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Everest Base Camp Trek

Everest Base Camp Trek & Kala Pattar Overview

We are proud to be one of the few groups that veer off the main travel to visit the monastic community of Thame and visit the Thame monastery. This is truly a unique look at Sherpa village life and the chance to visit one of the most loved monasteries in the region

Trekking in the Everest region of Nepal is a lifetime experience. Steeped in history and natural beauty, every day brings a wondrous experience as one is peppered with mountains of the extreme and insight into a deeply rooted Buddhist culture while hiking through a literal museum of climbing history. This combination of awe-inspiring nature and immersion into timeless village life is a rare opportunity in an ever-changing world.

With the world’s greatest peaks – Everest, Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori and Ama Dablam – characterizing the mighty Khumbu region, trekkers have the opportunity to explore its lower majesty in the shadow of these great peaks. Along the way, trekkers are showered with impressions of ancient Tibetan Buddhism as we visit and learn from our friends living in these inspiring monastic communities. We lodge in Sherpa villages (staying in tea houses, a type of homestay) and live amongst locals as we make our way to base camp.

Trekkers are guided by an Alpine Ascents guide as well as a local Sherpa guide. Our guides are often famed Everest climbers well-versed in climbing history and local culture.

Our Base Camp sojourn is a reasonable undertaking for the fit enthusiast, suggesting a lifetime of impressions and reflections. Most days are nothing short of breathtaking, as we walk amidst the Himalayan giants to the jingle of yak bells and giant rhododendrons. Each corner reveals new vistas that transport our psyches further into the shadows of the daunting peaks.

Traveling to these regions with Alpine Ascents offers an uncompromising experience. We dare say that no other organization can provide the combination of expertise, intimate relationships with local Nepalese/Sherpas, and knowledge of their mountains and environment. Our walking days will include much discourse on the peaks of the Everest region, architecture of Buddhist shrines, Sherpa Buddhism and firsthand climbing lore from the climbers that lead each trek.

Like all our expeditions, we believe that the trekker should be lost in the world of mountains and travel unfettered by the rigors of food preparation, lodging and logistics. Alpine Ascents offers the most comprehensive program available utilizing a distinguished staff of Sherpa, and a diverse assortment of meals and handpicked lodges.

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A Brief Overview of Sherpa Life

Often inseparable from mountaineering, the Sherpas of Nepal inhabit much of the lower portion of the Himalayas known as the Solu-Khumbu or Khumbu. While their reputation as climbers is nothing short of historic, local Buddhist, animist and cultural traditions have equally nurtured and impacted a fascinating relationship with westerners and western thought.

Sherpas became prominent to the West when British mountaineers began to set their sites on conquering Himalayan peaks. With the first Mt. Everest expedition in 1921, the skill, expertise, honesty and dedication of Sherpas as guides and partners became an integral part of Himalayan climbing. The affinity of outsiders for Sherpa/ Buddhist civilization has blossomed into an ever-increasing sharing, understanding, and friendship between cultures.

Prior to British expeditions, Sherpas revered the great mountains of the region as dwelling places of gods and goddesses, to which the thought of climbing was considered b.phphemous. (Chomolungma, the Tibetan name for Everest, is the residence of Miyo Lungsungama, the goddess of humanity and prosperity.)

Sherpas traditionally worked as traders, farmers and religious folk. Along with these ancestral roles, leading climbs and treks has recently become a mainstay of the Sherpa economy. Sherpa” refers both to a tribal group and a job capacity as porter, climber or trek leader. The term “Sherpa” means easterner, referring to their origins in Eastern Tibet. The migrations of this Tibetan culture began sometime in the early 1400’s. Today the Sherpa population in the Khumbu is about 5,000 with a total of roughly 35,000 living in Nepal.

Sherpas on Everest

The first notable and successful Everest climbing Sherpa was Tenzing Norgay. In 1952, Norgay accompanied Raymond Lambert to within 800 vertical feet of the still unclimbed Mt. Everest. A year later Norgay was asked to join the British team led by Col. John Hunt, which successfully summited Everest, following the same route as Norgay and Lambert. Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary were the first climbers to reach the summit. By the mid 1980’s, Sherpas had summitted Everest many more times than Westerners. Ang Rita Sherpa, the most well known climbing Sherpa, had amassed seven summits of Everest by 1995. In 1993 Pasang Lhamu Sherpa became the first Sherpa woman to summit Everest.

