Approximately 1,000 mountaineers attempt to summit Everest each year. A further 40,000 annually are estimated to attempt the hike from Lukla to Everest Base Camp. I was one of them (the 40 not the 1).
As children we’re often asked what we want to be when we grow up. My answer was always “an explorer”. I’ve always been inspired by stories of adventure, survival and team spirit. So Everest Base Camp was naturally on my bucket list. I loved it - and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
It’s hard to put words to the beauty of the Himalayas and the experience that you will have there. Reaching Base Camp gave me an intense moment of pride and relief, but it was the journey to Base Camp that was the most memorable part. My favourite memory was arriving at the Tea Houses every night where we’d roll out our sleeping bags and drink tea by the fire. Our leader, a Nepali man named Amrit would tell us each night to reach our right arm high, bend it… and pat ourselves on the back! And then he’d tell us how we, 'Team Everest', were his favourite group ever.
The majority of our Tea House hosts had grown up in the Himalayas and many of them had stayed because of tourism. One man I spoke to had led groups to summit Everest more than ten times. He was aware of the dangers and death statistics but he had chosen a mountaineering career so that he could earn enough money to pay for his children to go to boarding school in Kathmandu. However, after losing his brother to an avalanche he’d decided to build a Tea House as a less paid but safer livelihood so he would have the opportunity to see his children grow up.
The mountain affects lives everywhere. Those of the adventurers and those who wait for their safe return, but most of all the lives of their leaders and the communities that hikers pass through on a daily basis.
So if you’re considering a hike to Everest Base Camp or even dreaming of the summit itself, take a step back and remember that you’ll be hiking through people’s homes and through an extremely fragile mountain environment.
You’ll have to make a lot of decisions on your journey to Everest - how many chocolate bars to take, whether to take altitude medication, if and when to turn back. But one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make well before your journey begins. You’ll need to decide which company to hike with - and why. You’ll naturally want to consider their safety records and check out their online reviews, but we recommend also taking the time to research the values, philosophy and policies behind different companies. We know you'll fall in love with the Himalayas and the communities you pass through, so take the time to find out if the company you are considering hiking with is proactively helping to protect the places you’ll be traveling through.
Below we’ve featured one of GOOD Travel’s partner businesses, Himalayan Quests. We believe they offer an example of good practice among tour operators in Nepal due to the core values of their founder, their responsible tourism policies and their strong partnerships with community projects.
With the support of Himalayan Quests, we’ve also come up with a number of steps you can take yourself to ensure you have a positive impact on the environment and communities you’ll pass through.
Financial support: It’s important to remember that you’ll be hiking through Nepal: one of the most financially poor countries in the world. You may therefore think it's a good idea to give money or treats to the children and people you meet on your journey - but this may actually encourage begging. Consider making a donation towards a local development project instead. Also, make sure you take the time to think about how you can spread your wealth by using different restaurants and doing your shopping across a range shops. Always buy local and contribute to local economic growth - and remember that bargaining is an engrained part of many cultures and can be great fun, but make sure you always pay a fair price that both parties are happy with.
Carbon offsetting: Despite Nepal's nominal contribution towards greenhouse gas emissions, the country is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Consider offsetting your carbon footprint as a gesture of respect and support for the challenges already being faced by many people in Nepal as a result of climate change and changing weather patterns.
Do you research: Research your destination, in order to have a basic understanding of the culture you are about to immerse yourself in, their customs and what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour. Remember you are a guest in Nepal. Be open and respect the local way of living and don’t be judgemental. Observe, but don’t intrude and always ask before taking pictures of people. Be sensitive to the situations you point your camera lens at.
Preserve natural resources, especially water: Water shortages are common in many places, so do not waste it unnecessarily or leave taps running or dripping. Turn off lights and other electrical equipment when they are not in use.
Be environmentally aware: Bottled water and sodas are cheap and available in many shops along the hike to Everest Base Camp, but there are no recycling facilities to deal with the plastic bottles and tin cans left behind. Don’t add to the problem, use your own refillable bottle where possible and treat the water to ensure it is safe to drink. Respect your surroundings and leave nature where it belongs. Ensure all your rubbish is disposed of appropriately, and if suitable refuse collection is not available, take it home with you.
Have you hiked to Everest before? Please share your own experiences and tips in the comments section below. Or if you're considering a hike and have any questions, please share them below or contact us to book your trek through GOOD Travel and our partner Himalayan Quests.