Everest Base Camp Trek
While there could be many adventures to talk about with your friends, mentioning the Everest Base Camp Trek always takes the conversation to a whole new level. This is an adventure unlike any other, and it is a big item to tick off from anybody’s bucket list. Whatever your reason for wanting to take on the Everest Base Camp Trek, it is good enough… just as long as you do it!
On this page you will find everything you need to know about this amazing experience.
Arriving in Nepal
Our flight to Nepal included a 3 hour stopover in Doha, Qatar. If you have been to this airport before, you will know there is a lot of ground to cover and more than enough to keep you busy with for a few hours. It is a state-of-the-art airport with everything you need from shops to clean restrooms and free WIFI.
From Doha the 4 hour flight to Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, was pleasant. As we approached the airport we were able to get our first glimpse of the Himalayas, albeit in the distance.
We landed on time and were excited to have arrived. The airport pales in comparison to Doha, and the fact that you have entered a 3rd world country is evident. Even so, we were able to get our passports stamped after only a few minutes, and collected our baggage without any issues.
Our taxi to the hotel was late, and we had to resist the urge to impulsively make other plans. We decided to wait it out, and after another 45 minutes our taxi finally arrived. While driving in Nepal could keep you on the edge of your seat, the reality is that the Nepalese have a “traffic system” that works. You might as well sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. It helps to look through the passenger window where you can see the surroundings, rather than the front windscreen where you see the oncoming traffic of sorts – cars, motorbikes, cyclists, pedestrians and even the occasional cow.
A courteous butler welcomed us to our hotel. The hotel check-in was efficient and professional. A long, warm and relaxing shower was just what we needed after the long flights. We stayed at the hotel for 2 days, during which we used the time to relax and mentally prepare for the trek. We also went to Thamel Square, where we were able to buy good quality gear for the trek at bargain prices.
We were set to do our trek with a trekking group, but we decided to start our trek a day earlier to allow for additional time on the first leg of our journey. For reasons why you might want to plan your trip a little bit longer, please read our post on [High Altitude And High Altitude Sickness].
Wearing as much clothing as possible to avoid luggage-overweight-charges, we left bright and early to Kathmandu airport for our flight to Lukla.
Flying To Lukla
The Everest Base Camp Trek starts at the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla. The runway is situated at an altitude of 2,845m, is only 527m long, and has an 11.7% gradient. This, combined with extreme weather conditions, is what earned the airport its spot as the most dangerous airport in the world for over 20 years! Getting to Lukla is in and off itself a bucket list item which you can tick, once you have landed safely. While the airport is rated as dangerous, we definitely found solace in the fact that the Nepalese pilots are some of the best pilots in the world due to the conditions they are accustomed to.
As we exited the plane we were stunned by an extreme cold. Immediately we put back on the clothing layers we had removed during the wait at the boarding gate, and covered our throats, ears, noses and hands. We could also tell we had reached a higher altitude, as breathing was noticeably more difficult and we knew we were in uncharted territory.
Our porter soon showed up, enthusiastic to help us right from the start. Baggage collection was informal but quick, and before we knew it our porter was ready with our duffel bags to go. While our porter was eager to start with the journey, we wanted to make a slow as possible start, so we insisted on first having a cup of lemon tea at a nearby tea house.
After about 40 minutes of resting and enjoying refreshments, we were on our way and officially started the 1st day of our trek.
Day 1 – Lukla to Phakding
- Change in Elevation: 2800m – 2610m
- Approximate Distance: 7.44km
- Estimated Trekking Time: 3.5 hours
From the start, the trek was bursting with magnificent landscapes and its associated inclines and declines, which take your breath away – pun intended. All along the trek, every 20 minutes to 3 hours there are tea houses and lodges clustered together to make up small villages. The distances between villages become longer as you progress towards Base Camp.
The first visible peak from the outset at Lukla is called Ngothung Ri (3473m). The sight left us in wonder… most probably only because we had no idea of what was still to come.
