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REMEMBER TO BREATHE TREKKING TO EVEREST BASE CAMP: THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE

REMEMBER TO BREATHE

1 JAY REILLY




If you have ever dreamed of trekking in Nepal and

this amazing country. Written in a no-nonsense

reaching Everest Base Camp, this guide, created

style, this guide takes you through every stage of

by a Nepal expert, is the perfect place to start your

planning and undertaking a trip to Everest Base

research.

Camp. It is designed for independent walkers and

It invites you into a world of tea houses, tiny alleys packed with outdoor gear, wonderful local food, trekking within a fantastic culture, meeting fascinating local people and exploring the top of the world by foot. Jay Reilly shares many years experience gained by living in Nepal and guiding various expeditions into

REMEMBER TO BREATHE

those considering a guided trip. This guide includes advice on:

or what is available there • Guided vs independent - helps you choose what is best for you • Kathmandu survival tips - enough said • Tips for the trail - independent advice from an expert

• When to go - the best season and why

• Costs - setting a budget

• Health - vaccinations, altitude, acclimatisation

• Local contacts - trusted people who have

• Training for the trip - yes, you do need to be fit • Gear and equipment - what to bring from home

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worked with the author • Suggested trek schedule - yes, finally you are on the trail!




About the Author Jay Reilly started visiting the Khumbu Valley in 2002 as a commercial mountain climbing guide. Since then he has led around 20 mountain climbing and trekking expeditions in the Everest Region. He has summited Ama Dablam (6856m) five times out of nine attempts and Pumori (7145m) twice and actually holds a record for being the only Australian to do so. During his guiding exploits, Jay spent most of his time in the Khumbu Valley and has an intricate knowledge of its moods, politics and people. Jay is somewhat of a Nepal expert, having dealt with storms, injuries and illness, both altitude and otherwise – as well as now having a good understanding of the way Nepalese bureaucracy works. Apart from being in the Khumbu region, Jay spent time hanging out in Kathmandu between mountain climbing expeditions. His knowledge of the city and his ability to get off the tourist trail make him a sought after leader and guide. Recently his travels have centred around facilitating Australian school students performing community service work in Nepal. REMEMBER TO BREATHE

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This book is about trekking to the base of Mt Everest. It will give you all the practical information on how, when, what, where and who. The why? Only you can answer that! Perhaps it’s as simple as the quote by 1930s mountaineer George Mallory who, when asked why he wanted to climb Mt Everest, replied, “Because it’s there.” Maybe you want to visit places you have read about, made famous in various adventure books about climbing Mt Everest. Or, perhaps you want to simply go and be in awe of the mightiest mountain range on earth. Whatever your reason, go, enjoy, fall in love with Nepal’s people and culture and the truly magnificent spectacle that is Sargarmartha, Mother Goddess of the Earth - Mt Everest.

a Dablam Climbing expedition shot from 6300m on Am REMEMBER TO BREATHE

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Table of Contents Chapter 1 Introduction

6

Chapter 6 Equipment 22

Chapter 11 Track Notes 39

Chapter 2 Questions You May be Asking 7

Chapter 7 Commercial vs. Independent 24

Chapter 12 For The Even More Adventurous 68

Chapter 3 When to Go 11

Chapter 8 Kathmandu Survival Tips 28

Chapter 13 Contacts 70

Chapter 4 Health 13

Chapter 9 Tips for the Trail 32

Region Map 72

Chapter 5 Training for the Trip 20

Chapter 10 Costs 38

A Bit About Nepal 76

REMEMBER TO BREATHE

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TABLE OF CONTENTS


Chapter 1

Introduction “Himalaya” - Sherpa word meaning “abode of snow”.

W

elcome to one of the world’s finest journeys, rich in culture, history and spiritualty; the

internal struggle, but this struggle has never overflowed onto visiting foreigners. The Nepalese are genuine, hard-working and friendly people. They are also smart. They know that much of the country’s revenue comes from tourism, so they would never intentionally let that industry be damaged in any way. Having said that, you do need to exercise a level of caution no matter where you travel. Be smart, use common sense, and put simple personal

trek to Everest Base Camp.

security measures in place – i.e. lock your doors, do

Nepal has a fascinating political history, ruled by

large amounts of cash.

Kings who were not strangers to infiltration and betrayal by family. Lies, theft, corruption, unethical rises to power, it reads better than a daytime soap script!

Is it safe to travel to Nepal?

not leave valuables lying about, and do not display

Check your government travel advice website while planning your trip. They will have the most up to date information.

Very. Despite the unstable political situation, Kathmandu is, in my opinion, quite safe. Part of my time spent there was during the intense period of outright guerrilla warfare between the government and Maoist Rebels that raged from 2002 to 2006, and even at that time I never felt threatened or in danger.

Buddha statue at Swayambunath

The Nepalese government certainly has its own REMEMBER TO BREATHE

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INTRODUCTION


Chapter 2

you would think possible!

Questions You May be Asking

See Chapter 11 for some recommendations and a

Where is it? Mt Everest is located on the border of Nepal and Tibet. The trek to base camp follows the Khumbu Valley in Nepal.

map. For information on teahouses whilst on the trek see Chapter 9.

