Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

Jiri to Everest Trek: A Solo Trekkers Review

(Photo: Everest Base Camp – February 5th, 2017)

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2002 as the International Year of Mountains (IYM). The aim of IYM was to ensure the well-being of mountain and lowland communities by promoting the conservation and sustainable development of mountain regions. 2017 marks the 15th anniversary since that proclamation, and I took it as a ‘sign’ that it was time to return to the crisp Himals of Nepal and see what I could gain from another epic Himalayan trek.

Having already completed two of the three most popular treks most tourists visit Nepal to tackle – ABC (Annapurna Base Camp trek) and ACT (Annapurna Circuit Trek) – it was time to visit Sagarmatha National Park and complete the ‘stairway to heaven’ trek, EBC (Everest Base Camp).

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to trek in 2016 and instead spent much of my free time immersing in the peaks by reading expedition memoires and mountaineering history books. In reading book after book, it didn’t take long for me to decide that I wanted to walk in the footsteps of brave, pioneer Everesteers (Tenzing and Hillary) and begin my trek from Jiri at 1955m instead of Lukla (2840m) where most trekking expeditions begin and end.

While preparing for my solo trek (i.e., choosing to trek without a porter, guide or friend), I realized there wasn’t much clear and up-to-date information online to assist with my preparations. I had heard that Everest was different from trekking in Annapurna, more expensive and more difficult, but the insights as a whole were lacking. As such, I took it upon myself to track my experience so that I might share some information with other solo trekkers considering this route. Everything noted in this blog is based on my EBC trek experience beginning from Jiri in late January 2017, and will also be compared to my trekking experiences in Annapurna National Park.

(Photo: Above Namche Bazaar)

Pre-Trek Documents

In order to trek from Jiri to EBC one requires three trekking documents. All of these can be obtained at the Nepal Tourism Board office in ktm, just be sure to bring cash and several passport photos. At the office I obtained my TIMS trekking permit (2000rs, 20USD) and my Gaurishankar permit (2000rs, 20USD). The Sagarmatha permit booth was already closed for the day by the time I had reached the office (it closes at 2pm), but I was advised that I could obtain this permit in Monjo while on the trek. This I did, without issue, and the cost of the Sagarmatha permit was 3390rs (30USD) at the entrance gate in Monjo. The Everest fee is the same in Monjo as it is in ktm, however it is said that the Gaurishankar permit is more expensive if purchased on the trail then if obtained in ktm. Permit total was 7390rs, roughly 70USD.

Transport to Jiri

Local buses leave daily to Jiri from Old Bus Park in ktm. You don’t need to reserve in advance, just show up and pay the 495rs (5USD) and you’ll secure an uncomfortable seat on a crowded local bus. Bus departure times are 5:30am, 7:30am and 9:30am daily. Once in Jiri, I met other trekkers who took a micro bus from Old Bus Park which they had to reserve a day in advance for 700rs (7USD). In Nepal there is never a clear answer or one way of doing things, but both options take between 10 to 14 hours. It’s worth noting the roads are rough (don’t expect to read or sleep) and terrifying at times. Very often, I opt to keep my head down and not look out my window; otherwise I begin to question whether or not I’ll survive the ride. If you have a small group of friends or acquaintances heading to Jiri, you may consider hiring a private jeep from ktm and splitting the cost. Jeeps can run for about 10,000rs to 150,000rs (100 to 150USD) and can seat up to 9 people.

Trekking Gear + Sleeping

Tea houses provide blankets for sleeping. I had read there may be blanket rental charges in tea houses in Everest, but this I did not encounter any place I stayed along the EBC trek. I decided to rent a -20 down sleeping bag for 100rs (1USD) per day in ktm, just because it was the winter season and I feared it would be outrageously cold at night. This you’ll likely want to do anyway because the blankets and the sheets in the tea houses aren’t changed regularly. Yup, sometimes you’ll see boogers on the pillow cases and God only knows how long it’s been there! Personally, I felt much more comfortable slipping my body in my clean sleeping liner and bag, especially since I often pulled it over my head to keep my nose warm. I did use the blankets provided in the tea houses except I put them on top of my sleeping bag. I began my trek January 23rd, 2017, meaning it was the winter and it was cold. However, I was told the last few years have been quite warm compared to Nepal’s old years. Ultimately, I didn’t find it extremely cold; then again, I am from Canada and below zero temperatures for 7 months of the year is normal. Still, you’ll want to bring a sleeping bag and a sleeping liner. It sucks to carry, but good to have and well worth the hassle and twenty to thirty dollar expense for a rental.

