Everest Base Camp Trek Difficulty and Hardships – How Hard Can it Be?

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The Everest Base Camp Trek or EBC Trek in Nepal. What Difficulties with trekkers face? How difficult is the trek or hike, and what hidden difficulties exist besides the altitude and distance walked?

Everest Base Camp view of Everest
The view at Everest Base Camp. Everest to the rear, with the Khumbhu Ice Fall tumbling down to the Base Camp location. All of the difficulties you will face are worth it to stand here. Read our post, be prepared.

“We got back from Everest yesterday. It’s been an amazing 3 weeks, (yes, 21 days, not 14) and it’s been tough, so, a few things you need to know about difficulty levels on the Everest Base Camp Trek (EBC) both for your entertainment and general information, and to help you decide if this Himalayan hike is for you.

There are hardships, problems, and pitfalls on the Everest Base Camp Trek.

Hopefully, we can help you get yourself to Everest with some first-hand experiences and tips, but what were the hard parts?

Did taking the kids add to the problems?

What’s it really like up there? We’ll tell you all that we can.

Everest Base Camp Trek Difficulties Trekkers Face

I’ve been accused of complaining – that’s not what I’m doing here at all. I’m telling it like it is.

This post isn’t about how I’ve wanted to get myself to Everest Base Camp for the last 20 years, nor how amazing these 3 weeks have been.

It’s not about my happy tears when Everest came into view above Namche nor about those that came when I first saw the Khumbu Ice Fall or the memorials to those who died and to the great heroes of Himalayan climbing.

Take a look at our short video below, then read on.

No, there will be more on that. I can and will write dozens more posts on the trek, the route, the towns and villages and most importantly, how to arrange your own trek.

Don’t go with a tour group, that’s our most important tip.

Today’s post is just about the difficulties and hardships of trekking to Everest Base Camp. They are worth it a million times over but I need to get them down before they evaporate from my mind forever, as they will.

I will remember these 3 weeks as a fantastic experience, a privilege and a challenge enjoyed by few. It was stunning up there.

Everest Base Camp Difficulty
Everest Base Camp. Everest visible behind with the Khumbu Glacier and Khumbu Ice Fall. Difficulty, dangers and What’s it like to complete the EBC trek or hike?

We trekked to Everest Base Camp without a guide or porter, we don’t think they’re necessary after trekking in Nepal a few times,  but you may prefer to take one.

Self-guided trekking is very easy and the trails are usually obvious.

Snow can make them disappear as we found when trekking independently in the Annapurna region.

We do no training for any trek, we are plenty fit enough to walk and we think training is unnecessary.

My husband is super fit, I maintain moderate fitness for a 50 year old woman. My kids do not train and do not take part in any sports.

Scott Fischer Died on Everest. His Memorial on the Everest Base Camp Route, betweek Dingboche and Lobuche Nepal
The memorials are between Dingboche and Lobuche.

Everest Base Camp Trek Difficulties

These are the difficulties you will face on the Everest Base Camp Trek.

  1. Altitude and lack of oxygen make everything difficult.
  2. The distance to walk – it isn’t very far, but there are steep ascents and descents.
  3. Fear of heights, crossing very high suspension bridges.
  4. Poor accommodation, few showers, little heat.
  5. Limited food.
  6. Dangers from yaks and donkey convoys.
  7. Mud and rock slides.
  8. Issues with charging electronic devices, little wi-fi
  9. Crowding.
  10. Frequent flight cancellations.
  11. Sickness and injuries.
  12. Scams and expenses
  13. Unpredictable weather and extreme cold

Read more about all of these EBC difficulties, in detail, below.

First, a quick overview of what walking to Everest Base Camp actually involves. The journey to Everest base camp is a walk or hike. It is not a climb.

There are no ropes involved, no climbing, just a slow, steady hike at high altitude.

The distance you cover every day isn’t that huge, or doesn’t have to be.

What makes this hike difficult is the lack of oxygen, the weather, and the basic lodging conditions.

This trek is also difficult to fit into most people’s lives, it takes 2-3 weeks to complete this trek, and not many of us have the free time available. As digital nomads, we do.

Is the Everest Base Camp trek dangerous? Yes, somewhat. You could become very sick up there. You could encounter rock or mudslides or be pushed off the path by yak or mule trains.

There are very few precipitous drops and the paths are mostly quite wide.

There are risks in everything, but we happily took our kids up there, that tells you how dangerous we think it is.

You cannot drive to Base Camp. Past Lukla, there are no roads. People do take helicopters up there and there are scenic flights.

There is a bus from Kathmandu to Phaplu. From there you have to walk 3 or 4 days to meet the main Everest Base Camp trail just past Lukla.

We’ve walked that route twice.

The flight from Kathmandu to Everest terminates at Lukla. Lukla airport, with its short sloping runway, is the gateway airport for Mount Everest.

We choose to carry our own packs, we don’t use porters and we don’t need a guide. I don’t really see why anyone would need a guide, on this trek it’s easy enough to just follow the path.

