The silence of the Himalayas
Rings in my ears,
As I stand on the edge of the world,
And am reminded of how small I really am.
The snow capped peaks
Tower over emerald green lakes
That shimmer in the sunlight
With waves dancing in the breeze.
I watch the sun
Still drunk with sleep
Peak over Mount Everest
As the world slowly comes to life.
It stains Mount Everest
Later that day,
As it creeps towards the horizon
And turns the sky into a Candy Cane.
I recently trekked over 200 kilometers to Mount Everest Base Camp and the Three Passes. To say the experience was life changing is an understatement. I experience some of the toughest physical and mental days of my life, but also saw the most stunning, unbelievable, and breathtaking views I’ve ever seen.
And I did all of this for under $20 USD a day- and I’m going to show you exactly how you can do it, too.
I did the entire trip unguided. I also carried my backpack the entire time, planned my own route, and didn’t book anything in advanced.
You don’t have to be in incredible shape to do this trek, though I am going to warn you, some of the climbs are extremely difficult and take a lot of mental toughness (especially at 5,000+ meters above sea level). You’re going to have to physically push yourself to your limit in an extremely stressful environment.
Every single part of this trek is worth it. It’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever accomplished in my entire life, and I hope that many people get to experience this trek as well.
Preparing for Your Trip
Before you leave on your trek, make sure you do the following things:
Buy Your TIMS Card: Go to the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) in Kathmandu and buy your TIMS Card for the trek, it costs 2,000 rupees and is mandatory. It’s a registration card which gets checked a couple times on the trek.
Buy Your Everest Region Trekking Permit: This costs 3,300 rupees and is another permit you need for the trek which also gets checked. You can purchase this one at NTB or buy it when you arrive at the National Park.
Purchase Any Necessary Equipment: This includes trekking gear, medication, toiletries, and snacks. I have a detailed packing list below.
I’m a solo traveler! How will I find trekking partners?
Don’t worry! I arrived in Nepal by myself and was determined to find a group of other solo backpackers to trek with. I stayed at Alobar1000 Hostel, where a ton of backpackers looking to trek also stay. It’s so easy to meet people at this hostel and find a group to trek with. Most backpackers that arrive in Nepal also arrive solo, so you don’t have to worry about finding trekking partners!
I travel with a laptop! What should I do with it while I trek?
I was so worried about my laptop that I was seconds away from bringing it with me on the trek. Thankfully I didn’t bring my laptop. It would have added several kilos to my 8 kilogram bag, and I would have had to worry about it the entire time.
Luckily, Alobar lets you leave your clothes and important items at their hostel for a ridiculously cheap fee per day. You can leave expensive equipment like laptops, iPads, cameras etc. in their locked managers room for 20 rupees a day, and then leave your clothes in their storage room for 15 rupees a day.
When should I trek Everest Base Camp and the Three Passes?
The two best times to do this trek is from October to December and April to May, when the weather is most favorable.
I don’t have any equipment with me! Can I purchase it in Kathmandu?
Yes! In Kathmandu, Thamel specifically, there are a ton of shops selling knock off North Face gear and random other trekking brand gear. I purchased almost all of my equipment upon arrival in Kathmandu. Make sure you bargain the prices down, you can get some really great deals in Kathmandu. You can also rent gear if you don’t want to purchase anything.
Are there any ATMs on the trek?
There is an ATM in Lukla and an ATM in Namche, but after that, there’s nothing. I highly recommend taking enough money out in Kathmandu (at least $400) and bringing it with you on the trek. The ATMs are very expensive in Lukla and Namche, and you wouldn’t want to be stuck without any money. It’s always good to have more in case of an emergency.
Can I shower on the trek?
Yes you can, but showers will cost anywhere from 200-600 rupees. My friends and I chose not to shower the entire time. It was too cold to take off our clothes and we wanted to save money,
Can I charge my electronics on the trek?
Yes! However, it can get quite expensive, an hour of charge per battery can cost up to 400 rupees. I recommend bringing a portable charging brick so you can charge multiple items during the trek for as long as you need.
I also saw trekkers with solar panel charging bricks, which is a great idea and will save you a ton of money.
Will I get altitude sickness?
Altitude sickness affects everyone differently. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the best shape of your life, you can still get altitude sickness. Some people get it, some people don’t. There’s no way of knowing beforehand.
I got pretty bad altitude sickness after the Kong Ma La, since I ascended quite quickly and it was my first time at that altitude. However, the three friends I was with were relatively fine, two of them had mild headaches, while the other one had no symptoms at all.
