Before you head for the heights in the Himalayas, you’d be advised — in terms of safety and expense — to give some thought to the following considerations:
1. Don’t spend lots on expensive gear in your home country — treat yourself in Katmandu’s touristy Thamel district. In dozens of shops there you can buy authentic branded or quality own-label gear for around half of the equivalent cost in countries such as Japan and the United States, while inferior counterfeits are even cheaper. The best is Shona’s on Jyantha Street, which manufactures its own designs and offers professional quality at great prices. It also rents out gear. (Phone: +977 1-4265120, near the Rum Doodle restaurant or opposite Kilroy’s.)
2. You need to be fit; not superhuman, but fit. Gym work is good, but better is walking experience. (You’d think this was obvious, but you’d be surprised …)
3. Trekker numbers in the Himalayas explode in March/April and October/November, when the weather is best, but though the trail can feel busy it never feels crowded, so don’t be put off.
4. It will be cold at night. You’ll need a four-season sleeping bag and — having gone without one and regretted it — a down jacket. As I found, being too cold for too long can sap your strength.
5. Practice using trekking poles (single or a pair), even if you usually walk without them. The descent days are especially tough on the knees, no matter how young you are. Poles really do help.
When you’re there:
6. On some days, you won’t actually be walking for long — as little as 2½ hours. Your progress is limited by altitude, not distance, so when you’ve ascended to the safe maximum for a day, you stop. Some days you’ll “walk higher” to assist acclimatization, then descend again to “sleep lower” at the safe limit.
7. You’ll be drinking constantly to mitigate the effects of altitude — four or more liters a day. So yes, you’ll need the toilet all the time. This will mean trees and bushes. You will also need your own supply of toilet paper — allow for twice what you think you might use !
8. Teashop pizza is delicious. You may start off wanting to “eat local,” with dal baht and yak curry, but the pizza deserves recognition as a local specialty all its own — especially the yak cheese and salami pizza at Tengboche.
9. If you’re with a group, tell your guide if you feel the slightest bit unwell. They’ll have a pill for every ailment and, more importantly, need to act straight away if you’re showing signs of (potentially fatal) altitude sickness. If you’re trekking with a guide you’ve hired yourself, make sure he understands what you’re telling him about how you feel.
10. Be prepared for prices to rise, along with the altitude. Mars bars will go from 70 rupees (¥65) at the start of the trail to 300 rupees (¥280) approaching Everest Base Camp. This reflects the cost of portering supplies up so high.