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When embarking on an adventure, we all turn to Google for insight into what we should expect. And yet, it turns out the Internet is full of porkies.
Here we distinguish fact from fiction for the revered Everest Base Camp trek. No Google (or even Yahoo) involved here, so you can rest assured it’s the truth we speak.
The altitude will kill you
Altitude sickness is very common but there’s only a slim chance it’ll kill you. Ascend slowly but descend immediately if you experience headaches or vomiting. Headaches are often caused by the crisp Himalayan wind but mistaken for altitude sickness, so keep the back of your neck covered. Lack of sleep and loss of appetite are common, and for the most-part, nothing to fret about.
HOT tip: Crystallised ginger is not only tasty for mid-trek snacking, it’s also a natural way to pacify nausea. Sip fresh ginger tea too.
Altitude is the biggest reason people turn back
In a word, yes. And altitude sickness doesn’t discriminate – fit, fat, big, small, healthy, young or old, you’re at risk. Didn’t suffer while trekking Machu Picchu? Doesn’t matter, no two times are the same. Help your body as much as possible by drinking at least three litres of water every day, eat frequently (even when your appetite’s gone AWOL) and keep your energy levels stable.
HOT tip: Try garlic soup. The Nepalese don’t consume this by the bucket-load to fend off Dracula, garlic is great for swerving high-altitude sickness.
You’ll be gasping for breath
Unlikely. You’ll notice you get out of breath very easily, even after a very slight incline, but it doesn’t feel like an asthma attack. Waking in the dead of night short of breath is common, and the first 10-20 minutes every morning is when you’ll really notice the lack of air, before settling into routine. Then you won’t notice it at all.
HOT tip: Once past Tengboche, your guide might recommend sleeping with the window ajar. Yes it’s minus degrees outside, but you’ll want the extra oxygen.
Train by walking three hours uphill. Every. Single. Day.
The EBC trek is no walk in the park, but excessive training is unnecessary. If you have moderate fitness and regularly partake in some sort of exercise, whether it’s the gym, walking or a spot of tennis, you’ll be fine. If you’re hiking alongside a guide, they’ll ensure the pace is slow and steady.
HOT tip: Acknowledge body weaknesses before you go and work with it. Dodgy knees? Take a knee support. Prone to bad circulation? Pack a few instant heat packs.
Sometimes it takes every ounce of brain power to repack your sleeping bag, never mind find the Nepalese words for yes, please and thank you kindly. Truth be told, this is a well-trafficked tourist route and the local Sherpa people don’t expect fluency. Smile, say Namaste and learn some local etiquette.
HOT tip: Just to get you started:
The plane to Lukla is the most dangerous flight in the world
We won’t sugar-coat this one, the flight is perilous; unnerving at best. But that’s coming from a wary flyer so those without an affliction will be more at ease. Trust your pilots, trust the machinery, forget about the alarming statistics and (if you dare open your eyes) enjoy the spectacular views.
HOT tip: For the best mountain views, sit on the plane’s left hand side from Kathmandu and the right when departing Lukla. The engine roars so take ear plugs and if it bounces a bit, hold your Sherpa’s hand!
Take Diamox for altitude sickness
At your own risk. Diamox alleviates altitude sickness but it’s naturally dehydrating so you’ll have to compensate by consuming twice as much liquid. Potentially, you could take Diamox but if you don’t adequately refuel and rehydrate, it’ll do more harm than good.
HOT tip: Fluids, fluids and more fluids. Invest in a hydration pack and Aquatabs to kill germs.
The facilities are horribly basic
To the contrary, they’re surprisingly comfortable. Okay, so the lodges aren’t five-star Hilton hotels but they’re a haven after an eight hour trek. The communal lounge always has a warm fire, menus (yes, menus) are full of choice and the rooms, albeit basic, usually feature Himalayan views you can’t quite believe are right outside the window.
HOT tip: Rewards come in the form of Coca Cola, Snickers and Pringles. All of which have made it as high as Gorak Shep/5,164m. If Monsieur Pringle can do it, then so can you!
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