Everest Base Camp On A Budget

Positravelty

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Everest is just one of those places, right? Everyone knows about, everyone has seen photos and heard the grim, daunting stories of those that have challenged the peak and failed. Well, we didn’t quite go that far but we did tackle a two week hike that brought us to Everest Base Camp and it was definitely a story worthy adventure. We get a lot of questions about this trip so we figured we should write it all down in one place.

We tackled the Himalayas back in the infancy of our photography days, May of 2018. We had just set up our Instagram account but it was just for friends and family to see what we were up to, posting very infrequently and using an iPhone 7 to capture our memories. It was nothing serious at all and we had absolutely no idea what was possible with the app at the time. As a result travel was much more simple, more spontaneous to some degree, definitely easier to pack for but on the flip side… we don’t really have much content to show for the adventure and the quality of what we do have isn't the greatest. Sorry!

We started our trip the day after we arrived in Kathmandu. As this is a popular hike we were naturally bombarded by taxi drivers after we passed through customs with questions about when we were doing the hike, whether we had booked or not, what equipment we needed to buy… they all knew a guy who know a guy. Be prepared for this on arrival and be sure to weigh your options once you get to whatever hotel you have booked.

We took a taxi into Thamil, a town not far at all from Kathmandu and definitely the haven for soon to be hikers and those that had just returned. It is full of stores selling hiking equipment, cold weather clothing, and really anything else that you can imagine. Our arrival was hectic because we allowed the driver to take us directly to his friend who booked the hikes to base camp. We spoke with him for an hour or two about the trip, what it entailed, what we should expect and what we would need for the time in the mountains. We actually booked with him, the first person that we spoke to, and then immediately bought our hiking gear at a secondhand shop that his brother owned. The price just seemed too good to pass up. We paid 250 USD per person for our guide, a helicopter ride from Kathmandu to Lukla, and a flight back at the end of the trek. We each also spent somewhere between 100-150 USD on gear. Yes, you have read this correctly… it cost us each a grand total of 400 USD to book the Everest trek. Don’t be fooled by the crazy prices on the internet that you are sure to find… just go there and book everything in person. To be honest, you really don't even need a guide. You can definitely just book your own flight to Lukla and complete the hike on your own. It is good to contribute to the locals and the economy, of course, but if we were to do it all over again we wouldn't have hired one. It would have been better to just do it on our own. The trails are all clearly marked and the routes are posted all over on the internet. Worst case scenario... make some friends along the way and follow another group.

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Alright, this is where you need to take some notes because they will obviously try to tell you that you need EVERYTHING in the store to do the hike safely and successfully. Here is our list of necessities:

Comfortable Shoes: Hiking boots are great and we recommend that they are waterproof if possible. If you are hiking at the best times of the year there won’t be much snow on the trails, if any at all, and you can honestly pass with just some good running shoes. We actually met two guys along the way that did the entire hike barefoot!

The Absolute Must-Haves

A Coat: You can find some puffy jackets like the ones we have on in the photo at the top of the blog for pretty cheap. During the day we were typically hiking in shorts and either a hoodie or sweater but at night you will need more warmth. Ours were wind resistant and that was very helpful as it can get quite windy up there!

Hiking Pants: Get something that is windproof and medium warmth. You can wear these over your jeans or your shorts during the day and take them off while hiking if you get too warm. We didn’t buy any snow pants and we were happy that we didn’t because it would have been a waste of money and packing space.

Wool Socks: GET THESE. You will need them in the evenings and at night to keep your feet warm. They also help with the hiking as they are more padded and will protect your feet better along the way.

Water Bottle: This should go without saying but… get one.

Water Purifying Tablets: They will tell you that you need these and you definitely do. The beauty of this is that you always know the water that you are drinking is clean. It allows you to fill up anywhere in the mountains and even in the streams that flow down from the mountains and the glaciers.

Sleeping Bag: You can actually rent these from quite a few places in town and then return them after the hike. Get one that is warm but packs up small. None of the tea houses that you stay at along the route have heat in the rooms so you will need something warm to sleep in.

Hat and Gloves: Just another thing to keep you warm. Highly recommended.

