Everest Base Camp Trek Day 4 – Tengboche: water, cheese & mental battles

– Since this post, I’ve been to EBC and other treks in Nepal several times. In fact, I’ve written many guidebooks about all Nepal between then and now! This post is in its original format from my first trek to Everest – I hope you enjoy it.

If, however, you are looking for up to date information on the trek then do head over to my practical travel guide on the Everest Base Camp Trek where everything from costs to getting a guide is covered. Also, do visit my about trekking in Nepal page and use the menu there to read more about this and many more treks. Meanwhile, enjoy these posts about what it’s really like to trek to Everest Base Camp –

Trekking through Tenboche Nepal
The hardest thing on the Everest Base Camp trek in winter is the mental effort

Trekking survival in Nepal

It is the off-peak winter season,  Nepal is cold. It’s colder still in the mountains. But, I must personally say nothing as cold as compared to the Annapurna Circuit I trekked previously. However this does not add nor detract from unfolding current events.

I expected the Everest Base Camp trek to have better facilities. Better accommodation, and better food given the synonymous name it carried. Strangely this is not so compared with the other regions I trekked in Nepal.

Accommodation here is more expensive and you get a lot less for what you pay for. There are no free hot showers either.

How your Everest Base Camp Trek accommodation & food is priced

Each area you stop over at on the various trekking trails in Nepal is administrated by a local council. A sort of make up of lodges, tour agencies, local villages and so on.

They set the forthcoming seasons prices when it comes to room fees and meal costs. They also control what’s available in various lodges. There is some resemblance of structure here. It means no one runs rampant with their prices. There are minimum prices set and after that it’s up to the owners to add on more should they want to.

It can also lead to a whole region taking on a for profit mentality than can spread to other areas due taking the lead, and having a famous name …

More money, fewer facilities

On the Annapurna circuit you can still get a hot shower with the price of your room. But on the Everest Base camp trek it’s an additional fee.

Horse and foot trekkers in Nepal
How difficult or easy is a trek in Nepal? It’s up to you. Go on Horse, helicopter, solo, or group. Different times of the year matter here too.

I am paying about 200 rupees a night for a room. A low rate due to the time of year and my powers of persuasion. AKA find an empty lodge in the cold winter off-season.

To have a hot shower from solar heaters will cost me the same as my room.

1 litre of water is also up to 120 rupees – 200 rupees a bottle.

Boiled water is still 80 rupees.

From what I’ve heard this idea of charging for showers will soon be implemented all over Nepal’s trails.

I for one am happy to go shower-less for now.

Saving money with no compromises when trekking in Nepal

Water is one of the biggest expenses on any trek in Nepal. While recycled water stations are meant to be running, in the cold off-season they are not.

The water up here is often free of heavy metals and pollution. A streipen can be a great thing in such conditions if you have one. Used with boiled water it can protect you from various bugs. And, from what I’ve worked out given the current prices you’ll break even financially compared to only buying bottled water on a trek like this.

The other choice for water purification are iodine pills. Very cheap, taste horrible, but kill nearly everything in the water that’s bad. You can however get something to take the bad taste away.

There are also chlorine drops which take a little preparation.

I personally go the 50/50 route of boiled iodine water and chlorine bottles of water. Along with some fresh bottled water everyday too.

Bring your own supplies on a trek

Unless you are going with a porter carrying a lot of food or supplies is not feasible. I don’t use a porter. I wish I could afford to right now as it always seems like a very nice idea when you are starting to suffer from AMS.

But, I do carry several energy snacks to help keep me going. Local trekking bars from Kathmandu or Pokhara are great, not too heavy but filling. So too are dried fruit bars that really pack an energy blast. Yak cheese is perhaps this trek’s greatest addition. There’s nothing quite like rounding a meal off than with some heavy cheese.

A block of Yak Cheese from Nepal
My block of Yak Cheese … a great help!

Finally, some mints or other boiled sweets for all that heavy breathing  and deep cursing at having broken boots wrapped in tape. I know many disagree with taking sugary sweets but it does help with a dry mouth and throat.

