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Mountaineering & Expeditions

Everest Base Camp | Hiking to South Everest Base Camp Nepal – Everything You Need to Know

Hiking to Everest Base Camp - how long does it take, how fit do you need to be and more...

Prayer flags at the memorial for Everest in Nepal.

Everest Base Camp Hiking

Everest Base Camp is a term used to refer to either of the two base camps which are situated on opposite sides of Mount Everest.

Possibly because the phrase is so widely used, and because the South Base Camp in Nepal is so popular, many people believe that there is only one Everest Base Camp, but this is not true – there is also a North Base Camp on the Tibet side of the mountain.

The North Everest Base Camp is less frequently visited than the South Everest Best Camp in Nepal, the latter of which is one of the most popular trekking routes in the Himalayan mountain range and plays host to thousands of tourist trekkers every year.

What is Base Camp on Mount Everest?

Colorful tents and Tibetan prayer flags at Everest Base Camp, Khumbu Region, Nepal.

Base Camp is simply anywhere a tent is pitched in anticipation of a climb up a mountain. It is the place from where mountaineering expeditions set out – but in the case of Mount Everest, when people say Base Camp they normally mean the South Base Camp at 5,364ft in Nepal.

In actuality, any base camp set up in anticipation of a climb up Mount Everest would also be an Everest base camp, but since the two main routes up the mountain became standardised, this is much less common, and when people speak of Everest Base Camp, they are almost always talking about the South Base Camp in particular.

South Everest Base Camp: South

Young women sitting and studying map in Himalayas, Signpost “Way to Mount Everest Base Camp” on the background. Mount Everest National Park. This is the highest national park in the world, with the entire park located above 3,000 m ( 9,700 ft).

Everest Base Camp hiking is incredibly popular. The trek to Base Camp on the south side of the mountain is a renowned route and can be found on the bucket list of many outdoor enthusiasts, even if they have no intention of attempting to summit Mount Everest itself.

What is the Height of Everest Base Camp?

The South Everest Base Camp at Nepal is set at an altitude of 5,364 metres, or 17,598ft (28°0′26″N 86°51′34″E). For comparison, the summit of Mount Everest is 8,848 metres, or 29,029ft above sea level.

How to Get to South Everest Base Camp in Nepal – and how long does it take to get there?

There are an array of hiking routes to Everest Base Camp. A report in 2012 said 36,000 took the trek from Lukla Airport to the Nepal Everest Base Camp, rising in 2015 to 40,000 people and growing further with every year.

Most trekkers fly from Kathmandu to Lukla to save both their own time and energy before beginning the morning trek to Everest base camp.

Trekking to Lukla is also possible, however, there are no roads from Kathmandu to Lukla, so there are no cars or buses that make the trip. Supplies are brought in by air and by Sherpa or porters who use yaks to help them carry gear up on the trails.

From Lulka, the hiking route travels up to the Sherpa capital of Namche Bazaar, a bright, colourful and vibrant setting 3,440m, or 11,290ft high, following the Dudh Kosi river. Hikers and climbers heading to Everest Base Camp often stop here for a day to rest and acclimatise to the oxygen levels of the heights.

From Namche Bazaar Namche Bazar the typical route is to head to Dingboche at 4260m or 13,980ft, and then to rest for another day to further acclimatise.

Namche Bazaar village on the way to Everest Base Camp in the Khumbu Region of Nepal.

From Dingboche it’s another two-to-three-day hike to Everest Base Camp South via. Gorakshep, which is a flat field below Kala Patthar, at 5545m, or 18,192ft, and Mount Pumori. You can stay in basic lodges along the way or camp if you’re part of an organised tour.

You can go as a solo trekker and carry your own rucksack, but most go as part of a team or hire a porter guide to carry the belongings .You can hire a guide to take you up to Everest Base Camp from as little as $10-$20 US dollars. If you hire one in advance it will be more expensive than doing it in Kathmandu – just make sure the porter you hire is registered with the Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN).

