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First of all the trekking regions in the world, the Khumbu or Everest region in the Himalayas of Nepal is probably the best known amongst trekkers and mountaineers who come to see or experience the tallest peak on Earth – Mount Everest (“Sagarmatha” in Nepalese or “Chomolungma” in Tibetan) at 8,848 meters above sea level. Mount Everest was first climbed by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on the 29th of May 1953.
Since then, thousands of adventurers from all over the world have made it their goal to climb the gigantic mountain and set new records with or without oxygen. Likewise, the Everest Base Camp trek through the Sagarmatha National Park (a UNESCO world heritage site) attracts every year countless trekkers, photographers, and nature lovers. The world-famous trek offers spectacular views of AmaDablam (6812 m), Nuptse (7,861 m), Lobuche East (6,119 m), Lobuche West (4,940 m) and other peaks on the way to Everest Base Camp at 5,400 meters, the starting point for the expedition to the world’s highest summit.
Besides the natural beauties of the Nepalese Himalayas, hikers can discover traditional villages, the regional flora and fauna, Namche Bazaar- which is famous for its homemade yak cheese and butter and an ancient trade route between Nepal and Tibet -, Buddhist monasteries and long suspension bridges over the Dudh Koshi river.
A cultural highlight awaits guests in autumn: During the Mani Rimdu Festival, the monastery of Tengboche hosts a traditional dance performed by monks. Visitors are welcome to discover the festivities in celebration of Buddhism, marked by traditional singing and dancing.
Local teahouses and lodges along with the route offer accommodation, plenty of food options from Dal Bhat to pasta and desserts, and the opportunity to connect and socialize with other trekkers.
Typically, the trek to Everest Base Camp trek 14 days. The journey starts with a domestic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. From there, trekkers head to Namche Bazaar, Tengboche, Dingboche, Lobuche, Gorakshep, and finally, Everest Base Camp. Having reached EBC, some trekkers venture on a short hike to Kala Patthar (around 2 hours one way).
Kala Patthar(“Black Rock”) is not a mountain, but a smaller peak that is often visited at sunrise to experience the sleeping beauty, Everest. Hikers, with a shorter time frame, can combine the EBC trek with a helicopter tour. For a more extended adventure, an alternative trek would be EBC via Gokyo Lake and Gokyo Ri.
An even more challenging and technically demanding option is the Everest Three Passes trek: Besides Everest Base Camp, trekkers aim for the summit of Gokyo Ri and cross three passes: Cho La Pass, Renjo La Pass, and Kongma La Pass.
The Everest Base Camp trek is considered as “moderate”; technically, the trails are not too challenging, but they can be steep, rocky, and stretch over long distances. A good level of fitness is important, although it is not necessary to be a professional mountaineer to reach EBC.
Good preparation with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle are key to get fit for this journey. As trekkers gradually reach higher altitudes, it is important not to rush and find the right pace so the body can acclimatize slowly, and the risk of altitude sickness can be reduced.
It is recommended to drink plenty of water (avoid coffee and alcohol) and eat carbs for energy. Garlic soup has great health benefits and is considered to be a natural remedy for altitude sickness.
The Everest Base Camp trek cost can vary, depending on the personal requirements and duration of the trek. The price for a professionally arranged trek, including domestic flights, porter and guide, permits, accommodation, and food, typically ranges between 1,200 and 2,000USD.
A guide or agent is not mandatory for the Everest Base Camp trek but can be very helpful in assisting trekkers, taking care of the logistics, and providing safety for their guests.
Trekkers should bring their own hiking boots to ensure comfort and stability along the way. Nonetheless, it is possible to rent equipment in Kathmandu. It is recommended to wear multiple layers of clothes because temperatures change from warm at lower levels to cold at higher altitudes, especially at nighttime.
Other important items are warm underwear, base layers, trekking shirts, fleece, down jacket, rain jacket, hiking pants and socks, gloves, hat, scarf, sunglasses with UV protection, trekking poles, sleeping bag, daypack, water bottle, plastic bag and waterproof bag, tissues, headlamp, travel towel, cash, camera, charger and spare batteries, earplugs, hand sanitizer, water purification tablets, first-aid-kit, medical kit and sunscreen, a comfortable backpack with a rain cover (45 – 65 l; the volume can vary, depending on if guests go with a porter or not). This list is not complete but should provide a general idea.
The ideal time to go to Everest Base Camp is spring (March to April) and autumn (end of September to November). The trek can be done off-season as well, for example, in December, but the temperatures can drop significantly in winter.
Climbing Mount Everest is a lifetime achievement for many mountaineers, tempted by the challenge to reach the highest point on Earth. Especially during the last few years, Mount Everest has attracted an increasing number of adventure seekers from all over the world. Nevertheless, this expedition is not to be taken lightly.
