Everest Base Camp--glorious or garbage?

Week of October 5-12, 1995

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Rafting Virginia's wild and woolly whitewater
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The bone-breaking ecstasy of the Eco-Challenge
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Everest Base Camp: glorious or garbage?

Everest Base Camp--glorious or garbage?
Q: Some friends and I are planning on doing the trek to Everest Base Camp. We have been gathering information on guide services and "do-it-yourself" itineraries. Any advice for a first-time Nepal trek?
John D'Amour
Santa Clara, CA

A: While there are definitely pros and cons to both alternatives, you may want to reconsider trekking to the over-used, over-crowded Everest Base Camp. Most outfitters these days bypass Base Camp in favor of off-the-beaten track routes to the top of 18,192-foot Kala Patar, where you'll get better views of Everest and the Solu Khumbu--without having to wade through all the garbage left behind from previous climbing expeditions. Wilderness Travel and Above the Clouds Trekking both offer 27-day, full-service trips, with about 20 days of non-technical but rigorous trekking; all you'll need to worry about is your daypack and camera--porters will carry the rest of your gear, set up camp each night, and prepare your meals. Both groups have spring and fall 1996 departures, with fall/post-monsoon season being more popular because everything is green and the days are clear. Expect to pay anywhere between $2,195 and $2,550 per person, depending on the outfitter and the number of people in your group; everything but international airfare to Katmandu is included. If you've got a lot of extra time and have your heart set on making it to Base Camp itself, the do-it-yourself route may be your best option. Be aware, however, that this may nearly double your trekking time for a variety of reasons, and you'll need to take special precautions as first-time trekkers. For starters, flying into or out of Lukla as an independent trekker can be extremely difficult; the habitually bad weather and fog there mean frequently canceled flights, and the planes that do take off are usually booked solid by outfitters--all of which can leave you stranded in the airport for several days. If you opt to hike in from Jiri to Lukla instead, you'll need to set aside an extra nine days on both ends of your trip to make this trek. Another consideration: Finding sherpas and porters to carry your gear and negotiating a deal can take up to four or five days; be forewarned, also, that often times porters will want to "renegotiate" for more money a few days into the trek. One other word of caution: You'll be above 16,000 feet for much of this strenuous trek, so it's advisable to have someone with medical training in your group--just in case. The upside to all of this is that once you get organized, it's up to you to decide your route and final destination, be it Everest Base Camp or not. For more information, contact Above the Clouds Trekking at 800-233-4499 or Wilderness Travel at 800-368-2794.

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