It’s a daunting thought; two weeks in the Himalayas, away from civilization, out of your comfort zone and surrounded by unfamiliarity. Taking the time to prepare well will ensure that you have a comfortable, enjoyable and safe experience hiking to the base camp of the world’s highest peak. Hundreds of people undertake this trek every year and the majority of them succeed. It’s a long way to go but anyone with a good level of fitness should be more than able to complete the walk.
The first thing you will need to do is decide whether you or going to go it alone or go with an organized group. Each has their advantages and each has their disadvantages, it depends on what kind of an experience you want. Going with an organized group is definitely the easier option. They will have teahouses reserved for the group ahead of time, you’ll have an experienced guide and usually porters will carry your bags. You’ll be told where and when to take your rest stops, where the best viewpoints are and will have support from the rest of the group if you have any problems. All this allows you to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other and enjoy the experience without having to worry about anything else.
If this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then you can choose to go it alone. You will need to organize your own permits prior to beginning your trek and decide whether or not you want a guide or porter. The main trail is very easy to follow so a guide is not completely necessary; it comes down to personal choice. The same thing can be said for a porter, if you want to carry your own bags then you don’t need a porter. Each evening when you arrive at your destination you will have to search for a teahouse to stay in yourself but there are usually a lot to choose from. Most independent trekkers start out a little earlier to get ahead of the groups and guarantee themselves a room for the evening.
Your route will be the next thing to consider. Most popular is to fly into Lukla from Kathmandu and begin the trek from there. It takes approximately ten days to walk from Lukla to Gorak Shep, the last settlement before base camp. From here, it will take you another three or four days to walk the same path back to Lukla airport for your flight to Kathmandu. There are alternative routes which take in the Cho-La Pass, Renjo-La Pass and Gokyo Lake which you might also consider. Another option is to choose to walk rather than fly, in which case you can take a thirteen hour bus from Kathmandu to Jiri and begin the walk from there. Walking this section takes approximately six days and is a tough hike climbing up and down across valleys.
Whether you choose to go it alone or go with a group, whether you choose to start from Jiri or fly into Lukla you will not be disappointed. Passing shaggy yaks on the trail, chowing down on Tibetan Thukpa for lunch, the camaraderie you’ll experience with other trekkers and taking in mind-blowing views of the mighty Himalayas everyday will leave you with memories that will last you a lifetime.