Expedition to the Everest Base Camp

Mouth everest has captivated intepid men and women since the 1920s. The exploits of such legends as George Mallory, Sir Edmund Hillary ad Tenzing Norgay put the mighty mountain on the map. Thousand have since, making immense sacrifices, many with their lives, made their own attempts to at capturing the summit. Everest’s daunting summit soars so high that trekking to its base camp at an elevation of 17,590 feet is still an adventure. It is an achievable goal, but it does require immense training, diet and temperament control. The trek, which can be between 11 and 14 days, depending on the summits you wish to cover, and the weather conditions takes you to Everest’s Southern face base camp through some of the world’s most spectacular mountain scenery. Aside from the breathtaking scenery, there is an experience to be had that is exclusive to this region of the world. Live and breathe the unique Sherpa culture, visit monasteries and museums along the way. Days are filled with walking, for the sheer pleasure of walking. Past colorful prayer wheels and across swing bridges straight out of a mountain movie, the evenings are rewarded with hot, hearty and satifying sherpa stew, Thukpa and conversations with other trekkers, attempting the same, which appeared impossible until now. The heady mix of mountains, Buddhism, Sherpa culture, divine, cheerful food and warm Nepalese hospitality from the people of the Solukhumbu region makes the EBC trek one of the most unforgettable in the world.

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Spend a couple of days discovering the historic tresures of Kathmandu. When you first arrive here, you will take a day or two gathering your bearings. Visit the Thamel area, the medieval Kathmandu, the Bodhnath Stupa, extremely popular with tourists and allows you to window-shop at the street filled with trekking gear outlets. Since the major earthquake of 2015, you can see amazing sights of human bravado and unflinching mettle. Visit the famous Pashupathinath temple and feel the spirit soothe your soul. Both the Stupa and the temple are on the UNESCO world heritage sites list. March to may and september to december are ideal months to attempt this trek. May gets hot and there can be rain. December gets frigid with snow. Days are still beautiful, but there are fewer trekkers. Remember to keep warm in the evenings.

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After Kathmandu, your will have to move to Lukla, which is the world’s most dangerous airport with only a 50 meter runway. At a height of 9,394 ft, Lukla welcomes you, and you will feel like you are now there already. But this is also where the altitude sickness will very likely hit you. So spend a couple of days acclimitising to the rare oxygen and the elevation. Trek to Phakding, which is a downward trek, to 8700 ft, but this is part of getting used to the elevation and also, oxygen depletion upon cardiovascular activity. Get a glimpse of village life and the hardship that is faced by the populace of the mountains on a regular basis.

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Move from Phakding to Namche Bazaar the next day. Namche, the heart of the sherpa land can only be approached on foot from Lukla. It is a seven hour walk, and not too difficult, except for some steep sections. Keep a stable head and temperament and plough on. You have a rest day coming up next, because at 11,286 ft, Namche is deep into the Himalayas, you will need to take a day off to acclimitize to the height you are at. It’s important that one follow this routine because the body needs time to build RBCs so that you get enough oxygen into your system with each breath, each of which will be precious. Namche is a little bit of a touristy place with bars, coffee shops and souvenir shops. It’s easy to spend the day lazing around or visiting the Namche Monastery.

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Continue on to Tengboche the next day. Tengboche boasts of a beautiful Buddhist monastery. It is a moderately difficult trek from Namche, and will take you about 7 hours. Tengboche is situated in a small valley, and at the height of 12,664, the altitude will start to take a toll on you. Nosebleeds are common, many of which don’t stop even after trekkers return after conquering the summit. The important thing to keep in mind is to have a stable, solid head and a happy temperament. Move to Dingboche the next day, and you will be highest so far, at 14,304 ft. The route from Tengboche to Dingboche is dominated by great views of Ama Dablam which means mother’s necklace. Enjoy your day at Tengboche. Head towards Periche and the Imja valley, which offer vistas previously unseen. Hike past the Lobuche River into two steep sections. This part could take over 7 hours, even for an experienced trekker, and nature will promptly reward you by bring you to the Chola Pass!! The Chola pass is memorial/stupas of the people who dared before you and fell. Pay your respects and move on.

