Nepal Everest Base Camp – EBC Part 1 of 3

In November of 2019, a group of us went to Nepal to embark on a 2-week trek to Everest Base Camp (EBC). I’ll be blogging about the trek in 3 separate postings. This is post #1, which will cover all of the trip preparations, traveling to Kathmandu, then Lukla, beginning the trek and arriving  at Namche Bazaar.

Once I’ve finished covering all of the trip planning and preparations section, I’ll start going through the trek day by day, like my usual travel diary format. During the trek, I kept a journal to better document my feelings and experiences. Any blocks of text that you see with quotes infront are all from my original journal entry.

Let’s go!

 


Planning

We had a small group totaling in 6 individuals. Invites were sent via text message, public IG story, and word of mouth. Once we got a group of people who were interested, we began figuring out the details. By end of January, we had mostly everything already planned out.

wp-monalisa icon When is the best time to do EBC?

February, March, April, May, June, October, November, and December are the recommended months that aren’t raining. But you get the best visibility if you go in the winter time, this is why we chose November.

wp-monalisa icon What are my options to tackle EBC?

  1. Go solo
    Going solo is the most budget friendly. But this also means that you’re responsible for figuring out all of the logistics, and there’s a lot of logistics. We’re talking about confusing a** domestic flights, transfers, finding accomodations every night after a long trek, food, trek schedule, etc. We’ve seen people do it. The hardest part is getting to Lukla, but once you’ve arrived, there are a lot of trekkers and tours on the trail. It’s hard to get lost.
  2. Go solo and hire as you go
    Most individuals who go solo usually carry their own bags and therefore don’t need to hire a porter. But if you did want to hire a porter (someone to carry your excess bags), you can hire one when you arrive at Lukla airport. This porter can also serve as a guide if you’d like. Alternatively, you can hire a guide only, or a porter and a guide — whatever you need. There are even donkeys if you prefer.
  3. Book a tour on arrival
    The only reason people usually book a tour on arrival in Kathmandu is if they didn’t plan on being in Nepal in the first place. This is your typical wandering globe trotter. Others who want to book a tour on arrival are usually trying to get competitive deals, skeptical of the internet, or like scoping out the business (what you see is what you get) and talking to people in person. There are pros and cons for booking on arrival. The bottomline for booking on arrival is that you must be flexible with your time and dates.
  4. Pre-book a tour before arrival (our pick)
    We went with the pre-booking option. This gave us the ability to do our research on the “best” tour companies, pick the exact dates we wanted, book flights in advance, have all the schedule and logistics figured out beforehand, and know how much to prepare and pack.

In February, we booked with Ace the Himalaya. Overall, I had a very positive experience with their company and would recommend them as a consideration when looking at tours. We took their 15 Days Everest Base Camp Trek.

wp-monalisa icon What are the overall per person costs for EBC?

My total spending for this trip was probably around $2,500 (including all the new clothes and gear that I’ll continue to use after my trip). Here’s a breakdown of everything:

  • $1,220 tour price (paid 30% deposit to book, the rest was paid on arrival either cash or card+%fee)
  • Flights from Kathmandu to Lukla were included in our tour
  • All ground transportation included in tour
  • $30 for Nepal entry visa
  • International flight and airport departure tax
  • Vaccinations (we actually didn’t get this)
  • Altitude Sickness Medicine (we also didn’t buy this)
  • Passport photos
  • Travel Insurance (insurance is mandatory with the tour, we used World Nomads)
  • ~$130 tips for guide, porters, driver, etc.
  • ~$10 per extra night to stay at a hostel in Kathmandu
  • Food (before/after the trek)
  • $35 sleeping bag rental
  • $686 round trip flight to Kathmandu from Switzerland
  • … and you might spend a lot on buying additional items to bring with you on the trek (more on this in the Preparation section below)

wp-monalisa icon What did our schedule look like for EBC?