Other than trekking clothes, I packed a map, snacks, rehydration sachets, Imodium (note* you can buy all medication in Nepal at any pharmacy without a prescription. Very cheap and easy), a camel pack or platypus, a camera and kineseo tape (KT). This was the first time I brought KT on a trek and it was super helpful when unknown knee and ankle issues emerged. Better than any sort of tensor or brace, in my opinion. Just be sure you know how to apply the tape so it activates properly.

Looking back, I packed exactly what I needed and used everything in my bag during my 20 day trek. In terms of trekking clothes, here is what I packed:

  • 2 pairs of trekking pants
  • 2 pairs of leg thermals
  • 2 pairs of long sleeve thermal shirts
  • 1 light long sleeve moisture wicking shirt
  • 3 moisture wicking t-shirts
  • 2 pairs of wool socks
  • 2 pairs of liner socks
  • 1 pair of booties and 1 pair of thin socks (for lounging in tea houses and sleeping at night)
  • 1 water proof wind breaker jacket
  • 1 fleece
  • 1 down jacket
  • Comfy pants for tea house lounging and sleeping
  • Slippers or a light change of shoes to wear once at the tea house (note: make sure you can wear them to the bathroom which may be outside).
  • Trekking boots with extra laces
  • 2 pairs of sunglasses
  • 2 buffs
  • 1 sunhat with a rim
  • 1 thermal hat
  • 1 big furry hat
  • 1 face mask or baklava.
  • 1 pair of thin, liner gloves
  • 1 pair of mitts
  • Few pairs of underwear

I also suggest have trekking poles (I used two) because the up-down in the first few days from Jiri is quite intense. As well, when carrying your own pack, I find trekking poles help keep balance. I also packed two bulbs of garlic because garlic helps with acclimatization and while walking I would often chew on raw garlic or spice cloves known in Nepal as “lawang” or in English as “suckle”. They are also said to help with acclimatization. Could be a folks tale but to date I’ve managed to dodged AMS issues.

(Photo: Suckle – easily purchased at markets in ktm)

My pre-trek expenses which included all permits, transport to Jiri, snacks, and other small odds and ends came to 11,390rs (about 110 USD). Bare in mind, I already owned most of my trekking gear. I purchased a down jacket in ktm for 3500rs (35USD) and a few other small items (such as thin gloves), but this pre-trekking total does not include the cost of trekking gear. However, you can easily purchase or rent all of the clothing you need in Thamel in ktm before you go. One girl told me she spent about 10,000rs (100USD) and obtained everything she needed for her ACT and EBC trek.

Weather

The weather was great during this time (end of January/ early February). It was warm during the day when the sun was out and cold at night. One afternoon, it poured rain which meant a huge blizzard/ snow dumping was occurring at EBC. A few days later, I found out from trekkers on their way down that they didn’t get to EBC because the blizzard was so bad. Well, some group members did but one died of surface exposure because they were lost for hours in the ragging storm. Lucky for me I was at lower altitude and spent the afternoon in a tea house waiting out the rain. That was the only time during the trek that I really felt the cold because it was grey and damp. Rain gear isn’t needed for this season, but it never hurts to pack a poncho just in case. The rain only lasted 4 hours and it was the only time, thankfully, I encountered rain on my 20 day trek. Otherwise, I had clear skies with wonderful views the whole way up; sunny days and clear starry nights made for a delightful trek. Once in Tengboche (3860m), pipes began to freeze and it was normal to wake up in the morning and not have running water to wash your face or flush the toilet. In Lobuche, the pipes froze really bad leaving one hotel with seventy plus guests sharing one squatter toilet. Yikes!