Carrying your own gear obviously makes the trek somewhat harder, but our packs don’t bother us much, we’re very used to carrying them. We also never get blisters because our boots fit and are broken in.

Now let’s get into the difficulties.

There is Very Little WiFi, Phone Connection or Power on the EBC Trek.

Porter on the Everest Base Camp Trek crossing bridge
A local porter fully loaded (100 Kg max) crossing the highest bridge on the Everest Base Camp Trek. This bridge is the start of the 2 hour climb up to Namche Bazaar where there is a decent phone signal and the German Bakery with free Wi-Fi and charging.

To you this may sound heavenly, 2-3 weeks of no email or social media, but for me (and the kids) it’s tough.

I work online, I have to be online and I think we set out with false expectations of connectivity based on others’ experiences.

We had local N Cell SIM cards and these worked well in Namche, partially in Lukla and there was a pitiful signal briefly in Gorak Shep. Mostly there was nothing.

The Everest Link WiFi is expensive and we couldn’t justify the cost but you should be able to find this in lodges in most towns and villages.

There is free WiFi in guest houses (lodges / tea houses) and bakeries ( Namche) rarely, there is paid wi-fi more often, but every wi-fi connection we tried had upload limits and I was unable to back up photos.

It’s pretty amazing that there is any connection up there and I was very grateful to connect at all, but working from the EBC hike was impossible. My idea of use-able internet and a non-professional user’s idea are probably very different.

Finding a power supply was also hard, lodge owners charge you to plug-in per hour or per full charge and with 4 of us at ever-increasing altitudes, it would have been massively expensive.

Our solar charger was our best friend but didn’t completely allow us to stay charged. One solar charger between 4 wasn’t enough, but for solo or couple trekkers it should be fine.

The solar power pack weighed half a Kg, so we didn’t want to buy two and add to the weight we were carrying. (See the solar power pack we use here, it was good)

At the end of the day it was nice at times to have no connection. It forced us to play Monopoly Deal for hours or just to go to bed early. As always, no WiFi is better than bad WiFi.

You Will Smell Like a Yak’s Armpit

Yak on the Everest Base Camp Trek.. Difficulties and Dangers
This yak, climbing Tengboche Hill (2 hours up, 1 hour down) on the Everest Base Camp Trek, is more sweet-smelling than the average trekker. Yaks and other animals can be a real danger, they can push you off the path and you really don’t want to meet a convoy half-way across a bridge.

We planned for a 2 week trek, not expecting to have to walk up from Phaplu rather than fly to Lukla and not expecting to have to take extra rest days to recover from sickness. We ended up trekking for 3 weeks.

I had a system of wearing old clothes until they were dirty or no longer needed, then leaving them behind, it worked great, other than in the last week!

We all wore the same clothes for at least a week before we flew out, day and night.

Socks and shoes were the major stink offenders so we all bought a few new pairs of socks in Namche and dealt with toxic smelling feet using expensive wet wipes. But still, we stank.

For the record, socks were a reasonable $3 a pair in Namche and wet wipes $6 a pack so factor in buying more items on the trail to your Nepal trek packing list.

To say we smelled like a yak’s armpit is probably offensive to yaks.

Yes, some lodges have hot gas showers, which you pay for. Chef had one shower between Phaplu and Namche, the rest of us didn’t have one in 3 weeks.

The main issue was, we only took one full-sized travel towel which we were then unable to wash and dry.  I won’t use a towel after somebody else has used it without washing it. Chef continued to use it to wash his feet when he could. His feet remained the most toxic despite receiving most attention.

We should have taken one towel each, but then you’re adding to weight. We also should have washed the towel in Dingboche where we had access to water in a non-disgusting sink and somewhere to dry wet clothes.

We did wash several pairs of socks here and they almost dried in the sun in 24 hours. We strapped them to the outside of our packs the next day to finish drying.

We wrongly assumed we’d be able to do more hand washing in Namche on the way down, but unfortunately, we couldn’t.

On the way up we paid to get laundry done in Namche, it cost $16 for about 1 Kg of laundry. In Kathmandu, for comparison, laundry costs under $1 per Kg.

The lodge we ended up using in Namche had no shower at all and a bathroom I avoided like the plague –  I even took my toothbrush to the bakery in the mornings to avoid using that bathroom. Namche was full and we were sick, so we just carried on stinking.

Sickness (giardia) also takes its toll on your usable wardrobe.  Being fully prepared is a hard act to pull off when balancing quantities of clothing against the weight of your pack.

This would still not tempt us to take a porter, we like to carry our own gear and see it as part of the challenge.

Flights in and Out of Lukla are Often Cancelled, Ours Were

Helicopter at Lukla Airport Nepal
The helicopter area at Lukla Airport, Nepal. Sadly, this is what that plane crashed into last year. It could have been so much worse as this area is littered with huge containers of helicopter fuel. The classic Everest Base Camp trek starts and finishes with Lukla airport ( the sloping runway is visible behind). Unfortunately, perfect conditions at both Lukla and Kathmandu don’t happen all the time and many flights are cancelled. Ours were this October, so we started from Phaplu not Lukla, alternatively, you can pay for a helicopter to get you to Lukla or Namche.

