The 101 on Trekking in the Everest Base Camp Region

Above Pheriche, Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal
So much more than Base Camp

A Basic Overview To Everest Base Camp Trekking 

Whether you have just returned from your first taste of hiking somewhere spectacular like Machu Picchu and are thinking about tackling the Everest Base Camp trek. Or your neighbour has just returned from their third trek in Nepal and you’re thinking there must be something in it. Or you have been thinking about trekking in Nepal for a while. Whatever the reason and you know next to nothing about trekking in Nepal, this post is for you.

This is the 101 on trekking in the Everest Base Camp region also features some photos of the Gokyo region. Gokyo is the less popular trek but is very beautiful and less crowded.

#Macchermo lodges #Gokyo Area #Everest Base Camp region #Khumbu #Nepal
Simple Accommodation Stunning Location – Macchermo, Gokyo area 

It is a good idea to decide when and where you will trek twelve months in advance to give yourself plenty of time to prepare and research. This is the case whether you are trekking with or without a tour operator. Being prepared for what the trek is like is critical. Mental preparation is everything. Everything.

Basic Points About the EBC Region when you know absolutely nothing

  • EBC stands for Everest Base Camp.
  • You can’t see Mount Everest from Everest Base Camp. You get your first view of Everest on the climb to Namche Bazaar.
  • The highlight of trekking to Everest Base Camp is the view from Kala Patthar. Not Base Camp. You can see Everest and the rest of the mountains from Kala Patthar. You can climb to Kala Patthar to see Everest at sunrise, sunset, late morning or early afternoon. You do not need to be a mountaineer to get this view.
Climbing Kala Patthar October 2015
The innocent looking path to the top of Kala Patthar was the hardest few hours of our 2015 trek for me. The large mountain on the left is Pumori.
  • There is no road to Everest Base Camp, Nepal.
    Everest Base Camp and Gokyo are in the Khumbu region.
  • Most people start their trek by flying to Lukla. The closest road is two days walk from Lukla at Jiri or Saleri.
Sign to Jiri from the main EBC trail
The signage to Jiri and Salleri two days walk from the main trail 
  • Everything needed along the track comes in on foot. Gas for cooking, food, housing and building supplies are carried up by donkeys, yaks and porters. The porters do the hardest carrying, carrying weights of up to 140 kilos.
  • Understandably food and drink are more expensive the higher you go up the trail.
Tenzing Hilary Airport Lukla Nepal
Waiting for the next four planes to land at the Tenzing Hilary Airport
Porters Load along the EBC Trek trail
Meet the doko. You will see lots of these with your food and drink up the track
  • The trail is in a remote part of the world, but people live at points along the track. On the lower parts of the track you will see children walking to school. Tell this to the folks back home to stop them worrying about your planned adventure.
Children running home from school EBC trek trail Nepal
Children running home from school
  • People worry about altitude sickness on the trek, but it is avoidable.
  • I have met people worried about altitude sickness affecting them because they had experienced it ascending mountains in the Andes in a bus! This happens because you are ascending too fast. It doesn’t happen trekking to the Base Camp region if you plan your ascent according to the altitude rules.
  • Your altitude acclimatisation starts in Kathmandu at 1,400 metres or 4,500 feet. Don’t sign up with a trekking company that counts Kathmandu as day 1 of your trek. 
trekking gear
Training is key to you managing and enjoying your trek.
Camping an Lodge accommodation in Dole Gokyo region Nepal
Camping and lodge accommodation in Dole on the way to Gokyo
  • Trekking to Everest Base Camp is achievable with an average fitness level but you need to train so you don’t experience any pain and you enjoy it.
  • People of all ages trek along this track.
  • Click here to read how we trained for our treks to Everest Base Camp.
Lodge in Phakding EBC trail
The lodge we stayed in Phakding on the way up and on the way down in 2015.

