The Everest Base Camp trek is one of the most stunning treks in the Nepal region and, as a result, plays host to over 30,000 trekkers per year. This 15-17 day trek takes you through Sagarmatha National Park, where you are fully immersed in the culture of the Sherpa people and jaw-dropping mountain scenery. As popular as this trek is, it’s not to be taken lightly. The steep and rocky trail, thin mountain air, and hazardous landslide areas have a habit of beating trekkers into the ground. As they say, “no guts, no glory.”
Everest Base Camp Trek: So It Begins
I decided to hike the Everest Base Camp to commemorate my 25th birthday because of the bragging rights, and it is the most popular trek in Nepal. I learned through my research that it is most popular during the spring and fall seasons, and to avoid the inevitable crowds, I decided to change the bad weather and start my trek in Mid September. After putting on my best PowerPoint presentation about why this was the trek of a lifetime, I concluded that none of my family or friends could (or would) join me, so I set off solo. I ensured I was carrying one of the best backpack brands for hiking as it would be my companion for the next 15 days holding everything I could ever care about, mostly baby wipes and chocolate bars.
As a woman traveling alone, I knew it was important to pack travel essentials before embarking on the trek, so I stocked up in the lively Thamel district of Kathmandu. After packing and repacking to ensure I wasn’t missing anything, I joined my group at the trekking office. I had chosen to go with a company that placed me with three other solo trekkers planning to leave on the same day, and we got to know each other quite well over the next 15 days, so although I was technically alone, I didn’t have to go through it alone.
I headed to the airport to board my local flight to Lukla, where the trek would begin. This story ground to a halt before it could even start when our flight got pushed back 4 hours due to international arrivals and departures that take precedent when it comes to the runway. After a 4 hour delay, we were finally able to board.
Flying into Lukla is one of the most dangerous parts of the trek as it is known to be the most dangerous airport in the world. Perched on a mountainside, the runway is slanted uphill. Many flights have to pull up and turn away seconds before landing due to last-minute weather changes, and a few haven’t made it. Luckily our flight landed without a hitch, and we were able to start our trek that afternoon.
We bounced along with excitement, not fully aware of the more difficult trekking days ahead. The following two days would take us through some of the lushest jungle forests I have ever seen, and we managed to spot the elusive Himalayan Monal. We trudged up the endless switchbacks to the town of Namcha Bazaar. Namche is the biggest town along the trek boasting the highest Irish Pub in the world, coffee shops, restaurants, bakeries, and any kind of souvenir you could want. I set my eye on a beautiful oil painting of the Himalayan mountain range for later.
After our acclimatization day in Namche, we headed off along the newer section of trail that was widened by a local team funded by donations. This made it easier to pass other trekkers and rush through to the local Monastery in Tengboche, another popular stop along the trek. As we moved along to Pheriche, Dingboche, and Lobuche, we saw the landscape drastically change. The lush jungle and forest had disappeared and were replaced with glaring white peaks and grey boulders. The grass and moss were slim, and it was clear that life up here was unfathomably difficult. In fact, most people in these towns come in and out seasonally and don’t stay all year round due to the harsh climate and temperatures.
We came across another wrench in our plans when our tea house in Lobuche was full, and we would have to for out some more rupees and trek a few more kilometers out of town to stay in another accommodation. We were exhausted and sore, but we reluctantly trudged on. As we crossed a rocky hill, we spotted a glass pyramid in the distance that was so unnatural to the surrounding landscape that it felt like it might have dropped from the sky. Our guide, Karma, told us that is where we would be staying for the night. We learned this mystical glass pyramid is an Italian/Nepali research center built to monitor the atmospheric composition. When it is not in use, it is used as a teahouse for trekkers. They had the best showers higher than Namche and small bottles of liquor for sale, which none of us dared to sample at altitude.
The following day after a quick breakfast, we set off for Gorakshep, the final town before base camp, if you can even call it that. Up here, you can feel the air thinning with every step you take, and it weighed on our group heavily. 13 days of dal bhat (a local trekking staple consisting of lentils, and stewed veggies, and rice) as delicious as it is, had worn us thin. Many people are known to have crazy dreams at Gorakshep when the altitude really hits you. Our group was no exception, and it’s safe to say we all didn’t sleep a wink.
Finally, we had reached our base camp day. We threw back our covers and jumped into our boots to set off on the trail. The sun blazed down on us as we trekked along the ridge that would bring us to base camp. Soon enough, we could see the pile of rocks, prayer flags, and photos that made up the official Everest base camp, which they occasionally change yearly. All of our hard work had paid off, and we reveled in our accomplishment with a Texas-sized bag of beef jerky and four KitKat bars one of my trek mates had been hiding. We had finally made it to the bottom of the top of the world.
What had taken us thirteen days to go up would take us a speedy three days to go down as we seemed to race back to Namche to celebrate with a drink and a game of pool at the Irish Pub. Before we knew it, our grand adventure was over, and we were reminiscing and boarding the plane back to Kathmandu. The beauty and magic of Everest and Nepal had captured my heart and snared me into a trap that has me dreaming of hopping a flight back to experience it all over again.