Everest Base Camp Trek: Preperation & Tips
Before the trek there was A LOT to organise, A LOT to consider. Here are some ‘need to knows’ about our preparation for the Everest Base Camp Trek & some advice for any would-be trekkers…:
- It’s called ‘Tea House Trekking’ - Nepal offers some of the most unique treks in the world. Yes, obviously because you can trek through & to the highest mountains in the world, but also because they’re known as Tea house treks. The tea houses are small shacks, homes or hotels dotted along the trail. You can get a room for less than $1 but almost all tea houses require you buy all your drinks and meals there too so the most important thing to check when pricing a place is the menu. Near Lukla there are tea houses every few hundred metres but as you reach higher altitudes tea houses & villages come around every few hours. It’s a genius way to trek. You don’t have to lug a tent and food around, and the local community are able to have a comfortable livelihood at a small cost to visitors.
- We did it on our own - The majority of people who trek to EBC do so in a tour group or they’re accompanied by a guide or a porter. We decided to give it a crack on our own… half because we wanted to feel the accomplishment of an unaided assault, knowing we did it on our own backs… but mostly because we are cheap! A guide costs roughly $15 a day, a porter around $10 a day so it is a lot cheaper to brave it on your own. If your planning on doing the trek & your fairly fit we would highly recommend trekking alone. The freedom of not being tied down by a group or pushed on or pulled back by an over-zealous guide is nice but ultimately its about the added sense of achievement… not that we are diminishing the achievements of anyone who would prefer a guide/porter! It just wasn’t for us & we were very happy with our decision.
- Clothing - We arrived in Nepal after backpacking through the sweltering heat of India so our ‘wardrobes’ were a little light for the Khumbu valley! But do not fear if you find yourself in the same predicament… Thamel’s tourist stores have more than enough to tailor to your needs for a very reasonable price. We bought pretty much everything warm for the trek in Thamel & it was certainly sufficient for the climate up the mountain & despite being cheap, didn’t fall apart. Here’s what we bought:
- 80% down jacket – keeps you warm higher up the mountain when the temperatures drop.
- Fleece jacket – versatile, warm, quite light-weight. A must.
- Waterproof pants – warm & waterproof are useful traits for trekking pants.
- Inner fleece pants – handy for night time & the colder days towards the end of the trek.
- Under armour shirts – good for the potential sweat aspect at lower altitudes as washing is sporadic if not non-existent!
- Trekking socks – definitely more comfortable than your average sports socks in hiking boots.
- Hat & Gloves – certainly needed for those chilly times up high.
- Hiking boots – preferably you would have your own so they can be broken in before the trek. We did not… but we had no problems with our brand spanking new hiking boots. So you can buy them last minute if needs be & chances are you’ll be fine.
… & the cost?! Less than $125 each. & although all of these products were fake, they are actually good quality & we brought everything home to use again.
- Important Purchases – Here are some small things we bought that were indispensable while on the trek. We would highly recommend getting all of these things. They are either unavailable up the mountain or extremely overpriced in comparison to Kathmandu.
- TIMS Card – This is not optional. The easiest way to obtain a TIMS permit is to go to the Nepal Tourism Board directly or pay a small commission to a tour company anywhere in Kathmandu or Pokhara & they’ll go down for you. The cost for us was $25 US, though it’s worth checking as prices seem to inflate rapidly! Click here for TIMS Nepal information.
- Iodine/Water Purification Tablets – Water is very expensive while on the trek & obviously tap water is not safe for tourists in Nepal. By taking some iodine or water purification tablets with you on the trek you will save plenty of cash & feel no budget pressures in drinking the necessary 5 litres minimum a day. Water is essential when trekking at altitude & purifiers should help ensure you make the daily intake.
- First Aid – Buying some first aid supplies is definitely a good idea. Things like lip salve, diarrhea tablets, headache tablets, blister protection were all helpful for us.
- Food – Packing a few snacks was one of our best buys. Maintaining energy levels at high altitude is sometimes difficult. Cereal bars & snickers saved us on several occasions in the middle of a tough day on the trail. Instead of a long lunch stop the bars meant we were able to take a short break if we wanted & quickly carry on… or just snack after dinner!!
- Babywipes - A strange one you say?! Well, washing is not a regular occurrence in the tea houses, especially for the budget traveller. A shower costs anywhere between $3-8, which isn’t a lot but it is an extra cost… & the main reason we were deterred from showering was the cold!
- Headlamp – Electricity is not too reliable in the Khumbu valley! Late night strolls in & out of the tea house are usually dark so a headlamp, or at least a torch, is a necessity.
- Map – A very important purchase. If you’re doing this trek without a guide/porter you definitely need a good trail map for the Everest region. Make sure it has altitudes marked & that it is detailed. Magnifications of the bigger towns is useful & some trail maps also note timing details which is very convenient. Expect to pay around $5.
- Batteries - It may be common knowledge to you, but batteries die faster in cold weather. A battery’s lifetime is severely diminished by cold temperatures & in the Everest region sub-zero is fairly common, particularly at night. There are places to charge at some tea houses but they will charge you an exorbitant fee for the service, especially higher up which just happens to be the most likely dying point of your once powerful friend! One trick is to keep your camera battery, iPod or whatever close to your body in a pocket or something, most importantly during the colder night time, and that extra body heat should help prolong battery life. Obviously bring fully charged spares wherever possible & just be wary of using battery power unnecessarily & that will hopefully allow fosome photographic evidence of EBC!
- Flights - Most people on the Everest Base Camp trek fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, at least one way, usually return. Some trekkers bus it to Jiri & walk from there, adding a gruelling but beautiful 5 days to your EBC trek. We took the lazy option, flying to & from Lukla at the start & end of our trek. There are several airlines who fly this route but by far the most popular & frequent is Tara Air, with a standard cost of $115 when we went. The easiest way to book is with almost any travel agent in Kathmandu. Word of warning… DO NOT BOOK AN OPEN-ENDED RETURN TICKET! Your best bet is to guess what date you should be finished on your trek, maybe giving yourself a day or two lee-way, & then change your flight for free if you make it down faster than anticipated. The other option is to just book one way in Kathmandu then book your return ticket in Namche Bazaar or Lukla when you get down. If you book an open return ticket you may well be fine, but if the weather is bad for flying… as it was for us… you’re in trouble! The open ticket is actually a ‘standby’ ticket so you will only leave when there are spaces on any given flight or there is time in the day to schedule another flight for ‘standby’ ticket holders!!!… NOT ideal. The flight however was awesome!… check out our post Kathmandu to Lukla – Sprawl to Scenic to Scary.
- Beard – An optional extra I found rather favourable in the cold was some facial hair. Sure, beard growth isn’t for everyone…but it’s a cracking option for some. Keep it mind!