Q: What is the most popular Trek in the Khumbu ?
A: The trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) is by far
the most popular. There are many variations to get there in addition
to going straight up the valley. For example, you can go by way
of Goyko for a great diversion. A side trip to Chhukhung Valley
is also well worth it. Trekking in eastern Nepal in the Annunapurna
area is also extremely popular.
Q: How do you join a trek to Everest Base Camp? Can
I trek with Everest climbers?
A: Almost every climbing guide company offers a
trekking option to their climbing expeditions. But there are
also trekking only companies that do a great job. Many companies
based in Kathmandu offer treks, however be wary of the lowest
cost ones. Finally, you can go on completely your own if you
are adventurous and experienced enough.
Q: How long does it take to trek Everest Base Camp??
A: It depends on your route but most EBC treks take
about 20 days. You do not want to go on a rush trek primarily due
to the altitude. You land in Lukla at 9250' and go to EBC at 17,500.
If you go too fast you will get altitude sickness which can be
Q: I read that a trek is very easy and anyone can do
it. Exactly how hard is it?
A: If you can walk 5 miles a day and are in good aerobic shape
(with a doctor's approval) you should do fine. The actually trekking is on mostly
level ground with a few sections of steep hillsides - up and down. You should
not be carrying more than a light day pack with a jacket, water and snacks. However,
it is the altitude the creates the main issues. That said, the better shape you
are in, the more you will enjoy the overall experience.
Q: Is a trek dangerous?
A: Yes and no. Yes; because altitude can kill people
so care must be take to acclimatize properly. No; from the lack
"objective" danger such as rock fall or crevasses normally
associated with climbing. However, people have been seriously injured
by yaks who inadvertently bump them off the trail and down a steep
hillside. So always be on the uphill side when a yak passes by!
Q: Is it better to go in spring or fall and what is the
weather like each season?
A: The spring season starts cold and gets warmer whereas
fall is the opposite. Both can see significant snow at any
time but more so in the fall. In general the skies are more
clear into the early fall thus providing better views of
Everest and other mountains. It is common to experience rain,
sometimes very heavy, lower down valley between Lukla and Namache
in both seasons.
a Guide and Prices:
Q: Do I really need to use a guide for an Everest Base
A: It depends on your skills and experience
but I would almost always recommend some kind of help for the
logistics. Long treks are a maze of details. Also, a great guide
will make your overall experience more memorable.
Q: How many people, guides and porters are generally
on a trek?
A: Most guided treks have eight to fifteen trekkers
with an equal number of support staff. Depending on the company,
they may or may not have a western
guide. Keep in mind that larger groups means slower pace and
more complicated meals and logistics.
Q: How do I select a Guide?
References is the best method. It is easy to set up a website and
call yourself a guide and there is no oversight in this industry.
If something goes wrong, you have little resources with an unknown
Q: How much does it cost to trek to EBC?
A: You can spend as little or as much as you want.
are three options for a trek: 1) organize your own 2) a
Nepalese company or 3) a western guided commercial
trek. The one on your on is obvious: you do everything; all you
need is to get to Lukla and spend money on the park permit ($13.84
or 1000 rupees) and food. In theory, you could spend less than
$500 for the entire trek not including air fare. There are companies
in Katmandu that can help arrange just a porter to carry your bags
and perhaps with the teahouses. But you are on your own including
Then there are more formal treks arranged by Kathmandu companies.
They offer a Nepalese leader who speaks English and understands
not to push too fast for acclimatization reasons. They do a great
job and charge between $1,000 to $3,000 or more. In general the
better ones charge more. Many western companies offer
treks with a western guide, British, Australian, American, etc.
They cater to western styles meaning they explain what you are
seeing, ensure food is cooked properly and hygiene is maintained.
Their prices are US$4,000 and up.
Finally there is the trek with Everest climbers where you join
an actual climbing team as they make their way to Everest Base Camp for their climb. This is usually with one of the major expedition
companies such as Adventure Consultants, International Mountain
Guides or Jagged Globe for example. You usually spend one or two
nights at base camp with the climbers. This is usually the most
expensive option costing around US$4,000 but is also the safest,
cleanest and can be most entertaining.
is the difference between a trek for $2,000 and one
A: It often comes down to who leads the trek
- local or western. With a western leader you are paying for
that person's travel and time and it is spread amongst all
the trekkers. In return you get western style leadership with
good language skills and perhaps some simple medical training.
Some low cost treks will stay in tents, not teahouses or in old teahouses with
questionable kitchen practices.
Q: How do you train for trek?
