Mount Everest, known in Nepali as Sagarmatha, is the highest mountain above sea level in the world.
Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society, after Sir George Everest, the British Surveyor General of India.
The mountain is located on the border between Tibet and Nepal situated in the Mahalangur Range of the Himalayas in Asia. The Mahalangur Range is actually home to four of Earth’s six highest peaks – making for some unbelievable views.
The Himalayas are the world’s tallest mountain range, spanning across six countries – China, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Afghanistan.
The word Himalaya means “abode of snow” in Sanskrit, which is fitting, given the abundance of white caps you’ll see throughout the year.
The summit lies directly between Tibet and Nepal, with a heigh of 8,848 metres.
When people say that they are trekking Everest, they are usually referring to Base Camp.
Only the most skilled and experience climbers can attempt to summit the mountain, which requires expert gear, plenty of experience, oxygen tanks and the right weather – not mention a whopping cost of around £60,000.
The much more popular and accessible option is Everest Base Camp, which refers to the mountain’s South Base Camp at 17,598 feet in Nepal.
Whilst around 800 people attempt to climb Mount Everest annually, around 30,000 take on Base Camp.
Total distance covered during the Everest Base Camp trek is 130 km – starting and finishing in Lukla – and prices range per person from £1,000 all the way to £4,000 for an average 12 – 15 day trek, dependant on your level of comfort and number of sherpas.
Technically you could get a helicopter to and from Base Camp in a day – but where’s the fun in that?
- Views over the the highest mountain range in the world.
- Sense of achievement like no other.
- Follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s historic climbers and interact with local sherpas who make hardest of treks look like a walk in the park.
Treks and tours to Base Camp start and finish in Kathmandu. Tribhuvan International Airport has numerous weekly flights from Europe and there is plenty to see and do in Kathmandu at the start and finish of your trip, or you can head elsewhere to explore nearby cities or Nepalese countryside.
From Kathmandu you fly to Lukla to start trekking. Flights in and out of Lukla are not for the faint-hearted but could be considered part of the excitement.
With a small plane and a very short runway, pilots often have a small window in which they can safely take off and land.
However, the flight time is very short and by opting to go with a reputable tour company, you will feel like you are in safe hands.
The Everest Base Camp trek is a 130 km round trip starting from Lukla – the gateway to Everest – over the course of 10-12 days, itinerary dependent.
However, the outward 65 km to Everest Base Camp takes significantly longer as it accounts for a couple of days worth of acclimatisation. It is not recommended to trek to Base Camp continuously due to risk of altitude sickness.
For mid-level and experienced trekkers, 130 km might not seem like a long distance over such an extended period of time. However, the average walking speed during this trek is 5 km per hour, due to group sizes, altitude and changing terrains.
The trek is notoriously more difficult in winter when the snow and ice cover the trails but the distance is very attainable for people from all age groups who have prepared.
The standard length of the Everest Base Camp trek is about 14 days but variations, such as the Jiri to Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes Trek, can take longer.
Although it takes around nine days to reach Base Camp, the good news is that it takes just three days to return to Lukla – due to an easier descent and no need for acclimatisation on the way down.
Grade and difficulty of the walk
Mount Everest attracts many climbers, some of them highly experienced mountaineers.
While not necessarily posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, dangers such as altitude sickness, changing weather conditions and risk of avalanches are present.
The main difficulty that trekkers encounter is the altitude. At Base Camp, there is only 53 percent of the oxygen available at sea level.
Individuals climbing this trail should never be worried about letting the group down by speaking up about a headache, as it is a key sign of acute mountain sickness.
The Base Camp trek starts from the lowest point of 2800 metres in Lukla, climbing to a highest point of 5554 metres at the Kala Patthar, which provides an unbelievable view point of Everest and nearby peaks. Very little time is spent at this altitude before the trek descends back down to Pheriche and eventually back to Lukla Airport.
Elevation of the key places along the way are:
|7||Gorakshep / Base Camp||5170m/5365m|
No mountaineering experience or technical equipment is necessary for the difficult hike. Tour companies and various websites online can provide training programmes and acclimatisation techniques that are worth reading up about before setting off.
Some people also choose to opt for altitude sickness pills, whereas others prefer to do as much training as possible and let their body dictate what they can and can’t do on the mountain.
To make the walking less difficult you can opt to have a porter carry your large bags.
This is standard for most tours and allows trekkers to focus on getting to Base Camp and back down the trail in the best health and with optimum enjoyment.
That said, altitude sickness is unpredictable and completely unrelated to fitness – even the fittest of people can suffer from it.
If it hits you, symptoms include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and headache, and if not addressed, altitude sickness can be life threatening.
You also definitely need to be able to deal with cold as the simple plywood rooms in lodges aren’t heated and layers, a good coat and broken-in walking boots are a must.
There are two different permits you need to trek to Everest Base Camp, and it is worth checking whether these are included in your tour package or not.
The first is a Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) permit.
This costs £8-10 if you are part of a group or £18-20 if you are trekking independently, and will also need to supply two passport-style photos.
Agencies will secure these for you in advance of the trek starting but if choosing to go solo, you’ll need to go to the Nepal Tourism Board office near Thamel in Kathmandu prior to your Lukla flight.
The second permit is for the Sagarmatha National Park Entry, which can you can buy at the start of the trail at the office in Monjo.
