Everest Base Camp Trek: A Comprehensive Guide
Everest base camp trek

The best seasons for the Everest Base Camp trek are pre-monsoon in March through May and post-monsoon from late September to early December. During these times, the temperature is mild and the sky is generally clear. However, the Khumbu is lovely all year round. Ever-changing Himalayan weather is always a factor to consider when booking a trek. Cancellation of flights into Lukla is a common problem during the winter seasons. During winter, the Khumbu is very cold and the higher regions can be prone to heavy snowfall. It can also get very hot during the summer months; there is a higher chance of monsoon rain and the trails can become unwalkable due to landslides. Always check the Lukla flight status if trekking to the region in unfavorable weather.

The Everest Base Camp trek is one of the most famous trekking adventures in the world. Traveling through the villages and high mountainous regions of Nepal offers a glimpse of life experienced by the local people in their quaint villages. There are two options for reaching Everest Base Camp: the first is a high altitude trek that ascends to EBC, the second is to fly into Lukla airstrip and trek up the Khumbu valley. The trek from Lukla is a more gradual ascent, which is fine for those not wishing to ascend to higher altitudes too quickly. The fastest means is to fly into Gorak Shep, allowing you to ascend to Base Camp the very same day. All routes are virtually the same once into the Khumbu region.

1.1. Overview of the Everest Base Camp Trek

The approach is from the town of Jiri or from an airstrip at Phaplu. These are reached by a splendid ten-day march from Kathmandu or, if time is short, by flying to Lukla, the Swiss-built landing ground in the Dudh Kosi valley at 9300 feet. From here, there is a direct route to the base camp, but this is not recommended for it affords no time for proper acclimatization. This Lukla route has been heavily traveled by trekking and commercial expedition groups of late, and it is often mistakenly thought to be the normal route to the mountain. But the trails from the town of Jiri or from the airstrip at Phaplu lie well to the west of the main Khumbu-Imia Tse valley system and offer a much more pleasant and less hurried journey to the higher reaches of the mountain, through a country where a lively and cultured people still follow their traditional way of life. This simple village life, set in a monsoonal environment and in villages ringed by terrace cultivation, is a way of life rare in the Himalaya today and becoming more rare as increased contact with the outside world is realized through the building of schools and the establishment of trade in shop goods from the lowlands. This would indeed be a tragedy to lose what is the eye of rural Nepal.

In this chapter, an attempt has been made to give a brief sketch of the eleven days’ journey to the Southern base camp in the heart of the Khumbu region, which lies in the shadow of the great Khumbu Icefall and in sight of the famous West Ridge of Everest. This approach has been selected because it is the only one which offers a reasonable guarantee of success to a party attempting the ascent of the mountain by its Western face. Furthermore, the route through the Solu Khumbu is a natural entry to the mountain for it leads from the south of peak older over the Nangpa La or Cho La into Tibet. It is through this region that Nepal has granted permission for an approach route to the South Col and has agreed that all further mountaineering in the Everest Himal should be directed from the South. Our use of the trail up the Dudh Kosi and Imia Tse valley via Tengpoche to the base camp has in fact resulted from negotiations with Her Majesty’s Government of Nepal, who have strongly supported our expedition in the belief that this may lead to schemes for the exploration of the whole Everest region benefiting the people of the Khumbu.

1.2. Importance of Proper Preparation

All treks to any destination have to be prepared in advance for various reasons. Trekking to Everest Base Camp takes a lot of input and exhaustive preparation. It is a once in a lifetime experience, so trekkers should maximize the potentials of reaching their personal goals and experiencing the sights and cultures to their maximum. It is only through proper preparation that abilities are maximized and negative impacts on treks are minimized. Individuals who have quality treks have a high level of confidence in their abilities and gear, which comes from knowing what to expect and being well prepared for the conditions. In terms of safety, preparation for treks will lessen the chances of injuries and mishaps and increase the chances for a safe and enjoyable trip. This is very important for trekkers on the Everest Base Camp trek, which involves difficult terrain and a high altitude. A well-known saying in the outdoor world is that “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”.

1.3. Best Time to Trek to Everest Base Camp

Autumn (i.e. September to November) is the best time to do the Everest Base Camp trek. It has a number of clear advantages: the days are still warm and the nights are not too cold. The visibility is good and generally it isn’t too windy. The main aim for most people on the Everest Base Camp trek is the ascent to Kala Pattar and its fantastic view of Everest. As this is a trekking peak, it is far better to be there in good weather. It is much quieter in the autumn than the spring, and a lot of people now prefer to trek in the Everest region at this time of year. The monsoon is just ending in September and most of the snow has melted from the high passes, although the high passes, notably the Kongma La, are not recommended until later in the season. The temperature at night will be anywhere between -5 to 5 degrees Celsius and in the day 10 to 25 degrees Celsius. An important fact is that Lukla flights are less likely to be delayed by bad weather in the autumn. In the last few years, Lukla has been experiencing bad visibility during the monsoon which results in flights being delayed or cancelled. This is obviously not an ideal way to start the trek. The spring is the second best time to do the Everest Base Camp trek. It is considerably warmer than autumn and things are beginning to grow, giving the hillsides a beautiful green colour. Magnolia and rhododendron will be in full bloom. The disadvantages are that the mountains are more likely to be hidden by cloud and Lukla flights are often cancelled by bad weather, most notably the build up of heat during the day creating the dreaded ‘afternoon cloud’. The best conditions for the high passes would be from late May to early June, before the monsoon; however, it is not recommended to aim for this as the best conditions are not always guaranteed.

