Guide to Solo Trekking
Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar
In late March 2017, I flew alone to Kathmandu and then to Lukla to complete the Everest Base Camp trek in 13 days. While I was preparing for the trip, it was sometimes difficult to find reliable and up-to-date information about the trek. I wrote this quick guide for others interested in the trek, particularly for those considering trekking independently (no porter, no guide) and solo (no trekking partners). Although this will only be up-to-date as of March/April 2017, I hope it can serve as a resource for you as you prepare for your adventure.
Logistics (flights, permits)
Itinerary (day-by-day route, where to stay)
Packing list (clothes and gear)
FAQs (altitude, food, weather, wifi)
[EDIT: Thanks, all, for your warm response to the guide! If you’d like to show your appreciation and support this ad-free guide, please buy me a coffee (i.e. donate to this site in $5 “coffee” increments). I appreciate it!]
FLIGHT TO KATHMANDU & VISA-ON-ARRIVAL
The international airport in Kathmandu is called Tribhuvan International Airport. Upon landing, most visitors can get a visa-on-arrival by paying a set fee based on how long you will be staying in a few major world currencies ($, €, etc.) I paid $40 for a 30-day visa. Most travelers came prepared with their own passport photos for the application, but terminals at the gate permitted you to take a photo there to be used on your visa application. For more on visas-on-arrival, see the Government of Nepal's Department of Immigration page.
It's easy to get a taxi from the airport to your hostel. Just walk outside the airport and there will be many taxi drivers waiting. Ask how much the ride is beforehand and barter if necessary—you should pay around $6 for a fare to central Thamel from the airport. Taxi drivers are very honest in Kathmandu, so after agreeing on the price you'll have no trouble paying for your fare at the end of the ride.
PERMITS FOR THE EVEREST BASE CAMP TREK
Most trekking in Nepal requires a permit, and some treks also require guides. For the Everest Base Camp trek, two permits are required, but a guide is not required (see below). While it is possible to get both permits in Kathmandu, most people get the TIMS card in Kathmandu and the Sagarmartha National Park permit in Monjo along the trail.
1. Trekkers' Information Management System (TIMS) card
Get at: Nepal Tourism Board, Pradarshani Marg, Kathmandu 44617, Nepal. This is a short walk (20-30min) from central Thamel down one of the main roads, or a quick taxi ride. Check the hours before you go.
Cost: 40,000 NPR (must pay in Nepalese Rupee; this is about $40)
Requirements: Need two passport photos, money in NPR, your travel itinerary, and a travel insurance number. While I bought travel insurance (see below), I heard some travelers without insurance mention just making up a number to put on this line.
Use: Your TIMS card will be checked at a number of checkpoints along the trail. Be sure to always have it with you, and easily accessible!
Other: Independent trekkers are issued a green TIMS card, while trekkers with guides get blue TIMS cards
2. Sagarmartha National Park permit
Get at: Monjo checkpoint, day 2 of this itinerary
Cost: 33,000 NPR (about $33)
Requirement: TIMS card and money
Use: Most of the Everest Base Camp trek is in Sagarmartha National Park. This permit gives you entry to the park and is checked with your TIMS card at a number of checkpoints.
Kathmandu can be a little overwhelming at first, as it is very busy and very dusty! But it doesn't take long to get used to the city, and it's highly recommended to spend a few days there before or after your trek. Trekkers who come without gear have plenty of options to buy or rent whatever they need from the many trekking stores in Thamel (see Packing List below). Don't forget to buy a map!
Stay at: Alobar1000 hostel, which is the most social hostel in town and very centrally located. Costs about $4 for a bed in a dorm (mixed or single-sex). Has a great rooftop social area and pretty good kitchen. Book in advance as it fills up quickly during the high season!
Eat at: Western Tandoori, OR2K, MoMo Hut, Fire&Ice Pizzeria, Himalayan Java Coffee
Don't miss: Boudha, Swayambhu (Monkey Temple), Bhaktapur (day trip)
FLIGHT TO LUKLA
To get to the trailhead of the Everest Base Camp trek, you need to fly from Kathmandu's domestic terminal to Lukla. While trekkers used to have to book this flight through a travel agent (and there are many complicated forums about this still on the internet!) it was very easy and efficient to book this flight online ahead of time. I booked with Tara Air on their website and paid $290 for the round trip flight. This was the best price I heard from everyone I met on the trail. My credit card details were safe, and I got a nice confirmation email to take with me to the airport.
