Overview | How to get there | Permits | When to go trekking | Where to stay | Mountain safety | Travel tips | Suggested packing list | Resources
Since before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first successful summit in 1952, Mount Everest has called to climbers and mountaineers. John Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air" and the 2015 film "Everest," which outlines the 1996 disaster, have contributed to the infamy surrounding the deadly mountain. However, trekking to base camp has become a bucket-list item for many trekkers who wish to gain some high-altitude experience, visit the culturally-rich Khumbu region of the Himalaya, and see the world's tallest peak with their own eyes. With a plethora of experienced guiding companies leading treks to Everest Base Camp (EBC), more and more people are making the journey to the roof of the world. Its difficulty is not to be underestimated, however, and many who attempt the trek are forced to turn around before reaching their objective.
For additional coverage of the trekking to Everest Base Camp, check out the following articles:
How to get there
Trekking in the Everest Region is really only accessible by domestic flights from Kathmandu to Lukla, one of the most dangerous airports in the world. Flights can be booked using one of the handful of operators such as Yeti Airlines, but expect delays during most days because pilots will not fly unless conditions are perfect. This is probably for the best since the Lukla Airport is notoriously situated on the edge of the mountain. Plan to have a few days as buffer just in case your flights are delayed or cancelled for weather, and try to get the first flight out of Kathmandu in early morning to minimize the chances of delays.
The roughly 40-minute flight will have you questioning your sanity, although the window seat views are well-worth it as soon as the plane rises above the dense smog around the city. The mountain landing is quite the rush as the runway appears out of nowhere below the plane. Once in Lukla there are no taxis or rental cars to worry about; just grab your belongings and meet your guide at the start of the trail.
Two different permits are required for trekking to EBC as well as other locations in the Sagarmatha National Park. First, two copies of your passport are required along with the filled out information for the Trekkers Information Management System card. The Tourism Agency Association of Nepal is responsible for issuing TIMS cards. There are three different types of TIMS card: organized trek (Blue $10), individual trekkers card (Green $20), and the SAARC country card (Red $3). TIMS cards are required before setting off from Lukla. The second permit required for trekking in the Everest Region is the Sagarmatha National Park Entrance permit, which costs $30 plus tax at the entrance checkpoint to the park after Phakding. Most guided groups include the cost of permits and will deal with checkpoint personnel along the trail for a worry-free experience.
When to go trekking
High season for trekking to EBC is October and May, when the weather is generally warmest. Summer months are typically wetter, and clouds often obscure the high peaks. During the high seasons, expect a constant flow of trekkers and guesthouses that fill up fast. Accommodations can be reserved throughout the year, although some restaurants, shops, and guesthouses will be closed during winter. Winter months are clearer with the least amount of precipitation, although temperatures will be substantially colder, especially at higher elevations and overnight. Early winter (November through December) and spring (late April through early May) are perhaps the best overall times to trek. These months provide ideal tradeoffs with fewer trekkers on the trail and cool, crisp weather.
Late spring and summer:
- Daytime temperature: 5 C to 10 C (40 F to 50 F)
- Nighttime temperature: -7 C to 0 C (20 F to 32 F)
- Precipitation: 15 to 190 millimeters (0.6 to 7.5 inches)
- Variable weather, monsoon season, more cloudy days
Late fall and winter:
- Daytime temperature; (-5 C to 5 C) 23 F to 41F)
- Nighttime temperature: -15 C to -7 C (5 F to 20 F)
- Precipitation: 5 to 15 milimeters (0.2 to 0.6 inches)
- Colder weather, windy, drier, generally clear skies
Where to stay
Guesthouses along the trail are the most common and popular option, offering simple rooms and meals. Accommodations range from just a few dollars per night, depending on season. Guesthouses offer lodging all the way up to Gorak Shep, the highest settlement just a few miles from Everest Base Camp, and they are spaced frequently along the trail. Wi-Fi can be purchased from guesthouses, and prices increase dramatically the higher up you go (reliability and connectivity, in turn, plummets higher up on the trail). Rooms are not heated and often share a communal toilet. Some offer hot showers for a small fee and extra blankets if they are needed. In the evening it is not uncommon for a fire to be lit in the wood stove, which keeps the communal dining areas relatively warm. Simple menus consist of omelettes and toast for breakfast, dhal bhat (rice, lentils, potatoes), noodles, mo-mo (dumplings), coffee and teas, and other basic items.
Tent camping, although less popular, can be accomplished by solo trekkers, although backcountry tenting is uncommon. Many villages have designated tent platforms for rent; however, these are typically situated right next to guesthouses.
Full-scale hotels are rare and seemingly out of place, but the five-star Everest View Hotel offers upscale lodging near Namche Bazaar.
The trek to EBC, although straightforward, can be made extremely difficult by high altitude and extreme weather. Take it slow! Altitude mountain sickness (AMS), high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), and high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) can develop in climbers who ascend too quickly. Symptoms for AMS include headaches, nausea, weakness, and loss of apetite. The only cure is to descend rapidly. Trekkers can lower the likelihood of developing AMS symptoms by ascending no more than 600 meters per day, drinking plenty of water (3 to 4 liters per day), avoiding alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, and taking prescribed medication such as Diamox (Acetazolamide) according to a doctor's instructions.
EBC trekking is remote enough in that injuries or sicknesses require helicopter evacuation back to Kathmandu. Look into purchasing travel insurance that covers medical evacuation and high altitude trekking activities (i.e. World Nomads Explorer). Helicopter evacuations from high elevations are pricey, yet seemingly every day there are multiple trekkers that request to be flown out.
- Plan extra days: You never know if there will be an unforseen delay in the itinerary. Plan a couple of days of buffer time in Kathmandu to account for uncertainties. It is also nice to settle in and do some sightseeing before trekking or rest for a little after a long trek.