After Lukla, the next peak we saw was the snow covered peak on the right called Kusum Kangkaru. It towers at an impressive height of 6367m, but also only a glimpse of what was still to come.
Right from the start the trek is laid out with what seems like flights of stairs, going up and down all the time like a yo-yo.
Just under 3 hours into the trek we approached one of the many suspension bridges on this trek. While Hank had fear of heights, these bridges are not as bad as you might think. Just keep walking and before you know it you find yourself on the other side.
A note about the bridges: they are used not only by trekkers and locals, but also by trek donkeys and yak “trains”. It is not uncommon for a ‘train’ with supplies to cross these bridges. Best advice is to let them pass first before you get on to the bridge.
Our 1st day’s walk took longer than what is considered average. We took things really slow, making more stops than some of the other trekkers. Lynn adjusted to the new altitude much quicker, while Hank was taking strain. Nonetheless, we made it to Phakding in the late afternoon. We were able to find a room with a double bed (the only one on our entire trek) and an en-suite shower-western toilet combo, and we quickly settled in for the night.
We were the only trekkers staying at this particular lodge for the night. We tried to make conversation with our hostess, who spent most of the time on her cell phone browsing the internet. Dinner was a good serving of Dal bhat (Rice and Lentils), which is a traditional meal from the Indian subcontinent. Afterwards we lingered by the fireplace for a little longer, but eventually headed for our chilly room on the brink of the river. Sleep came quickly, and we had a good 1st night’s rest.
Day 2 – Phakding to Jorsale
- Change In Elevation: 2610m – 2740m
- Approximate distance: 5.93km
- Estimated travel time: 3.7 hours
There is one thing on this trek which is almost just as impressive as the mountains, the Dudh Koshi River. You will get glimpses of it on the first day already, but on day 2 you are overwhelmed by the sound of a rushing river – a crystal clear flow of water originating deep within the mountains. It is the Imja River to the north-west and the Lobuche Khola River to the north that joins together to make up the very impressive Dudh Koshi River. We were so mesmerized by this river that we felt the trek would be worth it just for the river, should we not be able to make it to Base Camp.
In addition to the river, you will also find many other waterfalls (all frozen in our case) and springs along the way.
Another highlight of our 2nd day was the fact that the Kusum Kangkaru Mountain, which means “Three Snow-White Gods” in the Sherpa language, was visible all along the trek. The mountain has an altitude of 6367m, and is considered as one of the most difficult peaks to climb.
After a few hours of breathtaking scenery, we came to the Sagarmatha National Park where we had to register and check in to the park. Sagarmatha is the Nepalese name for Mount Everest. It is also home to some very rare animals like the snow leopard, musk deer and red panda.
The rate for entering the park was 3000 Rs (Nepalese Rupees) per person + 13% VAT. You can find the current rates for the park here:
When we got to Jorsale, Hank was not feeling well… and the “iCare Healt Monitor” app confirmed it. We decided to have a rest at one of the lodges and get a decent lunch before the ascent to Namche Bazaar. Here we met a lady from Chile who was chilling at the lodge. She became ill on the way to Namche but disregarded the signs of altitude sickness. When she arrived in Namche it became so bad that she had to come back to lower altitude to recover. She had to sit out on the rest of the trek and was waiting for her husband to return from Everest Base Camp.
About an hour later, Hank’s symptoms only became worse. Good thing we did a check as his vitals were through the roof. Hank’s blood pressure was dangerously high and his oxygen levels alarmingly low. We decided to heed the warning and to also take a lesson from the lady from Chile. We booked ourselves in for the night and Hank took some aspirin to counter the high blood pressure.
Day 3 – Jorsale to Namche Bazar
- Change in elevation: 2740m – 3440m
- Approximate distance: 3.78km
- Estimated travel time: 2.3 hours
After a decent breakfast of eggs, toast and potatoes, we were on our way and soon started our ascent on the first truly tough section of the trek. It was also on this section where we realised we did not train well enough for this adventure. The only thing we could do was to go slow. We also realized that taking a rest night before the ascent to Namche was the right thing to do.
