How To Guide: Everest Base Camp On A Budget
A Shoestring Guide To The Top Of The World
When Everest was first climbed, the only way in was to walk from the small town of Jiri. Today, an airport has been built in Lukla making the hike from Jiri less popular and almost forgotten about. Jiri to Everest Base camp follows in the foot steps of Hillary and Tenzing; walking this laborious trek guarantees the best experience of Nepalese culture and nature.
The “Everest Base Camp Trek” follows stone paths and stairs cut into the mountains. Because the terrain is too extreme for wheels, all commerce, trade, and travel is done on foot. Long yak trains bring food and fuel up and down the mountains, feeding visitors and connecting the towns with each other. Along the hike, I was pleasantly surprised to walk alongside children as they commuted to school and make conversations with old Sherpa’s who had climbed Everest in their youth and now lived nearby. The trail is not a wilderness one, it is a Nepali trail that highlights the diversity of the regions and the people who call the Himalayas home.
This guide was written in August at the height of monsoon season. Wet cloudy days are the norm but so is also solitude and local culture. Because of the lack of tourists this time of year, it is easy to experience the local lifestyle and appreciate the uniqueness of life in the mountains. Monsoon season is also the most cost effective time to go, lodges, food, and gear will be over 50% less.
Total Cost of Everest Base Camp Trek
The total cost for two people to complete Everest Base Camp Trek, including transportation, gear, and lodging from Kathmandu, to Base Camp, and then back to Kathmandu: $785.66
PERMITS AND GEAR For Everest Base Camp Trek.
Government approved documentation is required to hike but the bureaucracy is relatively straight forward and easy to navigate.
All permits can be bought in Kathmandu at the Nepal Tourism board; address: Pradarshani Marg, Kathmandu 44617, Nepal.
Cost of Permits:
- Individual TIMS Card- $20
- Sagarmatha National Park Entry Permit- $35
- Gaurishankar National Park Entry Permit- $20
Total cost for 2 people- $150
Two passport photos are needed and there is a free photographer in the building that will provide this service.
Only use exact bills when paying because government agents will not provide change for large bills.
Jiri to Basecamp Gear
Thamel is the central neighborhood in Kathmandu for all things expedition and tourist, it also features the best accommodations and restaurants. Here, all the gear needed for any hike or expedition can be purchased at a quarter the cost of gear within the US or Europe. I bought everything I needed in Thamel the day before the hike, and most of it is better quality than anything for sale in the USA. We found the best deals at small clothing rental stores; these small shops will sell used equipment from the previous season at extreme discounts.
I wore trail-runners the entire time, without any complaints. However, other people who wore hiking boots had very serious skin conditions because their skin could never dry inside “waterproof boots”.
Hint: always haggle, some vendors will negotiate 50% to make the sale!
Gear cost for 2 people:
- $.55- Loaf of bread
- $9.18-Backpack rain cover and sunglasses
- $2.75-300ft of para-cord
- $13.77- Base layer; shirt and pants
- $3.67- Iso-butane canister
- $9.18- Yak wool mittens and headband
- $1.65- Bug spray
- $8.26- Lightweight long sleeve shirt
- $1.56- Baby wipes
- $2.98- Sun screen
- $1.74- Baby shampoo
- $3.44- 5 snickers
- $6.06-2 large chocolate bars
- $2.07- Cadbury chocolate bar
- $3.63- Large peanut butter
- $1.29- 25 packets of jasmine tea
- $1.29- Apple jelly
- $9.82- Leggings
- $27.55- Down jacket
- $22.72- Womens down jacket
- $27.55- “Gore-tex” rain jacket
- $27.55- “Gore-tex” rain jacket
- $18.36- Yak wool sweater
- 18.54- Cashmere sweater
STARTING IN JIRI
Day 1, Kathmandu to Jiri
The bus to Jiri leaves around 8am, meaning we had to be at the bus station by 6:30am in order to have enough time for mistakes and route finding. I walked to Gongabu New Bus Terminal, a 20 minute walk from our hotel in Thamel. Inside the bus terminal I asked around for the bus to Jiri, nobody there spoke English but a couple of drivers understood the word “Jiri”. After a tense 15 minutes I was pointed toward the “Ring Road Bus”, this route follows the “Ring Road” around Kathmandu and I shared the bus with morning commuters. The bus stopped near the airport and I was directed to depart on a slice of pavement filled with buses, cars, and jeeps. I was immediately approached by a man selling tickets and when I said Jiri, he pointed to a small group on the edge of the road.
