Everest Base Camp Trek: Things You Need to Know
Earlier this year, I ticked off one of the things top of my bucket list – the trek to Everest Base Camp. It was a breathtaking trip (literally!) and a challenge I would definitely recommend. Here’s everything I think you need to know (and what I wish I’d known beforehand!)
Located at the base of the tallest mountain in the world, Everest Base Camp (EBC) is a popular hiking trek in the Himalayan range in Nepal. It has a great reputation in the trekking world and is known to be one of the best ‘must-finish’ routes on the planet.
EBC is a special hike in the climbing world because lots of the mountaineers who have gone on to summit Everest have had to go through the Base Camp trek, and therefore it carries a lot of history. Nepalese people are very religious, with most of the country being Buddhist, and they regard going to the mountain range, not just for the challenge or the amazing views, but as a spiritual journey. Nepal also relies on climbing for much of their tourism income, therefore visiting Nepal to climb is greeted very well from the locals, who truly appreciate your visit.
Hiking to Everest Base Camp was without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, and that’s saying a lot, because I have also done a skydive! Whilst it was incredible and so rewarding, there are definitely certain things I wish I’d known before I went. I don’t want to deter anyone reading this from doing the trip. It was extremely challenging, but I am still so happy I did it, and I encourage everyone considering it to absolutely do it!
1.It is hard!
In my opinion, there isn’t enough emphasis about just how tough the trek is, with lots of companies advertising for ‘good fitness’. As a runner, I have good fitness but found it incredibly challenging at times.
The thing that makes the trek so hard is the altitude. Climbing for 6-7 hours each day at high altitude is both physically and mentally difficult, and at times painful and seriously uncomfortable. I would recommend anyone who is considering the trip, to make sure their fitness levels are very good (i.e., being able to run for one hour without stopping, being good at swimming, smashing it through a HIIT class without struggling too much kinda level of fitness). And also that they are mentally prepared. Leading up to the trip, I went for a few ‘hard’ hikes in the Surrey hills, mainly to break in my shoes – but that was absolutely nothing in comparison. The altitude makes it ten times worse, and as you go up higher, each breath becomes harder.
2. Read up about Diamox beforehand
Diamox, aka acetazolamide, is a medication used to treat altitude sickness, which all climbers going above 2800m will experience. Everest Base Camp is located at 5400m, and therefore you might imagine how you will feel with 53% available oxygen, compared to that at sea level. Altitude sickness can make you feel extremely unwell, with symptoms from a severe headache, to vomiting, and if it progresses, it can be fatal. So, it is taken very seriously by those guiding the trek to Base Camp.
I chose to take Diamox with me, and took it twice daily from our ascent from 2800m all the way up to Base Camp. It prevented me from experiencing altitude sickness, and although I did get the side effects of pins and needles in my hands, it definitely helped with the anxiety around getting sick and having to go back down the mountain. If you are considering Diamox, be sure to speak to your medical healthcare professional beforehand, as you’ll need a prescription for this.
3. Pack salty snacks
All of us in my hiking group were always craving salty snacks! We were put off the idea of eating the sweet stuff we had brought from home. I would definitely recommend stocking up on salty snacks such as nuts, pretzels and small crackers, as these can be easier to eat when you feel nauseous and lacking in appetite (as opposed to sweeter snacks that became quite sickly in these conditions).
4. Bring things to flavour your water
As you trek up to Base Camp, you fill up your water bottles in teahouses, and the water needs to be filtered before it is safe to drink, so you don’t get sick from bacteria. However, the water filter tablets can give the water a very metallic, chemical taste, which makes it hard to drink. And the higher up you go, the more water you need to drink to avoid getting sick! At our highest point (the day we summitted to Base Camp), we were advised to drink 5 litres in a day – boy, did it make a difference when my drink tasted like Robinson’s blackcurrant from the handheld squeezy diluting tube! ☺
5. Do the trek with a guide
From chatting to strangers in the teahouses at night, it is worth saying that, even if you are an experienced climber, the trek to Base Camp is incredibly humbling; until you have been at this altitude you really don’t know how you will respond. If you get sick, your guide will not let you continue because it is too dangerous. This means you have to go back down the mountain, as this immediately treats your altitude sickness. If you are alone, and you choose to ignore the warning signs, and it results in you being helicoptered back to the city, it could cost you £5000!
If you’re considering doing this trek, I would say it is essential to go with a guided group. It gives you a sense of security, with guaranteed beds in the teahouses, and help and guidance from the wise and experienced sherpa community. I did my tour with Intrepid Travel and chose to do the hike for young adults, to be with like-minded people and I would highly recommend it!
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