Everest Base Camp

High altitude thrills on a historic route

While elite climbers may set their sights on summiting the worldís highest mountain, for mere mortals, trekking just part of the route up to Everest is enough of a buzz. After a short but sometimes white-knuckle plane ride to Lukla, it takes an average 12 days to hike up to Everest Base Camp South, a small rocky camp site and the hopping off point for serious summit attempts. (Everest Base Camp North, by the way, is in Tibet and harder to access.) Few trips involve a night at Base Camp, but itís thrilling to visit this key location, particularly if it coincides with climbing parties preparing for
the epic ascent.
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Highlights of the trek

Extraordinary views of Everest are just one of the highlights of this route. Youíll pass through traditional villages and an ever-changing landscape, starting in blue pine forests and river valleys and finishing in high altitude, rocky terrain.

Namche Bazaar is one of the first stops, a busy trading centre and cradle of Sherpa culture. Its Sherpa Museum reveals the extraordinary role local people have played in making attempts on Everest possible and safe, often at great personal cost.
Further up, the village of Tengboche is a midway point along the trail to Base Camp, with excellent views of Everest and Lhotse. Itís also home to the regionís largest Buddhist monastery, with a dazzling golden interior.
Situated on the southern slopes of Lhotse above the tree line, Dingboche and Lobuche are key acclimatisation points and from here, the scenery becomes utterly otherworldly, as you trek on or alongside Khumbu, the highest glacier on the planet. Walking on this lunar landscape, you pass frozen lakes and tall ice pinnacles carved by the slow grind of the glacier, before reaching Gorak Shep. This is the final overnight stop before Base Camp. The day after reaching Base Camp, many trips tackle the three-hour ascent to the highest point on the route, Kala Patthar at 5,545m. Departing early to avoid the morning cloud, youíll be rewarded with bucket-list views of Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse and other surrounding peaks.

through history

Unlike Nepalís other great hiking route, the Annapurna Circuit, the trek to Everest Base Camp is drenched in climbing history. You are following in the footsteps of famous mountaineers and hardy Sherpas and will be towered over by a peak that has claimed numerous lives, and continues to do so. Local guides can tell fascinating and humbling stories about climbing Everest from the unsung Sherpa perspective, as well as lifting the lid on life in this remote part of the world.

Pack smart and be prepared

Trekking to Everest Base Camp is no walk in the park, but the right kit Ė and expectations Ė will help. Bring boots that youíve already broken in and at least five pairs of socks. Some foot first aid, including blister treatments, is also a good idea. Pop a bandana or scarf in your pack, too, so you can protect your mouth and nose from the dust kicked up by other trekkers and yaks.

Be prepared for basic but welcoming accommodation in the teahouses that line the route. They can be very cold, with no hot water or electricity (which means limited opportunity to wash), so bring a head torch and a sleeping bag comfortable to minus 20įC. Youíll also be sharing toilets and possibly dorms.
Donít expect haute cuisine either. Hearty dal bhat (rice and lentil soup/curry, with veggie variations) is often the only thing on the menu, with more variety in Lukla and Namche Bazaar.
Responsible Travelís Sarah Faith has this advice: ďThe food tends to be the same from one teahouse to the next. You can get to the point where you think, if I see another plate of dal bhat Iíll scream! Take some spicy sauce or other condiments along with you to pep up simple dishes. Also take a reusable water bottle. Bottled water is available but produces waste.Ē


With the altitude youíre gaining, this is a trek you mustnít rush, so beware of any itineraries that get you from Kathmandu to Base Camp and back in less than 12 days. Trekking at a steady pace, resting frequently and stopping off at points along the route will help you acclimatise safely. Even with the correct precautions, you may still experience breathlessness, mild headaches and impaired judgment, thanks to the limited oxygen. If you have pre-existing respiratory problems, consult your doctor before signing up. Itís possible to hike the trail independently, but an experienced guide will manage the ascent and keep an eye on you, too, while a porter will carry your pack and allow you to concentrate on the view.
In terms of training, definitely do some! Sure, you donít need to be an Olympian to tackle the trek to Base Camp, but the more fitness training and hiking you do before you go, the more youíll enjoy it. The best preparation for hiking at altitude is lots of walking before you arrive. Do as many hill walks as possible. In particular, try and do two walks at the weekends Ė one on each day. Itís the second dayís walking that really improves your fitness.

Best time to visit

The best time to trek to Everest Base Camp is either side of the mid-May to mid-September monsoon season. Late September to November and February to May are the main trekking months with fairly stable conditions, good visibility and rhododendrons in full bloom on the lower slopes. At Base Camp, you might also encounter groups of climbers at this time preparing for their attempts on Everestís summit. Although late November to February are extremely cold, especially at night, clear skies are usually the norm with quieter trails and tea houses adding to the exhilarating feeling of wild and unadulterated isolation.
Photo credits: [Top box: Rick McCharles] [Tengboche: Shicks] [Walking through history: Petr Meissner] [Dal Bhat: ] [Safety - training walks: deb-eye] [Best time to visit: Steve Hicks]
Written by Joanna Simmons
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