Hardcore mountain climbing, the kind that will take you up Mount Everest, is not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean weekend mountaineers and hikers should be denied the pleasures of climbing the great mountain, at least part of the way. Trekking to Base Camp Mount Everest Altitude is one of the most rewarding hiking experiences in the world; it’s a way to set foot on the glorious mountain without having to ensure the pain and extreme hardship that goes with climbing to the top. It’s achievable for anyone with a moderate level of fitness. Guided tours are available (the number of tour operators available is astounding) but it’s also possible to make the trip solo.
The southern approach, from Khumbu in Nepal, is more popular than the northern approach, largely because of the scenery and the opportunity to meet and interact with the local, famously hospitable inhabitants. If your trip is planned via a tour operator it’s likely that you won’t have to carry much of your baggage. Most tour operators hire porters, leaving guests to walk relatively unencumbered (you will still have to carry a light daypack) and fully appreciate the surroundings.
The base camp is accessible all year round, but certain times of the year are recommended over others. Winters are, obviously, very cold and some lodges shut down during heavy snow. Summers are very wet and much of the natural beauty of the area is lost in grey clouds and mud. The best times to go, according to Wikitravel, are between March and May, and again from September to mid-November. Spring (April and May) is the best time to see all the flowers are in bloom and all the green trees and shoots after the thaw. If you want views, however, travel in autumn, when the rains have cleared the air and you can see for miles on cool, crisp days.
These boots were made for walking
There are no real roads in the Khumbu region so you will have to walk everywhere, starting at Lukla airport. From the airport, you pass through Lukla and find the path that leads to Namche, which is two days away. On the way you will pass through several villages. Ghat and Phakding are both recommended for their lodges and restaurants, but if you can you should press on to Monju, as it is considered an ideal overnight stop before the steep push to Namche. The hike should take around three hours, depending on your level of fitness and how often you stop to admire the scenery.
Namche is around 3440m above sea level, so you should start feeling the effects of the rising altitude. You need to watch out for signs of altitude sickness; take it slowly and drink plenty of water. When you reach Namche, it’s recommended that you stick around for a few days to acclimatise. It’s a quaint little village that boasts a couple of museums, pizzerias and internet cafes. There are also several walks to nearby villages, which will help you get used to hiking at that altitude.
When you feel ready you can go on to Tengboche. On the way you will pass through Khumjung, which is home to the highly recommended Ama Dablam Lodge. The path goes down a bit to Phunki Thanga and then goes back up steeply to Tengboche where most people spend the night. After Tengboche you’ll find the villages of Deboche, Pangboche, Dingboche and Periche, which is 4240m above sea level. Once again you will need to take some time to acclimatise. It’s very important that if you feel unwell you go back down to a lower altitude and acclimatise before coming up again.
From Periche you climb up to overnight lodgings at Lobuche and then on through Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp and, if you like, Kala Patthar. It’s recommended that you go back down to Lobuche to spend the night before working your way back down.
Regardless of whether you’re going solo or will hire some porters to help you with your baggage, you need to pack light. Adventure Alternative recommends that you pack the following:
• Boots for hiking and comfortable trainers for walking around the villages.
• Strong, waterproof rucksacks.
• Waterproofs for rainy days.
• A warm jacket.
• Long johns.
• Sleeping bag.
• Hiking sticks.
Adventure Alternative also advocates porter safety and wellbeing. Not all porters are treated well by the people who hire them; they aren’t provided with warm clothing, food, shelter and medical care. It’s assumed that porters will simply take care of themselves, but this isn’t necessarily true or always applicable. If you’re going with a tour operator, find out about their porter policy and if you’re going independently, make sure that you treat your porters as you would any other member of your party.