We Brits love the outdoors and are spoilt with some fantastic hiking destinations in the Lake District, the Yorkshire Broads and Northern Scotland. However, when it comes to epic trekking environments, we have to look abroad. The Himalaya is arguably the best trekking destination in the world. In today’s guest post high altitude trekking expert Mark Whitman outlines the many reasons why you should consider the iconic Everest Base Camp trek as your next adventure.
Mount Everest is known as Sagarmāthā in Nepalese and locals refer to it as the Goddess Mother of the World. Reaching the summit of Everest is reserved for an elite few, but relatively fit people can reach Everest Base Camp. If you undertake this classic trek, you will have unobstructed views of the world’s tallest mountain, one of the most renowned travel destinations in the world.
Everest Base Camp has been a popular trekking destination since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first climbed the mountain in 1953, starting from the same point. The whole jaunt will take a minimum of eight days, with most trekkers taking 12 days.
Initially, you will take a short and slightly harrowing flight on a small Twin Otter aeroplane from the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, to the airstrip at Lukla. Sitting on the left-hand side will give you the best views. The alternative is a journey on a rickety bus followed by a week’s hike, which you are unlikely to prefer.
The air is famously crystal clear and colourful prayer flags flutter from rooftops. Generally, you will not have to walk more than an hour without passing a teahouse. Often, sirdars – Sherpa guides – will implore you: “bistari” – slowly. If you find yourself out of breath, you are walking too fast. You ought to preserve your energy for the longer, more challenging days at a higher altitude. Ascending slowly will allow you to acclimatise to the altitude. Days will be spent acclimatising – a crucial element of this trek.
Evenings can be spent reading a book or conversing with fellow trekkers or staff. Usually, trekking crews take packs of cards, and you will be able to learn some Nepalese card games. Porters and guides sing and dance, and you can join in.
Sherpa culture is rich and vibrant, and you can expect to gain an insight into it. The locals are mostly shepherds who understand English, and some can speak it fluently. You will see very pretty Sherpa villages.
You will take in mind-blowing scenery: lush forests, steep valleys, three-tiered waterfalls, white water rivers and daunting, snow-capped peaks. On the first day, you will trek along the Dudh Kosi – the River of Milk. The following day, you will traverse forests of rhododendrons and magnolia, monasteries and villages. Early in the autumn and late in spring, the flowers you see will make this a walk you will remember for a very long time. You will reach the bustling Namche Bazaar, a junction for trekkers. This is a wonderful place to rest and shop. There are two museums, a number of Internet cafes, pizza houses and three cafes that are referred to by locals as bakeries. Next, you take a high path to reach Tengboche, the highest monastery in the world.
In the days that follow, you will visit Dingboche, Lobuche and Gorak Shep before arriving at Everest Base Camp, 17,598 feet up. The mountain itself is 29,029 feet high. Surprisingly, there is no view of Everest from the camp itself, but climbing the 18,513 foot mountain of Kala Pathar will take you to what is accepted as the best vantage point to observe Everest. Sunrise is an unforgettable sight. You will also be able to observe Everest’s impressive neighbours, Lhotse, Nuptse and Ama Dablam.
Mark Whitman runs the information portal, Trekking in Nepal, and works in partnership with high altitude trekking specialist, Privte Expeditions (http://www.privateexpeditions.com/), who offer a number of amazing Himalaya treks.