I had no difficulties with my flights, but many flights to and from Lukla are delayed or canceled due to weather conditions. Make sure to plan some extra days into your itinerary on both ends so that you can manage any flight troubles. The return flights (even if you book a a specific one) are still completely flexible. I showed up at the Lukla airport at seven in the morning three days before my scheduled flight back and was moved easily onto the first flight out to Kathmandu of the day.
NO PORTER, NO GUIDE
For those completing the trek with a porter or a guide, there is much more work to do before the trek getting this all coordinated. While everyone will have different preferences, I was happy to be doing the trek independently. I had no major difficulties finding my way every day on the hike, as the trail is well-trod, well-marked, and usually quite busy anyways with other trekkers and porters. Most importantly, I always felt safe due to the many towns along the way where a person could get help if they were in trouble. That said, if I were planning to do a longer trek in the region (e.g. Three Passes, Three Peaks, or even just the Cho La pass), I probably would have wanted a guide.
Carrying all of my own gear was certainly difficult, but anyone who is reasonably in shape will be able to manage it so long as they keep their pack light. Additionally, for the parts of the trek at highest altitude (Gorak Shep to Everest Base Camp and the summit of Kala Patthar), you will be able to leave most of your gear at a lodge to lighten your load, which helps a lot. Ultimately, it's up to you what you prefer, but at least for me, I made the right choice to hike without a guide and without a porter.
DAY 1: KATHMANDU to LUKLA to MONJO
Trekking route: Lukla (2840m) to Phakding (2610m) to Monjo (2835m)
Trekking time: 5 hours 45 minutes (including 1 hour lunch in Phakding)
Board a tiny plane in Kathmandu and fly for 30 minutes to Lukla, with beautiful mountain views out the left row of windows. Safely land on an inclined runway in the middle of the mountains at Lukla Airport "the most dangerous airport in the world!" Collect your bag and head left, out and around the airfield and into town. After a quick coffee stop (recommended: Everest Coffee Cafe), set out on the trail, which begins at the end of the main road through town.
Enjoy your first sights of teahouses, yaks, prayer wheels, and wildflowers as you hike to Phakding (downhill for 2-3 hours) and then to Monjo (uphill for 2-3 hours). Monjo is a great place to meet other independent trekkers, as most of the larger groups stay in Phakding the first night.
Lodge: Mount Kailash Lodge
Cost: 200 NPR
Notes: Private room with two beds and blankets, and a nice mountain view out the window. Recommended.
DAY 2: MONJO to NAMCHE BAZAAR
Trekking route: Monjo (2835m) to Namche (3440m)
Trekking time: 3 hours and 30 minutes
Stop at the Sagarmartha National Park checkpoint to buy your park permit, then head out for an easy first hour of hiking along the river and across suspension bridges with fluttering prayer flags. After the longest bridge yet, you'll begin a winding and dusty uphill segment. Take your time and hydrate for proper acclimatization. Don't miss your first glimpse of Everest at a rest stop halfway through the climb!
Enjoy exploring Namche in the afternoon, and rest your tired legs. There's a great coffee shop in the center of town called Himalayan Java Coffee where you can meet a lot of other trekkers (and use free wifi and battery charging). It's a good idea to ask the hikers coming down from Base Camp about the conditions along the trail to make sure you have the equipment you need and to get any tips they have. Additionally, Namche is your last spot to buy most equipment and to use an ATM, so plan accordingly.
Lodge: Khundu Lodge
Cost: 300 NPR
Notes: Highly recommend this historic lodge if available. The lodge is right next to Himalayan Java and has a great view and delicious food.
DAY 3: ACCLIMATIZATION in NAMCHE
Trekking route: Namche (3440m) to the Hotel Everest View (3880m), then to Khumjung (3780m) and Kunde (3840m)
Trekking time: 6 hours and 15 minutes (including a leisurely coffee at the Hotel Everest View for an hour and a half)
For your acclimatization day, climb to higher altitude and then back down to Namche. It'll be difficult, but take it slowly and know that this will make the rest of your trek easier. At minimum, head out early and climb to Hotel Everest View for a coffee with a gorgeous view of Everest. If you're feeling up for it, from there walk through the beautiful tiered valley towns of Khumjung and Khunde, where you can see a yeti skull and the Sir Edmund Hillary School. Then take the steep hike back to Namche past the helicopter pad, where crews might be busy getting ready for Everest expeditions!