We had a bad feeling about our flights before we even got to the airport.

As we were arriving in peak season, October, blue skies were expected but huge volumes of trekkers heading to the Everest region meant we could only get 10.30 am flights on Tara airlines.

10.30 am is a late flight, you need to book the earliest one you can to stand the best chance of flying and that’s usually 6 am.

Tara are good, they have a lot of planes and prices are lower than new-kid airline Summit, but the monsoon lingered this year and most flights had been cancelled for the last 6 days when we arrived at Kathmandu Tribhuvan airport.

There was no way we were flying to Lukla on that day.

If your plane is cancelled you go to the back of the queue and with 6 days of cancelled flights it was looking like we may be waiting a week to fly into Lukla.

Cash flowed from tourists’ wallets as the helicopter touts did the rounds of the airports waiting area. Choppers fly when planes don’t and prices were shooting up, we heard $2400-$2800 per chopper for 6 people with minimal luggage. Tourists with limited time and big dreams were snapping up those chopper places.

For 1 person it’s not such a huge cost, but for a family of 4 a helicopter was unaffordable so we, along with 12 new friends, decided to fly to Phaplu and walk up rather than sit in Kathmandu airport for a week.

We’re still in touch with some of the intrepid dozen and had fun walking with them for the first few days.

Phaplu to Lukla hike Nepal
The group that got together to almost charter our own private flight from Kathmandu to Phaplu when our Lukla flights were cancelled. Boo and I couldn’t keep up with these fit 20 somethings for long, but we had a great first day or two walking together. You meet people from all over the world. From kids just out of university to people in their 70s. You’ll never be short of someone to talk to on the EBC trek if that’s what you’re looking for.

We 4 had walked down from Lukla to Phaplu 2 years previously and really didn’t want to do it again, it wasn’t great, but needs must.

Actually, this time around the Phaplu-Lukla walk was much more enjoyable due to drier trails, but still, it’s a tough hike with a lot of climbs and descents.

Don’t ever think these treks are gradual climbs, you’re forever dropping down into valleys to cross rivers before tackling the next peak.

Flying out of Lukla was also troublesome and Summit passengers were having a lot more problems than Tara or Yeti coming back although we did, eventually fly out on Summit.

Summit planes are slightly bigger and newer. We ran into an old friend, Sherpa Nema, who facilitated our escape from Lukla.

Some people, again, had been waiting 4 days to get out.

Altitude Sickness, Viruses, Blisters and Giardia

Garlic soup Everest Base Camp Trek
They say that garlic soup, available almost everywhere on the Mt Everest trek, helps with altitude sickness. I say all that garlic and extra liquid has to be good for almost any ailment. Unfortunately, it’s not filling enough for hungry trekkers, but it’s pretty good.

We had no real problems with altitude but a lot of people do and end up being choppered out.

The best way to avoid life threatening altitude sickness is to trek independently so as to allow yourself extra acclimatisation days and shorter ascents if needed.

I say no problems but you still feel the effects of altitude acutely, breathing is hard and I found my sleep was disturbed by having to take deep breaths often. The tingling extremities of hypoxia came and went, Diamox seemed to neither increase nor decrease the frequency of this sensation. None of us escaped these milder symptoms, but we had no altitude effects that made us think we should go down urgently and no altitude headaches.

Boo and I took Diamox as a preventative from Namche up, D and Chef chose not to. You can buy Diamox in pharmacies in Kathmandu for just a couple of dollars. We had no side effects.

They say to drink 4 L of fluid each day at altitude. I doubt very much that we got close to that. Four litres is a huge volume but we sank as much black tea and soup as possible to keep topped up and took slugs of water as needed while trekking.

We had 3 wide-mouthed 1 L Nalgene bottles between the 4 of us and 1 camel-back type system. We only needed 2 bottles as it was generally easy to refill bottles at every lodge or lunch stop. We used chlorine-based water purification tablets with no problems.

The health problems we had started at Lobuche, one stop from Base Camp, where I went down hard with a fever and cold symptoms. This virus spread to Boo, then Chef, then D over the coming days. Pack plenty of paracetamol, once the fevers started we ripped through our stash. Almost everyone up there got sick.

D also got hit by giardia, easy to spot with its characteristic eggy burps. Most cases of giardia don’t require treatment but I thought about buying him a 1 dose antibiotic in Namche. It was available, but almost out of date and didn’t look too trustworthy, so we adopted a watch and wait policy.

I checked all this with a doctor friend, she confirmed everything we were doing was fine.

He got better in a couple of days.

At one point we had a bathroom emergency above Dingboche, there was a toilet, but a roll of paper was $4.

At Gorak Shep that was also the price of 1 L of bottled water.

This was the only time we had to buy water in plastic, everywhere else we just used tap water with purification tablets but at Gorak Shep- no tap water.

