Mt Everest Base Camp
21 April to 11 May every year
On the 30th of May 2003 Sean reached the summit of Mount Everest. Following the success of previous treks Sean guides a group up the notorious Khumbu Valley and re-visits Mt Everest Base Camp every year.
The trek to Mt Everest Base Camp really is the finest trek on the planet and is an unforgettable journey through the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. It’s a lot more than just a sightseeing excursion. Amidst the overwhelmingly powerful Himalayan peaks, a sense of space and spirituality really can be felt. As Sean notes in his book Freeze Frame: ‘In some positive way, the Himalayas affect everyone who goes there’.
The trek begins in Kathmandu, which is a busy, vibrant city with loads of fun shopping opportunities and good food. The luxurious Kathmandu Hyatt, which is ‘thee’ hotel of the city, is where this journey begins and ends.
We fly into the small mountain village of Lukla at 2900m and then trek upwards for 9 days, gaining altitude gradually, and winding our way up the magnificent Khumbu Valley to our final destination approximately 70 kilometres away. After a few days we will have views of Mt Everest, Nuptse, Pumori and Lhotse, unimaginably massive mountains that form part of the most majestic wilderness on the planet.
The trek passes through the villages and homesteads of the Sherpani people. We experience their culture and religion by staying in their precisely-built, stone tea-houses and/or camping in sites close-by. Sandwiches, cinnamon buns, boiled eggs, coca cola, (or for a local flavour) Dhal bat and beer are served along the way. There’s much time to socialise and enjoy the company of other trekkers and climbers, read a good book, listen to music, photograph the surroundings, play cards and appreciate the geology of the region.
Following in the foot steps of the earliest Western expeditions, we trek for an average six hours per day, carrying only a light pack (5 kilograms) containing our personal items. During the trek Sean keeps an eye on everyone’s health and comfort. Prior to the trek he ensures everyone is adequately equipped and prepared.
It takes about 14 days to trek to Base Camp and to return to the mountain side runway at Lukla. Most of this time is spent at an altitude above 3000m. For this reason you may feel more fatigued than normal on a trek of this distance. So, well-deserved rests and acclimatisation days are built into the program. Anyone of ‘moderate fitness’ can reach Base Camp. However a comprehensive medical questionnaire must be completed prior to reservation.
Some people might like to stay in Kathmandu for a shorter or longer period
(depending on their schedules and interests). This can be arranged to suit.
Select a day
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Day 01: Depart from Johannesburg for Kathmandu. Qatar airlines depart QR 581 JHB 13H10. Arrive Doha 22h20. Depart 23h20 for Kathmandu.
Day 02: Arrival in Kathmandu. 07H00 Upon arrival at the airport we will be met and transported to the Kathmandu Hyatt Hotel. Welcome dinner.
Day 03: Kathmandu. A pre-trek briefing will be conducted at which maps and other general information will be distributed. This will also offer you the ideal opportunity to ask any last-minute questions. A sightseeing tour will be arranged or you are free to taxi around and do your own thing. Overnight Kathmandu Hyatt.
Day 04: Kathmandu - Lukla (2880m) - Phakding(2743m). Our early morning flight by Twin Otter aircraft takes us to Lukla, the most renowned mountain airstrip in the world. On the flight we watch the rugged foothills give way to the snowline of the Himalaya; many of the world’s highest mountains, including Kanchenjunga, Lhotse and Makalu (the world’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th highest respectively). On arrival, we meet our Sherpas and after a cup of tea we take the trail out of Lukla. Surprisingly, this high-altitude trek begins by descending to the river at Phakding.
Day 05: Phakding - Namche Bazaar (3445m) - Namche is the most prosperous and the largest town in the Khumbu Valley. A bazaar is held here every Saturday. The wares on display include meat, grains and vegetables, tennis shoes and trinkets as well as hand woven aprons and Tibetan boots. Thamserku (6648m), Kwangde Ri (6187m) and Khumbila (5707m) surround the natural bowl that Namche rests in. Halfway up the hill, a gap in the trees allows us to see Everest for the first time. If the weather is clear the top of the South-West Face will be just visible behind the long Lhotse-Nuptse ridge. A plume can often be seen stretching away from the summit.
Day 06: Namche - Rest/acclimatisation day. We take the day off to allow our bodies to adjust to the rarefied atmosphere before ascending to higher altitudes. The secret of safe acclimatisation is to ‘climb high and sleep low’. It is safe for the more energetic amongst us to hike up the hill behind Namche to the airstrip at Syangboche, or stroll across to the museum behind the police post. Others may prefer to ‘chill out’ and watch cable TV (seriously), or visit one of the lodges for a freshly baked cinnamon roll and tea. Namche is a busy and bustling trading hamlet.