Is every trek in Nepal like this? No. You can choose from easy and hard treks in Nepal. Check out my dedicated page on trekking in Nepal.

The personal mental challenge of a trek during the winter

I felt so so before the trek. Now my mind is switching off. The route to Tengbouche (3,867 meters/is not that visually spectacular. It’s rough dry trails with lots of brown mountains.

Yes, blue skies and flashes of giant ice capped mountains startle my brain awake every now and then. I look up, feel like I’m somewhere special, then my boots slip and it’s head back down again. Altitude is also taking it’s toll now on me as the few hours of trekking a day now feel like double that. And this is where I feel the real strain of a winter trek to Everest.

Previously on the Annapurna circuit it was the final few days of ascent I found hard. Here, I find the long up and down monotony of the Everest Base Camp trail laborious. Worse yet is that with every step my broken hiking boots remind me of my own faults in overlooking the most basic of needs on a trek.

Solitary mental anguish

We’ve come across no trekkers heading in our direction. Only those coming back.  It’s me and Narayan for most of the day and night.

My mind is not here. It is in distant lands thinking of life there.

This is the altitude

I think of a quieter gentler life. No pressure. Get a job. Buy a television. Give in. No more worry.

And, it is here with these thoughts that I find my heart kicking in and looking up at the white peaks thrusting into the blue sky whilst digging my heels in further.

If I was to give in. Then I wouldn’t be here in the first place.

I move on.  I keep going. It’s just me and my mental battle now.

Coming Soon:

Everest Base Camp Trek Day 5  (the very worst day) 

The Everest Base Camp Guide:

Planning a trip to Nepal and trekking to Everest Base Camp? For all the details on what to do, when to go, permits need, costs, maps and much more check out my dedicated Guide to Everest Base Camp.

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22 Replies to “Everest Base Camp Trek Day 4 – Tengboche: water, cheese & mental battles”

  1. My first thought was, “a bottle of water is the same cost as your room? Ouch.”
    But then I looked at my notes on doing the Jomsom trek in 1998. We hired a private guide and porter and stayed in guesthouses we found along the way.
    This is what I wrote then “Along the trekking route room rates ranged from 60rp to 450rp for a double room, but the standard was about 100 rp. Sometimes we had to pay 30 rp. for a hot shower. Dorm rooms were available for 35-40 rp. We almost never had a room with our own toilet, and when we did, it wasn’t really worth it” (because of the smell). “Food was more expensive, and we spent about 800-1200 rp a day for the two of us, including bottled water and snacks, and three meals a day.”
    At the time the rupee was 67 to the US Dollar. Looks like today it’s 79 to the dollar so costs really haven’t gone up as much as I thought that had in 14 years.

    1. Interesting to read your numbers Kristina.

      Was your trek in peak season or off season?

      I’m really curious to know as your prices match my APC in 2007/2008 which was in the off season. And just around the time when they introduced that 10% service charge. Which has also been supplemented with a 13% VAT charge in pricier Thamel like places. Not so much in the treks. Though the 10% is.

      Off season and peak season prices are anywhere between 50% and 1/3 of a difference. Next month the first peak season is arriving. And a KTM room is going from 450 to 800 in the space of a day.

      1. We were there in November. If you want to go waaaaay back, check out my post from 1998 (and please forgive the crappy web design; http://www.wired2theworld.com/nepal2.htm
        I wonder if the major downturn in tourism from all the political troubles contributed to holding back price increases in the last decade.

        1. Hey no worries, it’s the content that counts :)

          November, at least today, is counted as peak season. So that would account at least for 40-50% of the price difference we’re seeing.

          According to Nepal Tourism, numbers in 2011 were the highest ever (let’s not forget it was their promotional year!)

          According to the local tour offices both big and small they saw fewer tourists in 2011 than in 2010/2009/2008.

          A few local journalists caught up on this, and the number of small tour agencies & restaurants closing down due to bad numbers. It seems the government numbers are largely based on overseas package group bookings. With a huge swing in the increase of Chinese and Korean numbers. Coincidentally new trade agreements have been signed between all three recently.