(Photo: Walking to Tengboche)

(Photo: Acclimatization walk to Everest Hotel from Namche. Everest looking to be ‘steaming’ in the background)

Being Clean

When I trek, I have a pattern that I follow which works well. I trek early with a strong pace in order to get to my destination. Typically I arrive at the tea house early afternoon which allows me to strip and fully change my clothes. I then put on a dry set of everything and lay out all of my other gear to dry in the sun. I sleep in those clothes, rise the next day, trek in them, then do the switch again that afternoon. So essentially, I pack two of everything and do a constant switch between outfits. Arriving to tea houses early allows you to change and clean up while the sun is out. While I don’t shower, I do wash my face and feet daily. This system works well and never keeps me in wet clothes which is an easy way to get sick. I saw many trekkers showering everyday and not changing out of their wet clothes which I think is a bad idea. Once you get to higher altitudes, getting your head wet is a one way ticket to a head cold. I watched many people shower then almost an hour later get sick. You’re trekking in the Himalayas. You’re going to be stinky. The good news is it’s cold so you don’t smell yourself (most of the time). I rather be healthy than clean, so I wash what’s needed (face, feet and butt) and leave the rest alone. It’s a personal choice, but this is what the Sherpa’s do and they know best. If you’re adamant about showering just don’t wash your hair or get your head wet. That’s the quickest way of increasing your risk of getting AMS. FYI, foot powder is good to pack. It keeps your feet clean and blisters to a minimum.

Trail Markings

As mentioned, I began my trek in January and at this time there wasn’t anyone else around. In my first 6 days, I only crossed 3 other trekkers. I actually enjoyed the quiet and in spite of being alone, there were always porters, donkeys and locals on the route. So, if I wasn’t sure of a direction, someone was usually around to point me in the right direction.

Annapurna (ABC and ACT) have well marked trails which makes it easy to follow. This isn’t entirely the same for Everest beginning from Jiri. My first day trekking, from Jiri to Deurali, I saw lots of orange spray painted circle markings along the trail making it easy to follow. I learned later that these markings are used for an Everest foot race not necessarily for trekking. Still, they outline the correct path. But the second day, trekking from Deurali to Sete, the trail was much less defined and the circles were scarce. Many people I met later said they used the Maps.Me App on their phone and found it helpful. I had it, but didn’t refer to it much; instead, I asked the locals or did as one guy mentioned “took the path with all the fresh donkey poop”. One couple I met used a GPS along with their map and said it worked great. Either way, I never found myself “lost” but definitely reached certain points where I was unsure which direction to take. But as mentioned, a local was usually around.

I also always woke up and started trekking between 7:30am and 8:00am, and never trekked past sun down. I rather get to my destination early with day light to spare so I can dry my clothes and alleviate any sort of possible “situation” that may arise if one were to trek in the dusk/ dark. Especially since the weather can change quickly and drastically in the mountains.

Villages I liked

The Jiri section of the route is known as “The Switzerland of Nepal” but truthfully, I didn’t find it outstanding or like Switzerland at all. I will say of the entire trek, the first few days trekking from Jiri were the most ‘difficult’ section of trail because of the immense change in altitude; travelling up 1000m in the morning and down some 1500m in the afternoon. It’s hard on your legs and intense in altitude gains; especially in the first few days of trekking when you may be rusty and not used to the altitude. And for all of you thinking you want to trek in and out the same way (start and end in Jiri), good luck! Going up to EBC is much less strenuous than going down. Walking the opposite way in some sections was really steep and rough. I’m all for uphill but back-to-back-to-back 8 hour days of steep uphill trekking on tired legs with a 15 kg bag felt abusive at times. As such, instead of walking back to Jiri (a section I didn’t find overly inspiring anyway), I opted to take a Jeep from Phaplu/Salleri. This way I got to revisit the few villages I liked without having the repeat everything. But, if you do wish to return to Jiri (and have the time), you may consider going via the opposite side of the mountain on the Pikey Peak trek for a change of scenery. Either way, I didn’t find the trek particularly noteworthy until I reached Nunthala. Nunthala to Kharikhola then to Chaurikharka were definitely some beautiful sections of the trail and parts I enjoyed a lot. The villages were filled with friendly, peaceful people and the sites were heartwarming. Trekkers flying in and out from Lukla will not encounter these villages.

