Everything about the Everest Base Camp Trek

Introduction to the Mount Everest Region

Trekking to the Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal is in many ways like visiting a mountain museum. The only difference is that the things on display are all real. Nowhere else on earth is there such a dense concentration of mountains of such stature. Four out of ten of the world’s highest peaks are here. Basically, you will be breathing and eating mountains throughout. In the backdrop of this grandeur, you will find the Himalayan Tahrs as tame as your domestic goats, and the iridescent Himalayan Monal more trusting than your barn chicken. And to top it all off, the amazing Sherpa hospitality comes second to none. In the contemplative adventure that is the Everest Base Camp Trek, you will miss nothing, not even the internet.

At the same time, it is also one of the toughest treks in Nepal primarily because of the altitude. You will be spending a minimum of 6 nights above 4,000 meters and at least 2 above 5,000 meters. To put this number in perspective, the air pressure at 5,000 meters is just above half that of sea level, which means you are seriously short of air up there. But as long you remember that you are on vacation and that there is no rush (after all that is the point of a vacation, right?), you will do great. Many a people who forget this simple fact of life and underestimate Acute Mountain Sickness either end their trek half dazed in a rescue helicopter or in missing posters that you will see along the trail. Go slow, even glacial if need be, and this will be the most amazing trip you’ll ever have.

May Happy Feet go with you!!

Best of Mount Everest Base Camp Region

While Mt. Everest gets the most press coverage when it comes to the Everest Base Camp Trek, the things that people remember the most are the tall tales and cheeky humor of the Sherpas. Indeed, the land is only as good as the people and the Sherpas have crafted the Everest landscape through their compassion and persistence. The tame wildlife here stands testament to their Buddhist compassion while terraces as high up as 4,000 meters and a tented city as high as 5,364 meters pay tribute to their hardy persistence. As such, above anything else, the best thing about Everest Region is the Sherpas. Additionally, here are some other things that make the Everest region amazing:

  1. Mount Everest and three other peaks above eight thousand meters

    Mt. Everest, the most famous piece of rock in the world, is obviously the star of the show among the mountains. The best place to see Mt. Everest is from Kala Patthar or Gokyo Ri. Second, you will also see the fourth highest peak Lhotse whose wall will constantly block a good view of Mount Everest until you reach Kala Patthar or Gokyo Ri. The fifth highest peak Makalu can be seen from a side trip to Nangkartshang Peak or Gokyo Ri. As for Cho Oyu, the sixth highest peak in the world, you will meet her if you take a trip to the Gokyo Valley.

  2. Mt Everest Base Camp

    Even though everybody wants to be here, very few know that you cannot see Everest from Mt Everest Base Camp. Also, remember that there is a trekker’s base camp and the real Mt Everest Base Camp a little further on.

  3. Gokyo Lakes

    While not technically part of the Mt Everest Base Camp Trek, this trek to a side valley can be incorporated with a trek to Mt Everest Base Camp into what is called the Gokyo- Cho La-Everest Base Camp Trek. And the lakes are ahhmazing!!!

  4. Mani Rimdu

    The grandest and most colorful festival in Everest Region. Takes place at Tengboche Monastery. A crowd puller. Dates for the public part of the festival for 2018 are Oct 24-26.

  5. Rhododendrons

    The eastern Himalayas are famous for the magnificent rhododendron blossoms during spring. Here in the Everest Region, the lower stretches between Lukla and Namche get their crimson blossoms around March-April while places beyond Namche get their purple and yellow blossoms from May-July. Both are amazing!!

Things to be careful about in the Everest Region

  1. Flight Cancellations

    One of the most popular ways to get to Everest is to fly to the Lukla Airport. And flights to this airstrip are highly dependent upon the weather. Hence, it pays to plan flexibly (think +/- 2 days on average) especially if you are flying between May and September. Alternately, you can start/end your trek from the road head town of Jiri. This used to be ‘the’ route before the airport at Lukla. Currently, it has the distinction of being less touristy and turning you into a lean and mean climbing machine by the time you reach the upper stretches of your trek. However, please note that starting from Jiri will cost you 7 additional days and if you are planning to exit from Jiri, it will cost you four additional days.

  2. Acute Mountain Sickness

    Remember you will be walking to 5,643 meters and at that altitude, there is less than half as much oxygen as at sea level. If you were to teleport to such altitude from sea level, you would have trouble walking within two hours. You would develop a severe headache, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. Well, that is Acute Mountain Sickness and it is your body’s way of telling you that it is short on oxygen. And in case you are wondering, yes AMS can kill. However, lucky for you, you will be walking to Everest Base Camp as opposed to teleporting, so your body has the chance to go through acclimatization, a process whereby your body gradually increases the number of red blood cells to make up for the lack of oxygen in the atmosphere. Please read about AMS very carefully.

  3. Khumbu Cough

    As you go higher, you will cough that much more and at times the coughing can get so violent that it hurts like hell. The best way to avoid the Khumbu Cough is to breathe humidified air by using a mask of some sort. A buff is great for this purpose and a handkerchief will do just fine. Candies or cough drops will help. Read more about it in the Safety Section.

When to go to Everest Base Camp?

The best answer to when to go to Everest Base Camp is, “Whenever you are ready”. The Everest region has something unique to offer just about every month. Hence rather than settle for the conventional March-April and October-November narrative that only favors mountain views, we would like to walk you through a year in the Everest Region and show you what it has to offer.

Everest Base Camp Trek in January/February (Winter)

Summary: January/February in the Mount Everest Region is good for trekkers who are willing to brave the cold for amazing mountain views and empty trails.

Popularity: January/February is not a very popular time among trekkers and only about 7% of the trekkers visit the Everest Region during this period. While you will not be alone by any means, you will mostly have the trail to yourself!!

Natural Attractions: Winter is a good time to see large wildlife like Himalayan Tahr, Snow Leopard, Himalayan Monal and Musk Deer. Most of these guys come down to the valleys or even close to human settlements for the winter. Hence, there is a higher likelihood that your paths will cross. Also, the mountain view is as good as it can be and the Gokyo Lakes are frozen!!!

Cultural Attractions: Chances are that the Sherpa New Year also known as Gyalpo Losar will fall sometime at the end of February.

Weather: While the nighttime temperature can be as low as -20 degrees C at 4,000 meters, it is pretty tolerable during the day. Skies are clear except for a few days during which snow is likely. While clear skies make amazing mountain views possible, please note that clear skies coupled with snow cover increase the amount of UV exposure.

Planning Tips: Think of good waterproof boots to slush through the snow and warm layers including a good down jacket for the variation in temperature. High passes can be done, but be prepared for deep snow at certain places. Crampons can come in handy. Make sure you have a good sunglass and sunscreen as UV exposure will be high. Flights are regular, but not all lodges are open. It makes sense to call them in advance. However, it will seldom be that all of the lodges will be closed.

Everest Base Camp Trek in March/April (Spring)

Summary: This is a period that offers a little bit of everything: a little bit of mountain view, a little bit of warm weather, a little bit of flowers, a little bit of a crowd, and a little bit of a little bit of a little bit. ;)

Popularity: March/April is the second most popular period for the Everest Base Camp Trek with about 25% of the trekkers making their way to the highest base camp on earth during this period. By April, the tented city that is Everest Base Camp is buzzing with activity as April/May is the favored month for an Everest Summit.

Natural Attractions: March/April is the time of rejuvenation. As the snow begins to melt, rhododendrons start to peek out their sleepy heads at the lower altitudes. Higher up primroses and irises also start stretching their arms to welcome the sun. With the flowers, some of the smaller birds that had flown to the lowlands for the winter are gradually making their way up and by mid-April, the spring air is filled with a flurry of wildlife activity.

Cultural Attractions: Chances are very high that Buddha Jayanti, Lord Buddha’s Birthday, will fall around the end of April. Make sure to visit a monastery if you are around one during this day for some somber celebrations. The Sherpas are also preparing for a new agricultural cycle. Walls are repaired and compost is heaped and the ground is readied for planting.

