As you all know by now, I’ heading back to Nepal and the Himalayas next April for another Everest Base Camp Trek.
This one’s a bit different to the one I did in 2013, it takes in Gokyo Ri (5,483m) and the crossing of the Cho La and I get to see the amazing Gokyo Lakes, as we head towards Kala Pattar and Everest Base Camp.
What AM I doing?
If anyone finds my common sense please let me have it back.
When I did the Everest Base Camp Trek last year I was a complete novice (something about jumping in with both feet springs to mind). I knew nothing about trekking, high altitude or the terrain, and I relied on lots of blogs and advise from experienced trekkers to give me info on what I needed to do to prepare, and how best to handle the experience.
EBC Trek Training – 4 steps
At least this second time around I’ve got a bit of an inkling as to what I’m going to face – which makes it even more crucial that I find that common sense that seems to have gone missing as I’ve got older!!
and, in the way of training,
I know what worked for me and what didn’t.
So, for those doing the Everest Base Camp Trek for the first time here’s my tips on how to prepare. These 4 steps, I think, are the essentials when you start preparing for your big adventure.
I should point out here that I’m no expert, but I know what worked for me. So, take my thoughts and ideas into consideration but run your own game, plan your own trek and enjoy the process.
1. Get your mind into gear.
In my humble opinion this is the first and possibly the most important step if you’re considering, or maybe you’ve already booked, a trek in the Himalayas.
The adventure you’re planning is something that most people wouldn’t even consider. You’ve made that huge decision that will probably see you stepping so far outside your comfort zone that you’ll need a trail of breadcrumbs, Hansel & Gretel style, to find your way back.
Actually, once you’ve succeeded though, I think that’ll be the last you see of that comfort zone. There’ll be no going back, no stopping you.
But – you’ve made that decision and you need to be well & truly okay with it.
You need to be more than okay with it.
You need to embrace the whole adventure. You need to be excited & thrilled & scared, in equal measure.
You need to know that it’s not going to be easy but you also need to get it through your head that you can do it, you have no option.
You will succeed and you’ll do everything in your power to make it happen.
Okay – clear on that? So, what’s next?
2. Get the body into condition.
Obviously this is an absolute necessity if you’re going to enjoy the trek. You need to have your body in the best possible shape that you can so that you not only finish the trek but you really enjoy it.
I’m not saying that you have to be an Olympic class walker or a race fit runner or that you need to have biceps and triceps that bulge – you don’t (thank goodness). But, there are certain things that you need to get your body in tune with.
In my experience the most important exercise you can do is to climb steps before you go – as many as you can, every day if possible.
Until you’ve been there you simply cannot imagine how many steps there are in the Himalayas!
I’ve found the perfect set of steps close to home and I go up and down them as often as I can. There’s 126 of them and when I started the step training again a couple of months ago I was going up and down them four times each session, I’ve gradually upped that number so that now I go up and down them 12 times. It’s not easy, I need to stop for a break a couple of times but it’s doable and it’s worth it in the end.
As Bear Grylls would have us believe – ‘Train hard, fight easy.’
There’s also an added bonus of climbing the steps – my research tells me that this is a form of anaerobic training, it’s very good for altitude training and apparently many mountaineers climb lots of steps in preparation for their ascents.
Apart from climbing you need to get your core strength happening.
Abdominal crunches, side bridges, planks and kneeling opposite hand to leg pulses – every day. This will also help you stay injury free when carrying heavy packs.
Read up on these exercises or get expert advice. You can work on it at home by yourself or, if you need encouragement or motivation, join a fitness group or boot camp, find a training partner – whatever works for you.
Note: If you have any health concerns or are unsure if this sort of exercise is for you please check with your doctor.
You’re going to be trekking for anywhere between 4-8 hours a day up in the Himalayas, so you need to be able to hang in there.
Walking is good, again as much as you can.
When it gets to last couple of months before your trek, put on your backpack, gradually put some weight in it and walk. Find different terrains – there are no concrete footpaths up there in the mountains. Walk on the beach, on gravel tracks and if you can find them hike up and down some uneven hillsides.
Hike it – in the last couple of months before my last trek I was hiking 10kms, three times a week with a full pack.
It worked, I survived!
3. Look at your Diet
This may not be essential in your preparation but I like to think I’ve done everything I can to help me succeed and enjoy my trek.
From what I’ve learned antioxidants are the key in your diet to helping convince your body that it’s ready to climb. To this end the foods that are high in antioxidants and that are likely to make a difference are things like:
- Greens – spinach, broccoli.
- Green tea.
- Red wine.
- Dark chocolate.
I’m lucky in that I like most of the above and so have no trouble incorporating them in my diet. I’m sure the red wine should be consumed in moderation but if you are going down the alcohol road – make it red.
4. Get your gear
This is the fun part – figuring out what gear you’ll need, researching and then buying the stuff. This is just a brief run down on where to start.
Get them now! If you’re reading this, have a trek planned and don’t have your boots – go get them now. The more time you have to wear them in the better. I wrote all about my boots when I was preparing for my last trek but to summarise.
- Make sure they are a perfect fit – less than perfect is not acceptable in a hiking boot.
- Try different brands and styles and widths – they all fit differently.
- Walk around the shop for a while before you decide.
- Try them on with the socks you’ll be wearing. Generally two pairs of socks is best to prevent chaffing – a liner pair and then a thicker pair of trekking socks.
This is another important item and again it needs to fit you. Take the time to get it right. Ladies – try out the ones made specifically for women, they usually fit better, anatomical differences do make a difference.
Make sure it’s the right size for your purpose – if you are carrying all your own gear you’ll obviously need a larger pack than if you have porters carrying most of your stuff. Don’t get a huge one if you’re not going to need it. I found my Deuter Futura SL - a 30 litre pack was perfect.
I’d never used hiking poles before but I would have been lost without them on my last trek. When I say poles, in my case it was just pole – singular.
Most people use two poles but there are the minority – me being one of them – who prefer to use just one pole. I just found it easier and I liked that I had one hand free – it’s a personal preference thing.
Again get them in plenty of time to practice and become familiar with them.
Light weight clothing and layers are the way to go. You’ll be limited with weight so you need to be very mindful of what you need and what you don’t. I actually found that I needed less clothing than I took, you’ll be wearing the same thing most days.
Layering is the key:
- Base layer – designed to wick moisture away from your skin – synthetic, technical fabrics are the best, they absorb minimal moisture, they’re quick drying and lightweight.
- Mid layer – the ‘warmth layer’ provides insulation, retaining your body warmth. A ‘softshell’ or ‘fleece’ is a good choice.
- Outer layer – a fully waterproof layer with high breathability. Gore-Tex is the well known fabric that will keep out the rain and the wind.
Water bottles, snacks, personal first aid kit, plastic bags, torches, hand sanitiser, gloves, camera, spare batteries etc. etc.
If you’re trekking with an adventure travel company they’ll no doubt give you a list of what you need and it’s the little things that can make all the difference. Over the next couple of months, while I’m preparing and getting my gear together for this upcoming trek, I’ll do some posts for you on some of the little things that I found made life easier the last time round.
Enjoy the whole experience
It’s an exciting adventure that you’re planning and preparing for. You’re maybe a little bit scared, a little bit worried, but you’re a whole lot excited – right?
Take that excitement and run with it – enjoy the whole process, and when you stand there, almost on top of the world, you’ll have that grin on your face that tells everyone that you’re proud of yourself.