Mount Everest has been the wildest dream for intrepid climbers since the 1920s. Mountaineering legends like George Mallory, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Tenzing Norgay made huge personal sacrifices and spend fortunes to walk this holy grail but today the dream is achievable. The daunting summit soars so high that trekking to its Base Camp (17,590') is still an adventure of the highest sort. The Everest Base Camp Trek is more than just a trek.
The trek route is dubbed as “the steps to heaven”. Every bend in the trail provides another photo opportunity – lush green forests, Sherpa villages, cascading milky waterfalls, dancing suspension bridges, fluttering colourful prayer flags, huge prayer rocks engraved with Buddhist teachings and sky-piercing glacial valleys.
In January 2017, when I was trekking in the foothills of Himalayas, it wasn’t even in my wildest dreams I could be walking in the footsteps of the mountaineering legends in less than six months. But sometimes reality can be better than dreams. I was gearing up to attend the first Himalayan Travel Mart in Nepal in May 2017, when I got an opportunity to do the EBC trek with Explore Himalaya. Here’s my experience of trekking the most iconic and beautiful trek of the world.
My route to the Everest Base Camp Trek
Day 1 - Flight from Kathmandu to Lukla (2850m) and trek to Phakding (2660 m)
Walking Distance: 8km (3-4 hours)
The thirty-five-minute mountain flight from Kathmandu to the Tenzing Hillary Airport, Lukla perched at 2800 meters was one of the most scenic and thrilling rides I have ever experienced. A quick breakfast and I was off for a 3-hour trek to Phakding with my guide and porter.
Day 2 - From Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3435m)
Walking Distance: 10-12km (5-6 hours)
It was one of the longest days of our trek, as we walked for 6 hours covering 10km with an elevation gain of 800 metres. The arduous hike to Namche Bazaar, the biggest Sherpa village in Nepal, was totally worth the effort for the views. We crossed the Dudhkoshi River via a long suspension bridge and then walked through a beautiful pine forest to Monju. Huge prayer rocks (Mani stones) engraved with Tibetian Buddhist prayers and pretty tea houses dotted the trail. After lunch, the tough uphill trek began. My fatigue vanished as soon as I saw the beautiful Namche Bazaar village.
Day 3 - Acclimatisation Day at Namche Bazaar
One day was reserved to recover from the arduous previous day hike and acclimatise to the height gain. Most of the time I lazed around, sipping honey-ginger-lemon tea. In the evening, I went to the town clicking pictures, having apple pie and paying homage to the World’s highest Irish Pub. The highlight of my walk was the Namche Bazaar monastery from where the houses appeared to be in a U shaped bowl. Clouds kept playing hide n seek with the snow clad high mountain peaks.
Day 4 - From Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3890m)
Walking Distance: 10km (6 hours)
Stomach filled with hearty breakfast and restored limbs, I continued my Everest Base Camp adventure. I had barely walked 500 metres when my eyes got the most beautiful gift of the day - the mighty Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse peaks stood majestically in full glory. I wanted to stay longer but we had a long-distance to cover. So, reluctantly I moved on. A short drop took us to the base of the river, and then after crossing the river, we were hiking again through the forest pass.
Finally, the hard work paid off when I reached Tengboche, one of the most beautiful places in the Everest region. There was a veil of mist covering the pretty sleepy village. In the centre, stood the bright red coloured Tengboche monastery.
Day 5 - From Tengboche to Pheriche (4243m)
Walking Distance: 11km (6 hours)
The day started with the prayer session at the Tengboche Monastery and soon enough I was walking through the rhododendron forest to Debouche followed by a bridge over the raging Imja Khola River. Passing the valley, I traversed through the plains to Pangboche village. The afternoon trek after lunch was a difficult one, the lush green forested landscape gave way to dry; deserted mountains as we hiked towards Pheriche.
Day 6 - Acclimatisation Day at Pheriche
The acclimatization came as a great relief to the sore body. Again, like in Namche, I continued my routine – Eat Sleep Repeat. In the evening I went for a walk around the village to spot yaks.
Day 7 - From Pheriche to Lobuche (4910m)
Walking Distance: 11-12 km (6-7 hours)
This was the most daunting stretch of the trek. It became more challenging, due to the higher altitude and my body started showing strong Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) symptoms. I still kept moving on. After a tough, steep walk to the top of a high hill, I reached Dungla, where the memorial stupas were dedicated to the climbers and trekkers who lost their lives to Everest over the years. The next part of my adventure brought over the craggy mountain terrain to Lobuche, a small settlement with amazing views of Mt. Lobuche, Mt. Pumori and the Nuptse. When I reached our lodge, I was exhausted and hungry but my body wasn’t ready to accept any foreign product, not even water. I had already vomited several times and was feeling very weak. So, the best option was to snuggle up under a blanket.