DAY 4: NAMCHE to TENGBOCHE/DEBOCHE
Trekking route: Namche (3440m) to Phunke Tenga (3250m) to Tengboche (3860m)/Deboche (3820m)
Trekking time: 5 hours and 15 minutes (including 30 minute "second breakfast" in Phunke Tenga)
Wind along the sides of the valley with a perfect view of Everest for the first hour, then hike downhill through the woods to Phunke Tenga. Have a snack to prepare for the next bit of the hike—a long uphill trek to Tengboche, the monastery town on the top of the hill. Some people stay in Tengboche, while others hike another 10 minutes downhill to Deboche, or another hour to Pangboche. Make sure to visit the monastery while you're in Tengboche, and maybe celebrate with a piece of cake at the bakery.
Lodge: Rivendell Lodge in Deboche
Cost: 300 NPR, and an extra 100 NPR for a blanket
Notes: Very posh lodge with many large trekking groups. If you're desperate for a shower (and you get there before the big groups), you can shower for 500 NPR in a steam shower in one of their nice rooms. I recommend instead that you stay at Hotel Himalayan in Tengboche, where I stayed on the way back. It was much more homey.
DAY 5: TENGBOCHE/DEBOCHE to DINGBOCHE
Trekking route: Tengboche (3860m)/Deboche(3820m) to Pangboche (3930m), then to Somare (4010m) and Dingboche (4410m)
Trekking time: 6 hours (including 30 minute break in Somare)
Walk through a deep river valley and then climb (slowly!) to Pangboche and then to Somare. Stop for a snack in Somare before a hot walk to Dingboche. Enjoy the true alpine landscape—dust and shrubs.
Lodge: Snow Lion Lodge
Cost: Free with dinner
Notes: Nice and friendly lodge owned by an Everest Sherpa, with good food. It's at the base of the town, lowest in the valley. Recommended.
DAY 6: ACCLIMITIZATION in DINGBOCHE
Trekking route: Dingboche (4410m) to "up the hill" to 4740m
Trekking time: 1 hour and 30 minutes
Sleep in and then do your acclimatization hike after breakfast. Almost everyone does the same one—simply hike up the side of the valley to the ridgeline, and follow that for as high as you care to go. If you make it to the vertical prayer flags, you've hit 4740m, and if you make it to the top of the ridge you'll be at 5083m. It'll be difficult going up, as it always is at this altitude, but you'll feel great coming down!
Spend your afternoon at a bakery doing some journaling or reading. I recommend Himalaya Cybercafe, where you can charge your camera for free if you buy a slice of cake (what a deal!). At 2:00PM every day they show a movie, usually "Everest", for free, which is a great way to meet people and pass the time!
Look forward to a better night of sleep now that your body has adjusted to the altitude!
DAY 7: DINGBOCHE to LOBUCHE
Trekking route: Dingboche (4410m) to Thukla/Dugla (4620m) to Lobuche (4910m)
Trekking time: 5 hours (including 1 hour snack in Thukla)
Weave through the dusty valley to Thukla/Dugla, where you can get a coffee and a bite to eat. Then begin one of the hardest parts of the trek—a rocky pass that is almost completely vertical, which takes about an hour. Climb as slowly as possible, catching your breath as needed every few minutes, and make sure to stay hydrated. At the top, enjoy the beautiful prayer flags and pay homage to the Everest climber and Sherpa memorials. It's an easy trek downhill from there to Lobuche.
Lodge: Peak XV Lodge
Cost: Free with dinner
Notes: Extremely friendly owner, lively dining room, and great food/popcorn. Recommended. Solo trekkers sleep on the ground floor when the lodge is full, but try to get a room upstairs if possible.
