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Old 19th June 2017, 20:28   #1
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Default Trek to the Everest Base Camp

Trek to the Everest Base Camp-chorten-snowy-peak.jpg

This is a bit of a weird "travelogue" to be on t-bhp since not a lot of mechanical power was used for the 14 odd days trip covering 150 odd kilometers and ascending over 5km into the atmosphere ! To put that height in perspective, that is slightly more than half the cruising altitude of a Boeing 737. Of course, I did take a crazy little DHC (twin otter) aircraft rated at 500-600 SHP from Kathmandu to Lukla - rated as the most dangerous airport in the world. I'll come to that in due course, but that is pretty much the only engine power I used in this trip!!

Sagarmatha, Chomolungma (Goddess Mother of Mountains) or Mount Everest – at 8848m is probably the most well-known mountain in the world thanks to its summit being the top most point on our planet. Though not the most technically difficult nor dangerous of 8K peaks to climb, it still holds place of pride in serious mountaineer’s goals.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-everest.jpg

My aim was much less lofty – to climb till its base camp, which at 5300+ m is no mean feat in itself. You can avoid ice and do not need crampons or ropes at any point throughout the trek – definitely not in summer or spring.

Me and a friend of mine from Dubai along with 6 others (2 from US, 2 from UK and 2 from Denmark) would set out on the epic 150 Km trek, climbing up to almost 5.5Km into the atmosphere in a total of ~13-14 days. We would start on 10th May from Kathmandu and be back on 23rd. It was an amazing experience pushing your body and mind to its limit – and realising the amazing physical and mental stamina that we can all call upon when pushed to the limits.
I’d do a broad recap on a day-day basis while trying not to make it a purely chronological recollection of things. (Timelines and exact events are anyways a bit fuzzy looking back since most days are more or less the same which coupled with lack of oxygen makes exactness a bit of a chimera)

Some things are practically the same during the climb (not necessarily in a negative way). Many food items would become staples – namely, the hot chocolate for breakfast / tea breaks and Daal Baat (simple local dish of rice and lentils with papad, pickle and some veggies) for lunch. Pizzas and burgers became luxuries. Pretty much everyone stuck to vegetarian since there are no refrigerators and hence meat is always an iffy proposition. (Esp since Sherpas being Buddhists do not kill animals themselves and hence no real fresh meat). A high carb diet is crucial in ensuring your body gets through the rigors of high altitude trekking while also being easy on digestive system. There were of course variety – daal baat with friend papad instead of roasted, daal baat with red pickle instead of Himalayan pepper, Daal Baat with yellow lentils instead of a mix of brown lentils! Anyways, most of us ate more rice in 2 weeks than we would ever do in months.

We would also kind of get into a daily rhythm (Couple of days are supposed to be more relaxed – called acclimatization days, where you end earlier but which are nevertheless not easy by any means).

We would typically wake up at around 530 am. Move onto brushing, toilet, body wipe (optional). Plan the layers for the day depending on weather. Fold up sleeping bag. Repack duffel and back pack. Breakfast at around 730. Fill up water bottles. Start trek at around 815. Typically take a break for tea / hot chocolate at around 1030-11. Second break for lunch at around 1230-1. We would of course take multiple short breaks for photography, water and getting your heartbeat back to some sense of normalcy every 30 minutes. Reach next camp by 330-4. Play cards in the heated dining tent till 630-7 wherein we are served dinner. Crash blissfully into the sleeping bag by 8-830! The sleep you get till your next pee break is among the most blissful you would have!

Day 1: Dubai to Kathmandu

An uneventful fly dubai flight from Maktoum airport. Had reasonable food from lounge to avoid buying it inflight.

Reached around breakfast time at Kathmandu, a city which looks a closely packed blocks of lego from up, not unlike many emerging market cities.Got dropped at Hotel Fuji right in the centre of Thamel by the hotel arranged taxi driver. Thamel is an outdoors enthusiast’s paradise – full of gears, clothing and other knick-knacks. I could just spend my holidays walking in Thamel !! Everything from carabiners, ropes and crampons to glove liners, jackets and shoes, from electrolytes to Nalgene bottles. Our first “call of duty” was to rent our down jacket, sleeping bags and liners. No hassles – 10 steps outside of the hotel was Shona Alpine rental shop where we did the needful. Next in was buying trekking poles.

Once that was done, we had a team meeting presided over by our lead and assistant guides for the expedition from G Adventures through whom we had booked the whole program.