1.4. Physical Fitness Requirements

Trekking to Everest Base Camp, physical fitness is very important but it is not everything. You will be able to complete this trek successfully even when you fall short on stamina or strength. But physical fitness is very important and it is a good idea to indulge in a physical fitness plan before your arrival to the Khumbu region. People with heart or lung disease should consult a physician before attempting this trek. Older adults can contact a certified physical therapist or fitness trainer to help them with a strength and conditioning plan. Establishing a good strength and conditioning program will help to ensure that you are physically prepared to complete this trek. The strength and conditioning program will consist of a weekly rotating workout routine lasting between 6-12 weeks before departure to Nepal. The objective of this strength and conditioning program will be for participants to establish a minimum level of fitness so that they can ultimately enjoy the trek and complete the planned itinerary of 6-8 hours of walking per day. When establishing a workout routine the first couple of weeks should be developed around walking at an easy pace with no gradient on a treadmill or easy walking around the neighborhood for at least 1 hour two times per week. The importance of this exercise is to help condition the lower body joints and muscles and to establish a base level of fitness. A lower body workout at the gym can be done immediately after the walk consisting of leg press, leg curls, and lunges all at an easy pace with higher repetitions and lower weight. The next step is to add a light backpack starting with 10 pounds and eventually working up to 20 pounds. During the week alternate a 3-mile hike on hilly terrain with the treadmill walk and continue with the gym workout twice a week. By the end of the 6-12 weeks, participants should be walking on the steeper terrain for 6-8 hours carrying a 15-25 lb backpack. This will prepare the participant for the trek in Nepal. However, the most sport-specific training you can do for a trek is to trek! Any chance you get to hike should be taken, it is a good idea to establish a few weekend backpacking trips. Listen to your body; conditioning is designed to minimize soreness and maximize strength and cardiovascular health. Note that few sore muscles are probably to be encountered regardless of the level of fitness! Flexibility can be maintained during the strength and conditioning program, it is important not to lose any flexibility that you currently have. This can be done for 10-20 minutes 3-5 times per week after the walk or gym workout with a few yoga poses or stretching all major muscle groups to the point.

2. Planning Your Trek

When planning your trek, whether alone or with friends, you will have the option of either using a local Nepali trekking company or organizing the trek from your own country. The advantage of arranging everything in your own country will be the cost, as the local companies push the prices up for food and accommodation, with the knowledge that they will make a substantial amount from the commission of the goods that you purchase at your destinations. The advantage of using a local company will be more money going directly into the local economy and a guide who knows the area well and can point out interesting sites that you wouldn’t notice without some local knowledge. For both options, knowledge of where to go and what to take can be obtained from the Lonely Planet trekking guide for Nepal. If you have chosen to use a local company, they will organize all the permits required for the trek. Permission to enter the Sagarmatha National Park and the permit to go to the Khumbu region around Everest are essential for any trek to the E.B.C. and these you can obtain in Kathmandu, either from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation or directly from the national park gates. It is also a good idea to get a Trekker’s Information Management System (TIMS) card, which is a small card issued by the trekking associations to control trekkers, making sure that they remain safe and that their trek does not have a negative impact on the environment or the people. This is a new system that is being used by the government in an attempt to make trekking safer for independent trekkers.

2.1. Choosing a Trekking Agency

We have done a price and service comparison between budget, moderate and high end trips ceremonies offered by About Himalaya trekking. This is a reputable provider with good online prices. This scenario is for a 14 day EBC trek, the price for US citizens based on 2 persons per trip is as follows:

The number one factor is cost. Your budget will direct you to a lower end or higher end provider. It’s possible to trek independently for as little as $10 a day, staying in very cheap guesthouses and eating plain local food. At the other end, some of the more luxurious providers offer all kinds of western food, and guided tours of the entire region. Don’t assume that a higher price means a better trip, many of the cheaper providers are owned by guides with many years of experience.

Choosing a trekking agency requires some research and can be a bit of a daunting task. Your decision as to which company to go with will have a direct impact on your overall experience and the amount of memories you take home with you. There are a few important things to consider in making your decision.

2.2. Obtaining Permits and Documents

You can hire a guide or porter (or both) and also trek independently. Independent trekkers will have to arrange a TIMS card and Sagamartha National Park entry permit through the Nepal Tourism Board and respective authorities at the park entrance. If you are trekking with a trekking company, this will be organized for you. Contact the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN) in Kathmandu for the TIMS card and the National Parks office in Bhrikutimandap. Costs can vary and it is often cheaper to arrange permits through a local Nepali trekking agency. Always carry 2 passport photos, a photocopy of your passport and some form of ID when obtaining permits. TIMS is a must for your safety. You cannot trek to an area that is out of the Annapurna, Langtang and Mt. Everest regions without a TIMS card. A new system implemented this year is the Trekkers Information Management System which records your details and intended trekking plans in Nepal. The system’s key aim is to help you trek safely and ensure rescue in case of emergency. It is highly recommended though it is not compulsory for other trekking destinations. For any trek in the Everest region, you will also need to purchase a Sagamartha National Park Entry Permit. This can be obtained in Kathmandu or Monjo (the entry point to the park). The card can be bought at the Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu and in Monjo you will be required to pay the fee and exhibit your park entry permit.