  • Nov 17 – Arrive in Kathmandu (1,400 m). Overnight at a Hotel.
  • Nov 18 – Fly to Lukla (2,804 m) and Trek to Phakding (2,610 m) – 3 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 19 – Trek to Namche Bazaar (3,441 m) – 5.5 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 20 – Namche Bazaar Acclimatization Day. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 21 – Trek to Pangboche (3,900 m) – 5 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 22 – Trek to Dingboche (4,350 m) – 5 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 23 –  Acclimatization Hike to Nangkartshang Peak (5,083 m) – 4 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 24 – Trek to Lobuche (4,910 m) – 5 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 25 – Trek to Everest Base Camp (5,365 m) and then Back to Gorak Shep (5,180 m) – 8 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 26Morning hike up to Kala Patthar (5,555 m) & Descend to Shomare (instead of Pheriche) – 7 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 27 – Trek to Namche Bazaar (3,441 m) – 7 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 28 – Trek to Lukla (2,804 m) – 6 hours. Overnight at a Guesthouse.
  • Nov 29 – Morning Flight from Lukla to Kathmandu. Overnight at a Hotel.
  • Nov 30 – Transfer to the International Airport (we transferred at a later date so we could play tourist a little)

 


Preparation

Once we had all the planning and bookings done, the only thing left before the trip was to prepare for it!

There are two main areas that you need to prepare for:

  1. What to bring
  2. Getting your body in shape

wp-monalisa icon #1 – Let’s start with what to bring and what not to bring.

It’s less of a concern when doing a tour since you have porters, but I’m used to packing light and like to carry as much of my own stuff as I can. I only had the porter carry my pjs, extra days clothes, and toiletries. My total pack weight was less than 25 pounds with water.

Something I wish I had known before hand is that I didn’t need to pack so much snacks. I was way over prepared. You can literally buy everything the night before your trip in  Kathmandu. You’ll be blown away by their selection of snacks, hiking gear, clothes, toiletries, equipment, etc. It’s also really easy to find all these things and super inexpensive.

A silly thing I wish I had during this trip was mouthwash for brushing my teeth with, LOL. You can buy it during the beginning half of your trek.

Here’s my Google Doc EBC Packing List that I created and actually used. Feel free to use it for yourself, too. Otherwise, below are all my thoughts on what I packed.

  1. Backpack & 1L camelbak (I have a 46L Osprey Kyte backpack that I use for everything, it’s my go to travel and trekking bag)
  2. Sun hat and 1L Nalgene bottle (I ended up buying a Nalgene bottle last minute before the trek and I’m so happy I did, it’s a must have if you go in the winter)
  3. Waterproof hiking boots (I always wear these when I hike, rain or shine, casual hike or multi-day hikes)
  4. “Night time stuff”
    • Small tote bag to carry all my “night time stuff” (also doubles as a small tote for shopping)
    • 80 sheets of wet wipes (I used these to shower aka wipe down my body everyday before bed, and clean things)
    • Small bag with skin care items (face wash, lotions, creams, acne medicine, etc.)
    • Small bag with some basic makeup (sunblock, eyebrow pencil, mirror, comb, nail clippers, chapstick)
    • Sleeping bag liner and pillowcase (for my rented sleeping bag)
    • Deck of cards
    • Microfiber towel (I didn’t need this because I never showered, even when I had the chance to)
    • Ziplock for toiletries (toothpaste, floss, toothbrush, deodorant for my feet to prevent blisters, hand sanitizer, biodegradable soap for washing underwear — warning it can be hard to dry, tampons/pads/cup)
    • Dryer sheets (to keep your clothes smelling fresh and stay dry)
  5. Plane clothes, PJs, pre-post trek clothes
    • 2 Short sleeves
    • Flannel (great versatile item)
    • Fleece long sleeve (I had a pull over, which was great to use in the tea houses)
    • Down jacket
    • Casual pants
    • Warm pants/sweats
    • Thin gloves
    • Liner socks/extra sock
    • Face mask (the air is very polluted in Kathmandu, keep your health high by protecting  your lungs before the trek)
  6. Trekking poles (you can also rent these, but I brought my own)
  7. EDC (these are my everyday carry items)
    • Moleskin (the deodorant on my feet helped a lot, so I didn’t need this so much, but it’s always a must for me to have on hand at all times)
    • Sunglasses (UV protection, duh)
    • First Aid (earplugs, bandaids, ibuprofen, anti-infection ointments, eyedrops, athletic tape, safety pins, hand warmers, small ace bandage)
  8. Waterproof sandals and non-hiking shoes 
  9. Ziplock bag and trail mix
  10. Ziplock bag with documents (passport, journal, insurance, schedule, flight information, money, etc.)
  11. Ziplock bag with electronics (kindle, spare batteries, headlamp, Steripen — this was a hot commodity, chargers/adapters, I ended up not bringing a camera and just used my cellphone, earphones)
  12. Trekking clothes
    • Beanie, light buff, warm buff, headband (I used all of these, it got very cold)
    • 3 quick dry underwears (I did wash my underwear once during the trip, but wore each 3-4 days)
    • 2 sports bras (~1 week wear for each)
    • 1 t-shirt (good for the very beginning or end of the trek)
    • 2 long sleeve thermals (towards the end when it’s cold, you’ll want to sleep in these as well)
    • 2 thermal bottoms (same goes for this as above)
    • 1 soft shell hiking pants (same pants every single day of the trek, you can use wet wipes to clean off some of the dust)
    • 4 pairs of trekking socks (wore each pair about 2-3 days)
  13. Waterproofing (waterproof pants, jacket, ski gloves double for warmth, backpack cover)
  14. Ziplock with 1 roll of toilet paper, mosquito repellent (we also sprayed permethrin on all of our clothes before the trek)
  15. Snack Bag (throat lozenges, just a few must have snack items, everything else)
  16. Morning Bag
    • Diamox (I didn’t have this or use this, but most other people on the trek did)
    • excedrin, exlax, immodium, allergy medicine, cold medicine (didn’t need any of these actually, even the allergy medicine)
    • Electrolyte powder, vitamins (it’s so important to stay hydrated so that you don’t get altitude sickness)
    • Instant coffee, tea, protein bars (we were fed enough, didn’t need these supplements, also each  meal included tea or coffee)
    • Extra tissues
    • Water purification tablets (these are good when you have time, but I prefered the Steripen)

