Standing at a gigantic 8,878m, Everest stands proud shadowing its neighbouring mountains on the Nepalese and Tibetan boarder. It has appeared in newspapers, books, magazines all over the world with stories of mountaineering disasters and successes. Everest is without doubt the most famous and sought-after mountain in the world!
Down at Base Camp many hikers come to catch just a small glimpse of this incredible mountain, to follow in the same footsteps that Tenzin Sherpa and Edmund Hillary did all those years ago. But how hard can it actually be? I mean, its only Base Camp right?!
Here are just a few challenges that hikers and mountaineers from all over the world face, just to get to Base Camp:
Hikers trekking to Everest Base Camp can often underestimate the effects that altitude has on their bodies. Landing in Lukla (The airport in the mountains at the start of the trek) at 2840m/9250ft, the altitude is already high enough for the body to start experiencing symptoms of mild altitude sickness.
Typically, hikers will gain between 500 – 750m of altitude each day and the oxygen levels deplete as you get higher. Therefore, it is important to incorporate acclimatisation days into your itineraries. Your body needs time to adjust to the changing environment and ignoring this can have catastrophic effects.
Regardless of age, gender or fitness levels, altitude sickness can happen to anyone. A few things that can help are to drink plenty of water, keep energy levels up with plenty of food, sleep, walking slowly and of course…. Those vital acclimatisation days!
Flight delays to and from Lukla
If you have done your research, you will certainly know all about Lukla airport. Situated on the side of a mountain with a runway that is only 527m long, taking off and landing can prove quite difficult. The weather in the mountains (and Lukla) can be unpredictable and can result in flight cancellations or delays. Usually this is most common during the monsoon season but can sometimes be troublesome for the trekking season too.
If flight delays extend to hours or even days, then often there will be an option to get as close to Lukla as possible by Helicopter.
It is always worth giving yourself some extra days at the end of your itinerary, just incase you experience delays or cancellations.
With very limited access, the only way to get to Everest Base Camp is by walking through the Khumbu valley. Averaging at around 6 – 7 hours of hiking each day, the distance from Lukla to Everest Base Camp and back is around 130km. The human body is designed to move but sometimes we can forget this. That is why it is important to prepare yourself both physically and mentally. Trekking for 6 – 7 hours each day, at altitude is no easy task. Often the journey can feel like forever!
Diet and Food Poisoning
So it is not uncommon for trekkers to fall ill due to poor diet or food poisoning. The Everest Region is mainly Buddhist and therefore the slaughtering of animals is prohibited. Any meat that is in the region has been flown to Lukla and carried for days up the trails by porters or yaks. Often this can be in severe heat on the back of a rucksack. It is easy to understand how meat can gather large amounts of bacteria and make people ill.
It is best to eat local Nepalese food and stay vegetarian whilst out on the trails. Most Tea Houses will cook delicious and local cuisines such as Dal Bhat curries which will provide your body with enough energy to stay healthy.
Water safety is also important. It is easy to accidently drink water from the tap, but make sure you purify it or buy bottled water which is sealed.
Training or lack of….
“Im going to trek to Everest Base Camp and I am going to train every day for the next year!” Sounds a little unrealistic doesn’t it?!
Set yourself realistic goals and goals that stretch you but can be reached. Everest Base Camp is accessible for those who are physically fit. The fitter you are, the more enjoyable the trek will be. If you think you can just turn up with no training, then you may just be in for a shock. The best type of training is to go hiking in the mountains but we completely understand that mountains are not accessible for everyone. Therefore, aerobic exercises such as jogging, cycling, swimming and some light weight exercises can be really beneficial. Getting used to walking for long periods of time with a light rucksack on your back would also be a great way to prepare yourself.
Set a schedule on your phone or in a diary. Personally, I get a great sense of achievement by writing down my routines and results.