On the way to the top you have Kongde Peak (4250m) on your left. You also have the first view of the Kangtega Peak (6782m) on your right. Although these peaks are impressive, it was halfway up to Namche that we got our first glimpse of Mount Everest. Towering in the distance at 8848m above sea level, it is difficult to describe the emotions we experienced. Apart from the majestic view, it also happened to be our first marriage anniversary on the day.
Seeing the natural wonder with our own eyes made everything real and was all the motivation we needed for the rest of the trek.
Just before Namche there is another check point where trekkers must verify their permits. Not long thereafter we finally arrived in Namche Bazaar at 3440m. Guess what we got when we entered the town? More stairs! There was also a big sign warning visitors about cholera in the tap water. Only purified, bottled or properly boiled water should be consumed here and throughout the trek.
After checking in to our lodge we decided to take a cold bucket shower. It was 3 days already and we needed to freshen up. In hindsight, I would recommend paying the fee for a warm shower. As you progress on the trek, getting a warm shower becomes increasingly difficult and more expensive. Trust me, you will be glad you did.
A few hours later our group arrived and we introduced ourselves to a Brit, a Singaporean, five Aussies and our Nepalese guide.
Day 4 – Rest Day At Namche
The checkpoint at Namche Bazaar has a sign that says all trekkers are required to take a rest day for every 600m ascent. It is therefore standard procedure to take a “rest day” for acclimatization purposes at Namche. However, calling it a rest day is technically not correct – at least not if you go with a group on a scheduled itinerary. On Day 4 we did a day-hike to the Everest View Hotel, which is the highest hotel in the world at 3880m. Apparently it is okay to ascend a bit more, as long as you come back to sleep at lower altitude.
Getting there was tough, as the initial ascent was really steep. As we made it to the top of the hill, we were rewarded by the delightful view of Namche Bazaar. The perspective is amazing, and you can see the small town, the nearby school as well as better views of the immediate surrounding mountains.
Once you made it to the top, the rest of the walk is much easier. You also get a nice view of the valley that takes you back to Lukla, and we were encouraged by how far we had already come. We were glad when we arrived at the hotel, and Lynn ordered a cup of hot lemon while Hank ordered a coffee… not knowing he would only get a decent cup again on the way back home.
From the hotel the view of Everest is spectacular, and you understand why many visitors are completely satisfied with reaching this point only. We were extremely fortunate to have had clear skies which gave us a beautiful view during our brief visit. Apart from the amazing view of one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world, we were also mesmerized by the brilliant, magnificent and dramatic view of Mount Ama Dablam (6856m).
Day 5 – Namche Bazaar to Thyangboche
- Change in elevation: 3440m – 3860m
- Approximate distance: 9.32km
- Estimated travel time: 5 Hours
After an evening of hanging out with our group of fellow trekkers, eating Dahl bad, drinking garlic soup (a traditional counter for altitude sickness), charging batteries and power banks for the views that await, and purifying water for the next day, we were on our way the next morning to Thyangboche. On the main road, on our right we saw Mount Thamserku (6608m), and soon Mount Ama Dablam was in our sight.
The highlight for this section of the trek is definitely the view. It is also on this section of the trek where the donation-based toll gate is. At the time of our trek, Pasang Sherpa had been maintaining the road for about 50 years. Apparently the Nepalese government don’t provide funds for the trekking road, and the locals took it upon themselves to ensure the road is maintained at all times.
The views on this portion of the trek are dazzling, and you feel like you have stepped into a Narnia-like mystical world. Mount Everest and Mount Ama Dablam are simply out of this world.
In spite of all the excitement, you are regularly reminded of the altitude and we had to stop regularly to rest. The Aussies might not know how to play rugby (just kidding), but they sure know how to trek. Mick, who was in his 60’s, was living proof that age is not the deciding factor for this trek. We really struggled to keep up with him and his gang from down under. Soon they pulled away from us, and we reminded ourselves it is about the journey and not only the destination.