A flask of boiled water would have cost around $10 up there.

You always need to carry your own toilet paper and soap. It’s very rarely provided.

As D got sick we tried the activated charcoal capsules I’d packed, they seemed to help. We’re new fans of this product that we’d heard so much about from friends. I had nausea in Lukla, the charcoal seemed to take it away. Maybe it was coincidence, but it seemed to work.

None of us ever get blisters because we don’t wear two pairs of socks and only buy boots or shoes that fit. I like to wear thin socks. More on that in this trekking gear page.

You actually don’t need boots either, not if there’s no snow.

There are Too Many Trekkers Up There

As I said before, October is peak time. We were shocked by how many people were up there, having only trekked in Nepal in winter the last couple of times.

Of course, we’re part of the problem, we were there too, we have no right to the mountain although some we met had a seriously entitled attitude.

It always seems to be older folks (in tour groups usually) with inconsiderate manners and entitlement issues.

At some points, the Everest Base Camp trail was clogged solidly with trekkers plodding onwards.

Sometimes you can overtake, sometimes you’re stuck behind them.

Most of these trekkers were in large tour groups, adding guides and multiple porters with ridiculous amounts of baggage to the congestion.

Base Camp itself was a mosh pit of people scrabbling for photos.

You’ll notice that our photos were taken a little away from the main pile of ice and prayer flags that mark the spot.

Again, some of the tour groups were being unpleasant, even aggressive as they rushed to get their trophy photo.

Whole towns were booked out with not a bed to be found and lodges and guides wielded their power by tapping into wallets.

Avoid the lodges the tour groups are using wherever possible.

I wouldn’t trek in October again, we’ve had much better experiences trekking in February and March and actually missed the snow. We had no snow on the trails at all and temperatures hardly got below zero, but we did have stunning blue skies and mostly clear days.

That is what brings the trekkers in October.

For the record, contrary to the information in a recent Facebook meme, THERE IS NO LITTER UP THERE AT ALL.

These stupid, sensationalist memes that people spread with no knowledge of facts are deeply annoying. I saw one woman drop one sweet wrapper in 3 weeks.

There are actually frequent bins and recycling bins, never full or overflowing.

Prices are High, It’s Expensive, There are Scams

As I said above, lodges being oversubscribed pushed prices up.

In Deboche we were royally scammed by a guide/lodge owner and had to pay $10 per room. That probably sounds cheap to you but the deal always was that rooms are free, you just pay for food.

Most places charge $2 per room, Lobuche had a fixed $7 rate.

There’s too much to tell here and the room prices story and system is complex, but we wised up after a few days and made a point of staying in the towns the tour groups skip.

Rooms suddenly became free again and lodge owners were really pleased to see us. We were happy to give them our cash for a better experience.

On the trek in from Phaplu to Lukla, before we joined the main EBC trail, we had none of these problems. Rooms were free or cheap, food was better and more abundant.

Once we joined the EBC tourist trail, food prices almost doubled.

Accommodation Isn’t Luxury

Accommodation on the Everest Base Camp Trek Tea House
What’s accommodation like on the Everest Base Camp Trek? This room is pretty typical. Lodges or tea houses are very basic, unheated and with zero sound proofing. Talk quietly! This room was actually one of the nicest and cleanest of the whole trek and cost us 100 Rs ( about $1) per night. I negotiated the price down and was told not to tell anyone else what we were paying, the lady in the end room was paying $10 per night. This room actually had its own bathroom with shower and a power socket, we weren’t allowed to charge or use hot water without paying. Shared toilets are far more common and a power socket in a room almost never happens.

Accommodation is very basic, cold and variably clean. I’m totally cool with that, this is my third high Himalayan trek, but if you’re new to this you need to know what to expect.

Rooms generally have 2 single beds, wooden cots with thin foam padding. A sheet, pillow and pillowcase and some sort of blanket or duvet are always provided. Don’t expect them to be washed between customers.

We saw a few rooms for 3, but never one for 4 other than the guides’ and porters’ dorms.

Most trekkers bring sleeping bags, I just had a fleece liner and was, more or less, warm enough without a bag.

You will need to wear most of your clothes in bed, a dry change of clothes is warmest but not always possible. A warm hat to wear in bed is essential.

Renting a sleeping bag in Kathmandu was 80 Rs / day at High Himal in Thamel ( less expensive than Shona’s) that’s under $20 for 3 weeks hire, but a bag is 1.5 Kg and I didn’t want to carry it. I was happy with my choice to not take a sleeping bag.

We’ve spent 2 winters in rural Romania at far lower temperatures and only ever used a regular duvet, so I was confident that I wouldn’t need a sleeping bag for the Everest trek.

Also, 2 years previously, we’d trekked to Namche and beyond without sleeping bags, in winter. It was fine and we had -10 C in Namche at that time of year. 

I’m glad the children had bags, but I was fine without. If you want more info on Nepal with kids, it’s here.