We discussed the plan for next day and the overall itinerary. We were also given the details on types of altitude sickness, what to watch out for and chances of fatality. Of course, everyone knew the risks but still it being laid out plainly as a fact does make one a bit uneasy. I had decided to take Diamox to try and reduce the risks of altitude sickness. While Diamox helps, it also leads to dehydration since it essentially pushes water out of your system to prevent lungs and brain from getting affected (and also need to take pee breaks every hour or so) and hence guide made it mandatory for us to drink at least 3 litres water every day, preferably part of it with electrolytes.
Had our first of the many team dinners post the meeting. Had vegetarian burger washed down with couple of Gorkhas, a local brew. I had a bad night of sleep – maybe my first Diamox with the local drink did not go down so well.

Alarm soon went off – time for our trip to airport to take what is billed as the most dangerous flight in the world.

Day 2: Kathmandu – Lukla- Phakding

We repacked our duffels and back pack such that Duffel was around 10kg and back pack was around 5 kg. Separately, I had my lens on a waist bag and down jacket on my hands to reduce weight.

Flight was delayed due to bad weather at Lukla – as soon as weather cleared 4-5 flights started off into the mountains. It’s a crazy flight – at one point close to Lukla, it drops down like a chopper and you have your entrails in your throat. It lands and then goes up the short slanting runway before coming to a stop at the edge. One end of the runway is 60m higher than the other helping cut down the speed.
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We quickly had a breakfast close to the airport and then repacked our duffel and back packs. Idea is to have minimal amount on the back– just fleece, water, medicines / first aid kit, headlamps, gloves, towel and rain gear. We embarked on the first trek – a 6-7 km easy trail towards Phakding along Dudh Kosi river crossing few hanging bridges. An easy day where everyone got a good working out without getting tired.
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Day 3: Phakding – Namche
Steady climb from 2.6k to 3.4k tests one’s lungs and hamstrings today. Today you thank for all the hard work you have done during prep stages including stairs, endurance runs and strengthening. It is tough and also the first time you really gasps for air and think “Why the hell am I doing this?!”
You enter the Sagarmatha National park where your permits are done and you pay some entry fee.

Trek to the Everest Base Camp-yaks-chorten-ama-dablam.jpg

But soon you reach Namche a quaint Himalayan village and you know why you do this – for the breath-taking beauty of the Himalayan kingdom and a chance to see some of the tallest 8000ers in our planet.

Trek to the Everest Base Camp-namche-view-1.jpg
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I decided to splurge by taking a 4 dollar hot shower – what an amazing feeling to be fresh again. I even decided to put some deo, freshly laundered cloths! Though water is hot, the moment you stop pouring it upon you, you start freezing. So one needs to towel quick and get into base layers.

Day 4: Namche acclimatisation climb
Spent a day at Namche climbing up high for acclimatisation. Visited the museum and also saw the first glimpse of Lhotse and Everest. Magical. This is what helps you push the boundaries – the magical mythical snow-clad mountains. You also get an amazing fish eye view of the Namche village itself.
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Day 5: Namche to Thyangboche
This is one of the most beautiful days of the whole trip. You trek through Rhododendron and pine forests, the former in full blossom glory in May. (April is probably even better).
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-rhododendron-forest-nepal.jpg

Dudh Kosi roars far below and you cross some brilliant suspension bridges. In some cases you share the road and bridge with cavalcade of mules and dzos, porters and locals. At Thyangboche, we were greeted by a large monastery where monks pray starting 3 till around 5 p.m.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-thyengboche-monastry.jpg
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-tengboche.jpg

We joined them for a bit and then went out to see the village. As usual, once it got even colder, we all went to the heated dining tent to kill few hours playing cards which was now becoming our regular evening activity. The food at Tashi Delek lodge was brilliant…some amazing pizzas and burgers. We would miss it badly in the upcoming rough days. This was also probably the last stop of toilets with flush – another luxury which along with cleaning, bathing, oxygen etc becomes rare as one go up further.

At night I woke up to pee at 3 am. (Post Diamox, it was common for me to wake up at multiple times for pee breaks – which is a pain since you have to get your warm body from within the liner and sleeping bag into the dreaded cold of Himalayan nights; I would probably use pee bottles if I were doing this in winter months)

I peered out through my fogged up window and the sight made me instantly forget all tiredness, soreness, dirt and sweat. There she was – the goddess mother of mountains – under a brilliantly clear starlit sky. Initially, I thought I’ll shoot it with the aid of my gorilla pod. The cold outside and the fact that I just wanted to capture it in my mind for eternity made me slip back into my sleeping bag clearly appreciating the sway she held over the summiteers as they risk their life and limbs across the Khumbu icefall and the 4 camps to kiss her peak.

