Everest Base Camp – The Highs and Lows of a Mini Expedition

Becki Enright December 27, 2012 14

You might not step foot on Mount Everest, but that doesn’t mean the trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC) is a light-hearted ramble. Instead you will be undertaking a mini expedition, where you will be pushed to the limit both physically and mentally and where, at times, you will question your sanity and why you signed up to do it in the first place.

However, at times the pain completely disappears because every day you are rewarded with both spectacular scenery and a huge sense of personal achievement. For 12 days (eight days from the starting point in Lukla to Base Camp and four days trekking back down) you will traverse scenery that will literally take your breath away.

Like a picture postcard that changes daily, you’ll find yourself lost in a mountainous terrain that changes from lush farmland and dense forest to clear blue rivers and glacial pools the higher you climb. And when you finish the day’s trek emotional and exhausted, you will always feel a huge sense of pride at being one step closer to the end goal.

After meeting your group and guides in Kathmandu, the adventure begins in the early hours of the next morning where you’ll brave a 40 minute flight to Lukla in a small, roaring aircraft. You know that famous short and steep mountain-side runway? I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a scary ride.

After the nail-biter of a morning the first day is not too challenging. A three hour uphill climb is a good introduction to the general trekking pace and on-going conditions and gives you time to rest for day two – which I found to be one of the hardest aside from the Base Camp ascent day. Trekking to 3,440 metres, you will come to the well-known Namche Bazaar – a market haven – except it takes you six hours of high climbing in the dry heat, steep steps and a series of swaying suspension bridges just to get there.

The next five trekking days include two ‘rest days’ (the second day in Namche Bazaar and the sixth in Dingboche where you will reach 4,260 metres) but don’t be fooled. A ‘rest day’ is actually an acclimatisation day which means very steep climbing, yet the views are incredible. You will start to feel the changes in the air and these days simply act as a test-run in preparation for the higher ascent the next day – a necessary evil to make the proceeding trekking days easier.

As time passes, 6am wake-up calls become a relentless and monotonous struggle; the days become long and arduous; extreme exhaustion, weakness from loss of appetite and altitude sickness kick in; the cold conditions become bitter. Personally, I got to a point where I just wanted it all to end but on the last day you do everything you can to pull yourself through the last leg of the ascent.

When you reach Everest Base Camp at an incredible 5,364 meters, the feeling is euphoric. You can do nothing but marvel at the spectre before you – a canvas of beautiful white snow peaked mountains, the Khumbu icefall and the magnificent yet looming presence of Mount Everest. In between the hugs and the handshakes of congratulations, you’ll find yourself standing in awe in complete silence, or if you are an emotional wreak like me, shed a few tears. Don’t expect a camp full of eager mountaineers ready to scale Everest though, since the best time to trek to Base Camp falls outside of the season reserved only for the world’s more daring climbers.

You get a huge, prayer flag covered rock to pose on though! And while the thought of the four day descent that follows will fill you with dread, remember one thing: a HUGE party in Lukla awaits you.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first signed up for this trek. I knew it was going to be hard, but I never realised just how hard. The key is to stay positive – approach each day knowing that with every excruciating step a magnificent view awaits you. Altitude sickness can make you feel nauseous and weak; at its worst it can kill. Listen to your body, drink lots of water and don’t overexert yourself. If you need to stop, do so and if you are the last to reach the end point, who cares? Don’t be stubborn and carry on as it’s important to keep a slow and steady pace.

Try and accept the lack of luxury, from the uncomfortable nights in the ply wood walled tea houses where minus temperatures await you at night, to the dire choice of food, which gets worse as you climb higher. Nothing about this trek is glamorous or comfortable. Hire a four seasons sleeping bag (a -20 at that) and a down jacket from one of the many trekking shops in Kathmandu – these two items were my absolute essentials alongside packing  a whole heap of layers… and a lot of snacks. Nothing is worse than suffering the cold and hunger here.

Reaching Everest Base Camp will forever be one of the greatest achievements of my life. Not many people can say that they have stood half way towards the top of the world and if I can do it, you can too. And if you don’t make it as far as Everest Base Camp you will still have trodden the path of many a great adventurer, and journeyed along one of the world’s most beautiful trekking routes.

 

 

14 Comments »

  1. Emma December 28, 2012 at 5:55 am - Reply

    Hi Becki,
    I took part in a very similar expedition to EBC in 2008. Reading your post was so interesting as I can vividly remember that really long day to Namche Bazaar, the climb was definitely a huge struggle! I really like the way you described how you felt and kept yourself motivated to keep going even at the most challenging points, as I reacted exactly the same. It is so nice to see that others felt the same as me on this trip of a lifetime.
    Thanks for helping to recount such wonderful memories! :-)
    Emma

  2. Backpacker Becki January 1, 2013 at 7:02 am - Reply

    Firstly, congratulations! It really is a huge undertaking and you made it :) I think I will never forget the struggles and emotions while doing this. This is something that will stay with me forever, although, despite the downsides, the overall experience will never stop being positive and amazing!

