Guide Kumar Karakheti shares his top tips for a successful journey to the base of the world’s highest peak.
The trek to Everest Base Camp is a stunning walk. It’s not a technical climb, and you do not need previous technical climbing experience to complete the trek. However, you do need to be physically fit.
If you haven’t trained your body to withstand physical exertion at high altitude, you’ll find the trek extremely difficult and may risk your personal safety and the safety of others.
I recommend spending at least four days a week doing intense physical exercise for approximately three to four months prior to your trek. Hiking, running, cycling, and climbing are great options. The more you can train outside – especially on hills – the better prepared you’ll be for the trek. If you can’t get outside, increase the incline on the treadmill or use the Stairclimber. Adding a backpack with 10 to 20 lbs is another great way to increase fitness and prepare for the trek to base camp. At least once a week, aim for a longer walk or hike (duration 4 – 7 hours).
The trek to base camp includes 2 days acclimatizing at 3,440 m/11,300 ft (Namche Bazaar) and 4,530 m/14,800 ft (Dingboche). While not required, any training you can do at altitude prior to arriving in Nepal is extremely beneficial.
On the trek to base camp, hikers stay in tea houses run by locals. Beds are available in twin-shared rooms. Showers are available at tea houses up to 15,000 ft for $3-5, but many people use body wipes and a bowl of warm water instead. The toilets in the tea houses are generally not Western-style toilets, and you’ll need to pack out all waste on the trail itself. Setting your expectations ahead of time will prevent any disappointment or surprise along the trail.
Hydration is key. At higher altitudes, your body will dehydrate much quicker than at sea level, and you will have to make sure you are drinking plenty of water to compensate. I recommend drinking 3-5 liters of water throughout the day. I like to boil water and keep it in a bottle in my sleeping bag to stay warm at night. When I wake up in the morning, I drink from that bottle and try to finish it before we leave for the day. I try to drink three liters while walking and at least one more liter when we reach the next tea house in the afternoon or evening.
Most trekkers will experience a headache at some stage of the trip. This is very common as you acclimate to the altitude, especially if you’re dehydrated. Drinking plenty of water will help eliminate headaches. You can also add hydration mixes like Gu or Nuun to your water to stay hydrated and eliminate symptoms.
If symptoms worsen and affect your ability to think clearly, eat, sleep or hike, you may need to descend to a lower elevation. In extreme cases, descend and seek medical attention.
A trek to Everest Base Camp is an experience unlike any other. Prepare properly and set your expectations accordingly, and you’re sure to have the trek of a lifetime.