2.3. Packing Essentials for the Trek

The weight limit for Lukla flights is 15 kg per person and this includes your hand luggage. If your baggage exceeds this weight, you may have to pay an extra charge for the cargo.

We would suggest you not bring a large bag to the Everest region. You can get a porter to comfortably carry a 15 kg load, and if a few kilos can be transferred to your day pack, you can walk at a nice pace. However, if you have no one to carry your bag, we suggest you travel at the most lightweight.

When you are trekking in the lap of the Himalayas, especially to the Everest Base Camp, you need to be prepared for any kind of weather, and that can change dramatically at any time. You could experience blazing sunshine in the morning and snowfall in the evening. If you are not prepared, this can affect your trek and even your life. So here is a complete guide for any trek in Nepal, the packing essentials.

The goal is to create a concise yet coherent text web page for the section “2.3. Packing Essentials for the Trek” that delivers concrete, specific, factual (where needed) information relevant to the title for the section.

2.4. Acclimatization and Altitude Sickness

When in higher altitudes, it is important to recognize the symptoms of AMS. Mild symptoms include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, and fatigue. These symptoms should be taken as a warning sign to either rest or descend. If a person has mild AMS, they should not ascend until the symptoms have resolved.

– If possible, make slow and gradual ascents when trekking. Allowing a greater time for acclimatization decreases AMS. – As a rough guide, above 3000m, you should not sleep at an altitude which you have ascended to that day. You should, if possible, descend to a lower altitude to sleep. The “climb high, sleep low” maxim helps prevent AMS. – Drink plenty of fluids, staying well hydrated helps acclimatization. – Avoid sedatives and alcohol and do not undertake strenuous exercise. – If you are feeling unwell, it is important to not ascend until feeling better. – There are various drugs to prevent and treat AMS. Discuss this with a doctor.

When planning for any trek in Nepal, it is crucial to prevent the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). Because of this, you should follow the simple guidelines listed below.

2.5. Communication Facilities and Internet Access

The disadvantage of GSM is that they offer limited coverage and quality of service. Although it has network coverage all the way up to Everest Base Camp, call quality is acceptable up to Namche Bazar but call clarity goes down with increased altitude. Voice calls can be made with a satellite phone for about USD $3 per minute with quality depending on weather in the form of delay and echo. The base terminal and Iridium are the most reliable satellite services often working indoors. Pricing is about USD $2 per minute. Incoming and outgoing email is possible at all locations with an internet café. Pricing is as low as 15 rupees per minute in a trekking lodge for a yahoo account and $8 per minute at the Everest Summiteers Association for an HTML account. Availability and speed of the connection will vary and slow down considerably above Namche. Wi-Fi is available at the Italian Pyramid and the newer Khumbu Resort in Lobuche, but comes at a steep price of USD $5-6 per hour. You can also purchase an Ncell 3G SIM card that offers decent 3G coverage all the way to Everest Base Camp. Video call can be made using this service and the pricing is about USD $1 per MB. Keep in mind that power sources for charging might be limited at some locations. An alternative means of communication is to rent a Sherpa and pay his daily wage to send and deliver email on your behalf when you are without internet service.

3. Route and Itinerary

There are many side-trip options in the lower sections of the trek. For those with time, a night at Thame, the home of the famous Sherpa climbers, is a rewarding stop. At Khumjung, another interesting option is the Sir Edmund Hillary Hospital and further up from Pangboche, 30 minutes beyond the main trail, is the monastery at Ama Dablam. All of these stops are beneficial for proper acclimatization. In the case of a side-trip, it’s best to trek high and sleep low.

The classic route for the Everest Base Camp trek is to start at the bazaar town of Lukla. Located a few miles south of the main Khumbu trail, Lukla was the airstrip built in the 1960s by Sir Edmund Hillary and his friends. While the landing is exciting the first time you see it, it’s a good idea not to think about it on your return flight! The trail wanders through the Trakashing and Ghat valleys, north of Lukla, and ascends to the main trading center of the region in Namche Bazaar. With a day of acclimatization here, an excursion to Thame, the home of many famous Sherpa climbers, is recommended. The trail to base camp splits just above Namche Bazaar with the right-hand trail leading to the Gokyo lakes. The classic and alternative trails link at Phortse Tenga and from there the trek enters the Khumbu valley. The approach starts to get that ‘big mountain’ feel and after nine days on the move, we arrive at EBC.

3.1. Classic Everest Base Camp Trek Route

The trek runs through the Khumbu Valley, typically up the Dudh Kosi river, which it follows and crosses via a series of high suspension bridges. On the way to Namche, it passes through Jorsale (2805m) and Monjo (2835m), the entry point to the Khumbu Park with its interesting police check post. There are a few alternative routes to Namche, an old and perhaps neglected one trekking further up the Hinku Valley. Those who fly into Lukla and are pressed for time can make it to Namche in a single long day. Namche Bazaar is the main center of the Khumbu region and there are many things to do in and around the village. This rest day provides an ideal opportunity to acclimatize to the high altitude. Recommended side trips include a visit to Thami, a village that is about an hour’s walk from here or a visit to Khumjung, the largest village in the Khumbu area. Take it easy and drink lots of fluids, there are a few internet cafes in Namche and it’s a good idea to inform friends and families of your safe arrival via email.

