Trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp is a once-in-a-lifetime, dream come true opportunity. But if you go, don’t be surprised if after your Himalayan adventure you find yourself yearning to go back. Once is never enough.
Your journey will likely begin in Kathmandu and in Thamel, the city’s popular tourist district. Thamel’s streets are crammed with gear shops, merchants, money changers, guest houses, restaurants and bars, making this neighborhood the traditional starting point for trekkers. Spend a few days getting your bearings, buy that last minute item you’ll need on the trail, or take in some of the local landmarks such as Durbar Square or Swayambhunath, also known as The Monkey Temple. Or if a little sliver of quiet is what you desire, check out the Garden of Dreams, a serene oasis amid Kathmandu’s turbulent streets. And though a little pricey compared to the low budget guest houses, you can be assured of a quiet night and hot shower at the Nepalaya Hotel.
You’ll leave Kathmandu on a thrilling plane ride that will whisk you over the Nepal countryside and through mountain valleys until you land at one of the most extreme airports in the world, the Tenzing-Hillary Airport. Situated on the side of a mountain in the village of Lukla, you’ll pick up the trail to Everest Base Camp here. But before you speed off, stop in at a tea house, grab a quick bite to eat and a cup of tea because your next stop is three hours away.
The trail to Mount Everest winds through breathtaking subtropical forests, meanders alongside raging glacial waters, through magical rhododendron forests, and carries you above the tree line where you’ll hike through a world of ancient boulders surrounded by the snow capped peaks of the Himalaya.
Your first real test will come on day two when you climb a two thousand foot ascent that will lift you into the trading outpost Namche Bazaar which sits at 12,000 feet above sea level. Your second test will come later when you climb the mountain that is home to the Tengboche Monastery. From there, your journey takes you to the high altitudes of your trek where you’ll have a choice between stopping at Pheriche or Dingboche. Pheriche is often windy and cold, but the valley it’s nestled in is beyond stunning which makes this village a popular way point. Alternatively, head for Dingboche and take an extra day to hike to the summit of Nangkartshang where you’ll sit at 16,000 feet with Ama Dablam, Taboche, Cho La Tse and other peaks. Then it’s on to Dugla and Lobuche after that.
Your last stop before reaching Everest Base Camp will be Gorak Shep. There, the powerful and serrated Nuptse will be looking on as will Pumo Ri as it rises over the dark shaded Kala Pattar. The following day begin the final leg to Base Camp early enough (you’ll want to give yourself two hours to reach Base Camp and two hours to get back) so you’ll have plenty of time for basking in the glow of your accomplishment.
And if you’re feeling a little winded at the high point of your trek, don’t fret, retracing your steps from Everest Base Camp back to Lukla comes much easier and faster so make sure you enjoy your remaining time with the mountains because you’ll leave them behind far too soon.
5 things to pack
- 4 pairs Smartwool socks plus 3 inner sock liners. A pair of socks can be made to last two days by slipping on a pair of inners on alternate days. You’ll be assured of clean, dry socks this way even when the ones you washed are taking three days to dry out.
- Sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face, and polarized sunglasses.
- 3000 Rupees for each day on the trail. Sure you can do it for cheaper, but why would you want to deprive yourself of the occasional can of soda, candy bar, or extra entrée.
- A regimen of zithromycin and diamox.
- A down sleeping bag from home. The kind you pick up in Kathmandu or Namche Bazaar will most likely be a Northface or Marmot knock-off.
7 things not to miss while on the trail.
- When flying to Lukla sit on the left side of the plane. You’ll get the best views of the snow covered Himalaya this way. You’ll swear that you’re looking directly into heaven as the sun outlines the peaks in shades of pink and gold.
- Downtown Namche Bazaar.
- The Everest View Hotel in Syangboche. The hotel is a modest day hike when you reach Namche Bazaar. Wander around to the back of the hotel, sit with the pine trees, and enjoy the stunning views of Everest, Lohtse, and Ama Dablam.
- The Dugla Memorials.
- Spend some time underneath a canopy of stars when everyone else is sleeping.
- Sit with the mountains on top of Kala Pattar and commune with the mountains in the sacred valley Mount Everest calls home.
- When you arrive back in Lukla be sure to visit the Illy coffee shop. It serves the best cup of masala tea in all of Asia.
Scott Bishop is the author of A Soul’s Calling, a memoir about a man who listened to his heart rather than reason. The book chronicles the author’s October 2011 trek to Everest Base Camp and brings the Himalaya to life in rich and vivid detail. The novel is part travelogue, part hiking adventure, and has shamanism and magic woven throughout. It’s available for purchase on Amazon.com or you can read an excerpt from it at www.scott-bishop.com.