Why I’m not going to Everest Base Camp

I'm sure all of us have a bucket list of places we would like to go to but the question now is... what's stopping you?

Text by Alixues Chua
Edited by Desirae Tan

I can tell you when my fascination with Everest Base Camp began. It was after watching my aunt train for months for her trek to the Camp. The early mornings of exercise, relentless hikes up Bukit Timah Hill and climbing trips to Malaysian peaks such as Mount Kinabalu.

A trail right next to the edge of the mountain. The fact that there's no guard rails from a perilous drop is both scary and exciting to me!A trail right next to the edge of the mountain. The fact that there’s no guard rails from a perilous drop is both scary and exciting to me!

Before that, the idea of going near Mount Everest was an alien concept to me. It is after all the tallest mountain in the world – so it must be impossible to even go near it. Yet someone close to me was going to the Base Camp – the start of so many Everest expeditions. It sparked in me a deep fascination with the place.

When my aunt came back from the trek, she told me stories about her journey. The air was so thin that every few vertical steps left her breathless. Her facial foam and toothpaste froze solid at night. For water, they melted snow and ice from the mountains and purified it. Water she drank still had dirt in the bottom of the cup.

The trekking group on trailThe trekking group on trail

While she only trekked to the Base Camp, my aunt told me how the summit path to Everest was littered with dead bodies, such as the corpse of Tsewang Paljor. On the higher planes of Mount Everest, the environment is unforgiving and brutal – it is exceedingly difficult to bring bodies down to lower altitude, without compromising the safety of the rescue team.

Glacial lake in NepalI was an impressionable teen back then, and her stories left a mark on me. I have been a city girl all my life; I cannot fathom conditions so harsh that bodies are left where they fall. The coldest temperature I encountered was perhaps 4° C; I cannot imagine temperatures so cold that tears could freeze solid.

The trekking group in a guesthouse before the start of the expedition.The trekking group in a guesthouse before the start of the expedition.

So I read up about trekking in Nepal, waiting for my chance… and, sad to say, despite it being on my bucket list for years, not going yet.

I want to go to Everest Base Camp. But I have not yet done so. And these are my excuses why:

Because it’s expensive

Besides the plane tickets, permits and guide fees, there are a few items of gear and equipment to obtain as well. You’ll need a sturdy backpacker’s bag (a 75litre backpack cost upwards from $250), a sleeping bag, hiking boots, and hiking clothes such as a waterproof jacket (at least $150) and pants. The costs add up, yet this is an area you can’t scrimp on – the last thing you want is a shoddy backpack spilling apart on a mountain trail, or your boots slipping on the slopes.

Because I need to train

Everest Base Camp isn’t a place where you can decide on the spur of the moment to travel to. Uphill treks, thin mountain air, and possibly treacherous terrain awaits, so a certain amount of training is essential. You don’t need to be Captain America-fit, but you do need a reasonable level of fitness.

If I am really going to the Base Camp, I would have to amp up my fitness. Not just gym, not just running, but hiking and trekking. I don’t know if you have noticed, but Singapore doesn’t have a lot of mountains – and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve just closed for two years.

Still, even if it’s open, the fact is that the highest peak in Singapore is just 165 metres tall. Everest Base Camp is located 5,000 metres above the sea.

Sherpas carrying loads on their backs.Sherpas carrying loads on their backs.

Because I need more annual leave than I have

This might be a problem unique to me – or I suppose to people in my profession.

A trek to Everest Base Camp can’t be rushed. Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), a potentially fatal illness caused by lower oxygen levels at high elevation, is a very real concern. The only way to prevent AMS is to acclimatise to the altitude by climbing the mountain gradually.

To be safe, people normally set aside 10 – 14 days, or even more, to get to Everest Base Camp. Two weeks may not sound very long, but in my current profession, it can be hard for me to get away, even for a week.

Aunt on the side of a trail. My aunt suffered from AMS (acute mountain sickness) on the trip and by this time she felt extremely unwell.Aunt on the side of a trail. My aunt suffered from AMS (acute mountain sickness) on the trip and by this time she felt extremely unwell.

Because it’s hard to find travel companions

I don’t mind travelling alone – had travelled alone and loved it. But Everest Base Camp isn’t something that I am keen to do alone. Call it being paranoid, but I would prefer not to be solo when I am trekking in remote regions.

When I ask my friends whether they would like to trek Everest Base Camp with me, I usually get two responses:

1)     Ummm, no. Which is understandable – the trek will be uncomfortable and tough. And unless you already have an interest in trekking, the idea of a two-week torturous trekking isn’t exactly someone’s idea of a holiday.

2)     Yes! – in a very abstract, one-day-I-will-tick-it-off-my-bucket-list kind of way. Friends are agreeable, yet unable to commit fully.

Because it’s out of my comfort zone.

For all my interest in Everest Base Camp, it remains a place that is quite out of my comfort zone. I don’t know if I can adjust to freezing temperatures and, as embarrassing as it is to admit, peeing in frigid conditions. Trekking in mountainous regions is a completely foreign thing to me – quite different from backpacking through Cambodia or Thailand with my friends. And I am quite frankly, scared.

And that’s why.

That’s why I haven’t gone to Everest Base Camp yet.

When it comes to travel, I actively source out places I want to go and just go. I have fantastic memories of travelling with my friends – getting lost overseas, discovering hidden restaurants, and meeting new friends.

So not being able to go to Everest Base Camp is frustrating to me. I like being in charge of my travel bucket list. I like knowing that the only thing keeping me from a dream location is saving up for it (and er, making sure I have enough leave).

I don’t like to wait for that to happen. Yet as of now, that is what I have to do.

In the meantime, I make sure to get prepared. Accumulate one backpacking gear at a time. Attempt easier treks in other countries first. Train up so I am reasonably fit. Research trekking companies and guides. Look out for expeditions. Trample down on that voice in my head that says this is going to be too much and would I just consider travelling to a place that requires less hassle. Slowly and surely, I’m shortening the distance between me and Everest Base Camp.

So when the opportunity comes to trek to Everest Base Camp – I’ll be ready for it.

Mountain ranges in Nepal.

So do you agree with what Alixues shared? Tell us how you feel in the comments below !

  • desmond chua

    Hi pepez. we are organising an EBC trip 7 to 23 oct 2016. there are 3 of us. would love to have 1 to 3 more trekking buddies. contact me me at 98425605 is you are keen to know more. Cheers

    • Rahat Sanghoi

      HI, are you still on the plan. I’m based in Singapore, and would want to join as well.