The road to Jiri is never straight and is never paved, about half the the passengers inside the bus were carsick within 10 minutes and stayed sick the entire day. I reached Jiri just before 5pm, making the bus ride 9 hours long. From Jiri, the Everest base Camp trek begins. I got lucky and caught the last bus to Shavilia, avoiding walking as the sun was setting.
The road between Jiri and Shavilia was so muddy and treacherous that the bus driver had to stop multiple times to take a smoke break and gather his nerves. The fellow passengers in the bus were all children on their way home from school; needless to say, the screaming and laughter emanating from the bus while the vehicle tried to stay on the road was an experience. Once in Shavilia, finding lodging was easy, it was the only building in town! They had wi-fi and hot water, one of the last nights these amenities are available. The owner of the lodge laughed at us when he realized I took the bus, he said it was faster to walk to Shavilia than to take a ride!
- $.55 Local bus in Kathmandu for 2 people
- $9.18 Bus to Jiri from Kathmandu for 2 people
- $2.20 Lunch for 2 people
- $.28 Samosa
- $1.84 Bus to Shavilia for 2 people
- $5.05 Dinner for 2 people
- $1.84 Room with wifi and hot water
Day 2, Shivalaya to Kinja
The first day of hiking and holy fuck, I was not prepared for the world I had entered. With only 1 mountain pass to climb that day, it took 5 hours to get to the small town at the top. Nepal is located at the same latitude as Florida, this makes the low altitude valleys extremely tropical and hot, but because of the extreme altitude, the temperatures high up can be extreme.
Hiking during monsoon season proved to be a wet experience, the entire first day was spent inside a cloud. During the descent from the mountain to the small town of Kinja below, the clouds parted and the gigantic Himalayas took my breath away and made the entire slog worth while.
- $5.05- Lunch for two
- $1.84- Room for two
- $2.75- Dinner for two
Day 3, Kinja to almost Junbesi
Waking up sore, happy, and dry, I began to accept the journey that lay ahead of me. I also realized that of course, there are no ATM’s on the trail and my cash might not last all the way to Lukla. The pass between Kinja and Junbesi is over 11,400 feet and is the highest point on the trail until Namche Bazaar. At this height, the affects of altitude become apparent and breathing becomes difficult. I hiked all day from sun up to sun down and I just barely made it over the pass. I was exhausted and the sun was nearly down when I finally made it into a valley, Junbesi still about 4 miles away. Desperately, I knocked on the door of an old farm house and an ancient couple opened it! They helped me with my soaking clothes and put them by the fire to dry. I was given a bed with blankets stuffed with old mattress material, creating a warm nights sleep.
- $2.20- Breakfast for two
- $2.75 Lunch, Sherpa stew for two
- $1.84- Room for two
Day 4, Junbesi to Ringmu
It was a late start morning, due to exhausstion from the previous day’s hike. Thankfully, it only took 2 hours of walking to reach Junbesi. The sun peaked out revealing the stunning green valleys and towering pine trees, wild monkeys climbed in their branches. In Junbesi, I stopped for a long lunch and ended up meeting an American named John, he was teaching English in the local monastery. He had been away from technology long enough that I was able to blow his mind with news of Donald Trump was up in the polls (2015). In return, he warned me not to eat the red plums that grew in orchards along the route. The plums were delicious but if more than 1 was consumed, it creates a gastronomical reflex that leaves the sufferer bedridden (toilet ridden) for days.
- $4.22- Lunch for two
- $1.38- Room for two
- $5.97- Dinner for two
- $1.29- Tea
Day 5, Ringmu to Karila Pass
While eating curry vegetables for breakfast, a dog living at the lodge came inside for breakfast, a giant fat leech fell off its collar and stuck to the floor. The disgusting cylinder of dog blood was so fat that it was unable to move.
By far, the most disgusting part of the trek were the leeches. These creatures live in the wet grasses and shrubs that grow along the trail. They wait to latch onto a human or animal and gorge themselves on blood. I had to conduct leech checks about once an hour and peel them off my abdomen and head. Leeches leave large bloodstains on clothes, marking the spot they were feeding. On the yaks, the leeches would reach gargantuan sizes, some over six inches long as their bodies filled with the blood.
