Fear and Panic on the Everest Base Camp Trek. Scary Bridges!

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I’ve posted already about how much we loved the experience of trekking in Nepal’s Everest region, so don’t take what I’m about to say the wrong way. Just because I was scared half to death regularly and frequently by the scariest of scary bridges (and the odd path with precipitous drops, mud slides and general precariousness) and just because I *may* have been reduced to tears once or twice (or three times), doesn’t mean I wasn’t having a good time. I love the mountains with a passion, I even love the terrifying Hillary Bridge, and I’ll be back in the Himalayas just as soon as I can, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Sometimes it’s scary.

bridges trekking nepal
You will have to cross bridges like this trekking in Nepal. For some people, it’s no big deal. For me, with vertigo, anxiety and gephyrophobia (fear of bridges) it’s a nightmare, but I do it.

My dear husband decided to capture my reaction to the highest, worst, most terrifying of the scary suspension bridges in the Everest region. That’s the Hillary suspension bridge just before Namche Bazaar.

There are more photos of the bridges in Nepal in this post, just keep scrolling!

crossing bridges trek nepal
Most of the bridges are long, huge spans, and on most of them, you’ll meet yaks and donkeys. Always wait until they pass!

Just to clarify, this time we were on the Everest Base Camp trek but turned back just 2 days before Base Camp, we didn’t think it fair to take the kids any higher at just 9 and 11 years old, so we did some lower side treks instead.

That, and we didn’t have much by way of trekking gear, hitting the serious snow in just running shoes didn’t seem so smart. Our kids made it to Base Camp 2 years later.

If you need it our EBC trek packing list is available. We’re more realistic about what you actually need and don’t need than most.

So if you’re heading to Everest Base Camp, or trekking in the Everest region generally, these are the bridges you will be crossing. There are several and I’ll save the worst, and the video of me mildly losing it, for the end of the post.

Would you save this to Pinterest for us? Just hover and click.

Nepal trekking bridges
The bridges you will cross, trekking in Nepal.

Suspension Bridges on The Everest Base Camp Trek

The bridge below was on day 1, as we descended from Lukla airport. As if the flight to Lukla wasn’t hair-raising enough. I coped petty well with this one, better than I managed on the Annapurna circuit 16 years ago. My fear of heights may have diminished with age.

Scary Bridges Everest Trek
Oncoming traffic adds an extra layer of fear to bridge crossings in the Himalayas. I never had to pass an oncoming yak or donkey caravan ( thank GOD!), we always waited until the way was clear.

I’m scared of heights, really scared. I also suffer from anxiety, particularly where there is potential for my kids to plummet to their death in the meltwaters of the Khumbu Icefall, so yes, I freak out maybe more than most. But I never let it stop me.

To me, getting up those mountains is worth all the stresses and strains of the journey times 10 million, so I just get on with it. Here are some pictures of our favourite scary bridges from our Everest trek.

Scary Bridges Everest Trek
The porters don’t care, they just march on, carrying everything from eggs to sofas up to the high villages.
Scary Bridges on the Everest Trek. More on the bridges you will have to cross on the hike to EBC or for treks in the Everest region,Nepal.
This one was pretty high, but it’s not the really scary one.
Scary Bridges Everest Trek
This bridge was below Lukla, we hiked out of the Everest region rather than flying. Down here you hit donkey caravan after donkey caravan. We waited at least half an hour for a window to cross without oncoming four-footed traffic.
Scary Bridges Everest Trek
This bridge was on our mother and son bonding trek up to Tangboche Monastery. Neither of the kids were as worried by the bridges as me. D, my elder son, wasn’t bothered in the slightest. He’s never had any fear of heights.
Scary Bridges Everest Trek Nepal
THIS was the scary one. Here comes Chef in his running shoes, fiddling with his phone because he just took a sneaky stealth video of moi. Doesn’t look too scary? Just wait!

