If there is one thing I NEVER thought I would do in my life, it was go to Everest Base Camp. I don’t mean that in a bad way, it just seemed like some far fetched thing that people like me dreamed of, not actually did. Well, turns out life had something else in store. Thanks to a mildly drunk message to my Dad one night, we ended up packing the bags and heading to Nepal a year and half later, with the goal of getting to EBC.
This trip required a lot of prep and planning, so I am going to break some of it down for you in case you are attempting to do the same yourself! This is less of a storytelling post and more of an informative tool. I hope it helps.
Without much discussion, Dad and I were on the same page that we would do this trek without a company. We would trek independently the two of us; no guides or porters. We also decided to do a slightly different route than the typical EBC trail. We decided to follow the Three Passes Trek, stopping at EBC on the way. With this route, we had less crowds, more elevation, and more trekking (HIGHLY recommend!). Unfortunately, due to a parasite, we were unable to complete the trek. We did the first pass, base camp, and the night prior to the second pass we had to make the call to go back down. Sometimes you have to make the tough call and listen to your body when its telling you to stop. Even though we didn’t complete our intended trek, we saw so much and consider it a super successful experience.
First things first. When you arrive at the airport you MUST obtain a visa! This turned out to be a long (hot and sweaty) process. Have $40US on you for payment of your visa. I also recommend having a few scanned copies of your passport on hand at all times in case.
Once we had our visa and bags, we caught a cab to our hotel in Kathmandu. In Kathmandu, we stayed at Shakti Hotel in Thamel. I could not recommend this hotel more! They were helpful, kind, and clean. It was very safe, right in the tourist area, and they kept some of our belongings safe for us while we trekked. They even had clean clothes for us upon arrival back to the hotel after trekking (what a luxury!).
Our first day in Kathmandu we set out first thing to get our permits and National Park Pass. This is done at the Tourist Service Center in Kathmandu. They are open 7 days a week from 10am-5pm (10am opening is a very loose time… I think we waited an extra hour for them to open haha! Nepal time. There’s no rush that’s for sure). Make sure to bring 2 passport photos for your permits. It also does not hurt to have an extra in case. Also have a copy printed of your medical coverage. You must have health insurance that includes a helicopter evacuation! Make sure your insurance policy covers to the according altitude you will reach as well.
Once our permits and passes were obtained, we spent the day exploring Kathmandu. There is SO much to see. Shops, restaurants, gardens, etc. Enjoy it! Also enjoy your last shower for a while, a big proper meal, and a warm bed.
The next day we headed back to the Kathmandu airport to catch our flight to Lukla. This is one crazy part of the experience! The flight gives you your first views of the Himalayas, and the flight itself its quite the experience landing at the most dangerous airport in the world. Flights are finicky and get cancelled due to weather. Have patience with this. If you want the best views on your flight, sit on the left hand side of the airplane.
Once we arrived in Lukla, we spent the next 15 days trekking. It is absolutely MIND BLOWING and BEAUTIFUL. The entire experience has changed my life dramatically. I wont give too much detail as its something you need to experience for yourself, but I will include a couple little nuggets of information. We started our days very early, and ended up asleep early every single night. I think the latest time we stayed up until was 8:00pm! For those looking to do a similar trek however, here was our itinerary (including the plan we would have followed even if we hadn’t had head down due to parasite).
Day 1: Lukla to Phakding
The sun was out and HOT! Wear sunscreen. I burnt like I’ve never burnt before. We trekked 8km which took us 2hrs45min.
Day 2: Phakding to Namche
Very uphill and I felt very slow. We met a porter carrying 100kg (WOW!). First views of Everest. We stayed at the Panorama Lodge and it was amazing. Enjoy the coffee shops and last little luxuries in Namche! I do not sleep very well at altitude apparently.
Day 3: Acclimatize in Namche, day trip to Khunde and Everest view point
First views of Ama Dablam (aka most beautiful mountain in the world). We hit 3880m. More sunburns, more animals, and more amazing views. Another rough sleep.
Day 4: Namche to Pangboche
There were no rooms left in Tingboche or Dobuche so this ended up being a long day. There was a massive up hill section which was hard. We got to see a monastery and our lodge let us stay for free if we promised to eat all our meals there (worth asking!). Not sleeping very well still.
Day 5: Pangboche to Dingboche
Short day, just over 3 hours. Mainly flat and downhill it felt. I felt quite tired and started to get my first headache. 4410m.
Day 6: Dingboche to Chukkung
Short day, 2 ish hours. Explore the moraines here on a beautiful day hike. The 360 degree views are absolutely incredible! Crazy dry lips and skin started setting in. Feeling great, but my sleep has continued to not be good.
Day 7: Rest day at Chukkung
Trekked to the summit of Chukkung Ri. 5550m! Roughly 5 hours. Hike to the summit, or true summit is a scramble. Feeling amazing! Still not sleeping very well.
Day 8: Chukkung to Lobuche via Kongma-La
Rough start to the day. Lack of sleep for several days caught up with me and I nearly fainted on the trail. I finally tried taking my Diamox. It helped, although the tingly fingers really annoyed me. This is a very long day and be prepared. Water is hard to come by. Study the trail mpa. This day has a good scramble section and takes you again to 5550m. This day took us 9 hours. Last hour of the day is spent navigating a glacier. Really felt the altitude this day. Felt like I had the worst head cold of my life.