When we reached Thyangboche, we checked in at Hotel Himalayan for the night. We were unusually tired. Apart from a difficult ascent towards the end, the tiredness was most probably from the much higher than usual altitude. Nevertheless, we were not doing too bad and were pleasantly surprised when we got a room with a beautiful view of Mount Everest and Ama Dablam. We spent the afternoon visiting the nearby Tibetan Buddhist Monastery of the Sherpa community. We also had a great time just basking in the last sunshine over the surrounding mountains and in the beautiful surroundings. The highlight of the day belonged to Sagarmatha and Ama Dablam.
The sunset on Mount Everest and Mount Ama Dablam was epic!
Day 6 – Thyangboche to Dingboche
- Change in elevation: 3860m – 4410m
- Approximate distance: 10.3 km
- Estimated travel time: 5 hours
From Thyangboche you will begin to notice a visible change in plant growth. From this height there are fewer trees as the landscape changes from forests to mainly shrubs. You also encounter more yaks. Yaks are mainly found in the upper Himalayas, as they can’t descend below 3000m. If they do they get low altitude sickness and die.
Reaching 4000m above sea level was a milestone for us, both physically and psychologically. The air also distinctly thinner with every 100m of ascent, and hiking became almost painful. We were also aware of the rescue helicopters flying overhead daily – we counted about one rescue every hour and realised we needed to be careful.
It was also another day of crossing beautiful rivers and savoring the beautiful views of Mount Thamserku, Mount Ama Dablam and of course Mount Everest. When we arrived at our lodge for the night, we were again delighted to have been booked in to a room with a beautiful view of Mount Everest. From here Mount Everest was remarkably closer, and we were again encouraged by our progress.
Day 7 – Rest Day at Dingboche
At first Hank was disappointed that we had to take another rest day. However, looking back we can see this was a much needed stop on the way to Everest Base Camp. Like the “rest day” at Namche, we also went for a hike. It was an easier hike though, and we had an insane view of the Dingboche valley. It is also here where you have a close up view of Mount Thamserku.
Back at our lodge we decided to capitalise on the sunshine and we washed a few shirts, socks and underwear. We also decided to take a decent warm shower, after which we spent the rest of the day basking in the sun and making new friends with the people staying at the same lodge.
Before we knew it the evening was upon us. From this point on heating was provided by burning yak dung since wood isn’t available at this altitude.
Day 8 – Dingboche to Lobuche
- Change in elevation: 4410m – 4910m
- Approximate distance: 7.8km
- Estimated travel time: 5 hours
Ascending half a kilometer while already at 4410m above sea level is not a joke. It was on this leg of the trek where Hank felt like he was having a “Secret Life of Walter Mitty” experience. In the movie, Ben Stiller is at 18,000 feet in the Himalayas in the Afghanistan region and suffering symptoms of altitude sickness. Walking became increasingly difficult and, like in the movie, fighting for every breath, the norm.
It was also on this leg of the trek where we got caught up in a wind storm, right between some of the highest peaks in the world. We could literally hear the wind gushing towards us, while knowing it was going to hit us within a couple of seconds. As it came around a corner we no longer only heard the wind but could also see the effects of the wind as it scurried along the path coming straight at us. This was a rather frightening experience, and we got served with new respect for the Himalayas. We were fortunate the storm only lasted a couple of minutes, and we were able to carry on.
We stopped for lunch at the Yak Lodge & Restaurant in Thukla (4620m), before starting the really steep ascend to the Everest Memorial Ground. Here you find monuments raised in memory of people who died on Mount Everest. These include monuments for people like Scott Fischer, made famous by the movie called ‘Everest’. There is also one for Eve Girawong who died during the 2015 Nepal Earthquake, and many other memorial stones. It is also here where the reality of the dangers of this region become vividly real.