Weather: March is only marginally warmer than January/February and the mercury can still drop as low as -20 degrees C at 4,000 meters. However, April is much warmer and at Namche, the mercury also starts to climb north of 0 degree C. As the months start to warm up, we also see an increase in precipitation with occasional thunderstorms and hailstones. However, the weather is generally good, and the mountain views are great.

Planning Tips: Make sure to pack rainwear and warm layers. A good waterproof boot will be your best friend as you might have to trudge through slush and rain. Flight disruptions at Lukla are unlikely but possible. So plan with one or two days delay in mind.

Everest Base Camp Trek in May/June (Summer)

Summary: This is the time for mountaineers, marathoners and Mowglis. If it weren’t for the flight disruptions, this could very well be the best time for the Everest Base Camp. Consider entering and exiting at Salleri to enjoy this period without the associated risks.

Popularity: Given that trekking in the Everest Region is still heavily dependent on flights to Lukla, May/June isn’t yet a popular option with only about 10% of the trekkers coming in during this period.

Natural Attractions: Biodiversity is at its absolute best during this period. Period. Red rhododendrons, blue rhododendrons, yellow rhododendrons, little rhododendrons, big rhododendrons, you name it, May/June will probably not disappoint. The cacophony of the cuckoos and barbets is perhaps at its peak. Redstarts, laughing thrushes, and nutcrackers are busy showing off and fending their territories. All in all, for nature lovers, there isn’t a better time to go to the Everest Base Camp.

Cultural Attractions: May/June is also a very eventful period from the cultural point of view. In early May, you have the Buddha Jayanti. Throughout May, the Everest Base Camp is a hotbed of activity as mountaineers eyeing for Everest are making their summit bids. May 29 is celebrated as Everest Day, commemorating the first ascent of the highest point of earth. On the same day, hundreds of marathoners navigate the treacherous terrain from Everest Base Camp to Namche as part of the epic Tenzing-Hillary Everest Marathon. Also, just around the corner in early June is the colorful Mani Rimdu festival at Thame.

Weather: As far as the temperature is concerned, it doesn’t get better than this. However, this period sees a marked increase in precipitation. While mornings start pretty clear and nice, it gets progressively cloudier and the day usually ends with some rain/snowfall. Even though the days can be overcast, the UV exposure is something that needs to be considered.

Planning Tips: Make sure to wear your sunglasses even if it is overcast especially at higher altitudes and when there is snow. Plan flexibly if you are taking a flight to Lukla. Or better yet, enter and exit from Salleri which is just 2 days walk from Phakding.

Everest Base Camp Trek in July/August (Monsoon)

Summary: Only for hardcore trekkers who are willing to put up with the elements for an authentic cultural experience and high altitude flowers.

Popularity: This is the least popular period among trekkers and it only sees 3% of the trekkers that come to Khumbu annually.

Natural Attractions: Even the alpine pastures are full of flowers by now and the entire Everest Region takes up a green veneer that is absolutely amazing.

Cultural Attractions: As both the trekking season and agricultural season end, the Sherpa villages finally breathes a sigh of relief and celebrate the Dumji festival. Also, given that for once the local people aren’t busy, you might even be able to strike up some meaningful and deep conversations with them.

Weather: The rumors are true. It does rain cats and dog during the monsoon. However, the silver lining is that the rainshadow effect after Namche dampens some of the force of the monsoon and that mornings are usually dry. However, don’t count on good visibility.

Planning Tips: Don’t count on flights. Period. If you are walking from Jiri or Salleri prepare for leeches. However, no one has yet been injured by one of these innocent creatures. Just carry some salt, alum, iodine or anti-leech oil if you don’t have the stomach for blood donation. Again the silver lining is that past 3,000 meters leech density starts to thin out and by the time you reach 3,500 meters you know you are past leech country.

Everest Base Camp Trek in September/October (Fall/Autumn)

Summary: This period is everyone’s darling and the trails are as crowded as it can be. However, the mountain views are something to write home about.

Popularity: This is one the most popular periods with a whopping 32% of trekkers making their way to Everest Base Camp during this period.

Natural Attractions: The mountain views are at their absolute best. While you will be able to see some flowers until September, there will be very few of them in October. Even though the birdlife has quieted down substantially, you will still see a lot of them fleeting about. By the end of October, however, a lot of birds start on their annual southward journey.

Cultural Attractions: In some of the years, the Mani Rimdu festival at Tengboche falls in late October.

Weather: Temperature is pleasant throughout this period with highs at Namche (3,440m) hovering around at around 10 C. However, at night the temperature can drop to around 0 C. Higher up at Lobuche (4,940m), the lows can be as low as -10 C by late October. As for precipitation, while September has its fair share, October is generally dry. Visibility is also amazing as the atmosphere has only recently been cleared by the monsoon rains. However, please note that post-monsoon disturbances are getting stronger and can lead to a period of heavy downpour even during October.

Planning Tips: If you are planning to visit the Everest Region during this period, the one thing you need to do is book your flights and lodges way in advance. This is the one period during which the accommodation facilities at Everest is stretched to its maximum. Hence, book, confirm and re-confirm your reservations if you are traveling independently. This will be especially important if you are planning to coincide your trek with the Mani Rimdu festival at Tengboche.

Everest Base Camp Trek in November/December (Pre-Winter)

Summary: Underrated. Could easily be the most popular season.

Popularity: November/December is a pretty popular period with about 22% of the trekkers making their way to the Everest Base Camp during this period.

Natural Attractions: December is the driest month of the year in the Everest Region. Hence, the mountain views are great. However, a lot of the little birds that go to the high altitudes to breed have either made their way down or are on their way. Large wildlife like Himalayan Tahr and Himalayan Monal, however, are getting much easier to see as they too are making their way down to the lower valleys of Everest.

Cultural Attractions: The most colorful festival of the Everest Region, Mani Rimdu at Tengboche, is held during early part of November. If you are in the neighborhood during that time, this is a spectacle you do not want to miss.

Weather: The temperature while cold, is still tolerable. However, make sure to pack in warm layers. As this season is the driest part of the year, the sky will be very very clear. This means good mountain views and high UV radiation.

Planning Tips: Flight disruptions will not be a problem at all and neither should lodge availability. However, do pack in good sunscreen and sunglasses for the UV radiation.

How to get to Everest Base Camp?

Well, to be fair there are two Everest Base Camps, one in Tibet and the other one in Nepal. For now, we only concern ourselves with the one in Nepal. For those who do not know where Nepal is, it is smack in the middle of China and India. Everest Base Camp lies in the eastern part of this small country.

Now that we have a rough idea of the horizontal location of Everest Base Camp, let us also locate it vertically! At 5,380 m (17,600 ft), the Everest Base Camp is just 3,500 meters short of the summit of the highest peak on earth Mt Everest (8,848 meters) and is a good 600 meters above the highest peak in the Alps, Mont Blanc (4,808 meters). Hence, it is a walk that is not be taken lightly.

Hence, in order to get here, you have to first get a ticket to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. From Kathmandu, you can either take a flight to Lukla, the most popular option, or drive to Jiri/Salleri. From these places, you will have to trek for 7-12 days to get to Everest Base Camp. Here is more detail on how to get to the Entry/Exit points to the Everest Region.

Getting to Lukla

Flying to Lukla is the most popular way to get to Everest. It is a short 40-minute flight on a tiny plane and will set you back by USD 179 one way. There are various airlines that fly into Lukla including Summit Air, Tara Air, Sita Air and Simrik Air.

The one thing that you have to be aware of flying into Lukla is that the flights are highly dependent on the weather and mountain weather can be pretty unpredictable. So please plan your itinerary with a buffer of at least 2 days, especially if you are flying in during May-August. It also makes sense to confirm the flight before heading off to the airport. While you might have to do this on your own while flying from Kathmandu to Lukla, on your way back from Lukla to Kathmandu, the lodge you stay in will do this for you.