Rooms are usually hard-board cubicles with no sound or heat insulation. You can get rooms with attached basic bathrooms, but usually you’ll be sharing a toilet cubicle which may be squat or western.

They’re not terribly clean.

Toilet paper needs to go in the bin and you’ll be flushing or washing down with a barrel and scoop.

There will be no heating, or, in winter or at high altitudes, there will be a yak dung stove in the lodge’s dining room.

I love these simple lodges (sometimes called tea houses) and the kids find them cosy. They’re fun and authentic, but I can’t imagine my mother staying in one.

Food and Nutrition Aren’t the Best

We ate a lot of potatoes. Breakfast lunch and dinner, fried potatoes with a tiny amount of added onion, capsicum or cabbage. Top it with an egg for protein.

At Gorak Shep fried potatoes with veg and egg was $8 a plate.

Other than potatoes there are fried noodles, dal baht, momos, Tibetan bread and maybe pasta with tomato sauce.

There are plenty of soups but they’re not usually substantial enough for hungry trekkers. I would have garlic soup often, Chef and the boys would go for the biggest, cheapest thing they could find.

Dal Baht is delicious and one of my favourite meals in the world. It’s a good bet if you’re starving because top ups come free but in very touristy lodges portions became small and top ups disappeared. $8 was the highest price we saw for dal baht. In Kathmandu we pay under $3.

Before anyone goes stamping their feet and complaining about rip off prices, remember that everything you eat up here has to be carried up, often for days. Everything just costs more the further you get from transportation and at Gorak Shep we were maybe 8 days from a road.

So filling up on carbs was easy, but protein and veg weren’t a big feature. Dal baht has a very tiny amount of lentils in the dal soup and mostly consists of rice and potatoes.

Over 3 weeks the restricted diet starts to be tough and I lost my appetite completely from time to time. Be sure to take your usual vitamin and mineral tablets, you’ll need them. We all lost a lot of weight, a stone each, possibly more.

Taking the Kids to EBC – Not Difficult

11 ways everest base camp is difficult

D, at 14 and a head taller than me raced ahead hardly noticing his pack.  Little Boo and I trailed behind. He has short legs, I’m 52 and not very fit. Sometimes he had to hand his pack, just 2 or 3 Kg, over to his dad.

They were great and did incredibly well, so taking the kids to Everest Base Camp was no difficulty at all.

They both loved meeting people and chatting as we walked, D more so, Boo is still shy until he gets to know people.

They were a dream to trek with but they’ve had plenty of experience in walking, packing, travel, thinking for themselves and just being resilient, sensible and adaptable.

I wouldn’t take kids below about 10 years old. I’d have to be very sure that any child wouldn’t be a danger to themselves or others.

You need to keep a very watchful eye on kids up there and keep them ultra close.

At one point we passed a school group accompanied by teachers and porters, 16-17-yearolds. They didn’t have a clue what they were doing and almost bowled Boo and I off some steps walking 4 abreast and chatting between themselves.

No way, on this Earth, would I allow my kids to go on an Everest Base Camp trek in a school group such as that. It’s dangerous up there.

One girl was trailing behind complaining of sore legs already, after less than half a day walking.

It’s a big responsibility taking kids on such a long hike, where safety is an issue, at altitude.

D wanted to complete the trek for the bragging rights, Boo wasn’t so keen on this adventure but before we left Kathmandu he told me that he planned to be really good at it. He was, he was amazing.

He has grit and determination and broke into a run to be the first of us back into Lukla.

I’m very proud of them both. Yes, there was bribery and rewards, they both got $10 to spend on sweets last night, well deserved, and new computer games were part of our deal.

They’re proud of themselves and successfully completing such a major challenge can only be good for their self-esteem.

Walking Difficulty of the Everest Base Camp Trek Itself

Everest Base Camp Trek Lobuche to Dingboche
An almost flat part of the Everest Base Camp Trek with very low difficulty. Between Dingboche and Loboche you’ll find this nice section, but beware, there is also a hill that will take you around 2 hours to climb. Pheriche is in the valley below, you can either go through Pheriche or Dingboche, Dingboche is supposedly less windy and exposed and we liked it, so we chose the high road.

This is what people ask first, how hard is the walk?

I’ve put this towards the end because really, the difficulty of the walk is unimportant. The whole package is a challenge, all the factors above and more. The walk, well, most people can walk. We walked with people in their 60s and 70s, I am in my 50s, most people should be able to do this trek and high fitness isn’t really required

If you’re slow, go slow, that’s fine. Let the hares race on. It’s cool to be the tortoise and you’ll likely acclimatise better.

This is why I say to not go with a tour group, you need to go at your own pace.

Yes, it’s a tough walk. Every day you will gain altitude and lose it again as you drop to a river crossing. Then you’ll face a steep uphill section to get back to where you were previously. This is no gradual ascent.

Above Lukla the trails are pretty good and well maintained but you’ll still find rough, rocky and treacherous areas. Below Lukla, on the way to Phaplu, trails are bad and damaged by heavy donkey traffic.