Make sure you listen to your body and know the signs of altitude sickness: headache, nausea, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, & stumbling, to name a few. Do not ascend if you’re experiencing altitude sickness symptoms, and descend if they’re getting worse. It’s also very important to purchase travel insurance before you start your trek in case of an emergency.
I am not a doctor and am not offering medical advice. Talk to your health care provider beforehand if you’re worried about getting altitude sickness, and to inform yourself about the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness. They may be able to prescribe altitude sickness medication for you.
Most trekkers take a flight from Kathmandu to Lukla for around $200 USD one-way, and then start their trek from there. You can easily book these flights the day before you want to depart.
Keep in mind that a lot of these flights get cancelled and rescheduled due to weather conditions, the weather has to be pristine in order for the planes to safely land in Lukla. You may have to wait a day or two before your flight is rescheduled. Cancellation is completely random, so you may get lucky.
While flying saves time, it might not fit into your budget. It definitely didn’t fit into mine. The good news is, there are other, cheaper (crazier) options.
Take the Jeep from Kathmandu to Salleri
My friends and I decided to take a $15 USD (one-way) jeep from Kathmandu to Salleri. It was the most horrendous jeep ride of my life: the driver blasted the same Nepalese song for the entire 12 hours while he drove on the side of mountain cliffs as hectically as if he were fleeing the country.
The jeep left Chabahil Chowk in Kathmandu at 5:30 a.m. and arrived in Salleri at 6 p.m. Purchase the jeep ticket upon arrival at the bus station.
Trek from Salleri to Namche: 4 days
Once you arrive in Salleri, spend the night in one of the few guesthouses in the town. Then, start your trek to Namche early the next morning.
I’m going to warn you: these extra few days are not easy, they’re probably some of the hardest days of the entire trek. But walking in and walking out of the trek is extremely rewarding and saves a ton of money.
Accommodation & Food
The guesthouse accommodation on the trek is extremely cheap; most will only charge you 100-200 rupees ($1-2 USD) per night. Some won’t charge you anything as long as you eat all of your meals there.
The higher you get in altitude, the more expensive food will be. Everything has to be either flown in or carried in by yaks and porters.
Food will start around 200-400 rupees per meal ($2-4 USD), and can get as high as 700 rupees per meal ($7 USD) when you’re in towns higher than 4,500 meters. Personally, I spent all of my money on food and drink the entire trip, around $5-6 per meal, and $0-1 a day on accommodation.
I lived off of fried potatoes and vegetables for breakfast and lunch, and ate daal baht for dinner. I strongly recommend becoming a vegetarian on the trek. As I mentioned, everything has to be flown or carried in, and that includes the meat. Animals are banned from being sacrificed in the Everest Region, so all of the meat you would eat is coming from Kathmandu.
You’ll come to know daal baht; it’s the best bang for your buck. You get free refills on the rice and lentils, and if the guesthouse owner is nice, they’ll give you vegetable refills as well!
One of the best ways to save money is to bring aquatabs (water purification tablets) and drink the tap water. I drank the tap water the entire duration of the trek and used an aquatab every time and was fine! This will be your biggest money saver, since water can get as expensive as 300 rupees ($3 USD) per liter of water.
You can buy aquatabs in Kathmandu at any pharmacy for around 250 rupees for 50 tablets.
Here is my detailed itinerary for the Mount Everest Base Camp and Three Passes trek. You don’t have to stick by this by any means, some days you’ll be faster, some days you’ll be slower. This is here to give you a general idea of what your trek may look like.
Keep in mind that I did the trek counter-clockwise, which I can’t recommend enough. It’s much, much easier doing it this way than doing it clockwise. The first pass you cross will be the hardest, while the last pass will be the easiest. You’ll also ascend shorter distances doing it this way.
For example, if you did the trek clockwise, you’ll have to ascend over 1,000 vertical meters on the first pass, the Renjo La. I descended this and found it quite difficult!
You’ll also visit Gokyo as your final destination before the last pass, which I found to have the most beautiful view of Mount Everest on the entire trek.
Day 1: Salleri to Nunthala (1,823 m)
Today’s trek is around 25 kilometers. Leave Salleri around 8 a.m. and you’ll arrive in Nunthala around 4 p.m.
There are some monstrous ascents and descents on this day!
Day 2: Nunthala (1,823 m) to Kari La (2,880 m)
This day is as difficult, if not more, than the first day. There are two monstrous ascents (make sure you stop in Kharikola for lunch & for a break in between ascents).