Logistics aside, the flight to Lukla is a mountain flight and landing fright all rolled into one, sometimes flavored with a hint of a rollercoaster. If the view is clear you will see great mountain views of Langtang, Rolwaling and Mahalangur sections of the Himalayas. However, it will be necessary for you to have a left side window seat. And given that there are no seat numbers, you can sit wherever you want. Just make sure you are the first one off the bus and the first in line, and then choose the left-hand side window seat for the awesome views. With great mountain views, the 40 minutes that it takes to get to Lukla will feel like 10 minutes.

Landing in Lukla is also an amazing experience. The airstrip at Lukla is inclined at an angle of 12 degrees and has a gorge at one end and sheer mountain face on the other, meaning there is no opportunity for overshooting. Amazing as it is, it is also dangerous and the airport has had its share of incidents. Because of those, current regulations for flights to and from Lukla are very strict making it pretty safe. Also, Nepali pilots usually punch above their weight. As for the rollercoaster flavor that we talked about earlier, these usually happen over the Lamjura Pass.

Getting to Salleri/Phaplu

If you are trying to get to Salleri for your Everest Adventure, there is more than one option you can choose from.

As Phaplu is just 20 minutes away from Salleri, you can take a flight to Phaplu. However, please note that there is only a single flight to Phaplu per day. The ticket price to Phaplu from Kathmandu is about USD 155. However, be informed that all flights to the mountains of Nepal are highly dependent on the weather and the Himalayan weather is highly unpredictable.

Alternatively, there are regular buses and jeeps that go to Salleri from Kathmandu until midday. They leave from Koteshwor which is pretty close to the international airport in Kathmandu. The tickets are 1,100 NPR each for bus and around 1700 NPR for the jeep (this is foreigners price which usually is higher than Nepalese). Some bargaining can be expected.

The distance between Kathmandu and Salleri is around 265 KM which might take up to 8 hours depending on the mood of the drivers.

Getting to Jiri/Shivalaya

Once connected with an airport, Jiri’s airstrip is now a field for cattle and picnic groups. However getting to Jiri is not a big puzzle as there is regular public transportation which connects the town of Jiri to Kathmandu.

190 KM away from Kathmandu, Jiri is connected with regular buses to Kathmandu. Usually, the buses leave early in the morning around 6:30 AM from the central bus station at Ratnapark and will take around 8 hours to Jiri. If you are worried about how to find them, keep your ear open for the bus conductors calling for Jiri. Usually goes like, “Jiri- Jiri - Jiri”.

The bus ticket is about NPR 700 per person. You can also get on the bus to Mali or Shivalaya for the same price from the same location and get down in Jiri.

There is also the chance of pre-booking of seats, meaning you can just take a stroll to Ratnapark Station a day before and get yourself a bus ticket with a preferred window seat.

Routes in the Mt. Everest Region

Everest Base Camp Trek

The Good: The Everest Base Camp Trek is the most popular route taken by trekkers in the Everest Region. Starting at the small airstrips at Lukla, this route climbs through the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazar, past the famous Tengboche Monastery to the classic Mount Everest view at Kala Patthar. You will also make way to the Everest Base Camp.
The Bad: Depending on the time of the year, flight disruptions are possible. Also, you will come back down the same way you went up. So that is kind of boring. Finding accommodation during peak season (October) can be difficult for independent trekkers. AMS can be an issue.

Number of Days: 13-15 days
Best Time to Go: Anytime except for July-August (See When to go to Everest Base Camp)
Entry Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight from Kathmandu/~USD 180
Exit Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight to Kathmandu/~USD 180
Accommodation/Cost: Lodges/~USD 30-40 per person per day (Bed-Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
Permits/Restrictions: Sagarmatha National Park Permit (~USD 33), Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit (~USD 20).

Difficulty: Medium
Highest Altitude: Kala Patthar (5,645 m)
Route Outline: Lukla-Namche (2 nights)-Tengboche-Lower Pangboche-Pheriche (2 nights)-Gorakshep (Side Trips: Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar)-Pheriche-Lower Pangboche-Tengboche-Namche-Lukla

Route Variations: It is possible to add a little variety to this trek by staying at Pheriche on your way up and staying at Dingboche on your way down. Also, it is possible to come down to Namche via the route that goes through Upper Pangboche and Phortse.

Gokyo Trek

The Good: The Gokyo Trek is another popular route taken by trekkers in the Everest Region. From Namche, the route follows another valley and ends at the Gokyo Lakes, a huge network of 19 glacial lakes spread over 200 hectares. The view from Gokyo Ri which brings Everest, Gokyo Lakes, and the Ngozumpa Glacier in one single frame is quite a sight to behold. It is also possible to cross the Cho La Pass from the Gokyo Lakes to go to Everest Base Camp.
The Bad: Depending on the time of the year, flight disruptions are possible. Also, you will come back down the same way you went up. So that is kind of boring. Finding accommodation during peak season (October) can be difficult for independent trekkers. AMS can be an issue.

Number of Days: 10-14 days
Best Time to Go: Anytime except July-August. For high passes October-December and April-May (See When to go to Everest Base Camp)
Entry Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight from Kathmandu/~USD 180
Exit Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight to Kathmandu/~USD 180
Accommodation/Cost: Lodges/~USD 30-40 per person per day (Bed-Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
Permits/Restrictions: Sagarmatha National Park Permit (~USD 33); Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit (~USD 20).

Difficulty: Medium (Difficult for Cho La/Renjo La variations)
Highest Altitude: Gokyo Ri (5,357 meters)- Cho La Pass (5,420 meters)
Route Outline:Standard: Lukla-Namche (2 nights)-Dole-Gokyo-Namche-Lukla

Route Variations: It is possible to add a little variety to this trek by exiting the valley of Gokyo Lakes through two high passes: Cho La or Renjo La. If you exit via Cho La, you will enter the valley of the Everest Base Camp and can also go to Everest Base Camp too. Alternately, you can exit through the Renjo La and pass through the quaint and quiet village of Thame on your way to Namche.
Cho La Variations: Lukla-Namche (2 nights)-Tengboche-Pheriche-Gorakshep (Everest Base Camp/Kala Patthar)-Cho La-Gokyo (2 nights)-Dole-Namche-Lukla
Renjo La Variation: Lukla-Namche (2 nights)-Dole-Gokyo (2 nights)-Renjo La-Thame-Namche-Lukla

Everest Three Passes Trek

The Good: For trekkers looking for the most adventurous trek in the Everest Region, this is THE trek! You will navigate Kongma La (5,545m), Cho La (5,430m), and Renjo La (5,360m) in one go and that is no small feat. In addition to these high passes, you will basically breathe in everything Everest has to offer from the Gokyo Lakes to Everest Base Camp to Tengboche Monastery to Thame!! You will also be walking through areas that see few trekkers making the trek pretty special. You will earn some serious bragging rights after doing this trek.
The Bad: Depending on the time of the year, flight disruptions are possible. AMS can be an issue. Snow and fluke weather can make high passes treacherous.

Number of Days: 17-19 days
Best Time to Go: October-December and April-May (See When to go to Everest Base Camp)
Entry Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight from Kathmandu/~USD 180
Exit Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight to Kathmandu/~USD 180
Accommodation/Cost: Lodges/~USD 30-40 per person per day (Bed-Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
Permits/Restrictions: Sagarmatha National Park Permit (~USD 33); Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit (~USD 20).

Difficulty: Difficult
Highest Altitude: Kongma La (5,545m)
Route Outline: Lukla-Namche-Tengboche-Dingboche-Chukung-Kongma La-Lobuche-Gorakshep (Side trips: Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar)-Lobuche-Cho La-Gokyo-Renjo La-Thame-Namche-Lukla

Route Variations: It is possible to skip the Everest Base Camp and Gorakshep part or do the entire trek in a clockwise way too. However, doing it clockwise will only make an already difficult trek more difficult.

