Planning a hike to Everest Base Camp can be a daunting task. Even more so when you plan on going on this adventure independently. This means without a tour group and having to organise everything yourself. How to plan your solo Everest Base Camp hike was put together to answer some of the most pressing topics. From permits to planning your route, I hope to put your mind at ease after I did the journey last year.
First you must decide on the season you would like to hike. The two most popular see hikers influx the little mountain villages from late September to November (post-monsoon) and March to May (pre-monsoon). The weather in September-November season is best for beautiful views of the mountains with little clouds, but is also a bit colder. Going pre-monsoon though can have it’s advantages as well. March-May is when climbers have populated base camp and have their summit bids. This means there will be life in base camp when you finally get there. The weather is still stable and dry, but clouds close in on the views rather earlier than later. Seeing the “little” tent city was a must for me, so despite weather predictions, we chose to go in April. Pre-monsoon seems to be more popular with hikers as well, so this is another thing to consider.
Once you have settled on a time of year, flights must be booked. For the best value, try to be flexible with your travel dates and layovers. We flew from Bali to Kuala Lumpur, where we changed over to Kathmandu. I use a couple of search engines and apps before booking my flights. Skyscanner and Momondo are the main ones, followed by Hopper mobile app. Recently, I have utilised a travel agent from Student Flights. Allara organises everything for me for the same price or cheaper than what I found online. That’s great as she is not only super helpful and lovely, but is also saving me time! If you are in Australia and would like Allara to help with your travels, send her an email: [email protected].
Once your flights are booked, getting a visa for Nepal is the next important step. Tourist visa can be obtained from the border or you can fill out your details online before hand. A 30-day visa costs $40 USD whereas the 90-day tourist visa sets you back $100 USD. To the best of my knowledge, only dollars in cash are accepted. There was no ATM-s in the arrival hall before immigration, so if you are relying on a visa upon arrival, make sure you have enough cash in the currency required. Fill out an electronic application on one of the self-service visa machines (if you didn’t already do that online) and hand in the receipt at the counter where fee is to be paid. Then with your receipt from there, go through the immigration. For a great article about visas to Nepal, click here.
If you normally don’t buy travel insurance, then this is the one time you must. If not for trip interruptions and lost luggage, do consider the very real possibility of emergency evacuation from the mountains. I took out mine from CoverMore through Student Flights. I have also heard World Nomads insures for emergency helicopter rescues in the Himalayas. Please read the terms and conditions before taking out insurance. I have read that World Nomads only cover helicopter evacuation if they have been contacted first by you or someone you trust and the rescue has been approved by the insurance. Read more here.
After booking your flights, sorting out your visa and getting travel insurance, training for the trip is the next logical step. As mentioned in my previous EBC articles, you don’t need to be an athlete to hike to Everest Base Camp. A moderate level of fitness is advisable when carrying your own backpack, but generally you have to be cool with walking up the hill for 3-5 hours a day.
I didn’t train specifically for this in the gym although I still worked out a couple times a week leading up to the trip. I stopped going to the gym a month before the trip and focused on hiking with a heavy pack. If you have never done any kind of physical activity, starting with leg and core workouts can be a good idea. Add in a hike on the weekends and you’ll be all set!
Getting Your Gear Together
There are many things one needs to consider packing when hiking Everest Base Camp. From layering your clothes to sleeping bags and good quality boots, I have listed it all in my Beginners Guide: Packing For Everest Base Camp. Start saving as most of the gear is not cheap! If you don’t plan on ever needing hiking pants and down jackets, Thamel in Kathmandu offers plenty of shops with rental options and cheaper prices. The quality won’t be the same, but is cheaper than in Australia. I have noticed good quality gear go pretty cheap in the US when the sales are on, so it might be worth keeping an eye on.
Since I went to Everest Base Camp a year ago, new regulations for permits have been put in place. When previously a TIMS card (Trekkers Information Management System) was required, obtained from Tourism Agency Association of Nepal (TAAN), this is no longer the case.