Necessary Accessories

Everything becomes very expensive once you get up into the mountains and the price grows the farther along the trek you go. As a result you need to be sure to pack the following:

Toilet paper, Ibuprofen/Asperin, snacks (granola bars, peanut butter, etc.), imodium (the tea house food on the hike will undoubtedly give you a bad stomach), altitude sickness medication and any personal hygiene products that you will need. Toward base camp we found a store selling toilet paper for 10 USD per roll… pack your own!

Optional Accessories

Portable Solar Charger - In the cold your battery power will dwindle quickly in all your devices. We found it very difficult to charge anything along the route because the tea houses charge you by the hour to plug anything in… and it isn’t cheap. We saw a lot of people with these attached to their backpacks and we were very jealous that we didn’t have one.

Powercells - We brought one with us but it ultimately died about 2/3 of the way through and then we lost the ability to charge anything.

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Once you have everything you need you need to be sure to only pack the necessities and leave the rest behind with your hotel. They all offer storage so it isn’t a problem at all to leave things behind. Our hotel didn’t even charge us to leave our bags behind. Don't worry about packing more than one change of clothing either, you won't be sweating much and you won't be showering much either since hot water showers are expensive. We showered in Naamche on our way down for the first time on the hike. You will just be a little dirty so it is best to accept that and pack light!

The trek takes two weeks in total, covering a distance of roughly 80 miles. You will be walking anywhere from 5-9 hours a day so pack light. It is cold at all times, but can decently warm up during the sunlight hours if the sun is on you. If you keep moving you are good but once you sit down to take a break you feel the cold start creeping in. Small towns will be your check points along the way and you will find tea houses where you are able to get a bed and spend the night indoors. They all offer food for breakfast and lunch and you have to order from them. They only charge you 2-4 USD a night for a bed so buying food from them is a requirement. Once you are on the trail again you will be free to eat whatever food and snacks you have packed for yourself. Failing to order a meal from your tea house owners will make the bed cost 20-30USD a night. They will offer wifi in some areas in the beginning for a small fee but as you get farther up into the mountains the price raises and eventually internet will no longer be available. Whenever you are in the towns be sure to totally avoid any bakeries or homebaked goods. We got gnarly food poisoning on the way down and other guides told us afterward that they always make people sick... we didn't get that heads up and a piece of chocolate cake destroyed us both.

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The trek begins in Lukla and ends in Gorak Shep (right by Base Camp) where you then turn around and hike your way back down to where you started. The hike up is the majority of the time. We found the way back to be much quicker, taking only 3 days, but there is still a good amount of up hill moments so it isn’t all easy. We found the hike as a whole to be at a moderate difficulty due to the amount of time you need spend on foot every day. There are some days that are very uphill, like the arrival to Naamche Bazaar and Tengboche, but aside from those days it wasn’t too extreme. The views on this hike are absolutely breathtaking… we loved the mountain views and consistently saw eagles all throughout the hike. You are also guaranteed to see some incredibly starry skies on this hike so be sure not to fall asleep too early. Head outside at night and enjoy the Himalayas at night on at least a few of your days there.

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Anyway, there you have it… the bones of the adventure. Below is the trek details for you to look over if you want the specifics for the hike. Some hikes take alternate routes and have different stops but this was our route for our trek (hours vary depending on stops. These are averages).

Day 1: Flight to Lukla and hike Phakding - 5 hours trek, 2,652 meters

Day 2: Phakding to Naamche Bazaar - 7-8 hours trek, 3,446 meters

Day 3: Acclimatization Day

Day 4: Naamche Bazaar to Tengboche - 5 hours trek, 3,860 meters

Day 5: Tengboche to Dingboche - 5 hours trek, 4,302 meters

Day 6: Acclimatization Day

Day 7: Dingboche to Gorak Shep - 7 hours trek, 4,915 meters + 1-2 hours to visit Base Camp at 5,360 meters

Day 8: Gorak Shep to Pheriche - 5 hours trek, 4,328 meters

Day 9: Pheriche to Tengboche - 6 hours trek, 3,860 meters

Day 10: Tengboche to Naamche Bazaar - 5 hours trek, 3,446 meters

Day 11: Naamche Bazaar to Phakding - 6 hours trek, 2,652 meters

Day 12: Phakding to Lukla - 5 hours trek, 2,860 meters

Day 13: Flight from Lukla to Kathmandu

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