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Trekking to the base of the world’s mightiest mount has been one of the most fulfilling adventures I’ve ever had. Challenging and beautiful, eye-opening and horizon-broadening, the journey ranges more than 5,000 metres up to the very roof of the world, and offers sweeping panoramas of the paradisiacal Khumbu region, along with encounters with Nepal’s friendly, earthy local Sherpa folk.
But if I’ve discovered one thing, it’s that this multi-day hike into the wild valleys that run up to the Tibetan Plateau is no walk in the park. Yes, the route is accessible, and it’s far less physically demanding than many of the other popular treks in Nepal. However, there’s one perennial challenge faced by all who attempt the climb to Base Camp: altitude sickness.
Whether you suffer just headaches or a little nausea, find yourself fatigued without reason or have a dash of blurred vision, there are always risk factors on this route going up from Namche Bazaar at 3,400 meters to Gorakshep at 5,100. Proper acclimatisation is key.
My tips for acclimatisation.
When it comes to acclimatisation – particularly on long treks like the one to Everest Base Camp – I’ve found that slow and steady most certainly wins the race. That means taking every section of the route without rushing. It’s much better to maintain a regular pace than do bursts that raise and drop the heart rate suddenly. What’s more, the views of the alpine valleys and fir forests, chiselled glaciers and soaring peaks are to die for – who wouldn’t want to simply stroll?
Drinking a lot of water helps your body process the effects of acclimatisation faster. I tend to consume at least five litres per day while I’m on the Base Camp route! Bottles of the clear stuff are available from most all of the teahouses that pepper the path. Some climbers also like to stock up on garlic soups and gingko biloba ginseng here – both fabled herbal remedies prescribed by the Sherpas.
It’s also really important to plan your route properly. I tend to opt for a day or two lingering around Namche Bazaar. The charming so-called capital of the Sherpas not only has some fine lodges on offer (great for mingling with fellow hikers and comfy to boot) but also boasts sweeping views of the rugged Solukhumbu District. As you ascend further into the Khumbu, always try to limit your vertical ascent to between 300 and 400 meters a day. And when that’s not possible (neat intervals of 300 meters on the Everest trek are broken at Tengboche and Dingboche), be sure to allow for an extra day’s rest at the next pit stop.