For many, making the trek to the base camp of Mount Everest is the dream of a life time. This wasn’t the case for me—I hadn’t even heard of this popular trek until about six months before I was planning on traveling to Nepal. But from a young age I was fascinated by Mount Everest, and Nepal was high on my destinations bucket list because of it. While talking with a friend about my travels, and my particular interest in Nepal, he asked if I would make the trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC). I immediately knew I had to try. This goal quickly eclipsed all other planning as I researched what it would take to hike for weeks through the rugged and unpredictable Himalayas to EBC. Through my research, I knew I had to rule out hiring a guide or porter due to my budget, but learned that many people make the trek on their own. So I invited a dear friend who I knew would be up for the adventure, and a few months later we found ourselves in Kathmandu preparing for what we both agreed was the craziest adventure we had ever undertaken.
EBC is a unique trek in that you are not camping along the way. The route travels through numerous mountain villages, each of which has guest houses to accommodate the many trekkers. You can easily plan each day to incorporate a lunch stop and place to stay the night in one of these beautiful villages. If you have a hired guide or are part of a guided tour, these accommodations will be arranged for you, but if you choose to trek solo you can easily find a room on arrival.
The main considerations when preparing for the trek are: the route, what to bring, and physical well- being.
The Route: Around 30,000 people attempt the trek every year, the majority of whom fly from Kathmandu to the small mountain village Lukla. From Lukla to EBC is around 80 miles, round trip, and takes 12-14 days, including the 2 or 3 acclimatization days. My friend, Lizzie, and I decided, however, we wanted to follow in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, and countless other Sherpas on the original route from Shivalaya. This added a week as we trekked from Shivalaya to Lukla before proceeding on the more popular route. We were both so happy with this decision—the landscape of the lower Himalayan foothills was gorgeous and unlike anything either of us had experienced before, with giant rhododendrons forests, tiered rice patties, and incredible viewers through the valleys as we climbed, traversed, and descended, only to do it again the next day, slowly gaining altitude.
What to Bring: For me, the most important items were sturdy, supportive, and comfortable hiking books, trekking poles, and a means to purify water, followed closely by wet wipes (hot water is scarce, showers are expensive, and honestly they are more effort than it’s worth). Since accommodations are found along the way, packing is relatively light with no camping gear or food (my pack came to around 30 lbs). The main items are clothing and a sleeping bag, and then a first aid kit, basic toiletries, map, book, journal, headlamp, water bottle etc.
Physical Well-being: In addition to the typical considerations one would take into account while hiking and backpacking, altitude sickness is a very real danger on the trek to EBC. Reaching an elevation of 17,600 feet, EBC has 50% of the oxygen found at sea level. Do your research, take the recommended acclimatization days, and be extra vigilant about monitoring how you feel as you make your way up the trail.
I found myself falling in love with life on the trail.
Trekking to EBC was one of the most challenging endeavors I have ever undertaken, and in the days leading up to it I wondered if I would even make past the first day, much less make it to EBC. It turns out I was able to, and not just “make it” but thrive far more than I could ever have imagined. Despite coughs and sinus infections, painful blisters and bruises, freezing temperatures and biting winds, everyday brought beauty, wonder, and opportunities for growth. As my body hardened and became accustomed to the daily challenges, I found myself falling in love with life on the trail. The goal each day was simple— to hike a little further, a little higher. Joy was found in a warm meal and cup of tea, a smile and “Namaste” from each person we passed, marveling in the extreme beauty of the mountains, and the friendship that deepened as Lizzie and I accomplished together what neither of us knew we were capable of. The day we reached Base Camp is a day I will always remember—we were filled with gratitude for this opportunity, for the help we received and friendships made, for the strength and resilience of our bodies, and for the newfound courage that we had found along the way.
This post was authored by one of my very well-traveled friends, Emma, who is an unbelievable artist and certified yoga instructor. She spent the past year backpacking through Southeast Asia, Nepal, and India, and she is currently back in India exploring more magical locations, which we hope she will share with us in the future! Throughout her journeys, she documents her travels through her art, some of which can be purchased here: www.emmaferncurtis.com