As I acclimated to the high elevation, I made it to a small lodge up the Karila Pass, pasing through the town of Bupsa along the way.
- $3.67- Breakfast for two
- $5.97- Lunch for two
- $1.84- Bed for two
- $2.20- Breakfast for two
- $5.05- Dinner for two
Day 6, Karila Pass to Surke
Fog and rain clouded my vision and the steep rock stairs cut into the mountain were slippery with moss and yak shit. As I hiked through villages and corn fields, I gained a new perspective on life here and admired the communities that called these enormous mountains home. Nearing the town of Surke, a giant landslides lay over the trail, some boulders were the size of American houses and I shuddered to think how recently the slide happened. Most of the town was now a pile of rubble with some metal roofing sticking from the rocks, marking a former homestead. The village was empty and we saw no people until I was almost out of it. By this time, the sun was nearly set and I couldn’t hike anymore, I needed to sleep and eat. Miraculously, a man with a child on his shoulders walked up to me, coming out of a corn field in the small river valley.
He smiled and spoke very little English but he asked me to follow and sleep in his house. Weaving between fields for about 20 minutes, I came to a small house on the edge of a well manicured field. The man said sometimes helicopters have to make emergency landings and so he keeps the grass short. Inside the two-room house were 4 women and 2 children, all getting ready for dinner. It was cramped with but we enjoyed each others company. When I started cooking the rice I bought in Vietnam, the entire family stopped and stared. They had never seen such small rice, I gave them some and they curiously rolled it between their fingers, “so small” they kept saying.
The man began a Buddhist ritual of burning small plants to rid the house of bad spirits and I enjoyed the peaceful chanting. While eating together I found the reason why so many people were under one roof, it was because their house was destroyed by the landslide I walked across to get here!
- $5.06- Lunch
- $3.68- Lodging
Day 7&8, Surke to Lukla and a rest day
I decided to take a rest day in Lukla following a short morning hike of two hours. The most challenging leg of the Base Camp Trek was complete, Lukla is the spot most tourists start their journey. I ate my body-weight in chocolate and slept for nearly a day. I also found an ATM in Lukla, which allowed me to contribute heavily to the local restaurant scene. I particularly enjoyed Daal Bhat- a dish of lentils and rice that is constantly replenished until you cannot eat anymore.
- $13.79- Chocolate & moon pies
- $29.51- Lodging, hot shower, dinner and chocolate
Day 9&10, Lukla to Namche Bazaar and a rest day
Waking up with a large bowl of porridge, the hike to Namche Bazaar began. Even though I stayed in a lodge, the weather made it impossible to dry any clothes. At the guard tower located on the border of Sagarmatha National Park my TIMS card and permit was checked. At first, the guard was not going to let me continue without a guide but when I told him I hiked there from Jiri, he stamped the paperwork without hesitation. I took a rest day in Namche Bazaar to acclimate to the high altitude and prepare for the days to come.
I woke before sunrise to climb to the top of the city, hoping to glimpse my first view of Everest. Morning is the best time to get views because usually the clouds are non-existent. I was able to see nearly all the mountains and spotted the black triangular peak of Everest for a glorious 1 minute. The rest of the day was spent lounging and eating, enjoying another good day of rest.
- $13.98 Lunch and Dinner,
- $5.52- Pot of tea at Everest View Hotel
- $7.36- Lunch
- $29.42- 2 days in the lodge with 2 breakfasts, 1 dinner including a bucket of hot water and unlimited phone charging and Wi-Fi.
The hiking was much easier than before but the altitude started to affect walking performance. On strenuous sections my vision would blur and dots appeared in the corners of my sight. I arrived in Pangboche by 2:30pm, about 2,000 feet above Namche Bazaar, and decided to rest for the night. I was nursing an altitude headache and fell asleep almost instantly.
- $7.37- Lunch
- $14.19- Dinner, room and breakfast
Day 12, Pangboche to Lobuche
The trail stayed relatively flat, the incline followed a river valley for most of the day. Stray dogs followed along, using me as a human shield through the villages; locals throw rocks at the dogs to keep them away. The trail passes through the Mt. Everest memorial where thousands of graves commemorate people who perished on the mountain.
We made it to Lobuche by 2:30pm suffering from another altitude headache. The locals recommend garlic soup as the only altitude remedy and after sleeping for 5 hours, I was able to get an entire bowl down. The next morning, I was running up mountains.