The guesthouse we stayed in isn’t technically in Kari La, since that’s the name of the peak (which you don’t actually climb up). But we stayed at a guesthouse at the end of the last ascent at around 2,880 meters above sea level.
Day 3: Kari La (2,880 m) to Phakding (2,650 m)
This day is much easier, although there is still a monstrous descent and then a difficult ascent.
Stop in Sirkay for lunch and a nice break.
Day 4: Phadking (2,650 m) to Namche (3,440 m)
The ascent to Namche is extremely difficult, and you may even begin to feel the altitude on this day since you’re climbing to 3,440 meters.
Once the day is over, you’ve made it to Namche!
Day 5: Acclimatization Day, Namche (3,440 m)
Relax in town and spend the day gazing at the tallest mountain in the world from your first viewpoint of Mount Everest!
Day 6: Acclimatization Day, Namche (3,440 m)
We decided to spend another day in Namche, even though you realistically only need two nights here.
Day 7: Namche (3,440 m) to Tengboche (3,867 m)
This day is relatively easy in the beginning, with a steady 400 meter ascent to Tengbouche later on.
Day 8: Tengbouche (3,867 m) to Dingboche (4,260 m)
Another relatively easy day.
Day 9: Dingboche (4,260 m) to Chukhung (4,730 m)
Mostly flat with a few hundred meter ascent, it only takes 2 hours to reach Chukhong.
Day 10: Acclimatization Day, Chukhung (4,730 m)
Climb up Chukhung Ri (5,546 m) to help you acclimate to the altitude above 5,300 meters, and to help you with the first pass the next day.
Day 11: Chukung (4,730 m) – Pass #1 Kong Ma La (5,535 m) – Lobouche (4,950 m)
This was, by far, the most difficult pass. You have to ascend 700 kilometers, and then quickly descend and cross a glacier to Lobouche. I got altitude sickness on this pass, but my three friends were fine.
Day 12: Lobouche (4,950 m) to Gorak Shep (5,160 m)
An easy trekking day with a small ascent.
Day 13: Everest Base Camp (5,364 m), Acclimatization Day & Gorak Shep (5,160 m)
Climb up Kala Patthar and watch the sun rise over Mount Everest, then make your way to Everest Base Camp on an easy hour and a half trek!
Make sure you also catch the sunset on Kala Patthar.
Day 14: Gorak Shep (5,160 m) to Dzongla (4,830 m)
This was one of the most beautiful hikes of the entire trek. The trail opens up to a gorgeous view of the Himalayas and Ama Dablam with a turquoise lake.
Day 15: Dzongla (4,830 m) – Pass #2 Cho La (5,420 m) – Gokyo (4,750 m)
This was a really fun pass- you get to cross over snow! We didn’t have walking poles or crampons, so if you’re wearing sneakers, you’re fine.
Make sure you cross the pass early to avoid rock slides later on in the day.
Day 16: Gokyo (4,750 m)
I loved Gokyo. The town is relatively small, and there is a gorgeous turquiosie green lake next to it.
Summit Gokyo Ri (5,360 m) to watch the most incredible, breath taking sunset you’ll ever see in your entire life. My friends and I loved it so much, we sumitted the mountain twice. Pack the guesthouse blankets in your bag and bring them up with you to the top of the mountain. It gets FREEZING up there after the sun goes down.
Day 17: Gokyo (4,750 m)
We spent three nights in Gokyo!
Day 18: Gokyo (4,750 m) – Pass #3 Renjo La (5,360 m) – Lumbde (4,300 m)
This was by far the easiest pass, with a 700 meter ascent and the best view of Mount Everest you’ll get the entire trek.
Day 19: Lumbde (4,300 m) to Phakding (2,650 m)
This was one of the biggest days of the entire trek, we walked from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. There weren’t any extremely difficult ascents either, which is why we were able to walk so far.
Day 20: Phakding (2,650 m) to Kari La (2,880 m)
A simple descent and a difficult ascent.
Day 21: Kari La (2,880 m) to Taksindu (3,000 m)
Another difficult day with one major descent and two extremely difficult ascents. Stop in Nunthala for lunch to break up the two ascents and recharge!
Day 22: Taksindu (3,000 m) to Kathmandu
This was the easiest day, with a 2 ½ hour trek to Salleri. We had a beer, jumped on the 1 p.m. bus to Kathmandu, suffered for 13 hours with deafening Nepali music and a crammed bus, and made it to Kathmandu at 2 a.m.