3.2. Alternative Routes and Side Trips

This trip offers numerous opportunities to recreate the trekking routes to the base camps of the early Everest expeditions; to explore the picturesque monasteries at Thame, Khumjung, and Pangboche; and to visit the homes of Sherpa people in this high region. If you want to avoid the crowds on the main route into Khumbu, an alternative trekking route starts in the roadhead at Phaplu and follows the quiet trail through rice and maize fields, and forest to the spectacular monastery at Chiwong. From Chiwong, the route links with the classic trail at Seto and continues on to Base Camp. This route is not a soft option as it involves a long and at times steep climb to reach the main trail from Seto.

3.3. Recommended Itinerary for the Trek

It is wise to include some rest days into any itinerary. This will not only aid acclimatization but will allow you to take a break in an idyllic setting to read a book or explore a village. Remember that while trekking, your body requires more sleep than usual, so don’t plan too many long days. High altitudes and low temperatures make for some early nights!

A ten-day itinerary is provided here that has been used many times with a 100% success rate. This itinerary allows for a great acclimatization schedule plus the time to make the customary hike to Kala Pattar (5545m) for superb views of Everest.

There is no “one size fits all” itinerary for the Everest Base Camp Trek. Times can vary dependent on fitness, the time taken to explore en route, and individual acclimatization schedules. Allow a minimum of 9 days, not including flights to and from Lukla. At least two additional days will be necessary to acclimatize along the route. If your schedule is tight, it is possible to fly in and out of Lukla to reduce the trekking time. This is not recommended, as hasty ascents can be dangerous. On the way down, however, this may be a good idea.

3.4. Teahouses and Accommodation Options

Teahouse food and accommodation are cheap and represent good value to trekkers. The idea of staying in teahouses is that it will provide business to the local communities. This would be the case. However, there has been a great influx of lowland Nepalese from places such as Bhandar, Okahaldunga, and the Terai regions who are running teahouses and trekking operations. These people are not from the Sherpa communities in places such as Phakding and Lukla and have contributed to a loss of revenue for the upper Khumbu communities as most lowland Nepalese will commute back to their home communities at the end of the trekking season. This has meant that money earned from higher altitude communities has been ironically wasted on transport costs and much money has gone into the pockets of travel agencies in Kathmandu and other major cities. This has been detrimental for the traditional Sherpa villages and other cultural communities because the schools, hospitals, and general infrastructure in the lower Khumbu region have been very poor and the trend is that this will not improve unless the above situation changes.

Teahouses are essentially small hotels and very much the staple form of accommodation on the Everest trek. A teahouse is the Nepalese version of a guest house. They are basic in nature, simply a room with a bed, blankets, and basic facilities. Most bathrooms are shared and toilets can be either the modern sit-down style or the Asian hole-in-the-ground style.

4. Trekking Experience

There are so many aspects of the trek and the trekking experience, so I will elaborate on ways to relate to the trek in a general sense. One main and general way is to always move slow up that trail. This means to ascend at a pace that will allow you to breathe comfortably and be able to carry on a conversation. It sounds easy, but the trails are grueling and the inclination makes it very difficult. Many experienced trekkers have a tendency to use the trek as a fitness speed march and often suffer from altitude-related problems because of this. The Nepalese have a saying “bistari bistari,” which when translated literally means “slowly slowly.” This is the ideal pace for getting the most out of your amazing trek to EBC. Another aspect of trekking in Nepal is to limit the amount of time spent exposed to the harsh rays of the sun. Many times, trekkers will start early in the morning and head for their next destination while the sun is still low in the sky. Often by early afternoon when the sunshine is at its hottest, they will have reached their destination for the day and will spend the remainder of the time resting and relaxing. By this stage in the day, the temperature will be dropping, getting cooler and more comfortable by the minute. Afternoon sleeping and evening time dancing will always be enjoyed more in the warmth of a setting sun in the cool Himalayan air.

4.1. Daily Routine and Trekking Hours

The daily routine and typical hours of trekking are relatively similar from day to day during your trek. The guidelines in the itinerary would have given you an indication of the distance to be covered each day. Trekking usually begins around 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. Before setting off, porters and yaks will probably overtake you as they need to get ahead to set up food and accommodation for the end of the day. They usually move very quickly and it is most likely that you will see little of them throughout the day, unless of course they have stopped for the day! You will then begin to trek for 3 or 4 hours until you stop for a lunch break. This can be anywhere from a teahouse in a village to a spot on the side of the track. (Remember to order your lunch as soon as you stop, it can be another 2 hours until it is ready!). After another 3 or 4 hours walking you will stop for the night at a teahouse in a village or at the teahouse of a popular stopping place for trekkers. During most of the trek a typical day’s walking is from 5 to 7 hours in total. This may not seem very arduous but the duration of the day’s activity takes many trekkers by surprise. The total trekking time, however, is irrelevant as it is the height gain that is the real test.

