50% less oxygen than you’re used to, freezing temperatures, no showers for a week, blisters bursting through your socks and one of the best experiences of your life – that is Mount Everest Base Camp Trek in a nutshell.
At 5380m/17650ft Everest Base Camp is at a higher altitude than most mountains you’ll have climbed in your life. Bearing in mind that Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, is a mere 600 metres higher than the bottom of Everest, it gives you an idea of the extreme conditions that the (quite literally) breathtaking Himalayas will present you with.
I’m going to run through a few FAQs on the trek so everyone can get a better understanding about it and decide whether or not it’s something you’d like to do.
How much does it cost for the Mount Everest Base Trek? First question as always, I know these awesome activities can create a serious dent in your backpacking bank balances but, alas, that’s life. This is no different. I paid around $330 USD (3 people, $1000) but I hasten to add that took 2 days of bartering and was the cheapest anyone has ever heard of for this trek, it also didn’t include meals. It included a 12 day trek, with a sherpa (guide), return flights from Kathmandu to Lukla airport and accommodation in the various teahouses all the way up and down to Base Camp.
I think realistically now the lowest pricing available starts at around $600 (with hardcore bargaining and low-end food and accommodation) for a 2week trek but remember that’s all your expenses taken care of for the whole two weeks. If you want better accommodation, nicer food, longer time to acclimatize you can easily pay upwards of $2000+. Remember, don’t book it from your home country! Arrive in Nepal and sort it out from there.
How difficult is the trek? It’s not a lazy Sunday afternoon stroll that’s for sure! If you’re reasonably fit, play a bit of sport, generally healthy you should be able to tackle Base Camp without any training (I did nothing in preparation). That being said, you will be walking for up to 9 hours a day up some steep climbs so be ready to sweat, it is a serious workout in parts! If you’re not so healthy you may need to take longer than 12 days (an 18 day option is available) or consider doing a bit of training before you start because, as I say, I wouldn’t describe it as easy. I recently climbed Kilimanjaro and aside from the summit day for ‘kili’, base camp is more strenuous than the kili climb.
Note:You don’t need any technical mountain climbing skills for this trek.
What about altitude sickness? Altitude sickness has the power to ruin your trek. There’s no way of knowing who it will target and your level of physical fitness has no bearing on your likelihood to experience it. If anything, studies show younger, more muscular men are most likely to be affected by it! There are ways to counteract it, you can take a pill called ‘diamox’ which is great way to counteract AS – just make sure you drink plenty of water if you take it (plenty means plenty, like 6 litres a day!) or it can have a negative affect on your kidneys. Also, let the sherpa guide the pace and, if necessary spend a day or two acclimatizing as you ascend. Remember, it’s not a race and the most important thing is getting there, not getting there quickly!
Do I need a guide/porter? The trek is quite well laid out so it is possible to go it alone, especially if you are an experienced trekker and mountain climber. However, I would recommend taking a guide/sherpa – if something goes wrong, he’s your man to solve the problem. Your sherpa knows the route inside-out, he knows how to pace the journey, knows about the history, knows the best view-points etc. and for the minor additional cost, it’s well worth it. A porter? That’s up to you, I think it’s unnecessary personally but if you don’t want to carry your backpack then by all means pay someone to do it. Also, it supports local labour which is always a step in the right direction.
What is the food and accommodation like? Pretty primitive but what do you expect, it takes days to get ingredients up here! The teahouses are wooden huts with uncomfortable mattresses, in the cold weather they will supply you with plenty of blankets so the temperature shouldn’t be a problem. You can pay extortionate fees for a hot shower in the first couple of days ($20+ per shower!) but after day 3 or 4, that’s not even an option, stil there’s always the Himalayan melt water stream to bathe in (coldest experience of my life, never again!). The food is hearty if not exotic – plenty of daal bhaat (similar to Indian lentil stews) with rice.
When you finally reach base camp and climb onto the glacier at the foot of Mount Everest you’ll be rendered speechless. Probably the most beautiful sight I have ever seen, it took you 10 days of walking every day to finally get here and then, there it is, the tallest mountain on earth staring right back at you – amazing.
Ok guys, there’s all the info you need. If you have any questions feel free to drop me an email or comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Other than that- get our hiking boots on and get to Nepal!