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Must you trek to Everest Base Camp? What are the other options in the Everest region?

View from Everest view lodge - Gokyo Lakes Trek

Must you trek to Everest Base Camp? What are the other options in the Everest region.

The Everest Base Camp Trek is hands-down the most popular trek in Nepal. It is rated #1 among the best treks in the world by Lonely Planet. Stunning mountain views, easy access, relatively good lodges and minimal objective danger are reasons why trekkers will continue to flock to the Everest region. Additionally, the Everest Base Camp Trek (EBC trek) specifically is a bucket-list item for many. While a majority who visit are seasoned hikers, a surprising number of novice hikers slog through the thin air undergoing various hardships. This just to tick off EBC from their list of destinations to visit in this lifetime.

Trekker numbers to the Everest region on the rise:

Visitor numbers to the Everest region has seen a steady increase over the years (see chart below). After the lock-down was relaxed in 2021, total trekkers in the Everest region in the months August – December reached 4,755. In comparison, in the same period in 2022, the number of trekkers reached 26,564. This spike was understandable given that people were beginning to travel more after the pandemic. Similarly, from the period of January – July 2022, trekker numbers reached 18,802. In comparison, in 2023, the number of trekkers in the Everest region from January – June (awaiting July data) has reached 29,612. Total trekkers to the Everest region from August to December in 2023 could very easily cross 40,000. This  is almost equal to the total number of visitors in 2022.

SAARC countries include India, Bhutan, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But a majority of the trekkers listed in this category were from India. Perhaps the Bollywood movie Uunchai has inspired many from India to trek to Everest Base Camp. The movie is loosely based on the Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson starrer ‘The Bucket List”. And rightly, for many, the Everest Base Camp Trek is a Bucket list item. All this means that there is some degree of crowding especially during the months of April and October which are historically considered the best months to trek in the region. And if you are someone who likes relative peace and quiet on the trails and at the lodges, you may not want to share the trails with hundreds of other trekkers. Below are two ways to avoid the crowds:

Choose an alternative trek in the Everest region:

Of the total trekkers in the Everest region, more than half trek to the Everest Base Camp. A few trek towards Gokyo and a few others trek up to Tengboche. A great way to avoid the crowds is to do an alternative trek and avoid the route to Everest Base Camp. Don’t worry! Even on these treks, you will have great views of Mt. Everest. Some trek options include the following:

  • If you have limited time and wish to see Everest and the surrounds, the best trek for you would be the Tengboche Monastery trek. If you add one day and must get to one base camp, you can add a side-trip to Amadablam Base Camp.
  • Trek to Gokyo Lakes with the option of either crossing the Renjo La pass to Thame or heading back down the same route. Some trekkers would argue that views of Everest are better from Gokyo than from Kalapathar.
  • For those in top shape and looking for a challenging adventure, trek the Ultimate Everest Trek or the Three passes Trek route but forgo the trek towards Everest Base Camp. There are many vista points on these treks to view Mt. Everest. And if you wish to scale to over 20,000 feet, you could climb Island Peak, Lobuche Peak and/or Mera Peak.
Mountain view from Renjo La pass
Mountain view from Renjo La pass

Trek to Everest Base Camp during the so-called “low season”:

You can also avoid the crowds by trekking to Everest Base Camp during the so-called “low season”. One fact you probably didn’t know is that lodges in the Everest region are open 12 months of the year. Hence,  one could trek here any time of the year. It wouldn’t make sense to trek during the monsoons. But it isn’t such a bad idea to trek to Everest Base Camp in the Winter months of December and January.

Do note, there is a trade-off: It will be COLD. In the Winter, temperatures can dip to around -25 C (-13 F) at night at the highest camps. Hence one would have to prepare accordingly. Rooms are not heated. While all lodges do provide a blanket, take a warm sleeping bag too. That said, the days are relatively warm at around 5 to 7 C (35 to 40 F). Also, if there is fresh snow, every day on the trek may not be as clear as in October. But, again, not every day will be over case and you will have views of the high mountains. And most companies will offer an off-season discount.

On the other hand, if you do not like being too cold but still wish to avoid the crowds, trek to Everest Base Camp in early March or late May. One added advantage of trekking in the Everest region during the low-season months is that you can fly directly from Kathmandu to Lukla to Kathmandu. And you would avoid the drive to/from Manthali for flights to Lukla (and back). Read this article for information on flights out of Manthali.

Chart showing a breakdown of monthly trekkers in the Everest region:

Trekker number to the Everest region
Trekker number to the Everest region

Note: The arrivals are listed by Nepali month which usually starts around the 15th of the corresponding English month. So Magh would include 15 days of January and 15 days of February. Similarly Poush includes 15 days of December and 15 days of January. Also, included in this data are Nepali trekker numbers – these are Nepalis who go to the Khumbu region and are required to purchase a National Park Permit. This data does NOT include locals of the area or porters.

 

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