A: I have a complete page devoted
to this question for climbing but trekking is somewhat similar
if you want to fully enjoy the experience. You will want to be
in good shape and not carry any extra body weight. In general,
focus on aerobic capacity and core strength.
I suggest a steady exercise routine including extensive aerobic
work. You should be doing daily walks with at least one 5 mile
walk each week with a 15lb pack six months before your trek. Do
as much uphill as possible. If you live in a flat area, go to a
stadium and use the steps with your pack.
Q: Can you prepare for the high altitude?
A: Not really. The common approach is to move slowly up
the mountain (1000' a day maximum) spending your days at a higher
altitude than where you sleep up until your summit bid. The human
body simply does not function well at high altitudes and can experience
acute mountain sickness (AMS) above 8,000 feet. There is half the
available oxygen at 18,000' as compared to sea level so letting
your body adjust is the key to staying healthy.
Everest legend Tom Hornbein explained it to the American
Lung Association this way:
oxygen stimulates chemoreceptors that initiate an increase in breathing,
resulting in a lowering of the partial pressure of CO2 and hence
more alkaline blood pH. The kidneys begin to unload bicarbonate
to compensate. Though this adaptation can take many days, up to
80% occurs just in the first 48 to 72 hours. There are many other
physiologic changes going on, among them the stimulus of low oxygen
to release the hormone, erythropoietin to stimulate more red blood
cell production, a physiological and still acceptable form of blood
doping that enhances endurance performance at low altitudes. Adaptive
changes are not always good for one’s health. Some South American
high altitude residents can have what’s called chronic mountain
sickness, resulting from too many red blood cells; their blood
can be up to 84-85% red blood cells. The increased blood viscosity
and sometimes associated pulmonary hypertension can result in right
You cannot do much to acclimatize at low altitudes but there
are companies that claim to help the acclimatization process
through specially designed tents that simulate the reduced oxygen
levels at higher elevations. I have no personal experience with
these systems but you can find more details at the Hypoxico website.
They cost about
$7,000 or can be rented for about $170 a week.
I would not recommend this for a trek.
Q: What kind of gear do you
A: My strategy is based on lot's of
layers. Since it can get very cold, It is always critical
to protect toes, fingers and face since these were most susceptible
to frost bite. As for warmth, I always wear a knit cap and at least
liner gloves when I get the least bit cool - regardless of the
outside temp. I use a 3 layer system of Merino wool base layer
(top and bottom), a warmth layer then a wind or rain layer. I have
a gear page for reference and suggest looking at the Colorado 14er column for
This is my suggestion while actually trekking:
- Bic pens as gifts for the kids
- Toilet paper, biodegradable
- 1liter of water with Gatorade in a Camelback since it
is not freezing but also bring a Nalgene bottle
- SteriPen for purifying stream water
- Synthetic or nylon top and pants,
- Comfortable low top boots that are not too heavy, no need for
heavy leather boots
- Bandanna for nose and head wipes - you will be surprised!
- Headlamp in case you get caught after dark - it happens
- Trekking poles
- Warm jacket for surprise wind or snow storm, preferably with
- Knit cap and a ball cap
- Gloves, one thin for sun protection and another
- Rain jacket (lightweight)
- Sunglasses (100% UV), sunscreen, lip
- A few bars of trail
- iPod. Along the trail and for snoring roommates. I like the
shuffle without a hard disc so it will work at altitude and the
battery last longer.
- A clean, dry shirt and socks to change into once arriving
at the teahouse while waiting for your duffle to arrive
I also always have my computer laptop, sat phone, solar recharger,
cables in my pack since I don't want to have them damaged. But
if you pack these carefully inside a sleeping bag sack or down
clothing they might be OK carried by Porters or Zos. However I
see bags dropped all the time very harshly so I prefer to carry
the extra few pounds. My day pack might be about 10 lbs with computer
but without the sleeping bag.
If you bring a water bladder, like a CamelBak or MSR Dromedary
(which I recommend-more rugged) also bring a Nalgene. It is easier
to fill at teahouses or from streams when sterilized via the SteriPen.
Also it can be filed with hot water and put in your sleeping bag
for those extremely cold nights near EBC.
Q: What other gear is needed?
A: Sleeping bag (0F is fine), toiletries
plus wet wipes (yes) and a change of clothes, primarily socks and
underwear plus one heavy (down) jacket plus some comfortable shoes
in the teahouses. I also suggest your own cotton pillow case stuffed
with your down jacket as a pillow.
Q: Is there any ability to wash clothes or take a hot
shower en route?
A: You can rinse out clothes in tubs
supplied by teahouses but that is not usually done. In general
trekkers get used to the smell and dust. Hot showers are available
in teahouses for a small charge but it uses precious resources
that must be carried up by yak or human.
