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Preparing for an Everest Base Camp Trek

While one of the most popular high altitude treks in the world, a trek to Everest Base Camp is still no walk in the park.

You need to make it your big expedition of the year and to start get everything organised up to six months in advance.

If you have no altitude trekking experience, and certainly if you have never been on this trek before, it makes sense to go with a tour company.

It can cost a lot less to go it alone but given the  potential hazards of going it alone, first-timers should pay more and have a guide.

More than 100,000 people do this trek every year but even so they will have been through the same level of training and preparation as you.

Going it alone and something going wrong could cause you serious problems.

Let’s now have a glimpse at the things you need to have ready before you do an Everest Base Camp trek.

When you should go?

There are two seasons in which you should consider heading to Base Camp.

Between February and May is known as the pre-monsoon season and between late September and December is post-Monsoon season.

It is down to you when you choose to go – it’s a case of swings and roundabouts here.

The quietest time will be in December so you can trek without masses of people doing it at the same time.

However you will find that the weather can be very cold with low sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow a problem (this also applies to February).

It should be stated it can snow at that altitude at any time of year.

Weather isn’t always amazing but it can be less amazing should there be a late monsoon and you chose September to visit!

If you want to see climbers making a summit attempt this will be in April and May.

At that time of the year it’s so busy you’ll hardly have a quiet moment and that can impact the way you enjoy your trip.

Don’t go it alone – book through a tour company

This is one of those treks where we strongly advise against you going it alone, especially if you’ve never done this trek before and/or have never done a high altitude trek.

Having a tour guide is not just to have someone to show you the way!

The tour guide themselves will have a lot of experience in high altitude trekking and can make decisions on your health should you go down with altitude sickness.

Your first mild bout of it could freak you out a bit but they can tell if you need oxygen or to be sent back to a lower altitude by helicopter in a hurry.

One thing that your tour company should provide is access to bottled oxygen.

The easiest way to get over altitude sickness is to breathe enough oxygen.

During your rest days, which vary according to the company you’re with, you may be offered a blast on the tank to help you get used to the lack of atmospheric oxygen.

The tour company itself will organise your permits and accommodation on the trek, give you specific advice as to what gear you need, as well as specific physical training advice before you undertake the trek.

They will also book your flights into and out of Lukla Airport.

A slower trek up to Everest Base Camp could be the better option.

Some tour companies have two days acclimatisation at Namche, midway up the route while others just one.

Two days in the village could be a little dull but your body will thank you for it.

Another thing to consider is whether to go for a smaller group trek or a larger one.

The ones with fewer people per guide are going to be more expensive but you get greater care and attention as you go.

If you’re older and slower then this might help a lot!

Permits

Something to remember for the trip is that you will need at least two government permits to do the trek.

The first one to book is the one that gets you into Sagarmatha National Park, which for non-Nepalese residents is NPR 3,000 (£20.26).

This will normally be arranged through your tour company but you can arrange it direct with the Nepali Tourist Board here.

On arrival at Lukla Airport you will need a permit called a Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance Permit.

If you aren’t flying in but walking you will need to get that permit from Monjo.

How do you wish to go?

If you have a bit more cash to spend than your average person doing this trek you can spend it on staying at better lodges and tea houses along the route.

Want some luxury?

How about the 5-Star Everest View hotel that as its name suggests, overlooks the mountain.

At 3,962 metres above sea level, this was once the highest such hotel in the world.

That said those who take the trip as one of a lifetime will be given ordinary food at reasonable prices.

It won’t break the bank but nor will you want to write home about the quality in many cases!

Physical fitness

As high altitude treks go the Everest Base Camp expedition isn’t the most taxing.

Just look at some of the monsters we cover in our 10 Best article on trekking in Nepal!

If you have a bit of a paunch and like the odd smoke, then this trek is not going to be beyond you.

You may regret ever having a cigarette at times, both in training and on the trek, but proper physical training should ready you.

Experts all agree you need to get strength and endurance training for your legs and core for at least four months before the trip.

That means time in the gym and on the hill.

You will be carrying a minimum of 6kg of weight on your shoulders for up to six hours of trekking every day, so while out walking, carry that weight in a backpack.

Hard ascending and descending are parts of the trek in equal measure so it is important that your legs and knees are in good shape for ascents and descents with weight.

Your body also needs to be ready for 14 days of trekking, almost every day on the trek.

That means you should be ready to do decent walks both days of a weekend – preferably every day of a Bank Holiday when you hit peak fitness.

Running a marathon is the wrong sort of fitness for the muscles but it is right for the mind – can you push on when your body is screaming from every sinew to back off?

If you have the mental stamina for that then you’re in good shape mentally. Having the heart and lungs for a good time on a half marathon is a great start if nothing else.

Altitude fitness

In the UK there is no mountain with oxygen levels coming close to that of the higher reaches of the Everest Base Camp trek.

There is roughly half the oxygen available in the air at sea level at that height.

That does mean your cardiovascular system needs to be in good shape.

You can prepare for this by making your body as efficient as it can be.

That means getting high intensity training – interval and sprint training – where your body is taken to 80% of peak heart rate for decent intervals.

Altitude and physical fitness training should be done 3-5 times a week so you are ready for the trek.

Quite apart from the smog. at 1,400 metres above sea level, you will notice that it’s harder to breathe in Kathmandu than back in London.

This should be your first little acclimatisation phase – while you explore the sights and sounds of this wonderful city, your body is being introduced to the onslaught it will experience up at 3,000 metres plus.

What gear do you need?

The first thing to buy for the trek is a pair of good quality trekking boots. It’s best to buy them the day you start physical training. Why?

You need to wear them in.

The more comfortable your feet are the less likely they’ll give you blisters and trouble when you’ve enough on your plate with the physical demands of the trek as it is.

200 miles of training treks will make them nice and ready for the trek!

Your tour company will advise you on what you need to get up the mountain.

It needs to do the job and to be lightweight.

Put simply, quite apart from being charged USD $1 per kilo of excess luggage for the flight from Kathmandu to Lukla, you’ll regret every extra gram on your shoulders after a few days trekking!

You will need light layers capable of handling low temperatures.

Even in summer it gets cold up there.

Sunglasses (as you would skiing) and skin cream are essentials too.

Insurance

It’s always good form to check that your travel insurance has a clause permitting high altitude trekking.

Your common or garden holiday insurance for hanging out in Tenerife will exclude such trips so you need to look very carefully.

Not all insurance policies that allow cover for high altitude trekking have a helicopter evacuation option – essential should you develop serious altitude sickness.

Nepal has no malaria or other tropical diseases to worry about (no vaccinations required beyond what you have at home) but do have a good health coverage – ‘Delhi Belly’ can be found even up in this mountain kingdom from street stalls!

Ready to go?

So there we have it – a good idea of what you need to do to be ready from bureaucracy to physical training for a trek to Everest Base Camp.

While not the most challenging treks in Nepal this trek is often the high point of people’s walking careers, who may not have the fitness, funds or experience to do some of the harder ones in the country.

We wish you well on your trek!

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