When my husband told me that he wanted to “trek” to Everest Base Camp, located on the other side of the world at 18,000 feet above sea level, I had my doubts. Neither he nor I had done any hiking at high or even moderate elevations, and though I’m in pretty good physical condition, I’m 66 years-old (!) However, he had been won over by talking to Paul at Discovery World Trekking and I was won over, in turn, by his enthusiasm. So off we went — from March 5-March 15 — and I’m glad we did because the trip proved deeply rewarding.
In large part this was due to the careful planning of DWT and to the knowledge and encouragement of our excellent guide, Saroz. Hiking uphill for several hours a day. as the oxygen in the air diminished, turned out to be pretty strenuous — the higher we got, especially. And sometimes, when it was cloudy and cold, I wished, like Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit”, that I “was at home in my nice hole by the fire, with the kettle just beginning to sing!” But neither the change in the atmosphere nor the challenge of climbing were scary, as I thought they might be. (I had imagined not being able to breathe!) Thanks to DWT, we climbed slowly, trekking for about six hours a day, (often uphill, but, thankfully, not always) and had two “rest” days during which we hiked to a higher elevation and came back within about three hours. This gradual ascent, which Paul had planned, plus Saroz’s repeated gentle reminders to go at our own paces, enabled us not only to avoid altitude sickness (which would have been scary and have put an end to the trip) but to make it to the base camp during our last nine-hour hike, the only excursion that was almost exhausting.
In praise of DWT, I also want to say that the “luxury” accommodations for the first four or five days, with a toilet in our room, electrically heated bed pads, delicious food and attentive staff, were lovely, especially the Yeti Mountain lodges in Park Dim and Lukla. The tea houses higher up were less comfortable, mainly because of the cold, but the trick of filling a plastic bottle with boiling water and putting it in your sleeping bag at night helped a lot. Also, Paul’s insight that the main challenge of the trek would be mental rather than physical, and his advice to let ourselves “be happy” even if we struggled a bit, turned out to be right on. Finally, Saroz told us that Paul began his own career as a porter, worked his way up to being a guide, and built DWT by treating his porters, his guides and his guests “like family.” (He called Saroz every night to make sure we were alright.) Apparently, Paul has mentored something like 70 young people to become guides, and this seemed to me yet another reason to contract the services of Discovery World Trekking.
As for Saroz, we can’t say enough. His attentiveness, patience, and steady, quiet cheerfulness, as well as his knowledge of the trail and of Nepali culture, added immeasurably to our experience. Not only was his encouragement key to our reaching the base camp, we enjoyed his company every day as we took in the radiant mountain air and the stunning landscape of the Khumbu Valley, and at night as we chatted with other trekkers at dinner and asked about his life.
Our porter, Lakman, was hugely helpful, too: amazingly strong, completely reliable, and always ready to return a smile despite his difficult work.
We stayed in Kathmandu for two days before the trek and two days at the end. Without these restful stays, the 24+ hour plane rides from California to Nepal and ten days of trekking, really would have been exhausting. My other recommendation may be obvious: bring just one set of clothes with 4-5 layers that are easy to take on and off. It got down to 2 degrees Fahrenheit near the top of the trail at night, but seemed quite warm as we hiked on sunny days.