The Classic Route to Everest Base Camp

The Good: While modern-day trekkers get the luxury to fly to Lukla or Everest base camp itself to write their adventure, there is an old forgotten route to Everest which was used by the early explorers which starts from a small town of Jiri. This route popular amongst trekking enthusiasts as a quieter alternative to flying in. Starting from a small town of Jiri, this route goes through beautiful villages and monasteries and still retains a rustic air around it.
The Bad: Since, the major tourism fly into Lukla, the path from Jiri is not maintained regularly which might put some stress on your knees. Also, finding accommodation during peak season (October) can be difficult as most of the tea houses have been displaced by the earthquake of 2015. However, after Chheplung the path is well maintained and availability of lodges is not a problem at all.

Number of Days: 21-22 days
Best Time to Go: Anytime except for July-August (See When to go to Everest Base Camp)
Entry Point/Transport/Cost: Jiri/Bus from Kathmandu/~USD 7; Salleri/Jeep from Kathmandu/~USD 14
Exit Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight to Kathmandu/~USD 180
Accommodation/Cost: Lodges/~USD 30-40 per person per day (Bed-Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
Permits/Restrictions: Sagarmatha National Park Permit (~USD 33), GCAP(~USD 20), Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit (~USD 20).

Difficulty: Difficult
Highest Altitude: Kala Patthar (5,555 m)
Route Outline: Jiri-Junbesi (2 nights)-Nunthala-Surke-Namche-Tengboche-Pheriche (2 Nights)-Gorakshep(Side Trips: Everest Base Camp/Kala Patthar)-Dingboche-Namche-Lukla

Route Variations: It is possible to start your trek from Salleri rather than Jiri which will reduce the trek duration by 5 days.
Route Outline: Kathmandu-Salleri-Ringmo-Khari Khola-Surke-Phakding-Namche-Tengboche-Pheriche(2 Nights)-Gorakshep(Side Trips: Everest Base Camp/Kala Patthar)-Dingboche-Namche-Lukla

Everest Panorama Trek

The Good: This is a short and comparatively easy trek in the Everest Region in which you will pass through the Sherpa capital of Namche to Tengboche. You will see Everest though it isn’t the open view that one gets from Kala Patthar.
The Bad: Depending on the time of the year, flight disruptions are possible. You will not see the alpine landscape of Everest or get to see Everest up close.

Number of Days: 7-8 days
Best Time to Go: Anytime except for July-August (See When to go to Everest Base Camp)
Entry Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight to Kathmandu/~USD 180
Exit Point/Transport/Cost: Lukla/Flight to Kathmandu/~USD 180
Accommodation/Cost: Lodges/~USD 30-40 per person per day (Bed-Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
Permits/Restrictions: Sagarmatha National Park Permit (~USD 33), TIMS Permit (USD 20 for independent trekkers; USD 10 for organized groups), Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit (~USD 20).

Difficulty: Easy
Highest Altitude: Tengboche (3,860 m)
Route Outline: Lukla-Namche (2 nights)-Tengboche-Namche-Lukla

Route Variations: It is possible to tie up Khumjung and Phortse villages to this trek.

How much does a package to Everest Base Camp cost?

There is no straight answer to this question. The whole trekking industry has so many layers of middlemen, such varied service level, and so much cost cutting that giving a straight answer to a simple question is really difficult. Hence, we will simplify the whole thing and break down the cost into individual services.

Non-Trek Costs

TitleCost
Travel InsuranceUSD 150
International Airfare to and out of Nepalvaries
Nepali Visa (30 days)USD 40
Taxi from Airport to ThamelUSD 10
Hotel in KathmanduVaries (USD 15+)
Gear CostVaries
Sleeping Bag for HireUSD 3 per day
Down Jacket for HireUSD 2 per day

Trek Costs for trekking in the Everest Region

TitleCost
Permits(Sagarmatha National Park Permit: ~USD 33, Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit: ~USD 20)USD 53
Flight to LuklaUSD 180 one way
Bus to Jiri/SalleriUSD 7/USD 14 one way
Lodges (includes breakfast and dinner)~USD 23 for Normal Room; ~USD 30 for Room with Attached Bathroom
Lunch~USD 5
Porter (Carries up to 25 kg and good for two people. The price includes meals for the porter.)USD 17 per porter per day
Insurance for the PortersUSD 15-30
GUIDE COSTS
Guide Daily Wages(really depends upon the proficiency of the guide. The price will not include the meal, transport or insurance cost of the Guide.)USD 25-80 per day
Flights for GuideUSD 50 for flights to Lukla
Buses for GuideUSD 7/USD 14 for Jiri and Salleri
Accommodation/Meals for the Guide (while a lot of guides simply ‘ask’ the lodge owners for free food and free rooms, this is not a practice that should be encouraged.USD 20 per day
Insurance for GuideUSD 100

Hence, for a 13 day trek to Everest Base Camp, your trek cost will come out to be:

TitleCost to a single trekker (Calculation)
PermitsUSD 53 (USD 33 + USD 20)
FlightsUSD 360 (USD 180 x 2 )
Cost of Accomodation (with Lunch and Dinner)USD 299 (USD 23 x 13 days (USD 30 x 13 days for room with attached bathroom) )
Cost of LunchUSD 65 (USD 5 x 13 days)
PorterUSD 110 (USD 8.5 per trekker x 13 days (1 porter = 2 trekkers))
Porter Insurance (1 porter = 2 trekkers)USD 15 (USD 15 per trekker)
Tips for PorterUSD 16.5 (15% of wages is the norm= 15% of 110 )
Sub Total: USD 902
Guide CostUSD 78 (assuming a group size of 5 and USD 390 = ~USD 30 x 13 days for the entire group )
Guide’s Food/Transport/InsuranceUSD 101 (assuming group size of 5 and USD 505 = USD 25 x 13 (Food/Lodge)+ USD 40 x 2 (Flights) + USD 100 (insurance) )
Tips for GuidesUSD 11.7 (assuming group size of 5 and 15% of wages is the norm= 15% of 390= USD 58.5)
Total: USD 1,109.2
Misc Trek Costs
Hot Water~USD 60 (USD 1-2 per liter x 3 liters per day x 13 days)
Hot ShowerUSD 15-25 (USD 3-5 per shower x 5 showers)
Battery Charging
WifiUSD 4-5 per day
BeerUSD
CokeUSD
Candy BarsUSD

Please note that the above doesn’t include any non-trek expenses such as a hotel in Kathmandu, airport transfers, meals in Kathmandu or farewell dinners. It also does not include extra trek costs such as hot water, hot shower, beer, wifi, battery charging, and escort services. Obviously, the more things that are included, the more expensive the trek; the better the service, the more expensive the trek.

Also, here is a reality check on ‘cheap’ packages being sold in the market. There are a lot of tours to the Everest Base Camp that are being sold for USD 800. These treks are shorter by a day or two. Any guesses on which day these treks cut down on? The acclimatization stop at Dingboche (4,410 meters)!! At 4,410 meters everybody starts to feel the altitude and an extra day here is absolutely necessary. Removing this day not only brings down the cost but also increases the chance of a medical evacuation by a helicopter. And in case there is a rescue, the trekking companies usually get paid a handsome amount (up to USD 1,000). While this is more of an outlier case, this does go to show that pricing a trek is one hell of a messy business.

For now, all we recommend is that no matter who you book with make sure to:

  1. Look at the fine print of what is included in the tour and what is not.
  2. Try to get first-hand recommendations from people you can trust about the local operators or guides you will be working with.
  3. Make sure to ask enough questions about the number of people in the group, choice of lodges, porter/guide insurance and a whole bunch of other stuff before committing your money.
  4. Be very skeptical of really cheap or really short versions of treks.
  5. Carry enough money and then some.

Also, make sure to read the Booking Options in the How to Prepare for your Everest Base Camp Trek Section.

How to arrange a trekking tour to Mount Everest Base Camp?

Booking a Tour to Mt Everest Base Camp with a Global Travel Agent

Summary: If you are really pressed for time, want your trek to run in the most flawless way, and have the money to spend, it is highly recommended to book through one of the global travel agents.