This costs around £25 + 13% government tax.
Guided or Self-Guided
Everest Base Camp trek planning can be a lot of work.
From permits, accommodations, transportation, and more – there are a lot of logistics to consider before and during your trek, and should only be done by the most seasoned of trekkers.
Our recommendation would be that this walk should not be completed without support of an experienced team.
Most reputable trekking companies will provide four guides per group of 10 trekkers. They will be able to set the pace and monitor everyone’s ability and notice changes in health. The slow approach with an experienced guide gets the best results and improves your chances of successfully making it to base camp.
Should you suffer any health issues whilst trekking, primarily Acute Mountain Sickness, going with a good company or agency will ensure that they are equipped to get you back off the mountain and into healthcare as soon as possible.
March, April, May, late September, October and November are all good months to trek in.
Typically, the best time to visit Everest Base Camp is March through May or late-September through November due to dry conditions, clear mornings and cloudy afternoons.Spring is when Everest Base Camp fills up with professional climbers attempting to summit Everest.
Although this can push up prices and make it busier, you are likely to cross paths with some interesting individuals and feel an electric atmosphere in camp.
In Autumn, Base Camp is much emptier and October offers comfortable weather with warm sunny mornings, cloudy afternoons. No matter when you go, the nights will be chilly – so layer up. B
oth Autumn and Spring are the most popular so you can expect to see plenty of other trekkers, locals, yak trains, and porters.
January and February are the coldest months and climbing may be slowed due to icier conditions and the monsoon season is June through early September, making this the worst time to visit Everest Base Camp.
Depending on what tour and itinerary you opt for, you will be walking for nine days with an average of 15km a day on a standard 14-day trek. The remaining days are used for rest, acclimatisation and the start and end days in Kathmandu.
A typical itinerary will look like the below:
Arrive in Kathmandu and spend a night.
Fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, then walk 4 hours to Phakding
Trek 6 hours from Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Acclimatisation day – usually no walking
Trek 6 hours from Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
Hike 6 hours from Tengboche to Dingboche
Acclimatisation day in Dingboche
7-hour trek from Dingboche to Lobuche
Hike from Lobuche to Gorak Shep to Base Camp and back down to Gorak Shep – around 8 hours in total
Hike 7-8 hours from Gorak Shep up Kalapathar and then to Pheriche
Trek 7 hours from Pheriche back to Namche Bazaar
Climb down from Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Fly back to Kathmandu
Depart or explore Kathmandu
Most people climb up to and down from Base Camp but for an additional cost you can skip the final three days and fly back to Lukla on a helicopter.If going independently, be sure to design or pick the right itinerary.
It is crucial to acclimatise to the low levels of oxygen around 3,500 metres around the town of Namche Bazaar – failing to do so runs the risk of getting serious altitude sickness higher up the trail.
There is a range of accommodation along the Everest Base Camp Trail and higher-end treks will include private rooms at the nicest lodges available in each village.
Many of the lodges even have Wi-Fi for updating friends and family of your progress.
Towards the start of the trek, accommodation typically offer in-room showers, flushing toilets, charge points/plugs and even heated blankets. As you ascend, things get slightly more simple with less/no heat, no electricity outlets, and communal squat toilets.
It is worth packing warm sleeping clothes, a hat and ear plugs.It is worth bearing in mind that meat has to be hiked in from Lukla and refrigeration is limited, so many people opt to go veggie for this reason. If you are trekking independently or your food isn’t included, a simple meal costs around £3-4 but will increase slightly as you go up the trail.
Tea and coffee is safe to drink since it’s made with boiling water but all other drinking water needs to be filtered. Bottled water is expensive and unsustainable, so bring bring your own SteriPen and/or iodine tablets.
When climbing Base Camp via Nepal, capital city Kathmandu is where you’ll most likely end up first and last.
However, don’t make it a fleeting stop on your itinerary. It’s worth tagging on a few days at the end to soak up its atmosphere. Kathmandu encompasses an amazing mix of heritage, architecture, culture, spirituality, and shopping.
Kathmandu’s ancient old city is set around the Durbar Square at Basantapur where the royal family lived until the 19th century and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Walking through the Old City from Durbar Square you can discover shrines and statues hidden away in unlikely places and stumble across mesmerising temples.
Kathmandu’s Thamel tourist district can be busy and an assault on the senses but the streets are lively and lined with shops full of brightly coloured clothing, jewellery, paper lanterns, thangka paintings, carvings, bronze statues, books and more. Try the local cuisine or give it a go with a Nepalese cooking class.
It would be worth avoiding brushing your teeth with any kind of tap water, especially in Kathmandu. Bottled water can be bought in bulk from supermarkets or most mid to high-end accommodation will provide filtered water options.
If you’ve got even more time to spare, leave the city’s traffic and urban sprawl behind and head to the Kathmandu Valley where villages have retained a traditional way of living, untouched by modern development. These villages need tourism more now than ever after the devastating earthquakes tore the communities apart.
|Difficulty||3/5 - 4/5|
|Starts at||Lukla, Chaurikharka, Nepal|
|Finishes at||Lukla, Chaurikharka, Nepal|
|Length of route||130 Km|
|Average time to complete||10 - 12 Days|
|Possible to complete sub-sections||No|
|Highest point||5554 metres|