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Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

After our fantastic Gokyo Ri Trek in 2016, we were excited to return to Nepal to visit Everest Base Camp. As with our previous trip, we designed our itinerary to give us the best chance to acclimatize and avoid altitude sickness by following a conservative rate of ascent. We wanted the trip to maximize our time in the beautiful mountains and to be leisurely in nature, not a rushed test of endurance and pain!

The most important factor that we considered in our itinerary was preventing altitude sickness. Acute Mountain Sickness is a very serious and dangerous medical condition that can occur above 2500 meters (8,000 feet). While many people follow the guidelines of ascending no more than 500 meters (1600 feet per day) with a rest day every 1000 meters (3200 feet), we tried to match our ascent to the more conservative Himalayan Rescue Association guidelines. They recommend ascending no more than 300 meters (1000 feet) per day with a rest day for every additional 600-900 meters (2000-3000 feet) and no single day gain greater than 800 meters (2500 feet).

We broke our 22 day trip into 3 segments:

  1. Pre-trip preparations in Kathmandu – 2 days
  2. Everest Base Camp Trek – 19 days (We planned 18 days – winter weather prevented flights to/from Lukla at the end of our trek.)
  3. Post-trip Kathmandu – 1 day (We planned 2 days. We lost our Kathmandu casino day!)

The days on either end of the trek are flexible due to the possibility of weather delays at Lukla.

Pre-trip Itinerary – 2 Days

Days 1 & 2  – Kathmandu
Altitude: 1365 meters (4478 feet)

Nepalese currency is not available outside of Nepal, so before leaving Tribhuvan International Airport, we purchased just enough Nepalese Rupees (NPR) with USD to get us through the first day. Our hotel had a better rate, and we made the large NPR purchase for our trek through the front desk. While we were in Nepal the spot rate was 1 USD = 113 NPR. The airport money exchange was selling at 110.58 and our hotel was selling at 112.

We stayed at Hotel Ganesh Himal (32 USD per night) both before and after our trek. They offer free airport pickup for international arrivals. The hotel is quiet and removed from the busy party scene, but close enough to walk everywhere that we needed to go to prepare for our trip.

We used the Kathmandu prep days to:

  • Purchase additional gear that we needed.
  • Rent down sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners, and down coats from Shona’s Alpine (200 NPR / 1.8 USD each, per day). We asked to substitute the 20,000 NPR deposit with 200 USD. We did not want to be stuck with 20,000 NPR right before flying out of Nepal.
  • New since our last visit – The Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance Permit (2000 NPR / 18 USD) has replaced the TIMS Card in the Everest region. The permit is sold in Lukla. Since the Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit (3000 NPR / 27 USD) is available in Monjo, the entire permitting process is more convenient. Everything is simply right by the trail! This is a big time savings for independent hikers.
  • Review our itinerary and finalize our route.

Trek Itinerary – 19 Days

Trek Day 1 (Day 3) – Flight: Kathmandu to Lukla, Hike: Lukla to Phakding
Flight Time: 35 minutes, Hiking Time: 3 hours
Altitude: Lukla 2840 meters (9318 feet), Phakding 2610 meters (8563 feet)

We took a 5:15 AM taxi (800 NPR / 7 USD, 100 NPR more than normal due to the time) to Tribhuvan International Airport for our 7:25 AM flight (179 USD each). Due to weather, our flight was delayed until 10 AM. Once we landed in Lukla, we purchased our Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality Entrance Permit and hit the trail. This first day of hiking is a good warm-up for the rest of the trip; while it’s not too difficult, we were ready to be finished for the day. Phakding is actually at a lower elevation that Lukla, so there is not much uphill walking yet.

Trek Day 2 (Day 4) – Hike: Phakding to Namche Bazaar
Hiking Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 3440 meters (11,286 feet)

After Phakding, ice on the trail became the norm. We met one person in Lukla at the end of our trip that had a very expensive helicopter evacuation because of a fall on ice.

We brought micro spikes that we use ice-fishing, and they worked fantastically. We put them on when we came to icy stretches and removed them and clipped them to our chest straps when not in use. We did not have to stop and remove our packs. People that purchased cheap crampons in Kathmandu did not fare very well. The cheap spikes bent easily and quickly became worthless….

At Monjo, we stopped briefly at the National Park booth and purchased our Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permits.

