Planning your Everest Base Camp trek can feel daunting at times. There are so many unknowns and as I mentioned in my last post, I became obsessed with reading blogs by people who had done it. But I was getting so much conflicting info and some of the tips were just plain weird, so I stopped reading them. Now being on the other side of a super successful trip, I’d like to share with you some of the things that contributed to our success. If you’re younger than 40, these tips may come across as “momish” and that’s because they are. These are the things your mom would tell you to do. Ignore them at your own risk. 🙂
Apply for your Visa in advance – The Kathmandu airport is chaos in motion. There are hordes of people in one of three sections. 1) Visa application kiosk 2) Payment for visa 3) Visa issuance from immigration officer. Each of these sections took an hour. Yes, it took three hours for us to get our Visas. I didn’t know that you can apply online from home, but you must do it within 15 days of your travel or the application will disappear from the system. Visit http://online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/tourist-visa for more information. Theoretically, this will save you an hour at the airport. Also, when we got to the payment window, I was shocked when I handed over my $100 worth of rupees and the man said, “We don’t take rupees.” WHAT?! They will take any foreign currency, but not their own. Luckily I had a bunch of Chinese yuan from our layover, so we were fine, but it was still frustrating. In all my research, I hadn’t come across this important fact.
Bring a 3 liter water bladder – Drinking at least 3 liters of water a day is very important, and we got the system down to a science. Treating your own water is vital because there are no recycling facilities so avoid buying bottled water if you can. (We did have to buy a few bottles, but we brought them home and recycled here in the US.) Have your guide fill up your bladder each night at dinner in the kitchen of the dining room. (He told us not to use bathroom sinks.) Plop in three tablets (see below), one per liter, being careful to wiggle them out of the package without touching them, put the bladder in your backpack and close it up tight (as mentioned below, the water needs to be in the dark for the tablets to successfully work), and in the morning you will have three liters of good tasting, treated water. You will need small scissors to open the foil packets. Also, many people just use treated water in water bottles, but you won’t drink nearly enough this way. Having the hose of the bladder readily available makes it so easy to sip here and there before you feel thirsty. And you can also drink while still hiking rather than needing to stop and retrieve your bottle.
Use Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets – We were thrilled with these! The water tasted great and we didn’t get sick. Haha Beware that in order to kill everything, they need 4 hours to work, and your bladder needs to be in the dark. Also, it’s super important these do not touch your skin! https://www.rei.com/product/695229/katadyn-micropur-purification-tablets-package-of-30
Bring a water bottle – Not wanting to waste any treated water, if we had any water left in our bladders we would put it in our water bottles to use for brushing our teeth, taking our vitamins or extra drinking water. Then our bladders would be empty for filling with tap water and repeating the process above.
Rent a high quality sleeping bag – This is an important one. So many of the blogs I read talked about bringing a hot water bottle or metal thermos to put at the end of your sleeping bag otherwise you will freeze at night. Many of them also talked about leakage, which would suck! You have to buy hot water, it’s not free, so just simplify things and rent a good bag. We got ours from our guide company, Ace the Himalaya, for $35 each and they were awesome. Even during the most frigid nights we were toasty warm. I can’t imagine suffering through a subzero night in a subpar bag.
Put your clothes for the next day in the foot of your sleeping bag – This was something we adopted after a few days of having to put on bitterly cold clothes in a bitterly cold room. So not fun! Having warm clothes to put on was awesome. Pro Mom tip, right there. You’re welcome.
Bring a book and journal – Okay, one of the things I kept reading over and over was about all the cough drops, Theraflu, Vicks vapor rub we would need. It seemed super strange. And I was in for a shock. Being a borderline germophobe, I seriously almost had a full blown melt down a couple of times. What does this have to do with bringing a book and journal, you ask? Be patient…it’s coming. EVERYONE IS SICK!!! The trekkers, the guides, the porters and NO ONE COVERS THEIR MOUTHS! The dining halls sound like TB wards. The germs are flying and multiplying and thriving in the warm, moist air and there are so many bodies they can get into and infect. Just thinking of it gives me the willies. I know I probably looked like a freak, but I kept my Yowie up around my mouth and nose during most meals, and as soon as the meal was over we high tailed it out of there. Many people hung out after dinner, playing games, socializing, coughing all over each other. Not us. We were there to hike EBC and I didn’t want to do it sick. Cue book and journal. We would immediately go back to our room and read with our headlamps or I would write in the journal I was keeping. I don’t regret this anti-social behavior at all. Our group was all sick, even our guide, and they were miserable but guess who never caught it. Yours truly. This tip can also be titled “spend as little time as possible in the dining halls”. EBC is not going to be fun if you feel like shit.
