EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT DOING BASE CAMP
I recently came back from Nepal where I spent 17 days trekking from Lukla all the way to Base Camp. 177km of walking, minimal sleep, lots of rice eaten and getting really good at squatting.
It was the most rewarding and humbling experience I’ve ever had. So if you’ve been thinking about doing it, my suggestion is to stop thinking and start planning. Here’s what you need to know before you go to get you from the bottom to the top in one piece.
Did you go through an organisation or do it alone?
When I booked this trip, I had no idea what I was getting myself into but when I go again, I would 100% do it alone and use my own guide and porter. If you’re thinking about doing it with a friend or group of friends and you’re happy to just wing it, you can organise the entire trek from Kathmandu. They have loads of
This trip though, I booked through Intrepid purely because I wanted everything to be organised before I left because I had never done anything like this before. So if you’re the kind of person who wants organisation and ease, I would recommend going through Intrepid. But there are other tour groups you could find online that also do the Everest Base Camp Trek. Plus it’s also a great way to meet people from all around the world.
If you do go through a tour group like Intrepid, keep in mind that once you pay for the tour you will be expected to still tip the porters, assistant guide and leader per day.
A rough tip for them would look something like this:
Porters: $1-2USD per day
Assistant Guide: $3-4USD per day
Leader: $4-5USD per day
On the last day you would also all contribute and pay for dinner for the porters, leaders and assistant guide as a farewell thank you.
Culturally, you would still have to tip your guide or porter and pay for their meals and accommodation if you did do it alone.
Intrepid takes care of everything like your hiking permits and stuff like that - which you wouldn’t even think to do if you do it alone.
What time of the year did you go? Is there a recommended time to go?
I went in September and it’s probably the best time of the year to go. It is still monsoon season but it’s right before peak season begins. Peak is October until November - December. So there is a major influx of tourists, meaning prices on the mountain are expected to go up. Some places we stayed at were lenient on things like not having to pay for wi-fi (yes you pay for literally everything the higher you get up just an FYI)
They suggest not going in March - August as the temperature can get to -30 at night. Plus a lot of people in the villages will leave or evacuate their homes to go back to Kathmandu or somewhere warmer as well. So September, I would say is the ideal time to go.
How long would you suggest going for?
If you do it through Intrepid or any tour group, it would take about 17 days. But allow two days on either side of the trekking time when you go in case of any flight changes at Lukla. If the weather is slightly bad i.e too much cloud or rain, no flights go to or from Lukla. So if on the odd chance you need to change your flight, it’s better to have a little bit of time on either side to make sure you don’t miss your flight home.
If you decide to go at it alone with your own guide, then I’d still suggest about 3 weeks for the trek itself. Mainly due to acclimatising on the way up. It took us nine days to go up and just three days (yes three days) to come down.
We stayed 2 nights in Namche Bazaar on the way up and two nights in Dingboche as well to acclimatise. During those days that you’re acclimatising, you should do a day hike because how you can acclimatise is by going higher then coming back down to sleep before you go even higher the day after.
How much did it cost all up for the trip?
Depending on whether you decide to go through a tour group or do it alone, it can be done on a budget spending wise.
- The tour through Intrepid: $2500AUD
- Flights you can find anywhere between $700-1000 depending on the time of year you go and airline you fly with. We flew with China Southern via Guangzhou and it cost us about $700
- Tipping: $200AUD
- Visa: $50USD on arrival. Don’t do it in Australia - it will cost you $220AUD if you do. Ain't nobody got time for that...
- Taxi from the airport to Thamel, Kathmandu: 800 Rupee ($10-12AUD)
Costs while you’re on the mountain:
They recommend bringing with you 40,000 Rupee in cash and in small bills as well to cover you for food, water, shower etc.
On food alone you will be spending approximately $30-40USD a day. Food prices as you get higher tend to get more expensive. A plate of rice will end up being approx. 550 Rupee ($7AUD) and a bottle of 1L water will also be about 500 Rupee ($6.50AUD)
And if you love snacks, you will be looking at about 500 Rupee for Pringles and 300 Rupee for Mars Bars, Snickers and Oreros. So my advice would be to stock up in Kathmandu before you leave (Keep in mind though that you will need to carry it as you go up)
Also keep in mind, that most of the snacks are likely to be way past their best before date. Check the dates before you stuff your face.. (I bought/ate a pack of oreos from 2017…)
Namche Bazaar is the last major town with an ATM. However if you pass through Kumjung, they also have an ATM that doesn’t always work due to service. So you’re better off taking out all the money you need in Namche.
Showers, Charging and Wi-Fi
Showers, WI-FI and also charging devices come at a price, usually around the 500 Rupee mark again. Once you pass Khumjung everything is solar powered, so electricity is scarce. Other options are to bring a power bank or solar powered power bank which you can tie to your day pack as your hiking. But be mindful what airline you’re travelling with and what their rules and regulations are around lithium batteries and power banks. China Southern confiscated two I had in my check in luggage.
What’s the water situation like?
DO NOT DRINK THE WATER. The guides will tell you the same thing. I used a water filter pouch but Life Straws are also a safe alternative. Would not recommend buying these or water tablets from Kathmandu or even on the mountain. I would look at buying that here or online. And don’t have ice cubes in your drinks, even in Kathmandu.
Did you take Diamox or any altitude sickness tablets?
Nope. The only tablets I took the entire trip was Neurofen and Panadol when I had a headache.