I bought all of my clothes and equipment in Kathmandu except for my trekking sneakers. One of my friends bought his trekking shoes in Kathmandu, and they broke two hours into the trek. He used pillow cases to tie them together, and they surprisingly made it the entire 22 days!
My biggest suggestion to staying warm is to bring layers, layers, layers. I had 8 layers on at one point and felt like a penguin, but at least I was warm.
I went trekking from the end of October to the middle of November and didn’t have a down jacket or sleeping bag, while many people did. It wasn’t too cold during the day while I was trekking, but at night it was freezing. Luckily, most guesthouses will give you extra blankets during the night (I still slept in all of my clothes).
Here is what I packed:
- Osprey 40 L Farpoint Backpack
- Kent Trekking Sneakers: Make sure your sneakers are broken in beforehand to help lessen the chance of blisters. Mine were still broken in and I got horrendous blisters within the first couple days of the trek.
- 1 Hat
- 1 Pair of Gloves
- 2 Fleeces
- 2 Windbreakers
- 1 Pair of Leggings
- 1 Pair of Spandex
- 2 Pairs of Thick Socks
- 1 Sports Bra
- 2 Pairs of Underwear (you’re not going to shower!)
- 1 Neck Scarf
- 1 Pair of Snow Pants
- 2 Sweaters
- 1 Under Armor Shirt
- 1 Long Sleeve Shirt
- Baby Powder
- First Aid Kit (anti-bacterial cream, wound wrapping, etc.).
- Head Torch: This was one of the best things I brought. There were a few guesthouses that didn’t have any lights in the rooms, and the squat toilets rarely had any lights.
- Baby Wipes
- Toilet Paper: None of the guesthouses I stayed in had toilet paper or a bum gun, so if you didn’t have toilet paper with you, then…. well, that’s what your hand is for, right?
- Nail Clippers
- Sunscreen: This is one of the most important items to bring. Make sure you use sunscreen on your nose.
- Reusable Waterbottle
- Portable Speakers: Two of my friends brought their speakers with them, which made the quiet nights around the fire that much better.
- Nikon DSLR: Easy to use, cheap DSLR camera for beginners like me.
- Fanny Pack
- Credit Card
Items I didn’t personally bring:
- Down Jacket
- Sleeping Bag
- BUY TRAVEL INSURANCE: A helicopter evacuation costs at least $9,000. You wouldn’t want to be in an emergency such as severe altitude sickness or injury and have to pay for a helicopter evacuation. I use World Nomads USA standard plan, which covers helicopter evacuations up to 6,000 meters on unguided treks. Be smart and buy travel insurance.
- Buy a Map: This was a life saver, and is definitely helpful when you’re in the middle of no where! Get a detailed map that shows the towns, altitudes of each place, and distance from town to town.
- If you’re doing the Three Passes Trek, I HIGHLY recommend you do it counter-clockwise. It’s much, much easier to do it this way. The ascents are shorter and you have more time to acclimate to the altitude.
- Pack Snacks: I had Nutella and oats with me during my trek which were life savers. Especially the Nutella.
- Pack Toilet Paper
- Bring Altitude Sickness Pills: Diamox is one of the brands which you can buy without a prescription at any pharmacy in Kathmandu. These are good to have in case you get altitude sickness. Keep in mind that I am not a doctor and am not offering any medical advice. The best thing to do is to talk to your health care provider beforehand to determine what’s best for you. They may prescribe altitude sickness medication, but make sure you consult them beforehand.
- Bring Antibiotics and Medicine: There’s a pharmacy in Namche, but that’s one of the last pharmacies you’re going to get the entire trek. Make sure you’re prepared for any emergencies.
- Bring Coffee & Tea Bags: Buying hot water is cheaper than buying coffee or tea, and will save you money if you bring your own.
- Bring a Thermos: This is one of the things I wished I had brought. I wanted nothing more than a steaming hot coffee to thaw my frozen body while watching the multiple sunrises and sunsets over Mount Everest at below freezing temperatures.
- Bring a Portable Charger: The higher you get, the more expensive it is to charge your electronics. Charging can cost up to 400 rupees an hour per device, so having a charging brick will save you a lot of money!
- Bring Aquatabs: Drink the tap water and use the aquatabs to purify your water. I also used them to drink from streams in the middle of the passes.
- Bring Enough Money: As I mentioned above, bring enough money to last the entire trek. There’s only one ATM in Lukla and in Namche, so if you run out of money in the middle of the trek, you’re out of luck!
Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any more questions about trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp and the Three Passes!
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which helps me travel longer! Remember, I only recommend products that I personally love and use.