4.2. Meals and Hydration on the Trail

Another nice treat is a selection of trail food from apple pie to Pringles, it may be good to have a few of these on standby as they can meet a sweet tooth or a craving for comfort food. A selection of powdered energy drinks can also be good for the hard days of trekking.

Good hydration is important for trekking, so we recommend trekkers to consume liquids at least 3-4 litres of a day. This includes tea, coffee, soft drinks, hot lemon and water.

With increase in may increase the quality, which can be observed through decreasing freshness. We suggest the wider variety of meals, stay at the traditional dal bhat as much as possible since it is fresh and the best value of meals on the trail.

The best part of daily routine for trekkers, especially those stepping into Nepal, is the food. Meals are included in the cost of the trek and value up to a full stomach of dal bhat (rice and lentils), vegetables, soups, momo, pancakes, tea porridge etc. The food is absolutely delicious and of growing variety.

4.3. Challenges and Tips for Overcoming Them

Altitude sickness has three forms: mild, which is normal at high altitudes and usually involves a headache, loss of appetite and slight tiredness. This should be ignored, and on most occasions will disappear after a small amount of paracetamol and a good night’s sleep. The second form is High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), of which the key symptom is ataxia, or the inability to walk in a straight line. If this occurs then an immediate descent to lower altitude is necessary. The third form is High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), this is a build up of fluid on the lungs and can be fatal, in the event of any coughing up of pink, frothy sputum, an immediate descent is also necessary. Symptoms of both HAPE and HACE also include increasing tiredness and breathlessness even at rest. Although these are quite severe illnesses, they are preventable and will not affect any of the group who are prepared to take the trek slowly and listen to the advice of the guides. During both of our acclimatization periods we will have a talk about these illnesses to ensure everyone is aware of the symptoms. A key method of prevention is drinking lots of water, so it is essential that everyone fills up their water bottles at every opportunity. On the rest days it is also important to keep warm to aid the acclimatization process, so it is likely we will have lunch in teahouses in the village we are staying at. This will also give us a good opportunity to gain an insight into the Sherpa way of life. In the case of any altitude related sickness, it is vital that the life insurance policy details are known and the helicopter rescue can be arranged. However, to reiterate, this will not be necessary with a slower ascent and our guides’ experience.

Altitude Acclimatization The biggest obstacle to any trek that goes above about 3500m is acclimatization to the altitude. Altitude affects people differently and acclimatization is unpredictable in terms of who it will affect and who it won’t. Rapid ascent is the most common cause of altitude sickness and since we have so many days to get to Base Camp, this can be easily avoided. Saying that, the first of our two rest days will be at Namche Bazaar and the second at Dingboche. On these days it is likely we will go for an ‘acclimatization walk’ – meaning we climb to a higher altitude and then descend again, this is to aid the process of our bodies making more red blood cells and is a key method of preventing altitude sickness. On the second rest day, we may also go even higher, maybe to around 5000m just to aid the acclimatization process more.

There are numerous barriers along the trail to Everest Base Camp, but with a bit of knowledge and the right preparation, they can all be overcome. Below we have outlined some of the common obstacles along the trail and given advice on how to combat them. This information is not intended to scare participants, just to prepare them. With the right mindset and ample preparation, most of these obstacles will present little problem.

4.4. Weather and Climate Conditions

Trekking in the Himalayas has specific weather patterns and generally very quick-changing conditions. In spring, from March to May, the temperature is warm and there is a lot of flowering rhododendrons. In summer, from June to August, the temperature is hot and it is very rainy with the monsoon coming up from India. September to November is the best trekking season; the weather is stable with lots of sun and clear skies. The average temperature is around 20 degrees Celsius and it is a time when the mountains are least covered by cloud. In summer, the average temperature is 18-20 degrees Celsius with longer days. In winter, the temperature inside the houses is similar to that outside (about 5 degrees above or below freezing) whilst outside it is much colder. It is common for there to be snow on the ground and also to experience snow and rain. Finally, it is important to be flexible in your plans. Be prepared to change plans if the weather looks threatening. High passes and base camps all have a big potential of danger from bad weather. In the worst case scenario, hang out in a Sherpa village for a few days and effectively you will get to experience more of the local culture!

5. Cultural and Natural Highlights

Buddhist monasteries and stupas – The Sherpa culture is closely linked to the major religion of the region, Tibetan Buddhism. It’s estimated that the Himalayas are home to over 6,000 monasteries. Most villages will have a local monastery, often home to monks who are also Sherpas, and these are well worth visiting. The monasteries are a focus for the village, often housing various artifacts in the form of thangkas, statues, and religious scriptures. Monasteries serve as the focal point for religious festivals, which are a time of great joy and celebration for Sherpas. The two most important festivals are Losar, the Tibetan New Year, and Dumje, which honors Guru Rimpoche, who is credited with introducing Buddhism to Tibet. Art and culture are very much alive in these Buddhist communities, expressed through dance, music, and drama, with age-old rituals still enacted. At some monasteries, the monks (Lamas) perform rituals and prayers, and it can be a spiritually uplifting experience to witness these. Step outside of the busier trekking trails and touristic areas, and you may get lucky and find some religious festivals are still colorfully celebrated. Even though the Sherpas have regularly been in contact with Western culture since the first treks to Nepal, their life in outlying villages has changed relatively little, and a visit to these faraway monasteries can give insight into traditional Sherpa culture. Access to these trails and monasteries has improved with the building of new tea houses, making these hikes ideal for those wishing to avoid the busier areas and gain a better understanding of Sherpas and their religion.

