Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

The Laziest Person To Ever Trek Everest Base Camp

Here’s a little background on me: I’m extremely lazy, I don’t really like exercising (and especially not in my free time), I’m relatively short (5’3 or 160 cm), I like watching TV series, every day is a cheat on my ‘diet’, and before starting my trip, I drove most places rather than walking because I’m too lazy to walk the five minutes to the supermarket. I have an average body weight, an average level of fitness, I am remarkably slow and terrible at hiking, and according to the BMI scale and every bikini I have ever tried on, I’m overweight. According to a previous visited Korean doctor, I should lose 14 kilos to be healthy. Despite everything I have just written about myself in full honesty, I decided that I was going to do something that was seemingly impossible for anyone who has ever hiked with me: go on a two week trek in the highest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas, and go to the base of the highest peak on earth: Everest. Farfetched? Absolutely. Impossible? Nahhhhh.

Nepal is one of the few fortunate countries bordering the grand Himalayan mountain range. Hiking along any popular trails in Nepal is argued to be much easier than similar ranges despite the height of its peaks due to the commercialization of its trails. That being said, there is accommodation probably every thirty minutes of hiking where one can additionally find water and food available. Helicopter evacuation is also readily available in many places as well as wifi / cell phone network in many places. Thus, hiking on the organized trails guarantees that you don’t need to carry two weeks worth of food, a heavy tent, or water and therefore makes your life significantly easier and your pack much lighter.

Let's start with training for my trek. Well....I walked around….sometimes. I tried an organized boot camp but I usually ate my feelings post-workout and ultimately didn’t have much positive results. I read on tripadvisor and other blogs that some people trained hard and posted their routines for the trek. Thus caused me to get cold feet and then I proceeded to define the word “trek” which technically, according to the internet, means glorified walking and thus, I comforted myself over pizza and told myself that my lack of training was going to be fine. Another post I read stated, “You can really tell who trained and who didn’t” and I’ll be honest, this resonated with me during the whole trek - my lack of training was very obvious to the people I trekked with, myself, my guide, and any passerby. I remember trying to look trained when passing people but god it was embarrassing. But, if I did it again, I would still probably not train and here’s why.

Trekking in the Himalayas is not as hard as it sounds. Like I previously mentioned, everything is already there for you in terms of survival needs and you can pretty much go at any pace you want. You can walk two hours a day or four hours a day - it’s your choice and it’s your trip. Pace yourself. If you’re aiming for a two week trip to and from Lukla, you won’t have many full eight hour days and that’s because of the altitude. The altitude is a very dangerous aspect to hiking in the Himalayas and if you don’t pay close attention to the cautions, you could become seriously injured. Because of the altitude, you have limits on how far you can actually go so even if you wanted to do long, grueling days, you wouldn’t be able to because of the risk of getting altitude sickness. Additionally, the altitude allowed me to keep up with my group who all had double the leg length that I have as well as double the fitness level. From first-hand experience, I can guarantee you that being fit doesn’t mean you’re immune from the dangers of altitude and you can no way in advance plan to know how your body will react.

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Besides altitude, let’s talk hiking. Although I jokingly write about my training, let me underline this, it’s not easy - it’s A LOT OF uphill. When I say a lot, whatever you imagine, double that and then you can imagine the uphill. There were many self-proclaimed uphills of doom that I had to achieve while battling an onset of inevitable headaches from the altitude over the course of week one. I will say that my second day, the hike to Namche Baazar, was my hardest hike because besides the normal walking path, it was about three hours of just steep, frustrating uphill on my unfit, chunky monkey, ice-cream-battered body. At that stage, I refused a porter, carried my own bag which included two lenses and my DSLR, and whined and winced the whole time. It hurt. I’d never been so tired. The altitude hit hard and I had a loss of appetite that night - a loss of appetite is something I have never experienced in my 25 years due to a massive love of all food and thus, instantly discouraging. I was cold, miserable, hurting, and regretting my decision and I immediately wondered if I’d last the whole trek if everyday was as bad as that day. My heart rate monitor suggested I burned around 5000 calories that day alone. Now, although that day was challenging beyond belief, I haven’t mentioned the magic that my eyes witnessed through my struggle. The path that day wrapped around a cerulean river flowing magnificent glacial water beneath snow capped peaks, as well as presented numerous terrifyingly wonderful steel drawstring bridges and fairytale-like villages that were stacked along the path. It’s hard to complain about pain when you’re witnessing such amazing natural wonders that your eyes can hardly believe it. Pictures can’t even do it justice. So yes, the pain on my pizza-ridden ass was worth it, very worth it. Speaking of my behind, hiking is quite good for putting that in shape.