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Spend a day acclimitizing at Dingboche. One finds oneself at an elevation never before experienced by their body, and sometimes, your body can rebel. Give it time to acclimitize. Headaches and sleeplessness at this elevation are common, but as has been advised countless times before, it is in the mind before it is in the body. Keep a calm and stable head, and power through this. This is also the place where you will get a view of some of the highest peaks in the world, all of them over 8000 meters in heigh. The Makalu peak, the Cho Oyu and the Lhotse, and several other smaller peaks, and they will take your breath away. Spend some time marveling at the magnificence of nature and of your own body, for you are here because of your own grit and determination.

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Continue on to Lobuche and 16,207 ft the next day. Along the way, you will get spectacular views ofthe peak Pumori, sometimes called Everest’s daughter, Nuptse, Cholatse and Thamserku peaks. You are one of the few to have ever laid eyes on these, and celebrate this moment, and this victory. An average trekker will take about eight hours to cover the distance between Dingboche to Lobuche. By now, your body would very likely be getting used to the harsh environment, but wet noses, cracked lips, a never ending headache and body aches are common. Try and get as much sleep when you can and plunder on.

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The next day will test you resilience to the highest degree. This is the day you will walk from Lobuche at 16,207 ft to Gorakshep at 16961 ft, all the way to the Everest base camp, 17,598 ft, a feat you body has never before attempted. You will be giddy, with excitement, and with altitude sickness, but that will very rapidly be forgotten, as the awakening of being at the southern face of the Mount Everest dawns upon you. The peak of the Mount Everest, the highest point on the face of our planet will bear down on you, and it will humble you. The distant avalanches, the scary roar of the shifting mountains under you, the rugged terrain, the lack of life of any sort except your own tired feet, and the flags from those that dared before you, will remind you of what you can achieve, if only you put your mind to it. Don’t get too complacent yet, because if you dare, Kala Patthar, a peak boasting of 18,192 ft, 5,500 meters and shortest before the actual climb to the summit of the Mount Everest is not very far. Sleep as much as you can, and the next day, attempt this rocky, and daring climb. It is steep, it is cruel, it is for the daring. But dare you must, and you will be at the highest point of your life. Start your return to Lobuche that same day because you still have to return back home and there’s a long way ahead. The return will be difficult on the knees, but it will be easier that the ascent. And you will return with a sense of accomplishment and stories never before told, and those that will be told and retold.

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Training and preparation beforehand:

Physical training: one will need a minimum of three to four months of training before attemtping to reach the Everest base camp. Having a plan for stamina and endurance training as well as cardiovascular training and sticking by it will help you get to your goal. Usually, breaking down your training into achievable months will keep up the training as well as the morale.

1st and 2nd month –The first two months of training for the EBC trek includes walking/running – the distance gradually increased from 5 to 15kms a day. Moderate weight training, interval training on the threadmill (2- 3 times a week) is required to build endurance.

3rd and 4th Month – this is the time when physical training intensifies and an average 20 kms of walking a day is a must, including long walks on weekends (7-8hrs). This advisory is good for working professionals. Anything more than this on a daily basis will help you. Train carrying 5-8 kgs of weight on your back on a daily basis to help your body adjust for it. Training must touch and surpass 20-25 kms of walks per day. One also needs to prepare one’s equipment during this time. Shoes need to be worn out, because shoe bites during the treak are the leading reasons for complications and even premature termination of the trek.

Cycling, swimming, hill climbing are other exercises that must be undertaken to build stamina. Seek out tall buildings and walk up and down the stairs.

Diet for all 4 months – High carbs and protein all day. A typical meal plan during the duration of the training can look something like this.