Pros

  1. Everything will be taken care of for you. You will not have to worry about anything at all.
  2. They almost always work with the best trek operator locally which means very professional handling and great service.
  3. The variety of the food that these guys provide is a stuff of legend. Pizza? Sushi? Pasta? Apple Pie? You got it!!

Cons

  1. They are really expensive!! The 13 day Everest Base Camp trek mentioned above can cost as much as USD 3,000 with one of these companies. Add to that the fact that very little of what you spend goes to the service providers like lodge owners and guides. Also since most of the food is carried all the way from Kathmandu, you do not contribute to the local farming economy either.
  2. There is little scope for trip customization or changes.
  3. These are generally group treks and chances are you will not know your partners before the trek.
  4. The scope of experience is kind of limited as everyone will be so ‘professional’ and will always err on the safe side.

Booking a Package to Everest Base Camp with an Online Trek Aggregator

Summary: This option gives you a lot of choices, but just like any other scenario with a lot of choices, there will be good choices and bad ones. If you ask tough questions and do your homework, this method could not just save you a tonne of money, but can actually lead to a very enjoyable trek.

Pros

  1. You will have a tonne of choice and the benefit of reviews.
  2. Since these online aggregators have a lot of local trek operators, the chances of you getting a price better than global travel agents are much higher.
  3. It is easy to compare various listings, communicate with the operators and then select the one you are most comfortable with.
  4. Since trek aggregators list treks either from global travel agents or local trek operators, all of their pros also apply.

Cons

  1. Scrutinize the reviews. Not all aggregators have verified reviews. If most of the treks have a solid 5 star, that is most definitely a red flag.
  2. Most are fixed-departure group treks and you will not know how many people will be there in your group. If that is a concern make sure to communicate your concerns beforehand.
  3. Look at the inclusion detail and the itinerary carefully. If it is especially cheap or short, be very careful.
  4. Since you will have to deposit the entire cost upfront, you cannot expect to land in Kathmandu check out the trek operator and then decide. If in case you do not like the guide or the trek operator, you can do very little about it. It is better to ask the relevant questions and do the research before you commit.
  5. Since trek aggregators list treks either from global travel agents or local trek operators, all of their cons also apply.

Booking an Everest Base Camp Trek with a Local Trek Operator

Summary: If you put in the time and effort to separate the wheat from the chaff, or you have a solid recommendation from a person you know very well, going through a local trek operator is the way to go. It will save you a tonne of money!!

Pros

  1. Since most global travel agents outsource to local trek operators, going with one might give you the same experience at half the price!!
  2. Good trek operators will give you the flexibility to make the final payments after you get to Kathmandu. That way after visiting their office and talking to the guides, you will still have some leverage over the choice of guides among other things.

Cons

  1. It is really hard to tell the wheat from the chaff when it comes to local trekking operators. Hence, unless you invest some time and effort you might end up with a crappy trek operator. And let us be very clear, the crappy ones are really crappy and are not above stunts like making money through emergency evacuations. The two best ways to select a local trek operator is to depend on first-hand recommendations and ask tough questions.
  2. Since most treks under local trek operators are fixed departure group treks, all the cons associated with global travel companies also apply to a trek run by a local trek operator.

Independent Guides

Summary: If enough effort is made to find a good guide, this is hands down the best way to go in terms of safety, cost and experience.

Pros

  1. This gives you the ultimate freedom when it comes to pace, itinerary and even experience.
  2. This removes all the middlemen and gives you the best bang for the buck without compromising for safety or experience.
  3. If you agree upon beforehand, you might even get to choose your own lodges.
    Cons

  4. Just like local trek operators, telling the wheat from the chaff when it comes to trekking guides is a very difficult process. Do some research on your own and ask them some tough and tricky questions. Or better get a first-hand reference from someone you can trust. References from online forums and ‘bloggers’ do not count!!

  5. In case of an emergency, not all guides will have the safety training to ensure your safety. This is as true for independent guides as guides you book through a trekking company. Make sure you ask them if they have had any training and ask to see certificates if they say so. Also, ask them how they would handle certain situations and see how they respond.

Porter/Guide

Summary: While it is a popular and a cost-effective option, understand that when the shit hits the fan you are on your own with a porter/guide.

Pros

  1. The porter/guide will well show you the route and will obviously carry your pack too.
  2. Since a lot of porter/guides are local men (yes they are mostly men) they might give you some insight into the place.

Cons

  1. They will have very limited communicating skills and might even be lacking in terms of what exactly is expected of them. Make sure to go through expectations before the trek in very clear terms. One of the most common problems with porter/guides is that just like porters, rather than sticking to the group all the time, they sometimes disappear ahead.
  2. In case you get injured or need to arrange for a rescue, these guys will not be of much help, as they have limited expertise and connections.

Porter Only

Summary: This is the best option for seasoned travelers who know the terrain, route and emergency procedures. However, it can turn into a nightmare if you are dealing with the porters directly. Tread very carefully.

Pros

  1. This is perhaps the cheapest option. However, it only brings the benefit of having someone carry the stuff for you. Do not expect anything else.

Cons

  1. Porter insurance is a tricky business in Nepal, and it is very difficult for an independent trekker to get one without the names and other detail of the porter. Also, the terms are far from adequate. Also, if you hire one and he gets sick it will be your responsibility as an employer to take care of these guys.
  2. In case you have a porter with sticky fingers, it will cause a lot of unnecessary hassles.
  3. It is not unheard for porters to feign injury to extract money or carry less. For someone coming into this situation for the first time, it might be a very difficult judgment call to differentiate between real and feigned injury.
  4. It is also not a good idea to pay these guys too much in advance as porters have been known to take off without any warning.
  5. Make sure to lay out the terms and conditions to the porters before the trek preferably through a local contact. Make sure you check if they have adequate clothing and shoes for the journey. Do not accommodate extra demands later during a trek, unless they seem clearly reasonable.

Go Independent

Summary: This will give you the ultimate in flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and peace of mind. That is if you have the necessary skills or bravado to deal with the terrain, route, and emergency procedures yourself. You can read about the good, bad and the ugly side of independent trekking in a blog.https://honeyguideapps.com/blog/your-guide-to-independent-trekking-in-nepal

Pros

  1. You are in charge. Completely and Utterly. Period.
  2. This is the cheapest option.
  3. Since you do not really have to depend on anyone, this is perhaps the one that will give you the most peace of mind.
  4. You will talk more with people outside of your group and hence will learn a lot more!

Cons

  1. A 15 kilograms backpack will feel like 60 at 4,000 meters altitude. If you realize that you can carry that load as you go higher, you will find porters who might do this for you. But they will cost a LOT more.
  2. In case of an emergency, you are on your own.
  3. Since you are responsible for everything, you need to spend a good amount of time doing research and taking care of the logistical parts like permits.
  4. Finding lodges during peak season is really difficult for independent trekkers as the lodges prefer organized groups from trekking companies/guides they have worked with before.

How long does it take to get to Everest Base Camp?

It depends upon the route that you decide to take. For a classic Everest Base Camp starting and ending at Lukla, you will need at least 13 days. For other treks in the Everest Region here is a quick breakdown:
Everest Base Camp Trek (Lukla - EBC – Lukla): 13-15 days
Gokyo Trek: 10-11 days
Gokyo Trek with Cho La/Renjo La Variation: 14-15 days
Everest Three Passes Trek: 17-19 days
Classic Tenzing Hillary trail (Jiri - EBC): 22-23 Days
Everest Base Camp Trek (Salleri - EBC – Lukla): 19-20 Days

A few things to remember if you are planning your trek are:
Make sure to ensure that for each 1,000 meter (~3,000 feet) climb after the altitude of 2,500 meters, you stay an extra night at the place for acclimatization purposes. Skipping this will increases your chances of getting AMS and it sure isn’t a fun way to end your trek. Usually, trekkers stay 2 nights at Namche (3,440 meters) and Pheriche (4,351 meters)/Dingboche (4,410 meters) for acclimatization purpose. Make sure you factor this in while planning your trek duration.
Flights from Lukla are highly dependent on the weather. Hence, it is normal for delays of a day or two. Hence do not plan too tight and have some leg room when you buy departure flights out of Kathmandu. This will be especially important if you are traveling during May-September.

