Famous for its spectacular mountain peaks and the friendliness of the indigenous people, the Khumbu, or Everest, region of Nepal is one of the most popular areas with visitors and the trek to Mount Everest Base Camp is on most hikers’ bucket lists. The trek rewards participants with expansive views and a glimpse into Nepali history and culture, all while pushing the body to its limits.
When to Go
The best time to trek to EBC is from the beginning of March to mid-May or from the beginning of September to mid-November. In the spring, the mountains burst into color as the rhododendrons bloom and the temperature is more moderate as the snow is melting from the mountains. In the fall, the monsoons have cleared the air of dust, though the days are cooler and shorter.
How to Prepare
While nothing will really prepare you for the extreme elevation (Everest Base Camp is located at 17,598 ft. / 5,364 m above sea level), cardiovascular training such as hiking, walking and climbing stairs—lots of stairs—will help get you physically ready for the trek to EBC.
As for clothing and gear, breathable layers are the best option as the temperature can change quickly in the mountains. Sunscreen and sunglasses are a must for the bright sun at altitude and warm layers are essential for comfort at high altitudes. Be sure to break in your hiking boots before you arrive and carry moleskin or another blister remedy for when the inevitable occurs. Hiking poles are not required, but can be helpful in alleviating pressure on the knees.
To get to EBC, most people choose to fly to Lukla from Kathmandu to save time in transit. All routes start in Lukla and proceed through colorful villages and lush fields to Phakding. Suspension bridges are common, as is yielding to mule caravans on the trail. From Phakding you’ll ascend to Namche Bazaar, located in Khumbu National Park, a sacred Sherpa Valley and World Heritage Site. Situated at 11,286 ft. (3,440 m) above sea level, Namche Bazaar is a popular place for hikers to spend a few nights and acclimatize. It also affords the first views of Mt. Everest. From Namche Bazaar, trekkers will ascend through rhododendron forests to the monastery at Pangboche, then on to Dingboche, the highest permanent Sherpa village in the Khumbu region. From there, the reoute leads through the Pheriche Valley and past the Khumbu glacier.
Then, it’s straight on to EBC. The best views are from Kala Patar, but making it to actual base camp is the crowning achievement. It’s important to note: there are actually two base camps. The official base camp, also referred to as ‘Tent City,’ is where climbers who are attempting to summit Everest and their support staff camp. A short distance away from this area is a monument loaded with prayer flags and a sign saying “Everest Base Camp,” which is where most day trekkers congregate and take photos. Going all the way to Tent City means a heftier permit fee; it’s usually not worth it for a just a few pictures.
After celebrating the summit, it’s a matter of descending back to Lukla. Most hikers take a slightly different route down, crossing Pheriche Pass before arriving at Tengboche Monastery. Then it’s back to Namche Bazaar and then down to Lukla.
The trek to Everest Base Camp is not an easy trek and should be attempted only by those who are physically and mentally prepared. However, the rewards are definitely worth the effort.