(Photo: Chaurikharka Village)

Kharikhola is a quaint village where I met and stayed with some lovely people; both on the way up and on the way down. A special place I really liked is called, “Namaste Hotel” owned and run by Pasang Kaji Sherpa. His wife cooked the BEST food (Veg Sherpa Stew). They also went out of their way to return my camera to me in ktm which I left in their lodge.

(Photo: Kharikhola Village)

Unfortunately, life past Chaurikharka is where you begin to encounter ‘commercialized Everest’ because this is where Lukla trekkers start trekking. From here up life felt like a constant transaction and was much less peaceful. This is where the real ‘milking’ took place as well as the harsh comments from trekking guides/ agencies (more on that later).

Namche Bazaar is an impressive, high altitude “city” and a great place to spend a rest day or two on the way up and on the way down. If you ask around, you can find reasonable places to sleep and eat but they’re definitely creating a life of five star comforts and amenities which don’t come at a budget price. Still, the espresso and cake was a welcomed savior after 7 days of trekking.

The hotel I stayed in Tengboche had a beautiful Everest view room that made for lovely early morning photos. Tengboche is also home to one of the highest monasteries in the world and you’re welcome to wake up and attend the morning mantra prayers with the monks at 7am in the monastery. I did it, and it was a powerful way to start a morning in the mountains.

(Photo: View of Everest and Ama Dablam from my room)

 

Dingboche is where I stayed for two nights. You’re in for some incredible views when you do your acclimatization walk on your “rest day”. I spent the entire morning sitting on a 4800m ledge starring at the endless range of beauty and wonder while most trekking groups did a quick two hour walk up and down.

To be honest, I found reaching EBC to be the most underwhelming part of my trek. Sorry, I’m sure you didn’t expect to hear that. It’s amazing to think of all the people around the world who have come to this place over the years to climb the tallest mountain in the world; the lives lost, the history made, but I don’t think it was by any means my favourite part of the trek or my most memorable trek in Nepal. The morning I trekked to EBC it was very windy. I reached EBC and only stayed about 20 minutes before returning to Gorak Shep. I would have loved to have gotten closer to the Khumbu Glacier in order to experience its mass but the wind didn’t allow for much exploration. I returned to Gorak Shep intending to climb to Kala Pattar (5550m) view point for sunset, but the wind was too rough. I woke up early the next morning hoping to go to KP for sunrise, but the wind was still really strong and I didn’t care to go knowing it was going to be cold, dark and extremely windy. The weather was not forecasted to improve in the coming two days and I wasn’t ready to stay at that attitude just to see the views from KP. In spite of hearing great reviews and seeing some fabulous photos, I didn’t get to KP. While I didn’t get the opportunity to go, I would definitely encourage trekkers to do the walk and see the views from KP if time and weather permits. Some people I spoke to said KP was the highlight of their trip (not EBC) because you can’t even see Everest from the Base Camp. Either way I wasn’t upset, and felt satisfied with what I had seen and done and happily began my descent to civilization without regret.

Trekking Guides

As mentioned, this was my third trek I have done in Nepal and completed alone. I’ve always carried my own bag and gone without a guide or porter and never faced any issues. Obviously, I meet people throughout my treks and sometimes spend a day or two trekking with other solo trekkers, but mostly I am by myself. Of course, it’s always safer to travel in groups and to be with other trekkers. And sadly, it’s not uncommon to see ‘missing’ signs of lost trekkers posted along treks.  That being said, if you’re going to trek alone might I suggest you not attempt any ‘off path’ exploration or cross any passes alone. That’s just stupid. While I was trekking, there was a solo trekker who attempted Cho La Pass alone. Crossing a pass alone is stupid. Doing so in winter is insane! The guy ended up breaking his leg because he fell into a crevasse and was lucky to have been found. It’s no wonder guides and porters give solo trekkers a hard time. In Annapurna, I found I was treated nicely by passing guides and porters, but in Everest I found the locals to be really harsh. Mind you, the guides and porters are experienced trekkers and do this for a living. As well, their comments were often relayed out of concern. But, you will hear many people telling you it’s impossible to trek alone and I’m here to assure you, it’s not. Just don’t be stupid; stick to the main trail, ask locals in tea houses for guidance and don’t trek past sundown.

