This overview on the Everest Base Camp Trek was updated on January 2019. Constant revisions with the help of authorised tour guides on the ground, alongside access to regular tourism updates via tourism groups and businesses, ensure that this article remains one of the most comprehensive guides to the EBC trek on the web.
It was the final day of ascent on the trek to Everest Base Camp. The 6 am wake-up call marked the start of our eighth day of trekking in this sacred area of Nepal, where the swift knock on the door and long-resounding tones of “morning” signalled the start of another long and arduous day. By this point, each day of the EBC expedition began to feel like a relentless and monotonous struggle.
Except this was the day where, despite extreme exhaustion, weakness from loss of appetite and braving bitterly cold conditions, we all hoped to find enough energy to pull ourselves through the last leg of our journey to get to Everest Base Camp. To trek to the highest mountain in the world.
I didn’t feel giddy with excitement that morning. Instead, swathed in five layers of clothing and still suffering from severe coughing and altitude headaches, I felt relieved that what I had set out to achieve was just a few hours away. I just wanted the pain to go away. Even the strongest of people were flagging.
Over the course of six hours, broken up halfway by a short break at our accommodation tea house, we pulled ourselves slowly and sluggishly through the thin and icy air. I remember one of the Sherpas (porters) grabbing my arm to hold me up, pulling me over rocks as my legs were about to give way and pushing me to the end because I refused to be defeated. Not now I had got this far. Not now that I was close to the dream of climbing Everest Base Camp.
When we reached the top of the final climb, stumbling over loose rocks and onto a canvas of white, all I could do was sit and cry at what had become one of my greatest achievements.
The top of the world was standing right before me.
- 1 Introduction to the Mount Everest Base Camp Trek
- 2 Everest Base Camp Tours – To Trek in a Group or Solo?
- 3 Day-To-Day Trekking Guide
- 4 Reaching Mount Everest Base Camp – Exhaustion and Euphoria
- 5 Trekking Back to Lukla after Reaching Base Camp
- 6 Top Four Tips to Complete the Trek to Everest Base Camp
- 7 What to Pack for Everest Base Camp Trekking
- 8 Still thinking about Trekking to Everest Base Camp? Do it!
- 9 Everest Base Camp Trek: Snapshot
- 10 Everest Base Camp Trek Guide. Pin It!
Introduction to the Mount Everest Base Camp Trek
Everest trekking is a dream of any avid adventurer, but just because you are not climbing Mount Everest, do not think that the hike to Everest Base Camp (EBC) is an easy undertaking. It’s so tough that at times you question your sanity and why you ever decided to do it. At other times you look at the scenery that’s so breathtakingly stunning and unlike any mountainous terrain that you have ever seen before – changing from lush green farmland, dense forest and glistening blue fast flowing rivers to barren land and glacial pools the higher you climb – that you realise it was a good decision. Here you are, backpacking Everest like a warrior.
It’s one of the hardest physical and mental challenges I have ever faced in my life. Yet, it was one that, upon reaching Base Camp and looking up towards the clouds wrapping the top of Everest, became one of my proudest moments.
How Long is the Trek to Everest Base Camp?
Typically, the trek to Everest Base Camp takes 12 days to complete on a 130km round-trip. It takes eight days to get to Base Camp and four days to get back down, broken down overall into nine days of long trekking and three short trekking acclimatisation days.
Any treks which claim (or push you to complete the trek in a shorter amount of time) do so at risk. Despite the relatively short distance overall, there is a reason the journey to EBC camp one is stretched over 12 days and that is mainly due to the steep rise of altitude.
Everest Base Camp Trekking Route:
There is a set trekking route for EBC trekking that takes you through various villages, camping grounds and incredibly isolated spots with magnificent views of the mountain panoramas.