Day 07: Namche - Thame (3801m) - After our day off we traverse west, enjoying marvellous view of Kwangde Ri and the waterfalls that cascade off its flanks. The trail stays high up on the bank of the Bhote Khose, and we wander through a yellow and white Rhododendron forest that comes into full bloom in early May. As we cross the river, we look back down the valley for beautiful views of Thamserku and Kusum Kangru (6369m), before ascending through more Rhododendron forests to pasture lands in front of Thame. This is the birthplace of Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who made the first ascent of Everest with Hillary in 1953.
Day 08: Thame - Khumjung (3791m) - We return back down the valley via Thamo, a hillside sanctuary, and then take a high trail that bypasses Namche and finally drops into Khumjung. This village is one of the most beautiful in Khumbu.
Day 09: Khumjung - Tengboche (3863m) - The trail this morning descends to the Dudh Khosi(river). Kantega (6779m) as well as Everest (8848m) and Lhotse (8501m). We cross the river at Phunki Thanga and climb through the afternoon amongst Rhododendron forest to the saddle at the top of the hill. Suddenly in front of us is Tengboche, the principal monastery of the Khumbu area; the views from here are unforgettable.
Day 10: Tengboche - Rest/acclimatisation day. This is another catch-up day for our bodies. Nearby ridges offer the opportunity for a half-day hike to get close-up views of Ama Dablam, whilst the monks usually give conducted tours around the monastery.
Day 11: Tengboche-Dingboche (4412m) - We follow the path down from Tengboche through the Rhododendron forest to Deboche and cross a suspension bridge with the roaring Imja Khol beneath our feet. A gradual climb takes us to the village of Lower Pangboche. We are now in the heart of the Khumbu, with spectacular views across to Ama Dablam. The afternoon stroll takes us along a path that hugs the valley wall and then across wide plains to a split in the valley. The Khumbu breaks left, up to Periche, but we take a detour right to Dingboche at the start of the Imja Tse valley.
Day 12: Dingboche - Rest/acclimatisation day. There is one of two hikes from here. You may choose. The shorter option ascends the hill immediately behind Dingboche, to drop steeply down to Periche. The Himalayan Rescue Association operates a medical post here and the western doctors conduct excellent seminars on Altitude Mountain Sickness (AMS) here on most afternoons. The longer option is to trek up the Imja Tse valley towards Island Peak. The views of Lhotse, Ama Dablam and Cho Polu from here are outstanding. After a few hours the trekker terminus of Chukung is reached, and after a rest we return down the valley.
Day 13: Dingboche - Loboje (4931m)- We climb up to the ridge behind Periche and stay high, mesmerised by the views of Tawoche and Cholatse, until we reach the teahouses at Dughla. A steep, stiff ascent to the terminal moraine of the Khumbu glacier is now tackled. The top of the climb is marked by a series of stone monuments (cairns) to commemorate some of the climbers that have not returned from expeditions to this region. The Lhotse ridge is simply awesome from this angle.
Day 14: Loboje-Gorak Shep (5100m) - Kalapathar or Base Camp option. This is a long day with an early start. We trek along the path along the side of the Khumbu glacier to the tea shacks at Gorak Shep. Behind rises the attractive 7000m peak of Pumori, which dwarfs our trek to the actual Base Camp (BC) of Everest. Kala Pattar is a neighbouring peak of Mt Everest and is also an option instead of going to base camp. It offers amazing views. The route up is straightforward and takes most people about 90 minutes. All the peaks - Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Changtse, Ama Dablam can be seen from this wonderful vantage point.
Day 15: Loboje - Phortse (3847m)- We descend all morning via Periche to Pangboche.
Day 16: Phortse - Namche (3445m) - We now descend through a forest to the Dudh Kosi. From the very pretty crossing point, we climb to a chorten where there are wonderful views back across the valley to Phortse, Tengboche and the surrounding mountains. Eventually we turn south off the main trail to Khunde and Khumjung, contouring past the Everest View Hotel. The route then leads down the hill to Namche and more cinnamon rolls, mint, masala or milk tea!
Day 17: Namche - Lukla (2880m) - Most people head towards Lukla with a heavy heart…whilst looking forward to the luxury of a five star hotel. There is something very special about the setting, the villages and the people of the high Khumbu hills and valleys are in our memories as we take the final section back into Lukla.
Day 18: Lukla - Kathmandu. Hyatt Regency. This is another opportunity to enjoy this great flight. Upon arrival back in Kathmandu we will stay at the Kathmandu Hyatt (yay) and overnight there.
Day 19: Day in Kathmandu. Hyatt Regency. Today is spent at leisure in Kathmandu. Farewell dinner at the notorious Rum Doodle (where all Everest summiteers are fed gratis!).
Day 20: International flight QR351. Depart 08H15. Arrive Doha 10H10. Depart Doha 21H45. Transfer to the International airport for your final departure from Kathmandu.
Day 21: QR 580 Arrive JHB International 05H25