“With decentralisation now giving basic rights to local authority TIMS is no more valid for Everest Base Camp Trek. New local permit system is enforced and it can be obtained in Lukla. This will cost ($20 USD) Rs 2000 for both organised and individual independent trekkers.”-Source: www.everestbasecamptrek.org
You will still need a permit to enter Sagarmatha National Park, where Mount Everest is located. There is a checkpoint in Monjo, where the permits can be obtained for $30 USD + 13% Gov tax (Rs 3390). The cost of the permit is the same for both independent trekkers and for those trekking through an agency. There are a couple of check points along the way where your permits will be checked and registered. The permit can be obtained from Kathmandu for the same price as in Monjo, but it is recommended to obtain permits directly when you get to Monjo.
Flights To Lukla
Most people start their trip with a flight to Lukla-the most dangerous airport in the world. For these domestic flights, I recommend going through a local travel agent, rather than booking online. Despite having to pay a little bit extra for their services, local tour agents have the power to actually get you on the flight you have been booked on. It is not unusual for people not being able to board the plane they booked as it has miraculously been overbooked. People with online bookings will be more likely to be left waiting for the next available plane, which again might be full. It’s best to try and get on the first flight out of Kathmandu as the weather for landing is most clear in the mornings. Should you be asked to catch the next flight or the flight there after, you still have pretty good chances of landing in Lukla.
Planning You Route
If you don’t wish to utilise the knowledge of the local trekking guides, then investing in Lonely Planet Trekking in the Nepal Himalaya is a must. This will detail your itinerary, places to stay and stop for lunches and places of interest along the way. The itinerary can be made as similar to what big tour companies would use or as relaxed as you want depending how you feel. The plus side of hiking independently and also the main reason we did it was the freedom of an open schedule. If I felt sick in the morning, we stayed an extra night to aid with acclimatisation. With tour groups, you are bound to the itinerary that has been set. Hiring a local guide is not a necessity to reach Everest Base Camp, but can still be a great idea. Giving employment to someone in a third world country and also immersing yourself in their culture is a win-win. We didn’t hire a guide, but wish we did.
We followed the following itinerary when hiking to Everest Base Camp:
DAY 1: Flying to Lukla (2860m) and starting the hike. We stopped overnight in Phakding (2610m) where we got to just before lunch. Downtime and looking around the village, playing pool and having a beer.
DAY 2: Phakding (2610m) to Jorsalle (2740m) with a lunch stop in Monjo (2835m). Jorsalle is the last village before a big climb to Namche Bazaar (3440m). Exploring the village that was badly struck during the 2015 earthquake.
DAY 3: Jorsalle (2740m) to Namche Bazaar (3440m), where we gained 700m of elevation in a matter of hours. Altitude effects really came out here. We spent the rest of the day in a horizontal position.
DAY 4: Acclimatisation hike to Everest View Hotel (3880m) for lunch and first proper views of Everest, Ama Dablam, Nuptse and Lhotse.
DAY 5: Namche Bazaar (3440m) to Tengboche (3867m). Another hard day of climbing with a significant elevation drop before a treacherous climb.
DAY 6: Hike from Tengboche (3867m) to Periche (4371m) with a lunch stop in Somare (4010m). My favourite place in the whole of Khumbu was Periche!
DAY 7: Acclimatisation hike over the hill from Periche (4371m) to Dingboche (4410m). Most amazing mountain scenery and a visit to one of the bakeries in Dingboche for some board games, cakes and mint tea. A hike to Nangkartshang Hermitage is recommended, but we opted not to. Return to Periche after your day’s shenanigans.
DAY 8: Long hike from Periche (4371m) with lunch in Dughla (4620m) to Lobuche (4940m) with 670 metres gained in elevation saw me have some signs of acute mountain sickness. We stopped at the tombstones to commemorate lost climbers and sherpas.
DAY 9: Today is the big day! Hiking form Lobuche (4940m) to Gorak Shep (5140m) and Everest Base Camp (5364m). We dropped our bags in Gorak Shep and soldiered on in a blizzard to Everest Base Camp. Return to Gorak Shep for some much needed rest.