DAY 8: LOBUCHE to GORAK SHEP to EVEREST BASE CAMP
Trekking route: Lobuche (4910m) to Gorak Shep (5140m) to Everest Base Camp (5364m)
Trekking time: 7 hours and 15 minutes (including half hour break at Gorak Shep and 45 minutes at Everest Base Camp)
Leave early to beat the crowds (before 7:00), starting your day with an hour of flat hiking and then a long walk over rolling hills to Gorak Shep. Get a room at a lodge in Gorak Shep and lock up most of your stuff. Leave for Everest Base Camp as soon as you're ready, heading out back behind the lodges, across a 5100m high desert, and then to a beautiful ridgeline trail. After about half an hour, you'll see the glacier icefall and yellow tents in the distance! As you approach, find the trail dipping into the rocky valley and back up to the "entrance" to base camp (which was is the middle of the swaths of yellow tents). Take a picture at the rock covered in prayer flags and then climb a little higher to get a great view of the camp, the mountains, and the ice. If you've made it early enough that nobody else is around, feel free to walk along the glacier and through the tented camps. Don't forget to celebrate with a Snickers bar!
The hike back to Gorak Shep might be slower as you pass groups on their way out to Base Camp, but share in their excitement! It's a big day for all of you out there. Have a good meal and get to sleep early if you're planning to summit Kala Patthar before sunrise the next day. Don't forget to look at the stars if you have a clear night!
Lodge: Buddha Lodge
Cost: Free with dinner
Notes: This is not a nice lodge, but you can't be too picky this high up! Expect a single bed in a tiny room and squat toilets. The food is very edible but expensive, so plan ahead.
DAY 9: KALA PATTHAR to LOBUCHE
Trekking route: Gorak Shep (5140m) to Kala Patthar summit (5550m) to Lobuche (4910m)
Trekking time: 8 hours (including half hour on Kala Patthar summit and an hour and a half at Gorak Shep before Lobuche)
You can summit Kala Patthar at any time, but most people try to reach the summit as the sun is coming up over Everest. Leave in the middle of the night with all of the other groups (around 4:45AM), joining the parade on the path up the mountain. Make sure to wear all of your layers (brr) and bring a headlamp. Trudge up the mountain slowly, staying hydrated if you can keep your water from freezing. Most of the walk is straightforward uphill, but there is some rock scrambling right near the summit. If you're feeling okay, hang out at the summit until the sun finally appears over Everest—you've made it!
Hike down and have breakfast back at Gorak Shep before continuing on down the mountain. Everyone descends the trail at a different rate—I was exhausted, so I stayed in Lobuche at the same lodge (in a nicer room!) and slept all afternoon and night.
DAY 10: LOBUCHE to TENGBOCHE
Trekking route: Lobuche (4910m) to Thukla/Dugla (4620m) to Pheriche (4371m) to Tengboche (3860m)
Trekking time: 7 hours and 30 minutes (including a 40 minute break for breakfast in Thukla and a half hour break for lunch in Pheriche)
Continuing retracing your steps from Lobuche to Thukla/Dugla. Then, if you feel like seeing some new landscape, continue down into the valley along the mountain river to Pheriche. From Pheriche, hike along the sides of the valley to Somare, where you can retrace your steps down to Pangboche and then all the way up to Tengboche. This is a long day, but the hiking gets easier and easier as you descend from altitude.
Celebrate in Tengboche at your cozy lodge, where everything will seem so nice in comparison to where you've come from!
Lodge: Hotel Himalayan
Cost: 300 NPR
Notes: Got a beautiful corner room with mountain views out two banks of windows. They have a wood-burning stove in the dining room, which is warmer and better smelling than the yak-dung burning ones higher up the mountain. Enjoy sharing your stories with people on their way up!
DAY 11: TENGBOCHE to NAMCHE BAZAAR
Trekking route: Tengboche (3860m) to Namche (3440m)
Trekking time: 4 hours
Start off with an easy downhill to Phunke Tenga before a few hours of climbing back up to Namche. This uphill section takes everyone by surprise—it's like you've forgotten what uphill feels like after hiking down for so many hours!
It'll feel great to make it back to Namche. Relax all afternoon and then go the Irish Pub in the evening for some pool and popcorn! Don't forget to try some of the famous pizza from the Everest Bakery and Cafe. And maybe have some walnut brownies at Himalayan Java too!
