When asked as to why he wanted to summit Mt. Everest, mountaineer George Mallory famously said “Because it is there!”. For those of us who lack the resources, and perhaps the bravado, to climb to the highest point on earth, a trek to Everest Base Camp is the next best option.
The trek is undoubtedly physically and mentally demanding but the pay off is totally worth the hard work. Mallory says ,”When I reached the high point of Kala Pattar—600ft above the Base Camp—late one November evening, I was struck by the most sublime of sights: the final glow of the setting sun shone on the southwest face of Everest while the full moon appeared in the sky behind her west shoulder.”
Here are few list of things that needs to be considered if you are planning a base camp trek.
The question I get most often is: “Do you think I can do it?”. To which, my answer is: “Do you want to do it?”
According to Mallory, the ultimate key to get you to the top is your mental strength. He thinks that anyone with a reasonable level of fitness can complete the trek if you are mentally prepared for it. Brisk walks for an hour a day and climbing stairs with ankle weights are excellent training in preparation.
The best time to Trek!!
Spring season is the apt time to trek if you wish to hike in snow and watch the orchids and rhododendrons in full bloom. But with the glistening snowflakes comes flickering weather conditions. However, if you want to enjoy the stunning views without any disruption, go in the fall season when the valleys are dry and bare but the skies are beautifully clear and the views are marvelous.
Mallory suggests taking 2 weeks for the actual trek from Kathmandu to EBC and back. However, extra 3 days is recommended if you want to make it to the beautiful Gokyo Lakes as well.
Solo Trekking or with a group?
Mallory prefers going with at least one close friend. You don’t have to adjust to sharing each other’s space in a room or tent and still have energy to blend in a larger group.
As it is your feet that does all the work, take in a good pair of waterproof hiking boots with solid Vibram soles and ankle support. Carry a sleeping bag which can keep you warm in sub zero temperatures and also a big down winter jacket. Mallory personally preferred using Platypus for carrying water rather than a bottle and a Petzl headlamp rather than a torch.
What trekking technique should you follow?
Slow and steady wins the race. Climb a hundred steps at a time without stopping or looking up, break to catch your breath, then climb another 100 steps, break—and repeat, repeat, repeat. Stick to the side of the mountain at all times, otherwise you run the risk of being pushed off the edge by a thundering yak train
EBC Trek offers the option of staying in teahouses all along the way. Teahouse is usually a small bare room with two cots and thin wooden walls. Teahouse is the best place to bond with travelers from all round the world over a glass of beer.
The food follows along the lines of the accommodation—quite basic, but you won’t mind too much as your trekking exertions will have you wolfing it down! Dal bhat is the basic fare, often served with vegetables and papad and you can have as much as you want. Other options are Sherpa stew, noodles, pasta and pizza—stick to vegetarian food since the meat is unlikely to be fresh. For breakfast you can expect a set menu of porridge, toast, eggs and potatoes (try the apple pancakes with honey if they are available).
Things that could go wrong!!
The obvious one here is not being fully acclimatised, which will lead to AMS and, in the worst case, having to abort your journey as you are forced to descend to recover.
Other mishaps that might occur are flickering weather conditions, delayed or cancelled flights to Lukla.
Mallory recommends everyone to make it up to KalaPatthar, situated 600ft higher than the EBC. “At 18,200ft, Kala Pattar is over 600ft higher than EBC and the view of Everest, flanked by its sentinels of Lhotse and Nuptse, is simply unparalleled.”