Shaping up

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

How difficult is The Everest Base Camp trek?

This is the first question comes to your mind if you are not familiar with this trek. That usually follows by am I fit enough to successfully complete this trek and, finally, how do I train for this expedition.

I had similar questions and after talking with people who have successfully done this trek and doing some online research  this is what I discovered:

  1. Ability to hike for 6-8 hours a day for multiple days (10-14 based on your itinerary).
  2. Ability to hike steep grade with up to 2000 feet elevation gain/loss a day back to back for several days.
  3. Adaptability with high-altitude (i.e. low oxygen) environment in varied weather conditions. (sunny-rainy-windy-extreme cold)
  4. Ability to carry your daypack for multiple days (10-14 days). Your other luggage is generally carried by porters from one tea-house to the other but you may decide to carry your daily needs yourself.
  5. Adaptability to basic food and accommodation available during the trek.
  6. Finally, in the words of an Australian hiker who has done this trek 8 times, its 80% in your mind and 20% your physical capability.

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View from the top of the Mission Peak (Fremont, CA) during training hikes

Am I fit enough to do this trek?

First of all, I am not a qualified medical professional so you will have to consult with your doctor and other health professionals to make that determination at your own risk. Any information provided here is not meant as an advise or substitute to professional health or medical opinion. I am not directly of indirectly liable for any loss, injury, or damage that may occur by using information from this website. Use any information from this website at your own risk.

What I discovered is that trekking to EBC does not require any technical climbing or mountaineering experience. Except three areas, (Nagarjuna acclimatization hike, last stretch of the trail to the base camp from Gorakshep, and Kala Patthar) I found most of the trail  well-defined and on relatively stable ground during our October trek. This may not be the case during rainy or winter seasons. People who have successfully completed this trek have said that you do not need to be a super athlete to trek to the base camp. Of course, better physical shape you are more you will enjoy the journey.

In my case, I have a few extra pounds, am a per-diabetic, and have been suffering from hypothyroidism but generally in a good shape. During my Doctoral studies in Wildlife Ecology, I hiked extensively carrying a heavy field equipment for several years so consider myself as an experienced hiker. However, that was several years ago and I have not been able to keep up with it. I consulted with my primary care physician who conducted several tests to determine my general health and recommended a medicine for preventing high altitude sickness. She also connected me with a travel nurse to get other medicines and vaccines based on my travel itinerary in Nepal & India.

The biggest challenge, in my opinion, is the issues related to altitude or mountain sickness. At higher altitude the amount of oxygen is lower compared to the sea level resulting in extra strain on your ability to perform any activity.

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A view from the top of Mission Peak, CA during a training hike

How to train for EBC trek?

This is another tough question. While there is no clearly defined exercise regimen to train for the Everest Base Camp trek, one can develop a routine based on their baseline fitness level and the six points listed at the top of this page. Of course, if you are living at the sea level training for high altitude (low oxygen) environment is not feasible. In my case, I spent a few days hiking at the Mammoth Lakes in California (~7900 ft) to get a feel about high altitudes hiking.

Here is a summary of my training routine:

  • One hour training in Gym at least 5 times a week for 4 months prior to EBC trek, combination of Treadmill with 15 degree incline for 30 minutes, StairMaster with various levels of resistance, Bike & elliptical session for 30-60 minutes, and various weight training. I worked with the Gym staff to develop a routine.
  • Hiking 6-14 miles at least twice a week (for 4 months) with a minimum of 1200 ft elevation gain per hike. I am fortunate to have access to  Mission Peak, Rancho San Antonio, Big Basin, etc. trails where I live. During the month prior to EBC trek, I hiked 6-8 miles a day back to back for a week to simulate multiple day EBC trek. There are several smart phone apps to log your travel distance, time, elevation, etc. that I found very helpful.
  • Getting used to  hiking shoes, daypack, hydration system, cameras & mounting system, hiking poles, electrolytes, etc. etc. I used the same gear during my training which I found invaluable during the actual trek. Particularly the camera system & hiking poles.
  • A trip to Mammoth Lakes to hike various trails at 8000 ft.+ elevation. You can certainly feel the altitude effect!
  • Developed a habit of drinking at least 6 liters of water a day. Electrolytes help!

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