Day 9 – Lobuche to Gorak Shep (Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp)
- Change in elevation to Gorak Shep: 4910m – 5140m
- Approximate distance to Gorak Shep: 4.39km
- Estimated travel time to Gorak Shep: 3.5 hours
- Approximate distance from Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp: 3.25km
- Estimated travel time from Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp: 2.5 hours
We woke up feeling better. We had a quick breakfast and hit the road a bit earlier than the rest of the group due to our slower pace. This day was filled with excitement and turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. Along this route we came to a viewpoint from where we could see all the way to Everest Base Camp. The expanse is so overwhelming, Hank was instantly filled with emotion that brought tears to his eyes (Lynn’s moment happened a few days earlier already). You really cannot explain the vastness of what you see, and a picture is, in this case, not worth a thousand words.
However, from this point it was still another hour to Gorak Shep, where we checked in and had a bite to eat. Shortly after, we left for Everest Base Camp. The walk to Base Camp from Gorak Shep is another 3.25km which takes approximately 2 hours to cover. This last leg of the trek is filled with scenery from another world. You literally feel like you could be on another planet, and the surroundings is more like I would have pictured Mars to look like. Everest Base Camp is situated on a glacier (which is pretty much a moving river of ice). As you get closer, you hear ice cracking here-then-there, which adds to the marvelous albeit eerie surroundings.
Then it happened… We finally made it to Base Camp, situated at 5365m above sea level. The thrill and excitement of the moment was combined with a feeling of gratitude and relief. It wasn’t the easiest 52km hike, and we felt fortunate to have made it to the end.
The ecstasy of the moment became overshadowed by the reality of nightfall that would soon be upon us. We took one more moment to try and take as much in as possible, and then we headed back to Gorak Shep.
While some say the walk back was anticlimactic for them, we experienced quite the opposite. As much as Base Camp was the goal and the thrill, no one could have prepared us for what awaited as we came back to Gorak Shep. Because we were behind the group (again) we also only made it to our lodge by nightfall. This was a bit of a scary moment as the cold sets in quickly. This was also the most amazing moment of our trip. Caught between the peaks in the twilight zone, we got a view of the surrounding mountains we will never forget. The sun was about to go down completely, but we were mesmerized by an astonishing effect created by nature. The peaks around us were glowing and it was like fire on the one peak and a shining furnace of gold on another. We were in awe of the brilliance of nature, and there are no words to describe what the moment truly felt like.
If you watched our video you will see some of the scenery we are talking about.
We spent the night at Gorak Shep at an altitude of 5140m. This was one of the most difficult nights of our lives, and you need to be prepared for what happens when you try to sleep (or cannot sleep) at this altitude.
Day 10 – Gorak Shep to Pangboche (but first up Kala Patthar)
- Change in elevation: 5140m – 5550m then down to 3930m
- Approximate distance from Gorak Shep to Kala Patthar: 2.1km
- Estimated travel time: 2 hours
- Approximate distance from Gorak Shep to Pangboche: 17.9km
- Estimated travel time: 8 hours
In spite of how tired we were, this was the one night we hardly slept at all due to sleep apnea. The result is you fall asleep from being tired, and then wake up gasping for air about a minute later. By the time we thought we needed to get up we looked at our watch and saw it was only 1am! We ended up wishing the night away, and morning couldn’t come soon enough.
It was also here where we had our coldest night for the entire trek. But we are not complaining. Even at -8 °C in December, we are grateful as things could have been a lot worse. It was only 2 days later when we were back in Lukla that we heard the temperatures at Gorak Shep had plummeted to -31 °C (including the wind-chill factor)!
As we got up, we both had intense headaches. Getting ready was difficult, especially trying to bend down to tie shoes. Nonetheless, we were ready to head home. But first, we had one final objective before we could head back – climb Kala Patthar.
Kala Patthar is a hill close to Gorak Shep. From here you have an elevated view of Mount Everest, as well as the immediate surrounding peaks. We managed to get almost to the top, but settled for a view of the sunrise about 100m below the peak. We were simply too tired and felt unable to finish the climb. Our highest point reached was 5400m, with magnificent views of the surrounding area.
