Just how did we plan for such an exploration that relied totally on the both of us, without any help from guides, porters or tour agencies?
First came the decision to tackle this enormous mountain range solo, and then came the deadline that we needed to be in and out of the trekking region while the seasonal weather remained optimal. This meant we had to get moving quickly for the near month expedition. This is how we got it done.
On arrival to Kathmandu we knew next to nothing of the trekking regions. But that’s nothing a tethering wifi connection couldn’t fix. After one solid morning loading reviews, recommendations, trek itinerary’s and of course, google images, we were done. Decided – not even close! It was actually a really tough task deciding which region to explore let alone which trek. I recall at one point we took a short break with our growing frustrations, and reflected sternly on our behaviour. Clint put it quite nicely “we are being wankers! Our biggest issue in life is to decide between awesome, super awesome and epic awesome”. With this in mind we snapped out of it and prioritised what we wanted; #1 epic scenery, #2 lower crowds. Gokyo Valley was the clear winner.
Keeping with our productive theme we set out to lock it in that day. Though a little weary of the weather in the region we sought some advice from a Nepalese local who has trekked these paths many of times before. I highly recommend that anyone setting out on a similar expedition do the same. Durga was fantastic! What a wealth of confidence building information. We sat and drank tea for over an hour. We chatted over a map and looked through his personal Himalaya shots so we could gain an understanding of what he was explaining. And before we knew it, we were on an extended trip, through the Gokyo Valley, over the Cho La Pass and on to Everest Base Camp. Three big climbs above 5000 meters … I do recall at this point feeling intense excitement all while the little thought ticking around in my head said “gulp… how did I get myself in to this?”
Getting there and the permits:
You can book your flights to Lukla within a few days notice. The cost to buy them online is actually the same as through one of the local agencies. So do your research online, check the price, and then head to one of the local stores to make your purchase. We all need to do what we can to help sustain local people’s incomes. And a little honest commission for them will go a long way.
Next, you need to arrange your Sagarmatha National Park permit (3000 rupees – $35approx) and TIMS card ($20). You can arrange for these at the offices of Nepal Tourism Board in Kathmandu (location available on google maps). It’s an easy walk from Thamel (the main tourist strip in Kathmandu), and of course you can pay a small fee for a lift. Make sure you take your passport and x2 passport sized photos.
Also – keep in mind that your Nepal Visa may run out while you are trekking. So prepare for this and arrange for an extension in advance a the Department of Immigration offices in Kathmandu.
Packing and equipment:
During the trek we left our large backpacks in storage at a hostel in Kathmandu and trekked with smaller packs we purchased in Nepal. As a tip – walk to the edge of the Thamel shopping area, and keep heading outwards until you reach shops that don’t look fancy. You can pick up the same trekking bags for a quarter of the price. Ours set us back about $25 each for approximately 40ltr. You need the extra pack room for your over sized sleeping bag.
You can buy absolutely anything and everything you need in the many trekking shops that line the streets of Thamel. Go nuts but don’t over pack – keep it light! Trust me. You’ll be happy to have less when you are pushing yourself on a 5000+ climb over Cho La Pass. Besides, you can also stock up on any trekking needs in Namche Bazaar. So go light and get a couple for extras along the way if needed.
Packing list tips:
* keep in mind that there are lodges all the way so there is no need to pack for camping or cooking
- Trekking back pack
- Single trekking pole
- Sleeping bag (the only item we hired)
- Quick dry pants and top
- Light weight fleece jacket
- Waterproof jacket
- Waterproof trekking shoes – that’s if you’re prepared. I wasn’t but managed to complete the 3 weeks in a $20 pair from Kathmandu. They were great! Feet got a little wet though…
- A dry set of clothes to wear at night. TIP: thongs/flip flops are a good idea for night toilet trips. It will save you from putting your wet trekking shoes on.
- Head torch. There won’t be any electricity at the lodges so do not forget this!
- Water purification system: either UV light or tablets (chlorine dioxide or iodine tablets). Unfortunately neither system will be completely effective against Cryptosporidium and Giardia. You should definitely research into this before making your decision.
- Water bottle
- Rehydration electrolytes
- Small medicine / first aid kit
- SUNCREAM!!! Do not forget this. You will burn in high altitude and reflective snow.
- Sunglasses (UV rated)
- Lip Balm – as your lips will likely get dry and cracked in the altitude
- Toilet paper
- Wet wipes (this will be your primary shower)
- Energy snacks
- Deck of cards for nightly entertainment
- Spare camera batteries. You can pay to recharge these at the lodges, though it gets more expensive the further you get.
- All the cash you need. There is one ATM in Namche Bazaar (at the start of the trek).
How about you? Can you see your self taking on the once in a lifetime challenge of the Himalayas?….