Diamox is a blood thinner, so it allows your red blood cells to grab hold of more oxygen. On the way down, they did suggest to the people who were taking the tablets to stop taking them. If you choose to take them, half a tablet is all you need. A full tablet may have side effects like diarrhoea. And that is one thing you do NOT want while you’re hiking.
Did you do any altitude training?
Negative. Altitude sickness is one of those things that will and can happen to anyone. I believe (and this is just a personal opinion) doing something like this is more a mental game than it is a physical one. Yes you need to be in good health to attempt something like this, but you need to be mentally prepared to take on the challenge. Resilience and endurance are the two things that will pull you through. Again, personal opinion. But at the same time, don’t be a hero. Listen to your body. There were times where I would take 4-5 steps and be gasping for air as if my lungs were about to collapse. When you feel that, just stop. Breathe. Then keep going.
Concentrating on my breathing, nutrition and hydration were probably the three most important factors I found that kept me feeling good.
Before you even start walking for the day, drink 2 litres of water. Then whilst your walking drink at least another 2-3 litres. When you finish for the day before you go to sleep, drink another 1-2 litres. Hydration is no joke, so keep sucking on that LifeStraw or Camel pack!
Did you feel any kind of altitude sickness?
The most I felt was a headache, lack of sleep the last 3 days before we reached base camp where we were at over 3500m and loss of appetite (which came back as soon as we started heading back down)
The headaches were fixed by Neurofen and LOTS of water.
What’s the food situation like?
As you get higher, the food does become more bland and boring. Lower your expectations for gourmet meals as you get higher.
They do suggest staying away from any meat as well when you get higher because it may have been sitting there for an entire season frozen… so unless you enjoy severe diarrhoea and bacteria - go vegan for the remainder of the trip.
Foods to try:
- Sherpa stew is amazing. The most carb loaded meal you will ever have. It's basically a soup with veggies, potatoes, rice, bread and pasta in the one bowl.
- Dal Bhat is the national dish. You will get a top up wherever you order Dal Bhat. As the Nepali people say ‘Dal Bhat power, 24 hour’
- Garlic soup the Nepalese say helps with altitude sickness.
- Momo's are dumplings. Enough said.
On the Mountain:
- If you go through Intrepid (or most other tour groups) you only need to bring a day pack on the actual hike. The porters will carry everything else in the duffel bags they supply. If you do it alone, you’d have to pay a porter to carry your things or carry it yourself. It will get hard regardless if you have 10kgs or 4kgs as you go up.
- Wear two pairs of socks with your boots, one thicker pair and one thinner pair
- On the way up, it’s not recommended you drink alcohol. You may be tempted by the many Irish pubs on the way up, but I would stay away until you're on the way down. A hangover at high altitude won’t be pleasant
- Sit on the left side of the plane when you’re going from Kathmandu to Lukla, you’ll get the views of the Himalayas
- Hire everything when you get to Kathmandu i.e sleeping bag, walking poles (which I didn't use), even puffer downs if you don't want to buy a $500 one here. A sleeping bag you could rent for about 1000-1500 Rupee. You could pretty much buy everything you need for the trek on the streets in Kathmandu. They have stall after stall of all the equipment you would need at a fraction of the price you’d pay here.
- Thamel is the place to stay in Kathmandu, it’s the tourist hub and where all the stalls are. Hostels and accommodation are pretty cheap. Although hostels just outside of Thamel are even cheaper.
- When you get to the airport in Kathmandu, get an NCell sim card, it has good reception on the mountain.
- A taxi from the airport to Thamel should roughly cost about 800 Rupee.
- Stock up on toilet paper in Kathmandu. They don’t have toilet paper in bathrooms so you will need to bring your own and like everything else, it gets expensive as you go up. It’s about 500 Rupee at the top for a single roll.
- Pack all dry fit clothing so they dry quickly if you decide to wash them at the tea houses. And if they don’t dry in time, just tie them to you backpack while you walk.
- When you’re in Kathmandu OR2K is the best vegetarian restaurant you should try.
SO HERE’S YOUR PACKING CHECKLIST:
- 3 or 4 T-shirts: Dry fit material, so you can wash them
- A pair of shorts: Dry fit material
- A pair of hiking pants
- One set of thermals
- 5-6 pairs of underwear
- 2-3 sets of sports bras (for the girls)
- 2 pairs of good hiking socks
- 1 pair of thermal socks
- 2 pairs of ankle socks for everyday lounging
- A puffer jacket (Patagonia, Kathmandu, North Face)
- A rain jacket
- A pair of track pants/leggings for lounging
A jumper for lounging in
- Good suitable hiking boots. I purchased mine from North Face for $140. They don’t need to be $200+ or fancy. Just make sure they’re comfortable and waterproof.
- Runners (for day hikes and walking around the villages)
Thongs (for showering or lounging in - optional)
- Baby wipes (they will come in handy when you don’t shower for 16 days…)
- Toilet paper
- Hand sanitiser
- Sunscreen (you will burn, guaranteed)
- A day pack - one that can either fold up or a drawstring bag
- A beanie
- A cap
- Sleeping bag (hire it in Kathmandu)
- Phone charger
- Microfibre towel
- UNO cards or playing cards (you’ll have A LOT of down time)
- A Kindle or good book
- A small First Aid kit with bandaid, Neurofen, Dettol.
- LifeStraw or Water filter
- Trekking poles (hire these in Kathmandu - optional)