Lodge in Dole in the Gokyo Valley Nepal

ACCOMMODATION 

  •  If you trek to Everest Base Camp you don’t have to sleep in a tent.
  • If you decide not to camp, then you will stay in a lodge. They used to be called tea houses.
  • Accommodation is basic. Very basic. I am talking basic beds, blanket and pillows. Usually some sort of shelf along the window, maybe some coat hooks. No mirror and no power points. 
  • Bathrooms are basic. Sometimes you can get a toilet in your room. Showers are generally communal except in the more expensive lodges and maybe in some lodges in Phakding.
  • There are some nicer hotels in Namche Bazaar and there is the Yeti Group along the lower part of the track. But remember the infrastructure is not there for the fabulous plumbing and heating, regardless of the price.
  • In Namche Bazaar for a moderate rate you can have your own reasonable bathroom, western toilet and power points and mirrors.
  • A shower each day is not possible. Wet hair on the trail is a problem and there are no power points for a hair dryer to dry your hair.
  • You don’t have to carry a huge pack with food etc because there are lodges all the way along the track spaced at strategic points and they can cook your breakfast and dinner.
  • The basic accommodation is very cheap. The lodges make their money from the food. You must eat your evening meal and your breakfast in the lodge.
  • It is customary to pre-order your meals ahead of time, so they can get organised. below is the standard menu along the trail.
  1. Food is basic.
  2. It is not advisable to eat meat along the trail or in Kathmandu.
A lodge in Phakding Nepal
Lodges usually sell some basics 

Trek with a company or independently but trek with a guide or a porter guide

The Porter guide and me Above Macchermo on the way to Gokyo
Dilip our Porter guide with me above Macchermo on the way to Gokyo

Planning – Decisions before you leave for the Everest Region

  • Who you are going to go with?
    • Decide carefully who you want to go on this trekking adventure with. Because it might not be their dream destination, or cup of tea. I know. Because that was me. But, now I have just returned from my third trek in the Everest Base camp region. And planning a fourth. Trekking in Everest Base Camp region is addictive.
    • If your planned travelling companion is very particular about accommodation – maybe you can go with someone else OR they just give it a go. It’s worth it for the spectacle views … 
Spectacular View from Dingboche Ridgetop
Imja Chola River from above Dingboche

When You Can Trek To Everest Base Camp 

Why are you going ?

  •  If you want to go all the way to Everest Base Camp make sure you have an itinerary no less than 14 days Lukla to Lukla NOT including arrival in Kathmandu.
  • Importantly there is a chance you won’t get to Base Camp. On our first trek in 2013 we didn’t, and you need to be prepared for that. Pushing on could cost you your life. You can always try again another time. There is no shame in not getting to EBC.
  • You might be happy enough just to experience trekking and the big mountain panoramic views. Then maybe trekking to Namche Bazaar is far enough. Or you could go a bit farther to Thame or Khumjung. It is still a fantastic experience with great views. Dingboche is further with fantastic massive landscape views.

The Number of Days Trekking to Everest Base Camp is the Most Important Factor to Get to Base Camp Safely 

Your Trekking Options. How Will You Trek ?  

  • with a tour group, or independently with a guide and porter or a porter guide?
  • will you book before you leave home or in Kathmandu?

Research, Book, Buy and Train, Train, Train

Know What to Expect  – Mental Preparation is Everything 

  • We researched our gear by going to all the trekking shops and buying in store.
  • Buy gear early unless you want to buy it in Kathmandu, which I don’t recommend.
    • Buy your boots early. You need to wear them in. 
    • Start shopping for your best airfare options – we buy our air tickets only few months before our departure – just in case circumstances change
    • Research insurance, costs of a porter etc
  • Read some blog posts and get an idea on what to expect
    • Read about
      • the accommodation
      • the food
      • what the trail is like
      • look at some maps on the internet
      • look at Google Earth along the track
      • buy or borrow a range of guide books
      • watch some YouTube videos
    • It is important one person going knows what to expect each day. If you have a guide, they will tell you each night what to expect the next day. A porter/ guide, may not speak English as well as a guide, but they will be able to tell you on how long it will take you to get to your next destination and a rough description of the trail. Even with the porters and guides it is a good idea to know what you are signing up for before you book your trek and airfares. Do your research before you book anything.  
  • Train with your trekking clothes and your day pack and some weight. Try a drink bottle with an increasing amount of water to increase the weight slowly.
  • Train, train and train   

Best Months to Trek in the Mount Everest Base Camp Region?