- Way up: Kathmandu – Lukla – Phakding – Namche Bazaar – Tengboche – Dingboche – Lobuche – Gorak Shep – EBC
- Way down: Gorek Shep – Pheriche – Tengboche – Monjo – Lukla – Kathmandu
Day 1: Kathmandu to Lukla flight. Trek to Phakding
Day 2: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Day 3: Namche Bazaar acclimatisation day (trek to Thame and Khumjung, the green village)
Day 4: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche (Thyāngboche)
Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche
Day 6: Dingboche acclimatisation day (hike to Chhukung or Nagarzhang Peak)
Day 7: Dingboche to Lobuche (via the Khumbu Glacier)
Day 8: Reach Everest Base Camp crossing the Changri Glacier to Gorak Shep
Day 9: Gorak Shep to Pheriche (optional morning trek to Kala Pattar for sunrise views of Everest)
Day 10: Pheriche to Tengboche (Thyāngboche)
Day 11: Tengboche to Monjo village
Day 12: Monjo to Lukla and stay overnight. Flight back to Kathmandu the following day
Is the Everest Base Camp Trek Difficult?
Trekking from the starting point at 2,850m / 9,000 ft and climbing to 5,364m/ 17,500 ft is not an easy undertaking, and it is more arduous than technically difficult. You don’t need any particular mountaineering skills or equipment such as ropes and crampons, just a lot of stamina. Remember, you are not hiking Mount Everest.
The greatest difficulty you will face trekking in Nepal is with altitude.
In reality, the distance from Lukla to Base Camp can be completed in a quicker time. However, with less oxygen at a higher altitude, you need to stay healthy. This is what makes the 12-day trek long – so that you can adjust and allow for acclimatisation as you get higher. It’s tough in parts, especially on the knees with the differing uphill climbs and downhill descents on a daily basis.
I saw people of all ages, all sizes, and varying levels of hiking ability. I’d been that typical asthma kid at school – that one who was told I didn’t have to partake in the really difficult athletic endeavours because it was obvious I was never going to make it and any attempt would just result in some hideous outcome or extreme embarrassment. I went through life not taking much interest in sports, or thinking I couldn’t do much in the way of extreme physical exertion. It took many years to realise that this is not the case, and the Everest Base Camp trek was one of those things I had to do to prove that to myself. If someone like me with a chronic disease can complete the Everest Base Camp trip, so can you!
There is also no pressure to keep the same pace as everyone around you. The most important thing, besides ALWAYS drinking plenty of water is to go at your own pace. A guide will either be with you or not far behind a small group of people so there is no danger of getting lost or being alone.
Is the Trek to Everest Base Camp Dangerous?
The only danger to you would be if you don’t listen to the advice of your guide or wander off alone. With regards to the terrain, you will not be undertaking any form of wall climbing, walking along narrow ridges with steep drops or using ropes to haul yourself over rock faces. Getting to Everest Base Camp is a slow and steady walk with a strategically timed ascent into altitude.
Do I need to train for Everest Base Camp?
It is recommended to do a few short practice hikes at home around two months before you leave. Start with some two to three-hour hikes and try to build up to a five or six hours one. This will give you a better idea of an average day of trekking EBC.
If you are already on the road, like I was, factor in some hikes in the destination you are in. I went to a lot of mountainous areas of China three months before my EBC trip, where I did half-day treks and multi-stair climbs.
One woman on my trip undertook altitude training at home, and while this expensive training measure helped a little, she was still hit with altitude sickness on the Base Camp trek itself. You can’t control nature – just get yourself in the best shape possible before arriving.
How much Does it cost to do the Everest Base Camp Trek?
I’ve seen the Everest Base camp trek cost varying from a starting point of $1,200 up to $1,600 but it helps to know what’s included and the ethics of the company including how they support their porters etc.
Usually what is included in the trek cost of Everest Base Camp is:
- At least one night of accommodation in Kathmandu either side of the trek
- Return flight to Lukla from Kathmandu
- Accommodation for the entire trek (typical teahouses in Nepal)
- A licensed and trained trekking guide
- Porters for carrying your larger bags and supplies for the trek
- Permits for trekking and the National Park/Conservation Area entry permit
The main variable that differs from company to company is the inclusion of all meals and beverages at the trekking camps and EBC teahouses while trekking. Some treks are cheaper because food and drink are not included, and you can set aside your own budget for this.
What’s NOT included in the trek cost:
- Travel insurance, which you must arrange yourself and ensure it includes emergency rescue
- International flights / airfare
- Visa costs for Nepal and organisation of the trek
- Rental of equipment like a sleeping bag or down jacket (you can do this in Kathmandu before the trek)
- General trekking gear such as walking poles
- Medication (including altitude sickness tablets)
Everest Base Camp Tours – To Trek in a Group or Solo?