The Name Khumbu

The name Khumbu comes from its guardian deity Khumbila Tetsan Gelbu. The literal translation is “Khumbu country god.” The teachings of Sherpa Buddhism talk of a spiritual understanding between all beings. This is probably why the level of hospitality and acceptance of westerners comes naturally to the Sherpa. It should, however be mentioned, that Tibetans are also considered fierce warriors.

A Historical & Modern Perspective on the South Col Route

The South Col route on Mt. Everest’s south or Nepalese side was first reconned in 1950 by a British expedition led by Eric Shipton. Prior to that time, the Khumbu Icefall had been seen from the high glaciated pass easily accessed from the north or Tibetan side of Mt. Everest. It was universally considered impossible by those few who had looked upon it from this high vantage point. Then, with the Chinese invasion and take over of Tibet, geopolitics changed and the world’s highest peak was no longer accessible to the west from Tibet. Thus for the first time, Nepal allowed access to foreigners. In 1950 the previously unthinkable happened and the Khumbu Icefall was first climbed and deemed doable but dangerous.

What exactly is an icefall? For non-climbers, a glacier can be likened to a very slow moving river, one which is simply frozen. When a river increases it’s gradient, it turns into a very broken up rapid or cascade. When a glacier increases in gradient, it turns into an “icefall.” This icefall, especially the Khumbu Icefall, is an amazingly chaotic jumble of ice blocks of all sizes. It is a place of otherworldly beautiful and improbable shapes, forms, and shades of green and blue. It is a place of eerie silence, and improbable heat as well as cold. It is also a place of continual movement. Often this movement is not perceptible, as the entire mass is moving. At other times, the movement is sudden, brutal, and has incredibly destructive consequences to everything below as literally hundreds of tons of ice blocks can give way all at once. When this happens (often several times per day in one place or another within the icefall) everything below is reduced to nothing more than a fine white ice powder blown away by the mountain winds. The trick as a climber is to not be in that spot . . .

As climbing Mt. Everest became more popular in the 1970’s, and consequently more expeditions were on the mountain at the same time, expeditions began to cooperate with the “fixing” of the route through the Khumbu Icefall. This fixing means a continuous length of interconnected ropes, thousands of feet of ropes, for safety. This allows a climber to always be connected to ropes which are in turn connected to various anchors placed into the snow or ice. This is a safeguard against falling and injury while at the same time allows a climber to quickly move independently away from danger, something which is much more difficult and slower if one is instead roped directly to other climbers. Along with these ropes, often the terrain requires artificial structures to bridge otherwise uncrossable ice walls or large cracks called crevasses. Most often, these artificial structures are combinations of aluminum ladder sections tied together and stabilized by a latticework of other ropes. Very impressive to behold, and often very scary to traverse!

By the 1990’s, with even more climbing action taking place, there were complaints that many participating expeditions either lacking funds or desire, were not contributing to the group “fixing” of the route. They were instead using other expeditions hard work while contributing nothing. Therefore the past few years, a Nepalese governmental agency has stepped in to ensure that all contribute fairly based upon the size of the expedition. The SPCC (Sagarmatha Pollution Control Committee) now oversees this. They are primarily concerned with policing expeditions and groups to control garbage properly, and so they sub-contract with other people to do the actual work. During the Alpine Ascents 2000 expedition here to Mt. Everest, this work was carried out very well and ongoing maintenance to the icefall route was always done promptly. This year, however, has been another story.

The group, run by a British individual, was awarded the contract for this spring 2002 season, and the maintenance effort has been very short on supplies, manpower, tools, and perhaps experience to properly do their job. This has created some dangerous conditions for climbers traversing the icefall, and most expeditions here this season have drafted letters to the SPCC lodging their complaints regarding this situation. There has even been some discussion regarding next season many regulars here refusing to pay the SPCC and simply going back to the old cooperative way of doing things.