The best times to trek and the seasons in the Everest Base Camp region

  • April, May – when all the rhododendrons are flowering, the warmer of the two seasons and the busiest because the Mount Everest climbing season is in May. A lot of people and food and equipment move along the track in April.
  • October to December – a colder but less busy season. There is chance of clouds in the afternoon and of some snow in higher parts
    • We have only trekked in this season. It was quiet for us because there were no flights for about three or four days.

Months to Avoid Everest Base Camp Trekking

  • January and February is winter and cold. A few people do trek then. But why would you?
  • August and September are the monsoon season. Lots of rain and clouds can obscure the views and there is the possibility of landslides lower part of the track.
September 2015 between Mongla and Portse Tenga Nepal
You can be unlucky with the weather …

After You Decide to Trek to EBC Region – Research Some More

  • Research your trek – the destination and the route
    • Build flexibility into your itinerary.
  • A great tip is to plan 2 to 4 buffer days. A tight deadline is not what you want. You might get sick, or feel unwell or miss a flight in or out.

https://bearfoottheory.com/planning-your-everest-base-camp-trek-logistics/

  • Begin your training 3 to 6 months before you go depending on your fitness level
    • 3 months if you are reasonably fit and need targeted training
    • 6 months if you want to establish general fitness first

Research and Preparation Equal Success for the Everest Base Camp Region treks

 

Things You Should Know about Trekking to Everest Base Camp

Things you might not know about Kathmandu, trekking to EBC and Nepal in general.

If someone says that they are trekking to Everest Base Camp it doesn’t mean they have to sleep in a tent or are intending to climb Mount Everest.

Tents of the 2015 Ultra Marathon Runners at Everest Base Camp

Tents of the 2015 Ultra Marathon Runners at Everest Base Camp

Accommodation is simple on the trail there is not a lot of up market accommodation.

There are no roads into Lukla the start of the Everest Base Camp Trek. Generally  people fly into Lukla and start trekking from there. The nearest road is at Jiri and you can walk from there. The airport was built in 1964. People still walk in from Jiri. Jennifer from Jennifer’s Journeys did it.

IMG_1257

Some villages along the track have wifi but it doesn’t always work. Great places for wifi are Namche Bazaar, Dingboche and maybe Pangboche and Lobuche. It is a combination of the location but also the lodge.

The early part of the trail is not that remote and you will see children going to school along the trail.

Children running home from school EBC trek trail Nepal

You need to research the season and the months you are traveling well. There advantages for the different seasons.

IMG_1695

December – cold but beautiful dry sunny days

IMG_0545

Late September two years later. Warmer days when the cloud lifts.

Going there you are helping the local economy.

Stick to vegetables on the trail. Refrigeration is not brilliant.

Neplese food on the EBC trek

It is not normal walking and Diamox is key. Make sure you have it an I would tend to follow the trekking guides’ recommendation, as in experienced guides who lead treks on a regular basis. A slow trek is key to getting there without be sick. Altitude headaches can be really horrible. I’ve heard and read. We didn’t have any.

There is a thing called a Go Girl. Apparently female rock climbers use them to urinate. Practice is advised.

Kathmandu has lots of places to see including Durbar Square where you can see lots of pigeons.

Durbar Square and pigeons Kathmandu

Having a massage after a trek is a very good idea. I didn’t do this and I felt really sore and stiff a few weeks later, back home in Australia. I felt like my body was seizing up. Next time I will have a massage.

The lower part of Nepal is quite tropical almost and you can even go on a jungle safari. We went to Chitwan. Buses are very scary and the journeys are incredibly slow.

You can fly into Lukla for a day and take flights up over Everest.

You don’t have to go to EBC you can take a shorter trek and just go as far as Tengboche. There are other side treks you could go and not go to EBC.

Eat, Heat, Recharge and Sleep on the Everest Base Camp Trail

Main trail Lukla to Kala Patthar at Phakding

The Shangrilla Lodge in Phakding in 2015. We stayed here on the first night and the second last nights of Everest Base Camp trek.