Day 8 - From Lobuche to Gorkashep (5180m) and Everest Base Camp (5380m)
Walking Distance: 15km (6-8 hours)
My guide was worried about my wearing health but I was determined to make it to the EBC. Turning back wasn’t an option. My mental strength pushed my physical strength to not give up. The trek from Lobuche to Gorekshep was gradual but the subsequent trail to Everest Base Camp was harder, involving rocky dunes and moraine, formed by the accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris. On the way to EBC, I came across the famed Khumbu Glacier and icefall, located on the slopes of Everest. As the afternoon sun started to wane, I decided to head back to Gorekshep for some much-needed rest and relaxation after a grueling day.
Day 9 – From Gorakshep to Kalapathar (5545m) and descend to Pheriche (4320m)
Walking distance: 12-13km (5-6 hours)
It has been three days since I had eaten or drank anything. My worst nightmare had turned into a reality. I was in stage IV of AMS and my goal of visiting the EBC was achieved so, I didn’t want to risk my life any further. Hence, I made a decision to let go of visiting the Kalapathar. Before dawn, I started my descend to Pheriche. During the trek, I saw the glorious sunrise over Mt. Everest and the spectacular view of Nuptse Cholatse and Lhotse. As I descended, my pace got a lot brisker and my health improved.
Day 10 - Descend from Pheriche to Namche Bazaar (3435m)
Distance of walking: 13-15km (7-8 hours)
The walk from Pheriche back to Tengboche was mainly downhill, albeit an hour of climbing a hill. I was on and off accompanied by the Sherpa boys and their cattle. By late afternoon I was in the comfort of Everest Inn enjoying my favourite meal made by Ganesh.
Day 11 - Descend from Namche to Phadking and Lukla (2850m)
Walking Distance: 16km (6-8 hours)
After breakfast, I began my trek toward the Hillary Suspension Bridge and then passed through Sherpa villages. We stopped over at Phakding for quick lunch. It was an uphill trek to Lukla, made even more challenging when I had to navigate through the herd of cattle and yaks littering everywhere.
Day 12 - Flight from Lukla to Kathmandu: 35 min
Thank god, the monsoon arrived in full swing on our last day. After waiting for six hours, we took off to Kathmandu.
Today as I reflect back on my Everest Base Camp Trek, all I can say is nothing beats the thrill and sense of accomplishment that grips a hiker on seeing the power and grace of the mighty Everest up close. It is a feeling that can only be felt not described in words. If I can do this trek then anyone can do it.
P.S.: I don't recommend to continue hiking if you see strong Acute Mountain Sickness symptoms. I knew my limits and I acted accordingly. The best solution is to take it easy and go down to a lower altitude as soon as possible.
For a complete guide on the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of AMS, do read my detailed post on How to deal with Acute Mountain Sickness.
Practical tips to make your Everest Base Camp Trek a memorable experience:
When to go: Best Time to Visit
February – May, and September – October
What to carry: Packing Essentials
- Shoes and bag: A pair of strong, comfortable and waterproof boots. I used Quechua Forclaz 55 and 15-liter day backpack with rain cover. Don’t forget to carry a thermostat for water.
- Clothes: A light, waterproof jacket, a fleece, 3 dry-fit t-shirts, 2 warm base layers, 2 pairs of trousers (one waterproof and one thermal-lined), a few pairs of thick socks, a warm hat, sun hat, sunglasses, gloves and a balaclava.
- Toiletries: 30+ sun cream, toilet paper rolls, wet wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush, face wash.
- Medicines: Regular medicines for fever, common cold, and body ache. I am not a fan of Diamox, so I don’t use it during treks. But you can, if you like.
- Electronics: Extra batteries and power banks as charging of electronic devices is available during the trek but is very expensive.
Who to hire: Trekking Company
Locals are the unsung heroes, who can transform your good trip into a great one. I might not have completed my trek if it was not with Explore Himalaya. They were very professional yet empathetic. Throughout the trek, my guide, Sailesh Lopchan and other staff members took good care of me and always motivated me whenever I went low on motivation. All the services like mountain flight, accommodation, food and guide were top notch.
Where to stay: The Lodges
During the Everest Base Camp Trek, I stayed at seven different lodges for ten nights. All lodges were basic and comfortable. However, my favourite was the chain of Everest Inn lodges run by Explore Himalaya - Lukla (Shangri-La), Phakding (E-Sherpa Eco Home), Namche Bazaar (Hotel Everest) and Pheriche (The White Yak). They were spacious, cozy, well insulated and most importantly clean. When I travel, my biggest concern is the toilet. Thankfully toilets and showers were clean and well maintained. Everest Inns were indeed a home away from home.
The food at the Everest Inn Lodges was to die for. Not only it was healthy (because it was home cooked) but it was tasty too. At some places, it was better than what you’ll get in Kathmandu. The staff was very warm and gentle. They would never so NO to anything. There was no extra charge for hot water, charging or shower. Because connectivity is an issue at such a height, so at some places, the Wi-Fi was charged, but at, a very nominal price.
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I was invited by Nepal Tourism Board for the Himalayan Travel Mart in Nepal. The Everest Base Camp Trek was organised by Explore Himalaya. All the experiences shared above, like always, are based on my (Archana Singh’s) personal experiences. Pictures posted above were clicked by me during the trek.