wp-monalisa icon #2 – Getting into shape for the trek

Why should you train? So that you can actually enjoy the trek rather than feel like you’re suffering.

Everyone is different, but in general, they say if you are able to run for 30 minutes nonstop, you should be able to do EBC. You should focus on cardio to try and increase your lung capacity, as well as work on strengthening your legs.

I’m not that consistent at exercising and procrastinated a lot before the trip. But overall, I’m in my early 30’s and quite healthy (minus some ankle/knee/hip pains). I had no trouble during the trek and was able to keep up with the porters going uphill (and even pass them).

This is how I prepared starting 2 months before the trek:

  • Practiced breathing exercises to expand my lung capacity
  • Daily yoga
  • Leg strengthening (squats and split squats)
  • Monthly hike on the highest mountain I can find around where I live

 


 

And now that we’ve covered planning and preparation, we can finally begin the actual journey.

Day 1 – Saturday, November 16th
Travel Day

We prepared for our trip to Nepal by finalizing our backpacks and cleaning our home before our train ride to Zurich airport. I also had to finish up some work and timesheets, too. Our fridge is now empty as I made sure to eat everything in it.

 

Now we are on the 1:20pm train from Lausanne gare to Zurich Flaghaften. We will arrive at 3:44pm for our flight at 6:45pm. There will be a layover at Istanbul before we arrive at 11:10am in Kathmandu airport where we will need to pick up our visa on arrival.

A few Nepali phrases to remember:

  • Namaste (hello/goodbye — use with prayer hands and only say it once to people)
  • Tik chha? / Tik chha. (good?/good — very versatile)
  • Respectful names — everyone I used these names with really liked it
    • Diddi (older sister)
    • Bahini (younger sister)
    • Dai (older brother)
    • Bai (younger brother)
  • Kanna (food)
    • Piro (spicy)
    • Pugyo (full)
    • Ramro (positive expression)
    • Chiyaa (tea)
    • Dude chiyaa (milk tea)
    • Calo (black)
    • Umaleko paani / filter-ko paani (boiled/filtered water)
    • Parchha (I need) “ma ____  parchha”
    • Pardina (I don’t need)

Landing in Istanbul at midnight, we had to walk through the huge airport and go through security TSA again to go to the international transfer gate. Luckily we got there just as they opened a new line so we didn’t have to wait so long.

 

Once in the airport, it was super impressive. At our gate it looked like everyone was going trekking since they had bags and gear for hiking. It was quite exciting. Even on the plane everyone’s overhead storage was a backpack. Ours were bigger than everyone else’s though.

 

We were fed two meals on this 6h flight, breakfast and another sandwich for a snack.

 

Approaching Kathmandu, I can see all of the large Nepali mountains. Which one is Everest? I don’t think it was there visible on the horizon.

 

My current mood is excited and anxious. I feel a little tired even though I slept most of the flight. Hopefully I can catch up on sleep today before the flight out tomorrow to Lukla.

