Home » What I wish I knew before trekking Everest Base Camp

What I wish I knew before trekking Everest Base Camp

written by Kieran Wallace January 8, 2018
Everest Base Camp guide

Having grown up a stone’s throw from the Rocky Mountains, I am no stranger to hiking amongst some of the most spectacular peaks in the world. I thought I had a good handle on hiking through some serious mountains until, in May of 2017, I trekked to Everest Base Camp on Intrepid Travel’s 15-day Everest Base Camp trip.

Nestled deep in the Himalayas, the largest mountain range in the world, Everest straddles the border between Tibet and Nepal, and is a sight to behold. After craning my neck upwards for the better part of two weeks, I felt a connection to mountains I had never experienced before. I slipped into the groove of hiking beside these giants and feel I can now offer a few tips and tricks to those with their sights set on seeing one of the most majestic mountains Earth has to offer.

Everest Base Camp guide

My amazing Intrepid Travel group

After all, bucket-list trips in the travel world vary from person to person but one I’m willing to bet almost everyone strives to check off is trekking to Everest Base Camp (EBC). Here’s what it was like and what you need to know:

Gotta get the gear 

Heattech, Nano-Air, Triclimate – you might be overwhelmed by these outdoor tech buzzwords when shopping for a few items before a weekend camping trip, but for the hike to EBC you need to take your gear seriously. Lighten your pack by sporting Dri-FIT or any other type of microfiber blend. Unlike cotton, microfiber garments are lightweight and engineered to wick moisture away from the body and move it from the skin to the outer side of the garment where it can evaporate.

If you have your own lightweight sleeping bag, bring it along. This will help in the weight department as the bags you get in Kathmandu tend to be a bit bulkier and heavier. When traveling with Intrepid, the company will hire superhuman porters and supply a duffel bag in which you can pack up to 10kg (the legal weight limit a porter can carry). Because the max weight one person can take on the airplane to Lukla is 15kg, that leaves you with 5kg to carry in your day pack.

Everest Base Camp guideThroughout the day you will inevitably be layering up and down depending on the temperature or rain conditions. The mornings are almost always cooler, demanding a few more layers, but as soon as the sun comes out you will be stripping down to sometimes even just shorts and a t-shirt. Control temperature more effectively by bringing gear with efficient heating and cooling properties such as Merino wool and down. There is almost always the potential for rain so make sure you have at least a waterproof jacket, pants, and a rain cover for your pack.

Decrease the risk of injury by buying and breaking in hiking boots at least one month before your trek. I cannot stress enough how important this is! Having sore feet with blisters is the last thing you want while trying to relax at the Tea House in Gorakshep.

READ MORE: TREKKING EVEREST WITH A GROUP TOUR SCEPTIC

There is also the perception that you need to buy everything you need in Kathmandu, which can be a bit stressful if you arrive the night before your departure to Lukla (the starting location for the trek to EBC). This, however, is not true. Along the hike to Namche Bazaar, and in the small town itself, there are plenty of opportunities to pick up pretty much anything you might need. Gloves, rain pants, beanies, hiking boots, and even sleeping bags are available here.

Everest Base Camp guideBuy Snickers bars in Kathmandu

In other words: food isn’t cheap as you trek closer to Everest. Dhal Bhat – the ubiquitous meal that has kept sherpas and the like fueled for generations is made up of rice, lentil soup, and vegetables – might cost you 200 rupees in Kathmandu, whereas at the top you might pay up to 800 rupees.

Snickers bars, Mars bars, nuts, and other essential trail snacks are a must for a little energy bump, but as with everything else, the price will sometimes triple near Base Camp. And if you enjoy chocolate bars as much as I do, or are a chocolate connoisseur, check the dates on the packaging – they can sometimes sell outdated chocolate which isn’t as good.

CHECK OUT INTREPID’S RANGE OF EVEREST BASE CAMP TREKS

Peak season

There are two ideal times to visit Everest and the surrounding Himalaya; April – May, due to the warmer temperatures and visibility, and September – November, which is right after monsoon but right before winter. Although I trekked to EBC at the tail end of May, those I met and talked to who had hiked during the peak periods said it was incredibly busy; like sleeping on the floor of the tea house busy.

Everest Base Camp guide

Other hikers certainly don’t detract from the views

The alternative to sleeping in a busy tea house is to camp in tents. This removes the hassle of pre-booking your accommodation and in some ways I was envious of those taking the rustic route, but just remember it’s going to be a lot more expensive. Everything was organised for me on the tour, so I was able to focus on the trek itself and the awe-inspiring views.

Also bear in mind that weight is everything up there and unless you’re willing to trek everything up yourself, you’re going to need more porter power to get those extra kgs up the hill.

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Altitude sickness is no joke

For those who have trekked above 4000 meters, and sometimes even below that altitude, know that Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), otherwise known as altitude sickness, is not something to mess around with. Whether you are a CrossFit die-hard, or a pack-a-day smoker, the symptoms of AMS don’t discriminate.

Everest Base Camp guide

Bonus of the altitude: views like these

My Intrepid Travel itinerary allowed for two full rest days on the way up, one in Namche Bazaar, and one in Dingboche. This helps the body acclimatize to the altitude and is extremely effective, but not guaranteed to free you of symptoms.