This day is one of the more challenging hikes due to a big jump in altitude. The second half of the day is a long, steady uphill climb, and we were looking forward to our layover days in Namche. We scheduled two acclimatization days because of the altitude and because we love hiking in the area. You could plan an entire month-long trip just in the area around Namche Bazaar…

Trek Day 3 (Day 5) – Acclimatization Day: Namche Bazaar, Visit Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre

We spent the day enjoying and exploring Namche Bazaar and did a short hike to our favorite view of Mount Everest at the Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal
View of Mount Everest (left) from Sagarmatha National Park Visitor’s Centre.

Trek Day 4 (Day 6) – Acclimatization Day: Namche Bazaar, Hike to Khunde

The hike to Khunde (3840 meters / 12,598 feet) offers spectacular views and scenery.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Trek Day 5 (Day 7) – Hike: Namche Bazaar to Tengboche
Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Altitude: 3870 meters (12,697 feet)

This hike begins with a relatively flat stretch with gorgeous views of the mountains (providing you have clear weather, of course!) before descending to cross a river. After crossing the river, be prepared for another long, steady uphill climb to Tengboche. The reward is a beautiful village nestled in a saddle surrounded by huge mountains and lovely views.

Trek Day 6 (Day 8) – Acclimatization Day: Tengboche

We visited the Tengboche Monastery (the largest and most active monastery in the Khumba) and did a short acclimatization hike to the top of the hill above the Hotel Himalayan.

Trek Day 7 (Day 9) – Hike: Tengbouche to Pheriche
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Altitude: 4240 meters (13,911 feet)

While many people stay in Dingbouche on the way up and Pheriche on the way back, we took the conservative approach and did the opposite (the two villages are separated by a ridge and are just 30 minutes apart). For acclimatization purposes, Pheriche is safer due to its lower elevation – 4240 meters (13,911 feet) vs 4400 meters (14,436 feet).

This hike starts with a short, steep, icy descent, crosses another river, and gradually makes its way above the treeline. Pheriche is noticeably cooler than previous villages due to the elevation, wind, and its location in a valley that receives less direct sunlight.

Trek Day 8 (Day 10) – Acclimatization Day: Pheriche

We hiked to the top of the ridge between Pheriche and Dingbouche. The mountain views are wonderful.

Trek Day 9 (Day 11) – Hike: Pheriche to Dughla
Hiking Time: 2 hours
Altitude: 4620 meters (15,157 feet)

This is where the hiking becomes extremely difficult – not because of the elevation or the cold, simply because you want to constantly look around at the amazing scenery rather than watch where you are walking! Be prepared for more consistent winds from here on up. The day’s hike is quite short due to elevation. It starts with a relatively flat walk along the valley floor and ends with a quick ascent to the two-lodge village of Dughla.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal
Sara looks tiny in the giant landscape!

Just above the lodge is a great spot to take in the extraordinary views.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

The best food that we had on the trip was in Dughla! It shows when someone takes pride in their cooking. The lodge did not charge us for the room, yet it was our most expensive bill! Not because the food cost more, simply because I could not stop eating…

Trek Day 10 (Day 12) – Hike: Dughla to Lobuche
Hiking Time: 2.5 hours
Altitude: 4930 meters (16,175 feet)

Winter weather rolled in with a vengeance. We had very cold temperatures and cloud coverage for most of the rest of our trip. We enjoyed another short day of hiking due to the elevation. Surprisingly, we felt as though the hikes at higher elevation were much easier than the hikes at lower elevation. While there were some uphill stretches, there seemed to be less up and down than previous hikes. Our slow pace and acclimatization days were starting pay off up here!

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Trek Day 11 (Day 13) – Hike: Lobuche to Gorak Shep, Everest Base Camp
Hiking Time: 2 hours
Altitude: 5160 meters (16,929 feet)

We made short work of our hike to Gorak Shep, quickly checked into our lodge, emptied a pack to use for emergency supplies, and headed out to Base Camp (5364 meters / 17598 feet). The hike to Base Camp took about 1.5 hours one-way. As we scrambled over boulders on the way Base Camp, I realized that we were essentially walking into a cirque – a dead-end valley surrounded by huge mountains. The glacial terrain feels unreal, almost like being on another planet.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

I loved visiting base camp! I am fascinated by the Khumbu Icefall and was very excited to get to see it in person. The entire area is spectacularly beautiful.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal
The Khumbu Icefall!

There was a group at Base Camp attempting a rare winter summit.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Our time at Base Camp was certainly the highlight of our trek!

Trek Day 12 (Day 14) – Hike: Gorak Shep to Dingbouche
Hiking Time: 6 hours
Altitude: 4400 meters (14,436 feet)

This day was originally scheduled to be a layover day. We were going to hike to the top of Kala Patthar (5,643 meters / 18,5149 feet) for spectacular views of Mount Everest. Unfortunately, we woke to very stormy skies. If the previous day had been clear, we would have swapped the days and climbed Kala Patthar.