The Hillary Bridge

We’ve done some research and as far as we can see the bridge before Namche Bazaar, is named The Hillary Bridge after Sir Edmund Hillary. It is marked on Google Maps as such. I’ve crossed this bridge 4 times now and never seen it named, but we believe this is it.

There are two bridges here, the lower bridge is the old bridge and it’s closed. The higher one is the one you’ll cross today. According to the only information we can find, it is 125m high. We can’t say if that’s correct as very little information exists.

We believe the higher bridge was constructed in 2013. We crossed it in 2016 and 2018, both ways. The bridge spans the Dudh Koshi River and is the final bridge before Namche Bazaar.

Just above Namche you will find The Hillary School at Khumjung and the Hillary Memorial Chortens. There is a lovely statue of Sir Edmund at the school and one of Tenzing Norgay at the Everest view lookout just above Namche. You’ll find more information in our Namche Bazaar post.

Scariest Bridges Everest Base Camp Trek. The bidge from the movie Everest.
This is the big, bad, scary one. The scariest of the scary. This is the bridge from the movie  “Everest” and this is the only bridge that made me cry on this trek. Can’t see clearly? Lets blow it up a bit.
Bridge from the movie Everest on Everest Base Camp Trek
No, not the bottom one, that’s the old bridge. It’s the top one. The bridge you see in the movie Everest. It’s about an hour or two before Namche Bazar and on the way up we crossed it in driving snow and high winds. Yes, I shed a few silent tears before just….doing it.

Hillary Suspension Bridge Crossing Video

So here’s the video my husband took of me being pathetic. It won’t win any Oscars but might give you a good laugh 😉

I react to fear by trying to organise everyone, so it’s “Everyone Focus!” and ” No chattering, pay attention!” and “Chef FFS stop bouncing the bridge!” Yes, they bounce, with every step. And SOME people don’t give a flying one about those of us who may be terrified. You’ll also notice my deathly grip on the handrail.

Sorry it’s poor quality, he only had his phone, but you can see how high it was.

So would you do it? Could you do it? Are you just itching to do it? We’re heading to Everest Base Camp again soon. If you see anyone sobbing, it will be me.

You might also like the post about the terrifying flight to Luka airport, or the even more terrifying bus ride from Phaplu to Kathmandu, if you feel the flight is too scary. I’m such a wimp. See our other Nepal content in the related posts section, bottom of the page.

Trekking or hiking in Nepal. Some of the bridges are way beyond scary. This one is on the EBC, Everest Base Camp route, just before Namche Bazar, see more in this post.

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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.

31 thoughts on “Fear and Panic on the Everest Base Camp Trek. Scary Bridges!”

  1. Hi Alyson,

    I first read some of your blogs months, if not a year or two, ago and have just googled ‘fear of heights Nepal family trekking’ to find you again – so glad that brought you straight up!! 😀

    My fear is of narrow paths with exposed edges/sheer drops. I think I might feel okay on the bridges – I think! We’re hoping to head up to Gokyo Lakes next autumn and I see from your answers to previous questions that as of 2022 you hadn’t done that trek yourself but heard there were some bad sections on it; do you know/remember where specifically they are? I’ve read quite a lot about trekking up the east side of the valley, via Thore, versus the west side of the valley, via Dole, Macchermo etc. It seems to me that the latter might be okay, but not the former, but I’m wondering whether you can say anything about your understanding of those options?

    I’m also a bit nervous about the flight into and out of Lukla; how did you find that?

    Also, we’re thinking of doing this independently or maybe with just a porter; may I ask how you know/decide which teahouses to head to without a porter/guide to arrange/go ahead to ‘book you in’ for the night? And, how would you recommend going about hiring a porter, if you’re just wanting to arrange that locally? I read a couple of stories about some altitude sickness/helicopter evacuation scams, so I’m just wondering how you would safeguard against that?

    Sorry, that’s a lot of questions!! Any responses you can provide at all would be hugely appreciated!!

