5 Things nobody tells you about hiking to Everest Base Camp, so I will!
I just finished watching ‘Everest’ on board of our flight to Singapore and found myself with tears in my eyes, seeing all the beautiful places that we saw in real life when we were hiking to Everest Base Camp last November. It’s been just six months since we were there but at the same time, it seems so far away already, even years. As we are currently flying over India, I see Kathmandu appear on the screen every now and then. From here, it would be a short flight only to the beauty of the Himalayas. Looking back at it, I realized a couple of things about our trek to Everest Base Camp.Things we didn’t know, because nobody told them to us beforehand. So we will tell them now. Just in case you are ever considering hiking to Everest Base Camp and you want to know what you are getting yourself into.
[Note that this Everest Base Camp Trek blog was first published in June 2016 and fully updated in October 2019]
1. Take Diamox on the Everest Base Camp Trek!
The one thing I was afraid of before starting my EBC hike was the altitude. Although I’m a fan of Scott Fisher’s quote ‘it’s attitude, not altitude’, the altitude can kill you. Litterally. We had read up on it before departure and I just a week and a half before we went to Nepal, I found myself stuck with a really bad bronchitis.
So bad, I had to go and see a doctor. Not only did she give me Prednisone and Antibiotics to get me better in time, but she also prescribed me Diamox, a medication against altitude sickness symptoms. I did not actually plan on taking this but figured I’d bring them just in case. She told me to take two pills a day in case I needed them. However, upon arrival in Lukla, our guide Jangbu asked if we wanted to consider taking Diamox. I told him I had 10 pills with me in case I needed them, but he told me that once you think you need them, you are already too late.
You should take Diamox as a prevention, not to cure the symptoms of altitude sickness. I was in doubt because I didn’t really feel like doping up my body that was slowly recovering from the medication against my bronchitis. However, if I wouldn’t take it and be unable to make it to Base Camp, I’d feel sorry forever. So I decided to go ahead and start taking them from Namche Bazar at 3.440m.
I can’t tell if it was the Diamox or other circumstances, but the altitude didn’t make us feel sick for one single second. Sure, we did have an occasional headache and we were short of breath most of the time, but that can’t be prevented. However, we never felt nauseous or sick like we saw other people feeling sick. If I would have followed the doctor’s advice to take them when needed, I may not have reached Everest Base Camp nor finished my EBC trek.
We are not doctors, and there for can’t tell you what is best for you, however, when you are trekking to EBC, consult your guide or a local pharmacy about what is good for you! We ended up taking 10 pills each, over the course of 10 days, so one pill each day, one half in the morning with breakfast and the other half during the evening before going to bed. Ofcourse, there are also some side effects that you have to know of, one of them is tingling limbs. My doctor told me that it would be my hands, but I ended up having tingling feet, toes, head, fingers and arms. Nothing to worry about, but slightly annoying and somewhat scary if you don’t know what’s happening…
2. Take enough tissues!
Anything is for sale along the way when hiking to Everest Base Camp but at a price. We had brought a lot of tissues from home, but as I got really bad stomach issues for nearly a week, we finished them pretty fast. The tissues that are for sale there are rubbish and expensive. One blow from the nose into it and it already got torn. As I always have a running nose while hiking, I truly hated it and not having tissues at my convenience. Ofcourse, it was unforeseen, but the ones I bought there were pretty expensive and crap. If you decide to hire a porter to carry your luggage, I can definitely recommend adding some extra tissues. Wet wipes may come in handy, too!
3. There is wifi for sale everywhere!
We already wrote it in another blog, however wifi can be found at nearly every teahouse along the trek. At a price of course, but it was not as expensive as we thought it would be and in some places, it even was pretty fast. If the guesthouse doesn’t have wifi, you can buy a card from Everest Link and use that to update your social media channels. On the internet I couldn’t find much about it before, so we wrote a full bog on where to find wifi on Everest Base Camp trek and what the cost was.
4. Bakeries are your worst enemy!
The biggest mistake we made, was going to a bakery and eat food that isn’t fresh. After three days of trekking and eating teahouse food, we found ourselves in Namche Bazar where they had all kinds of shops and bars. As we heard good stories about the local bakeries and were craving a piece of cake, we headed over and had (I have to admit) a delicious piece of pie each.
However, the day after I got sick and our guide asked us, if we happened to have been to a bakery. As we confirmed, he looked at us, worried, and told us that’s where I probably caught the food poisining. Those bakeries are notorious for keeping food out of the fridge for too long, sometimes even days, so you end up eating food that may taste OK but that is in fact full of bacterias.
I asked him why he didn’t warn us and his answer was that he used to tell his clients but nobody ever believes him. People see western stuff and assume that it’s automatically safe to eat it, but no less is true. Our advice is to go to bakeries, but inquire if the food you are having is fresh. If not, you should not take it, even if it looks divine. I ended up hiding behind rocks and trees for nearly a week on the trek. Just so you know…
5. The EBC hike is easy!
The trail to Everest Base Camp is easy, however the trek is not. Do you get what I’m trying to say here? I’ll explain it to you: the trail is pretty straightforward, well laid out and fairly easy. Even the glacier crossing we did was easy, we even did it without crampons.
What makes hiking to Everest Base Camp hard, is the altitude and the climbing you have to do. It’s nothing technical and basically, most people in a decent shape should be able to do it. However, most people have to turn around because of the altitude, because that is what making them suffer. The only technical part of the trek was in fact the trek across Cho La Pass (which is optional and should not even be considered if you have a fear of heights) and the crossing of the Nzogumpa Glacier, because there is no evident trail and people who don’t have a guide, can easily get lost there since there are no trailmarkers. However, if you plan on hiking the regular route and are used to hiking in the mountains, you should be fine, technical wise. Altitude wise, that’s a whole different story!
Conclusion and disclaimer
If I’d have known these things before hiking to Everest Base Camp, I would have come better prepared and may not have caught the food poisoning that kept me from hiking up to Kalapathar and Gokyo Ri. Looking back at our adventure, I can still say I’m proud of making it to the Base Camp, given the shape I was in at some point. Hiking to Everest Base Camp is serious business and should never be underestimated.
Planning a trip to Nepal? Make sure to order your copies of Lonely Planet Nepal and Trekking in Nepal here.
Looking for a nice accommodation in Kathmandu after your trek? I can personally recommend Kathmandu Guesthouse. Located right in the heart of busy Thamel, this is a true oasis of quiet and calm before and after your trek. I stayed here both before and after my trek and truly enjoyed it! All other suggestions for accommodation in Kathmandu can be found here.
I hope you found this article useful and that you enjoyed reading my Everest Base Camp blog! If you want to read more Everest Base Camp stories, go here to find all my articles!