Day 1- Kathmandu – Lukla – Pakhding
Day 2- Pakhding- Namche Bazaar
Day 3- Acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar
Day 4- Namche to Deboche
Day 5-Deboche- Dingboche
Day 6- Acclimatization day at Dingboche
Day 7- Dingboche – Lobuche
Day 8- Lobuche – Gorak shep – EBC – Gorak shep
Day 9- Gorak shep – Kal Pattar- Gorak Shep – Pheriche
Day 10- Namche Bazaar to Lukla
Day 11- Lukla – Kathmandu
If you dream of hiking though the misty Himalayas to rub shoulders with Everest, but you are also safety conscious and have a backpacker budget- then you are already on the right track, because this article is going to help you achieve that. ?
I discovered it was possible to tackle it under USD700 and took a route and pace that was safe. It took me 11 days to make it from Kathmandu to Everest Base Camp and back. You can do it in less, but I gave myself 2 days at different stop points to acclimatize and avoid getting altitude sickness.
Below is the route I took and various tips that will help you save money without taking any unnecessary risks.
Day 1 – Kathmandu to Lukla airport via flight or helicopter (30 mins)
You need to book your flight to Lukla Airport, where the track begins. I booked mine with an agent Mountain Sun Valley Treks & Expeditions. It was cheaper booking it with them than booking directly with the airline. (I checked to make sure) The return ticket was USD300 via the agent. And it helped having a contact person in Kathmandu who dished out advice and helped when I had problems with my flight.
I had to wait 3 days for my flight as the weather was terrible and you may or may not know, Lukla airport is one of the most dangerous airports in the world! I ended up taking a helicopter because I got fed up of waiting. It cost an additional USD50 but I was extremely lucky to get this price as the agent who booked my flight also owned a helicopter company, so rather than refund my cancelled flight, they told me to add on USD50 for a helicopter ride. Which was pretty amazing.
Tip 1: No porter or guide
First things first, you don’t need a guide or a porter. It costs around USD30 per day to hire a guide and USD25 per day for a porter. The route to base camp is well signposted and you can’t get lost (unless you get a bit wild taking selfies and stagger off the tracks which is highly possible, as the tracks have steep edges which fall into mountainous ravines. #lastselfieever O_O)
Day 1- Lukla Airport to Pakhding 6.2km
The 3 days wait culminating in an impromptu helicopter ride over the lush Himalayan valleys left me itching to get a move on with the hike. I set off with great gusto and nothing could dampen my spirits, not even the wet slippery muddy tracks. They were muddy because the monsoon season had just begun and you will also share the track with donkeys and yaks carrying heavy cargo. Just remember, they have the right of way so suck your gut in and let them squeeze past.
I arrived in a place called Pakhding. Day 1 was an altogether easy hike, no dramas, not too much effort and plenty of good views. I stopped at a guesthouse which allowed me to stay for free as long as I ate my meal there.
Tip 2: Free accommodation in the low season!
Most guesthouses along the way will allow you to stay free on the condition you have your meals there which is pretty neat! Please note, I went in the low season in June. I am told you may be charged between $2- $10 per night higher up on the track in the peak seasons
Tip 3: Charge all your devices at Lukla, as it will cost you a lot of money higher up on the track.
Day 2- Pakhding to Namche Bazaar 7.4km
I set off at around 9am and crossed a couple of pretty cool suspension bridges and tried not to get carried away with taking too many pictures but it was so hard not to, the views are so stunning they nearly knock your teeth out! And this was only Day 2!
I found the climb to Namche Bazaar the hardest out of all the trek, the incline was so steep and I started to feel the lack of oxygen. The best solution to this was to ogle at the waterfalls mid trek, take a pensive ‘candid’ looking-into-the-distance selfie and scoff my face with a Mars Bar. If you faint with shock from the ridiculous price, I suggest you get up and buy another one immediately, you won’t find it any cheaper higher up the trek.
I arrived in Namche Bazaar quite late, it was approaching dusk and the heavens were pouring down. I was cold, wet and hungry. I walked into a clearly empty guesthouse to be told abruptly that they had no vacancies. -__- I dripped as much water as I could in their empty dining room and stomped out. I managed to find a guesthouse that night that charged ridiculous prices but at that point I didn’t care!
Day 3- Acclimatization day at Namche Bazaar
I moved to a delightful guesthouse the next day called ‘Lhasa Guesthouse’. It was warm, decently priced and was owned by a Sherpa called ‘Lhakpa’. They were so welcoming and his wife made Yak momos that will make your nostril hair perk up with delight. Momos are a type of dumpling that are stuffed with vegetables or meat and can be served fried or in a broth.