Typically, organized groups do about 8 days up, 4 days down. Two of those 8 days are rest days where you are supposed to complete day hikes at higher altitudes and then aim to sleep at a lower altitude. This allows your body to recuperate from previous tough days and is an adjustment process that helps avoid possible variations of altitude sickness.  In my case, I lazily did half the recommended hike and took naps on my rest days. But, as I previously mentioned, go at your own pace. If you want to do just two hours a day and take longer for your trek, do it. 8 days to the top is what the commercialization of Everest Base Camp recommends but it’s possible to do it as long or as slow as you want. Actually, I met some Chinese guys who had a very short Lunar New Year vacation and intended on doing it in 3. Lol. I'm almost certain they had to be helicoptered out with such a bogus plan. As we were not an organized trek, we took our time and did the trek up at a comfortable pace of 9 days up. Of those 9 days, two days were half days - the first was due to a delayed plane and the latter because of snow making us wet, cold, and miserable. An average day was about 5 hours of hiking and the sun set around 5 PM so we planned accordingly. This meant a guaranteed decent sleep-in, a long break for lunch, and plenty of time for rest stops and water/snickers breaks. Every tea house provided us with yak poop powered stoves from 5 PM until 8 PM. During that time, food was happily consumed, tea was drank, and many endless hours of card games were played to kill time. Once the yak poop induced fire died, it was too cold to be outside our sleeping bags and we’d get in bed and either read, listen to music, or sleep at a really early time. The only reason I would not have wanted to do the trek slower than I did would be because there would be so much spare time to kill and I’d go nuts unless I had copious amounts of books to read.

Another aspect of trekking I forgot to mention was hygiene - or lack of should I say. On a normal, non-trekking day, I shower daily and wash my hair every four days or so. When you’re trekking, tea houses charge around 5 bucks and up for a hot shower along the trek. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but if you trek in the winter months, getting naked is not worth the shower, I guarantee that you’ll regret it. It’s freezing cold when you’re without clothes in the shacks that are hardly windproof. I, instead, recommend taking baby wipe showers to remove your sweat - just don’t forget to cuddle your baby wipes in your sleeping bag at night or they’ll freeze solid. I showered around day 7 due to desperation regarding my scabby dandruff-ridden scalp and also decided it would be a good day to do laundry in a bucket with my shower water. The shower floor was frozen solid and didn’t melt during the duration of my shower and so I had to stand on a block of ice barefoot. Due to the temperature outside, the laundry didn’t dry, it froze solid. All of my underwear were frozen. Eventually, out of desperation, I publicly laid out my underwear across my arms at sunset and held it in front of the yak poop stove for three hours in front of twenty elderly Malaysian hikers.

Besides showers, running water for washing hands is also a luxury you leave behind after Namche Bazaar. Prepare to smell and feel disgusting. You feel dirty for a few days but you eventually find peace with your filthy self and learn to love it. You probably won’t even be naked or see yourself naked for two weeks besides a very very quick change of clothing. The toilets you come across along the trek are also a hit or miss. Sometimes squatter style, sometimes western, but usually not self-flushing unless you're as far down as Lukla or Namche Bazaar. This means that you must put your hand into freezing cold water (if it isn’t frozen solid), grab a bucket, and hope your waste disappears with some old-fashioned self-flush. If there isn’t water (which happened in at least 2 of our teahouses) you shit on top of shit on top of shit and hope to god there isn’t a splash. I suggest bringing your wet wipes to this endeavor to wipe away the shame of the things you’ve resorted to doing.

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The last day to base camp is challenging. You’re trekking at an altitude around 5400 meters and you have a half as much oxygen as you would have at sea level. You’re slower, you’re tired of exercise, and you’re so fucking ready to start your descent. About thirty minutes before base camp, I just wanted to quit and start crying but it was too cold to cry and it made me more frustrated. With a mixture of the painfully strong wind and bitter cold, I was over the trek. Upon reaching base camp and reflection, I realized that the trek itself was much more than the base camp itself. Base camp was nothing more than a mere arrangement of Nepalese prayer flags on a glacier and stones sketched with people’s names and achievement unlocked dates. The struggle, the scenery, the hope for weight loss, and the fresh air was the trek for me, not the base camp itself. When I started my descent, I was excited to get back to my lazy life watching movies and series and enjoying doing absolutely nothing. Little did I know that because my hiking shoes didn’t fit correctly, I’d form blisters on every part of my foot and the long long seventy kilometers back to Lukla would be an unimaginable pain worse than the uphill. 

Overall, the muscle pain was lasting, the cracking knee joints were inevitable, a desire for delicious food ached, and the filth lingered. Photos of breathtaking beauty were taken, friendships were formed, friendly locals were met, and memories of a lifetime were embedded. On my trek, I passed people of all ages, weights, and heights attempting Everest Base Camp. Hiking to Everest Base Camp is an attainable goal for anyone who wants to attempt it and the length of time or altitude should not be a discouraging factor. The trek isn’t as hard as it is made out to be and anyone, regardless of weight, can do it if they pace themselves intelligently. Incidentally, day by day, as you hike more, your muscles, your joints, and your body gets used to the pain you put it through and you eventually reach a sort of agreement with your body. You become more fit through the pain. When you get back to Kathmandu, take that much awaited shower, and check yourself out naked, you’ll be proud of your accomplishment.