"A trip to Everest Base Camp in December is completely doable as a vegan"
Myself, my husband, my sister, her fiancé and my father in law trekked to Everest Base camp in mid-December 2019. The trip comprised a 12 day hike from Lukla, up the mountain and back. As a vegan I was unsure whether or not there would there be food for me, or if I’d have to resort to eating vegetarian (the Nepali people eat mainly vegetarian diets, but still consume dairy.)
Luckily a lot of the food and meals prepared on the mountain are vegan friendly so I didn’t struggle at all, much to my obvious delight. A lot of people ask if Everest Base Camp in December is doable as temperatures do plummet during the month (our mean night time temperature fell between -15 to -25!) However, if you can handle the cold it’s completely doable, and in my opinion, one of the best times of the year to go. The mountain is much less busy with people traffic, the mountain views are nothing short of spectacular, the skies clear blue, and it’s an overall cheaper time of the year to go. So, what was it like? Well, here is my first hand, vegan account of our trip.
Day 1: Arrive - Kathmandu
Our guides from The Nepal Trekking Company met us at the Kathmandu Airport and drove us to our hotel in central Kathmandu. After debriefing us, we took a walk around Kathmandu, had dinner and were off to bed.
Day 2: Fly - Lukla (2840 m) trek - Phakding (2610 m).
We woke early and got on one of the first planes from Kathmandu to Lukla, the Tenzing-Hillary airport. The Airport is considered as one of the most dangerous in the world, which I completely agree with after flying there. The runway is 600 meters off the edge of a cliff and if visibility is poor there is the potential for the planes to crash into the side of the mountain.
This was hands down the worst part of the journey. Getting into a tiny ass plane big enough for 15 people (including air hostess and pilots) and flying aboard this rickety hunk of junk to land on a tiny runway jutting out the side of a mountain was simply terrifying. I’m not a good flyer on the best days, so after 30 minutes of terror, crying and nearly screaming – thankfully we didn’t die and landed safely at the airport.
With the worst part over our real day began and we had a short hike ahead. Trekking to Phakding, you start the hike going downhill, following a stunning trail into the wilderness. Once we reached the town some 3-4 hours later we ate a late lunch at our tea house (mine of course being the vegan noodles) and had the rest of the day to chill.
Later that day our group actually headed out to an Irish Pub that was in the town. Really surprising there’s ’Irish Pubs’ at most places we stopped at actually. Everyone had a beer except me, I had some horrid red wine (Nepali wine is clearly not for me) and then we returned to our tea house for dinner and an early night’s rest.
Day 3: Trek - Namche Bazaar (3440 m).
Our hike continued along the Dudh Koshi River the next day before climbing up through the Himalayan Pine and Deodar, beautiful Cedar forests that engulf the Himalayas, before finally making it to Namche Bazaar. Namche Bazaar is the business and trading point for the Everest Region and is still an important place for trade between Tibet and Nepal. This was a long day of strenuous hiking, so we were glad to reach the fabulous town and settle into our lovely little tea house atop the hill.
Day 4: Acclimatization - Namche Bazaar
Although it’s considered an acclimatization day, in the morning we still undertook a mildly strenuous hike to a lookout point higher up - where we got our first view of beautiful Everest. After taking some snappy snaps and enjoying the views, we went to visit the Tenzing museum.
This stunning little museum pays homage to both Hilliary and Tenzing (more Tenzing though) for being the first to summit Everest. There is even a big statue commemorating Tenzing, with a lovely view of Everest behind it. Later in the day we returned to our tea house and I had my last shower for the next 7 days, the cost of which was $4. The shower was ok, but honestly getting in and out of a hot shower into a very cold bathroom with no heat is not ideal.
Day 5: Trek to Tengboche (3860 m).
In the morning we were off again in the icy cold. As we walked, we took in the panoramic views of mountains such as Thamserku, Mount Kantega and Mount Kusum Kangru. After a gentle decent, the trail rose steeply uphill before we finally came across the stone gateway to our next town, Tengboche. Before reaching our tea house, we stopped off at a very cool little Buddhist monastery. Although no monks were praying at the time, we were allowed to walk around inside and take a look at the beautiful interior (no pictures allowed though.)