Tip 4: Opt for vegetarian food on the trek unless you absolutely trust that the source. I ran off the side of the mountain clutching my bottom more than once on this trip. It was incredibly sexy -_-
I woke up to the most magnificent morning view of the mountains and spent the day exploring the village trying to get my lungs used to the lack of oxygen. There is a yummy Momo place opposite the market, ask for the Momos in soup. You will become a Momo supporter for life.
Tip 5: You can buy wool booties and rent down jackets from the shops here, I was so SO glad I bought the booties, they keep my feet warm and toastie in the evenings.
Tip 6: The guesthouse will help keep any excess belongings you feel will weigh you down. After 2 days trekking you will most definitely find items to ditch pronto.
Here is an article on what to pack so you don’t end up over packing:
Day 4- Namche to Debouche 6.6km
The first few kms from Namche reminded me of an easy walking trail in NZ. Interesting terrain, not too many inclines and magnificent views of mountains and waterfalls. I also bumped into plenty of yaks plodding patiently on the trail minding their own business. Eventually the sun and lack of oxygen tired me out towards the end and I was very glad to see some form of human activity and a monastery. We had arrived in Tengboche!
I had a quick bonding session with some cows and then went in search of food and shelter. But my delight was short lived, I was told nothing was open and was directed a bit further to the next town, Debouche.
The place I stayed at was a nightmare! The rooms were dirty, filled with bed bugs and dust, the toilets were filthy and I was served pasta that looked like pink vomit (Carbonara) and soup that tasted of rust. They also switched the lights off half way through me eating dinner announcing that it was 8pm and time to go to bed. I called this place ‘Craggy Island’, you will understand this term if you have watched the Father Ted TV show.
Tip 7: Avoid all the guesthouses in Deboche until you get to the last one, I think it’s called ‘Mountain Lodge’. It seems to be the most reasonable of the accommodations and serves excellent omelets. You also won’t be served soup that may give you tetanus.
Day 5- Debouche to Dingboche 8.4km
Deciding not to let the 0 hours sleep at Craggy Island get the best of me, I made my way with full gusto to Dingboche. You will see a mangled suspension bridge along the way, a reminder of the powerful earthquakes that struck Nepal in April 2015.
The weather decided to throw a tantrum and it was on this day that I was truly tested. It was cold, wet, windy and I had only crackers and tuna for lunch. I also started to really feel the altitude sickness. I also went for a wee round some rocks and managed to be walked on by a big group of young Sherpa boys making their way round the mountain. Nothing can prepare you for your genital regions being ogled by a group of mortified young men when you are mid flow during a frustratingly long wee. I don’t know who shrieked louder but I am pretty sure there are some blind young Sherpa men walking round the mountain as we speak. O_O
I arrived in Dingboche and went to the first open guesthouse I saw. Luck was on my side. Moonlight Lodge had a fireplace in the living room which he was very generous with and also a hot shower that made my toes curl with delight. If you are going to take one shower on this whole trek, make sure it’s at Moonlight Lodge. Ram (owner) charges your soul and everything you own but it’s totally worth it. Piping hot, good pressure and artistic floor tiles! The food isn’t too bad either, make sure you order the tuna pasta, I give it a solid 9/10. The rooms are also warm as he’s padded with insulation so you will wake up nice and cozy.
Day 6- Acclimatization day – Dingboche
I had grand plans to hike up a steep hill to help me further acclimatize, but instead I took a leisurely stroll up a hill to a Stupa which had a minimal incline. I decided me and my trusty butt cheeks deserved a rest:)
The views were spectacular, cheeky mountains peaked out from the clouds and sent their greetings beyond the Dingboche valley.
Tip 8: Pick up dried yak poo if you find any, your host will be delighted as they use it as fuel in their log burners.
Day 7- Dingboche- Lobuche 6.6km
The walk was quite unusual. It started with an easy open valley with what looked like abandoned stone houses. We then met a new doggie friend. Up until that point I had been very wary of dogs as I heard they had rabies… until I spotted my Spanish walking companion stick his hand in the dog’s mouth and say ‘See Amigas, no problem!’ From that point on, the dog’s name became Everest and my Spanish walking companion was named the dog whisperer!
On this trail, you will also see a graveyard. It’s quite a sobering yet breathtaking sight. The graveyard pays tribute to all the people who attempted to summit Everest but never made it back down. What really shocked me were the number of Sherpas who died too. One thing that becomes apparent on the EBC trek is the Sherpas have almost superhuman fitness levels and tolerance to altitude sickness. Their genes and blood cells are adapted to the low levels of oxygen. Quite often we were overtaken by Sherpas carrying goods weighing up to 100kg. With no water. In casual footwear. #whoneedsboots!
Day 8- Lobuche – Gorak shep 4.3km – EBC – Gorak shep 3.4km
This is a big day, the day you summit to EBC! As you start nearing Gorak Shep, you start to see glaciers. My advice is to calm your nipples, save time and make a bee line for the first guesthouse you see on the left of Gorak Shep, because there will be plenty of glaciers to see later on near EBC.
