• Getting to know a trail in wintertime is always exciting. The landscape is unrecognizable from it's unfrozen state and the snow on ground can add up to the unknowns. Hence while planning a winter trek to Everest base camp in February, there was some anxiety built up. For someone used to tropical hikes of the Sahyadris, hiking at higher altitudes and sub-zero temperatures is an experience you can only estimate, but never be completely prepared for.

    While trekking solo, language can be bit of a concern in a foreign land. Most of Nepal follows English and Hindi and it is relatively easier to go around. While the trek is not easy, there can be an occasional tour guide who may throw you off a bit by exaggerating the difficulty level of the trek. Take your calls based on how confident you feel in the moment. There are ample EBC blogs online including a few on winter treks. Here's a concise log of what the trail is actually like, along with a few preparation and packing tips that would have greatly helped me in my own preparations.

    Route map

    Itinerary

    What to expect

    Going solo how to prepare

    Packing list

    Lukla - Monjo (Day 1)

    Monjo - Namche Bazzar (Day 2)

    Namche Bazzar - Tengboche (Day 3)

    The EBC trail starts as soon as you land in Lukla. In case you plan to hire a porter, Lukla is the place to get one. You will spot a few right near the airport. You can either end your first day at Phakding or Monjo. Ending your first day at Monjo makes the day 2 trek till Namche bazzar bit easier. Namche Bazzar, with its trek shops, bakeries, and supermarkets and will surprise you.There are plenty of good stay places here. A important note, this is the last place where you can withdraw any cash if required. Most trekkers stay for a couple nights in Namche to acclimatize. If you are feeling acclimatized, you can continue to Tengboche on day 3. Other option is stay for a day add a side trek in Namche (climb up till Hotel Everest View) to acclimatize and sleep better.

    Tengboche - Dingboche (Day 4)

    Dingboche - Chhukung - Dingboche (Day 5)

    Dingboche - Chhukung - Dingboche (Day 5)

    Day 4 and 5 on the EBC trail is when you start getting above the tree line and the Himalayan weather shows up. While I was trekking, it started snowing mildly and the valley was completely transformed.By Day 4 to Dingboche, you gain a bit more of elevation, and an easy side trek to Chucking and back to Dingboche is recommended to acclimatize better. I would definitely recommend spending a couple of nights in Dingboche. Day 6 is split in two parts: a slow gradual incline before lunch break at Thukla and a steep incline post Thukla. I would suggest eating a small portion at lunch and drinking water every hour. Of the few unpredictable things you may need, its better to carry a small tube of fevistick. I used it to fix a part of my sole, which came off during the snow walk.

    Lobuche - Gorakshep (Day 7)

    Gorakshep - Kalapathar - Gorakshep (Day 7)

    Gorakshep - EBC - Lobuche (Day 8)

    The day 7 of the EBC trek is divided in two parts - hike to Gorakshep during the day and the Kala pathar summit loop around sunset. The sunset views of the Everest range from Kala Patthar are stunning and is best viewed at sunset in my opinion. Time yourself for the setting sun and carry a torch for the descent down from kalapathar. The last leg to reach EBC is the final hike to Base camp. You walk along side the khumbu glacier and on a clear day the views of the snow clad peaks are unbeliveable. It’s a 5 hour hike round trip to EBC from Gorakshep and makes for a really long hike day back to Lobuche. Some hikers also opt to skip the EBC roundtrip.

    Lobuche - Pangboche (Day 9)

    Pangboche - Namche Bazzar (Day 10)

    Namche Bazzar- Lukla (Day 11)

    The trail back to Lukla can be done in 3 days. Lobuche-Pangboche and Pangboche-Namche are a good 6-7 hour hikes. The final descent from Namche to Lukla is a pretty long hike. The mixed emotions of wanting to finish the trek, and yet wanting to stay in the mountains can actually slow you down. On the way back, stay in the Yak hotel in Lukla. Pasang at Yak hotel takes really good care of the guests making it a memorable last night in the mountains. My last dinner in Lukla was a Yak steak and a local dark rum - Khukri with hot water, it was a perfect finish to the cold day.

    What to expect?

    Needless to say, quite a few unexpected moments.

    Altitude Sickness:

    As you gain altitude do watch and observe yourself for ATS signs and symtoms. It is a variable condition and can hit each one differently. Carry Dimox. Ensure you are having lot of water, it helps in getting rid of the toxins in the body. I took dimox on my 3rd day of trek and it helped me sleep and pee better. For the later part of the trek, I took one whenever I felt the need.

    People:

    An interesting aspect of most Nepal hikes when you travel solo is that you will meet a lot of fellow trekkers from different countries. Most hiking days will end up sitting by the fireplace in the tea houses and having interesting conversations before you retire to your bed.

    Food and Stay:

    As for the food options, EBC trail has a lot of options covered. Dal Bhat always tastes the best! try the occasional roast potatoes and momos. Sherpa stew for breakfasts is good way to include water and carbs at the start of the day. Winter treks see not too many trekkers as a result one can find accomodation very easily no prior booking are required.

    Expenses and Permits:

    Everything tends to get expensive as you go higher in altitude. Budget accordingly considering there are no ATM’s after Namche Bazzar. My daily expenses were around 2500- 3000 Nepali currency (which included food and stay). Add cost of permits + return flight tickets to Lukla + porter and guide expenses. For SAARC nations, permits can be availed on the trail itself. The total cost of permits was around 3500 NPR.

    Going solo, how to prepare.

    Trail:

    The trail is well marked - at any point if you are in doubt, head back the same route or stay put for a while and you will most likely meet a fellow hiker or a local.

    Fitness:

    The trail never gets too technical or circuitous, however don’t over or underestimate the trek, take it as it comes. One suggestion would be to be mindful of your breathing, and drinking plenty of water.

    Safety:

    The treks are pretty safe thanks to regular hiking traffic and the locals being respectful of the travelers boundaries. You might encounter an occasional over-friendly hiker or a local, and its best to stay alert.

    Guide/porter:

    The trail never gets too technical, and hiring a guide/porter is a personal decision. I did the hike without a guide or porter, however if you want to hike light without the weight of bag on your shoulders I would suggest to hire a porter, preferably a porter who speaks English.

    Packing list

    1. Hiking backpack (40-55 L)

    2. Trekking Shoes

    3. Down jacket (can be rented in kathmandu)

    4. A couple of trekking pants (water-resistant preferable)

    5. Base-layers (Wool or synthetic)

    6. Thermals (wool or wool/synthetic blend)

    7. Sleeping bag (can be rented in Kathmandu)

    8. Gloves and glove liner (warm, preferably wool-synthetic mix)

    9. Rain jacket (for when it's snowing)

    10. Balaclava

    11. Good quality beanie(preferably merino/wool)

    12. 4 pairs of warm socks

    13. Sunscreen and chapstick with SPF. (SPF is important)

    14. Diamox and Water purifying tablets

    15. Water bottle (Metal preferably)

    16. Glares

    17. Hiking poles

    18. Head-lamp

    19. Fevi-quick (useful to fix damaged soles)

    20. Nail-cutter/ Swiss army knife

    BLOG BY

    SHRUTI KAMATH

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