Woohoo! So you’re going do it, you’ve made the plunge to hike to the base of the highest mountain in the world! You’ve been training for weeks, hiking for hours to build up your endurance. You’ve got all the equipment and worn in your hiking boots to prevent blisters. You’ve dog-eared all the important information about Nepal in your Lonely Planet guidebook. You’re stocked up on protein bars and socks. You’re ready to take on Everest Base Camp!
Congratulations – you’ve come prepared.
I, however, was not.
Like all excellent ideas, I decided to do Everest Base Camp on a whim. On what was supposed to be a laid-back, backpacking trip through Asia morphed into a cultural and physical shock to the system. Instead of lying on a beach in the Philippines, I decided that hiking to the highest mountain in the world would be more satisfying, so with a month until my departure date, I booked a trip to do one of the toughest hikes on the planet.
While I had an absolutely fantastic time, my lack of preparation could have been bypassed if I’d done a little bit of research. But have no fear, now that I’ve gone and conquered Everest Base Camp, I’ll fill you in on some of the things you need to know!
You will not step foot on the actual Mount Everest
Alright, laugh all you want but it wasn’t until two weeks before I left that I learnt I wouldn’t actually stand on Mt Everest. Before this revelation, I was having visions of myself, standing proudly on Mt Everest, feeling on top of the world. Blame my blonde hair and lack of general knowledge on Nepal but it was a sad moment when I learnt the truth. Don’t let this dishearten you though, hiking to the Base Camp is a feat in itself and there’s a reward for us amateur hikers that you’ll discover in the next point.
Hike to Kala Patthar to the best view of Mt Everest
Picture this – you’ve hiked for eight days without showers and eating basic food in high altitudes. In other words, you’re bloody exhausted. Base Camp day comes and goes and while the euphoric feeling of reaching those colourful prayer flags near the Khumbu Icefall is amazing, you a little disappointed that Everest was still a bit hard to see. Not to worry, there’s one more hike that will take you higher for not only the best view of Mt Everest but the highest point you’ll go on the trek. Kala Patthar sits at 5,612m above sea level and was the most difficult hike of the whole trip. The strenuous uphill stretch to the top will knock the wind out of you, make you dizzy and turn your legs to jelly but the view from the top is so, so worth it! While most people go for sunrise, the best view is apparently for sunset so make sure you allow enough time to do it. Trust me, even if you’re absolutely exhausted, this will be the most memorable part of your trek.
Pack more baby wipes than a new mother
Before I start on this point, I’m speaking from a girl-on-a-budget point of view. If you’ve got money to throw around, move along to the next point! If not, keep reading. Showers are available at most tea houses, however, are usually glacial temperature unless you fork over some serious dollars. So unless you haven’t got money worries and can afford to have a hot shower every night (also I can’t guarantee the said hot shower will actually be hot!) you won’t want to be stripping off and having an icy shower in a cold climate. This is where baby wipes come in. By the second day, you’ll get used to the ‘baby wipe’ shower and always feeling kind of dirty. Chances are, everyone around you
, unless they’re Richie Rich, will smell just as bad as you! Pack more baby wipes than you think you will need because it can be tricky to find them on the trail and if you do, they’ll be triple the price in Kathmandu! The plus side to not showering for your whole trek is that you will never take showering for granted again!
Same goes for toilet paper and hand sanitiser
Guys, you’re on a mountain in the middle of the Himalayas. Don’t be a dummy like me and only pack one small tube of hand sanitiser and one roll of toilet paper. The price of these essentials is exponential compared to what you would pay in Kathmandu so come prepared. I won’t sugar coat it, the bathrooms get pretty rough the higher you go so you’ve just got to grit your teeth and bear it.
Learn to love (starchy) carbs
Usually, my diet consists of pretty limited starchy carbs and if I have any, it comes from brown rice, sweet potatoes etc. So when I opened the menu at our first tea house to discover there were only white potatoes and white rice on the menu, I had to apologise to my digestive system and carb up. I won’t lie, the first day pigging out on fried potatoes is fun but after six days eating the same carb-filled menu and
unless you’re a meat and potatoes kinda person you’ll start dreading meal times. Though to keep up energy levels, you’ve gotta swallow the carbs, so just knuckle down and spoon in another mouthful.
Don’t be afraid of altitude sickness
I say this because even before you leave Kathmandu, the topic of conversation will be how you’re feeling, Altitude affects everybody, no matter what your fitness level is. While it’s important to go steady, drink lots of water and eat regularly, be careful to not talk yourself into being sick. Your guide (if they’re a good guide) will frequently ask you how you feel – which is good – but can over-warn you about the effects of altitude sickness, which can lead you to think you’re feeling worse than you are. Of course, if you’re feeling sick be super careful but remember that you are at an unusually high altitude so you’re not going to feel 100% all the time.
Stop and take the damn photo.
I remember at times on the trek I was too bloody tired to whip out my camera to catch the beauty that surrounded me. As the days wore on and the stunning Himalayan landscape got more dramatic, I got more blaśe about the view. Okay so I woke up to a snow-capped mountain outside my window, or yeah there’s another glacial pool in the distance, oh wait that’s Mt Everest again. No! Stop! Take the damn photo!
Most of all, enjoy your trek. It’s not easy, the altitude will make you feel like an empty shell of yourself and the plain food will more than likely disrupt your digestion but it’s a small price to pay to witness the glorious mountains of the Himalayas! For most, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and one you want to be absolutely prepared for!