How fit do I need to be to do the Everest Base Camp Trek

Most reasonably fit people should be able to do the Everest Base Camp Trek. However, do read the page of Health and Safety Section, especially the part of Altitude Illnesses and Pre-existing Conditions. No matter your fitness level, it is a good idea to do some cardio training. If feasible actual hiking before the main trek will not only break your shoes., but will also help your lungs and heart.
Also, squats will come in handy, as a lot of restrooms in Nepal are of the squatting pan type. ;)

Packing list for the Everest Base Camp Trek

The gear requirements for the Everest Base Camp Trek aren’t that different from the gear required for treks in other parts of Nepal. An actionable checklist can be found under Trekking in Nepal- A Checklist portion.

What are the Permits Required for trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp

No matter what route you travel, you will require two permits at the least:

  1. Sagarmatha National Park Permit- NPR 3,000 + 13% VAT
  2. Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit- NPR 2,000

If you are walking from Jiri, you will require a third permit:

  1. Gaurishankar Conservation Area Permit- NPR 2,000 + 13% VAT

As of April 2018, no TIMS card is required for trekking to the Everest Region. This permit is replaced by the Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit.

Sagarmatha National Park Permit

This permit can be obtained either at:

DNPWC Counter- Tourist Service Center
Bhrikuti Mandap, Kathmandu.
Tel: 977-1-4256909
Fax: 977-1-4256910
Email: info@ntb.org.np
Website:http://welcomenepal.com/

OR

At the National Park Entry Gate at Monjo during the trek itself.

The price is NPR 3,000 per entry unless you are from one of the SAARC countries, in which case the permit will cost you NPR 1,500. There is a 13% VAT on top of this base price.

Khumbu Rural Municipality Permit

One can get this permit at Lukla. It costs NPR 2,000 for all non-Nepalis. This local tax replaces the earlier TIMS Permit levied by the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal.

Gaurishankar Conservation Area Permit

If you are walking from Jiri, the section between Shivalaya and Kinja fall under this conservation area. Hence, you will be required to get this permit at Shivalaya for NPR 2,000 + 13% VAT. This permit is valid for 30 days while you will get to Kinja in under 8 hours. :(

What to expect on a trek to Everest Base Camp?

Accommodation in Everest

The Everest Base Camp Trek is one of the most popular trekking routes. As such you will not have to worry about accommodation along the trail. There are lodges at least every hour along the main route. Also in the lower sections, there is a wide variety of lodges from the ones that cost upwards of USD 200 per night to ones that barely cost USD 20.
However, during the peak season in March-April and Oct-Nov, it might be difficult to find accommodation especially if you are trekking independently or in a small group. Worse comes to worse you might have to make do with the dining hall for a bedroom.

Food and Water in Everest

You will be surprised to find menus in Everest with Enchiladas and Spaghetti Bolognese. While the actual food will make Mexicans and Italians facepalm in despair, the menu does go to show that food will not be a problem in Everest at all. The one thing you might miss are fruits and it is also advisable to cut down on meat. Since killing in now allowed in the Khumbu, all of the meat sold there is brought all the way down from villages below Lukla. Hence, by the time the meat reaches Pangboche, it would have walked at least four days. And no porters do not carry the meat in refrigerators.
Despite the variety, one of the most popular food item during a trek is eat-all-you-can Dal Bhat, the national dish of Nepal. Rice for carbs, lentils for proteins, curry for minerals and pickles for taste; Dal Bhaat is a pretty balanced diet for a mountain lifestyle.
As for safe drinking water, you can read the section on Water Safety under Health and Safety while Trekking in Nepal Section.

Electricity in Everest

Charging your camera and phones is also not a problem along this route. However, there will be a fee which goes up with the altitude. This is because while lower down electricity is provided by hydro-electricity, higher up they are all solar powered. However, make sure to carry socket adapters for Type C (circular pins) and spare batteries for your cameras. Solar chargers and Power Banks help a lot.

Internet in Everest

There are many ways to stay connected during the trek. However, a fair bit of warning is that none of them will work the way you are used to at home. That said, wifi is available in just about every lodge right up to Gorak Shep. They cost about Rs. 100 per hour lower down to Rs. 500 per hour higher up. One of the Nepali Telecom Companies, NCell also has 3G service in the area around Everest Base Camp. Everest Link, a local ISP, offers Wifi hotspots in just about every other place along the trail including Kala Patthar. Seehttp://everestlink.com.np/ for more details. According to their website, username and passwords can be purchased at many lodges and shops along the trek.

Everest Region- Landscape and Nature

Geology of the Everest Region

Rated R

Orogenic subductions within the beddings lead to an upthrusting of the gneiss butte. Concurrently, the spreading of the flow cleavage and dike swarms deeper in the rift produces more thrust making the bedrock.

Okay, that made absolutely no sense. But now that we have your attention, let’s get down to business. Geology can be stimulating.

As the story goes, all the land we stand on are but icebergs floating in an ocean of molten rock and move at the whim of its currents. One such current brought the Indian and Eurasian plates in a collision course. As these continents collided the Indian plate slipped under the Eurasian plate, thus lifting it and giving birth to what is now the highest mountain range on earth. This process which started about the time the last dinosaurs walked the earth continues to the present day with Everest still rising. The marine limestone top of Everest and the layers of sedimentary rocks visible in the Lhotse Face are tributes to these great forces at work under your feet. The growing mountains are perhaps also the reason why the settlement that seems 15 minutes away, takes an hour to reach!!

Climate of the Everest Region

As the Himalayas continue their journey to the sky, they have the power not only to impress a traveler’s soul but also to dictate the climate of a subcontinent. The annual burst of monsoon that hits the Indian subcontinent would have been nowhere near as dramatic if not for the Himalayas. As moisture-laden wind from the Bay of Bengal rushes towards the north in its journey to Tibet, it is forced to hike up the Himalayas, sweating out almost all of its moisture content along the southern slopes leaving Tibet high and dry.

If you come here during the spring (Mar-May), you will see how the day starts nice and clear and gets progressively windier and cloudier, leading frequently to afternoon showers. This to and fro goes on for around a month until the monsoon bursts in its full glory around mid-June. Here onwards your chances of flying in and out of Lukla on time is the same as the chances of getting a straight flush.

While air transport and much of trekking come to a grinding halt, Khumbu is busy welcoming a new cycle of life. Wildflowers have been peeking their head out since spring in eager anticipation of the monsoon and are now out in droves. It is a shame however that there are few around to admire this spectacle of color and fragrance. As the land rejuvenates, the Himalayan Tahr is busy tending to it’s newborn and the Himalayan Monal is busy displaying to prospective mates. They make the best of this period of plenty which ends in September along with the rains. You could still fly to Lukla during the monsoon, but plan very flexibly or alternately you could start trekking from the road head at Jiri or if the roads are in good condition much closer at Salleri. Leeches are a concern in this section though. However, once past Namche, even the rain isn’t too much of a problem.

Come September, the blanket of cloud clears up. It is now time for the mountains to wake up from their slumbers. Against the backdrop of clear blue skies, they are now at their best. The temperature is also amazing until November which makes for the peak trekking season.

By December, the Khumbu winter is in full swing. However, for the well-prepared, winter is no barrier with the added advantage of fewer people and more wildlife. Be prepared for occasional heavy snow during this time though.

While the above scenario is more or less true, there have been some trends that seem here to stay. The most notable of these is increased precipitation in the period before and after the monsoon. While only time will tell if the trend is here to stay, it is better to assume so and plan accordingly. Climate change impacts everyone everywhere.