In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect from the epic Everest Base Camp trek. I knew it was going to be hard, but I never realised how hard. The most I had managed before this was a three-day jungle hike in Northern Thailand which now feels like a walk in the park in comparison.
Everest Base Camp Solo
With the streams of websites on top of the dozens of locally offered tour offerings when you arrive, it’s hard to know where to start with a booking a trip to hike to Mount Everest. I toyed with the idea of hiring a guide when I was there but figured being on my own might be lonely when you need the camaraderie of others to spur you on. I was also close to using localised websites for Everest tours such as Trek Booking to meet others to form a group and hire guides and porters but worried that I would be thrown into the midst of diehard trekkers where I would be a burden or unable to keep up.
There have also been multiple reports of people taking on the trek solo, even without a porter or a guide and going missing. Do not underestimate the power of nature and not knowing your surroundings. Everest trekking in Nepal may be a big business, but it’s not something to be stubborn about. This isn’t a place to get lost as its hard to be found. The porters and guide are born and bred here and understand the terrain and the changes in altitude. If you want a solo experience, at least hire a local guide to ensure you do so in the safest environment possible.
Small Adventure Group Tours to Everest Base Camp
I booked the 12 day Everest Base Camp trek with G Adventures over six months before I was due to start it, ensuring that I would be with a group. It is an organised Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp tour, with plenty of time in the city either side.
And so I began my EBC trip with a group of 14 people, alongside two guides and four porters. Looking back, I needed a lot of those people. I relied on them when times got tough because this isn’t just a test of physical strength but one that pushes you to the limit mentally too. A simple hug and daily words of encouragement made everything better. When you cried they understood or cried too because we were all going through the same pain. The laughter and the nights huddled around the fire talking and getting to know one another better overshadowed any negative thoughts that were always lurking.
I doubt I would have completed this trek without the collective morale that existed between us.
Day-To-Day Trekking Guide
Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary: Day One
Leaving from Kathmandu, you’ll brave an early morning flight to Lukla – a small aircraft where the engine roars for the full 40 minutes (muffled in vain by the complimentary cotton wool from the flight attendant that you’re urged to stuff into your ears). The wind lightly wobbles you in the air, until you touch down on the famous short, steep and precarious mountain-side runway that Lukla is known for.
Cheering at the successful landing and that we were still alive after this nail-biting experience we went to breakfast full of excitement about the trek ahead – a three-hour, uphill climb which wasn’t too taxing. Little did we know how much harder it would be and how much colder it would get.
Savour that first night. It’s one of the most comfortable.
Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary: Day Two
On day two, we made our way to the well-known Namche Bazaar – one of the biggest rest areas and full of markets, restaurants and Wi-Fi cafes. Sounds amazing, right? Yet reaching this haven at 3,440 metres requires an extreme effort. I found this day one of the hardest, alongside the day of getting to Everest Base Camp itself.
It involved six hours of high climbing and steep steps through a stunning forest, crossing rivers via long, swaying suspension bridges and relentless physical exertion in dusty, dry heat which sent my adrenalin levels pumping so high that all I could do when I reached the lodge was sit and cry.
Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary: Day Three to Day Seven
What follows is five more trek days, two of which are ‘rest days’ – the second day in Namche Bazaar and day six in Dingboche at 4,260 metres. However, an opportunity for a lie-in or to put your feet up. A ‘rest day’ is just a term for an acclimatisation day but rolled in trekking terminology glitter.
Acclimatisation means climbing. Steep climbing.
It’s around days four and five that you start to feel the changes in the air. Just when you thought you had got your breath back you are off again to reach a higher altitude, a dry-run, ready to make the ascent properly the next day. You climb high and sleep lower, so while you are not trekking for three to six hours, you will spend approximately two hours hauling yourself up a steep hill in order for your body to get used to the next stage of high altitude – a painful but necessary evil which makes the forthcoming trekking days a little easier.
