We asked veteran Everest guide Adrian Ballinger, who will be with Cory Richards for The Line (watch episode 1 here), to answer your questions about going to Everest. Then we pulled together a bunch of helpful info to help get you there.
The Expert: Adrian Ballinger, Founder of Alpenglow Expeditions
It’s five weeks until I leave for my 12th season, my 12th year on Mount Everest as a guide and a professional climber. I’ve been lucky enough to summit the route eight times, including once without supplemental oxygen with Cory Richards and Topo.
What’s the best way to stay warm while trekking?
Staying warm, it’s one of my greatest challenges. I work with Eddie Bauer, their clothing really is incredible. Keeps me warm. It’s also important to think about hydration and nutrition. Stoke the engine to keep yourself warm.
How do you feel better at altitude?
There’s no magic weapon for feeling good at altitude. Really, it’s about listening to your body. Follow your pace, eat and drink well, take rest when you need it and [a] really qualified guide or guide company [that knows] how to manage altitude.
How can you prepare to interact with the local people you will meet? (ROAM staff)
International trekking and climbing, it’s all about hanging out and meeting with and working with locals. So, just make sure you put the effort in, hanging out with tea house owners, hire porters, and spend time with them on the trail. Just dive in. Are there any beautiful but safe treks? (@gandtea)
There are so many beautiful and safe treks in the Everest region in Nepal and Tibet. The key is your experience. You might be comfortable going alone, or if you don’t have a lot of experience at altitude or in the wilderness, hire a guide company like Alpenglow Expeditions.
What’s the best way to prepare for an expedition? (@fynnblake21)
The best way to prepare for a big expedition is by doing smaller ones first. Build experience on smaller peaks or smaller treks, hikes before you go to the biggest mountains in the world. I recommend the Sierra in California.
Best training regime you’ve found for high alpine fitness? (@jordan.alpinemedia)
[For] the best training regimens for high altitude expeditions and treks I recommend checking out Uphill Athlete. They are my coaches. I’m doing an uphill workout right now. Steve House and Scott Johnson, and their book, Training for the New Alpinism, is a great place to start.
Can you bring kids on a trek? (@gusc77)
I was lucky enough to trek with Hillary Nelson’s kids to Makalu base camp at 17,000 feet, and it was incredible. But really it’s something you want to talk to your doctor about. The effects of altitude on growing brains and bodies is still being researched.
Favorite trekking circuits near Everest? (@soph_t_ie)
If I had to pick a favorite, the Gokyo Ri and Cho La pass loop in the Everest region in Nepal is just unbelievable. The viewpoints, getting away from the main treking. There’s just nothing like it in the world that I’ve been to.
Is Everest worth a bucket list trip anymore?
Visiting Mount Everest, however you can, is so worth it still. Total bucket list item, whether you check to base camp or drive to the North side base camp, or even summit the peak, there’s nowhere like it on the planet.
What do you do to preserve the precious environment you mounteer in? (@calumnhockey)
Insisting that my teams practice leave no trace ethics and encouraging and educating other teams on the same is really the key, I think, to maintaining the sacred place that is the wilderness and mountains of the Himalaya.
What is the best time period to have a trek in the Everest region? (@chiara_simio)
Spring and Fall have traditionally been the time you go to Everest base camp. But more and more, I’ve recommend trekkers go in the winter. The weather is still stable and it’s just way, way quieter with less tourists and more sherpa at home in the villages to visit.
How much does it cost to travel from the US? (@auroraphillips_)
Most expensive part of a trek in Nepal might well be the plane ticket over, even an inexpensive one is going to be over $1,000 to get there. Once you’re there, you can really choose the style you trek in and how much money you spend.
What are the top 3 precautions for trekking there? (@jayavardhant2904)
1: Understand altitude or make sure you are with a guide company that does.
2: Make sure your guide company or local operator practices leave no trace ethics and treats their workers fairly.
3: Watch the weather. You’re in the big mountains and storms can come anytime.
More About Everest
When to Go:
Nepal receives its heaviest amount of rainfall, called monsoon season, from June to August. The best times to trek EBC, although they are peak season times with higher traffic, are pre-monsoon season (February, March, April, and May) and post-monsoon season (September, October, November, and December). If you are trying to avoid the masses then we recommend not going during April or May. December, January and February can be the most challenging months to trek because of the freezing temperatures (-4ºF to -22ºF) and unreliable weather conditions which can result in delays.