The route farther up the mountain in places also is prepared or “fixed” with fixed line in places for safety as well, but this work is done by separate expedition Sherpa staff in cooperation with each other. All expeditions here share the same goals of summiting and doing so safely, so it makes a great deal of sense to cooperate with each other and share in the work of preparing the route with this in mind. About 2 weeks ago, all expedition leaders and Sirdar (a Sirdar is the chief of Sherpa staff for an expedition) met and all decided upon a work and materials schedule so that all expeditions could share in this preparation work on the upper mountain. This has generally worked quite well, and the route is currently ready as far as the South Col at almost 26,000-feet or 8,000-meters. Within the next week, the plan is to have portions of the route fixed for security with rope above the South Col via a cooperative effort amongst expeditions such as Alpine Ascents, Adventure Consultants, International Mountain Guides, National Geographic, etc.

From Camp I, just above the Khumbu Icefall, the route enters the Western Cwm, which is a very large and steep-sided valley partly filled with the upper Khumbu Glacier. This “valley of silence” was first traversed by the Swiss expedition of 1952, who in fact pioneered most of the route on the upper mountain and came very close to the summit the year before the British success in 1953. It is a hauntingly beautiful place, but not without its dangers also. While it is often a place of ear-ringing silence, it also occasionally thunders with rockfall raking the steep faces of Mt. Everest to one side and Nuptse to the other side, or just as frequently ice or snow avalanches roar down for thousands of feet to the glacier. These things are quite easily avoidable simply by staying away from the sides of the valley. A less easily avoidable hazard are the many deep glacier fissures called crevasses. These crevasses are caused by the stress of glacier movement (take a warm Snicker’s candy bar and bend it in the middle and note the “crevasses” formed on the surface, and you get the idea). Many of these crevasses are bridged over by snow and not visible to a climber on the glacier’s surface. These hidden crevasses can constitute a serious threat especially after times of fresh snowfall, and are usually dealt with by climbers roping up to other climbers with adequate rope between so that the climbers general technique and the skill known as “self-arrest” are adequate to stop a fall into a crevasse should someone break through one of these snow bridges.

Near the end of this gently sloping valley, lies Camp 2, and the Lhotse Face looms above. Camp 2 at over 21,000-feet or over 6,400-meters, is the staging camp for starting up the face formed by the western side of neighbor mountain Lhotse. This face constitutes a serious challenge, as over 3,000-feet or 1,000-meters of 35-degree to 45 plus-degree ice must be climbed, with Camp 3 perched in the middle of this awesomely steep and long face. So here too, thousands of feet of fixed ropes are placed for the safety of climbers to safeguard against falling if used properly.

The last stop on the way to the summit, is Camp 4 or High Camp at the pass between Lhotse and Everest known as the South Col. To arrive at this camp requires traversing much steep ground also, and such features as the “Yellow Band” (a steep, golden, sandstone cliff which splits part of the upper Lhotse Face), the “Geneva Spur” (an enormous buttress or ridge-like feature of rock which must be climbed) must be overcome with the safety of fixed ropes.

Many early expeditions here used seven or eight camps instead of the currently accepted four camps. This big reason for this change, has been the huge increase in skill and ability of the high altitude Sherpa hired by most expeditions to assist. Originally in the 1950s, the foreign climbers were looked to to help train Sherpa as most were not skilled in climbing techniques. Their main assets were their strong work ethic and their genetic adaptation to altitude. Nowadays, Sherpas still have their genetic adaptation to altitude and their strong work ethic, but they are often also much more skilled climbers than the foreign climbers who hire them to help. This means it is much easier and faster for them to go up and down the mountain preparing and stocking camps than in earlier times, and so fewer camps are needed. I must also stress here that I do not believe many climbing expeditions give their Sherpa staff enough credit for the success of an expedition. Without the hard work of Sherpas and their high skill levels, there wouldn’t be 10% of the current numbers of successful Everest summiters. Everyone has perhaps herd of “Hillary” backpacks, but has anyone ever seen a “Chewang” sleeping bag? Chewang has summited 9 times on 12 different Mt. Everest expeditions. Why isn’t he famous in America or Europe? Or how about Apa who has summited 13 times?

