Trekking the Himalayas

May 8th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Have had quite a few people ask about how to go about doing a trek in the Himalayas, so here’s what we did – for those interested.

Choose a company

Almost everyone sensible uses a company to arrange guides, porters and accommodation. On a personal recommendation we used Himalayan Encounters, and they were excellent. I can recommend them without reservation.

The cost was around US1,500 each and this covered:

  • Three nights accommodation in Kathmandu
  • Flights between Kathmandu and Lukla
  • 16 nights accommodation in tea houses on the trek
  • A guide and two assistant guides (for a party of five)
  • A porter per two people (they can carry up to 30 kgs) so three porters

Our guides were top class. They were incredibly safety focused, and were very helpful to me when I got altitude sickness. They were also informative and a lot of fun. I recall at one stage I had to take a leak on the way back from Everest Base Camp, so went behind a large rock. They yelled out that it was a holy rock, just to freak me out (it wasn’t). Lots of fun chatting to them in the evenings also and playing card games etc.

Airfares

The company covers the internal airfares. We travelled Malaysia Airlines (booked before they lost a plane) to and from Kathmandu. They lost or delayed my luggage both times, and their planes are old and tired. The service was pretty average. I would not use them again.

Other costs

  • Food tends to cost around US$25 a day per person, but we actually ended up around $30 a day. Prices increase the higher you go, but very reasonable for three meals a day.
  • If you want hot showers, electricity, wireless Internet then the cost is around $3 for a shower, $2 an hour for electricity and wireless ranges from $5 flat rate to $12 an hour near the very top.
  • Tips for the porters and guides. We tipped a pretty significant amount because the service was so good. Lonely Planet has some general guidelines.

Route

It takes around 12 days to go to Everest Base Camp and back if you go directly up and down. If you can spare the extra five days, I highly highly recommend the 17 day route via Goyko and the Cho La Pass. It is harder, but the views are even more spectacular – and you get to do a loop, rather than up and down the same way.

Health

I joke that our biggest achievement was none of us got Travelers’ Diarrhea. has the highest prevalence of this in the world. If you’re trekking up to eight hours a day, you really don’t want this.

We were religious with disinfecting our hands constantly. We used water purification drops or tables on all our water – even for teeth cleaning. We did not eat meat above Namche.

I did get altitude sickness. The rest of the party didn’t. You won’t know if you do, or not, until you get there. Make sure you have a spare day in the schedule, and once above 3,000 metres don’t climb more than 500 metres a day (or technically don’t sleep more than 500 metres higher than the night before).

Generally need to immunise for Hep A, Hep B, Polio, Tetanus, Diptheria and Typhoid. Malaria not a high risk trekking. Rabies is more a risk in Kathmandu than trekking.

General

Some general issues, taken from Lonely Planet guide:

  • Monkeys are holy, but also aggressive and have rabies. Avoid, but do not kill!
  • If a bear attacks, lie face down in the ground
  • Do not give money or food to beggars, but you can donate to schools or monasteries
  • Purify water with iodine – do not buy bottled water. Drink 2l to 4l a day
  • Do not wear leather (shoes or belt) inside Hindu temples and wear long trousers in all temples, and no photos in most temples
  • Always pass on the left of religious objects, not to the right
  • Ask people before taking photos of them
  • PDAs are frowned upon
  • Don’t point soles of feet at people
  • Do not touch children on the head
  • Give or receive money with your right hand and touch left hand to elbow as show of respect
  • Lukla Airport has been rated the most dangerous airport in the world – seven crashes since 2004 with 36 fatalities
  • Nighttime temperatures can be as low as -20 degrees
  • Never get between a yak and the ledge as they may knock you over!
  • Power surges common so voltage guard with spike suppressor recommended
  • Nepali culture uncomfortable with the display of the female leg
  • Viagra every 12 hours can help prevent altitude sickness!

Gear

I’ve included my gear list below after the break, for those interested.

If you don’t plan to tramp or trek a lot, then it will be far cheaper to buy most of your gear in Kathmandu or hire it in Namche. They have absolutely everything and it is exponentially cheaper.

But if you want top quality gear that you can keep using for other treks and tramps, then you end up spending a lot of money at Macpac, Kathmandu, Bivouvac and Mountain Designs.

The one thing you must have in advance are your boots, as you do not want to try out new boots on a 17 day trek.

