Trekking to Everest Base Camp is not for the faint of heart. The trek is approximately 110 kilometers (or nearly 70 miles) and gains 9,000′ (3,000m) in elevation. Knowing exactly how to train for Everest Base Camp will benefit you as you prepare for the most memorable journey of a lifetime!
What the trail to Everest Base Camp is like:
There are actually a number of different routes to get to Everest Base camp. Some include high Himalayan passes with gorgeous views, others have a side-trip to climb a nearby 6,000 meter peak! For simplicity-sake, I will talk about the standard route. Know that trail conditions will be incredibly similar no matter which route you choose.
The Everest Base Camp Trek is known for STAIRS. The trail is not a steady incline. It goes up, it goes down, then up, then down, and up, and down again. When you land in Lukla at just over 9,000′, your trail starts primarily downhill to the village of Phakding. From there, you will follow the riverbank. After that, you will head up the steep pitch to Namche Bazzar which sits at over 11,000′. Past Namche, you will make your way to the Tenboche Monastery. This involves a steep decent back down to the river, before you climb back up to the monastery.
At this point, you will have a gorgeous view of the Khumbu region including Ama Dablam. You will make your way down into the Khumbu Valley. Once you are out of the trees, you will pass through several more villages on your way up to the Khumbu Glacier where Base Camp is located. Climbing Kala Patthar is also a must if you plan to visit Everest Base Camp. This involves a moderately steep trail at 18,000′.
What this means for training:
There are a few key elements that will be necessary for a trek of this magnitude. To ensure success you must focus your training on endurance, leg strength (particularly around the knees), and mental strength. The long distance, unfathomable amount of stairs, and high-altitude will be the biggest physical challenges you face. Having strong cardio capacity will help your body adapt to the high-altitude. Strengthening your legs and your knees for the long distance, and ALL THE STAIRS will be crucial. Finally, being able to maintain physical energy for hours on end will help you maintain energy during the long days on the trail.
The mental challenges on the trek to Everest Base Camp will be different for everyone. However, there are commonalities which can be exacerbated by those physical challenges. Lack of self-confidence, fear, illness, weather, exhaustion, and seclusion can all effect your mental ability to conquer your goals. The elements commonly faced at high-altitude are unpredictable. Learning how to power through the elements and stay mentally strong will be just as, if not more important than your physical training.
Why it is important to train for Everest Base Camp:
Thanks to the internet and apps like Instagram and Facebook, wanderlust fever is getting more people outside than ever before. Those who are successfully making it to Base Camp are training beforehand.
When I was training for my first trek to Everest Base Camp, I had no reference, and no idea how to effectively train for the high altitude. The only think I knew I could do was practice being up high. Mentally, the trek to Base Camp was the hardest thing I had ever done, short of recovering from my eating disorder. Shortly after I came home from Nepal, I became a certified personal trainer. I studied sport performance and mountain performance. In the end, I figured out exactly what I needed to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro. When I got home, people asked how hard the climb was. My reply was that it was easy, in fact way easier than Nepal! I even summited a day ahead of schedule! This was because I had figured not just the physical component, but the mental one as well.
There was plenty of trial and error, research, and education. In the end, I had dialed in an effective approach to endurance training for high-altitude. In addition, the most crucial and important piece to my training stems from utilizing mental performance to help you succeed. Not only do I now help others achieve their climbing dreams, I continue to apply it in my own life.
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Take a look at my mountain performance coaching program. My program works by combining both personal training and mental coaching to completely prepare you for trekking and mountaineering expeditions.