Everest Base Camp is an incredible trek that is absolutely something you should do in your lifetime. A lot of people email and ask me if this is something they could do… Here’s my answer.
Hiking up to Everest Base Camp is absolutely incredible. Spending two weeks in Nepal, surrounded by some of the biggest mountains on Earth, is such a surreal experience. One thing MANY people are afraid about is the Everest Base Camp Trek difficulty. I’ve heard so many people question or doubt their physical ability and the shape they’re in, but honestly, don’t worry – I’ve done this trek twice and I’m gonna share everything you need to know about how difficult Everest Base Camp is, as well as how to train for Everest Base Camp.
The Everest Base Camp trek difficulty and high profile status make this trek the most popular in Nepal. Every year, thousands of people come to make it to the bottom of the top of the world, and most people succeed! Trekking-wise, EBC isn’t the hardest to complete. That being said, you need to be physically and mentally fit, and you shouldn’t underestimate this trek.
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Everest Base Camp Trek Difficulty
Everest Base Camp is no walk in the park, but a lot of the difficulty comes from the mental aspect. The EBC trek is doable if you’re reasonably fit and if you have a strong mind. Seriously, I can’t stress the mental aspect of trekking enough.
The hardest sections of the trek for me personally were going up to Tengboche from the river and the actual Everest Base Camp day. On the return, the hardest section was going back up after leaving Tengboche. The sections near Tengboche are difficult because there’s a LOT of uphill, and the EBC day is difficult because of the altitude. If you’re a comfortable hiker, you should have no problems.
Guides and Porters for Everest Base Camp
Guides and porters are two (or more) people that can make your Everest Base Camp trekking experience a lot easier. Guides will help navigate, check up on you, make sure you have food and water, help pace you, and teach you about your surroundings, the culture, and altitude.
Porters are the people who carry your main luggage. You’ll carry your day pack, which will hold water, snacks, gloves, extra layers, and other things you might need. Your main luggage will hold everything else. For the porter’s sake, try to keep your bag under 15 kilos. These guys have to work HARD, and honestly, you don’t really need much when trekking.
If you do hire a guide and porter, make sure you tip them at the end of your trek. It’s common practice to tip your guide about 15% of your total trek cost and your porter about 10%.
Everest Base Camp Terrain
The terrain you’ll encounter while you trek Everest Base Camp is varied. Most of the walking is on either solid trails or rocky paths. If you have weak ankles, either get a pair of mid-rise hiking boots or wear an ankle brace. The rocks near Gorak Shep and the last few days can be straining on the ankles.
Expect many little ups and downs… This is what they call “Nepali flat,” and let me tell you… it feels NOTHING like flat. Luckily, the actual ascent is gradual and you don’t go through too many HUGE uphill sections.
And just remember, because you’re going up and down the entire way, the way back will have more uphill than you remember, especially going up towards Tengboche and Namche Bazaar.
How Many Miles to Everest Base Camp?
Believe it or not, going to Everest Base Camp and back is only about 130 kilometres (roughly 81 miles) round trip! It’s really short, but don’t underestimate the length. It feels longer because of altitude and terrain.
And remember! Just because it’s shorter than you think does NOT mean you can rush up in less than 12 days. Acclimatisation days are built into the itinerary for a reason! More on this below.
Everest Base Camp Altitude
Everest Base Camp is 5,380 meters or 17,600 feet. This is high enough to experience acute mountain sickness (AMS). Altitude sickness shouldn’t be taken lightly (people have died doing this!), so make sure you’re aware of the signs, and be smart enough to go down to a lower altitude if need be.
Make sure that you have two acclimatisation days built into your itinerary – one day in Namche Bazaar, and another in Dingboche. This will ensure you acclimate. I’d add a book or cards to your packing list, as you’ll want to have something to do after your acclimatisation hike, whilst resting.
These days are ESSENTIAL to acclimating. I’ve seen some people skip these days because they didn’t feel the altitude, but they’ve also been sent back to Kathmandu in helicopters because of altitude problems further up. It doesn’t matter how great you’re feeling, take the day to do a short hike and acclimate! If you aren’t feeling great and you have the time, rest more. Slower is typically better with altitude.
