Everest Base Camp Trek Day 1 – Trek from Lukla to Phakding

Lukla Airport in Nepal & Hike to Phakding
Lukla Airport in Nepal & Hike to Phakding

Trekking to Everest Base Camp

Tips, Photos, and Details

Everest Base Camp Trek, Lukla Airport in Nepal, Mount Everest, Kathmandu – you’ve likely heard all of these words, but it’s another thing to experience them! Specifically, the incredible trek of a lifetime…

In this article:
Traveling to Nepal for the Everest Base Camp trek
Checking into our Pre-Trek Hotel: Thamel, Nepal
Flight From Kathmandu to Lukla Airport in Nepal
Everest Base Camp Trek Day 1: Hiking from Lukla Airport to Phakding

In March 2015, I set off on the adventure of a lifetime with 3 good friends. We would be completing the Everest Base Camp trek in Nepal to stand and look at the beauty that is Mount Everest. We were prepared for a difficult hike, but what we weren’t quite prepared for was getting stuck in a gigantic snowstorm and having to do the trek in 2-3 feet of snow.

The trek to Everest Base Camp took everything we had – physically and mentally – and was the hardest thing I’ve done to date, given the conditions and length of our trip. At the lowest point on the Everest Base Camp trek, we were at 8,700 feet, and at the highest, just under 18,000 feet. Round trip, we hiked about 80 miles, and for every up-hill, there was a down-hill that followed. The map below only shows 32.57 miles from Lukla Airport in Nepal to Gorak Shep, but that doesn’t include our day hikes which got us to about 80 miles round trip, total.

Below, I’ll share my experience and advice for trekking to Everest Base Camp. Luckily, for most who go during the busy season, this much snow would not be a problem but in its place you end up with the crowds. On our trek, we saw maybe 30 people the entire way up, but heading down as the busy season opened, the trails were bumper to bumper with trekkers.

I highly recommend trekking the Himalayas for everyone – regardless of your experience and physical condition. Even if you just fly to the Lukla airport in Nepal, which is an experience of its own! There are all sorts of treks that can be geared to your level. Many people trek only as far as Namche Bazaar and back, but still get a distant view of the glorious Mount Everest. So get up, start planning, and get over there!

Everest Base Camp Trail Map
Everest Base Camp Trail Map


Traveling to Nepal for the Everest Base Camp trek

To get to Nepal, we spent a whole lot of time on trains, planes and in automobiles. We weren’t stoked about our long flight to Kathmandu, but we were very excited for the flight to the Lukla airport in Nepal!

We started in San Diego and took the coaster up to Union station (luckily they sold booze on the train!). From there, we grabbed a cab and drove about 40 minutes to LAX. Our flight left around 10:30pm on Thursday, and we flew straight through Friday, landing in Kathmandu around 11am on Saturday morning.

Our flight to China was delayed an hour, but luckily our flight out of China was also delayed so that worked out. Note for anyone flying through Guangzhou, China – coffee is oddly expensive! Ransom and Steve got a cup of tea, and a double shot of espresso…and it ended up costing them about $17. Food there wasn’t incredibly expensive, but we couldn’t believe how expensive their drinks were!

Two hours delayed, we landed in Kathmandu and worked our way through customs. For some reason, I always have trouble figuring out what forms I need to fill out going through foreign customs. We all filled out the paper documents sitting along the wall and paid our $26 fee. Note: they say they accept credit cards, which is nice if you have a card that doesn’t charge international fees. At the next desk, we found out that we had missed a step, and had to go back to the digital machines, answer the questions, smile for the photo…then wait back in line.

The whole customs process ended up taking us about an hour. Finally we got through to baggage claim and our bags were sitting there waiting for us, which was nice. However, I didn’t know that I would need my baggage receipt to be able to take my bag! I found it later buried in a pocket, but it took some convincing to get the airport policeman to let me take my bag.

Our guide, Gyanu, with Apex the Asia Holidays, who had been referred to me through a personal reference, was outside the airport waiting for us. Luckily we recognized each other after being facebook friends for a while! We piled into a Jeep and off we went to Thamel, an area known for being very young and touristy.

Checking into our Pre-Trek Hotel: Thamel, Nepal

Our hotel, Hotel Access Nepal, was right in the center of everything, with heavy security day and night. Certainly makes you feel secure, but also makes you wonder why there’s so much security. Anyway, we got two rooms for the 4 of us, each with two twin beds. They were decent enough rooms – fair size, flush-able toilets, clean. There was an elevator which seemed big enough only to carry about 3 people, and there were rolling power outages, so sometimes it was out of service for that. For the price we paid, we hadn’t expected much and this met our standards.

There were restaurants all around Thamel, so there was no shortage of places to eat, and plenty of shops in every direction (all selling the same things). We ran some last minute errands with Gyanu to prepare for our Everest Base Camp trek, grabbed some dinner, and were in bed pretty early. The next morning we would be heading out around 4:30am for a 6:00am flight from Kathmandu to Lukla airport in Nepal, one of the most dangerous airports in the world.