Sherpa culture and traditions – The Sherpa people are a major ethnic group in the Everest region, of Tibetan culture and origin, located primarily in the Solukhumbu district. Due to migration from Tibet, it is thought that the language, culture, and traditions are an adaptation of the original Tibetan culture from Kham in Eastern Tibet. The Sherpa people are highly regarded as elite mountaineers and experts in their local area. Living at high altitudes, their lifestyle is conditioned by the mountains, and there are several unique cultural aspects of the Sherpas. Since the very first successful summit of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953, the Sherpa people have been recognized for their help to foreigners in their attempts to summit the mountain. Tenzing himself was a Sherpa and has played a large role in why the Sherpas are so highly regarded in the mountaineering community. Their wealth and pride lie in their mountains, as the main source of income in the Khumbu is working for expeditions. This can be extremely lucrative; a good high altitude porter can earn 10 times the national average wage in Nepal doing this work. Also, many Sherpas are employed on the trekking trails as guides and tour leaders. With the creation of the Sagamartha National Park, providing some Sherpas with a chance to run tea houses and lodges, the Khumbu area now has a wide range of different job opportunities for the younger generation.

5.1. Sherpa Culture and Traditions

Unfortunately, many Sherpa youths are leaving their mountain villages to pursue an education and occupation in the cities of Nepal, so it is becoming less common to see traditional Sherpa dress in day-to-day life. However, traditional dress can still be seen in the villages during festivals and special occasions. Sherpa festivals are numerous and throughout the trekking year, there’s probably a festival occurring somewhere that you will have the chance to witness. Choose a helpful and knowledgeable guide and ask them if there’s any festivals happening during your trek. The two most common, Losar and Dumje, are celebrated in the monasteries with song, dance, horse racing, and the consumption of chang (millet beer).

Traditional Sherpa villages are the centre of Sherpa culture. These are often composed of flat-roofed stone houses, with a large mani stone (prayer stone) in the centre of the village. Each home has a walled enclosure or Chosar, and at the upper end of the village, there will often be one or more gompas (monasteries). Every Everest trek route will have ample opportunity to stop in at a teahouse for tea and experience the hospitality of the Sherpa people. This is an ideal setting to talk to your guide and porters about their culture and learn from them.

Sherpa culture and traditions are a subject of fascination to many who have trekked in the Everest and Khumbu regions. Many trekkers and mountaineers have been inspired by the hospitality and warmth of the Sherpa people and have been intrigued by the monasteries and traditional villages. The Sherpa people are of Tibetan heritage and are renowned for their incredible strength, in both the climbing world and in their everyday life. Before the Chinese occupation of Tibet, Sherpa, which means “eastern people”, used to be a way of identifying an inhabitant of the Rolwaling valley, which is just west of the Khumbu region. People of other ethnic groups, such as Tamang and Thami, were later included under the umbrella term “Sherpa”, because of their migration to the Khumbu region.

5.2. Buddhist Monasteries and Stupas

On the way, trekkers will be able to notice various mani stones and prayer wheels that are carved intricately with prayers and paintings of deities. Mani stones are large rocks that are carved with the Padme Hum mantra, whilst prayer wheels are large cylinders inscribed with prayers and are spun round in a clockwise direction. Both of these ways are considered to be ways of spreading the prayers in an outward direction. It is a rule to always keep the mani stones and prayer wheels to your right and walk around them in a clockwise direction. It is also forbidden to step or climb onto these stones and wheels. If you are to take photographs of these, always ask the local people if they are comfortable with the act. In Tengboche, trekkers will find the most famous and the oldest monastery in the region. On the way down from Pangboche to Phortse, lay the beautiful Thame gompa which has recently been renovated. Visitors are welcome to these monasteries and gompas however it is important to remember not expect to just go into the main prayer room. This is the most important point of any gompa or monastery, and permission is not often granted for curious tourists due to the beliefs that letting anyone in to the room may anger the gods. It is polite to always walk around the chorten, mani wall or the gompa in a clockwise direction.

5.3. Flora and Fauna of the Everest Region

The area of the Sagarmatha National Park and the Khumbu region is one of the world’s most unique and varied biological zones. The sub-alpine and alpine plant life is sparse, with the vegetation getting more luxurious as we descend to the south where the area meets the Dudh Kosi river. The northern regions of the park are extremely dry areas, which are much less interesting in comparison to the southern areas. Here, the forests, which actually include pine, rhododendron, and birch, are home to many different species of birds and other wildlife. The colourful rhododendron, national flower of Nepal, blooms during the spring and gives the hills an attractive appearance. In the forested areas, you will see troops of the rhesus macaques, and if you are lucky, you may spot a Himalayan tahr on a steep slope at the forest edge. As we continue down the trail past Namche, the thick vegetation lessens, and we move into an area of alpine scrub, which is largely grazing land for the large population of yaks and a few herds of musk deer. Above Thyangboche, we enter the higher altitude areas, which contain very few plants. Here, there are snow pigeons, some yaks and musk deer past Pangboche, and on the way to Dingboche, you may see some brilliantly coloured impeyan pheasants. The highest altitude areas around and above the treeline are home to many birds of prey, and the large lammergeyer is frequently seen soaring above. Both the musk deer and wild deer are present in these areas, although they are very shy, and you are unlikely to see them.