The guesthouse has lots of stickers on the outside entry door, offers free tea and ample heating and has incredible pizza! Carb load as much as you want here because after lunch, if the weather is good, you can offload all your baggage and make your way to EBC. Stop. Take a breather. Enjoy the miraculous views. Pause and reflect how you have somehow made it to where Edmund Hillary and so many other legends stood.
THEN GO MENTAL AND TAKE 1 MILLION SELFIES!!!!!! My trusty walking companions who were well mannered, soft spoken and pretty tame throughout the trek suddenly lost their heads and ripped their tops off and started hollering and dancing tribal style on the glaciers. I blinked a grand total of 5 times and joined in #aintnopartylikeaglacierparty!
Tip 9: Something we didn’t realize was there are actually TWO EBCs. The fake and then real one. The first one you see is fake, take a few pics as it is elaborately decorated, but make your way to the real EBC 1km further on.
Day 9- Gorak Shep – Kala Pattar 1.2km- Gorak Shep to Pheriche 9.6km
In all honesty, getting to EBC wasn’t the highlight of the trip. Getting to Kala Pattar was. It had way better views and was pretty technical to get to. It’s also higher than EBC! I remember crawling to get to this point. Altitude sickness was starting to kick in and I started to feel sleepy and lethargic. Every step seemed like such a huge effort. But it was SO WORTH IT. You arrive at the top and perch on top of a precarious rock with slippery flags. You are greeted by mountains engulfed in clouds and behind you there is a huge drop into glaciers. I felt like I was being offered a slice of heaven.
I decided to start making my way down right after as I didn’t want to chance spending any more time with such little oxygen in the air. My head was pounding and I was starting to feel nauseous. The journey back down to Pheriche was wet, cold but remarkably beautiful. It actually reminded me of the views in Ireland!
Day 10- Periche to Namche – 14km
The walk on this day was pretty uneventful. I just wanted to get to somewhere with lower altitude as soon as possible. I felt with each step the air became richer and fuller. You really don’t appreciate breathing with 100% oxygen until its taken away from you. It felt like such a luxury to breathe and not feel breathless.
I arrived in Namche and decided to celebrate by buying some yak cheese! It was one of our travel companion’s birthday so we managed to have a Sherpa birthday party That night the family surprised us with a homemade birthday cake and presented the birthday boy with a unique and very special Sherpa scarf. Not many people can say they celebrated their birthday in the Himalayas eating yak cheese, homemade cake ,with a Sherpa scarf draped round their necks! We even had Coca Cola. Never has a drink full of sugar and chemicals tasted so delicious! I threw all my anti-fizzy drink principles at the side of the mountain and gulped down a whole bottle.
Day 11- Namche to Lukla 13.5km
We arrived late in Lukla and it was pouring with rain. We stayed at the Paradise lodge, which was 5 minutes’ walk from the airport. I can’t say I was too impressed with the condition of the rooms, it was cold but the food was edible.
I later discovered this was a small price to pay for the true value we received from the lodge. There was an old Sherpa man who owned the lodge called ‘Mr. Ang Passing Sherpa ‘aka ‘Kaka’. He basically helped us secure a spot on the tiny plane. More detail on this later.
Day 12- Lukla – Kathmandu (30 mins by plane)
When we arrived in Lukla, there had been no flights for 4 days due to the bad weather. People were either paying exorbitant prices for helicopters or just waiting and waiting for the next flight. We were told the chances of us getting on a flight were slim to none, but we got up early the next day and made our way to the airport.
There was a flurry of excitement, the first plane in 4 days turned up. We tried to show our tickets and explained we had paid for a flight but we were totally ignored and the entire plane was filled with locals within 1 minute and off it went without us! We stood utterly dismayed. We had lost our chance to get back to civilization. There is normally only a small window of opportunity when the weather brightens up enough for a plane to land and take off.
Frustrated and dejected we went back to our lodge and Kaka came to the rescue. This old man marched to the airport and strode up to the airport officials with us in tow. I have no idea what he said but he must have been a figure of authority as everyone parted and next you know we had secured a spot on this tiny 14 seater plane! I couldn’t believe it. We left as fights were breaking out in the airport between frustrated waiting passengers and airport officials, and thanked our lucky stars we were on our way to hot showers, clean clothes and edible food!
There you have it. Everest base camp tackled in 12 days under $700. I will be writing an article which breaks down the costs. Would you find this useful? Is there anything I missed? Please comment below!
*I would like to say a special thank you to my trusty French companion Paul Grandperrin for allowing me to use some of his photos in this article. He is the blonde lad in the photos who ran up the EBC trail while the rest of us tried not to keel over from lack of oxygen!