Lodge: Hotel Sherpa Village
Cost: 200 NPR
Notes: Khundu Lodge was full, so I stayed here instead. If you're planning to go out at night, make sure to book a lodge that stays open after 9PM (like this one does).
DAY 12/13: NAMCHE to LUKLA
Trekking route: Namche (3440m) to Monjo (2835m) to Phakding (2610m) to Lukla (2840m)
Trekking time: 7 hours and 15 minutes (no breaks)
When you're ready to head home, retrace your steps from Namche all the way back to Lukla. It'll be beautiful, and you'll love breathing the thick air and reflecting on how far you've come. Don't forget that you've got a big uphill section waiting for you right at the end though!
Lodge: Sunny Garden Lodge
Cost: 300 NPR
Notes: There are a lot of places to stay in Lukla, and I picked this one randomly. I liked it though—very friendly staff and good unlimited wifi (for a price).
DAY 14: LUKLA to KATHMANDU
Return to the airport and head home! You did it!
I spent a long time preparing for my trip and scouring different packing lists online. Here is what I ended up bringing, with comments as necessary. The general idea is to bring one outfit + layers to hike in and one outfit to relax in lodges and sleep in. Most importantly, pack light!
Short-sleeve hiking shirt
Long-sleeve hiking shirt (often wore under short-sleeve shirt)
Rain pants (also serve as backup hiking pants if necessary)
Winter coat (not down, but North Face brand synthetic ski jacket)
2 pairs of hiking socks
1 pair of warm wool socks to hike in
1 pair of sock liners for extra warmth
Long-sleeve thermal shirt
1 pair of warm wool socks
Shower shoes (Tevas)
Nalgene water bottle
Platypus water sack (to carry extra water)
Water purification tablets + electrolyte mix
Trekking poles (invaluable)
Headlamp + spare batteries
Swiss Army knife/multitool
Sleeping bag liner (silk is best)
Hiking towel ("shammy" style, small)
Warm hat (you can buy cute ones in Namche)
Body and face wipes (2x day)
Toilet paper (2 rolls if possible)
Travel lotion (the air is very dry)
Travel wash for clothes (optional)
Bandaids, gauze, and Neosporin (antibiotic ointment)
Ibuprofen (painkiller that works well in altitude)
Sudafed (cold medicine, because colds are very difficult to manage while hiking)
Strepsils (throat lozenges very good for the dry air)
Candy bars (get very expensive on the mountain, so good to pack)
Phone + charger
Portable charger, like a PowerBank
Camera, charger, backup battery, backup memory card
Passport and travel documents
Journal + pens
Frequently Asked Questions
WAS IT HARD? DO I HAVE TO TRAIN?
Yes it was hard, and you should be in good shape to do the trek for your own safety.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO HIKE TO BASE CAMP?
Most people go in March/April or in October/November.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
Permits and visa: $133
Flights to and from Lukla: $290
Room and board: $10-$30 a day, depending on how high up the mountain you are, how much you care to spend on wifi, battery charging, and showers, and how much food you are eating. Most people trek with between 30,000-40,000 NPR on them ($300-$400) so that you can buy a slice of cake whenever you need one. I think I spent close to $300.
HOW IS THE ALTITUDE? HOW DID YOU MANAGE? DID YOU TAKE DIAMOX?
Altitude sickness is incredibly serious, so please educate yourself on how to handle altitude before you attempt the trek. I already had experience at high altitude (Kilimanjaro, 5895m) so I knew want to expect and did not take Diamox. However, I was constantly watching for symptoms of altitude sickness, and I met many trekkers who were suffering from bad altitude sickness.
The most important tip for altitude is to hike slowly. This means literally walk slowly, but it also means set a conservative itinerary on the way up, not climbing more than 400m or so in a day and taking your acclimatization days seriously. It's also important to stay hydrated and to stop to catch your breath, a lot. Small headaches are no big deal, and an ibuprofen pill should clear them right up. However, if you start to experience serious symptoms, you need to get down into lower altitude ASAP. For some, this means a helicopter flight off the mountain. For most, this means hiking back to where you came from that day and trying to climb back to that altitude tomorrow. There is no shame in going your own pace up the mountain, and you'll enjoy Base Camp and Kala Patthar much better if you're feeling alright. I recommend starting your days early (around 7:00) so that you have time to hike down the mountain in the afternoon if you reach your destination and start feeling altitude sick.