Climbers need excellent fitness, stamina and experience, professional, proper planning, the right equipment, and very strong will power. Plus, an Everest Expedition comes with expenses. The preparation of the logistics takes months for all parties involved.
During the expedition, climbers spend their nights at high altitudes over 6,000 or 7,000 meters in raw nature without any facilities. To survive in these extreme conditions, a lot of equipment – from food to sleeping tents, oxygen bottles, and first aid kits – has to be taken up the mountain, which involves high efforts and costs.
Furthermore, foreigners must obtain permits from the Nepalese government. The total cost of the expedition can greatly vary between 35,000 and 65,000 USD. Expeditions usually work with local outfitters providing Sherpas and organizing all the logistics and other important details; the higher the level of “comfort,” the more expensive the adventure becomes.
After a high number of fatalities in 2019, the Nepalese government has revised the rules for Everest climbers to increase safety; to obtain a permit, climbers must now provide proof of high altitude mountaineering experience (6,000 m), amongst other requirements.
After a domestic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, the expedition starts with the classic trek to Everest Base Camp via Namche Bazaar, one of the most popular stops for adventurers in the Everest region. The historic trading town at around 3,400 m above sea level provides a number of hotels, restaurants, and shops selling trekking equipment.
The further journey to EBC offers many more opportunities to discover the Sherpa culture, colorful Buddhist gompas, and local lifestyle.
At Everest Base Camp, expedition teams set up their tents and acclimatize for the challenge with daily hikes or climbs, while they are waiting for the time window to climb Everest. This time window is usually very short (a few days, depending on the weather) in the second half of May, but most climbers arrive at Base Camp already in March.
As soon as the weather permits, mountaineers head to Camp I (5,900 m): The journey from Everest Base Camp to Camp I is very technical and involves the crossing of Khumbu Icefall with ropes and ladders. Avalanches, falling ice and crevasses that can suddenly open due to shifting ice make the Icefall extremely dangerous.
Camp II (6,400 m): On the way from Camp 1 to Camp 2, climbers cross the Western Cwm, which is also known as the “Valley of Silence.” Temperatures in the valley can get quite high during daytime; therefore, easily removable layers of clothes are the best advice. Camp 2 is located at the base of the Lhotse Face. Many climbers spend most of their time at Camp II for acclimatization.
Camp III (7,470): To reach Camp III, climbers need to get across Lhotse Face – a wall of ice – using fixed ropes. The thin air and low oxygen level often start taking their toll at this altitude. Most of the climbers do not use oxygen yet at this stage.
South Col (above 7,900 m): The relatively flat area of Camp IV is called South Col. The South Col marks the beginning of the Death Zone (altitude above 8000 meters, where the oxygen level is so low that body cells actually start to die). From that point, most climbers use additional oxygen. South Col is the last stop before climbers attempt the summit push.
Summit (8,848 m): From South Col, climbers have to pass The Balcony (8,440 m) and The Hillary Step (8,790 m), which can be crossed only by one climber at a time using fixed ropes. The final section from the top of the Hillary Step to the summit is relatively short.
Typically, an expedition to Mount Everest takes around 2 months. The short window to climb Everest usually starts in the second half of May and does not last longer than a few days. Many climbers reach Everest Base Camp in March to acclimatize, prepare and wait for the best time to summit.
Most important are good quality trekking shoes and climbing boots as well as warm expedition clothes to protect hands and feet from frostbite. Multiple-layer clothing is necessary because the temperatures can change drastically.
A down suit protects from the cold at high altitude and the summit. Besides that, the packing list should include wool socks and liner socks, gloves (for expeditions), base layers, breathable underwear, trekking pants, softshell and hardshell pants, insulated pants, softshell and hardshell jacket, insulation jacket, expedition jacket, sun hat/wool hat, glacier glasses, goggles, face mask, nose guard, sleeping bag (rated -40 degrees Fahrenheit), trekking pole, harness, crampon, rope, ice axe, ascender, climbing helmet, first aid kit. This list is not complete but covers a few important basics.
Climbing Mount Everest is a challenging activity that involves risks. Therefore, the expedition needs to be prepared and organized with a high level of care.
The following important aspects should be taken into consideration:
With higher altitude, the risk of altitude sickness increases. Proper acclimatization is crucial to stay safe on the way towards the summit of Everest. Nonetheless, altitude sickness can happen; the symptoms of Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) include insomnia, dizziness or light-headedness, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, rapid pulse and shortness of breath. To help prevent AMS or reduce the consequences, the following measures should be taken:
The best time for an Everest Expedition is spring. Most climbers choose March to May for their adventure. During this time, there is a high chance of a climbing window – a period of several days with stable weather, without jet wind or snowfall. Spring is also the time of the rhododendron bloom in the lower areas of the Khumbu region, which makes the trek to EBC particularly beautiful. It is also possible to do this expedition in autumn.