Everest Base Camp, also referred to as EBC, sits at 5,364 meters, or 17,594 feet above sea level. That is 3,089 feet higher than the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney standing at 14,505 feet above sea level.
To reach Everest Base Camp, this high point by the tallest giants in the world, you must take an 11 to 14 day trek. Each day is a slow walk for acclimation with around 4-5 hours of hiking per day. This incredibly picturesque journey goes through hilly terrain, stopping in small mountain villages and includes some climbs of almost 2,000 feet in elevation gain.
Is it hard? Yes.
Will it test your endurance? Yes.
Is it so very worth it? A million times yes!
When To Go
When you finally decide that you want to take on the challenge of hiking to the remote Everest Base Camp, the first question you may have is when exactly should you go?
January, surprisingly enough, can be a good time to try the trek. There is not an extreme amount of snow on the journey as it is still relatively early in the winter season. But if you pick this month be prepared for extremely cold temperatures. It is actually the coldest month of the year with an average daily high of 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Although the winds are mild, skies are sunny with very little rain. A great advantage to picking January for your journey is you will be one of the few tourists making the trip in the Himalayas.
Both February and March are similar to January with the cold weather, especially at night with subzero temperatures, and less people on the trail. The skies are usually blue bird clear and as you make your journey you are delighted with uninterrupted views of Everest. Every year in either February or March there is a unique event held. The Hindu Holi festival is the colorful paint throwing riot that celebrates the end of winter.
Now comes the popular season – late March and April. The weather is a bit warmer as the sun is out for 7 hours each day. The trail is covered with vibrant rhododendrons and other spring blooms to welcome you on your journey. But the trail is crowded as you share it with mountaineers acclimatizing at Base Camp before beginning the ascent to Camps I, II and III on Everest’s slopes, and finally the attempt on the summit.
Early May is right before the monsoon season arrives. Everest Base Camp this time of year booms to quite the town as mountaineers take advantage of the weather. Some of the most successful summit attempts are made this time of year. While there, you can watch them go through a series of ‘rotations’. In these rotations, mountaineers climb up towards the summit to return to Base Camp to recuperate and acclimate. Eventually they will hopefully reach the highest peak in the world.
Late May, June, July, August and early September is monsoon season for the region. Although it is the rainy season it does not guarantee non stop pouring rain all day. The trails are muddy and you will need to be on the lookout for leeches who love the daily rain.
After the monsoon season begins to ebb in late September, the start of the fall season treks begin. October and November are a wonderful time to go since the skies are clear with comfortable daytime temperatures.
Another cultural experience that occurs in late September and October is the 15-day long Dashain celebration. During this most important event of the year in Nepal, Durga the Goddess of Victory, is celebrated with thousands of animal sacrifices. This event is too gory for some, but even Nepal Airlines sacrifices goats on the runway of Kathmandu airport.
Lastly are the months of November and December. You can successfully reach Everest Base Camp these months and your prices and flight costs tend to be cheaper this time of year. However, it is cold with subzero temperatures during the night.
A very important part of visiting Nepal to climb to Everest Base Camp is hiring a guide and a team of Sherpas to lead you. Sherpa, also called Sharwa, are a small group of only 150,000 mountain-dwelling people. They reside in Nepal, Sikkim state, India, and Tibet. You can also find small groups of Sherpas that live in remote parts of North America, Australia, and Europe. The Sherpa community depends tremendously on tourists to help their economy and families. They are incredible climbers that guide, set up camps, and help carry packs to each tea hut along the trek.
There are two different types of guide options you can choose from for your adventure. The first and more traditional option is the trekking guide. This guide is a certified professional who is experienced in communication and guiding. A trekking guide can help you with ticketing agencies, booking safe hotels, finding reliable porters, and really map out the logistics. Having someone who understands the culture, history, and deep rooted communities of the mountains will give you a beautiful understanding of this area.
A Porter-Guide is less expensive than a trekking guide but has less official training in guiding. These guides will carry your pack and guide you along the trails as well. Porter Guides tend to be locals who will join you at the trailheads but not assist in any logistics of traveling to those areas. A big difference is communication, and first aid skills are pretty limited with these local guides, but they are extremely capable in the mountains.
One thing to keep in mind is, in emergencies like injuries or arranging a rescue, Porter Guides will be of minimal help. Trekking guides are better prepared to handle any emergencies you could potentially encounter on the journey to Everest Base Camp.
When looking for a guide here are some great guidelines to research:
- Experience: I can not stress this enough. The more time the guide has on leading groups up, the better. This familiarity will keep you safe as well as give a greater potential for success.
- Guide Certification: Ask to see the certification of your guide or the Guide License. This will give you an outline of what training they have.
- First Aid/Safety Trainings: Nobody wants to plan for the worst case scenarios but if your guide is First Aid trained it will make a huge difference in emergencies.
- Insurance: Again, not the most positive part of planning but looking to see if your guide is insured is helpful. Insurance gives you peace of mind that your Everest Base Camp trek will be safe.
- Communication: Ask all the questions and try to get to know your guide before your trip. This can help clear any confusion plus build trust with who you are trusting with your life!
Everest Base Camp is actually a very achievable goal. You do however want to make sure you set yourself up for success by working on your fitness level. Here is an easy layout for a training program you can start a few months to a few weeks before your trek start date:
- Short Hikes: Yes start with short hikes! If you start with 3-4 hikes that can last from around 5 to 6 hours you can really prepare yourself for the long Everest Base Camp days. These hikes really focus on things like breaking in your hiking boots, building up knee strength, and helping get callouses to prevent the dreaded blister.
- Cardiovascular Conditioning: Everest Base Camp is located as we discussed at an extremely high elevation. This translates to less oxygen for your body to use. Cardio training is a great way to combat this. Activities to try are running, the stair master, bike riding, swimming, or taking a Zumba class or two.
- Mental Game: I personally believe your mental strength is just as important as your physical strength. What you tell yourself what you can or can not do will make it a fun journey or a laborious one. To build up mental stamina use your imagination! Create a game in your mind of you doing the base camp trek immersed in the mountains. Run a half marathon or a full marathon. These long runs are gritty tasks that will get you mentally ready!
This alone is the most likely reason why your trek to Everest Base Camp may not be successful. Altitude Sickness is a serious condition where sufferers have a reduced hyperventilatory response, impaired gas exchange, fluid retention or increased sympathetic drive. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, vomiting, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, fatigue and more. So what do you do to prevent this very dreaded outcome?
A primary way is to stay hydrated! Every day that you hike, make sure you are drinking at least 3 to 4 liters of water. Even if you do not feel thirsty, chug some of that great H2O steadily throughout the day. Also refrain from any alcoholic drinks. They can take the ease off but they definitely will leave you more dehydrated and not in your best shape.
There are preventive medicines you can take. Some options include electrolyte tablets to drop into your water. Acetazolamide is used to prevent and reduce the symptoms of altitude sickness. As well as Diomax. These medications require a prescription so talk to your doctor before your trip.
One thing you will notice on your trek to Everest Base Camp is that your guide will most likely keep you at a very slow pace. At times even one mile every hour. Why is this? When you are climbing to these high elevations the smaller increments will help your body adjust to the decreasing oxygen levels. Sleeping at lower elevations is another way to help your body out.
Everest Base Camp is a journey of a lifetime. You will be immersed in the Nepal mountain community as you travel to some of the most remote places on earth. The views are second to none and the people are kind hearted. Always practice Leave No Trace Principles even in foreign countries and have the most spectacular time!
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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her tall one husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would be a forever home for all of them they were able to adopt their daughter buckets and are legal guardians of their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus.