Surrounded by the stunning peaks of the Himalayas, trekking to the Mt Everest Base Camp in Nepal is a lifetime experience. Robin and Melissa from @17pineneedles have trekked through this region for 25 days.
They made it to the renowned Mt Everest Base Camp without guides nor porters, and they have shared with us all the details of their experience. From how to plan it to the costs breakdown, here is everything you need to know to plan your next hike in Nepal!
Planning the hike to Mt Everest Base Camp
There are so many amazing trekking options in Nepal. The main ones are located in the Everest, Annapurna and Mustang regions. We personally chose to trek around Mt.Everest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for the jaw-dropping views (you are very close to the peaks), the challenge of the high altitude and the spiritual Sherpa culture. Also, no cars nor motorbikes have access to this region, so it remains peaceful and authentic.
We’ve planned everything with a good map, online blogs and the classic “Lonely Planet, Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya” guidebook. We also shared valuable information with other backpackers in our hostel in Kathmandu.
Mt Everest Base Camp itinerary:
We first flew from Kathmandu to the (terrifying) airport in Lukla, where the trek starts. Our itinerary included the legendary Mt Everest Base Camp as well as surrounding mountains like the Kala Patthar Ri, the Chukkung Ri, the Cho La Pass and the Gokyo Ri.
We then came down to Lukla to fly back to Kathmandu. So it’s a pretty long trek, 160km and – most importantly – 8 km of total ascent.
Below you can find detailed information about the trek. The first number refers to the distance while the second refers to the total ascent.
– Flight from Kathmandu to Lukla (30min)
– Lukla to Phakding, 7.5km, 50m
– Phakding to Namche Bazar, 11km, 1000m
– Day hikes around Namche Bazar, 7.4km, 460m
– Namche Bazar to Tengboche, 9.1km, 750m
– Tengboche to Dingboche, 10km, 580m
– Dayhike in Dingboche 4km, 530m
– Dingboche to Chhukung, 4.5km, 490m
– Chhukung to Chhukung Ri, 5.4km 800m
– Chhukung to Dughla 9.2km, 400m
– Dughla to Lobuche 3.1km, 300m
– Lobuche to Gorak Shep, 4.5km, 250m
– Everest Base Camp 8.6km, 200m
– Kala Patthar Ri 3.9km, 200m
– Gorak Shep to Dzongla, 11km, 120m
– Dzongla to Dragnag (through Cho La Pass), 8km, 590m
– Dragnag to Gokyo, 5km, 0m
– Gokyo to Gokyo Ri, 3.6km, 570m
– Gokyo to Phortse, 16km, 200m
– Phortse to Namche Bazar, 9.7km, 300m
– Namche Bazar to Lukla, 18km, 300m
– Flight from Luka to Kathmandu (30min)
160km total, 8km of total ascent
Guides and porters:
We didn’t hire any guides or porters because we wanted to be completely free. Trekking on our own gave us great flexibility to change plans, to stay longer at a place we like, to wake up unexpectedly early the next morning to catch the sunrise and to stop a lot to admire the views.
We also love to plan our trips on our own. By doing our own research, we learn a lot and we can also select the spots we prefer. And if we have any doubt or questions during the trail, we can always ask at our teahouse the night before.
Hiring a guide has many pros as well (assistance if you experience mountain sickness, knowledge about the region…). It just depends on your style. However, if you choose this option, just make sure the porter has good working conditions like decent salary, equipment and insurance (and don’t overcharge his bag). Also, note that it adds an extra cost.
Sleeping and eating during a trek to Mt Everest Base Camp
There are cute teahouses that offer food and accommodation in the Sherpa villages all along the trail. These huts can be found sometimes every 3 hours, sometimes every 8 hours by walk. It really varies, so make sure to plan it in advance. A good way to spot them is by asking at your current teahouse, by relying on a physical map or by using the offline maps provided by maps.me.
Rooms are generally pretty basic, with twin beds and blankets. They are not heated and poorly insulated so make sure to bring a warm sleeping bag (and earplugs if you don’t want to hear Barney snoring in the next room).
A night in a teahouse will cost anywhere from $4 to $8 USD (500-1’000Rs) per room. Prices may be higher if you don’t eat your dinner and breakfast in the lodge you are staying at. When trekking in the low-season, the room can sometimes be free of charge if you eat there.
The dining room usually has a nice stove (using yak dung as a source of fuel!), where you will probably spend most of your evenings with friendly people and fellow travellers. We personally didn’t need to book in advance as we were trekking in the low season. We would just show up and ask for a room.
The food is amazing, and the servings are generous. For example, if you order a traditional “daal bhaat”, they usually serve you twice (even more, if you ask). Trust us, you’ll never go to bed hungry. They also serve delicious momos (dumplings), soup, rice, noodles and potatoes. And the beer is good too. We recommend trying the Sherpa and the Everest beers (but be careful, altitude and alcohol are not best friends).
Challenges of the trek
The main difficulty is the lack of oxygen at higher altitudes. Only 50% of the sea-level value is left at 5’500m, so people usually experience mild symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) above 2’500m like headaches, breathlessness, weakness and difficulty to sleep.
These symptoms should be taken very seriously because severe symptoms can follow. And these can be fatal. They include accumulation of fluid in the brain (HACE) and in the lungs (HAPE). It’s crucial to be able to recognize them. HACE can be characterized by confusion or an inability to walk on a straight line and HAPE by breathlessness at rest or dry cough. Discuss these with your doctor before you go and see below “How to avoid altitude sickness”.
The second difficulty is the (freezing) cold. Trekking in the sun is enjoyable, but temperatures drop drastically immediately after sunset, even freezing your eyelashes. To give you an idea, the temperature in our room in Gorak Shep went down to -20°C during the night. There was even frost on our sleeping bags.
Concerning the physical challenge, it’s more general fatigue and breathlessness, rather than burning muscles. We would say that Everest Base Camp is attainable if you are in a good physical condition. Crossing high passes, however, is more challenging. Especially if you carry your own backpack. And it’s always advisable to start a cardio training routine at least 2 months before the trek.
And last but not least: waking up very early, finding your way alone, knowing that AMS can occur anytime when you are hours away from any village, not arriving at the lodge before sunset, ascending steep walls aside deep ravines… All these are stressful things that will make your trek even more challenging and memorable.
Mountain sickness and how to avoid it
It’s very important to ascend slowly to allow your body to acclimatize.
Here are the main recommendations :
- above 2.500m, try not to sleep more than 300m higher than the previous night
- sleep lower than the highest altitude reached during the day
- acclimatization days are helpful
- drink enough fluids (eating and sleeping properly is also important)
- ask your doctor about acetazolamide (Diamox or generic versions)
- bring an oximeter or ask your lodge to check your blood oxygen levels
- if you have mild symptoms, stop ascending until they disappear
- if you have severe symptoms, descend immediately and seek medical care
One tip: pack light! You will witness some of the most stunning views of your life up there. So you don’t want to be distracted by a too-heavy backpack.
There is one exception: you can add some pencils and school books (better than candies) for the lovely schoolchildren you’ll encounter on the trail. Here is what you need :
Cash, credit cards, passport and TIMS card. Also, scan your important documents.
- Base layer (evacuates sweat): underwear, legging, t-shirts and trekking socks (odour free merino wool is a must)
- An insulating layer (keeps you warm): down jacket and/or fleece
- External layer (against wind, rain and snow): Waterproof breathable shell and a pair of trekking pants
- 1 pair of Trekking shoes (broken in)
- Hat, scarf and gloves (mittens are warmer, add inner gloves for versatility)
- Light, inflatable pillow
- Sleeping bag (-18 degrees Celsius is good and you can always put some additional clothes on if you need)
- Adaptor, chargers, solar charger and external battery
- E-book reader
- Backpack + Waterproof shell
- Trekking sticks
- Knife (always bring a knife for outdoors)
- Headlamp + batteries
- Water filtration and purification system
- Trash bag
- Other: earplugs for the night, pen, padlock, lighter, watch
As usual. Try to avoid plastic and add:
- 50 SPF Sunscreen and lipstick
- Light and a quick-drying microfiber towel
- Toilet paper
First Aid Kit
Maybe add an Oximeter to your usual kit.
Add Acetazolamide (Diamox) and band-aids for blisters to your usual kit.
An average cost breakdown:
- Permits: Trekking Information Management System (TIMS) card (2’000Rs, 16EUR), Sagarmatha National Park entrance fee (3000Rs, 24EUR)
- Flight (round trip): 30’000Rs, 240EUR (You can also take a jeep and then hike. It’s cheaper but it adds 3-4 days)
- Meal: 3-8EUR (400-1’000Rs)
- Room: 4-8EUR (500-1’000Rs)
- Hot shower: 2.5-4EUR (300-500Rs) (Not available at the higher lodges)
- Wifi: 4-8 EUR (500-1000Rs) (Not always working, especially in higher lodges)
- Battery charging : 1-4 EUR (100-500Rs)
- Our total for 25 days (per person, including flights): 850EUR
- Our total per day (per person, without flights): 25EUR
Porters and yaks are working hard to carry all the food at these altitudes. That’s why the prices are higher than in Kathmandu. And the higher you go, the higher the prices will be.
Things to keep in mind
Our planet has offered us so many beautiful places, like the Himalayas.
We need to minimize our impact and trek responsibly to preserve this wonderful nature, that’s why we’ve tried avoiding plastic as much as possible during our trek.
Buying a water filtration/purification system has been our best investment for our travels. We’ve also picked up rubbish on our way down and we’ve carbon offset our flight by supporting a project for climate action in Southeastasia.
Top tips for trekking Mt Everest Base Camp
- Never trek alone. During our trek, we’ve seen a guy alone and unconscious on a glacier, another one alone with a twisted ankle in the dark with no headlamp on a steep peak. You don’t want to be one of them!
- Always plan your day ahead. How many hours will the trek take? What’s the height difference? Where can you have a lunch break?
- Tell your embassy in Nepal where exactly you’ll be trekking and when.
- Glaciers shift! The trail can change from year to year and your map (even maps.me) might not be updated. Ask your teahouse before leaving in the morning and avoid getting lost.
More Useful Tips
- Bring something to read. Evenings can be long in front of the fire, especially when there are no other trekkers in your lodge. “Into thin air” (Jon Krakauer) and “The snow Leopard” (Peter Matthiessen) are classics. Many teahouses sell books, but an e-book reader is a good investment as it’s lighter.
- Choose your season wisely. The best weather for good visibility occurs between October and December. We chose December because there are fewer people as it gets colder. The downside is that it can also snow, and you can get stuck in the airport in Lukla for several days.
- Empty your water bottles at night because they can freeze. Especially if they include filters because these would then break.
- Try merino wool before your trek. It’s bad to see that you are actually allergic to it only once you’re up there and have no other option for the next 20 days (ask Melissa).
- You can buy trekking gear in Kathmandu (original or fake). Some are even for rent. Just make sure to brake in your pair of trekking shoes at home first.
- Master layering. Dress in 3 layers for maximum flexibility. So you can put layers on and off to regulate your temperature. You always want to stay warm but avoid sweating.
About the author:
Hi, we are Robin and Melissa!
We were born in France, fell in love in Italy 12 years ago, lived in Switzerland and left last year to travel as full-time backpackers! We like to travel adventurously, responsibly and to learn about new cultures.
Telling our stories with pictures @17pineneedles