August 27th, 2020
Mt Everest has had an incredible appeal to people for many years. Every year tens of thousands of people walk the 10 to 17 days trail to Mount Everest base camp, and some of them walk from there to the summit. You can not do the latter on your own, but the first is fine without a guide, even if you are not trained.
Of course, the choice of whether or not to go with a guide and/or group is a very personal one. However, the following similarities and differences can help in the choice:
1. The route
If you are wondering if you can find the route without a guide: that is no problem at all. In theory, it's just straight ahead. If it is not obvious, there is a sign, and if you are not sure yet, you can ask anyone. There are so many people on the route, especially in the high season (October / November and April), that you never have to doubt for a long time. There are fewer tourists/guides in the low season, but just as many porters who know their way around.
An advantage of walking with a group or even with a guide is that the guide can prepare you for the trip; how long to climb, how long to descend after that, how long before we have lunch etc. This way, you will be less surprised. However, we noticed that guides sometimes underestimate or overestimate the route to Everest base camp. So, in the end, it is still just a matter of going and seeing what hills you encounter and how long they last. You can always ask lodges or porters how long it will take and what the route will look like.
Another advantage of walking together is that you decide when you take a break or stop to spend the night. If you don't have to take acclimatization into account (yet), that's ideal. It may just make a difference that you took that last climb the previous day. A final advantage of walking with a guide to Everest base camp is that he or she can tell you more about the area and, for example, which peaks you see looming in the distance. We have occasionally confused certain mountains with Everest and vice versa, but here again, help was never far away.
Going to Everest base camp with a group can be a lot of fun. Along the way, a little chat about everything and what makes time fly and difficult pieces go by themselves. We usually walked with the two of us during the day, but there were always enough people to claim at night in the lodges. And the advantage of this is that you don't have to be around for another 13 days if there is no click. If, by the way, there is a click, you have made friends for life after two weeks.
There were people who were concerned about our safety, the two of us in that vast landscape. I would certainly not undertake the trek on my own, but the two are really fine. You have to be honest with each other about how good or bad you feel, because altitude sickness is in a very small corner (reading about the symptoms is a must).
It is also said that you should always ensure that you are on base camp with more people at the same time. I can imagine that because it is an active glacier and the road is not very easy to find. However, there are always people who go around the same time as you, or else you wait a while; it never takes long. Furthermore, we had a whistle with us if you were never far from a semi-inhabited world or a passer-by on the route. Especially the porters you come across everywhere and they, as befits the Nepalese, are always available to help.
Incidentally, it seems that most cases of severe altitude sickness occur in groups. This is because trekkers continue to go through peer pressure (or pressure from the wrong guides) while they are not feeling well. When I did not feel well at 5,000 meters, we could opt for an extra day of acclimatization. If we had been with a group I would have had to drop out on that point and that would have been a real shame (and unnecessary).
4. Costs (and sponsorship of Nepal)
A final point, not entirely unimportant for us as Dutch people, is the difference in costs. Googling around at organizations organizing the trek to Everest tells us that such a 12 to 15-day trek costs between $ 1,200 - $ 1,800, including flights, lodging, food, and permits. This excludes extra snacks and snacks and excludes tips for the guides and porters. I don't know what an average tip is for a guide; for a porter, this is about 400 rupees a day (about $ 4).
The two of us, including flights, permits, snacks and all other essentials, were under $600 per person. Such an essential difference. For example, this is because in many lodges, you can spend the night for free if you have breakfast and dinner there. We thought in advance of "renting" a porter during the trip, via a hotel in Lukla or Namche Bazaar. The cost would be around 1,200 rupees per day ($ 12), excluding tip. The advantage of arranging it is that you do not have to pay a plane ticket for the porter. In the end, we did not do this, but this is certainly an option.
Obviously, it is good for the Nepalese economy to hire porters and guides. However, the bulk of the profit ends up in the pockets of large organizations. This does not have to be decisive in your choice to visit Mount Everest base camp.
It turned out to be ideal for us to do the trekking on our own. That may differ again per person. Either way, it is a fantastic trip that I would recommend to everyone despite the hardest thing I have ever done. If you have any questions after reading, no matter how detailed (packing list, route, price tag), do not hesitate to ask them, I will be happy to help!
-Anna (traveller Blogger)
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