Trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp: Nepal

Trekking to Mt. Everest Base Camp: Nepal

Walking Among the World’s Tallest Mountains

Imagine making 19 trips to the 8,711m (29,035-ft.) summit of Mt. Everest. That’s the record set recently by the Sherpa Appa. If you’ve always wanted to see Mount Everest up close, but you don’t have the technical climbing skills and a burning passion to summit the tallest mountain in the world, there is an option. Numerous tour companies lead treks to the Everest Base Camp at 5,276m (17,585 ft.). From here, you can watch climbers set off on their dream to reach the peak of the world. But just because they’re ascending all the way to the peak, doesn’t mean that you can’t get your thrills a little farther down the hill. The Base Camp trek can be an exhilarating trip in its own right, and the challenge of tackling this gargantuan mountain at any altitude will be an unforgettable experience.

Most of the treks to the Everest Base Camp follow a similar itinerary. Upon leaving Kathmandu, you will fly approximately 40 minutes to Lukla, where the Sherpas divide up the gear and load pack animals. Then, you will hike to Phakding, along the way seeing a monastery in Ghat with colorful prayer wheels and shrines. The next day your trek takes you over suspension bridges and into Sagamatha National Park. After checking in and showing your trekking pass (the company you book with should provide this), it’s on to Namche Bazaar at 3,386m (11,286 ft.). Near Namche Bazaar is a rhododendron forest, which is gorgeous when in bloom, and wonderful waterfalls. All along the way the views are almost as breathtaking as the altitude. At Feriche, sited at approximately 4,200m (14,000 ft.), you’ll pass by the only medical facility in the area and the staff will likely give a lecture on altitude sickness.

Once you reach a destination village, such as Dingboche at approximately 4,350m (14,500 ft.), you will spend a leisurely day acclimatizing to the thin air. From there it’s a 2- or 3-day trek to the Everest Base Camp. At Loboche you will trek along the moraine of the Khumbu Glacier and pass stone memorials to climbers who have lost their lives on Everest. (More than 150 climbers have died on the peak.) Several tour companies include a hike up Kala Pattar (5,535m/18,450 ft.), to give you some of the most spectacular views of Everest. Some treks spend just a few hours at the Everest Base Camp, while others arrange for trekkers to spend a night in one of the tents. Normally, you’ll have an opportunity to interact with the climbers who plan to keep going and watch them prepare for their assent. Don’t expect to see just a few climbers here. Especially in May and prime climbing season, there may be over a hundred people at Base Camp.

Trekking to base camp is an alternative to conquering Mt. Everest.

The tour packages that take you to this dizzying height usually start out in Kathmandu, Nepal, and generally last between 16 and 20 days. Most days you will walk between 5 and 6 hours and carry a daypack. With the exception of an overnight stay at Base Camp—should your trip include a night there (ask, don’t assume)—you will sleep in tents, primitive hotels, lodges, or possibly a monastery. Along the trail are very primitive outhouses.

If you make this trip, you will see views that you’ll never forget and that relatively few people have seen. But realistically there’s another side. The tour brochures make this sound like a walk in the park. It isn’t. You must be in very good shape physically. And even if you are, the altitude will make breathing difficult. For some trekkers altitude sickness is totally debilitating. Sleeping at altitude can also be difficult with frequent awakenings to take a deep breath There is no way to predict who will be seriously affected by the altitude and you may have to turn back. Trip insurance with repatriation is recommended. Weather is not always as pristine as the brochures portray. There could be snow at night and an 80°F (27°C) temperature during the day. That said, if you can handle it, you will have a once in a lifetime experience. —LF

Tours: Peak Freaks Expeditions ( i Explore ( 800/iEXPLORE [439-7563] or 312/492-9443; Berg Adventures ( 866/609-4148 or 403/609-4148; Crystal Mountain Treks ( 977/4416813;

When to Go: May and Oct.


Hiking Waimea Canyon: Kauai, Hawaii, U.S.A. Mount Fuji: Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, Japan
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