- Always purify water: All water along the trail should be treated to avoid sickness. Purification tablets can be purchased before the trek in Kathmandu.
- Avoid eating meat on the trail: Food is carried up the mountain on the backs of yaks and donkeys. Therefore, any meat dishes have likely been transported (unrefrigerated) for multiple days. Nepalese cuisine is naturally vegetarian friendly, so avoid getting that questionable sausage pizza high on the trail.
- Tip your guides/porters: If you plan to have a guide or porter, make sure to carry enough cash to tip them at the end of the trek. It is customary to tip 10% to 20% of the trip cost.
- Pack smart and light: Although many guide companies offer a porter to carry heavier gear along the trek, you will still want to pack light for gear in your personal day pack. The weather changes frequently, and gaining elevation each day can call for trekkers to carry an array of clothing to be accessible at a moment's notice. Therefore, think about minimizing your pack weight without sacrificing functional uses. Down jackets are a useful investment for a warm yet light midlayer. Sleeping bags, comfortable sneakers, and extras (snacks, toiletries, batteries, etc.) should definitely be set aside for the porter. See the suggested packing list below for a breakdown of necessary items. Do not overpack! One pound of gear feels like 10 at altitude!
- Rent gear locally: Don't own some of the gear required for trekking? No worries! There are at least a hundred different trekking shops in Kathmandu's Thamel district where you can buy knock-off gear at cheap prices or rent equipment such as sleeping bags, boots, packs, and more. Looking around these stores can be fun! If you want higher-quality legitimate brands, Thamel also has a dedicated stores for The North Face, Outdoor Research, Mountain Hardwear, and other brand-names, too!
- Budget: There are ATMs in Namche Bazaar; however, if you plan to continue up into the mountains, be aware that accessing money can be extremely limited. That being said, most items become more costly the higher up you go. Generally $50 per day is enough for food, drinks, gifts, and tips. Have somewhere safe to tuck away some cash for emergencies as well.
Suggested packing list
- Wool baselayer shirts: Form-fitting, breathable, and moisture-wicking (one for hiking, one for sleeping). Smartwool or similar.
- Synthetic baselayer tights: Moisture-wicking and breathable for colder, high altitude days. Helly Hansen HH Dry or similar.
- Fleece midlayer: Great for lunch breaks, windy days, and adding a little extra warmth. The North Face Khumbu 2 or similar.
- Down jacket 800+ fill: Perfect weight-to-warmth ratio, especially for the sunrise hike. Rab Continuum or similar.
- Heavyweight softshell hiking pants: Flexible fabric that sheds light moisture and resists abrasion. Outdoor Research Cirque or similar.
- Light hiking pants: Flexible and cool for sunny days lower on the slopes. PrAna Zion Stretch or similar.
- Wool socks. Wool dries faster and is actually very comfortable (one pair for hiking, one pair for night, one pair for extra). Smartwool or similar.
- Liner socks: Thin socks to go under heavier ones, reducing painful blisters and hotspots. Smartwool or similar.
- Sturdy hiking boots: The trail is rocky, dusty, wet, and uneven. Gore-tex is a plus, adding warmth and waterproofing. Salomon Quest 4D or similar.
- Sneakers: Comfortable and supportive footwear for use after hiking all day in boots. Salomon Speedcross or similar.
- Hardshell jacket: Multipurpose for the wind/snow/rain, should be light and completely watertight. Arc'teryx Beta AR or similar.
- Day pack: 35- to 50-liter packs seem to be a good size for trekking with a porter. Osprey Exos or similar.
- Down sleeping bag: Warm and light, get something that's rated around -17 C or 0 F for the chilly nights. Western Mountaineering Kodiak or similar.
- Water purification pills: For use with all water that hasn't been boiled. Aquamira tablets or similar.
- Hydration bladder: 2 liters always accessible makes staying hydrated easier. Camelbak or similar.
- Water bottle: 1-liter reusable bottle for proper mixing/measuring of purification pills overnight. Nalgene or similar.
- Compression sacks: These are useful for compressing down items and reducing bulk. Sea to Summit or similar.
- Waterproof sack: Important for storing extra batteries/documents/etc. Sea to Summit or similar.
- Medical kit: First aid for minor injuries, sicknesses, and problem-solving. Adventure Medical Kits or similar.
- Microfiber towel: Trust me, you'll want something absorbant after stepping out of your well-deserved hot shower.
- Trekking poles: Even hikers without knee issues would benefit from the added stability and support poles offer. Black Diamond Expedition or similar
- Power bank: 10,000 mAh battery packs are great for recharging electronic devices via USB cables.
- Headlamp: Bright lights are useful when navigating to the bathroom or on the pre-dawn hike. Black Diamond Storm or similar.
- Glacier glasses: The added coatings on these special sunglasses reduce glare and intense UV radiation at altitude. Julbo or similar.
- Windstopper gloves: For cold mornings before the sun reaches the trail and windy ridges, hands get chilly first. Mountain Hardwear Power Stretch or similar.
- Heavy gloves: For the summit of Kalapatthar and other blustery days. Black Diamond Guide or similar.
- Wool hat: For cold mornings and evenings.
- Cap: For sun protection.
- Camera and accessories
- Bookmundi.com: Compare guide companies and reviews, ask for quotes, customize an itinerary.
- World Nomads: Purchase travel insurance to cover high-altitude trekking and emergency evacuation as well as other basic needs.
- The Clymb: Members will often see discounted group treks to Everest Base Camp and other destinations around the Himalaya!
- Green Valley Nepal Treks: My personal recommendation for a local guide company. Raj set us up with the best guide, Gopal (even the other tour clients we met along the way told us so)! For expert service, hassle-free planning, and local knowledge, check them out!