- $17.96- Food and breakfast, the room was included
Day 13, Lobuche to Gorak Shep and Everest Base Camp!
The trek to Gorak Shep leads over a glacier. Walking on melting ice and jumping over glacial rivers is very dicey, the vibrations of avalanches was also daunting. Following small cairns through the ice field was not the easiest navigating and I was turned around more than once. The clouds hung over the mountains and the ice field was magnified by the low hanging clouds. Huge avalanches that sounded like jet engines roared from under cloud cover as boulders the size of cars fell down the moraine that had built up along side the glacier.
Arriving at 12:20pm, an employee met me higher in the pass and convinced me to stay at his lodge, throwing in a hot shower as part of the room fee. Dropping packs off inside, I decided to hike the two miles to Base Camp.
The trail followed the edge of the glacier and was extremely steep sided. Base Camp was marked with a small pile of stones, old prayer flags laid in the rocks around it. This was the scariest part of the hike and I almost didn’t cross the glacier to get to it. The only way across was a melting ice bridge that shed ice every couple of minutes. A pool of water lay beneath it, slowly eroding the base of the bridge. I eventually overcame the fear of dying and ran across. The thundering of avalanches and the snow falling thickly made my excitement short lived I high-tailed it back to the lodge.
- $33.62- 2 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner, room and shower was included
The morning hike began by walking up the glacier pass in a summer snowstorm. Near the height of the pass at over 18,000 feet, the sun finally broke through and the behemoth of Everest reared up overhead. At over 29,000 feet Everest was still more than 10,000 feet above me and her black triangular peak cut into the jet stream.
Walking the Pheriche river valley was glorious, the sun was shining and the green of yak pasture contrasted brilliantly with the snow and rocks in the higher elevations.
- $8.53- Lunch
- $18.91-Dinner, room, and candy
Day 15, Tengboche to Monjo
That morning in Tengboche was the clearest morning of the trip. I saw blue sky for the first time in 15 days and the views were incredible. Hiking the trail back was much easier than going toward base camp and I hiked through Namche Bazaar for lunch. The downhill slope meant I made it Monjo before dark, tired and happy to have seen the top of the world.
- $18.27- Lunch
- $14.28- Chocolate
- $16.97- Dinner, breakfast and room
Day 16, Monjo to Nunthala
The sun stayed out all day and the valley views were breathtaking. I walked through the town of Surke and over the landslide, the sun highlighting the intensity of the damage. The weather was so beautiful that local children were swimming in creeks. Because it was the off season, the entire town of Jubing was closed; forcing me to hike well past sunset to reach Nunthala for the night. In bed, I listened to a great thunderstorm that set in for the night.
- $4.64- Lunch
- $15.02- Dinner, breakfast and room
The sun greeted me again that morning and the diversity of domesticated plants in the lodge’s garden was delicious. I gorged myself on a breakfast of Tibetan bread, chapati with egg, and pancake with honey. The honey being local to the valley, of course. All the food was grown and sourced directly, more often than not, from the lodge’s own garden. The isolation from cities force the majority of people to be self sufficient with food and electricity.
I enjoyed blue skies the first half of the day, stopping for lunch in Ringmu. From there, I decided to hike to Phaplu and catch a jeep back to Kathmandu. The rain caught up with me and I sloshed into town. Endemic to the region, thousands of marijuana plants grew along the road and I admired how large some of them were, many grew over my head.
- $8.53- Lunch
- $3.71- Chocolate
- $6.49- Room and Daal Bhat
Day 18, Phaplu to Kathmandu
I bought jeep tickets the night before and had to catch a ride before sun up. I was squeezed into the back, a very cramped position, sitting on top of rice and other produce being shipped to Kathmandu. The jeep ride lasted about 11 hours. The curving roads were unforgiving and many people got car sick, one man was vomiting the entire time. I had to keep the window closed to keep his puke on the outside of the car. It did not rain that day, the sun was out and the tropical heat of the valleys penetrated the cramped vehicle.
But I had completed Everest Base Camp and successfully navigated my way through Nepal. What makes Nepal so special is not only its stunning scenery but its humble and friendly people. No other country on Earth has made me feel so welcomed. Hiking base camp during monsoon season might sacrifice some views, but it is the best time to experience the local culture and people.
- $25.96- 2 jeep tickets to Kathmandu
- $7.42- Lunch
MAP OF EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK
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