Our First Lodge Experience

I remembered the lodge pictured above from our first 2013 trek. We didn’t stay there then. Our flight from Kathmandu to Lukla was delayed about four hours due to fog. We were trekking solo, without a guide or porter and had no accommodation booked.

We arrived in the late afternoon in Phakding and wanted to look at some lodges before we decided on one. Our main focus was getting our own bathroom.

The small villages are generally along the trail going up the hill. Exhausted on that first day of our trek the last thing we wanted was to walk up and down checking out lodges. All I wanted was a shower and bed. We only had the energy to check out two. I remember walking past the Shangrila Lodge (pictured above) lots of young people were listening to music, talking and sitting on the terrace. Party central, I thought. Not for me, I wanted to go to bed and sleep. Early. So we walked on past.

We decided on a lodge at the lower end of the trail. Our room had a western toilet and a shower however there was no hot water left. So we got wet and froze drying off in our room. Lodge rooms have no heating.

I was falling asleep at the table waiting for our food. I was in bed and asleep by 6:30.

Accommodation Along the Everest Base Camp Trail

Upper Phakding Lodge EBC Trek Trail

Lodge in Upper Phakding

Phakding

Sleep – The Bedrooms

  1. Accommodation is basic with the exception of Namche Bazaar where you can pay for more a reasonable room and bathroom. However there are some very expensive hotels in the lower part of the track, see the bottom of the post.
  2. Rooms are very basic. Two beds, a window and not a lot of room.  I did see double beds in some rooms but generally it was single beds.
  3. If you are lucky there may be some sort of window sill or small table for small things you want at hand during the night. Sometimes there are hooks on the wall.
  4. There is no heating in the rooms.
  5. Most rooms don’t have a mirror. There are no power points. Forget the hair dryer.
  6. Mattresses are thin and hard just like hotel beds in South East Asia.
  7. We were always provided with an extra blanket for each bed.

Room With a View

The view from our lodge /hotel in Namche Bazaar. Our hotel in Namche was a lot more upmarket. We had power points in our rooms, electric blankets, chairs etc. Obviously this accommodation was more expensive than the majority of the accommodation.

Lodge in Nepal

Bathrooms

  1. We had western style toilets in all the hotels we stayed in.
  2. I have read blog posts about only having squat toilets but we never stayed in lodges where this was the only option.
  3. Plumbing can be problematic.
  4. The toilet, shower and basin in the lodge in the first photo  was shared by a lot of rooms. We were the only guests on our outbound trek and there were only two guests heading back to Lukla. If we had to share with a lot of guests we may not have stayed there.

Heat – The Dining Room

Lodge in Monjo EBC Trek Nepal

The dining room in Monjo Guest House

The main room of the lodges is the dinning room where there will heat. A dung fueled fire will be the centre of the room and be the sole source of heat.

People sit in the room, chat, read, write up notes, swap stories,  if there is wifi you will access it from here. This is the place where you will meet people coming in the opposite direction and tell you about the weather and conditions ahead. Most lodges will have a small supply of chocolates, chips, bottles water, toilet paper etc you can buy.

You will charge your phones, camera batteries etc in this room, too. This will be charged to your bill.

Monjo Lodge EBC trek Nepal

Monjo Guest House had a second beautiful sunny eating area.

Food

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  1. You must eat where you stay. The owners make their money from the food.
  2. You pre-order food before dinner and for breakfast the next morning.
  3. Avoid meat. I would say don’t eat meat.
  4. Lodges often grow their own vegetables. Eating organically grown veggies on the trail was great.
  5. If you are a tea drinker and take milk rethink that. I drank black tea on the trek.

The Menu

  1. The menus can seem quite large but more than likely you will find things you like and stick with the same food.
  2. Popular meals are Dhal Blat and Sherpa Stew.
  3. Remember to try some apple pie. Apples are grown along the trail.

Neplese food on the EBC trek

Tips

There are no ATMs along the trail. Take enough cash for your entire trek.

Get your room ready for bed before you eat your evening meal. The light probably won’t be great in your room and it will be cold. So you will want to jump into your sleeping bag really quickly.