 


Day 2 – Sunday, November 17th
Arrive Kathmandu (1,345m)

The airport was super confusing and it took us nearly 2 hours to get the visa on arrival. What we should have done was get our application from the machine, pay the visa, fill  out the arrival form, and then finally stand in the 15 or 30 day visa line.

Eventually we got our visas (after some mishaps). We made it out of the airport (well after a metal detector that no one seemed to be really checking).

Before leaving the airport, we got our sim cards (which also took a really long time).

With our group that we found, we met our guide and were greeted with these orange flowers. We then split into two cars and headed to the hotel. Our room was dirty compared to the guy’s.

Thirty minutes later, we had to go to the trekking company office where we went over some pretrek rules and paid.

Pretrek meeting notes:

  • If you take Diamox, start at Dingboche
  • Drink 3L of water per day, walk slow, don’t push
  • Guide’s name is Deepak
  • 5am in lobby with packed bags, flight at 6:15am

We exchanged some cash into local currency, about $150 per person. This was a good amount for us.

Later that night we explored a bit and had an Indian dinner feast.

We had some beer with our dinner. I must admit that I didn’t think it was a good idea, especially because last time in Peru I got altitude sickness after having some wine, but I did it anyways. We were at a lower altitude and what’s life without a little risk.

Walking around the city of Kathmandu was magical. All of the lights and prayer flags everywhere. The only thing is the horrible pollution. Make sure to wear a face mask.

No trip is complete without some Nepali momos! We had to play leap frog and cross some major traffic to get these yummies from a hole in the wall restaurant.

Back at the hotel, Vanessa and I stayed in while the guys went out.

 


Day 3 – Monday, November 18th
Fly to Lukla (2,804m) & trek to Phakding (2,610m)

At the hotel lobby we stored any bags, grabbed our breakfast and prepared to head to the airport. The ride was fast.

The domestic airport weighted our bags and we checked in.

Inside of the domestic airport (located next to the International airport), there are a bunch of these small airline booths. It was super informal going in. Everyone there seemed to be with a tour group, and the airline workers look like they are used to only dealing with local guides, not tourist.

I imagine had we tried to plan this trip on our own, we would have had some issues with the domestic flight from Kathmandu to Lukla. Around the time that we booked, there was a recent government issued updated that made it pretty much mandatory for tour groups to no longer fly out of Kathmandu. The government wanted all groups to take a 5+ hour bus ride to another city and fly from there instead. Luckily, Ace the Himalayas found flights for us from Kathmandu, so we didn’t have to take that long bus ride.

Inside of the terminal waiting area, we nervously waited for our flight. This is the part of the trip that everyone is crossing fingers for in hopes that all goes well, even our guide. In the end, we just told ourselves, well if we die, it will happen fast.

Lukla airport (Tenzing-Hillary) is arguably the most dangerous airport in the world. There are a number of factors that make the airport dangerous — it’s 2,842m high, surrounded by mountains (no where else to land or fly around if needed), has a 527m long short runway (ends at either a cliff or a wall), and the runway slopes at almost a 12% grade incline. The good news however, is that the “safest” flight is usually the earliest morning flight when visibility is best.

When it was 6:15am, we got on a bus and were shuttled directly to our small plane.

When we got on board, they gave us candy and cotton for our ears. Surprisingly there was an onboard flight attendant.

The tiny aircraft fit about 20 people or less. No luggages are allowed inside, except for small backpacks which you need to just keep on the floor between your legs. When the engine turned on, the propellers were very loud. I’m glad I had my earplugs with me.

When we took off, the weather didn’t look clear, but before we knew it, we were above the clouds. It was beautiful. The mountains were grand.

There were some gorgeous views outside, but I couldn’t really catch it on camera from our side of the aircraft. You know you’re on a scary flight when you see the people around you praying nonstop. It made me nervous.

For a few minutes everyone forgot about the pending landing to come. But then the landing came and it came quickly. It all happened so fast! I’m glad.

We were so busy looking at all the views that I didn’t realize that we had already approached the runway. And since the runway starts at a cliff, the ground just sort of comes up out of nowhere and smacks you. This is the runway btw.

At the airport in Lukla, there were many porters and guides waiting to be selected for a trek. We moved through them and over to a cafe. There we settled our belongings, drank tea, and stocked on water.

The town of Lukla is quite cute. There are little shops here where you can do some last minute shopping, or even get a haircut! There were also a bunch of these dogs. You’ll actually see throughout our trek, I have many encounters with cute dogs.