DAY 10: From Gorak Shep attempt Kala Patthar (5643m) and then make your way back down to Periche (4371m) with lunch in Dughla (4620m). Some people opt to stop in Dincboche (4410m) after already been to Periche on their way up.
DAY 11: Periche (4371m) to Namche Bazaar (3440m). A very long, killer of a day that we celebrated with meat, coke and chocolate pudding.
DAY 12: Rest day in Namche Bazar. We enjoyed a couple of beverages in different pubs watching mountaineering movies with fellow trekkers.
DAY 13: We then hiked down from Namche Bazar (3440m) towards Lukla (2860m), but had to stop overnight in Chheplung (2660m) due to heavy rain.
DAY 14: Short hike from Chheplung (2660m) to Lukla( 2860m), where we flew out back to Kathmandu for a well deserved shower.
Sleeping On The Trail
For the duration of the trek, you will be staying in little villages with tea houses. Tea houses are the hotels of the Himalayas. These are normally twin rooms shared by two trekkers. Double and triple rooms are also available in some lodges. The rooms are simple with built-in beds, mattresses and pillows. Some places have blankets, while others even had bed linen! This is where you will need your sleeping bag as the thin plywood walls will see temperatures drop dramatically through the night. There are no power points in the individual rooms. Charging your electronics is all done in the common area-for a fee of course. The common area is where you eat, keep warm and mingle with other trekkers. It is normally the only place with fire heating. Once you get above the tree line, yak dung is burnt for energy. And no, it doesn’t stink.
Going independently means just walking into a tea house and asking for availability. No bookings in advance are made, unless hiking with a big tour group. We never had any problems getting a room, except in Gorak Shep on the day we reached Everest Base Camp. Due to a show storm, people that were due to descent, stayed put. With only four lodges and limited rooms, it was our only challenge. More on this later!
Eating And Food On The Trail
Breakfast and dinner will generally be eaten in the lodges you stay in. The price of the rooms are cheap as money is made on food. The meals are not included in your room rate. If you decide to eat elsewhere, the price of the room can go up as well. On most days, you’ll be tired enough to settle with what you can get. The menus don’t vary too much between the lodges anyway. Do try Dhal Bhat-also known as trekkers fuel. The rice and veggie dish is cheap and for a fixed price, you’ll be fed until full. My absolute favourite food was MoMos-also known as dumplings. As we went vegetarian on the trail, I really enjoyed them with yak cheese and spicy sauce. Yum! My other favourites included tomato and yak cheese pizza and fried potatoes with onions, vegetables and eggs. Toast and porridge or eggs was our choice for breakfast. Don’t forget to try the famous warm apple pie-mouthwatering!
Why go vegetarian? Well the meat has to be carried up on the back of porters or flown in from Kathmandu as nothing can be killed in the boundaries of the national park. You can never be sure how long of a journey your meat had and in what conditions it was kept. It’s safer to not eat meat for two weeks, than cancelling your trip to diarrhoea or salmonella.
Lunches are to be had half way through your day in tea houses along the way. Just step into the next one you see when you get hungry. Do keep in mind that there are stretches with no lodges for a few hours. We would also ask to have our water bottles filled up for the journey onward. Don’t forget to treat your water before drinking!
There are plenty of bakeries along the way too-selling mouthwatering cakes. From black forest cake to brownies with fresh mint tea and board games, I wish I could go back to that idyll! The highest bakery on the trail sits close to 5000 metres above sea level in Lobuche and we had a great time there during a blizzard with a hot cuppa and a cake.
I have tried to note down information that should answer most questions for first time hikers. If you still have more or you think I left something out then I’d love to hear from you in the comments! If something is unclear, feel free to reach out and I’ll help you to the best of my knowledge. The Khumbu valley is an amazing place and once you have been, you will always be yearning to go back! Next week I’ll start publishing my Everest Base Camp hike journal so stay tuned!
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