The Yeti Lodge EBC Trek Nepal

There are limited nice lodges. The Yeti Mountain Home group is one group, very nice but expensive in comparison to other lodges. We didn’t stay in any. If  you wanted to sample the Everest Base Camp trail and maybe climb to Namche Bazaar and check out Khumjung and Khunde, Thame structuring your trek around their accommodation.

Yeti Mountain Lodge Phakding

Monju Guest House EBC Trek Trail Nepal

We enjoyed staying our night in Monju Guest House. The garden setting is a bonus. Most people walk through Monjo but on our first trek, wanting to start off slow we stayed here and then walked to Namche Bazaar the next day ( day 3 of our trek ).

Paradise Lodge Lukla

Paradise Lodge Lukla

Todd Samson and How Not to Trek in the Himalayas

Todd Samson’s Salute to Sherpas and Climbing Lobuche

todd-samson

What Todd Samson has been getting up to lately is far from tame. Todd Samson is an Australian Canadian television celebrity is currently in a show called Body Hack.

Each episode looks at a different group of people who are involved in extreme activity and how the body copes with it. Taking it one step further Todd Samson walks in their shoes for some time. The Nepalese episode looked at the life of the Sherpa people who work as porters along the Everest Base Camp Trail. Continue reading

The Altitude Rule and Our Diamox Experience

The Altitude Rule – the Key Factor

The golden rule is not to sleep more than 300 metres higher each day. Sticking to the rule the Trainer planned a sixteen days trek which meant staying in Dughlia. Not the most beautiful place and with only two lodges. Most treks stop for lunch here and then continue on to Lobuche.

We  experienced no headaches. Our itinerary was a slow trek. The night we factored in Khumjung gave us an extra day to acclimatise at a slightly higher altitude after our two nights in Namche Bazaar.

Bistari, bistari – slowly, slowly our porter used to say. And we did go slowly and rested regularly. It is not a race. We took time to savour the amazing views. We kept hydrated and didn’t drink alcohol on the trek, not counting my Mohito in Namche on the way back.

Acclimatisation days are important for day walks to a higher altitude. Then you sleep at the same altitude a second night.

Don’t Leave Home For Everest Base Camp Without Diamox

Everyone has different advice about Diamox. This post is how we managed the altitude and the Diamox.

Advice – Diamox is your Friend

People following our trek to Everest Base Camp know the Trainer was also the researcher extraordinaire. I found printed information he had and have linked the sites at the end. Trekking companies often have information too.

Advice from your Doctor

Visit your doctor for advice. A doctor at the clinic we visit had been to Base Camp three times. His advised us to not take the Diamox too early and only if we needed it. He reasoned taking it too early didn’t allow any reserve to fall back on. He suggested if we had problems to take the Diamox, descend, sleep lower and come back up. Time permitting this is a good plan.

Advice before Leaving Kathmandu

The company who organised our porter, Lukla flights and TIMS cards brought our tickets to our hotel. We had met Doma who manages the business in Kathmandu in 2013. This time her husband accompanied her. Lhakpa is usually out  with a group trekking somewhere. His advice was to definitely start taking half a Diamox twice daily at Dingboche (4,000 metres) if we weren’t already taking it.

So what did we do?

The Trainer smokes but he is very fit. He started taking half a Diamox twice a day in Namche Bazaar. I had decided to take our doctor’s advice but changed my mind to take Lhakpa’s advice with his experience of many treks. So what did I do? Altitude can affect your sleep. You momentarily stop breathing and then your body wakes you. A bit scary and annoying. The trainer with his husband hat on suggested taking the Diamox purely to sleep better. I started taking half a tablet twice daily in Phortse (I think) two nights before Dingboche and slept much better. The trade off is Diamox makes you wee more . So read all the info, get medical advice, guide’s advice then do what feels right at the time, all things considered.

Useful Links

Indiana University Health Center – Diamox 

The Travel Doctor – Altitude or Mountain Sickness

Interested in reading my packing list?

Read about our acclimatisation day in Namche Bazaar or
our acclimatisation day in Dingboche which was a big walk.