Reaching Mount Everest Base Camp – Exhaustion and Euphoria
You will never forget the day before and the day of the last long slog to get to Mt. Everest Base Camp. It’s day eight and you are exhausted. This becomes some of the hardest few hours of the entire expedition. Higher altitude, colder temperatures and a tougher climb all come together in a force that you think will defeat you. Knowing you are so close, coupled with unbeatable views are certainly two things that help you pull through it.
Reaching Base Camp and standing at an altitude of 5,364 meters is euphoric, even with depleted energy levels. It’s like standing in a snow globe, where the magnificent snow-peaked mountains, the Khumbu icefall and the imposing presence of Everest loom before you. It’s something I will never forget, from the first glimpse of the magnificent view to the congratulatory atmosphere all around me.
Since we were outside of the April | May climbing season we didn’t encounter the Everest camps like the ones you see in the famous photos of people climbing Everest. It was therefore not a land filled with people ready to go further, or where a huge sign signals your end goal. Instead, you are greeted by a huge rock covered in prayer flags to pose with. Just look up, because that’s the most special thing.
Trekking Back to Lukla after Reaching Base Camp
Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary: Day Nine to 12
The thought of four days trekking back down is not the greatest and is something you almost have to train your mind not to think about since you have no option but to get back down, and on the same path from which you have already traversed.
Just remember one thing: a party awaits you in Lukla – a land full of happy people, happy hour, decent food, strong cocktails and a rave with your new-found friends. The Everest Base Camp trek is like a detox or a short spell of rehab – no sex, alcohol or meat allowed for 12 days. Lukla is the release and you deserve it.
Top Four Tips to Complete the Trek to Everest Base Camp
Despite feeling exhausted most of the time, look around you. Trekking with the magnificent High Himalaya around you including Ama Dablam, Mount Pumori, Lhotse and Nuptse and the snow-capped misty peak of Mount Everest, you will feel as though you have been thrown into the most beautiful mountainous valley, with a 360 view of the best scenery on the planet.
Approach each climb knowing that there’s a viewpoint so spectacular at the end that every excruciating last step is worth it. It really is.
Try and accept the uncomfortable nights in the teahouses, where your room will be a made from walls of plywood, and the water will be ice-cold. It’s hard and there isn’t one night where it feels like a luxury. I hired a -20 sleeping bag from Kathmandu, used a silk sleeping liner and wore as many layers as necessary, and when I came across the opportunity for a hot shower, I took it, despite the cost of £2-£5. Do whatever it takes to make yourself feel better and try not to project too much negativity as this can also be detrimental to the moral of the group. I found it easier to walk away from people who felt a constant need to moan. Your own mental stability is an extremely important factor in getting you to the end goal!
Avoid Altitude Sickness
Altitude kills, but in the majority of cases, it just makes you feel extremely shitty. I chose not to take Diamox tablets as I am a migraine sufferer and I wanted to know if my body was on shut down during the Everest Base Camp trek. I listened to all the advice our guide gave each day regarding how much water to drink – and I drank more to ensure I stayed on top of the altitude symptoms. But just two days before reaching base camp I succumbed to altitude sickness. I woke up in the morning with throbbing headaches, which I carried with me while trekking. I felt nauseous and weak, and mentally I struggled and so took the tablets for a couple of days.
Taking slow, measured steps during the trek to Everest Base Camp is as important as staying hydrated to prevent altitude sickness. This is not a race or an opportunity to show off your sporting prowess – even the most athletic can be beaten by altitude. Go at your own pace and don’t be intimidated by the strength of others or feel the need to ‘keep up’. It’s better to be an hour behind and reach your goal than falter at your own ruthless determination.
Take Plenty of Snacks and Money
I took 35,000 rupees (approx. £275) with me for the entire trek and spent it all.
EBC Teahouse Food
Hit and miss in part, the short story is that the food is pretty dire, especially the higher you climb. You tire of the same foods and the bland tastes and your loss of appetite only aids the pain. Take plenty of snacks with you such as protein bars and chocolate like Snickers – a little bit of sugar helps pull you through, as does your favourite comfort foods. Or indulge in a slice of cake from the highest bakery in the world at Lobuche, despite the hefty $8+ price tag!
Food and drink become more expensive the higher you go (due to the effort required to transport it up there) with bottled water, in particular, gaining a hefty price tag. Consider using the water purification tablets or a water purification filter bottle to save money.