(Photo: Trekking with other Canadians I met)

If you are completely new to trekking, have a tight timeline or it’s your first time in the Himalayas, by all means go with a guide or group. I met two other solo female trekkers who had both hired a porter and/or a guide to accompany them. This made them feel more comfortable because they had never trekked in Nepal before. But the one girl did mention she felt her guide didn’t really do any more guiding than she could have done and felt she would have been better off with a porter, since not only do they know the routes but they also carry your bag. When people are on a tight timeline they tend to over exert themselves and rush the trek. This often results in AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness). Do not under estimate AMS. One guy died because of AMS while I was trekking and several others were evacuated when at 4000m. Be sure to see how much altitude you’re gaining each day and allow days for rest and acclimatization. When you start from Jiri, you’re already helping your acclimatization because you have many more days to trek then if you were to start from Lukla. But AMS can hit anyone, anytime, anywhere.

AMS

I began trekking in Jiri and reached Namche seven days later. I took a rest day in Namche and Dingboche, and by the time I reached EBC I was perfectly fine. I didn’t experience even the slightest of headache or AMS symptoms. Below is my trekking itinerary which worked for me, but by no means is for everyone. While trekking ACT in 2015, I walked only 45 minutes in one section but gained more than 1000m in altitude. This resulted in me getting hit with mild AMS symptoms and having to go to lower altitude. Needless to say I learned my lesson; go slow, eat garlic soup, drink TONS of water and listen to your body. I drank on average 4-5 litres of water every day.

Water

I drank the local water and put in water tablets my first few days while I was near the city. But after day 4, I stopped using the water tablets. In my view, its mountain water – some of the cleanest you’ll encounter. I drank from the water hose as the locals did and had no issues. Mind you, I’ve also been living in Nepal and India the last two plus years so maybe I’ve built up a strong immune system, but I would say there’s no reason to buy mineral water and leave excessive plastic bottle waste. Water tablets or UV water purification sticks are a better option.

Food

Overall, I found the food to be very disappointing on the EBC trek compared to ABC and ACT. Other than seeing the mountains, the best part of the treks (in my opinion) are staying with local families in their homes and hogging on delicious food. I knew that EBC was a more common trek and had heard that the shop owners tend to ‘milk’ trekkers for every buck and sadly, this served to be true (with the exception of a few places). Because it was low season, I did negotiate prices. For example, in Annapurna the “rule” is typically that if you eat dinner and breakfast at a tea house, your stay is free. I proposed this to some tea house owners in EBC and although some agreed, many didn’t. I wouldn’t have been bothered to pay the 200rs they requested for my stay, except for the fact that food prices were already over priced and they had many additional fees such as phone charging and shower costs. I never found this in Annapurna; if you paid to sleep, typically you had a charger in your room and were invited to take a shower or connect to Wifi at no additional cost. It wasn’t like this at every tea house, but most were this way when I trekked ACT and ABC in 2015. Anyway, I found that most tea house owners didn’t put much love into their cooking. To my surprise, the place where food mattered most (Gorak Shep) is where it was made best. Snowland Lodge in Gorak Shep had really amazing food – the sherpa stew, the tibetan bread… All of it was outstanding!

Being Vegan

Finding food for vegans on treks is quite easy. Even before I was a vegan I only ate vegetarian options on treks, just to eliminate possible food poisoning opportunities, but it’s not difficult to obtain good food that meets one’s dietary requirements. It’s very unlikely you’ll get bread that is made without egg or milk. Truthfully, I’m not bothered to eat bread that contains both of these ingredients while trekking, and a few times I did. That being said, I won’t order a milk tea or an omelet. I still know that I can get all of the nutrition I need from vegetables and rice. The bigger concern was snacks. I packed cookies that didn’t have milk solids (Coconut Crunchies are vegan and can be found all along the trek), as well as peanut butter, candies and dark chocolate made with cocoa. Finding vegan chocolate along the trail however is, at this time, not possible. So after my chocolate supply ran out and sugar levels felt low, I did opt to eat a Snickers bar here and there. Otherwise, it’s not difficult to maintain one’s values in the mountains. You may want to inquire about cooking with butter and check that cooks are using oil instead. It really depends on the individual and how committed they are to their diet.