We got back to our lodge, had breakfast and then headed back home. Going back happened at a much quicker pace than when we came. It felt like every 10 meters of descent was like drinking another sip from a secret fountain of youth.
Descending, we covered in one day approximately the same distance we did in 3 days going up. After a long but productive day we arrived at Pangboche. Our appetites returned and our spirits were raised, feeling we had accomplished a great feat. However, we couldn’t help but feel sorry for the trekkers who were still heading towards Base Camp.
Day 11 – Pangboche to Namche Bazaar
- Change in elevation: 3930m – 3440m
- Approximate distance: 12.85km
- Estimated travel time: 5.7 hours
We got up early the next morning. After breakfast (more eggs and dry toast), we commenced our journey with thick clouds of mist rolling in. Within hours it was evident that fog beats rock, paper and scissors. It was strange to walk between the magnificent peaks, knowing they are there but not being able to see them. In places the fog was so thick we could only see a few meters ahead, but we knew the valley below would be unforgiving if we came too close to the edge.
We also realised how blessed we were to have had such beautiful clear skies for the first part of our journey. I feel sorry for anybody who gets to Base Camp unable to experience the fullness of what the surroundings have to offer due to bad weather.
After another long day of covering a great distance, we finally arrived at Namche. Thick fog engulfed the village, adding to the mystical feel of our trip. We spent the afternoon browsing the shops. We bought a few post cards with pictures of Everest, wrote notes on them and paid the merchant for stamps. He promised us he would take the post cards to the post office when they opened (they arrived at family members in South Africa, albeit a bit late!)
Because we did our trek in December which is outside the busy season, trekking gear was available at discounted prices. The shops along the streets of Namche also sell various other souvenirs and knick-knacks available to take home. We could also get a decent Cappuccino and Americano at a local “American Coffee Shop”.
Day 12 – Namche Bazaar to Lukla
- Change in elevation: 3440m – 2840m
- Approximate distance: 17.21km
- Estimated travel time: 8 hours
The nicest thing about the last leg of the trek to Lukla (apart from the views) is the descent from Namche to Jorsale. We were literally running down the hill at times and were making good progress. However, the worst thing about the last leg of the trek is the ascent right before Lukla – a sweet reminder of how tough the trek really is.
When we finally arrived at our lodge we were exhausted but thrilled. We checked in, cleaned up a bit and immediately went to the local Starbucks, or rather, “Starbocks”. We had cake and coffee which wasn’t great, but we didn’t care. It was good to have finished the trek and to be able to sit back and relax after a long and tough 12 days.
We headed back to our lodge for dinner and a debriefing session with our guide. After all the formalities were done, Mick from our group handed a collective tip from the group to the porters and the guide. We thanked them all for their hard work on this difficult yet rewarding journey. Surely without them the trek would have been nearly impossible. They are the true heroes of the Everest Base Camp Trek.
Day 13 – Lukla to Kathmandu
We got up at 6am and immediately headed for the airport. The fog cleared out, just in time, and we were able to catch the first flight back to Kathmandu. We were able to get seats on the right hand side of the plane, and this gave us beautiful views of the Himalayas. Looking at the mountains we were delighted to have experienced the beauty up close and personal, yet sad to have to say goodbye.
There is a Chinese proverb that says, “One Step at A Time”, and some parts of our trek was exactly that… The challenge was exceptional, both physically and psychologically. While we were able to complete the trek, I am reminded that everyone has their own Everest in life that they need to conquer. Here is a motto to live by:
“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary
Thank you for reading about our journey to Base Camp. There is important information covered in the related articles, and if you consider going to Everest Base Camp we would highly recommend that you continue reading here [Important Tips and Other Information].
Are you hoping to do the Everest Base Camp Trek, or have you done the trek before? Please feel free to leave a comment below.