5.4. Scenic Views and Landscapes

Language in the Khumbu cannot accurately describe how beautiful the region is. The forested hills of pine and bright rhododendron flowers are to be seen to be believed. Villages are picturesque and the farmers working in the fields give the impression that things have not changed in a hundred years. Above the tree line, the landscape changes to provide stunning views of the high peaks. The trail goes deep into the Sagarmatha National Park. This is a good place to see the Himalayan Thar. The aim of reaching the village of Dingboche might not be accomplished as this section passes through the alpine desert with large boulders scattered around and only small shrubs as an alternative to the high passes. Ama Dablam At 6,280 meters, Dingboche is a good acclimatization stop before moving higher up the valley. From here, the views of Ama Dablam are quite spectacular. This section goes right through the middle of the park adding an extra hour to a long day in order to stop at Dzongla. It is quite common to see yaks here. This tough, exciting section will make the 8th day a memorable one. An early start gives time to cross the Cho La and arrive at the village of Thagnag. A rest day can be taken here or possibly a trip up the valley.

6. Safety and Emergency Procedures

Trekking in the Himalayas is full of adventure and excitement, but it’s not completely risk-free. We fully believe that the trek is an excellent adventure for people who can manage and accept the risks involved. Trekking with a guide who is both experienced and qualified in dealing with the acclimatization problems at high altitudes can minimize many of the risks. We are located in the same premises as the Himalayan Rescue Association Aid Post at Pheriche (4240m), staffed by western medical doctors and assisted by local health workers. This post is open only during the two trekking seasons of spring and autumn. They are able to provide a medical evaluation, diagnostic and curative services to trekkers and local people, a range of health education programs, and various communication facilities. With cell phone service now in place over 90% of the trek, in any emergency, we can rapidly get advice on your problem and coordinate your evacuation or rescue with CIWEC Clinic Travel Medicine Center in Kathmandu. With comprehensive travel medicine services situated in Gairidhara, near the British and Japanese Embassies, they are able to provide up-to-date and high-quality medical care to all those seeking their service. This includes travel medicine consultation (pre-travel advice, immunizations), outpatient primary and secondary health care services. A single phone call from the HRA aid post can be directly linked to the doctor on duty at CIWEC in an emergency situation.

6.1. Trekking with a Licensed Guide and Porter

Trekkers often wonder if they should hire a local licensed guide and porter. It is recommended to hire a licensed guide. They teach you about the mountain, the people, the culture, and take care of the necessary accommodation along the way. Many guides speak English, others can communicate quite well. They are all trained and licensed by the government. Most of the guides have completed a Kathmandu-based training program. You can also do this trek with a guide and a group joining the expedition. Hiring a private guide who has no previous trekking experience can be of little help and may not ensure safety. A Kunde Hospital report (2001) stated that one of injuries among trekkers resulted from not having a guide. If you hire a guide from Kathmandu, the flight will be paid for. Guides expect to be paid a daily rate of about US$ 10-20. Costs can often be more and depends on the negotiations. Guides are responsible for their own food and accommodation. They can be a great asset to the trekker and can help you get in contact with various trekking agencies. If you request, guides can provide their past trekking experience and a reference. This can be used to determine their level of knowledge and suitability for your trip. Always be cautious and should consider all options. Whether you believe to hire a guide or not, make sure you are well informed and prepared. Always purchase insurance before departing for Nepal and have a contingency plan in the event the trip does not go as planned.

6.2. First Aid and Medical Facilities

It is better to be safe than sorry. No one wants to think about a medical emergency or injury, but being prepared is essential. Health and altitude issues are a major topic and a comprehensive guide or a medical professional with experience in high altitude medicine is required. First aid given at the right time can make a large difference and help to reduce the possibilities of any long-term effects. Although many western medicines are available in Nepal, it is a good idea to take some essential items with you to have a reliable supply. These include headache tablets, stomach and digestion medicine, Diamox or similar for acclimatization, a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics, and a general-purpose first-aid kit. Although a risk carries on trekking to higher altitudes, altitude-related problems are preventable and present the acute mountain sickness (AMS) which has been known to affect some people at around 2500m. Symptoms can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, and a loss of appetite. It is essential that further ascent is not allowed with any person suffering from AMS. If these mild symptoms are ignored, they can lead to severe symptoms and a potentially life-threatening condition.

6.3. Emergency Evacuation Options

Some travelers have no insurance, and others have companies that are unwilling to meet the costs of an emergency evacuation. In this case, it is wise to register and obtain a Medivac membership from AMREF Flying Doctors. AMREF is a not-for-profit company that provides quality healthcare in some of the most remote areas in East Africa. AMREF has an extensive evacuation plan in collaboration with many helicopter agencies in Nepal. When a member suffers a critical illness or injury and is unable to get to a suitable medical facility, AMREF will be contacted by the attending physician. They will evaluate the needs and resources of the patient and then dispatch a medical team to bring the patient to the necessary facility. If a referral is given for air evacuation, AMREF will provide additional ground transportation to get the member to the nearest airport that can handle a Medivac flight. The member will then be flown to an international standard medical facility in Kathmandu. Upon request, an AMREF representative will accompany the member until their arrival at the hospital. Coming in at just $25 USD for a two-month membership, a Medivac plan from AMREF is a great investment and could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars.