Daily Budget

I had read that one had to reserve a budget of 2000rs to 3000rs (20 to 30USD) per day for the EBC trek. I found this shocking since in Annapurna (both ABC and ACT) I could easily get away with 1000rs a day or less. My first 7 days on the EBC trek, I had no trouble keeping my expenses below 1000rs (10USD). But as mentioned, I brought my own snacks and typically didn’t each much for lunch other than a bowl of soup (as I find it difficult to trek with a full belly). So usually I would eat a hearty breakfast, take a small lunch and snack on cookies and peanut butter then splurge on dal bhat for dinner (because you can eat as many plates as you wish until you’re full). Keep in mind, I did negotiate with the room charges, I had an external battery charger (so I didn’t use tea house chargers unless they were free) and I simply chose to not shower (yup, dirty for 21 days other than washing my feet and face).

Once I got to Namche on day 7, I splurged on veg burgers and fries, drank coffee, ate cake and restocked on treats. Naturally, it’s difficult to keep to under 1000rs per day from here up because the cost of everything rises the higher up the mountain you go. So a cup of black tea which initially cost 25rs, would eventually cost 150rs per cup. As well, having to do more work with less oxygen makes you work harder and burn calories faster. So eventually I started to eat more substantial lunches the higher up I went.

In the end when I did the calculations, I averaged just under 2000rs (20USD) a day. Mind you, I never bought beer but did get chocolate bars and Pringles once. Ultimately, if I was hungry or felt my body craved sugar or salt, I ate. I wasn’t going to deprive myself of anything. Your body is working really hard in an environment it is not accustom too, so it needs to be nourished.

My itinerary

Day 1: Kathmandu – Jiri

Day 2: Jiri – Deurali

Day 3: Deurali – Sete

Day 4: Sete – Junbesi

Day 5: Junbesi – Nunthala

Day 6: Nunthala – Kharikhola

Day 7: Kharikhola – Chaurikharka

Day 8: Chaurikharka – Namchee Bazaar

Day 9: Namchee Bazaar (Rest Day)

Day 10: Namchee Bazaar – Tengboche

Day 11: Tengboche – Dingboche

Day 12: Dingboche (Rest Day)

Day 13: Dingboche – Lobuche

Day 14: Lobuche – Gorak Shep – EBC – Gorak Shep

Day 15: Gorak Shep – Namchee Bazaar

Day 16: Namchee Bazaar – Chaurikharka

Day 17: Chaurikharka – Kharikhola

Day 18: Kharikhola – Ringmu

Day 19: Ringmu – Phaplu

Day 20: Phaplu – Kathmandu

I took my time on the way up, but basically ran down the mountain after EBC. I would NOT support walking from Gorak Shep to Namche (day 15) in one day. It was 11 hours of trekking and outrageously exhausting. I started at 6:30am and arrived at 6pm. Definitely break up the day; not only to save your legs and sanity but also because leaving high altitude too fast can also cause symptoms of AMS. Once in Chaurikharka, I chose to walk to Kharikhola and head toward Phaplu instead of going to Jiri via the Pikey Peak trek. Walking back, past Lukla, was very steep and very tiring. This was probably my least favourite day (day 17) simply because I had trekked so much the two days prior and was walking on exhausted legs. Day 15 to day 20 on my itinerary was supposed to include 2 additional days. I originally intended to go slower and allow more time for myself, making the descent more relaxing, but instead I felt eager to be done with my trek and rushed my final week in the mountains. In the end I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again or encourage anyone to trek the route I did in my final 5 days (day 15-19).