We anticipated that we may have flight delays with the weather turning and snow starting to fall, so we decided to gain a day to give us the opportunity to fly out early. We ended up walking through accumulating, blowing snow from Dughla to Dingbouche, making the braided trail very difficult to follow and slowing our hike considerably. It was a fun challenge!

Trek Day 13 (Day 15) – Hike: Dingbouche to Tengboche
Hiking Time: 3 hours
Altitude: 3870 meters (12,697 feet)

We got sunny skies and were starting to be optimistic that our flight would not be delayed by the weather.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Unfortunately, the clear skies were short-lived and clouds began to roll in.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Trek Day 14 (Day 16) – Hike: Tengboche to Namche Bazaar
Hiking Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 3440 meters (11,286 feet)

This day is difficult compared to the previous descending days! This is one of the few stretches on the way back to Lukla that includes a significant uphill climb.

Trek Day 15 (Day 17) – Hike: Namche Bazaar to Phakding
Hiking Time: 5 hours
Altitude: 2610 meters (8563 feet)

During our Gokyo trip, we made the trip from Namche to Phakding in one day. While possible to do, it wasn’t our favorite day! We decided to take it easy and break it into two days, just like we did on the way up.

Trek Day 16 (Day 18) – Hike: Phakding to Lukla
Hiking Time: 3.5 hours
Altitude: 2840 meters (9318 feet)

The final stretch back to Lukla involves a bit of elevation gain. While not the most challenging part of the trip, the excitement for completing the journey can make the end seem elusive and further than it is… Upon arrival in Lukla, we headed to the Tara Airlines office and changed our ticket to the next day.

Trek Day 17 (Day 19) – Lukla: Attempt to Fly Early

We packed our bags early and headed to the airport. No planes were able to fly due to weather. We had a relaxing day at our lodge and visiting some local restaurants.

Trek Day 18 (Day 20) – Lukla: Day of Scheduled Flight

Once again, we packed our bags early and headed to the airport, but no planes were able to fly. So, we had another nice afternoon with lots of food! I contacted our hotel and let them know that we would not make the first day of our two-day reservation. Unexpectedly, they did not charge us for the day!

Trek Day 19 (Day 21) – Flight: Lukla to Kathmandu
Flight Time: 1 Hour
Altitude: 1365 meters (4478 feet)

For the third time, we packed our bags early and headed to the airport. Even though it was a clear day with sun, the runway was a solid sheet of ice. They did not have any equipment to remove snow and ice. Instead, they simply waited until the sun hit the runway in order to melt the ice. Unlike other days, they did not send us away to reschedule our flights. As the day slowly progressed, it began to become very cloudy and I was beginning to doubt they would send planes. Surprisingly, around 3 pm, two Tara airplanes landed! Before long, we were airborne with our little plane pointed straight up in order to climb above the clouds. This flight was almost twice as long as normal to circumvent the clouds. The return flight costs the same as the flight to Lukla (179 USD each).

While the flight delays were certainly inconvenient, they are not unusual. We were very surprised by the number of people who had booked their international flights on the same day, or the next day, of their Lukla flight. That is extremely poor planning, and there were some very upset people. By the third day, tempers were beginning to flare and tears were being spilled. It is better to be mildly disappointed that you are not losing money in a Kathmandu casino, then it is to be jeopardizing relationships, careers, and/or thousands of dollars in international flights and non-refundable resorts (all concerns that we overheard).

Once we were back in Kathmandu, we walked out of the domestic terminal and negotiated a taxi (700 NPR / 6.25 USD) to Hotel Ganesh Himal. We returned our rented equipment, had long hot showers, and ate a big dinner.

Post-trip Itinerary – 1 Day

Day 22 – Kathmandu

We had our hotel arrange a 10 AM taxi (700 NPR / 6.25 USD) to the airport for our afternoon flight to Bangkok.

We had a fantastic time hiking to Everest Base Camp. When we were very cold or tired, we were tempted to plan an October trip when the temperatures are mild and we could carry lighter packs without the heavy winter gear. However, we think that having many of the trails all to ourselves more than makes up for the discomfort. We saw a signboard at the National Park booth at Monjo that listed the number of visitors by month. October (the busiest month) had over 12,XXX visitors and December had 3,XXX by the last few days of the month (I wished I had taken a photo for precise numbers). I cannot imagine how busy the trails would feel with four times the number of people. That does not take into account the number of additional porters and pack trains bringing in the necessary supplies!

