Base Camp on the south side of Mount Everest in Nepal isn’t just a famous stop for mountaineers en route to the top of the world; it’s one of the most popular treks in the Himalayas. If climbing to the top of the world’s highest mountain is a little too much for your bucket list, consider taking this spectacular (and physically demanding!) trek instead.
“While the trek to Everest Base Camp can be achieved by most active people able to walk for four to six hours per day, the high altitude [17,500 feet, or 5,350 meters] provides some serious challenge,” says Adrian Ballinger, founder of Alpenglow Expeditions and a world-class mountaineer who has summited Mount Everest seven times. “Many people trek too fast, rush their schedule, or don’t listen to warning signs from their bodies—this can lead to sickness, or just a lot less fun.”
Ballinger recommends trekking with a guide and company that understand high-altitude climbing. This might end up costing you more, but it will likely result in a safer, more enjoyable experience.
Here are some of the basic expenses you’ll need to make the adventure possible.
Get in shape
While you don’t need to hire a personal trainer to prepare for reaching Everest Base Camp, Ballinger recommends that you do some basic mountain conditioning.
Your training workout should consist of both cardiovascular and strength training. Aim for five to six 60-minute cardio training sessions of medium to high intensity every week. Running, either on a treadmill or an elliptical, and rowing are both good options. Supplement your cardiovascular training with twice-weekly weight training sessions, and you’ll have the muscle and stamina you need to reach Base Camp.
Additionally, you’ll want to do regular outdoor hiking sessions with a backpack to get used to trekking with an increased workload. Ballinger says you can do this training for free by hiking on a nearby mountain range. “Or, if you have no nearby mountains, long walks combined with some step machine workouts will suffice,” he says. A good benchmark is being able to ascend about 2,500 feet in two hours or less.
Buy the right equipment
Trekkers heading to Everest Base Camp will need to bring their own clothing and footwear, along with a quality sleeping bag. According to Ballinger, you won’t need camping gear like a tent or stove. Many trekking groups stay in Base Camp “teahouses,” or mountain lodges. For those trekking without a guide, there are several “tent hotels” located within two miles of Base Camp where you can pay to sleep overnight.
If you’re considering a heavy-duty winter sleeping bag, keep in mind that teahouses and tent hotels provide either blankets or some heating, so chances are you won’t need a heavy bag to stay warm. A 20-degree synthetic or down bag is enough to keep you toasty.
What clothing you’ll need to take with you depends on when you’re going to Base Camp. In general, layers are your best friend when trekking in the area. A couple of long-sleeve quick-drying T-shirts, waterproof pants, down jacket, and a windbreaker will be your trek basics. Add to that gloves and a hat to keep your body warm, and some high-quality, waterproof trekking boots for getting through any snow you encounter.
While it is possible to rent sleeping bags and some clothing in Kathmandu, Ballinger doesn’t recommend it, since the gear quality is low. “Plan on setting aside $2,000 to purchase quality equipment,” he says.
Hire a guide
The biggest expense when trekking to Base Camp is going to be the staff. This includes your guide, cook, and porters.
You could trek to Everest Base Camp with almost no help, or with a full team including a guide, cook, and porters, according to Ballinger. “Which way to go depends on your experience with international travel, high altitude, and hiking,” he explains.
For the best chance of reaching Base Camp, you need to stay healthy—and this means eating excellent food, hiking at the right pace, and staying in clean lodges. “This is difficult to do on your own, and that is why I recommend a full-service guide company led by a guide,” Ballinger says. “A trip like this will cost $4,000-$6,000 for all in-country costs.”
Want to cut costs? Ballinger says you can hire a local company with basic logistics and barebones staff for approximately $2,000. “Or you can fly into the Khumbu and figure it out as you go for as little as $1,000,” he adds. It’s all about how much you want to spend and what level of comfort you prefer.
Buy your tickets
If you decide to go through a guide service, almost all of your adventure expenses are covered in your trip package. Your only additional cost will be the flight.
The most common arrival point for Everest treks is the Lukla or Tenzing-Hillary Airport in eastern Nepal. However, international flights are more likely to land in the capital, Kathmandu, requiring you to transfer to a local flight for the last leg of your trip.
Ballinger says there’s little difference in the price of flights throughout the year, so you might as well fly in during spring and fall, the most popular trekking seasons. These seasons offer consistent weather and clear skies, meaning more pleasant hiking and clear mountain views. “There is more to see and experience,” Ballinger says.
Traveling in late fall or winter has its own benefits. “While the temperatures are colder, the weather tends to be exceptional, and there are far fewer people in the valley,” Ballinger says.