Physiography of the Everest Region

The Himalaya is directly responsible for the bursting of the monsoon, and the monsoon is responsible for lending the Himalayas its dramatic architecture. If it weren’t for the monsoon, the Himalayas would be a rather shapeless rounded mass.

The annual dump of snow, ice, and water that arrives with the monsoon sculpts the Himalayas to sharply chiseled peaks and deep river valleys. The erosion starts near the mountain peaks where ice abrades the mountainside into armchair shaped cirques, creating sharp ridges and pyramidal peaks as can be seen in the case of Thamserku and Kangtega peaks. Another example of a cirque is Namche Bazar whose amphitheater-like shape was created by glaciers a long long time ago.

Not all ice flows are so slow though and you will definitely hear or perhaps even see an avalanche during your trek. Don’t lose your sleep over it though, as the entire trail passes through safe areas.

Thus accumulated ice, snow and rock debris sometimes create amazing and dangerous forms such as the Khumbu Icefall. While you might not be able to actually see ice fall in the icefall from Everest Base Camp, they do happen often with disastrous consequences. Lower down the frozen mass somewhat stabilizes to form the glacier proper which continues the erosive work though less dramatically. You might hear cracking sounds as you cross the Khumbu Glacier on your way to Everest Base Camp. That’s the sound of something giving in deep inside the river of ice and rock you are walking on.

However, the efficiency with which a glacier churns and grinds a mountain can be seen at Thukla. Thukla is right at the end of Khumbu Glacier and it is here that ice gives way to water. Collect some and see what a commendable job the glacier has done in eroding a mountain into rock flour. The end result of all this tussle is wide U-shaped valleys like the one Pheriche is nestled in.

Streams not only continue the eroding work of the glaciers but also speeds it up. Steep-walled V-shaped valleys and the generally claustrophobic landscape are testaments to the rapid erosion that rivers are capable of. As such the lower stretches of the trek are dominated by this closed in landscape until you reach Pangboche where the land suddenly opens up.

This interplay of land and water is perhaps the single most important force not only in creating the phantasmagorical shapes of Khumbu but also in creating a substrate for all life forms here for without the glaciers and rivers there would be no soil and without soil, there would be no life forms.

Mountains of the Everest Region

Mountains in the Everest Region are served in many flavors. There are of course the high peaks, and then there are the tough, the easy going, the photogenic and the sacred. Hell, there is even one reputed to contain a door to heaven for the pure of heart.

Of all the sacred peaks, the Khumbila is the most important one and is the protector deity of the entire Khumbu region. Other sacred peaks are Everest/Chomolungma, Taboche, Kangtega, Thamserku, Pumori, and Pokalde.

The high peaks of the region include such giants as Everest, Lhotse, Makalu and Cho Oyu. Pumori, Baruntse, Nuptse and Gyachung Kang also deserve special mention in this category.

Toughness and beauty, however, are both very subjective notions, beauty because it is in the eyes of the beer holder and toughness because it depends upon the route taken, climbing style (and no we am not talking tiptoeing and tap dancing here), season and supplemental oxygen use. Hell, even the trip to Base Camp could be graded tough if you did it in shorts and without shoes. In spite of such subjectivity, we will take the risk and go ahead with the list. We all have a soft corner for top something lists after all, no matter how meaningless they might be.

Among the beauties, it would be hard to not include the pleasant contours of Ama Dablam or the perfect pyramidal outline of Pumori. we also find the horse head and radiating shoulders of Kangtega rather attractive, but it might be just me.

Now grading the toughness of mountain is a minefield in its own right, liberally booby-trapped with romanticism, nostalgia, smugness, hubris, and money especially in the case of Everest. But we trekkers needn’t concern ourselves with the details here. Despite what armchair mountaineers will have you believe, let me put it out there that Everest is tough. Sure it would be just a pipe dream for most people if it weren’t for the glamorous ice doctors and the humble kitchen crew, but it isn’t hard to imagine that it is still a rough walk even with bottled oxygen. Lhotse, Cho Oyu, and Thamserku are other peaks which are respected for their difficulty.

If you are feeling a little bit more adventurous than the viewpoint at Kala Patthar, you might consider scrambling to Pokalde, Island Peak, Chukung Ri or Mera Peak for that “I’m on the top of the world” experience. Okay, ‘scrambling’ was a bad choice of word as it does involve extra permits, full mountaineering gear, and some climbing skills.

Plants and Flowers of the Everest Region

While your trek from regions of life to the lifeless grandeur of rock and ice is fascinating, the reverse journey undertaken by nature is equally impressive. The interplay of lifeless land and water creates a substrate on which life can flourish. The first link is provided by plants. And by nourishing not only higher life forms but also the land and water it stands on, plants create stability which is crucial for an ecosystem.

The lower parts of Everest from Lukla to Namche is dominated by Blue Pine. These regal conifers are found associated with other trees like the tree rhododendron which steals the show with its bright red blossoms around mid-April.

Silver Fir starts to supplant Blue Pine as the dominant species from Namche onwards and is a stately tree. It is in turn replaced by the Himalayan Birch with its peeling papery bark from around Tengboche. Both these trees are found in association with various kinds of rhododendrons and junipers, both of which will enhance your trek: The rhododendrons by their colorful blossoms and the juniper by its sweet smell.

Higher up, trees give way to dwarf rhododendrons and dwarf junipers which in turn fades into an almost desolate landscape sparsely dotted with ephedra and snow rhododendron.

The most important thread, however, is missing from the above treatment, that of small flowers. There are too many to recount here and in any case, it is best appreciated first hand. As such we will deal with them in our Sightings section. Remember however that the monsoon is the best time to see these flowers with late spring around May coming a distant second.

Wildlife of the Everest Region

In the stage that plants create, animals from the humble bee to the regal Snow Leopard flourish. And perhaps nowhere else along the Himalayas will you find wildlife so approachable, thanks to the conservation efforts of the National Park officials and traditional benevolence of the Sherpas.

Along the trail, you might see swimming shrews, inquisitive Pikas, fanged Musk Deers and nonchalant Himalayan Tahrs. If you are lucky you might even spot a Red Panda in bamboo thickets. The iridescent Himalayan Monal and Blood Pheasant add color to Tengboche while Tibetan Snowcocks will practically feed from your hand at Gorakshep. Also remember to look up during breathers as the huge Himalayan Griffons are a regular sight. You will have to be a bit luckier to spot a Lammergeier or Golden Eagle though.

While the list appears pretty impressive don’t get your hopes too high especially if you are part of a large group and/or are trekking during the peak season. More people, less wildlife. It is as simple as that. However, starting an hour earlier than the usual 8:00 am starting time for most people and keeping some distance from the main group will make a lot of difference. If you are serious about wildlife spotting, late February, and late November is a very good time for wildlife as there are fewer trekkers and animals are concentrated in the lower reaches along the trekking trails.

Environmental Issues in the Everest Region

It isn’t too hard to understand that life clings precariously to the mountainsides. A couple of years of overgrazing in this fragile ecosystem and one bout of rainfall will wash off the topsoil. And it will take hundreds of years for grass to get a foothold again.

Not surprisingly there are a number of pressing environmental concerns at Khumbu, both local and global.

The influx of Tibetans along with their livestock after the events of 1959 in Tibet and the introduction of mountaineering and trekking, put pastures and forests at serious risk. As such in order to manage the unique natural assets of the region sustainably, the Khumbu area was declared a National Park in 1976. It was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. And boy has it shown? Forest cover has increased and so has the number of wild animals. The most exciting of the results was the comeback of the Snow Leopard in 2005, after more than 3 decades of near absence.

However, the problem of waste disposal still haunts the National Park, especially in high mountains. Due to the sheer number of mountaineering expedition in Everest and the difficulty of bringing trash back to Base Camp, it is a problem that still persists. While exemplary work was done by the Everest Environment Project, it is still a work in progress. Recent legislative measures which require a climber to bring down at least 8 kilos of trash coupled with dedicated trash removal expedition will go a long way in cleaning up Everest. Also commendable is the work being done by a local NGO, Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee based at Namche Bazar.

