What it takes to scale the heights of a mighty mountain adventure
For more than a century, Mount Everest has been an inspiration and a challenge for hikers and climbers from all over the world. While not everybody has the desire to scale the world's highest peak, those who are interested in seeing the majestic mountain up-close can enjoy a more accessible adventure on the trek to Everest Base Camp.
How long does it take to get to Base Camp?
If you're in relatively good aerobic shape and can handle walking about 5 miles per day, the base camp trek is probably something you can handle. The time it takes to complete it depends on which route you take, but typically a trek to Everest Base Camp takes at least 12 days, with eight or nine days devoted to walking to the camp, and three or four to return. This might seem like a long time, considering the trek itself is only about 39 miles long, but it includes an 8,000-foot increase in altitude. The altitude makes the walk significantly slower, since you must allow for the extra time needed to acclimatize.
How many camps are on Mount Everest?
Two base camps are on Mount Everest: the north base camp in Tibet, on the China side, and the south base camp in Nepal. The south camp in Nepal is the most popular, and it sees thousands of trekkers and tourists each year. Travelers typically begin the trek at Lukla and pass through beautiful Sherpa settlements like Namche Bazaar, Dingboche and Gorak Shep, which offer stunning views of the landscape and museums and temples to visit.
How high is base camp?
The altitude of the south base camp is 17,598 feet. The elevation is significant, particularly for Westerners unused to breathing at such a high altitude. Proper preparation for the increase in altitude is critical for safety as well as comfort.
In terms of physical fitness and climbing ability, the trek to Everest Base Camp is not beyond the capabilities of most able-bodied individuals. You should be in good physical health, capable of walking about 5 miles per day and in good enough aerobic health that the gradual increase in altitude won't present too much difficulty. Between March and May and between September and December are the ideal times to make the trek. The springtime months can be hot, and you should be prepared for some rain if you go in April or May at the very beginning of monsoon season. Temperatures in December can descend below zero, but the treks are also less crowded.
The cost of the trek depends on a number of factors. Some Base Camp Trek companies sell packages that include airfare, flight transfers, transportation to Lukla, food and the cost of guides. Before purchasing, it's a good idea to research as many of these companies as you can and read user reviews. Other trekkers prefer to book their own transportation and hire a Sherpa guide on their own to take them to Base Camp. The fees for hiring a Sherpa can range from $10 to $20. While it is not officially a requirement to have a guide with you on the trek, it is highly recommended. Sherpa guides can not only help you keep the correct pace to cope with the altitude change, they can also provide invaluable information about the area, the culture and the landscape.