    Kind regards,

    Jan 😀

    Reply
    • Happy to help Jan! All I know about Gokyo is that friends of ours did it, a family. The mum is not normally scared at all and she was terrified, clinging to the cliff. I have no clue which route. The good news is, there’s nothing like that on the main EBC trek that I can think of. The lodging question, you just see a place you like the look of, knock on the door and ask. No need to send anyone on in advance. A porter won’t normally do that anyway, they just carry stuff. A guide might. We took a guide once, first time. He didn’t, it wasn’t needed. A lot of this revolves around commissions and freebies for the guides, they take you to their preferred places for whatever reason. You also get massively overcharged this way, sometimes. It happened to us once when somebody else’s guide offered to do this for us and worried us by saying everywhere was full. We stupidly agreed. If you choose to stay in the main towns, where all the big guided tour groups stay, yes, they may be full in peak season (October) but there are quite a few lodges out of town, particularly lower down. Once you get up to the very high places, last 3 days or so, there aren’t. The helicopter evacuation scams – I really don’t know how that all works, we haven’t experienced it. But I suspect it’s to do with people in groups not being able to continue because they’re a bit sick, and not being able to rest, and tour group leader / helicopter operator shennanigans. And always haggle prices down in the lodges, politely and with smiles and your best charm. They all used to be free back in the day, you just used to pay for food. Some villages, higher up, there is a set fee. I can’t remember all the names of the places, I’d have to look them up, but get back to me with any more Q’s, no problem at all to share what we know. And thanks for finding us. It’s very very hard to compete since the latest Google update that has smashed ALL bloggers in favour of big companies. Keep supporting the real people. Thanks. Oh, guides/porters, you can get them in Kathmandu, there are agencies, or your guest house owner may know one. It’s easy, but its expensive, it really ads up. And then they expect tips too. And yes, the flight is terrifying. And dangerous. We’ve walked up/down from Phaplu twice, flew to Phaplu once, took the bus once – Find our post on the bus from Phaplu, that was terrifying. And we have lots of content and video about Lukla airport. Terrifying but incredible, amazing, and I’d do it again tomorrow if I could. Enjoy!

      Reply
      • Alyson,
        Thank you so very much for your detailed reply!… I’m sorry it took me until now to realise you had replied!!
        I’m going round in circles in my mind about it – I have started to wonder about the Pikey Peak trek instead, to avoid some of the aspects I’m worried about. I suspect you’d suggest putting my worries to one side, and it will be the trip of a lifetime?!
        I’ll keep reading, and thinking, we have a little time – will probably look at booking flights this coming December/January for November next year.
        Thanks again!
        Jan

        Reply
        • Why do you want to do more that just Base Camp? We were planning on doing more on the way back, but by the time we walked back to the turn off we’d decided we’d had enough and wanted a cold beer, a shower, clean clothes and steak sizzler in Kathmandu more than another week in the mountains. We took 3 weeks over Base Camp, which was great, we got to experience more, but 3 weeks up there is a long time. Both times we added on the walk to or from Phaplu, there are some really pretty places on that trek and it’s like it used to be, much less commercial. There’s environmental devastation, foresting, just past Phaplu, but that’s only the first half day of walking really. Whatever you decide, have a great walk!

          Reply
  2. Hi,
    I am going to do the trek in two weeks and I get vertigos… when I panicking I don’t feel my legs. I am really afraid of flicking out on that bridge. I was thinking to walk next to my partner and have our friend just behind us in case I start fricking out and lose my balance.

    How did you so it? You look so confident on it! I hope i can do it.

    The bridge looks very study and strong though. And the high sides seems secure enough to help a little.

    Reply
    • Where are you trekking Stephanie? The bridges do vary. There was one on the Annapurna trek that I just couldn’t cross, I walked down the valley and up the other side because the hand rails were too far appart and too wide/low, I just couldn’t do it. I sing, swear, chomp on chololate, anything, and have my husband who is very supportive. I’m terrified, but I do it because my love for the mountains just has to beat my fear. I’d crawl if needed, but it’s never come to that. It’s the bouncing that gets me. I wait untill all the people and yaks have gone so I can get accross with minimum bouncing. People who aren’t scared just don’t understand at all and think its funny to bounce or stop or just be a holes. Good luck!

