Here’s our tips on avoiding the crowds and staying safe on the trail.
1. While considerably more challenging than the standard base camp trek, taking the lesser known path that includes the spectacular Himalayan traverse of the challenging Cho La pass, the blue Gokyo lakes and the Khumbu Valley leading to Mt Everest Base Camp and onwards to Kala Pathar, ensures you avoid the standard base camp route and stay off the beaten track. Regardless of if you are travelling solo or as part of a group tour, opt for this route. Not only is it quiet but also more spectacular.
2. Choose to travel in December. While December is the coldest time of the year in the Himalaya it is also the clearest. We departed on the 7th of December and experienced 21 days of bluebird skies. December is also low season, so while there will still be trekkers on the trail, the numbers are considerably less.
3.Regardless of if you are taking the standard route or the alternative route we’ve suggested, everyone starts their trek with the exhilarating flight into Lukla. At an altitude of 2,860 meters, now is the perfect time to consider taking anti- altitude sickness tablets. While not everyone gets altitude sickness, if you think you might be prone to it, take the tablets early. Don’t wait until 4,000 meters before taking them. Trust us! By the way, Lukla also holds the title as the world’s most dangerous airport runway, needless to say there are only two types of pilots here, good pilots and dead pilots! So cross your fingers and toes and hope for the best.
4. Altitude sickness can be very dangerous, sometimes resulting in death, so take your trekking slow and seriously. Do not ascend more than 400 meters per day. This trek will take you up over 5,000 meters for quite a considerable time, so listen to the advice of your Sherpa guide and don’t try to be a hero.
5.Make sure you see your doctor before you go. You need to be in excellent health and fitness to complete this trek. It is not for the faint hearted. Have your iron levels checked. If your iron levels are low, or you have anemia your athletic performance at altitude will be significantly reduced.
6. Tell your Sherpa guide if you are taking any medication. Medication like ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs work great if you have a sore knee, but taking them while at altitude can be very dangerous.
7. Sanitise, wash and sanitise! Bad cases of gastritis and other gastrointestinal conditions are very common in the Himalaya. To make this trip a memorable one (for the right reasons) it’s important to control germs and maintain your personal hygiene. Liquid hand sanitizer is easy to carry and should be used at all times. Use it after sneezing, touching your shoes, using the toilet and before eating anything. Also remember that your gloves harbour germs, so always remove them while eating regardless of how cold you are.
8. Hold on to your sunglasses! After witnessing someone using their trekking poles to retrieve their new sunglasses from a very basic drop toilet in Khumjung village, we’d recommend firmly attaching your sunglasses to your head!
9. Take your rubbish out with you. Respect the environment, the mountains and its people. There is considerable evidence of lazy trekkers leaving toilet paper and rubbish throughout the Himalaya. Don’t be one of those people. Leave no trace. Once you are at camp, your Sherpa guide can help you undertake a ‘clean burn’ of any rubbish you have.
10. Relax, enjoy and choose your altitude, oh we mean attitude. A trip to the Himalaya will change your life. Be nimble and open to the experience.