How to do the Everest Base Camp Trek despite Acute Mountain Sickness

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)

Everest Base Camp Trek: Kathmandu to Lukla, Nepal

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.

Everest Base Camp Trek: Sherpa Lodge at Phakding

Day 2 - From Phakding to Namche Bazaar (3435m)

Walking Distance: 10-12km (5-6 hours)

Everest Base Camp Trek - Phakding to Namche Bazaar

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.

Everest Base Camp Trek: Namche Bazaar at twilight

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.

Namche Bazaar at Twilight

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EBC Trek: Irish Pub at Namche Ba

Irish Pub at Namche Bazaar, Nepal

Day 4 - From Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (3890m)

Walking Distance: 10km (6 hours)

Everest Base Camp Trek: First glimpse of the Everest

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)

Everest Base Camp Trek: Tengboche Village

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.

EBC Trek: Suspension bridge over the raging Imja Khola River

Everest Base Camp Trek: Tengboche to 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.

Everest Base Camp Trek: Yaks in Pheriche Valley

Day 7 - From Pheriche to Lobuche (4910m)

Walking Distance: 11-12 km (6-7 hours)

Everest Base Camp Trek: Pheriche to Gorakshep

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.

Everest Base Camp Trek: From Pheriche to Lobuche

Day 8 - From Lobuche to Gorkashep (5180m) and Everest Base Camp (5380m)

Walking Distance: 15km (6-8 hours)

Finally made it to the Everest Base Camp

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.

Khumbu Icefall, Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

EBC Trek: Khumbu Glacier. Pic courtesey: Ashish Shrestha

Everest Base Camp Trek: Khumbu Glacier. Pic courtesy: Ashish Shrestha

Day 9 – From Gorakshep to Kalapathar (5545m) and descend to Pheriche (4320m)

Walking distance: 12-13km (5-6 hours)

Everest from Kalapathar. Pic courtesey: Ashish Shrestha

Everest from Kalapathar. Pic courtesy: Ashish Shrestha

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.

EBC Trek: Everest covered with the veil of clouds

Everest covered with the veil of clouds

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)

During the Everest Base Camp Trek locals would always greet you with a smile.

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:

The Everest Base Camp

When to go: Best Time to Visit

February – May, and September – October

What to carry: Packing Essentials

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Toiletries: 30+ sun cream, toilet paper rolls, wet wipes, toothpaste and toothbrush, face wash.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Breakfast at Everest Inn, Namche Bazaar during Everest Base Camp Trek

Inspired? Pin these to your Pinterest boards

 

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Into Thin Air

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Disclaimer

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.

22 Comments

  • pawan says:

    Really nicely written and also i can feel how hard this trek for a girl who didn’t eat and feel well from 3 days and still go on.

    I am also trying to visit EBC and article written by you really helpful for me.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Lisa says:

    I really commend you for doing this, I feel tired just reading it! I’m 100% sure I would get AMS, I already suffer from sea sickness, and that’s nothing. Your photos are incredible and capture the landscape and its people. Maybe one day I will try to visit.

  • Jamie says:

    I admire anyone who does hiking treks like this. I’ll stick with my simple 5 mile long trails. Your photos are incredible!!

  • Marcie says:

    I love how this adventure starts off with a thrilling airplane ride! I can’t believe you hiked without eating or drinking for 3 days. Your body must have felt so weak. But you got some incredible photos!

  • Bee says:

    what an amazing experience. it looks really cold and climbing just at the base seems quite a challenge, but what cool sites and spaces you got to see and experience along the way. interesting post and great info!

  • Whoa, this is so intense and awesome. Good for you! Thanks for including when the best time of year to go is… I find it hard to locate that info often. It looks like such an amazing experience – thanks for sharing!

  • Emma McKay says:

    Oh my goodness so amazing! I loved following along your pictures on instagram and seeing them all together with the trekking commentary – good on you. Very impressed!
    PS that is one scary looking bridge!

  • Star harford says:

    What an adventure! I think you are amazing for doing this and I bet you have memories that will last a lifetime. I think the suspension bridge would kill me off! I love your pictures, what an amazing experience!

  • Carol Colborn says:

    I am foolishly thinking I can still do it, at 69. I should have done it when I as younger.