HOW DO YOU STAY AT A LODGE/TEAHOUSE? DO YOU NEED TO BOOK AHEAD OF TIME?
Simply trek to the town on the itinerary, find the reception/dining room of the lodge you want to stay in, and ask if they have a room available. While lodges do get pretty full during the busiest times of the year, most of the time they will have a room for you. If you stay at a lodge, you are expected to eat dinner there. As indicated above, for many of the lodges higher up the mountain, you won't pay anything more than the price of your meal!
WHAT DID YOU EAT?
Most nights I had dal bhat for dinner, which is a platter of rice, dal (soup), curried vegetables of some sort, and a papadum. The best part about this meal is that after you eat all of this food (because you’re hungry from hiking) they bring out refills on everything! It’s great value and absolutely delicious. There is a phrase “24 Hour Dal Bhat Power” since this meal has been helping hikers and climbers on Everest for a long time.
The food does get worse and more expensive as you get up the mountain. More importantly, getting sick has worse consequences the higher up you go too, because digestive troubles make it even harder to handle the altitude. Most people I knew were being conservative in their food choices (like eating plain toast or plain pastas) and eating strictly vegetarian diets. This is because it is illegal to kill animals in the Sagarmartha National Park region, so all of the meat needs to be carried up the mountain by porters. This is not very sanitary.
IS THERE WIFI? WHAT DO YOU MEAN I HAVE TO PAY TO CHARGE BATTERIES?
Wifi on the mountain is called EverestLink, and it's notoriously spotty. You pay for it by MB, and the card you buy needs to be used up within 15 hours. It was about $3 for a little wifi (enough to check your email and WhatsApp) and $6 for a lot of wifi (enough to send photos and videos). I couldn't get the wifi to work at all in Dingboche or in Lobuche, but it was working in Gorak Shep (bizarre).
Namche is a big exception, as there is free non-EverestLink wifi in many of the coffee shops, and unlimited wifi for a small fee (usually $5) at many lodges. However, on my way down the mountain the wifi for the entire town was broken. The moral of the story is to enjoy your time off the grid (but do check in with your loved ones every now and then!)
Electricity is very expensive higher up the mountain, so you do need to pay for a battery charge. It's a good idea to bring a portable charger with you as well as a backup battery for your camera to minimize costs. I never had to pay to charge anything, since I was not using my phone often and because I turned off my camera after each photo stop.
HOW WAS THE WEATHER?
I did the trek late March to early April and had great weather. It was much warmer hiking than I expected, and sunscreen was an absolute necessity ever day. However, it got very cold at night, especially higher up the mountain, and it was sometimes still chilly in the early mornings. The weather was clear every day until the afternoon, when fog would roll in obscuring all views. Start trekking early in the day so that you can see everything!
DO I NEED A DOWN JACKET?
It was cold at night and on the early morning Kala Patthar summit. I would recommend a warm jacket that breaks the wind, but it does not have to be down. Many of the rental jackets are very big, so if you're trying to conserve space or weight, it might be better to invest in your own compact and warm jacket.
DO I NEED A SLEEPING BAG?
I made it up and down the mountain without a sleeping bag, but I would not recommend it. I was trying to save weight so I only used my sleeping bag liner, but I had to wear a lot of layers in bed and I ended up getting a head cold. As above, the rental sleeping bags are very heavy and bulky to carry. I would recommend investing in your own lightweight and warm sleeping bag before the trip.
DO I NEED TREKKING POLES?
Yes. Trekking poles help take weight off your knees, which is important if you're planning to carry your own pack and walk downhill for seven hours a day. There are plenty of places to buy cheap trekking poles in Kathmandu—I would recommend flip-lock poles.
ARE THERE OTHER TREKS I CAN DO IN NEPAL?
Yes! The other big region to trek in is Annapurna, though there are hikes throughout the whole country. There are also a lot of harder treks in the Everest region for more experienced hikers/climbers.
I hope you found this guide useful! If you’d like to support this guide and my future endeavors, feel free to buy me a coffee (i.e. donate to this site in $5 “coffee” increments). I appreciate it!
Please comment below if you have any questions or any suggestions/corrections for the above information. Happy trekking!