Where to Fly Into:
The most common trek to Everest Base Camp is on the South Side of Nepal. Most of the climbers attempt from this side, with the other trek from the North Side, by way of Tibet/China. Most South Side Everest climbers fly into the small Lukla Tenzing-Hillary Airport via Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport. Lukla was actually named the most dangerous airport in the world due to its tiny 1,729 foot long runway followed by a 2,000 foot cliff drop. Despite this, it’s actually Nepal’s busiest domestic airport. There are usually five flights throughout the day between the Lukla and Tribhuvan and prices on Yeti Airlines hover around $350. Tribhuvan is Nepal’s largest and only international airport that is accessible via other international airports around the world with most flights connecting through Doha’s Hamad International Airport.
Stuff We Love:
Khumbu Climbing Center (KCC) Located in the Phortse village, the Khumbu Climbing Center is the dedicated home to Sherpas and indigenous Nepalese. For fifteen generations they have been learning all the technical climbing and portering skills necessary to safely trek Mount Everest. KCC was created in 2003 by the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation with its mission is “to increase the safety margin of Nepali climbers and high altitude workers by encouraging responsible climbing practices in a supportive and community-based program.” The headquarters aims to not only provide trainings and a community meeting place, but also house climbing gear, educational materials, and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation’s office. The dZi Foundation The dZi Foundation is a non-profit that helps people in remote communities in Nepal. They implement community-driven programs that improve public facilities, public health, income levels, and educational opportunities all while trying to preserve community unity, the natural environment, and the indigenous culture.
The Juniper Fund The Juniper Fund focuses on providing relief to families and community members of Nepali workers who have been involved with climbing expedition accidents that have resulted in injury or death. The fund has been tremendously supportive to the local communities by providing those left behind with funds to cover living expenses, education and awareness about safety precautions, insurance for local workers, and education and health.
What’s the deal with teahouses?
Not to be confused with quaint little houses that serve tea and biscuits, these Nepalese teahouses are more so like bed-and-breakfasts that also happen to serve tea! They are scattered along the Everest Base Camp (EBC) region and are most often family-owned and operated. You can expect to pay anywhere from $5-$20 per night with varying facilities and quality. Trail-goers opt for these as their accommodation as it’s a convenient and easy option. Each teahouse serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with breakfast being included for overnight guests. Very few teahouses take reservations in advance, but in the most busy season, like May, guides can help to arrange reservations.
Food you will encounter:
The local Nepalese cuisine packs in the energy, fat, and calories to their most popular dishes. This is because living at such high altitude and with labor intensive work these people have especially high metabolisms and need all the fat and carbs they can get into each nourishing dish.
Sherpa Tea/ Butter Tea: Referred to as “Su Cha” in Nepali, is a popular tea drink made with butter. The high calorie drink helps Sherpas consume enough calories for the highly tiring portering work. The tea is traditionally prepared with brick tea, salt, yak milk, and yak butter and is enjoyed at every meal.
Dal Bhat: Traditional Nepalese meal which consists of steamed rice, lentil soup (dal), and vegetable curries. The porters and guides supposedly eat Dal Bhat for lunch and dinner have a saying, “Dal Bhat power, 24 hours.” Meaning, if you eat Dal Bhat you will have power to trek for 24 hours.
Thupka: Thupka is a hearty and filling Himalayan noodle soup that is made with wide noodles, meat, broth, and vegetables that is usually enjoyed for dinner. It is high in fat and carbohydrates with is perfect for replenishing the energy levels of guides and porters after a hard day out on the mountain.
Momo: Momo is the Nepalese version of steamed dumplings that are often served at dinner alongside Thupka as a side dish. The wrappers are generally made from wheat or millet and the filling is usually beef or lamb but can be filled with vegetables too.
Tsampa: This porridge treat is made from finely ground up and roasted highland barley that gets mixed with tea and yak’s milk and shaped into dough-like sausages. Tsampa is traditionally eaten by for breakfast everyday and also served as a side dish for lunch and dinner.
Chhaang: Nepalese beer made from fermented rice, barley, or millet and served warm in the cold months and served room temperature in the warmer months. The beer looks milky white and at first taste is sweet but has a tarte aftertaste. Locals enjoy Chhaang at dinner and at social and festive occasions.