Clothing

Base – Merino x 2
Bootlaces (spare)
Boots – Tramping
Gaiters
Glasses – Sun
Gloves
Hat – Balaclava
Hat – Sun
Hat – Warm
Jacket – Down
Jacket – Light (Rain and Wind proof)
Shirt – Merino 140
Shirt – Merino 195 x 2
Shirt – Merino 320
Shirts – T-Shirts x 2
Sandals
Shorts
Singlet – Thermal
Socks – Heavy x3
Socks – Light x2
Sweater – Fleece
Togs
Trousers
Trousers – Over
Underpants
Underwear – Longjohns

Gear

Bag – Canvas 100l
Cards (Playing)
Credit Cards x 2
Ear Plugs
Money Belt
Pack – Daypack 30l
Paper
Passport – plus photocopy
Pens
Photos – passport x 4 (visa, trek visa x 2, sim card)
Plastic Bags
Pocket Knife
Sleeping Bag (suitable for -20 degrees)
Sleeping Bag Thermal Liner
Torch
Towel (medium)
US Cash
Walking Sticks x 2
Water Bottle x 2
Waterproof Bag for Sleeping Bag
Waterproof Liner for Canvas Bag
Waterproof Pack Cover
Waterproof Pack Liner
Wet Wipes

Electronics

Battery for Torch
Camera
Cord – camera charging
Cord – external batteries charging
Cord – iPhone charging
Cord – Laptop charging
iPhone
iPhone external batteries x 2
Kindle
Laptop
Plug – double
Plug Adaptor – Type C
Plug Adaptor – Type D
Power Surge Protector

Health

Anti Chafe Cream
Anti-altitude sickness – Diamox- 125 mg tablets x 36
Antibacterical cream – Mupirocin (Bactroban) cream
Antibiotic – Ciprofloxacin 500mg tablets x 12
Antibiotic – Zithromax x 3
Antidiarrhea – Loperamide/Immodium x 20
Antiinflammatory – Ibuprofen 200mg tablets x 20
Antiseptic – Povidone/Iodine 15 mls
Band Aids
Blister Patches
Deodrant
Hand Sanitiser
Insect Repellent
Lip Balm
Pain Relief – Panadol x 10
Rehydration – Gastrolyte
Shaving Cream
Soap
Strepsils x 6
Sunscreen
Toilet Paper x 4
Toothbrush
Toothpaste
Ventolin Inhaler
Water Purification – Aquamira

Food (for snacks while trekking)

Dried Apricots 400 gms
Beef Jerky x 4
Chocolate Bars (small) x 12
One Square Meal Bites x 16
Raisin packets x 12

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17 Responses to “Trekking the Himalayas”

  1. Igotta Numbum (463 comments) says:

    Viagra every 12 hours can help prevent altitude sickness!

    No altitude sickness = hard time climbing :)

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  2. Neil (586 comments) says:

    Are you sure that you haven’t made an error with the $US 1 500 pp for the actual land part of the trip. I realise there are additional costs.
    I have been to Nepal and travelled from Bangkok to Kathmandu by Royal Nepal Airlines – not too bad.(It won’t be Royal Nepal now since the monarchy was abolished)
    I decided to see the Himalayas the easy way, flying up and back around them plus flying over Everest. You would have had a great experience David

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  3. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    Viagra every 12 hours can help prevent altitude sickness

    Nice try, Farrar.

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  4. secondcumming (93 comments) says:

    Hmmm, after reading this, think I’ll just stick with Waiheke ….even if it is more expensive for a week.

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  5. Longknives (4,753 comments) says:

    “If a bear attacks, lie face down in the ground”

    Is that so they can identify you after Mr Grizzly has torn each of your limbs off to snack on??

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  6. Peter (1,712 comments) says:

    If a bear attacks, lie face down in the ground

    Might be a comical pose after taking all that viagra…..

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  7. Scott (1,800 comments) says:

    I admire the way DPF sticks to his principles-the royal family comes to town and like the true republican he is he leaves the country. Going trekking on the Himalayas to me is a way over the top method of avoiding the royal tour but that’s our guy. My understanding is that come next royal tour he is saving up for a visit to outer space!

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  8. wreck1080 (3,917 comments) says:

    why are personal digital assistants frowned upon?

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  9. KH (695 comments) says:

    Malaysia Airlines. Used them twice and they were superb. Universal feedback from friends has been the same. Would seek them out in the future. There are some dodgy airlines about but MH370 is not an indication of that. There is always the possibility when you step on any plane.

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  10. ross411 (841 comments) says:

    Your posts about your well photographed trips are much appreciated. While you seem to go on a lot of holidays, I am sure it is because you’ve worked hard and your business is doing well. I hope it does even better in future, so that I can enjoy reading more of these.

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  11. aquataur (56 comments) says:

    Hi David
    What was the weight of your day pack and the pack the porters carried ?

    [DPF: Around 6 kgs and 12 kgs respectively]

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  12. lolitasbrother (698 comments) says:

    extra good

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  13. Fletch (6,390 comments) says:

    U can purify water with bleach, can’t you?
    Not that u want to carry bleach with you.

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  14. Dave Mann (1,222 comments) says:

    I always love your travel articles and photos, DPF. I don’t think I’ll ever trek in Nepal, but I really enjoyed this roundup, thanks.

    You would make an excellent travel writer. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that you also write a travel blog under a different name! :-)

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  15. Uplander (46 comments) says:

    Thanks David. Enjoyed the commentary and photographs.

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  16. talena (1 comment) says:

    That Viagra tip is worth remembering when tramping in NZ, too. If you’re in the top bunk in the hut, it helps stop you rolling out in your sleep.

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  17. Crusader (314 comments) says:

    Well done. Nice summary.

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