There are treks and treks, and then there is the Everest Base Camp trek. It has been recommended as one of the must-to-be-done things during a lifetime. It’s got that much of a reputation! Naturally, it is the most popular trek of Nepal, a country with many other treks that are also challenging, interesting, and fulfilling. What makes the Everest Base Camp trek really outstanding is that you get to have a spectacular view of Mount Everest, really close up and personal.
Most trekking agencies have a two-week itinerary for this trek, and it all starts with a flight up to Lukla (2,800 m) from Kathmandu. Yes, it will take you only 45 minutes to get there, but what a 45-minute it is! First of all, although there are daily flights, one needs to be aware that high winds, dense clouds, and low visibility could hamper the schedule anytime. In case everything’s fine with the weather, you fly, and on the way you’ll get great views of Himalayan peaks on the horizon. However, it’s when you near the Tenzing-Hilary Airport (Lukla Airport) that the action really begins. You’ll be coming through two massive mountains as you begin to land, and you can be expected to be buffeted somewhat. The runway is pretty small, only 1,500 ft, with the northern end terminating in high terrain, and the southern end falling steeply into the valley below. One end of the runway is actually 60 m higher than the other end! All in all, it calls for a high degree of skill on the pilot’s part to both land and take off. Some call it one of the most adventurous airports in the world; the less polite call it a dangerous airport. Anyway you call it, it’s a picturesque airport.
Anyway, after landing, you arrange your gear and head off along the Dudh Kosi River to Pakding (2,600 m). You’ll be walking through lovely pine and cedar forests and will be probably meeting yak caravans transporting climbing or trekking supplies and equipment. If you are downhill to one coming your way, give way, because the yaks aren’t going to be as polite, and will be coming in a heavy rush. Right from your landing, you have perhaps already been transported into a different world from the one you’re used to; these caravans will only help to take you away further, they paint such an exotic picture! As you walk along, keep an eye out for wildlife like the Himalayan tahr and musk deer. The former have thick wool coats and large backward-curving horns reaching up to 18 inches.
The next day, you trek to one of the biggest Sherpa settlements in the country, that is, Namche Bazaar (3,450 m). By now, your uphill trekking should have set your muscles working extra hard, now you got to rest for a day here so as to allow your body to acclimatize to the higher altitudes. You’ll find Namche to be a bustling place, and the rest day allows you to take a short outing to Thame Valley. You’ll come across elaborate carved mani stones along the way, and a lovely gompa, as well. All in all, a day well spent. Then, the day after, you leave Namche and carry on through rhododendron forests and across suspension bridges to reach Tengboche (3,860 m) from where the you get sensational views of Everest (8,848 m), Lhotse (8,516 m), Nuptse (7,864 m), and Ama Dablam (6,812 m). All along the route, you’ll surely be enthralled by the sight of the Dudh Kosi River flowing serenely through the valley far below, and you’ll see a lot of chortens and mani walls alongside the trail, as well. You’ll no doubt be paying a visit to the magnificent Tengboche Gompa (estd. 1912), which has immense religious and cultural importance for inhabitants of the Khumbu region.
The following day, you walk up stone steps through wood full of birch, conifer, and rhododendron trees, and here, too, keep a sharp eye out for some more Himalayan wildlife. This time, it’s pheasants, which make for a colorful sight. You’ll come across a small village called Deboche, where there’s a nunnery. Then as you go onwards, you’ll notice that the trail is leading to alpine meadows full of scrub juniper (in the warm months, there will be a riot of wild flowers here), and eventually you arrive at Dingboche (4,400 m). You’ll notice a lot of barley grown around here, and the views of the mountains all round are simply outstanding. Another day to acclimatize yourself is called for again, and so you take a rest day. You can use this day to explore the Chhukung Valley, hiking there via the Imja Khola. You’ll have fine views of Imjatse (Island) Peak (6,189 m), Lhotse, and Ama Dablam.
Day seven finds you on your way to Lobuche (4,900 m), as you trek through alpine meadows and pasture land towards the end of the Khumbu Glacier moraine. Then on, it’s a tough climb that is pretty challenging. As in some other places, where there are monuments to departed mountaineers, here too you’ll come across similar stone memorials. You keep on climbing, and you’ll surely find it tough going as you climb onto the Changri Glacier. The altitude is now truly Himalayan, and the next day, you climb further up to Gorakshep (5,150 m) where there’s a small lake that’s frozen most times. You’ll not want to miss the chance to go to Kala Patthar, which requires a small detour, since one of the best views of Everest is guaranteed from there. Now, as you plod on, you’ll find it easier going, since you don’t have to climb much, but you’ll have to be careful as you walk because there’s lots of ice around on the trail. By and by, you reach your goal, that is, Everest Base Camp (5,337 m), situated high up on the famous Khumbu Glacier. The trek back is through Lobuche, Pangboche, Namche Bazaar, and Phakding, before reaching Lukla, from where you take that adventurous flight back to Kathmandu.