The return trip is a lot quicker than the up, not only because you’re travelling downhill but because you don’t have to worry about altitude sickness along the way. This can easily be done in two weeks, but giving yourself three will let you really enjoy it.

What is the best time to trek to Everest Base Camp?

Ama Dablam peak view, Everest region, Nepal

Peak times for trekking to the Southern Everest Base Camp in Nepal are from March to May, before it gets too hot and the sky opens the floodgates for monsoon season, and from September to December. December temperatures can be below zero but there are fewer trekkers on the trails at this time.

What will I see along the way?

Low angle view of the Dughla Waterfall suspension footbridge with prayer flags located in the Lobuche Valley, Nepal.

As well as the ridiculous views of the mountains you’ll get along the way, the trek is a great chance to get to grips with Sherpa culture – you can visit monasteries and museums along the way at various points.

You can expect plenty of prayer wheels, swinging bridges, huge mountain views and meeting with plenty of like-minded people along the way. Dinners tend to be filled with excited, if tired, climbers with plenty of stories to tell and the conversation as welcome as the food.

Most trekkers actually climb the Kalapathar above Base Camp, not only so as not to cluster Base Camp, but also to reach the top of something at the end of the hike and reap the rewards of a stunning view of Mount Everest. The peak of Kalapathar is 5545m.

What to pack for a trek to Everest base camp?

The same as any climb or trek you’ve been on before – the key is to take as little as you possibly can, while still making sure that you’ve got all of the essentials.

The average trekker heading up to the South Everest Base Camp will take a backpack that weighs between 10 and 15kg.

You should definitely take:

  • A fleece jacket
  • A down jacket
  • A rain jacket
  • Thermals (including underwear)
  • Trousers (plural)
  • Synthetic t-shirts that wick away sweat (or merino wool)
  • A jumper or fleece
  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Any other shoes for the evening
  • A hat
  • Sunglasses
  • A sleeping bag (rated to -20 Celsius)
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Lip balm
  • First aid kit including medication for infections

You should not take:

  • A 1 litre tub of Tresemme your porter has to carry
  • Seven pairs of jeans
  • A ball gown
  • A Yeti costume
  • A cardboard cut-out of Bruce Forsyth

Fitness levels needed?

You can actually make the trek to the South Everest Base Camp in Nepal with a fairly average level of fitness. Don’t get us wrong, the more prepared you are the better, and nothing can really prepare you for the altitude at 5545m other than simply climbing and altitude experience, but a well-paced climb is achievable by most with decent fitness.

You should have decent hill-walking experience and obviously the more cross-training you can do the better. But don’t worry – you don’t have to be Kilian Jornet level just to make it up, just make sure you take your time. If you feel any headaches or dizziness coming on then the altitude is getting to you – slow down, rest, don’t panic. If it keeps getting worse, turn back.

The Earthquake and Everest Base Camp

During the tragic earthquake in Nepal on 25 April 2015, which measures 7.8 Mw, 19 people were said to be killed on in Everest Base Camp as an avalanche on Pumori swept through the area.

Two weeks later, on May 12, a second earthquake measuring just slightly less than the first struck and certain trails leading to the Everest Base Camp were left damaged and in need of repair.

North Everest Base Camp: North

A permit is required to visit the North Base Camp from the Chinese government, as well as the permit needed to actually visit Tibet itself.

Travel companies in Lhasa are able to acquire these permits and do package tours that include a vehicle, driver and guide. There is vehicle access to the North Camp, at least in the summer months. It is accessible through a 100km road which branches to the South from the wonderfully named Friendship Highway near Shelkar.

From the Base Camp, tourists are required to take buses managed by the government in order to limit the traffic in the final stretch of the road, up to a hill which is marked at 5,200 metres. You can also trek up from the tourist camp, but only having spent numerous days acclimatising. The actual climbers Base Camp is at the foot of Rongbuk glacier.

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