The distance from Lukla to Everest Base Camp is under 60 Km, not far. The major difficulty lies in the altitude.

For me even turning over in bed made me breathless once we were high, so every uphill step made me pause. I aimed to never increase my heart rate because recovery with insufficient oxygen took too long. Slowly slowly, one step at a time.

We hardly noticed our packs after the first day or two, I was carrying around 12 Kg and was very glad that I’d invested in this good, new, trekking pack. It made all the difference. Chef carried between 15 and 20 Kg.

Accommodation on the Everest Base Camp Trek Tea House
Tengboche Hill is one of the hardest parts of the EBC trek. It’s around 2 hours up, one hour down. Here Chef is wearing his own pack as well as our younger son’s pack. Carrying a pack is hard on kids and we’d suggest you don’t make them do it or be ready to take them when they get tired. Our teenager barely noticed his own pack. Chef wore shorts every day, adding leggings underneath at Loboche when temperatures dropped.

The hardest parts are obviously the up and down bits, flat parts do exist and they are easy. Some people find downhill harder, it’s tough on knees, others, like me, struggle with uphill section.

The longest, hardest, uphill sections are the climbs to Namche and to Tengboche, both took us around 2 hours. Coming down those hills takes under half that time.

One of the hardest parts for me was the walk from Gorak Shep to Base Camp. You can see Base Camp in the distance, it looks like it’s 10 minutes away, but the walk along the moraine of the Khumbu glacier took us 3 hours there, 2 hours back.

The path dips, weaves and climbs and at above 5,000 m altitude effects are brutal.

Because the Everest trek is a there and back rout (unlike the Annapurna Circuit, for instance, which is a loop) coming back down gets pretty boring as there is little else to see.

You can take different routes, go to Gokyo Lakes, Kumjung etc, but we weren’t prepared to take kids over the Cho La pass even in summer ( our guide friend said this was a very bad idea too) and by the time we got to the Gokyo turn-off near Namche we’d all had enough.

We stuck with just the EBC plus the Phaplu walk-in.

Would I do it again? No. I’ve done it, I have no need to go back. this was also our second time as far as Tengboche, we took the kids for a walk up here when they were younger.

Would I do more high altitude trekking? Yes, of course, but not right now. I need time to recover and use good wi-fi before even thinking about any more hiking.

Did I love it up there? So much.

It’s Scary on the EBC Trek

This is just me, I’m a wimp and terrified of my own shadow sometimes.

I really don’t like heights and there are a lot to deal with.

Once you’re over the hurdle of the flights on tiny planes and Lukla’s short, uphill, landing strip, there are paths with precipitous drops, landslides and of course, the bridges.

The bridge above (see video, top) is just below Namche and I find it terrifying. It amazes me that so many people walk across it with no apparent fear at all.

It scares me and is a major issue.

My desire to be up in the mountains is stronger than my fear though, so I just have to woman-up and deal with it. I get there.

Tengboche Monastery on the Everest Base Camp Hike
Tengboche Monastery, the most important monastery in the Khumbu region, home to the Sherpa people who migrated from Tibet some 500 years ago. We caught the monks at morning prayers complete with drums, horns and gongs. To hear that, smell it, see it, was worth every second of dirt, pain and sickness on the hike.

So yes, it was hard. I don’t think any sane person would expect it not to be.

Tackling hundreds of feet of uphill and downhill on rocky terrain would present most people with difficulty at sea level.

The lack of oxygen at over 5000m, oxygen here is is at around 50% of normal levels, is something you feel on top of that.

I’m missing the mountains already despite being back in wonderful Kathmandu with more weeks of exploring ahead of us. It’s always hard to leave the villages, people and views of the Khumbu.
A little video on some of the sticky, scary, annoying and hard parts on the Everest Base Camp Trek is at the very top of the page . Want to read more about Nepal? We cover Kathmandu, Chitwan, Lumbini, Bhaktapur and more on this site, look in the related posts below.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

38 thoughts on “Everest Base Camp Trek Difficulty and Hardships – How Hard Can it Be?”

  1. Hello! Thanks for your article, very interesting read! Can I ask how you felt after the trek? Still sick? Tired? Lots of muscle pain? I ask because we would love to do this trek for our honeymoon but I’d also love to plan a few relaxing days in a nice hotel after the trek. Just wondering if we will likely just be super tired after the trek and spending money on a nice hotel for after is a bit pointless… thanks!

    • After the trek? Thrilled, elated, thinner, top of the world! Only sick because I had flu up there, by the time we got back it was gone. And no, never tired, I don’t find exercise tiring, the opposite. The lack of oxygen saps it out of you, but one you’re back in a good oxygen supply you usually feel great. I had no muscle pain at all. Walking is gentle exercise. You may feel it in your thighs after the days with the 2 big hills, or if you’re totally not used to using your leg muscles. But after the full trek you should be completely fine. You’ll be wanting a big meal and some wine, we always crave steak after a trek. Or buff, if that’s all that’s available. Good luck! But the stuff you usually do on honeymoon… not up there. No way.