Q: How do you communicate back home and updates?
A: There are internet cafes in Lukla, Namache
and a few villages up to Gorak Shep (last before EBC). They charge
a reasonable price for being where it is but not 100% reliable.
Satellite phones are the most common method. I use Thuraya which
transmits both voice and data (including email) from anywhere within their coverage
area. Some tea house offer satellite or wired phone service but these cannot
be depended on. Expedition companies charge anywhere from $3 to $7 USD per minute
so charges can rack up quickly.
A Thuraya phone cost about $800
US and $1 a minute or less. If you will use more than 800 minutes and go on
multiple treks, buying a phone makes a lot of sense. The Thuraya
satellites only covers Europe and Asia and not the US or South
America. Iridium is the other option but it does not perform as
reliably in my experience. See the technology section on my gear
details. For details on my expedition communications, please see this tutorial.
Q: Do SPOT satellite beacons work?
A: Yes. Just point the device mostly east.
It is an easy and inexpensive way to letting those back home know
where you are and you are ok. Remember it only tracks 7 days of data
however on the Google Map. For details on my expedition communications, please see this tutorial.
Q: Do cell phones work outside of Kathmandu?
A: Yes. GSM (not CDMA e.g.
Verizon) cell phone service is available with a Nepal Cell phone
company SIM card. Check with your outfitter. It can be arranged
in KTM. However, for guaranteed access rent a
Thuraya sat phone here in the US or in KTM. For details on my expedition communications, please see this tutorial.
Q: How do you recharge batteries?
A: The teahouses have charging ability via their
solar panels but if it has been cloudy for several days, there
may not be enough reserves to charge a computer or camera thus
always have an extra battery. Teahouses usually charge for
it - maybe a 100 rupees an hour so bring some extra cash. Many people
want to use their chargers so try to plug your stuff in as soon
as you arrive. A solio power
charger is a good idea for battery recharger. For details on my expedition communications, please see this tutorial.
Q: What about money?
A: It seems like everything costs 100 to 200
rupees - candy bar, bottle water, extra fried rice at dinner.
You will pay for hot showers or to use the battery for charging.
You will spend more
than you think so bring lots of rupees in smaller dominations.
100s are great, stay away from 500 and 1000 notes. US dollars
are sometimes taken but rupees are preferred.
Q: How many miles do you walk each day?
A: It is about 38 miles from Lukla to EBC and it should
take a minimum of nine days. You generally walk about 4 to
6 hours each day starting about 8:00AM.
Q: What are the conditions in the tea houses
along the route?
A: Actually pretty good if you are not with
a low cost guide service - they pick the old teahouses. The better
services book trekkers in solid teahouses that are quite clean.
but I still recommend using your own sleeping bag and not their
Q: Is it always advisable to treat the water?
A: Not in the teahouse since they double boil most of the time. On the trail,
iodine is best but a SteriPen would
work best - bring extra batteries, etc. All that said, expect to get some intestinal
issue at some point - everyone does.
Q: Any info on the prevalence of giardia?
You never want to drink untreated water or muddy water from streams or still
water even if you see the locals doing it. Always drink treated water. You
can buy bottled water from the teahouses but it creates a huge waste problem.
It is best to treat water from the teahouse tap with iodine or a SteriPen
to eliminate the waste of the bottle.
Q: Can I get lost?
A: Yes. The vast majority of the time you are
on a well worn trail with other people ahead or behind you. But
this is a sparse country and the villages are miles apart. it is
easy to follow a yak trail instead of the main trail. There are
multiple valleys along the way and going up the wrong valley can
be a huge mistake. Carry a map and don't get away from your group.
Q: What if I want to climb a mountain?
A: There is Kala Patar at 18,192' just above Gorak Shep. It is a
wonderful easy climb that offers amazing views of Everest, base
camp and all the surrounding mountains. It is a must do activity.
Just make sure you have been acclimatizing properly and take
it slow and easy. Schedule a day if possible. Go early in the morning
to avoid the afternoon clouds that block Everest.
If you want to climb something more technical, then the trekking
peaks of Island Peak (20,305'), Lobuche and Mera are also available
but these generally require a fair amount of climbing experience
with crampon and ropes. They also require climbing permits and
are not consider part of a normal trek only itinerary.
Q: Can I spend the night at Everest Base Camp or go into
A: For 2013, check for the latest regulations. In 2012 the
rules changed banning all trekkers, including those with climbing teams,
from staying at Base Camp. However, it was rescinded at the last minute.
