Though it’s unlikely that holidaying hikers will come close to replicating Tenzing’s feats, it’s possible to get close to the peaks he conquered. Don’t worry about the ice picks or clamp-ons, all you‘ll need are some sturdy hiking boots and a thirst for clean fresh mountain air.
Choose your trekking company carefully
While it’s possible to simply lace up a pair of boots and start walking without a guide, it’s not recommended. Not only will a guide keep you on the right trail, local guides are a font of information on culture, customs and other important issues. Like where is the bathroom? Or is the drinking water boiled? Go with the experience of a company like Nepal Hiking Team and you’re in good hands. Their guides have been hiking the mountains since childhood and have built a reliable reputation amongst Australian trekkers who keep going back for more.
Guide Ganga Thapa and hiker on the Everest Base Camp hike _Photo: Nepal Hiking Team_
Choose your trekking route
One in four visitors to Nepal go hiking on trails reaching altitudes up to 5,000 metres above sea level. The most popular routes are found in Everest, Annapurna and Langtang regions though there are also hiking trails at Kanchenjungha in the east and Dolpo in the northwest.
Everest Base Camp comes with extreme bragging rights thanks to its lofty turnaround point in the shadow of mighty Mt Everest. At 5,364m It’s not quite the top of the world but you can certainly see it from here! Annapurna treks are breathtakingly beautiful, taking hikers across terraced mountains, around azure lakes and through pretty villages clinging grimly to steep slopes. Heritage trails combine hiking with cultural and community immersion. Off-the-beaten track trails are good for experienced hikers who want to get up close and personal with locals and their cultures, hike remote trails and don’t mind roughing it.
Hiking to Everest Base Camp comes with huge bragging rights _Photo: Fiona Harper_
Best trekking season
March to May is splendid as the mountains shed their winter coat and mountains are ablaze with colour as wild rhododendron forests bloom. The monsoon season is generally between June and August so it’s best to avoid trekking during this time. During October to December you’ll generally find clear skies and sunshine during the day though it gets pretty cold in high altitudes. Don’t be surprised to see overnight snowfall on the Everest Base Camp trail come mid to late December.
Tenzing Norgay Sherpa grew up not far from the village of Namche Bazaar, where a statue honours him _Photo: Fiona Harper_
There’s an old saying that goes ‘if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel. It’s especially relevant on a trekking holiday: make sure you have adequate travel insurance. Though hiking is generally safe there are some risks involved. Potential hazards include broken bones from a fall, getting the runs from unsafe food or water or succumbing to altitude sickness. It’s common sense when visiting a developing country to ensure your vaccinations like tetanus, typhoid and Hep A are up to date before you go.
Though you do need a certain level of fitness to hike in Nepal, Everest Base Camp is ‘doable’ for most as daily distances are not great. Hiking at altitude is a challenge – be aware of the symptoms and prepare to abort your hike if altitude sickness develops.
Drinking boiled and bottled water is one way to prevent getting sick _Photo: Fiona Harper_
Unless you’ve been in a wifi black spot for the last ten months you’d be aware that Nepal suffered a violent earthquake in 2015, shifting the capital Kathmandu three metres southwards. Nepal sits at the juncture of two tectonic plates which can be volatile. The process of releasing pressure is what created the majestic Himalayan mountains in the first place.
At the time of writing the Australian government advises travellers to Nepal to exercise a high degree of caution, giving it the same rating as Thailand or Indonesia. Trekkers should take the normal precautions you’d take in any foreign country – keep your valuables close to hand, travel with a reputable guide and lock your hotel room door. Riding on the roof of the bus is not recommended!
Locals ride atop buses in Kathmandu – tourists should take a seat inside the bus! Photo Fiona Harper
What else is there to do?
Plenty! Plan to spend time in Nepal either side of your trek to experience some of the other thrills on offer for adventure travellers.
Tandem ultra light flights or paragliding around Pokhara are hugely popular; gliding on updrafts in the lee of the Annapurna Ranges. Try your hand at white water rafting on a glacial river, zip line down a mountainside or learn how to climb up the rock face of another. No soft adventure destination would be complete without bungy jumping and Nepal is no exception. Try the world’s longest freefall bungy near the Tibet border north of Kathmandu.
Tandem paragliding flights are very popular amongst the Annapurna mountains _Photo: Nepal Hiking Team_