Trekking to Everest Base Camp always seemed like one of those bucket list items that would never get crossed off. A part of me just thought it was unattainable for a ‘normal’ person. While travelling in Southeast Asia, however, I met tons of other ‘normal’ people who had made it to Base Camp, and they assured me that it wasn’t just a crazy dream. So I did what I do best; I started planning.
I made a packing list, and my husband, Ben, made a perfect itinerary. We looked at maps, researched other people’s accounts of this trek, and even started reading “Into Thin Air” to get us in the trekking mood. I discovered that reading a book about a trekking disaster, while interesting, may not be the best way for all people to get in the trekking spirit!
So with our bags packed and our hiking boots laced, Ben and I set off on what we can agree is one of the biggest adventures of our lives. Guess what? We survived! Now, I’m here to answer the questions I know you’re dying to ask, and to tell you what it was really like trekking for 16 days amongst the highest mountains in the world.
Trekking Everest Base Camp With a Partner
If you’re looking for an adventurous version of couples’ therapy, trekking to Everest Base Camp will deliver. Big time. I’ve written about all the ways travelling overseas together has brought Ben and I closer, but I’d say that trekking to EBC was the ultimate test and strengthening experience. Here’s why:
While we met many other trekkers along the way, we were each other’s main source of conversation. Our days were filled with whacky new inside jokes, deep conversations you only have while trekking in the middle of nowhere, and some high altitude-induced whining attacks (mostly on my end).
We were also each other’s biggest cheerleader. No matter how fit you are, the altitude is a b*tch. It affects everyone differently, and you never know what your reaction will be until you’re 5,000 meters up (which ironically is not a great place to discover you don’t handle elevation well).
We encouraged each other for things that may seem silly at sea level, like reaching the top of a hump you wouldn’t even call a hill. Or drinking enough water (true story). But when the air is thin, your legs feel like lead, and the task in front of you seems next to impossible, those simple encouragements were the only thing that kept us going. Watching each other fight through with determination only brought us closer together.
But it wasn’t all sunshine and laughter. We wore the same clothes for days on end. 17 days, actually. We smelled. We got sick. We didn’t, umm… digest… properly. We got cranky. Now you’ll understand when I say trekking with a new love interest may not be the best way to kindle romance. That goes for friends too. Making this trek together would be a killer bonding experience, or it could be the end of your friendship as you know it. But be sure to ask them these questions before you start buying hiking gear and booking flights.
How to prepare for a trek to Everest Base Camp
I’m going to be honest and tell you I didn’t prepare as much as I should have for my trek to Everest Base Camp. After traveling in Asia for the previous 6 months, Ben and I were certainly not in tip-top shape.
Skye shared some awesome tips for staying fit while traveling, which we followed in the weeks before our trek. But let’s just say that hotel rooms and the streets of India are not the best place to get an ideal workout. Plus, I probably haven’t spent 6 months of my life eating less healthy than those leading up to our trek. So when it came time to lace up our hiking boots, we were feeling good, but not great in terms of fitness level.
We watched many people pass us on the first few days, who had clearly been training at home. One woman, about my mother’s age, who was in rockin’ shape told me she had been working out with a personal trainer for the past few months. One of his go-to exercises was having her race uphill while carrying sandbags on her shoulders. Damn. We had definitely not been doing anything like that. But little by little, we got stronger and more confident and proved to ourselves that it is possible to make this trek even without prepping for months with a personal trainer.
That said, training ahead of time (no matter how little) will make your trek so much more enjoyable. I certainly wished I had trained a little harder! The best things to focus on are endurance and uphill climbs. Workin’ those glutes wouldn’t hurt either!
While you can spend months in the gym sculpting a perfect trekking tush, there’s really no way to prepare yourself for the altitude. Some of the strongest athletes succumb to it, while others who rarely work out and smoke a pack a day will hardly notice the change in elevation.
Who can do the Everest Base Camp Trek?
The really amazing part about this trek is that we saw people of all ages and abilities. I walked alongside children, grandparents and teenagers. I spoke with people who’d never been trekking before, and those who were on their way to Base Camp not to turn around, but to actually summit. I met a man with two prosthetic legs, and another who had polio. People from all walks of life are inspired and called to do this trek, and it’s a pretty powerful thing to experience it together.
What is reaching Everest Base Camp like?
So with all the hype around this trek, the big question you must be wondering is, What was Everest Base Camp actually like?
I would say that this trek is a prime example of when the journey is worth more than the destination itself. Cliché, I know, but oh so true. We trekked through so many climates and landscapes, that a single destination is hard to rival the experience of making it there.
I had read an assortment of peoples’ disappointed rants online, and honestly my expectations for Base Camp itself were not high. There was no majestic music playing as I approached the tangle of prayer flags that marks the entrance, and I wasn’t invited into the tents of famous trekkers like in my daydreams.
We more or less milled about between the neon tents, trying to glimpse the crazy (and kickass!) people who were preparing to summit the highest mountain in the world. We could hear bursts of laughter and conversations coming from within the tents. But outside the nylon shelters, it was eerily quiet.
While I wasn’t overcome by sentiment, reaching this destination is emotional for many people. I witnessed tears and joy as people fulfilled a lifelong dream. I watched some push past their limits day after day in order to reach Base Camp.
My biggest piece of advice for those who want to trek to Base Camp is to do it! Trekking to EBC was an incredible, can’t-put- into-words experience. But one thing anyone who intends to make this trek should know is: Take your time! I cannot stress this enough.
When someone gets sick from the altitude, it can almost always be cured by descending to a lower altitude and giving your body some time to rest and adjust. Be sure to plan your trek to include a couple of buffer days that you can use to rest or to explore further if you’re feeling up to it!
The other benefit to giving yourself enough time is you can see some other amazing parts of this region. We gave ourselves 16 days to make the trek, and since our bodies acclimatised pretty well, we were able to trek to some of the lesser-seen areas of the surrounding Himalayas (which ended up being a highlight for us).
Although 16 days seems like a long time, it went by quickly. And by the end, Ben and I were more than ready for a hot shower, fresh vegetables, and a bedtime later than 8:30 p.m. But as soon as we returned to the ‘real world’, we already missed our trekking life that was made up of mountain sunrises, fresh air, deep conversations, new friends and some of the most unique landscapes we’ve ever seen.
Those days spent in the Himalayas will be ones that we cherish for years to come. Who knows, maybe we’ll be like the handful of people we met who were making the trek a second or third time.
Start planning your own Everest Base Camp Adventure
If trekking to Everest Base Camp is a dream of yours, I’ve got you covered! I have put together a complete guide that includes an itinerary, packing list, budget and other tips for making this trip independently. For an idea of what life on the trail is really like, check out my video diaries of my trek to Everest Base Camp!
In early 2014, Katie and her husband, Ben, quit their full-time jobs, packed their backpacks and set off on a 3-month adventure in South America that never really ended. Along the way, she taught English in South Korea, worked on a remote farm in the Ecuadorian Andes and swam with piranhas. When she’s not traveling, you’ll find Katie drinking craft beer, eating cheese, or running (to work off that beer and cheese).