Get enough sleep! – In conjunction with the above, staying healthy was my priority and most nights I would only read for about 15 min before going to sleep. I didn’t worry about the clock, I listened to my body. There was one night when I said goodnight to Brett and he said, “Julie, it’s 6:00”. I didn’t care. Brett on the other hand, did worry about the clock, and it came back to bite him. He would go to bed at what he deemed an appropriate time, but for the energy we were expending he wasn’t getting enough sleep and with three days left to go, exhaustion hit him hard and he kept almost passing out on the trail. He would have to stop for long breaks and then could only go a short time before he started blacking out again. It was scary and had nothing to do with AMS. He was just totally run down. Thankfully after a good night’s sleep, he was much better the next day.
Take vitamins – In conjunction with the two above tips, anything you can do to help your body stay healthy, do it! I’d rather take vitamins than have to take Nyquil or Theraflu. It was probably overkill, but we took a daily multi-vitamin, Vitamin D, fish oil, pro-biotic, and glucosamine. I also took fiber pills because with squat toilets I didn’t want any issues.
Bring snacks – The food is really good on the trek. We were pleasantly surprised at how well we ate. The guest houses all serve pretty much the same fare, but there is a big variety and we were very pleased. We were never hungry after a meal, but that being said, you are burning a lot of calories and you will need some supplemental nourishment while on the trail. We love Clif Shot Energy gels and Clif bars. We brought a bunch of each and I think they helped keep us going strong. It’s probably all mental, but I swear as soon as I suck down a gel I feel a burst of energy.
Eat vegetarian – Of all the food tips I read, this one is the most valid. The higher you get on the mountain, the less electricity and refrigeration there is. Eggs are fine because they are fresh from the villages, but stay away from all meat until you get back to Lukla. (We had a Chicken Sizzle there that was delicious.) I had read to stay away from the bakeries in the villages as well as dairy and we did not experience any trouble from either although we did skip cheese in a couple of the higher villages. We loved the bakeries and found their treats to be yummy. FYI, the cheese and butter all along the trail is from yaks and it is truly delicious.
Bring earbuds if you want to listen to music – I totally get wanting to listen to your music. I actually needed it on the last day to help get me up that monster incline to Lukla. But for the love of Pete people, no one else wants to listen to your music. The cluelessness (aka selfishness) of those blasting their music on their shitty phone speakers was unreal. Granted in 12 days we only came across two of them, but they made a big negative impression. Don’t be that guy/gal.
Show respect at Thukla Pass – Okay, here’s one that may be generational, I don’t know. Thukla Pass is where all the memorials are to those who have lost their lives on Nepal’s mountains. It is a sacred place, not a party place. The amount of laughing and carrying on bothered me so much. (I felt the same way at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. There was a family that was laughing and having the grandest time and it made me so mad!) I am all for a good time and laughing is one of my most favorite things, but when you are in a place that holds so much grief and pain for families of those lost, be respectful. I know this isn’t for everyone, but I walked around and read the names on every single memorial. I couldn’t stop crying. These people died doing what they loved, and there is some comfort in that, but I was crying for their moms, dads, husbands, wives and children who didn’t have a choice and are left with the pain. I expressed my disbelief to our guide at the behavior I was seeing, and he shook his head and said, “Younger people just don’t get it”.
Be as generous as you can – I don’t know about you, but I cannot imagine having to walk the 87 miles round trip over and over again for months. The porters carry all our stuff and the guides are our surrogate fathers for two weeks. They take such good care of us and make sure we have everything we need to thrive on the trek. I told our guide, Geljen that it felt like he was my 35 year old dad. He was absolutely wonderful and we will be friends with him forever. Take care of your guides and porters. They work so very hard to make sure our once in a lifetime trip is a huge success, and I know for us, we couldn’t have done it without them.