The worst of the environmental problems facing the Everest region, however, is that of climate change. And it is so much the worse for the fact that very little can be done at the local level about it. While glaciers have been receding since the end of the last glacial period some 10,000 years ago, the rate has accelerated in recent times. While long-term repercussions like the shortage of fresh water supply are the most important concern, the most pressing one is the catastrophic Glacial Lake Outburst Flood. As global temperature rises so does the amount of water in glacial lakes. And when the embankment isn’t strong enough, these lakes burst, releasing a huge amount of water in a very short period of time. The catastrophic impact of such an event has been witnessed in the Everest Region three times in the past half-century and it is a no-brainer that more will occur in the future.

Perhaps someday we will look back to this day and realize just how little we did when the writing was all over the wall.

Everest Region- Culture and People

Etiquette in the Everest Region

As they say, “When in Rome, do the Romans”, here are a few Dos and Don’ts for the Everest Region.

  1. Nepalese mules and yaks find it disrespectful if you stand streamside rather than mountainside when they pass. Always keep to the mountainside when passing the loaded beasts.

  2. Nepalese porters carry a rather heavy load and bent double, their vision is usually limited to the ground beneath their feet. Be patient if you find yourself at the slow pace of one. Overtake them only when there is ample space.

  3. Keep Mani walls and chortens to your right when you pass them. And it goes without saying, they shouldn’t be climbed or defaced, and under no circumstances should you remove the tablets.

  4. Household fires are sacred, your cigarette butt isn’t. Don’t mix them.

  5. The wrinkled faces of the old and the chubby faces of the young might not always appreciate photographic intrusions. Please ask before taking pictures.

  6. Be grateful that unlike other parts of the world you are allowed into the most sacred places of worship here. Don’t extend the privilege by taking pictures indiscriminately inside gompas. Always ask first.

  7. Under no circumstances must you give money to begging children. Candies and chocolates are okay as long as you buy them dental insurance.

  8. There are dustbins all along the trail. Use them. Batteries and sanitary pads must be packed out.

  9. Use the restrooms that are provided. Do not defecate near a water source. Bury or better burn used toilet papers.

  10. Avoid mineral water. The lifespan of a plastic bottle is longer than the age of the mountains that you see.

  11. Do not bargain in lodges. Prices are very reasonable.

  12. Toplessness and nudity are acceptable only within the sheets.

History of the Everest Region

For all its beauty, the Everest region was settled rather recently perhaps because mountains don’t feed people, or at least they didn’t until the advent of adventure tourism. Devoid of pull factors, the region was first settled by people who were pushed away from their homeland.

The people from Kham in eastern Tibet were the first to settle here around the mid 16th century in the wake of religious persecution by the Mongols and full-scale invasion by Muslim zealots. The name Sherpa is actually derived from Shar-pa which means ‘those from the East’. And with their persistence, industry, and compassion they have been shaping the personality of the land for about 400 years now. Successive migrations followed from mid 18th century to around mid 20th century when there was a large influx of refugees from Tibet.

While people who arrived before the mid 18th century were incorporated into the clan structure of the Sherpas, later immigrants were loosely labeled Khampas and were considered outside the social structure.

There has also been a migration of people from the mid-hills into the Everest region. The most notable of these are the Rais, who originally hail from the hills to the east of Everest region and descend from the illustrious Kirants, one of the first groups to rule over Nepal.

Livelihood in the Everest Region

Traditionally, the Sherpas were agro-pastoralists. The agro part benefitted hugely from the introduction of potatoes while the pastoral part was revolutionized by the cross-breeding of yaks with cows. The cross-breeds or dzokpyo were more docile and were ideal as pack animals. You will most definitely see these along the trails. The female cross-breeds also gave more milk. The Sherpas were so good at this cross-breeding business that their dzokpyo were once in high demand as far away as Mustang. They would also augment their income with trading expeditions to Tibet, and it was usually the only way a Sherpa family could rise above subsistence.

As traders, they had to be savvy and as farmers they were hardy. These qualities the Sherpas got from their traditional vocations would have important implications for them in the future.

As the border with Tibet was closed in the 1960s, the Sherpa economy was definitely headed for disaster if it weren’t for the introduction of adventure tourism a decade earlier.

As a hardy bunch, they had no rivals in mountaineering expeditions and as a savvy bunch, their dining halls quickly became the favorite among trekkers. The goodwill the Sherpas were able to cultivate not only made them prosperous but also brought in the much-needed modernization of infrastructure, education, and health.

While tourism is still the backbone of the Sherpa economy, there are many who have competed and excelled in various other fields both in Nepal and abroad. They are perhaps one of the few ethnic groups in Nepal who has been able to go beyond geographical and economic confines.

Religion of the Everest Region

The Sherpas brought Buddhism with them that is distinctly Tibetan in character. They belong to the Nyingmapa sect of Buddhism and trace their doctrines back to the teaching of Guru Rinpoche himself. Guru Rinpoche is essentially the godfather of Buddhism in Tibet and his fearsome disposition is revered by all sects of Tibetan Buddhism.

However, it was Lama Sanga Dorje of Mong who rekindled the fires of Buddhism in Khumbu. The patron saint of Khumbu was an incarnate lama who established the first of three monasteries at Thame, Pangboche, and Gumela. His gompa hopping flights are still recounted and he has also left imprints of his feet and hand at Tengboche and Pangboche. While you might not see flying lamas during your trek, watch out for skating ones if you happen to be at Tengboche after a good snowfall.

Today it is the Tengboche Monastery that is a shining beacon for Buddhist doctrine in Khumbu, or at least for whatever is left of it. It was however established much later by Lama Gulu from Khumjung, another influential religious figure.

An undercurrent of the Sherpa religious system is that of paganism. Sherpa clans have a clan god which is usually a mountain and also worship streams and other landforms. Before climbing a mountain appropriate offerings are offered to the deities residing in the mountains to pray for forgiveness and success. Such remnants of paganism is a recurring theme in most of the Nyingmapa sect Buddhists as Guru Rinpoche did not destroy old beliefs but simply incorporated them within the philosophical framework of Buddhism during his missionary expeditions in Tibet.

Festivals of the Everest Region

Festivals are the best expressions of religion and Khumbu has its share of both colorful and solemn ones. We hope you will excuse me for passing on the solemn ones. One of the most colorful of the Sherpa festivals is the Mani Rimdu which is celebrated during spring at Thame Monastery and during autumn at Tengboche Monastery. It is celebrated to enhance the well being of the Sherpa community by chasing off evil spirits and is a colorful spectacle with masked dances. If you can you should be there when it happens.

Another important festival is Dumji which is celebrated to commemorates the birth of Guru Rinpoche. There is much drinking and merrymaking during this time along with solemn rites. It is also the time for the annual replacement of prayer flags around villages. However, it happens around July which coincides with the peak monsoon season.

Folklore of the Everest Region

Legend has it that Guru Rinpoche or Padmasambhava consecrated certain valleys in the Himalayas as places of refuge in times of climatic and/or religious crises. These sacred valleys are called beyuls and are perhaps the inspiration for Hilton’s Shangri La. The Khumbu area is one of the areas thus anointed and has served those of the faith since the 16th century to the present day.

No discussion of Sherpa folklore would be complete without the Yeti. This abominable snowman has captured the imagination of locals and travelers alike and many famous names have run expeditions to find one, with none succeeding. Is it a lore, is it a man or is it a bear? Time will tell, or maybe not.

People associated with the Everest Region

Among many worthy climbs and worthier climbers, we will just mention two names: George Mallory and Sir Edmund Hillary. Mallory is famous because he possibly ‘did it’ while Hillary is famous because he ‘did it’ and much more. If you are lost, ‘did it’ refers to the act of standing on the top of Everest here. While Mallory was perhaps the first westerner to see the Khumbu, Hillary was the first westerner to look after it. Even today the Sherpas revere Sir Hillary as a modern-day patron saint for his contributions in the area.