      Reply
  3. We did this trek in 2013 …. I didn’t realise I was scared of going over the bridges until I had already crossed 2 of them. I was coming up to the 3rd one and had a full blown panic attack … full on sobbing and shaking. My partner had to make sure the bridge was clear and then he took me over, holding my hand … I had my eyes shut. By the end of the trek I had overcome my fear. We are going back in March 2022 all being well.

    Reply
  4. Great job on the trek. I too have a terrifying fear of heights but would really like to plan to do the EBC hike as my “retirement trip’, but am hesitant to consider it due to the bridges. Just wondering — for the Namche Bazaar bridge that has the high & low route, can you actually still take the lower bridge if you ask the guide to go that way ? Any little bit of height reduction would help….

    Let me know any thoughts you have on that..

    Keep on trekking !!

    Reply
    • No it’s closed. Sorry! You don’t need a guide either. It’s a very well worn path, just follow your nose. Or maps are good too, pick one up in Kathmandu for a dollar or two. Honestly, you will never meet somebody more terrified of bridges than me. If I can do it I’m sure you can. Sometimes I’ll sit and wait forever to be sure there will be no other people, yaks , cows or donkeys on a bridge, but I get across. The more you do the easier it gets. By the time you get back to that high bridge after hitting Base Camp you’ll be skipping over it. But don’t do the Gokyo Lakes trek, I’ve been warned off that one by a guide who is a friend, he said it’s very, very scary, precipitous drops from a narrow path. There is a small section like that on the way up to the main EBC path from Phaplu, but if you walk from Lukla you miss it.

      Reply
    • @Alyson Long,

      I’m very scared of heights and not a fan of ridges or sheer drops I think I can handle the bridges but what is your perspective on the sheer drops/narrow trails and/or steep ridges?

      Thanks! Primo

      Reply
      • There aren’t sheer drops on the Everest Base Camp trek that particularly bothered me. But I’ve been told there’s a bad one in you extend your trek and go on to Gokyo Lakes and the Cho La Pass. There was a bit of the Annapurna trek that was scary because we had to cross a fresh mudslide, but if you’re scared of drops, whatever you do, don’t take the bus or jeep back to Kathmandu from Phakding. You may struggle a bit on the Pokhara bus too.
        The trails are pretty wide in general, they take horses and donkeys up there, nothing too precipitous and a lot is through woods and valleys. On the moraine of the Khumbu glacier it’s a bit narrow in places, but not very high.

        Reply
  5. I liked your article as I felt the same way when we trekked AC. I held onto the rails while crossing a bridge and always went half frozen when encountering a narrow trail or drop off. I thought I was alone, always asked if I’m the only scared one crossing this bridges… I had fun even if its also hard to breathe and I will go back to do EBC. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  6. This will be me.. I’m doing the trek soon and not looking forward to the bridges, but you can’t let irrational fears dictate your life. So like you I shall grit my teeth and pass over them as quickly as possible, and feel the pride in myself when I make it to EBC. At least I don’t have to worry about the children, your stomach must have been churning. Well done!

    Reply
  7. Hi 🙂

    Thank you for some honest words and pictures.
    I am from Denmark, where our highest hill is about 300 meters.
    Right now I live in Thailand and plan a trip to Nepal. I’m seriously afraid of heights (and even felt the panic just looking at your pictures).
    As you wrote in a comment, you had gone down the mountain and up again to avoid a bridge. That’s something I could see myself doing.
    Therefore, I will ask you – it is better to take a trek to Anapurna(ABC) instead of Everest(EBC). I’m considering ABC as i find it very beautiful (not the circut – but “only” bacecamp).
    Are there many bridges and narrow trails with deep drops at that trek? I saw a bridge on youtube – i think i can handle that. Im more worried about the drops and narrow parts

    Have a nice day

    Best rewards,

    Dallemand

    Reply
    • For me Annapurna was worse, that was the one where I climbed down into the valley to avoid a particular bridge. But there are a lot of bridges on the Everest hike and each one you do twice, going up and coming down. But you do, kind of, get used to them after the first few. The worst part for us in the Everest region was the trek down from Lukla. Fly, that part of the trek is not nice.