Jeeps from Ringmu

I was told I could get a jeep from Ringmu back to ktm so I trekked to Ringmu in hopes to find a jeep and end my trek. Upon my arrival, I found the jeep guys who said I could hire a private jeep back to ktm right then, but this would cost about 11,000rs (110USD) as it’s a private vehicle. Otherwise, the next morning a jeep could drive me and other locals to Phaplu. The trip is 45 minutes and costs 500rs. Once in Phaplu, I’d have to reserve a seat on a public jeep back to ktm. It was already 4pm by the time I reached Ringmu and the jeeps going to Phaplu that night were already full meaning I had no choice but to spend the night in Ringmu. The next morning, I rose early and walked the 2.5 hours to Phaplu because jeeps wouldn’t be heading there till evening. Either way, the walk along the road was easy. Once in Phaplu, I reserved my seat in a jeep at the Everest Hotel that was set to depart the next morning. Jeeps only leave once per day at 5am and the cost from Phaplu to ktm is 1500rs (15USD). The other option would be a local bus which leaves everyday at 5am or 2pm and it costs around 500rs (5USD). But I wasn’t willing to have another local bus experience and instead after making my reservation, I spent my day at the lodge eating, reading, showering, and resting. The next morning my jeep left for ktm at 5am and the ride took about 13 hours. Many trekkers also choose to start their trek this way; taking a jeep from ktm to Phaplu. It cuts a few days off the trek than if you were to start in Jiri.

In Summary

In total I spent just under 40,000rs (370USD) which also includes all pre-trek expenses. This was for 18 days of trekking (food + accommodation) and 2 days of travel. Current EBC trek rates with an agency can run between 1000 to 2000 USD per person but as mentioned, you can also hire a porter or guide for your solo trek for an extra 20 to 30 USD per day, on top of your regular expenses. Keep in mind, flights from Lukla are around 14,000 to 15,000rs (140 to 150USD) per flight. Some trekkers I met were going to start in Jiri and finish in Lukla because the thought of hiking out of the mountains was daunting, understandably.

In my case, I had the time and the will power to carry my bag in the mountains and out again so I opted to not fly. As well, I found I had the biggest personal breakthroughs in my final days; walking home on tired legs, dreaming of a shower and fresh socks.

During these 18 days I walked over 300kms; sometimes over 70kms in one day. As I shared with one couple I met, who were also trekking alone, self-supported, there is much to be gained in carrying your own pack and guiding yourself in the mountains. Trekking is a reminder for me of the importance of progress and the value of micro actions. In the mountains, you consistently witness the profound results of your micro actions and where a day’s worth of steps can lead. When you reach mountain utopia, you’re reminded of the value of progress and never consider questioning the micro action. This is a good reminder because we often question the micro steps in daily life; their value and significance.

In addition, carrying one’s own bag is a reminder of what we give value to in life. One needs so little to survive in the mountains, so why is it we crave and desire so much in day-to-day life and assume it will make us happy? Carrying my bag invited me to consider the ‘baggage’ I’m choosing to carry in life. When I felt tired, I would stop and look at my bag and ask myself if what I’m hauling around is the bare minimum or what’s absolutely necessary to get me to the end. If we considered this notion for our lives, considered when we’re tired what it is we’re carrying around and if it’s truly necessary to get us to the end, or through the day, we’ll likely find that we’re carrying a lot more than we need; both physically and emotionally.

Now having completed the three most popular treks in Nepal, I can safely say that Annapurna is still my favourite national park. The Upper Pisang section on the ACT and the views and pizza in Chomrong village on the ABC trek are just some of the many extremely comforting and stunning memories I have from that region. I would repeat either one of those treks before considering EBC again. That being said, Everest will always be Everest.

(Photo: Me trekking on ACT in Annapurna, 2015)

I heard many people groaning about how difficult the trek is or that it’s more difficult than ACT. Everyone has their own level of fitness, but for me I felt the more challenging bits of trail were before Lukla. The only struggle one faces past Lukla is, in my opinion, the altitude. Even the ‘steep’ sections I encountered weren’t as steep as what I had trekked in the early days from Jiri. But again, I don’t want to say it wasn’t ‘hard’ because those who weren’t in shape definitely struggled. But if you’re flying in from Lukla, and are in relatively good shape, you should have no problem.

I would also like to add that perhaps my opinion of this trek may also be because it wasn’t my first Himalayan encounter. Some people found the entire experience very lovely and beautiful as it was their first trek in Nepal. Make no mistake, it is beautiful but I think my heart will always be in Annapurna because it was there I lost my Himalayan virginity. And it’s worth noting, the degree to which one experiences being close to the mountains to the point that you grasp their immense size and mass is so powerful in Annapurna. Either way, the views in Everest are breathtaking, and I have no doubt the trek will be a memorable experience.

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