          Either way, local private business never get to see any money from these package tours as they are carted around by only a few “select” agencies to “select” trekking agencies, places to eat, shop etc. We won’t mention if any of these big business are linked to friends of friends, but anyway!

          Today I notice prices for tourists going up compared to 2007/8. And entry fees being added for just about anything. One can’t even take a 20 rupee bus to Bhaktapur now as you’re automatically charged 50 rupees. Argue, and get out. Locals don’t like this. A college boy apologized to me for his fellow people cheating tourists all the time these days.

          There’s definitively a marked increase in “tourist” places. While just a few streets away local prices are pretty much the same. That said, the cost of property here has skyrocketed and is completely out of proportion to value. Unregulated of course, so you can ask for whatever you want. Then your neighbors all join in.

          As I’m sure you know, this sounds like Nepal through and through. But coming back it’s very east to see a massive cost difference between rich Nepalese, poor Nepalese and overseas “Asian” investors followed by the good old tourist prices!

  2. I am surprised at how relatively balanced your meals were. I was always told that your practically ate nothing but butter on those sort of hikes your body burned that much energy.

  3. If you had to choose, which one would you pick? Annapurna Circuit, or Everest Base Camp?

    1. Interesting. Back in 2007/2008 I would have said hands down the Annapurna Circuit. Better accommodation, views and a loop trek as opposed to an up and down trek.

      Today the Annapurna circuit had a road practically going all the way to Jomson. In fact I think it does go all the way now. Not so nice for those looking to get away from vehicles.

      Whilst Everest lacks the loop, and really great views apart from a few look out points, it’s got the name. Most people I’ve met who say have you been trekking don’t say much about anything until you say you’ve been on the Everest Base Camp trek. Then it’s all coos and whistles.

      I’d say it’s up to you to base it on what’s important. Both are great experiences on way or another.

  4. I think the mental preparation is equally important as physical preparation for trekkers, if not more so. A lot of time, the positive mental attitude conquers the altitude.

    Don’t know if you made it to your destination but I thoroughly enjoy reading the journey. :)

  5. You’re so right about it being a mental battle. I come across those strange moments during a hard trek or hike, where I start thinking of ‘other’ places I’d rather be while quite forgetting that I wanted to do that trek. …Or I end up staring at the ground, wondering why I chose to do it if I was just going to end up staring at the ground & cursing myself for putting myself through torture. Physically challenging activities do that, I guess.

    I hate that feeling of having to ration or filter your own water for the sake of cost; that thought alone makes me more thirsty! But I totally had to resort to it. I’ll have to try the steripen. I was using a sports water filter and that took EFFORT.

    1. Yep, staring at the ground and a lot of talking to oneself! So long as no one else hears, it’s okay!

      But rationing water is never a good thing. I learned that in Africa. Kick butt before letting that water run low.

      A sports filter? ewww. Nearly as difficult as a chalk filter! And those are horrible!

      Yep, baby wipes. Probably the only nice smelling thing at this stage!

  6. I envy you…. for the yak cheese. It is the best sheese i ever had, but can’t find here in the USA. Do you know of anywhere else or how I can get it here?

  7. Starting to make your way up Dave. Slow and steady wins this race, and like yourself I’ve seen many people go to hard. Sometimes it’s not always bravado, but just people who really need to slow down their stride when they walk.

    I’ve trekked and climbed in the Himalayas and Andes quite a few times at various spots, and one of the hardest things I had to do is to slow my walking pace down. I’ve got a naturally quick walking pace, and if you combine this with the altitude you can be in for some serious problems. (of which I have faced, with a good case of Pulmonary Edema to show for it.)

    I also wouldn’t let anyone be put off by eating a sweet or two along the route. I used to live on Dal Bhart and chocolate bars for a month at a time. The Dal Bhat for that slow release energy, and the processed sugar for that quick burst when you need it…..

    1. I’m a fast walker too Jason. And you’re right, it’s hard to slow down. Even when you’re gasping for air.

      That said it’s the cold wind that I found hardest here. Against us all the way.

      I think the people who say not to eat sweets are reckon it’s to do with sugar using up too much water. Or something like that. Either-way, I’m devouring polo mints!

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