  3. Kathryn Bullock January 25, 2013 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Many congratulations Becki and what a fantastic achievement. Loved your blog and beautiful photos and your frank feelings about the highs and lows of the trip. Great tips for me for next climb up Mount Kenya in March. Pleased to see you had such a good time in Kathmandu exploring the tea houses.

    Enjoy your time in Cambodia and hope your volunteering is going well.

    Kathryn

  4. Magda April 26, 2013 at 8:06 am - Reply

    Hi Becki, does one have to be super fit to do a trip like this? And where does one make the booking?

  5. Backpacker Becki April 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    A certain level of fitness is required yes. It’s not an easy undertaking so if you book the trip it’s advised to do a few walks and short hikes as practice before you start this.

    You can book via the g Adventures website. Just search for Everest Base Camp.

    Good luck and enjoy :)

  6. Tim Nicholson July 6, 2013 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    I hiked it Sept. 2012. The treking days was short going in, which wasn’t to hard. The hard part for me was the food, altitude, and down time at the cold tea houses. Fires was not lit until 5. maybe during the busy season the fires are started sooner.

  7. Joe Lieber August 2, 2013 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    Great article Becki. I’m planning a EBC trek at the end of this year. Researching the different companies, I notice the time for getting to EBC varies. Did you feel you had enough time to acclimatize on your trip? Thanks.

  8. Irene October 3, 2013 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    I would love to go, this once was on my bucket list, but alas, perhaps of my age 69, I fear I would not be accepted, I am relatively fit, but what do you think and what would I need to do to train. regards Irene

  9. Pat McGouran October 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    I did the trek in October 2007 when I was 55 years old. I live 200 or so feet above sea level, so practising hiking at high altitudes was impossible.
    You made the trek sound like arduous hell, but I had next to no problems. The slog up to Namche Bazaar was not as bad as everyone makes it out to be, although we did have an extra night at Monjo beforehand and an acclimatization hike. The worse I ever felt was a bad headache for part of a day at Dingboche, and had absolutely no eating or sleeping problems (the food was great with my tour, so I don’t know what you were eating!) The only day I felt wiped out at the end of hiking was from Lobuje to Gorak Shep and then straight on to Everest Base Camp (we actually didn’t go all the way in, as the group got tired of slogging through the rocks.)
    The best part of the trip,which you failed to mention, is the hike up Kalla Pattar for the amazing view of Everest and surroundings. Early morning, not a cloud in the sky, around 0 Celsius…perfect!

  10. Kat November 3, 2013 at 2:34 am - Reply

    Great article! I just came back from my trek and it was the most challenging thing I have ever done in my life. Unfortunately we did not make it to Base Camp because we lost 2 days off our schedule due to flight delays getting to Lukla so had to make a choice between Base Camp and Kala Patthar.

    On the way up I got altitude sickness and completely lost my appetite (which never happens as I eat so much at home). In addition to the nausea, I had pounding headaches and by the time I got to Gorak Shep, I was convinced I was going to die… I remember the morning we were leaving for Kala Patthar and as we were approaching the starting point, I vomited. My guide was mortified and told me I needed to go back to the lodge and descend. I begged for one last chance.

    We did make it to Kala Patthar and while I regret missing out on Base Camp, the view of Mount Everest that morning was amazing. You feel so small seeing these big giants in front of you. Descending was incredible, Within hours I got my appetite and strength back. Heck I could have ran straight to the ocean!

    Now I am back at home, I am really kicking myself for how sick I became and felt I could have done better. It’s crazy that I say this given how badly I did but I want to go back! The experience was humbling and despite feeling very sick and hopeless at times, it is an experience I will never forget and will treasure for the rest of my life.

  11. Jamie November 25, 2013 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Hi Becki, trip looks amazing I have booked one with G adventures for next October, I hope I make it. I would like to know if you have done the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, I did it in August and would like to know how it compares to the trek to EBC?
    Thanks and safe travels.

  12. Gaurav Upreti May 4, 2014 at 5:13 am - Reply

    Hi Becki, your article is truly great for one who wishes to get very close to the mighty Everest as you have clearly pointed about the toughness and adventure of getting to there. some might believe that getting to base camp in everest doesnot take that great effort and here you have justified about the fitness and health to get there with ease. so thank you very much for the article.

  13. Amy August 22, 2014 at 2:53 am - Reply

    I just arrived in Kathmandu and on a whim booked a EBC trip! I honestly thought it wouldn’t be possible because it is still monsoon season, but apparently it is a good time…less crowded and the rains are nearly over. Your post got me quite excited!

  14. Becki August 22, 2014 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Booking on a whim is also very exciting! Enjoy your adventure and be sure to come back here and tell us how it went!

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