As with most travel destinations, locals know best. Intrepid (rightly) pride themselves on hiring only local leaders and guides. This pays off as there is nobody more equipped to handle any issues that may arise halfway to Base Camp as someone who has trekked to and from EBC dozens of times. It is said that the Sherpa people, an ethnic group of Nepalese from the north east mountainous region of Nepal, have a genetic predisposition to avoiding altitude sickness by naturally carrying more oxygen through their blood.

Everest Base Camp guide

Hemraj, my incredible local leader

READ MORE: ANNAPURNA VS EVEREST – YOUR DEFINITIVE TREKKING GUIDE

Almost all the local guides know pretty much all there is to know about AMS so if you are concerned about anything, just ask your guide or a local. In addition, a quick check in with your local travel doctor will give you all the information you will need to further lower your chances of becoming ill on the mountains.

For many, the trek to EBC can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. With the help of local guides, the enthusiasm of all of the amazing people to chat with in the teahouse over hot chocolate after a long day of walking, and the inspiration from the sheer beauty that lies around every corner, anyone can trek to Everest Base Camp.

Ready to take on the trek of a lifetime? Check out Intrepid’s range of Everest Base Camp adventures.

(All images c/o Kieran Wallace.)

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15 comments

Holly December 31, 2018 - 1:54 am

I am trekking EBC early May. Can someone please tell me how much is appropriate in Canadian currency to tip your porter and guide. Thank you

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Rctx May 19, 2019 - 12:35 am

About usd$8 for the guide and usd$6 for the porter for 2 people.

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John October 3, 2018 - 3:10 pm

This is the best advice or guide to do a trek in Everest Base Camp. I was searching for such article which provides all the information. Keep it up. Will visit again for other travel articles about Nepal. Planning to visit Nepal next year.

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Ta Hirn August 23, 2018 - 6:17 pm

I loved my Intrepid trip to Base Camp – life changing. I couldn’t help but write a little book about it collating all my tips for the trip and how amazing our guide was! https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B07GRNX28N/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535012030&sr=8-1&keywords=trekking+everest+base+camp

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Dan January 15, 2018 - 6:37 am

I trekked in October 2015, plus Island Peak. Whatever you’re thinking about tipping your porter and your Sirdar? Double it. Without them you wouldn’t even make it downhill to Phakding. As mentioned before stop and smell he roses; the Nepali people are wonderful and giving. Drink, drink, drink, then drink some more. Get an inexpensive pulse/ox meter, and for heavens sake write a journal every night. It’s the small things that make the trip, and you’ll forget them once Sagarmatha comes into view.

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Judy January 15, 2018 - 12:07 am

Please know that there is so much more to Nepal than the EBC trek. There are many spectacular treks that are less-traveled, where you will have a more authentic experience and be able to contribute to other village economies. The people of Nepal are what bring me back year after year.

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Scott Wallace January 13, 2018 - 2:23 pm

Thanks for the tips, Kieran. Well, EBC was not on my BL but after reading this I’m motivated. This hike has always seemed daunting because I thought you had to be a mountaineer. What sorts of training did you do ahead of time to prepare yourself for this trek? Did you acclimatize at different elevations? Love the pics too. I’m sure you have had many to choose from. Do you have them posted somewhere?

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Wally January 13, 2018 - 9:59 am

Awesome advise Kieran. I’m going to do it November of this year and I’m super excited. Hopefully visiting Canmore this summer if you are around, lets grab some drinks!!!

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Jen January 13, 2018 - 2:47 am

I went in January 2017. Here’s my advice:
1) take plenty of tissues. For the toilet as well as your nose.
2) save one clean pair of socks for summiting. Expect that you’ll smell bad, everyone does.
3) take a metal water bottle that you can fill with hot water at night to keep your feet warm in your sleeping bag. It’ll be cool by morning and ready for drinking.
4) take the altitude medicine!

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Natalia January 11, 2018 - 8:18 am

It is key buying in advance a good solar panel to charge all your devices. We did that with my partner and it was very useful during our trekking because we didn’t pay anything for charging at the tea houses.

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Christine January 10, 2018 - 11:40 am

I completed the trek in late May 2017 with intrepid. Slowly slowly was the key word. I’m 60, it was my first trek and what I read was great info. I’d like to add, make sure to stay hydrated. Use a camel pack and drink lots even thru the night, take throat lozenges as well, just put one foot in front of the other. Oh and don’t forget take time to smell the roses, the views are spectacular. It’s not a race it’s an experience you will never forget.

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Anonymous August 17, 2018 - 7:41 am

Encouraging comments. I am 60 and hoping to to EBS next fall.

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Suzette | TrySomethingFun.com January 9, 2018 - 11:53 am

I’m glad to hear first-person info. I was looking at a tour but this helps to confirm that I’m not ready… Plus you’re exactly right, AMS is no joke. Fingers crossed for when I do eventually make it there… I appreciate you sharing the travel tips though, quite helpful.

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rick be January 8, 2018 - 7:30 am

You might add that trekking above 12,000 feet is slow going even for the most healthy. Unencumbered by anything in Puno,it was a struggle to get to a restaurant for me.

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Alan Rimmer January 8, 2018 - 3:06 am

Interesting article Kieron. I attempted EBC last November but had to withdraw due to AMS from Lobuche, yes 1 day and 1300 feet from Base Camp, total bummer as I’m unlikely to have chance to go again.
It is indeed a serious trek, reaching heights that very few people achieve.
Good luck in your future travels,
Alan

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