Our tea house was basic but comfortable. The toilet was awful, a single long drop situated at the end of a corridor lined with rooms. Due to the cold, piping throughout the region had frozen so no running water was available for the duration of our trip, only big barrels filled with water and a jug next to the long drop for flushing down waste. It was starting to get really cold now, and at that altitude (3860m) after a long day’s hike I started getting really tired as well. By the end of the day I was exhausted, in bed at 20H00 after another vegan meal of noodles.
Day 6: Trek - Dingboche (4410 m).
The next morning we continued our walk to Dingboche. On the way we crossed through more forests and after following the river, went through several small villages, stopped for lunch and saw some of the best views of majestic Mount Amadablam. What a stunning sight - some of the mountains in this region are completely underrated (Everest taking all the glory.)
Everest is only slightly higher than them in any case, and not nearly as pretty.
In fact, you don’t really get to see Everest all that much, its hidden behind Mount Amadablam and Nuptse which are spectacular in their own right, some of the most magnificent mountains I have ever seen. Dingboche was where some things started going a bit downhill for my sister as she started feeling the effects of Altitude sickness. She started complaining of a sore stomach and slight nausea. At that time it wasn’t that bad, and as we were having an acclimatization day the next day, we thought it safe for her to continue on.
Day 7: Acclimatization - Dingboche
Another rest day meant another hike. We climbed the ridge to the north behind the village and witnessed spectacular views of Mt. Amadablam, Mt. Lhotse, Mt. Cho Yu, Mt. Makalu and other peaks. My sister unfortunately was still complaining about nausea at the end of the day, but she was adamant to continue, with our guides keeping a watchful eye on her.
Day 8: Trek - Lobuche (4910 m).
Off again this time to Lobuche, the second last tea house before Everest base camp. The landscape here becomes even sparser as the trees give way to the most beautiful arid scenery imaginable. Open mountain planes, beautiful blue skies and spectacular views, we were incredibly lucky with the clear weather despite the cold. We stopped off at a village called Thukla. It was too early for lunch so decided to push though without eating and just had some tea. At that time, things got even worse for my sister. She was feeling even more nauseous and we still had a massive hill to climb before Lobuche which was 1.5 hours away. Adamant that she wanted to continue, yet not really strong enough to, we rented a horse to carry her up the mountain for the rest of the day. Amazing, these horses are something else. They know the mountain and footing like you cant believe, and are able to nimbly trot over jagged rocks, boulders and stones – literally never seen anything like it.
So $100 later, up and off she went on the back of this brown beauty to Lobuche.
The four of us, along with our guide continued up the hill away from Thukla. At the top we reached the Thukla pass memorial. Thukla pass is at 4830m, a place commemorating those climbers who died climbing Mt. Everest. There are an insane amount of memorials at this hilltop and a spectacular sight. Here you start to get a sense of how harsh these mountains truly are, and how difficult it must be to summit them. We stuck around for a while and took some pictures, taking in the scenery and appreciating the moment before continuing onward.
We finally made it to Lobuche where my sister was not in a good shape at all.
That evening, she started experiencing the real signs of altitude sickness, nausea, vomiting, and a headache at the back of the head. After consulting our guide and a local nurse, and despite the fact that Everest Base camp In December is cold as all hell, she had to go down the mountain. The words of the nurse ‘’go down, or dead in bed!’’ It was too dark for a helicopter or a horse, and even though it was -15 outside, my sister, her fiancé, our guides and porter took her down to Thukla where they spent the night.
Day 9: Trek - Gorak Shep (5140 m) & Everest Base Camp (5364 m)
Luckily, all was well and the next morning my sister’s fiancé and the guide returned to Lobuche without her (after a 1.5 hour morning hike.) She was fine after descending, almost immediately feeling better the further down she went. Unfortunately that was the end for her as she couldn’t make it all the way to Everest Base; she was going to wait for us at a tea house lower down instead.
We had now reached the most important day of our hike. We left Lobuche and were met with glacially cold, windy weather conditions. For whatever reason the wind was going mad overnight and it was absolutely freezing, but we trudged onward to follow the trail across several mountain glaciers and finally reached the dry lake bed known as Gorak Shep. This was a 3.5 hour trekking affair in the worst, coldest, harshest conditions I have ever hiked in. We dropped our gear at our tea house, had a quick lunch of tomato soup and chips and readied ourselves for the next part of the day, our hike to Everest base camp. I was so cold at this point I decided to bring along my hot water bottle for the next part of the hike.
