How to Trek to Everest Base Camp Without Going Broke
Most people living today will never have the experience of standing on top of the world – the summit of Everest.
Not only is the cost of climbing this peak astronomical, you have to book years in advance. Of course, you need impeccable climbing credentials. Whilst you may never climb to the top, there is little stopping the average, healthy human from undertaking the trek to the Base Camp on the lower slopes of Everest.
If you use the Internet and start looking at guided tours for this trek, you may again find yourself dismayed at the costs.
But it is possible to do it on a much leaner budget. Here are some ideas on how to shave the costs and still enjoy this magnificent trip.
Fly to Lukla Airport
Flying into, and indeed out of Tenzing-Hilary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport will be one of those unforgettable experiences.
You can book your flight via the internet on the website of Yeti Airlines. It should cost in the region of US$150.
The flights leave Kathmandu in quick succession from early in the morning (the most reliable as the weather is unpredictable).
Kathmandu Airport is an experience in itself. Seating is not allocated. You will have to press forward to claim a seat, with the row immediately behind the pilots being the most sought after by thrill seekers.
The flight takes just over half an hour and is extremely scenic.
You will glimpse your first sight of Everest along the way before this little plane lands on an extremely tiny 460-meter long runway that ends in a solid rock wall. The runway is chopped into the side of a mountain at an altitude of 2,800 meters.
Taking off is just as exciting as the plane plummets off the end of the runway. Most drop into the valley below before climbing out and heading up over the mountains.
The pilots that land there are very experienced. In the fifty years that the airport has been in existence, there have only been three serious crashes there. It is not surprising as passenger often burst into applause as the plane stops after the pilot has thrown the engines hard into reverse, and stood on the brakes with (it feels like) both feet.
Choose a Guide and Porter
When you collect your wits after landing at Lukla, you will find yourself mobbed by the local inhabitants who all claim to be guides and porters.
Most of these people are licensed guides and porters. They are all keen to earn a living. Speak to several before you make a choice, as you will have to put your trip in his hands. You need to ensure that you get along well.
The costs from January of this year are a flat fee of US$25 per day for a guide and US$10 per day for a porter. Your trek to Base Camp should take in the region of 14 days so your guide and porter should cost you, around US$490. You can add another US$50 for permits and fees.
Unless you are a highly experienced hiker and you are very fit, it is strongly recommended that you employ the services of a porter.
The likelihood of you being affected by the altitude, with the accompanying headaches, nausea, and loss of appetite, is very good and it will sap your strength. Having someone along to carry your pack will help you enormously. It gives you the break you need to enjoy the trip without having to carry your pack.
Support the Local People
The communities that you walk through all rely heavily on the hikers to supplement their incomes.
Staying in tea-houses should cost you around US$10 per day. This money goes directly to supporting the people of the Himalayas.
In the tea houses, you can expect a bed, rudimentary at best but it will never-the-less be a bed. In addition, you will be able to get a meal that will be hot. The quality will vary from place to place.
Washing facilities are extremely limited. Most hikers make do with a bowl of warm water and lots of wet wipes. Toilet facilities will most definitely not be what you ar used to a western style toilet is non-existent. They will be long drops or simply a hole in the ground. Take a small bottle of hand sanitizer as there will be nowhere to wash your hands.
The likelihood of finding a cash machine along your route is nonexistent. The possibility of paying with a credit card is also minuscule! Make sure you carry cash as this is what the vast majority of tea houses and other vendors will accept.
Take at the very least sufficient rupees to pay for your accommodation to Base Camp and back. You might also want to leave some spare for your shopping in Namche Bazaar.
What Gear to Take?
More than anything else, these will be the most important things to consider. Remember your pack will be carried by a porter but that does not mean that you can take everything including the kitchen sink.
1. Good quality waterproof hiking boots
Your feet are going to take you through two weeks of intense hiking. So make sure that you have good quality, waterproof hiking boots that are well broken in before you start. It is imperative that your feet are warm and dry at all times.
2. Down Jacket
Next on your list must be a down jacket with at least 650 fill down, but 700 or 750 would be better if you can afford it. As you climb higher, the temperature at night, drop significantly. As the insulation at the tea-houses is not wonderful, so you will need this jacket at any time of the year.
3. Down sleeping bag
A down sleeping bag or one rated at around -10 is also important for the same reason. Make sure you are warm at night, you need a good night’s sleep to tackle the climbs and trek that will come the next day.
4. A water bottle and a camelback water pack.
Dehydration is going to be one of your biggest dangers. Altitudes will dehydrate your body more rapidly than sea level. Look to drinking at least five litres of water every day as you hike. Headaches, often attributed to altitude sickness, may be a symptom of dehydration so make sure you drink constantly during the day.
5. Don’t forget your sun hat.
A sun hat with a wide brim is a must. As you climb, you are exposed to bright sunlight. You run the risk of being seriously sunburned if you do not take care. Don’t spoil one of the best experiences of your life by having a seriously burned face and hands.
6. Pack some of your favorite nibbles.
Even after having a good breakfast your body will scream out for nourishment during the day. There is nothing like a sweet reward at the end of a long climb. Nuts, energy bars, chocolate, biscuits are all good choices; anything that you fancy and that will travel well.
If you balk at the prices of these items in your hometown, remember that Kathmandu is a haven of knock-off shops.
You will find all of these items at far lower prices in the markets of Kathmandu than in any of the capitals of the world.
So if you want to tramp in the footsteps of Tensing and Hilary, strap on your hiking boots, bump up your fitness levels and make the trek. It will be one of life’s most incredible experiences and a definite big tick on the Bucket List.
The risks that you face in trekking to Base Camp are the same as any holiday in a foreign country with a few added risks for the altitudes that you are intending to ascend to. Travel insurance policies covering medical emergencies will give you the comfort of knowing that should anything go wrong, you have someone to take care of you.