Then the trek began. Three hours long with mostly descent and just a little incline. The walk was very enjoyable for me. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

What I like about the trek is that the path is well maintained. I felt like I was hiking through a national park. I didn’t have to worry too much about looking down all the time so that I wouldn’t trip. There wasn’t much to trip on, well, except for possibly walking in yak poop.

The Himalayan mountains where we trekked are home to the Sherpa people, and are often considered sacred. Throughout the trek, there are loads of religious carvings and stones. It’s literally everywhere.

We arrived at noon at Phakding town and are staying at a beer garden. Had lunch.

For lunch I got the dal bhat and sherpa stew. It’s not recommended to eat meat during the trek, but I did have chicken (it was still safe to eat meat where we were). Because the mountains are sacred, you can’t slaughter animals on the mountain. Therefore, meat has to be brought up the mountain. The farther up the mountain, the longer it takes for the meat to get there, and the more likely it’s no longer safe to eat.

Checking into our room, we organized our belongings while the boys slept. When they woke, we went out to explore the town.

I love all the mountain air, the animals, and just watching how people live. It’s really so different. In one home, we caught a glimpse of the family smoking food over large straw mat on the ground.

And this cute horse with curly grey hair and a bucket of potatoes. Be my friend, will you?

Eventually we ended up at a Reggae bar and then an Irish bar. Now it’s almost dinner and we will probably just eat, hang out, and then sleep. Looking forward to tomorrow!

Surprises:

  • 2 bathrooms available in the hallway of our tea house
  • electricity for lights in the rooms
  • trouble sleeping from 9pm-7am, so read from 11:30-2am

 


Day 4 –  Tuesday, November 19th
To Namche Bazaar (3,460m)

Pretrek meeting notes:

  • 7:30AM Breakfast
  • ~3hr to lunch break (200m up)
  • 6-8hrs to Namche
  • Walk slow with group
  • Lots of bridges, highest about 250m
  • Rain gear (be prepared!)
  • Carry at least 1L of water

Had breakfast with the gang at 7:30am. Woke up at 6am and tried to sleep in but couldn’t. We headed out around 8am and hiked until 11:30am. The trail was packed with  people.

We found a dog along the way and it followed us for part of the trail. This was the second day of actual trekking, and it was even more beautiful than the day before.

Along the trek, there are these tourism booths that our guide would stop at. I think to continue trekking, you actually need to pay a fee for each one that you pass. I can’t remember exactly how many we passed during our entire trek, maybe 6-8 of them? But because we were on a tour, we didn’t have to deal with any of that. I almost didn’t even notice the booths the first few days.

Lunch was 11:30-12pm.

This is my favorite lunch spot because they serve Shin Ramen with a fried egg. Also the views are super nice since it’s between a canyon with a running river.

Continuing our trek, you can see just how beautiful it was. Just know that today had a ton of uphill mountain (and bridges!). On all of the bridges, there are always a ton of prayer flags attached.

We finished hiking around 2:30pm, arriving at Namche Bazaar. The tea house we were supposed to stay at was full so we are staying at another place. The trek today was steep, but overall not difficult. I felt great.

In Namche Bazaar, I started to have a minor headache, so I got a bottle of water to help with it. This is our second day drinking beer and now trying the Everest whiskey. One of our porters was around, so we bought him a beer. Our guide Deepak caught us drinking and is now telling us about the trek and drinking.

 

But back to the hotel. It’s super nice! Everyone showered (it costs extra money), I didn’t. We will have noodles and momo for dinner.

We helped Claude buy a bracelet for his girlfriend. Vanessa bought one, too. Maybe we will all get scarves as well. I wouldn’t mind having a new one. Erick got a massage and enjoyed it. The massage therapist asked him if he is still on his way up or coming down.

Surprises:

  • tea house food is good
  • nice bathrooms and rooms
  • there’s a mirror in the room
  • outlets in the room to charge devices for free
  • lights in our room

Namche Bazaar is fun. There are tons to do here, including bars, restaurants, a real North Face store, and a bunch of other shops to do your last last chance shopping (only for the true procrastinators).

The next day we will stay in Namche Bazaar again as an acclimation day. It was good timing to take an extra day here. This is when multiple people in our group started to get some minor altitude sickness… and so it begins. Dun, dun, dun!

 


 

That’s all I have for part 1 of EBC.
Stay tuned for part 2!

Until then, stay cool and safe.

x Sarah

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