Thamel itself is a fun town to explore. We got to spend a few days browsing around post-trek which was nice. There is decent food, and apparently their cover bands really like 90’s alternative rock, which I was happy with. Also, inexpensive massages which is great post-trekking!

Everest Base Camp Trek Day 1

Flight From Kathmandu to Lukla Airport in Nepal

Here it was. Finally. Everest Base Camp trek day 1. Let’s do it!

Step 1: Flight to Lukla airport in Nepal – the infamous airport.

None of us had trouble getting up on time. We were all so excited  to start, and our bodies didn’t know what time it was or where we were anyway. Sarah and I were wide awake around 2am, but managed to close our eyes until 4am. Gyanu was prompt in the hotel lobby and the hotel gave us “trek” breakfasts (a paper bag with a banana, pastry, juice box and hard-boiled egg). We checked the luggage with the hotel that we would be leaving behind for the trek, and we were ready to go.

We all needed to find an ATM still – we had pulled out some cash to pay our guide with the day before, but apparently banks have limits. We luckily found an ATM down the street to pull out extra money – apparently, pretty much everything closes down in Thamel after the clubs close. And I do mean it closes down. Metal garage gates pulled down covering everything. Our hotel had a hole literally cut into the metal that you would walk in and out of so that they didn’t open the entire wall. Crazy!

Back at the Kathmandu airport, we were pushed in like cows being herded into a barn once their doors opened. Once we got through security we were able to relax for a bit. There were a few other trekkers pushing in with us, but since we were pre-busy season, there weren’t a whole lot of people.

Gyanu took care of all our check-ins and ticketing, and around 6:20 we were called to board our bus that would take us to our itty bitty plane for Lukla airport in Nepal. Gyanu had told us to get seats on the left, if we could, because that would be the best view of the Himalayas…they were incredible! It was hard to see much of the landing since the lady in the front seat was completely monopolizing the view with her iPad………but at least we had the side view.

Weather wise, we were extremely lucky for our flight to the Lukla airport. Gyanu said we had one of the top 5 easiest Lukla airport Nepal landings. Usually the plane is thrown all over the place, but ours was smooth sailing. Gyanu gathered our bags and found our porters, Omar and Nira, and we settled at a teahouse a few steps away for some tea.

Next stop, Phakding!


Everest Base Camp Trek Day 1

Hiking from Lukla Airport to Phakding

Elevation: ~9,400 feet to 8,600 feet
Mileage: ~5 miles – mostly downhill

Everest Base Camp Trek: Trail Map of Day 1 to Phakding
Everest Base Camp Trek: Trail Map of Day 1 to Phakding
Elevation from Lukla airport to Phakding
Elevation from Lukla airport to Phakding

Day 1 of the Everest Base Camp trek was was our easiest trekking day, by far. An easy 3 hour trek, mostly downhill, going from about 9,300 feet to about 8,600 feet. The views were already incredible, but nothing compared to what we would see over the next few days. Every so often we would have to move to the side and wait as we were passed by a Yak/Cow or donkey train of supplies.

Fun note: At lower elevations, they breed the Yaks and Cows since the Yaks can’t live in the warmer climate.

We crossed a few suspension bridges, which I personally had been dreading since I’m terrified of heights, but they weren’t THAT bad. At least that’s what I thought on day 1. Day 2 was a different story.

We got to our tea house in Phakding, the Royal Sherpa Resort, and Gyanu had us sit down for lunch before going to our rooms. This was usually the case for most of the trip – the Porters would handle getting the keys and putting our bags at the door.

Being as this was Everest Base Camp trek day 1, we weren’t sure what to eat. Gyanu recommended the popular Dal Bhat – potatoes, lentils, and rice – a staple on the trek, and one of the safest foods you can eat.

About an hour later, it started raining, and just didn’t stop. We had hoped it would let up a bit so we could go explore down by the river or see if there was more to the town, but no such luck. The rain continued on with no sign of stopping, our chance of exploring the area went out the window.

Once again, we had 2 rooms for the 4 of us (it would be the same for the whole trek). We loaded into one room keeping ourselves entertained with brain teasers and podcasts. The rooms were simple, as expected. Two twin beds…and nothing else. We did have a bathroom in our room with flush-able toilets, which was nice, and there was a shower head, but we were all clean enough that we didn’t bother to consider a shower here.

Eventually we all enjoyed a brief nap and woke up just in time for dinner. We were all pretty tired and didn’t last very long after our big plates of noodles and garlic soup – all out cold by 7:30pm. We knew there had been a chance of a storm passing through, but it wasn’t very likely for this time of year, and we all know how often weather forecasts are spot on. We went to sleep hoping that by morning, the rain would stop or ease up. But really, what fun would that have been…?

Now that you’ve read all about Everest Base Camp trek day 1, read on to the rest of the trek!

4 Responses

Thanks for reading - feel free to add comments or questions below!