  2. This brought back such incredible memories!!!

    I did the extended trek from Jiri to EBC and back to Lukla in March 2019, 270km of every conceivable emotion!

    It was the greatest experience of my life, there’s not a week that goes by where I don’t think about it and wish that I was back on those amazing trails 🙂

  3. Wow! I would love to experience this trek but I am not very sure about it. I get dizzy soon as I travel towards high altitude. Is there any way that I can indulge in this activity or any other treks that would work as an alternative for this?

  4. It takes minimum 12 days from Lukla to Lukla to complete
    Everest Base Camp Trek. Many people may think why 12 days it can even complete in 9 or 10 days! Yes, you can complete it in 9 or 10 days but it is lethal for your health. There’s a high chance to get AMS (acute mountain sickness) during a short Everest Base Camp Trek. So always go for a 12 days trek and do 2 nights of acclimatisation at Namche Bazaar and Dingboche.

  5. Great Content.
    You have mentioned almost every possible difficulties of Everest Base Camp Trek. Thank you. It will be the perfect guide for the trekkers and the reference blog for the content writers, Thank you for the blog.

  6. This article on EBC is very interesting and helpful. I appreciate the detail and explaining the reality of the trek, lodging and food. Two of us will travel there in September/October. Would you recommend buying plane tickets from Kathmandu to Lukla when we arrive in Kathmandu? We will hike independently and have a flexible schedule. Also, we use a Steri-pen for purifying water. Is the tap water clear or does it have particles? If it is cloudy then we would need another purifying method.

    • Hi Terri. Is Kathmandu airport handling the Lukla flights again? This year and last year they’ve been going from an alternate airport ( info is in our Kathmandu – Lukla flight post I believe). Sorry, I’m not on top of this, which I should be as we’re hoping to trek again this autumn, Mustang. If you are on a tight schedule get your flights booked ASAP and make sure you get the very early morning flight. Those have the most chance of taking off. Flight cancellations due to cloud are a major problem with days-long delays. Or be prepared to drop a few extra thousand on a helicopter, or spend a few extra days hiking up to Lukla. Best of luck! Oh … no, I don’t recall cloudy tap water, you can get water from streams too if you’re going to self-purify. At the final stop, there was no tap water or boiled available, we had to buy bottled. You may find a way around this but we didn’t.

      • I will check your other post for the flights. Thank you for the information.

  7. How did you find the bedbug situation? I’m Nepal generally, as well as the houses along trekking routes? Thank you. We really love your blog. It’s inspirational on a daily basis and aspiration for life. Thank you again:)

  8. It takes minimum 12 days from Lukla to Lukla to complete
    Everest Base Camp Trek. Many people may think why 12 days it can even complete in 9 or 10 days! Yes, you can complete it in 9 or 10 days but it is lethal for your health. There’s a high chance to get AMS (acute mountain sickness) during a short Everest Base Camp Trek. So always go for a 12 days trek and do 2 nights of acclimatisation at Namche Bazaar and Dingboche.

  9. Thanks for amazing post. May I know where is the station to take the bus/jeep to Phuplu/Salleri from Kathmandu?

    Many thanks.

    • I know when we came back from Phaplu on the bus we arrived to a bus stop on top of a hill near Pashupatinath and Boudhanath, just past it as you drive towards Thamel on a very busy main road. I don’t know the name sorry. I’m trying to find it on Google Maps but we’re drawing a blank. And since Google no longer gives you exact match answers I can’t even Google for the correct bus stop. Sorry, we tried! Best of luck Johnny. I’m sure your guest house owner or a local agent will be able to tell you in Kathmandu.

  10. Hi there,

    With regards to the temperature on October in this EBC hike. Do we really need a thermal base layer(top and bottom) for the hike?


    • If you find our post for trekking gear for Nepal, we talk about this at length. Obviously it depends on you, your comfort levels and the weather, you could get unlucky. But I’ve never, in my life, owned thermals or merino base layers for trekking or skiing, nor for living in Romania at -25C with no heating. But have a look at that post, we chat about it more. I didn’t even take a sleeping bag but I’m slightly nuts.

  11. Did you happen to look into starting the trek from Kharikhola instead of Phaplu? I think it saves 1-2 days now that the road goes past Salleri/Phaplu…