Tips to help with Acclimatisation
I’d avoid alcohol on your way up and stick to just a little bit of caffeine. Hydration is also key- it seriously helps with the altitude! I’d shoot for at least 5 litres of water per day (more on water down below). Nepali remedies for altitude are ginger and garlic. Drink lots of ginger tea and garlic soup (preferably not together). I’m not entirely sure if the ginger and garlic actually help or if it’s an old wives tale situation, but either way, you’ll be hydrating, which DOES help with altitude, so go for it!
Diamox is something that many people consider taking for help with the altitude. You’ll need a prescription in order to get this in most countries. It’s a bit dehydrating so I recommend drinking extra water, and also know that sometimes it can cause a tingling sensation in your fingers and toes. I didn’t like that feeling, so I’m not a huge fan of Diamox and I don’t use it.
The Best Time to Trek Everest Base Camp
This is something that makes a classic Everest base camp trek even harder: weather conditions. The trekking seasons in the Everest region are from March to May and from October to the beginning of December. This is when there’s the least amount of rain (but still bring rain gear).
I’d avoid going super early in March, as the snow could be problematic. I’d also avoid going too late in December. This is when I trekked up to Everest Base Camp the first time, and it was so cold that the pipes froze and we couldn’t get water that way.
Everest Base Camp Food & Water
This is another thing that could make this trek a LOT more difficult than necessary. It’s common practice to avoid meat on the trek, as Sagarmatha National Park has a no-kill policy, meaning the meats have to be taken up from Lukla on the back of a porter… and you don’t really know how long it’s been out. There’s also a lot of dried meat, but you should be careful and maybe only eat meat on the way down.
Water will need to be purified. Bring tablets or a water filter (I’m a fan of Sawyer and Lifestraw filters).
I highly recommend packing some of your favourite chocolate. It’s amazing how when trekking, the promise of a Twix or Snickers at the end of the day really propels you forward.
If you do bring candy or chocolate, don’t give it to the children! As adorable as they are, giving sweets to kids encourages a begging culture and many locals are actually against it. It’s also not so great when dentists are hard to come by. Instead, toothbrushes, pens, crayons, and notebooks are wonderful things to hand out to the villages. I brought some crayons and donated them to a school when I did EBC the first time.
How to Train for Everest Base Camp
If you’re looking to increase your fitness, there are many ways to train for Everest Base Camp. At home, I’d recommend doing a variety of training. Some high-intensity cardio classes will be good for training your lungs. The shortness of breath I experience while doing a cardio class is similar to how I felt with the altitude.
I’d also recommend strength training to build up your quads. Because you’ll be going uphill quite a bit, this is important and it makes every step just a little bit easier.
Filling up a big backpack with weight and going for long walks is a great way to train for EBC. Even if a porter is carrying your bags, this is a really good way to start training.
If you have a fitness tracker or an iPhone, trying to get 10,000 steps per day is a good way to start building endurance. I averaged about 20,000 days on the trail. You don’t actually walk that FAR every day because you need to stop to acclimate.
Going on local hikes, no matter how long or short, will also help prepare you! You don’t need to be in the best shape of your life to do Everest Base Camp; you just need to be healthy and mentally strong! But also sometimes altitude gets you, so don’t feel bad if you can’t make it all the way up. You can always try again another season!
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Training Hikes in Nepal
If you’re looking to trek in Nepal before your Everest Base Camp trek, there are sooo many options. These will give you the feel of trekking in Nepal to help figure out what to expect.
The Annapurna Base Camp Trek is a good one. There are more stairs than you’ll encounter on the Everest Base Camp trek, but it’s a little easier (in my opinion). I’ve also done this trek twice, so if you’re looking for more information, here’s my guide. The Annapurna Circuit is beautiful and lower altitude if you’d like to see how you do with altitude. This, however, is quite a long trek and is a total feat of its own!
Other treks like Manang and the Tsum Valley Trek are beautiful, but quite expensive as you need to go with a guide and pay permit fees (more than just the regular TIMS and region fees).
And of course, if Everest Base Camp isn’t enough for you, the Three Passes Trek is incredibly challenging (and rewarding!).
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