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Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Tips and advice for a successful trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal

Photo: The Mountain Company's group at Everest Base Camp
Over the last five years I have led groups totalling more than a hundred trekkers who have successfully walked to Everest Base Camp. The following are my top tips to increase your chances of reaching Base Camp:

1. Walk slowly. You will hear your Sherpa guides telling the group to walk “bistari", in Nepalese this means slowly. You must slow your walking pace right down compared to your normal speed back home especially when going up hills. If you are out of breath you are walking too fast.
You need to walk at a steady pace throughout the entire duration of the trek, you should arrive to your lodge each afternoon hopefully not feeling too tired. It is best to keep your energy and reserves for the longer more challenging days at higher altitude such as walking to Everest Base Camp and up Kalapatar.

2. Hydrate, you must drink fluids throughout the day and night. You need to drink plentiful amounts of water as being well hydrated aids the acclimatisation process. Lower down it can be quite warm where you are likely to sweat walking up the hills. At higher elevations your breathing rate is increased even when at rest so you lose more moisture especially as the air is cold and dry.
In my day pack I carry two Nalgene bottles (each with one litre capacity) however I also make sure to drink additional fluids at meal times. A top tip is drink one litre of water before breakfast as you are likely to wake up dehydrated in the morning. When you go for a pee your urine should be clear and copious, if is not then drink more fluids.

3. Do not rush your itinerary, you must allow enough time for necessary acclimatisation. Almost everyone can acclimatise to high altitude although you need to ascend slowly to allow time to adapt to the lower amount of oxygen available to one's body.

The Mountain Company’s Everest Base Camp itinerary has fourteen trekking days (total nineteen days from Kathmandu), from our experience this is enough time for most people to acclimatise. If you take fewer days then this will significantly decrease your chances of reaching Everest Base Camp and may also put you at serious risk of getting severe altitude sickness.

It is important to read about acclimatisation before your trek and be aware of the symptoms of high altitude sickness. I suggest you download an excellent and informative booklet called Travel at High Altitude by Medex

There are several other useful websites well worth reading, I have copied the links below:
Base Camp MD
British Mountaineering Council

4. Be careful what you eat and drink in Kathmandu in order to minimise your chances of getting sick. Travelling in developing countries like Nepal unfortunately carries a risk of picking up a bug that could lead to travellers' diarrhoea.

You can reduce this from happening by eating at good quality tourist standard restaurants in Kathmandu, drinking bottled water and of course not drinking any water direct from the tap (even for brushing your teeth). It is also a good idea to bring hand sanitiser with you. If you end up getting travellers' diarrhoea then you should take medicine as early as possible (for bacterial diarrhoea take an antibiotic). This is especially important if you are at a high altitude as your body’s resistance level is lowered due to lack of oxygen. Oral rehydration salts (eg diarolyte) are also worth taking as these replace electrolytes lost.

The Mountain Company includes The High Altitude Medicine Handbook (Micro edition) in our medical kits on treks to help with diagnosis and treatment.

5. Build your fitness level before departure. You certainly will not regret getting in shape, this will increase your chances of reaching Everest Base Camp and there is no doubt at the same time you will enjoy the trek far more. However you do not need to be super fit to walk to Everest Base Camp, this trek is an achievable objective for most people as long as you follow our advice.

During the week try to undertake aerobic exercise at least three time a week by visiting the gym, running or swimming. If your schedule does not allow for this then try to add more walking to your daily routine. You will find that small amounts of exercise on a regular basis is the best way of increasing your fitness level.

Of course the best training is to go hill walking, try to make an effort to get away for several walking weekends before flying to Kathmandu you will find that walking for two days in a row is a good way of simulating the trekking experience.

Good luck with your trek, remember to walk slowly (bistari!). Please get in touch with us at The Mountain Company if you have any questions or would like further information about our treks to Everest Base Camp or Luxury Everest Base Camp

Roland Hunter

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