      Reply
  8. Hey Friend,

    Nice Post…!

    Seems you enjoyed a lot..! I wish I could also go on such places. But my fear of heights does not allow me to do so. I am a patient of Acrophobia, and just like any acrophobic, I just hate looking down from heights. But I am glad you had great fun. All those pictures look amazing.
    I am taking treatment for my phobia. Hope, I will also be able to enjoy adventurous trips like this, soon.

    Thanks for sharing your experience…!

    Reply
  9. Oh my goodness Alyson. I hate heights, every muscle in my body is tense when I am up high. Well done. ????

    Reply
  10. OhMyGoodness, I would have freaked out! I’d like to think I’d still have been able to do it, but I would have been “eeking” and squealing the whole way across (and quite possibly running! That video was awesome!

    Reply
    • It kills me Lisa, absolutely kills me. I’ve just learnt to get on with it. Once,on the Annapurna circuit back in 2001, I was so terrified of a particular bridge that I climbed down to the river and up the other side. I’m better these days. The worst thing….the possibility of meeting a yak or donkey convoy head on. They don’t stop, you have to squash up to the side.

      Reply
  11. Nice one Alyson!
    You were very brave, living up to your fear and just going for it anyway. I’m like your hubby, I’m not afraid of heights and would look down pointing things out and making comment! Our son is like myself and most children – they’re not scared unless you are!

    My husband on the other hand, is scared of heights and has motion sickness too, so if that bridge was swaying….

    ‘Would love to do an Everest Trek one day. I’m not kidding myself though, perhaps just a part of it. I hiked up a live volcano two years ago and I cried all the way up ‘cos I thought it would be easy, and didn’t do much more than ride a bike to keep fit. I was grossly mistaken lol!

    Reply
  12. You did really well and I share your frustration of people who seem oblivious or almost enjoy your suffering and making it worse. My big fear is cable cars and I will never forget going up in the tiny purple car in Langkawi and a feeling of accomplishment at doing it. Plus, you can feel more accomplished than those who have little fear as it’s easy for them and feel free to point that out to them ????

    Reply
    • I’m a skier Carl, I’ve had to deal with cable cars or not ski. Another thing I just have to get on with! Life is very unfair in the phobia department. Luckily I’much better with spiders these days 😉 And well done you. We haven’t done that Langkawi one, we were only there a day. Next time!

      Reply
  13. Wow, those are some scary bridges! I think you held it together very well on that last one, you really powered across at top speed 🙂 I love Chef’s nonchalant commentary and over-the-bridge shots! We would love to visit Nepal, now we’re returning to Asia it’s a real possibility.

    Reply
  14. I think you did great as well. You faced the fear and did it anyway! That’s a huge accomplishment! I am a bit like Chef, would be looking around and enjoying the view but my hubby would likely not set foot on it at all.

    Reply
  15. Wow. I just came across this post on twitter and the headline grabbed me. That’s definitely adventurous. We are taking the kids to Orlando this year, which in light of your trip, is far less exciting! I enjoyed your post, thanks for sharing your vacation. Cheers.- Karen

    Reply
    • Hi Karen, thanks for visiting. So Twitter actually works! Have a great trp, we love Orlando too, we’re going back, 4th time, this year. Lots of posts on the website about Florida 😉

      Reply
  16. Wow, I think you managed great Alyson – just looking at it makes me sick … but yes, I’d go too, scared as hell, but I’d go. I refuse the cable-ways though (up Table Mountain or l’Aiguille du Midi) … I freak out before every flight as well, but it has never stopped me from hopping on a plane for travel.

    Reply

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