In the situation of an emergency, there are two primary means of getting a client to safety. Both helicopter and horse are widely used in Nepal. However, the most frequent and effective method is via helicopter. Some of the tour operators and trekking agencies in Nepal have purchased private helicopters for the sole purpose of mountain rescue. These helicopters are well-maintained and prepared to fly in the extreme conditions of the Himalayas. Though a helicopter ride can be expensive, it is well worth it when your or someone else’s life is on the line. Depending on the company and the rescue, the price will range from approximately $3000-$6000 USD per hour. Most insurance companies require all documentation and receipts of the rescue in order to reimburse the client. So, make sure to get all proof of payment if you intend to reclaim the costs of the evacuation. Note that some cheaper insurance companies may hesitate to cover the costs of a helicopter rescue. Therefore, it is wise to purchase insurance from a reliable source such as the companies recommended above.

7. Everest Base Camp Trek: A comprehensive guide

This provides well-deserved details to each concept, topic, and process that there is to be known. It is an essential guide to follow for anyone who wishes to trek to Base Camp. There is no doubt that the information provided in this guide is accurate and reliable, making it safe and easy for trekkers to understand what it takes to trek and what’s in store for them on the journey. With thorough examination through the guide, we have concluded that any trekker, new or old, will be able to pursue this journey with ease using the guide as a reference for their decision making. From integrative travel details to cultural backgrounds, scenery, and food that will be encountered along the way, EBC Trek Guide simply covers it all. Now that you have reached the conclusion of the guide, you are most likely highly enthused to book your flight and trek to Everest Base Camp. It is only inevitable that you will enjoy every moment of this exhilarating journey. On a personal note, your experience will be incredible and overwhelming. The beautiful scenery and storytelling guides of the Sherpa people enrapture a sense of joy and tranquility throughout the journey. By the time you reach the enigmatic destination of Base Camp, you will be feeling on top of the world both metaphorically and literally. This is your time to absorb the surroundings; soak it all to memory before you initiate your trek down the trails of the Khumbu back to Lukla.

7.1. Reflections on the Everest Base Camp Trek

Trekking to Everest Base Camp has been an excellent experience, and the trek back down just as exciting as the trek up. This is spoken in the words of Morgan Steele, my hiking partner for the majority of the trek, while he sipped on a large bottle of San Miguel beer at the Café Danphe in Lukla. He and I had returned from EBC to Lukla in 8 nights instead of the 10-12 that most hikers take, and Morgan was so confident that we’d saved so much time that our flight wouldn’t leave without us, that he indulged in drinking beer on our final day. The reflections from both of us during our trek down from EBC to Lukla were shared by most, but not all of the same thoughts. On the way down, the plan of seeing loved ones and familiar places were at the top of everyone’s lists. While trekking up, it was typical to have grand thoughts in every aspect of the trek, when they daydreamed of reaching EBC, exploring many other regions of Nepal, and planning further treks and expeditions in the Himalaya, or possibly even Everest itself. When time and energy allow these thoughts to turn into things spoken, it was typical that someone would propose a return to EBC, and the next destination or trek would be used as a secondary goal and an excuse to go to EBC and do what has been left undone.

7.2. Continuing Your Adventure in Nepal

The possibility to continue your adventure exists to a great extent, and it is capped only by the limits of your imagination and time. You might wish to indulge in the solitude of trekking through the countryside, scaling the heights of another mountain, fly-fishing in an isolated stream, rafting some of the wildest rivers in the world, taking a mountain bike down a hair-raising descent, or challenging your skills in and around the magnificent Annapurna region. Interested and talented amateur botanists may want to join one of the many plant hunting expeditions. Your guide can be of considerable help in linking you up with something to match your aspirations. It is not hard to find a trek to go somewhere in Nepal, as this is the classic land of trekking. With the exception of a few security areas, the possibilities are virtually endless, from an adventurous sortie into remote corners of the far west and north, to base camp treks around the Annapurna and Everest mountains, to the more easy going and even luxurious valley and ridge treks in the middle hills. And at the end of a trek or a day’s outing, the unchanging delight is to be offered the chance to meet and press the hands of those less fortunate and make someone’s day a little bit brighter for having seen you. It is also a simple matter to combine a program of trekking with other outdoor activities. Wet and dry river-rafting provides a very refreshing contrast to a trek, and can be done in various regions, and at various intensities, with trips lasting from 1 to 12 days. Pilots of proven experience now conduct scenic mountain flights and air tours over the Himalaya. High-altitude ballooning has become another option in the Kathmandu valley, with regular trips over the mountains offered provided there is no conflict with environmentalists and the danger of fire from exposed rocks is eliminated. With few tourists yet many tourist attractions, these are only a few of Nepal’s potentialities. For now, the main resource remains always the chance to interact with the country and its people, trekking and excitement only being the channels.


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