  • I would absolutely love to do this trek. We have been considering it for a while now but I actually have arthritis and I am not sure I could handle it. It looks like a miraculous hike though and this post surely made me think about it all again

  • Archana, I’m very glad you were able to finish EBC despite AMS but it isn’t something you should recommend, ever! The only acceptable recourse after getting hit by AMS is descending to a lower altitude. I lost a friend to AMS and know of many others who’ve lost their friends to AMS because they didn’t turn back on time. You got very lucky here because neither mental strength nor physical fitness is of any consequence once the body is affected. I’m sure you must have read up enough about AMS before heading out on the trek but I’m telling you this from my several years of experience hiking in Himalayas, a mountain is not worth losing a life over and ignoring AMS can turn fatal within hours in many cases. Hope you’ll consider this advice.

    (cross-posting my comment here as well so your readers can get another perspective on this)

  • Megan Jerrard says:

    Even though I don’t have the technical ability to make it to the top of Everest itself, the base camp trek is one I want to do – thanks for sharing your route! The mountain flight from Kathmandu to the Tenzing Hillary Airport looks so beautiful! I’ve heard that this is one crazy airport to land at though!

    It looks like you take in quite a lot of culture along the way, prayer rocks, monasteries and teahouses dotted throughout the trail and what not. The villages and monasteries look quite beautiful – especially Tengboche monastery. And obviously the scenery – I don’t think people expect Everest treks to be so green, but then again this is the base camp climb. LOVE your people photography, it would have been so incredible to have mingled and met locals along the way. And you spotted yaks too! Too cool.

    It must have been incredible to see Everest up close – but crap, I’m sorry to hear you got hit by AMS. Not something you want to mess with, so I’m glad you went back down and took the proper precautions – it really is something to be taken so seriously.

    Thanks for sharing your photos and insights.

  • Lydia Smith says:

    When the courageous ones hike this far, scared people like me would do nothing but be amazed and appreciate your courage. Really, I don’t see myself doing this. AMS would prolly come day 2/3. I love every bit of the pictures you took. I can at least share in your experience.

  • You are right, every step of the way seems like one gorgeous photo opportunity. Your photos are great! 🙂 And I was just thinking about something. You said that it wasn’t in your wildest dreams that you might do such a thing back in January, and look at this! 😀 You never know what the future holds, right! This is one great adventure you’ve had.

  • Gokul Raj says:

    That looks like an epic trek. Would love to do this sometime in the future.

  • Tami says:

    So glad I happened upon your post. While I will not be hiking to the Everest Base Camp, I have been fascinated with the stories of those who do go there…and beyond. When I read the distances that you traveled each day, knowing that each day was another uphill leg, I was very impressed with your stamina. Years ago, I had the oppotunity to hear the son of Tenzing Norgay (sherpa who climbed Everest with Hillary) speak in San Diego. He told us incredible stories of the hardships faced climbing, and the moodiness of the mountain. Nothing is ever for sure when climbing Everest! I’m sorry to hear you suffered from altitude sickness. So glad you were able to experience the trek and share your gorgeous photos with us.

  • Gokul Raj says:

    EBC is as close I can get to Everest. Seems like one daunting trek and that coupled with AMS makes it even more tought. Congrats on completing your trek. I hope I make it during my Nepal trip.Landing at the Tenzing Airport is another experience I need. Heard it is one of the most dangerous airports to land.

  • yukti says:

    I always dreamed of going to Everest one day, but I found somewhat hectic or unreachable. Thanks to your post, which encourages me to go there. I would also try Explore Himalayas for their guided trekking tour to Everest. By the way stunning pictures of landscape and locales.

  • Wow, that is my dream to visit the Everest Base camp. I am sure the sickness and haelth issues are the case for most people, especially without higher mountain experience. Compliments for the photos – you managed to capture Nepal in all its beauty.

  • talin says:

    What an unbelievable experience. This is so beyond my reach that I don’t think I could even fantasize about it, lol. Thanks for sharing he incredible story and oh my, the photos are gorgeous!

  • Kim says:

    Interesting, I didn’t know about the “steps to heaven” nickname for the trail. Hiking Everest is super high on my bucket list, but it’s one that I know I won’t be able to check off for a while. It’s definitely going to require a lot of prep work! Your photos are amazing, it feels like I’m there trekking with you!

  • I love how you said that sometimes, reality can be better than dreams. I think that is so beautiful. Congratulations for making it to the EBC! That’s a hard one!!!

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