While we were disappointed that we did not get to see the famous views from Kala Patthar, it gives us something to look forward to on our next visit to the region!

Lodging Expenses

Tea House Lodges – The per night rate is now fixed at 500 NPR / 4.5 USD in most villages (free in Dughla and 1000 NPR / 9 USD in Namche Bazaar). You are expected to eat breakfast and supper at the lodge. Tea house lodges only heat the communal dining areas for a short period in the evening with a central stove; the rooms in the lodges are unheated. None of the rooms that we stayed in had power outlets to recharge cameras or phones. If you have electronic devices that you want to charge, they provide the service via solar power for a fee.

We limited the number of photos that we took so that our battery lasted the entire trip without needing to be charged. It helped that we already had pictures from our last trip until just past Namche Bazaar, where the Gokyo trails branches to the left.

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal
There are two tea houses in remote Dughla (Thukla).

Our tea house lodging expenses with breakfast, lunch, and supper averaged 7215 NPR / 64 USD per day. This was higher than our trip in 2016. Much of the difference is that we often ate lunch outside of the lodge where we were staying in 2016. This time we ate most of our lunches in the lodge. The lodges are also now more expensive due to the fixed pricing. In addition, it did not help that we were stranded in Lukla at the end of the trip with nothing to do but read and eat.

Here is an example of our actual expenses for one day at our lodge in Tengbouche:

Room – 500 NPR

Breakfast:
Porridge – 600 NPR
Porridge – 600 NPR
2 Boiled Eggs – 400 NPR
Milk Tea – 150 NPR
2 Brewed Big Coffee – 700 NPR

Lunch:
Garlic Soup – 400 NPR
Egg Chow Mein – 600 NPR

Supper:
Small Pot Mint Tea – 500 NPR
Pasta with Cheese – 600 NPR
Egg Chow Mein – 600 NPR

Total = 5650 NPR / 50 USD*

*We saved money this day by pumping water from the local water source. One liter water bottles were 250 NPR at the lodge. We also had fewer pots of tea than many other days.

Trip Details

  • Time of Year: December 2019 – January 2020
  • Length of Stay: 22 Days, 21 Nights
  • Total Trip Cost – 2 People:  2420 USD*
  • Cost Per Day / Per Person:  55 USD*
  • Visa Information: Nepal Department of Immigration Note: We utilized the online visa application prior to landing to speed our processing through immigration.

*Excluded from the cost analysis:

  • International Airfare – International airfare is not included because fares vary depending on your starting location.
  • Travel Health Insurance – Travel health insurance is not included because we have an international policy. Note: Our policy covers high altitude, make sure to check!
  • Personal gear purchased (hiking boots, long underwear, rain pants, etc.) that we would have had if we did not live in a tropical environment. Cold weather gear rented (down coats, sleeping bags and sleeping bag liners) is included since it is more practical to rent than to bring or purchase.

GPS Coordinates:Click to expand

Day 1
Tribhuvan International Airport @ 27.70045,85.35673
Hotel Ganesh Himal @ 27.709892,85.30662
Shona’s Alpine @ 27.713315,85.312222

Day 3
Lukla Airport @ 27.687778,86.731384
Phakding @ 27.74004,86.712555

Day 4
Sagarmatha National Park, Jorsale Entrance Gate @ 27.775698,86.721943
Namche Bazaar @ 27.804684,86.710495

Day 5
Sagarmatha National Park Visitor Centre @ 27.803097,86.714796

Day 6
Khunde @ 27.823514,86.705793

Day 7
Tengboche @ 27.835767,86.764467

Day 8
Tengboche Monastery @ 27.835999,86.763940

Day 9
Pheriche @ 27.894998,86.819715

Day 11
Dughla @ 27.923402,86.805555

Day 12
Lobuche @ 27.948051,86.810288

Day 13
Gorak Shep @ 27.980250,86.828283
Everest Base Camp @ 28.005382,86.857302
Mount Everest @ 27.987850,86.925026

Day 14

Kala Patthar @ 27.995750,86.828433
Dingbouche @ 27.894100,86.831866
click here to collapse

You can copy and paste the latitude and longitude into Google Earth, your browser, or into your GPS.

*Disclaimer- ALWAYS verify locations, transportation routes, GPS coordinates, etc. Errors are made, routes changed, sometimes we are just plain wrong. No one knows what you like more than you. If the trip is worth doing, it is worth doing right! Do your homework.