I would wake up at 4 and go out for some sun rise shots of Everest, Nuptse and Ama Dablam – but nothing coming close to the sight I had an hour earlier.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-nuptse-lhotse-everest-ama-dablam.jpg
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-clouds.jpg

Day 6: Thyangboche – Dingboche
This really is the day you move from tree lines and move on to high altitude scrub vegetation. But before that you get to move through fantastic rhododendron forests and conifers.
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This is also, by the way, the day you cross 4000m. Now you are really entering high altitudes by any definition. (Yes, the actual climbers would laugh if you say 4K is high altitude, but for most normal humans the effect of lower oxygen can now be really felt, especially on inclines). Dingboche really is one of the high points of the trek since the mountain views here are fantastic. You also for the first time really feel you are indeed close to the big boys like Ama Dablam, Lhotse etc since you can see them relatively up close and personal.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-stupa-ama-dablam.jpg

At one point today, we reach the memorials built of glacial rocks in memory of the summiteers who tried to climb Everest peak and perished in the attempt - both climbers and sherpas. Its a moment which brings different emotions - pride that these people attempted what many regard as one of the final frontiers of human endurance and sadness that they perished while attempting to do so.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-img_3810.jpg

Day 7: Rest and acclimatisation
Rest day is of course a misnomer – which one realises a bit late! Today in fact is one of the steepest hikes as you climb up close to the hallowed 5K mark and wonder if your lungs are inside your chest or have come out beating drums!
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-img_3735.jpg
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Thankfully, our lodge was peaceful – well actually its name was Peaceful! We came down for a late lunch to Peaceful followed by marathon card session before dinner at 630 and bed at 730 like good school kids!

Day 8: Dingboche to Lobuche

Bad start - I had a terrible time while I was sitting down to eat breakfast. The fumes from the kitchen flooding the enclosed space of the dining tent, the smell of the congested eating area with hikers, climbers, their gear, used shoes, the tiredness – everything gave me a nausea and I could just not eat anything. I felt like I’d be sick if I consume anything and decided to step out into the cold mountain air with just a glass of hot chocolate

Another day of difficult hike pretty much at around 5K now.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-early-morning-dingboche.jpg

You see no living being other than the humans going towards the various mountains, their Yaks carrying loads and some small birds which almost looks as if they repent living in these harshest of conditions.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-yak-mountain.jpg

Today is also the day you first reach the moraine of Khumbu glacier - the (in) famous. You sleep close to the 5K mark tonight.

By now your body is clearly not liking the lack of oxygen and the high altitude. Different people react differently – some has nausea, some sleeping issues, some can’t eat food. You see people giving up and heading back, being lifted off in Choppers due to AMS if they cannot walk on their own. You also have option of taking horses – good Mongolian breed, if you are not fit to walk but also don’t want to pay or your insurance do not cover the Chopper costs.

Tomorrow is the "summit" day - the excitement was not enough to prevent us from sleeping the moment we hit the sleeping bag.

Day 9: Lobuche to Everest base camp

The day started brightly. Since there is no plumbing at these altitudes and the water in toilet is not worth putting in your mouth, we bought a bottle of water and went out into the mountains to brush our teeth. It was a perfect day. Sunshine, no wind, rare wisps of clouds but nothing ominous. The early morning fresh air lifted the spirits - though I could not eat anything other than one loaf of bread with some jam washed down with the omnipresent hot chocolate, I felt energetic for the big day ahead. It was cold but soon hit positive temperatures with first rays of sun.

Trek to the Everest Base Camp-img_2164.jpg
It’s a long arduous day as you gain around 400m from 4.9K to 5.3K. We cut through the last village Gorakshep, have some food there and move onto the Khumbu glacier with its huge seraces of ice towering on the right. If you are lucky, like we were, you could see a live avalanche and wonder what it would be like for the climbers as they thread through the actual Khumbu icefall at the base of Everest.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-img_2181.jpg

Soon we reach base camp on the Glacier edge marked by stones and layers upon layers of Buddhist prayer flags. The view from the base camp proper is underwhelming but on the way you’d have seen Pu Mori, Lhotse, Nuptse, Everest and many other tall peaks.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-img_3866.jpg

If one thought the base camp would be peaceful and silent being so much away from humanity, one is in for a surprise. It’s full of people, yaks, tents, telecom equipment (including telecom signal in one of the networks), and helicopters buzzing overhead. We left back for Gorakshep after 30 minutes and fell into our lodge.