In the past, if you are with a climbing expedition, you can spend the
night at EBC. To enter the Icefall legally requires a mountaineering
Q: How do climbers feel about Trekkers?
A: It is a small community up there. However, climbers will
sometimes shy away from interacting with strangers after they have
been in BC for a few weeks. They have probably already gone through
all the contagious stuff and do not want to be exposed to new strains.
It is not personal but they have paid tens of thousands to climb
Everest and don't want to get sick.
Q: What is the standard schedule to EBC?
A:This varies but to go from Kathmandu
to EBC and back this is a representative schedule:
- Arrive Kathmandu at 4600'
- Rest and tour Kathmandu
- Tour Kathmandu
- Fly to Lukla at 9250', weather permitting
- Trek to Phakding (or Monjo)at 8694' (mostly flat to downhill)
- Trek to Namache at 11,300' (significant uphill trek) visit
the market, Everest museum, local schools, bakery, Everest View
- Rest day and tour in Namache
- Trek to Thame at 12,464' visit the Thame Monastery. Not part
of every trek
- Trek to Tengboche (or Deboche) at 12,683' visit the Monastery,
meet the Rinpoche
- Trek to Periche at 13,907' visit the Himalaya Rescue Association
- Trek to Lobuje at 16,174 see the Sherpa Memorial en route
- Trek to Gorak Shep at 16,924
- Climb Kala patar 18,192' with outstanding views of Everest Base Camp, Ama Dablam and Mount Everest
- Trek to Everest Base Camp at 17,500' and return to Gorak Shep
- Trek back to Dingboche at 14,450
- Trek to Namache
- Trek to Lukla, a long day
- Fly to Kathmandu, weather permitting
- Rest, sight see and finalize travel home
- Fly home
Q: Any suggested highlights?
A: Try to be in Namache on a Saturday
morning for the weekly market. Go to morning prayers at the Monastery
in Tengboche. Spin every prayer wheel you pass. Climb Kala Patar.
Stop and talk to the children, take their pictures and show it back to them.
Ask adults if you can take their picture. If you have time visit Goyko and
Chhukhung. Take 10 times more pictures than you think you should. Walk slow
and enjoy each moment! You can read about my trek for
Q: Exactly where is Mt. Everest?
A: On the border between Nepal and Tibet (China).
It is in the Himalaya mountain range which stretches 1500 miles
from Northeastern Pakistan to Bhutan. There are over thirty mountains
higher than 25,000 feet. Of the fourteen 8,000 meter peaks, nine
are located in the Himalayas making it clearly the top of the world.
Q: How do they know the altitude?
A: In 1841 a British surveyor named Sir George Everest
identified the location of the mountain. Fifteen years later using
trigonometry and measurements from 12 different survey stations
around the mountain 'Peak XV' was surveyed as the world's highest
mountain at 29,002 feet. In 1865 it was re-named Mt. Everest and
is called Sagarmatha by the Nepalese and Chomolungma in Tibet.
In 1955, the height was adjusted to 29,028'. On May 5,1999 a
National Geographic Society Expedition put
a GPS receiver on the summit. Using a second Trimble GPS receiver
at the 26,000' South Col they could make an extremely accurate
measurement by running the two receivers simultaneously. The new
altitude was 29,035 feet or 8,850 meters. However, the Nepalese
still use 29,028' as the official altitude.
Q: What were the standout climbs?
A: In 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine made
the first serious attempt. It is still unknown if they made the
summit, but both died on the mountain. In 1953, Tenzing Norgay
and Sir Edmund Hillary make the first successful summit. In 1975,
Japanese Junko Tabei became the first woman to summit the hill.
Austrian Peter Habeler and Italian Reinhold Messner were the first
trekkers to summit Everest without bottled oxygen. 1996 was probably
the most controversial year with fifteen trekkers dying on the
mountain thus spawning worldwide debate and interest in alpine
Q: How many people have summited and how many people have died trying?
A: The Grand Dame of all Everest statistics, Ms. Elizabeth
Hawley reports the total number of people who have summited Mt. Everest
to around 6208 by 3668 different climbers, meaning that 2,540 climbers,
mostly Sherpas, have multiple summits. The south side (Nepal) remains
more popular with 3877 summits while the north (Tibet) has 2331 summits.
Overall 249 people (162 westerners and 87 Sherpas)
have died on Everest from 1924 to 2013, 134 on the Nepal side and
106 from Tibet. Since 1990, the deaths have dropped to 4.1% due to
better gear, weather forecasting and more people climbing with commercial
operations. Annapurna is a much more deadly mountain than Everest
with a summit to death ratio of 2:1 deaths for every summit (109:55).