    • We’ve been to Kharikola. Walked through there twice, stayed there once on the Phaplu – EBC trek. It’s one of my favourite places, such a beautiful fertile valley and has decent guest houses, between Phaplu and Kharikola it was basic. But there’s Kharikola town and Kharikola valley. Things start getting a bit touristy from Kharikola, but nothing like everything above Lukla. From Kharikola there is that very steep hill up to Bhupsa, that was quite a climb! I really liked Bhupsa too. This is all from memory and I’m not 100% sure of names and facts here. So from Phaplu airport there is a dirt track, some might call it a road. You can get jeeps from the airport – it’s not cheap, up to Ringmu. We walked and slept in Ringmu that night. Very basic, free accomodation just pay for food. From Ringmu you go up again, there’s a stupa and a gateway, then you descend into the Kharikola valley, it’s high. We got to that high point in the morning, before lunch time. The dirt track does go up to this high point, we crossed it several times as we walked. big trucks use it, it’s an ecological disaster zone of deforestation and soil erosion. My husband is saying there may be a road around that big hill, rather than the one that goes up to Ringmu and the top of the hill, but we don’t know for sure. We’ve not seen a road beyond there, just walking trails. If they’ve extended the road into Kharikola town they’ve worked fast! It wasn’t there when we were there last October. It would be tragic to spoil that valley like that, it’s a lost paradise. The trail below Lukla gets pretty unpleasant in places, wet, stinking, slippery, eroded and packed with donkey trains, it stinks sometimes, you’re paddling through donkey effluent. But it’s a beautiful part of the world. Well worth seeing. You’ll notice the huge change when you get on the trekking super highway above Lukla. I still love it, It’s still stunning to me but some people do whine about it being too touristy up there. Just don’t stay in the towns the tour groups and organised treks stay in and it’s much nicer, but once you’re up near the top that option ceases to exist. Enjoy!

  12. 100%, it is necessary to carry oxygen cylinder during Everest Base Camp trek. We saw many trekkers chopper rescued during the trek. AMS(acute mountain sickness) is very common in this trek so it is advisable to go with proper trekking agency who has oxygen cylinder and proper ground handling capacity. You must not take chance with your health. Everyday in peak season more than 100 people get helicopter rescued from trekking zone, you can see it by yourself once you are in the zone. So don’t take any chance with your health and go with a proper agency who is best in ground handling.

    • This is a sales pitch from a trekking agency and is absolute rubbish. Yes, loads of people are helicoptered out every day. This is because they are unlucky with altitude, get sick, injure themselves or choose to leave by chopper. It’s sometimes because they go too fast with tours or groups with no chance of proper acclimatisation. Also because of huge numbers on the trek and cancelled flights, people are starting higher. We saw people starting their trek above Namche. Go slow, go at your own pace, allow more time, don’t be an idiot and listen to your body. Any difficulty – go down fast. That’s something you can’t do with a group. Agencies and guides are sometimes there simply to rip people off. We were massively ripped off by a guide ” helping” us to find a lodge. We also have a good friend who is a guide. An agency we once dealt with in Kathmandu also ripped us off on flight prices, pocketing our cash. The guides and chopper companies may be in alliance and money changes hands if a trekker can be choppered out, corruption has been widely reported recently. People are also lazy and time poor. They prefer to leave by chopper than to walk out. So thanks for your spam comment, it allowed me to highlight the possible rip offs in the region. I’ve heard talk of deliberate food poisoning too, from a local Nepali man, he suspected he was deliberately made ill on the trek. Who knows? But frightening people into thinking they need to carry oxygen and be with a paid minder just in case – isn’t cool. Even the agency we used in Kathmandu for Tibet told us one of their guides was ripping off clients over chopper prices, risking his job to make extra cash, we heard many things, first hand from local people and have experienced many things. For the record, if you decide to take oxygen, I believe you can buy it.

  13. Even more they should require the records to prove that you could not really manage the pneumoniae by your self.

  14. It my pleasure to know details information about flight ticket, trekking gear,accommodation,food,weather,guide,potter.It makes very easy to plan my next my Everest Base Camp trek.
    Thanks for sharing such a great post.

    • You’re welcome. We have a general Nepal trekking post going out in the next few days too.

  15. You and your family amaze me! Although any climb of this sort is not on my bucket list, I appreciate all the information. The “armchair experience” will do nicely on this one. So happy that you and your family made it back safely and in good health. Thanks for sharing with us!

  16. So fun to read. We are currently resting in Kathmandu, after coming overland from Beijing -Lhasa-EBC north side-KTM. No walking though, we decided on this route with our young teenagers. Hubby & I did the EBC trail 17 yrs ago. KTM is so much busier now. Not many people on the Tibet side. I am glad to find your blog as we just started our round the world adventure a few months ago. Namaste.

    • We’re heading to Tibet in 2-3 weeks LOL. In Chitwan now.We did Annapurna 20 years ago, I don’t see huge changes in Kathmandu, it’s almost entirely as I remember it, but it’s very seasonal, this is peak time now and just a few weeks ago it was quiet. How did you manage with the altitude in Tibet?

  17. Loved this. A totally honest and frank account of the EBC trek. I’ve read so much about this trek but mostly about the route, distances etc. rather than what its actually like to do the trek. Thank you for the honesty.

    • I could add so much more, but I was trying to focus on that word ” dificulty”. When we’re back in the world of good internet- the internet sucks in Kathmandu too – I will publish lots more posts with more information on trekking to Base Camp. And thanks. This one had to come first.

  18. I am also very modest when it comes to accommodation. I need a place to sleep and to take a shower, and I need it to clean. Don’t need new stuff or luxury items. Traveling is about the experience, culture, food, people, not about the material.


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