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Breakfast – Eggs, fresh juice
Lunch – Rice, vegetables, 2 chapathis, chicken/ pulses (high protein)
Pre work out – (45mins prior to starting everyday walking exercise) – eggs/momos/sandwich and juice
Post work out – protein shake/milk/eggs/grilled chicken/vegetables/ and more protein

Along with the above, throughout the duration of training for the trek, it is advisable to
– Drink 4-5 lts of water around the day
- Adhere to an all vegetarian diet last the 2 weeks before the trek. This is to avoid stomach upsets from questionable meats. It is also advisable to stay vegetarian during the trek for the same reason, because at that height, no meat is fresh. As tempting as it is to try the yak steak, be aware that all meat is carried by porters from below Lukla, as there is no killing policy in Sagarmatha National Park. The safest option is Rice and dal, or the Sherpa stew- Thukpa.

- During the trek, take your time.Get used to the altitude sickness, even the extremely fit can be hit. The acclimitisation days, usually at Namche bazaar and Dingboche, are set for a reason. Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, sleeplessness, loss of appetite and breathlessness. Bring supply of medications, but if symptoms persist, descend.

Typical day of Trekking:

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A typical day of trekking to the Everest base camp would begin at 4 am. This is to avoid the queues that inevitably form at the short numbered washrooms. Sleep some more after, and this is desired, and advised. Wake up again at 7 am, grab your breakfast at the teahouse you are staying at. These are meagre accomodations you will find along the way, where thin wooden planks separate sleeping quarters and serve as ‘rooms’. After you breakfast, clear out of the teahouse and continue your trek. It is important to warm up before the trek. Some breathing exercises, pranayama and stretching will relieve the sore muscles. Make sure that your bag doesn’t weigh more than 10- 12 kilos, as it will just make your climb that much more treachourous. It is important to average a trek of 7 to 8 hours a day, so as to be able to complete the climb in a predetermined duration. Once you reach your destination at night, you will be exhausted, your limbs and shoulders and back will ache, but you will be filled with a sense of accomplishment for having come this far. A light dinner and early sleeping, no later than 8-9 pm, is advisable because you have a long day ahead of you tomorrow. And be prepared for that what that next day brings, and each morning, your heart will swell with happiness and pride for having come this far! The place is a sight for the sore eyes, so make sure to take lots of photographs and make a lot of memories. Do what you want, but leave the mountain pristine, in the state you found it in. Our planet and mountains are crumbling under the weight of human activity as it is.

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Express Info

Travel:

Bangalore – Delhi – Kathmandu – Lukla. Air India runs this route.

- No visa Required to Nepal (passport has to be carried)

- Agencies can be hired to organise the treks. Just make sure that they are registered with the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN). For a list of registered companies visit www.taan.org.np.

- Nepalese Government Permit is required for the trek in Kathmandu

- Cost – INR 1 to 1.5 lacs including Airfare (excluding Training and equipment costs)

- Team – 2 Sherpa’s, 1 guide and porters as required.

- Pack light. Aim for 10-15 kgs. It is advised to carry no more than 10 kilos of personal belongings, as you will be carrying the weight on your back. Also consider your porter’s load before you think of bringing that big bottle of perfume on the trek. A fleece jacket, a down jacket, thermal underwear is a must. Two pairs of long pants, two or three tee shirts, synthetic, not cotton. Footwear – broken in trekking and climbing shoes, trekking socks and sneakers. You will also need a raincoat, gloves, woollen hat, sunhat, and polarised sunglasses. A good sleeping bag, rated for -20/0 deg C is essential. A thermal liner, if you are attempting a winter months trek. Bring travel size toiletries, sunscreen is a must. Lip balm, travel towel and tissues and baby wipes. Bring medication for diarrhoea, antibiotics for chest and sinus infections, adhesive plaster for blisters. Get country specific vaccinations. Buying water along the way is the safest, even though it will come at a price. Or you can get water purification tablets from a drug store in Kathmandu, but they have often proven counterproductive.

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