After many aches, pains and hardship, we trudged on for another 2.5 hours to finally reach Everest Base camp at 5364 meters.
What a magnificent sight and feeling finally getting there, it felt like literally being on top of the world. Although it was freezing as all hell I managed to take a few pictures, enjoy the views and relish the time just being there, at the bottom of the world’s largest mountain.
We then trekked the 2.5 hours back to our tea house at Gorak Shep and relaxed for the rest of the short afternoon. Completely exhausted from over 8 hours of hiking, we were about to experience our coldest night of the trip yet.
The mercury hit -24 that evening, and because of the wind the actual feel was -31. Literally, have never been that cold before in my life. There is no comparison to that temperature where water literally freezes before it hits the floor. I cannot imagine how people actually live in such extreme weather conditions, it was an experience I’ll never forget. We were warm enough in the common area though, and when it was bed time we jumped straight in and went to sleep.
Day 10: Trek - Pheriche (4240 m).
Unfortunately the next day we were unable to climb the hill of Kalla Patthar before leaving Gorak Shep. Kalla Patthar is the best view of Everest in the region without actually climbing Everest. As the temperature was -40 at the top of Kalla Patthar, no one was able to ascend the hill that morning. Although this was a real pity, at that point we had set out to do what we wanted and were good to start our descent.
So we said our goodbyes to Everest, the cold of Gorak Shep and off we went down the mountain.
Our trek to Pheriche was fast paced and downhill, it’s amazing how fast you descend from vs. ascending. It takes much longer to ascend as you go quite slowly, with the altitude taking its toll on your body. Once we reached Pheriche, my sister was there waiting for us (feeling a lot better.)
Day 11: Trek to Namche Bazaar (3440 m).
Off to Namche Bazaar the next day. The trail descended steeply down from Pheriche before we crossed the suspension bridge over the Dudh Koshi River. From here, the trail became more stable and after a few more hours of walking, the beautiful forests sprang up around us again. Finally, we reached Namche Bazaar. We were in high spirits when we arrived, so myself, my husband and father in law went for a cocktail at a local pub, we also watched a movie about the Sherpa’s and were joined later by my sister and her fiancé.
Day 12: Trek - Lukla
After breakfast we made our way out of Namche and were pleasantly met by a processions of about 50 stray dogs who came to say goodbye to us and escort us out the town. The stray dogs of the Himalayas are absolutely beautiful with stunning thick fur and lovely temperaments, so friendly and warm, it’s difficult to not take them all home with you. They escorted us out the town and one of the strays even stayed with us for a few hours before going off on his own later on.
We crossed another suspension bridge and then had one last climb up a massive incline to eventually reach Lukla.
After making it to the top and finally reaching Lukla our guides had a little surprise waiting for us. We were expecting very basic accommodation (as we had the entire trip) but were overwhelmingly surprised when we were given the best rooms I have ever seen (well not really, but were at least 3 star) each fully equipped with their own bathroom and western toilet! It was literally heaven and the first shower I had since Namche on the 2nd day. I felt like a million bucks. That night we had a little party with our guides and porters, bought them dinner and gave them their tips.
It was a lovely way to say thanks for all the hard work they had done for us.
Day 13: Fly back - Kathmandu.
It was New Years Eve and time to leave the mountain to return to Kathmandu. Unfortunately our flight from Lukla was delayed by 1.5 hours, but eventually we set off (the flight back not half as scary as the flight there.) We returned unharmed and went back to our hotel in Kathmandu. That evening we were spoiled by our guides who took us for a lovely dinner at a traditional Nepali restaurant where were enjoyed a wonderful Nepalese show and the most delicious vegan Indian food I have ever had.
As it was New Year’s Eve, we hit the town thereafter and partied our way into 2020 at a local club.
Day 14: Leave - Kathmandu.
Time to say goodbye to Kathmandu and be on our way home.
The Nepal Trekking Company
Hands down the best tour guides in Nepal, if not the world (and no they didn’t pay me to say that) – I would 1 million percent recommend the Nepal Trekking Company should you wish to undertake the challenge that is Everest Base Camp. They also offer a lot of other adventures, just ask and they will tailor make a package just for you.