Cannot remember much about that day and everything now appears a blur. Most likely we slept like logs for a bit before Diamox induced pee or lack of Oxygen wakes you up. But hey, all is good since we did "touch" Everest ! (Technically you don't since glacier is another 200-300m further than max allowed point for trekkers)

Day 10: Gorakshep to Pheriche

On paper, it’s a very difficult trek day – long distance, high altitude. But with every step of descent you get more oxygen – you feel elated, less tired. However by evening you do feel the tiredness after the 15 km trek in thin air. You cross many yak pastures and enjoy the serene scenes of yaks grazing till eyes can see.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-yak-pastures.jpg
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It was cold and we had few layers on including one for the slight rain/bit of snow that had now picked up. You see the Pheriche camp from afar given the topography but it remains a mirage for around 2 hours – you feel you are close but then it seems to move farther away. You think you’ll hit it in another 15 and after 30 you are disillusioned. Finally you reach and order your hot chocs or masala teas !

The remainder of the descent is uneventful other than a stay at Monjo which I felt was amongst the most beautiful of places – surrounded by blooming Rhododendron with amazing views down Lukla.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-village-edge-mountain.jpg

I woke up early to do a trek up a forest path in search of Nepal’s national bird – the impossibly beautiful Danfe. I did see one but could not get good pictures; however, I did get up close and personal with a Blood Pheasant.
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-blood-pheasant.jpg
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The other highlight of the descent really is reaching Lukla on Day 13 and finishing the trek. By now, everyone has had enough and looking forward to their favourite meals, good shower, comfortable beds, washed cloths and fresh socks / shoes/ undies ! And you know there are no more treks – only a flight separates us from the luxuries of Kathmandu.

After a relatively uneventful flight from Lukla (no flight can ever be fully uneventful from the most dangerous airport in the world) to Kathmandu we checked in to Fuji hotel once more. We, a bunch of hardy men and women , were almost in tears as we opened our room and found a clean toilet with flush, running water and hot shower!

As you wash 2 weeks of dirt and slime from your hair and body, the overriding thought in your mind is one of being thankful – to the small pleasures in life, healthy body, warm food on table, clean clothes to cover your body, warm water to wash it. You fundamentally need so little to be so happy !
Trek to the Everest Base Camp-dudh-kosi-snow-cap.jpg

Last edited by GTO : 22nd June 2017 at 08:44. Reason: Spacing :). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 22nd June 2017, 08:46   #2
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Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 22nd June 2017, 10:27   #3
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Great adventure. Awesome pictures. Beautiful write-up. You've forced me to add this to my to-do bucket list. Thanks for sharing it!
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Old 22nd June 2017, 10:51   #4
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Great trek (than a travelogue) and write up. Thanks for sharing.. some of the views as you say are breathtaking.

Last edited by Gannu_1 : 22nd June 2017 at 11:21. Reason: Typo.
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Old 22nd June 2017, 11:23   #5
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Wonderful reading the experience snan. To have reached the Khumbu glacier...wow!

This year has been particularly bad for the summit climbers with some big names dying. Ueli Steck perished from a fall on an acclimatization run at the base of Nuptse on April 30th. Our own Ravi Kumar fell from the balcony at 8200m or so after summiting everest. Can't imagine how folks like Ueli and Killian Jornet do the summit without oxygen.

Could you please tell a bit more about the physical preparation/conditioning part too.

Last edited by megazoid : 22nd June 2017 at 11:26.
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Old 22nd June 2017, 11:33   #6
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Well, now thats the travelogue to beat all, isn't it?
Unless someone here decides to drive a rover again.....on the moon, you're the alpha traveler here till then.
For us to even consider adding this to our lists, can you put up some details about how you prepared for this, costs, etc.?
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Old 22nd June 2017, 11:53   #7
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Great achievement and amazing narration.

Trek to base camp is something which me and my friends been planning since a while. However, due to leave constraints never gave it a serious thought.

Lukla airport is an infamous one, remember seeing in Discovery series a video where the flight went and hit the wall next to runway.

If possible, could you please add the following to the travelogue, this will help in others like me.

- Approximate cost of the whole trek (Kathmandu - Base camp - Kathmandu)
- Any feedback about the trek operators.
- Health related tips if any ? Did you train yourself before this ?
- Can you add a map reference for each location ? A screenshot if possible, this will help in getting a better idea.

Also, for those planning base camp trek. There is a thread specifically for that. However, there is no update on that since a while.

