now at six months before I go. When I think about it I get chills. 😄
    I have been hiking and when I was in California last week I had the chance to climb rather than just walking on a flat ground like here in Texas.
    Great post Louise! Thanks for the tips.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great post Louise, especially helpful for someone who’s planning on doing this trek and wants detailed information beforehand. It’s always good to be prepared. Wonderful photos too.

    Liked by 1 person

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