Day 9: Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Kala Patthar
Another rough start to the day for me feeling absolutely awful. My motivation to move is not very high. I haven’t slept soundly for eight or so days now. I moved very slow but I accomplished the day and that is worth celebrating! Gorak Shep is busy and hard to get a room. I highly recommend getting your lodge host in Lobuche to call ahead a reserve you a room at another lodge in Gorak Shep. This saved us from sleeping on the tables. The little hike up to Kala Patthar is amazing and has the most insane views! The wind is crazy up there, so dress accordingly.
Day 10: Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp to Lobuche
I finally had a decent sleep and feel rested. This is huge! We took light packs to Everest Base Camp which made all the difference. We finally made it! We went early which meant way less people- I highly recommend doing the same thing. Base Camp is big and we walked all around and right up to the Khumbu Icefall. It felt like a dream! Watch for animals on the trail as I got pushed off the trail completely by a horse. Everyone is fairly sick in their sleep these days.
Day 11: Lobuche to Dzongla
Dad has been very sick for the last day or so. The trek to Dzongla is slow. Its amazing what your body can push through if you set your mind to it. This day is mainly flat/downhill. This evening Dad made the call to head down as he was incredibly sick. It’s a hard decision to make, but listening to your body is the best thing you can do.
Day 12: Dzongla to Periche
Dad started to feel a litte better as we dropped in altitude but he still wasn’t well. We believe he may have a parasite. This day was all downhill but the wind was still crazy. We enjoyed a lot of Sherpa stew and lemon tea in the afternoon to keep warm.
Day 13: Periche to Namche
This is a long day! 7.5 hours! It was nice to get back to the “town” of Namche. We had coffee and yummy food and I even caught up with a friend from home, Krista. We were both feeling better to be back down lower. It was warmer, and our colds were feeling less intense.
Day 14: Namche to Phakding
We woke up to snow! I guess you never know with mountain weather. This was a straightforward, downhill, 4 hour day. We are both feeling better for the most part, and are really starting to look forward to a shower.
Day 15: Phakding to Lukla
We finally made it back to Lukla! We got to have our first showers in 14 days. They were hot and amazing and a complete luxury! We did a little shopping, soaked in the last moments in the Himalayas, and got ready for our flight the next day.
Day 16: Lukla to Kathmandu
We caught our flight out of Lukla in the morning. It was roughly 2 hours behind schedule. This is normal. We arrived back to Kathmandu to the same hotel we stayed in before. It was nice to have clean clothes, wifi, and be able to wander around the city again. Dad was feeling so much better by this point.
Hopefully this itinerary helps you in your planning stage! If we hadn’t turned around from Dzongla, we would have continued as follows:
Day 12: Dzongla to Thangnang via Cho La
Day 13: Thangnang to Gokyo
Day 14: Rest in Gokyo
Day 15: Gokyo to Lunde via Renjo La
Day 16: Lunde to Thame
Day 17: Thame to Namche
Day 18: Namche to to Lukla
Day 19: Lukla to Kathmandu.
And now, some golden nuggets about our trip. Some little tips I learned that I want you to know.
1) Pack toilet paper. The higher you go up, the more expensive toilet paper becomes. You will go through toilet paper like crazy! Not for the reason you think though. Which leads me to….
2) You will get a cold. A cold like you’ve never had before! I was absolutely amazing by the things that came out my nose. I know, gross, but seriously. My nose has never been so runny. I have never coughed so much in my entire life. My skin has never been so dry, and my lips had never been so cracked. Be prepared for this! Bring some halls or throat soothers to suck on to help. Bring toilet paper to blow your nose. And bring lip chap. These are musts!
3) Get your shots and bring Diamox. How you handle this is up to you. Some people take Diamox ahead of time as a preventative. I was not comfortable with side effects however, and neither was dad, so we brought it along as an emergency dose. We both ended up using it. However, I am happy we didn’t take it until we needed it.
4) Altitude. Everyone will experience this differently. My biggest symptom was lack of sleep. I did not sleep at all. The odd times I slept I also had the weirdest, most disruptive dreams. Dad got quite ill in his stomach. Some of the other guys we trekked with got headaches. Your appetite will go down. Be ready for all of this and my biggest suggestion is to drink tons of water. At least 3 liters a day. This will help.
5) Bring games or a book. As a said earlier, we started trekking very early every day (wake up’s around 5:30am) and went to sleep very early as well. We did this since we were trekking independently. We wanted to be ahead of all the big groups and make sure we secured ourselves spots to eat and sleep for the night. This meant we had a lot of time in the afternoons. A book was heavy but worth it. We also brought cards and dice. If you haven’t head of basecamp cards, I recommend purchasing a deck at MEC or from their website.
6) Its harder than you think. Maybe its just me, but I wasn’t expecting the trek to EBC to be so difficult. I live at a higher altitude than most, and I hike, climb, run, workout, and trek all the time. I figured it would be a challenge, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I was wrong. I was tested mentally and physically most days. Your body doesn’t work how your used to, your mind is tested when your body wants to slow down or give up, and its hard to keep going each day when you’re so tired. Be ready to test yourself. It is hard, but the reward is great.
7) The people are incredible! Prior to leaving for Nepal, I was given several heads up from friends that the people may treat us different since we were trekking independently instead of via a company. In my experience, they could not have been more wrong. The people of Nepal welcomed us, gave us endless advice, trip plans, sights to see, information on their culture and ways of life, etc. These people absolutely blew my mind and made my heart grow. I have such an appreciation for their kindness, simplicity, and beauty.
If I could ever encourage you to do anything, its to trek or climb in Nepal. There are so many treks to do besides Everest Base Camp, but visiting this country is a truly spectacular experience that changed my life. If you have any further questions or inquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I never get sick of talking about it, and it would be my pleasure to pass on what I know!