Link (EBC - Mount Everest Base Camp Trek Thread - Queries/Questions/Tips/Planning)
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Old 22nd June 2017, 11:58   #8
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Beautiful write up and pictures. Very inspiring too that you attempted and succeeded in this adventure. Wherever we are in life, when we look back, it's memories like these that make us feel proud of ourselves for the crazy things we've done in life.

I am not a trek person but I want to land in Lukla once. Heard a lot about the amazing decent and landing at the inclined runway. Is there anything else that we can do, apart from trekking, in Lukla?
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Old 22nd June 2017, 12:27   #9
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Great account of what is surely a lifetime experience.

What kind of fitness preparations did you undertake and any milestones during the preparatory phase?
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Old 22nd June 2017, 13:18   #10
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Hats off to you for doing this trek. One needs to be physically and mentally strong to even attempt such a feat.

You have captured some mesmerising photos as well, waiting for more!
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Old 22nd June 2017, 13:34   #11
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Spectacular; congratulations on completing this trek!

The Everest base camp trek is something I've wanted to do for long; especially after the experiences my uncle and brother have shared from their trip.

Could you share the details on the expedition: the group you went with, cost, things to think regarding logistics etc.

I've heard the organizations in India such as Nehru Institute of Mountaineering have a long waiting list for this trek; a friend registered in 2016 and her slot is in 2019.
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Old 22nd June 2017, 13:53   #12
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Fantastic writeup and great views! Can you briefly mention about the preparations that need to be done for the trek - physical fitness and any other preparations?
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Old 22nd June 2017, 14:25   #13
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Originally Posted by snan View Post

My aim was much less lofty to climb till its base camp, which at 5300+
Great stuff, this has been in my bucket list, for like, ever. Different stages of life have provided different constraints, I really hope to be able to do this in the next 3-4 years.

As someone else also pointed out, we would really appreciate if you can provide details regarding agencies, costs etc.

In my case, I will be a solo traveler, so would be keen to know if they have regular group treks ?
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Old 22nd June 2017, 15:02   #14
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Hey ... its a fantastic write up. And real good photos too. I am preparing for a base camp Everest trek next year. Of course for this it will require a lot of training but it is in my bucket list. Probably will start with some other small trek trek and then do a full one at a later point. But it is in my radar.

Couple of questions :

1. How much was your overall cost of the entire trip?
2. For the permits, how did you apply? Do we have to apply before hand or after going there it is easy to get?
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Old 22nd June 2017, 16:45   #15
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Thanks friends. Since many has asked for logistics around the trip let me pen down a few thoughts.
1. On cost, my sense is you can do it less than 1 lakh all inclusive with a good agency (this includes lodging, boarding, porter fees, national park permits etc) - I have seen numbers ranging from 60K-90K depending on agency plus what is included. I'd suggest to take porters - you'll thank that decision many a times.
2. I went with G Adventures UK based agency but Im sure there are plenty in India - just check the reviews and ensure they have good reputation. You'd be better off with a guide who knows symptoms of AMS and potentially has an oxygen meter to measure blood oxygen
3. Going alone is fine if you are really fit and can carry around 10 KG for 150 odd km in those altitudes. Looking back I doubt if I'd have been comfortable going without porter though I consider myself pretty fit. Do not under estimate altitude. Above 4K its a different ball game.
4. Best time to go is September-October or April-May though you can go pretty much any time other than July-August. If you go in winters, you will get fantastic photographs. Downside is the temperature which will be minus 20 after Gorakshep or there abouts. Also no plumbing works given lack of heating and hence toilet and associated hygiene needs to be well prepared for. If you are used to it then its fine but for some people its unbearable . You'd also likely use pee bottles for night.
5. From a health point of view one must be relatively fit without saying. Doing 5-10K at sea level is a good aerobic health - someone had told me if you can do 5K in about 30 minutes that is fine from an aerobic point of view. Other preps are mostly around hamstring and core and I found climbing 20-30 floors twice a week with 8-10 KG is good enough practice. All said and done AMS can hit anyone - fit or not (Worth it to fully read up on both pulmonary and cerebral edema, though guide will explain before start). One way to minimise impact is taking Diamox tablets. (Pls do check with your doc before going). Downside is you pee a lot and hence have to over compensate with re-hydration
Insurance covering chopper evacuation in my view is a must. Its like wearing seat belt / putting kids in child seat - for me a no brainier. Such a low cost risk mitigation option that it makes no sense to save pennies there.
Ill get back to individual questions in a while.

Last edited by snan : 22nd June 2017 at 16:47.
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