If you've trekked in Nepal, chances are good you hired an American adventure-travel operator to set you up with a package tour led by western guides and supported by local porters. That arrangement came about because the western companies can guarantee quality and, more importantly, they can book trips through their access to the western market. But all that is slowly changing. With the Internet, there's no reason American travelers can't go straight to the Nepalese guides.
Take Jiban Ghimire, the 46-year-old proprietor of Sherpa Shangri La Treks & Expeditions. Since 1990, the native of Salu, in the Ramechhap District, has been outfitting and supporting trips for Alpine Ascents, International. This year, he's outfitting two Eddie Bauer First Ascents Everest expeditions, two North Face/National Geographic Everest expeditions, another for Alpine Ascents, and one more for Vertical Chile. Ghimire, who fell into tour guiding after attending law school in Kathmandu, speaks perfect English, understands expedition logistics, and has an easy nature that instills confidence.
He also knows everyone in Nepal. Flight from Kathmandu to Lukla delayed? (We're waiting for the weather to clear as I type this.) No problem. He's already booked a helicopter that he gets at a discount. Need a phone while you're here? Done. He'll get you an Ncell for half of what you pay for cell service in the States.
Sherpa Shangri La operates out of Kathmandu's awesomely named Yak & Yeti Hotel and offers a three-week trek to Everest Base Camp for $2,500. Itinerary includes a day of sightseeing in Kathmandu, flights to and from Lukla, and nights in lodges along the trail. Just remember to sign up via the Internet.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first American ascent of Everest and its then-unclimbed West Ridge, Eddie Bauer has sent a team of seven mountaineers to repeat the historic climbs. Outside Magazine senior editor Grayson Schaffer is currently embedded with the team at Base Camp, sending back daily dispatches, including stories, photos, and videos. A team sponsored by The North Face and National Geographic is also planning on ascending the notoriously treacherous West Ridge, a route nearly as many climbers have died on as have summitted. Schaffer will be covering both attempts, as well as everything else that happens at Base Camp, until early June.