Climbing Mount Everest is not usually an ambition for the weekend hill walker, rambler or trekker, but a trek to Everest base camp is a very realistic opportunity for most people who enjoy the outdoors. Whether you are on a full blown 'expedition Everest' to climb to her summit, or one of the other peaks or treks in the Khumbu region, or an Everest hike to her base camp, the same question pops into people's minds 'how hard is the Everest Base camp trek and how does it compare to other well known treks or climbs such as Kilimanjaro?'.
Between the two, Kilimanjaro is definitely harder because you are climbing to a height of 5895 metres over six days (with the descent on the 7th day) and the final summit climb is 1200 metres. By comparison the Everest base camp trek with a high point at around 5600 metres (Kala Patthar), is completed over nine days on the ascent, so there is a longer time to acclimatise. Kilimanjaro also has five camps to sleep at on the ascent, while in Nepal there are two rest days, on a longer route, staying in lodges, which again allows for good acclimatisation and is more comfortable.
Everest Base Camp perched on the Khumbu Glacier at the foot of Everest is at an altitude of 5600 metres which is reached over a period of nine days with two complete rest days enroute. In terms of the Everest Base Camp Trek acclimatisation profile it is a very feasible goal, as long as you don't go too fast.
First things first – it’s not a climb! Getting to Everest Base Camp is a trek and for most parts it’s on mountain paths with the last two days on lateral moraine. There are a couple of steep hills to tackle but the paths are zigzagged to make it easier and there is plenty of time to stop for a rest and a chat. On the moraine the terrain can be slippy sometimes with ice, but there is no need for any technical equipment or skills. It is a straight forward trek and the only item you might want to carry are some mini spikes to put on your boots when it is icy.
How long does it take to trek to Everest Base Camp?
The trek takes 12 days from Kathmandu to Kathmandu if you fly into and out of the mountain airstrip of Lukla and take the normal route to base camp. You should allow 4 or 5 days on top of this for travel days to reach Kathmandu and to get over jet lag and to explore the city. There are other Everest Base Camp route options for the trek such as trek from Jiri, Saleri and Phaplu which are all beautiful, less travelled and take longer. If you're doing these routes it’s worth stopping off for a few days in the villages below Lukla where our charity Moving Mountains has done a huge amount of work over the last 3 decades. There are also differing route options above Lukla on the way to Everest Base Camp, which add length to your trek such as going via Gokyo Lakes, or the more challenging 3 Peaks and 3 Passes route to Everest base camp which both take interesting detours - so really it depends on how long you have and the type of trek or challenge that you're after.
The beautiful amphitheatre Sherpa capital Namche Bazaar
How fit do I have to be to trek to Everest Base Camp?
Well you don’t need to be up to marathon standard by any means but of course the fitter you are, the better you’ll feel and the more you’ll enjoy the trek. In general if you are happy walking for 5 hrs a day with a light day pack then you shouldn’t have any fitness issues – of the 14 days there are only a few that you’d actually walk for 5 hrs. Most walking is done in the morning and afternoons are for relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere and culture of the amazing environments you trek through.
One thing you can’t train for is altitude and that can prevent people reaching base camp where there is 50% less oxygen compared to sea level. The secret is to acclimatise well and to do so you need to take a slow pace, a good itinerary, ascend to altitude slowly, rest, eat good food, sleep well and drink plenty of fluid. The actual distances from Lukla to Everest Base Camp can be covered far quicker than we do it, but that will make you ill. For this very reason the trek is relaxed and of course enjoyable.
The whole trek is through Sherpa villages, the last community is called Gorak Shep and is at nearly 5000m.
Is the trek to Everest Base Camp dangerous?
It can be if you don’t stick with a good guide who will ensure a good itinerary in terms of rest days and acclimatisation and of course good food and clean drinking water; but there are no dangers in terms of hanging off ropes, exposed ridges etc. If you trek using a good company then the only thing you really need to be aware of is the yaks which are used to carry people’s kit. They run pretty quick along the trails and have been known to bump into people and send them flying. They’re amazing animals and you’ll hear them coming by the sound of their bells which is your sign to stand off the trail and always to the upper side of any slope. There is a good helicopter network for the main trek destinations in Nepal and the Everest trail is very well covered should there be an emergency whilst trekking to Everest Base Camp.
Adventure Alternative MD Gavin Bate standing above the Khumbu Glacier whilst taking a team to Everest Base Camp
When is the best time to trek to Everest Base Camp?
There are two main seasons for trekking to Everest Base Camp being pre and post monsoon, which is March – May and Oct – Nov. It’s also possible to go outside of these months but they would be the most popular times due to weather. From March to May it starts cold and gets warmer and the opposite is true post monsoon.
So there we have it, that’s how hard - or easy - it is to trek to Everest Base Camp. More details are on our Everest Base Camp trek page and do check out the ‘More Information’ box on the lower right hand side of the page.