Electricity and Wifi
Showers, access to the highest Wi-Fi connection in the world (which is sketchy at best) and battery recharging will set you back anywhere between 350-500 rupees / from $5 to $10 or more. I had a local SIM card from Kathmandu, but the data on that only works for a few days as reception quickly fades, especially around the 4,000-metre level.
Bring US Dollars With You
It is advised to bring US Dollars with you into the country to exchange, as ATM fees in Kathmandu and Lukla are high and often the ATM machines don’t always work. The last thing you want to do is be withdrawing money multiple times with multiple fees for a big trip like this. Bring this large sum of pocket money with you, so you are ready to begin the trek with minimal stress and adequate supplies.
What to Pack for Everest Base Camp Trekking
- Braving minus temperatures can be gruelling, especially at night. You can hire a four seasons sleeping bag (or simply ask for a -20) and a down jacket from a whole host of trekking shops in Kathmandu – these two items became my lifeline to a good night’s sleep.
- Good fitting and already broken-in trekking shoes. I bought my trekking shoes at home in order to wear them in before the adventure started and purchased walking poles in Kathmandu, which came in extra handy on the steeper parts of the climb.
- Walking Sticks. I don’t usually use walking poles on a long trek but for Everest Base Camp walking sticks were invaluable, especially on parts of the track where the soil was dusty and rocky and therefore more slippery.
- Do I need to bring enough toilet paper for the entire trek? No. There’s no need to pack a few toilet rolls and it’s essential to save as much space as possible in your backpack. Bring one roll or a flat packet of soft tissues as a start, since toilet paper is easy to purchase along the way and not too expensive.
The rest is down to the art of layering:
- Thermal long-sleeved top and thermal leggings for when it gets colder at higher altitude and you can use as a base layer
- Comfortable trekking trousers. I had the ones with the zip-off leg compartment as the first and last day can see a bit of sun and super warm temperatures. Don’t buy trekking pants that are too tight as you will need space for layering, especially later into the trek
- Three to four t-shirts and a fleece – the simple items for layering and easy removal
- Gore-Tex jacket and/or windproof jacket – for wind chill and an extra layer over your down jacket
- Hat, scarf, and gloves. Really good gloves. Remember it’s better to be too warm than suffer the cold through lack of proper clothing
- Underwear: Enough to last as there is no laundry service, nor will you be anywhere long enough to do laundry
Practice packing before you leave, to ensure you won’t be in a panic in the hotel room the night before. Practice pack and carry the bag with you on the pre-hike warmups at home. That way, you will also train yourself to carry not only your clothing and other essentials but at least two litres of water on top!
Still thinking about Trekking to Everest Base Camp? Do it!
Reaching Everest Base Camp isn’t just a light-hearted trek. It’s a mini expedition that will test you in more ways than one.
But in that period of time, all of the pain completely disappears, leaving you to revel in what will become one of the greatest achievements of your life.
Between the pats on the back, the hugs and the handshakes of congratulations, you’ll lose yourself in complete silence as you marvel at the spectre before you – the top of the world. Not many people can say they stood over half way towards that.
And if you don’t make it that far, you will still have traversed one of the most beautiful trekking routes on the planet.
Everest Base Camp Trek: Snapshot
- Book yourself on a small adventure group to trek Nepal
- I booked on the 15-day G Adventures Kathmandu to Base Camp Trek – a small group tour, which includes the 12-day trek and time to explore Kathmandu either side. This cost includes the flight to Lukla, all accommodations and sherpas.
- Travel to and from Kathmandu at the start and end of the trip, and all food and drink costs during, are not included.
- Trekking route:
- Way up: Kathmandu – Lukla – Phakding – Namche Bazaar – Tengboche – Dingboche – Lobuche – Gorak Shep.
- Way down: Pheriche – Kengjuma – Monjo – Lukla – Kathmandu
- You should budget for around £300 for food, drink and souvenirs on top of the cost of the trek itself
- Four Seasons sleeping bag, trekking boots, down jacket, windproof jacket, four t-shirts, one pair of trekking pants, thermal layers, a fleece and a hat, scarf and gloves