What is the currency of Nepal and where can I get it? The national currency is the Nepali rupee (NRP). The average exchange rate hovers between 60-70 NRP for one US Dollar. Major western currencies are readily exchanged in Nepal. The Rupee denominations are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500,

How do I get there? You need to travel to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital

and 1000 notes.

city. This is where you need to make your trek

There are many currency exchange booths in and

preparations. Stay a while and experience the

around Thamel. Compare the different rates before

wonderment that is Kathmandu!

you exchange money, as they can vary. It is possible

Money changer in Kathmandu

to barter for a better rate if you are exchanging large

Where do I stay?

sums. There are also a number of ATMs scattered

In Kathmandu, the main tourist district is called

around Thamel that accept foreign cards and will

Thamel. This is where most travellers base

dispense NRP.

themselves when exploring Kathmandu. Thamel is an area of about five city blocks and contains trekking

stores,

restaurants,

supermarkets,

pharmacies, bars, clothing, jewellery and carpet shops. There are more hotels and guesthouses than REMEMBER TO BREATHE

Prayer flags over Kathmandu 7

QUESTIONS YOU MAY BE ASKING


How do I get to Mt Everest from Kathmandu? You can walk the entire way, but it is very long. These days, 99% of trekkers and climbers fly from Kathmandu to the mountain village of Lukla. Taking this flight cuts off a 10-day walk, and an unpleasant 8-hour bus or car ride.

Boarding the flight to Lukla

REMEMBER TO BREATHE

take about 45 minutes in small, 15-20 seat planes. Currently there is only one airline that flies to Lukla and offers only 3 flights per day. Now – imagine 6000 trekkers, plus guides, 1000 climbers, plus staff and equipment all trying to get to Lukla on the same day‌ Chaos?? Yep. Absolute and an impossible task. It stands to reason that if you attempt a trek in the middle of the peak season, all the flights may

How do I get this flight?

be full. Perhaps a shoulder season trek?

There are many trekking agencies in Thamel with

Alternatively, you can charter a private helicopter

offices on every street. They can book flights for you.

that will fit you and 7 of your friends. This will cost

Flights to Lukla cost around USD$140 each way,

about $3000 each way.

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QUESTIONS YOU MAY BE ASKING


How far is it to Everest Base Camp? It is approximately a 140-kilometre round trip from Lukla. This excludes any side trips. Distances are not measured in Nepal, but time is. You will see

viewing point near Everest Base Camp, this will take

at high altitude does not mean you are suspended

you to 5600m or thereabouts. Some call Kala Pattar

in the sky. You are on solid, stable trail the entire

a mountain, but it is actually just a high point on

way.

Mt Pumori’s south ridge.

signs or hear people tell you that destination X is

See Chapter 12 in the Trek Schedule for more

Y number of hours away.

information on possible side trips.

How long should I plan to be on the trek?

What if I’m scared of heights?

At a bare minimum, you could trek to Everest Base

There are a few places on the route where the trail

Camp and back again in 14 days (see the Trek

drops off steeply to one side, but the trail is plenty

Schedule in Chapter 12). However, this leaves no

wide and perfectly safe.

time for relaxing, sightseeing, side trips or, more

Will I fall off?

importantly, allowing time for good acclimatisation. A preferred time to allow is 19-21 days.

No. There is nothing to fall off. Just because you are

on your body, particularly your respiratory and circulatory systems. Trekking at high altitude requires a greater level of fitness than trekking at sea level. A training regime is recommended before you go. See Chapter 5 for some training advice.

Yes. Recent changes to the trekking permit system in Nepal means that you must obtain a TIMS (Trekkers Information Management System) Card before you can trek in any area of Nepal. This system is now

Everest Base Camp is at an altitude of 5400m. At

in place to attempt to stop trekkers getting lost/

this height above sea level the oxygen concentration

going missing as had happened in the past. Now,

in the air is quite reduced. Many people find it a

a series of checkpoints are in place in the Khumbu

challenge to get enough oxygen into their blood

Valley– some ridiculously close to the previous – in

stream while trekking and living in the “thin air”.

order to record your details and whereabouts.

There are extensive notes in Chapter 4 - Health

The TIMS Card can only be issued by a trekking

that will guide you through the process of

agency that is registered with TAAN (Trekking Agents

acclimatisation.

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Yes. Being at high altitude puts enormous strain

Do I need a guide?

How high will I go?

If you decide on a side trip to Kala Pattar, a popular

Do I need to be fit?

Association Nepal)

Porters 9

QUESTIONS YOU MAY BE ASKING


Is it hard?

Where do I get food and water on the trek?

Technically no – the trail is very big and very

There are numerous small streams and water points

obvious, so navigation is not an issue, nor is the

all along the trail. This water is clear and clean, but

terrain. Apart from some hills and steps, there are

does need to be purified or treated in some manner

no rock scrambles or points where you would need

before drinking. There are also many teahouses that

Important note: Expect the guide to know the

to think twice. Physically yes – the rigours of simply

sell food, snacks, bottled water and other drinks.

route only. DO NOT rely on them for help in an

being at high altitude are tough on your body, so

emergency situation. They probably are NOT

walking up steep hills whilst at altitude is going to

trained in first-aid. Learn about altitude illness

put you under some strain.

Along with the TIMS Card, you are required to take a Nepalese “guide” with you. The cost of this should be about 1200 NRP per day for the guide. This includes his food. Be sure to negotiate this before you pay any money.

and its signs, symptoms and treatment. Take your own supply of medication and learn when, what,

See Chapter 9 for more information about teahouses.

Get fit before you go (see Chapter 5).

how and why to take it if you need.

Is the trek safe? Absolutely! Of course there are dangers, mostly stemming from altitude related problems. Otherwise the Khumbu Valley is a very safe place to be. There is little to no crime, no angst and definitely no dislike for foreigners. The Nepalese are some of the most welcoming, friendly and trustworthy people in the world. However, do practise simple personal security measures in regard to cash, valuables and personal items.

REMEMBER TO BREATHE

pkyo Typical shop front complete with Zo

Trail to Namche

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QUESTIONS YOU MAY BE ASKING

Remember to Breathe - trekking to Everest Base camp  

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