Above High Camp still lies much steep ground before the summit at 29,035-feet or 8,850-meters is reached. Such features as the Triangular Face, The Balcony, the Southeast Ridge, the South Summit, the Traverse, and the Hillary Step all guard the world’s “third pole” well and ensure that a climber will work for his or her reward and need a minimum level of hard earned skills to get there. A sufficient level of safety and security can be maintained in this hostile territory only through the judicious use of fixed ropes, individual skills, and a high level of teamwork on both Sherpas and foreign climbers’ parts. The exercise of good judgement is also vitally important. “Never give up” or “just do it” can and has proved fatal many times on the world’s highest mountain, and perhaps a “those who climb and run away live to climb another day” is a more appropriate attitude for climbers who dare to challenge themselves on the slopes of Chomolungma in an environment more suited to jet airliners.

Willi Prittie. From Everest Base Camp, May 8, 2002

Everest Base Camp Trek Frequently Asked Questions

Upon sign up we will forward our famed, comprehensive confirmation package. This package will include all of the details for your trip.

What is the physical conditioning level needed for this trek?

Climbers must be in very good to excellent physical condition. Review cardio training on the training page. We strongly recommend following the advice of our guides to acclimatize properly.

Who is the guiding team composed of (How many guides? Climber to guide ratio?)

Your expedition leader will be one of our International Mountain Guides. They will be accompanied by a staff of highly experienced Sherpa, porters and cooks.

What is the best season to trek?

The best time to trek is in the pre-monsoon springtime, March and April and the post-monsoon Fall, October-November.

How many climbers are on this expedition?

Generally, our maximum for this climb is 15 trekkers plus guides.

Will I be sharing a tent or lodging with other climbers?

During the trek we will be lodging in teahouses or tents depending on the village. Trekkers will be either sharing a teahouse room (2 per room) or a tent (2 per tent).

How much will my pack weigh?

During the trek we will only be carrying gear and supplies for the day. At no point do we carry camping gear or equipment for overnight. During the trek daypacks will weigh no more than 20 lbs.

What gear will I need?

Please review the gear list.

How does your gear rental system work?

Those requesting rental gear must submit an expedition rental form with payment by fax or mail. All rental gear will be mailed to the trekker prior to the climb. Trekkers are expected to clean all rental gear and return it to us by mail following the expedition.

Any further advice on gear and using your gear list?

While all items are required there may be times when some of the items on the gear list may not be used (such as warm weather or changing conditions). The gear lists are created by the guides to assist in having trekkers be prepared to travel in any conditions.

While it is impossible for us to list all brands for certain gear, we do offer a wide variety of equipment in our Gear Shop, that has been hand-picked by our staff of mountaineering experts. Please feel free to call our offices with any gear questions or substitutes.

How is drinking water treated?

During the trek we will provide unlimited amounts of water at mealtimes. Team members can fill up water bottles at meals and use their Steri pen to sterilize. Bottled water can also be purchased in teahouses at additional cost but can be expensive and creates waste.

What will the meals on the expedition be like?

During the trek we will be served meals in the teahouses but prepared by our own staff. Meals during the trek are made from food both purchased in Nepal and the U.S. Typical meals are rice, pasta or potato dishes along with vegetable and egg dishes. During lunches we will also have a cooked meal.

Can I bring some food from home?

You may bring power bars, Gu, Power Gel, cereal bars or similar high energy foods, powder Gatorade is also recommended to fight dehydration. All meals will be provided on this expedition.

Are there any innoculation requirements?

No requirements at this time

What is the best air route to my destination?

Most routes from the States to Kathmandu are via Asia but there are many options via Europe as well.

When should I book my flight? Do I need to use your Travel Agent?

Fares are generally less expensive when booked early. You may use our Travel Agent (Charles Mulvehill 1-800-727-2157) or book flights yourself. Please note that flights booked online are often difficult to change. Please send us a copy of your flight schedule as early as possible as this allows us to book pick ups and hotels.

What time should I arrive and leave and where do I meet the guides?

We will pick up all climbers and trekkers at the airport. Guides will often meet you upon arrival at the hotel or at our first planned meeting.

What if I arrive early or depart late? Can you arrange extra night lodging? Is there a single room option for this expedition?

We are happy to make arrangements such as personalized tours, extra hotels rooms, airport pick ups and arrange for private rooms. Please indicate that you would like a private room on your application and we will contact you with information on single room supplement costs (for hotels only).

Are there any entry or Visa requirements?

The easiest way to obtain a visa is in the Kathmandu airport. Upon arrival in the KTM airport fill out the necessary forms and proceed to the visa line. As visa prices change often we suggest taking a variety of cash denominations, such as (2) $20.00 bills (1) $10.00 bill (1) $5.00 bill. We will obtain a trekking permit for you in KTM.

  • Current visa cost is $30.00 and is subject to change
  • Please obtain a one month visa

Please bring 2 passport photos (one for the visa and 1 extra).

Is there any communication while we are in the mountains?

Cell phones work in many parts of the Khumbu as well as in Kathmandu. We can assist you in getting a local sim card but you must “unlock” your phone beforehand. We can assist in getting a phone unlocked in KTM but can cost up to $50 and take 48hours (usually less).

Where can I get more information on history, books, and additional activities in the region?

Check the reading list on the Everest Trek page of the web site.

Can I contact the others on the trek? How about the guide?

You can always call our offices and we will have your Island Peak lead guide contact you. 30 days prior to departure, we will mail a list of the other team members to you.

How much should I budget for this expedition? How much cash should I plan to bring?

$500 should easily cover any extra expenses and tips. Most trekkers prefer to bring about $1000 and have credit cards.

How much should I tip my guide and staff?

$150 total is the suggested tips for all Sherpa guides and you may have some perfunctory tips at hotels and at time of transport. Tipping is not required but a common practice. Climbers may also opt to tip the Lead guide ( $150+ is an average tip)

How do I register for this expedition?

At: http://www.alpineascents.com/registration or by calling our offices with a credit card handy.

What paperwork do I need to send in?

Each climber should submit an application and flight information.

When is the money due for this expedition? What kind of payment do you except?

We accept MasterCard, Visa, American Express, personal checks and Alpine Ascents gift certificates. To reserve a space the deposit is $700.00 and balances are due 120 days prior to departure. Unpaid balances can result in forfeiture of trip.

What happens if I need to leave the expedition early?

Communication is sometimes difficult in the mountains. However our guides and local staff will make the necessary efforts to obtain the necessary transportation and reservations to get you home as quickly as possible if for any reason you need to depart early.

Reading List

This is a highly recommended shortlist and we would be happy to pass on a longer reading list for those interested. These links will bounce to Amazon.com with reviews.

High Himalaya
by Art Wolfe, Peter Potterfield, Norbu Tenzing Norgay, Mountaineers Books
Everest; The Mountaineers Anthology Series
Foreward by Tom Hornbein, Peter Potterfield editor, Mountaineers Books
Everest
by Walt Unsworth, Mountaineers Books
Classic Hikes of the World
Peter Potterfield, W.W. Norton pub.
Fragile Edge : Loss on Everest
by Maria Coffey, Harbour Pub Co.
Coronation Everest
by Jan Morris, Burford Books
Everest : The West Ridge
by Thomas F. Hornbein, Mountaineers Books
Eric Shipton: Everest & Beyond
by Edmund Hillary, Peter M.D. Steele, Mountaineers Books
The Snow Leopard (Penguin Nature Classics)
by Peter Matthiessen, Penguin USA (paper)
Trekking in Nepal : A Traveler's Guide
by Stephen Bezruchka, Mountaineers Books

Great trip. Vern and Carol were great. Beautiful people and venues. Would love to go back one day and explore more areas. Beyond expectations. And Vern played the guitar, very cool. Amazing leadership and I think he should become a professional speaker when he retires. Amazing stories and experiences.

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