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How should I train for the Everest Base Camp trek?

May 16, 2022
Reading time: 12 minutes

The Everest Base Camp trek is a tough cookie. Most of us need to train well in advance to cope with its demands. We discuss how to train for this fantastic high-altitude adventure so that you can set off confident you're ready for the challenges ahead!

One of the core components of your Everest Base Camp (EBC) preparation is training physically. We recommend that you engage in some targeted training for a few months before the trek. We offer specific advice below on just how to do this.

The Everest Base Camp trek is totally within reach of most of us, you just need to put in the work beforehand!

But first, you might like to watch the video below for some EBC trek inspo ...

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How fit do I need to be for the Everest Base Camp trek?

As we discuss in How hard is Everest Base Camp?, you need to be decently fit to successfully complete the EBC trek. Most days you hike for roughly five to eight hours. moreover, on the outward journey to reach base camp, most of your trekking is uphill. Only on the return trip is there a lot of downhill.

You also have the increasingly high altitude to contend with. Trekking at altitude is tough because your lungs are operating on reduced oxygen. At worst, this can lead to altitude sickness. At best, you feel somewhat breathless and every task requires more effort than usual.

The graph below shows you how high you climb on the Everest Base Camp and Gokyo Lakes trek, which is an exciting extension of the classic Everest Base Camp trek that we highly recommend. (You can learn about both routes here.)

Everest Base Camp trek elevation

Map showing the elevation of the EBC and Gokyo Lakes trek

The good news is that you don’t carry the bulk of your belongings on this trek – this is the job of your porter. But you do carry your own drinking water and whatever else you need for the day in a daypack, so there will be a little extra weight each day on your back.

Note too that the route is at times rocky and uneven. Near to base camp, you’re also walking on scree, navigating rocky riverbeds, and (in some seasons) traversing snow and ice. You want strong ankles and sure footing to tackle this terrain confidently. 

EBC trekker path mountains Nepal, Antonia and Dennis pic

The path can be rocky and uneven, pic by our clients Antonia S. and Dennis L.

With the above information in hand, you can see that you need to be decently fit to tackle the EBC trek without having a meltdown along the way! Moreover, you don't want to only just manage it – you want to thrive and enjoy it. The fitter you are and the more you train, the more likely you are to have a successful and enjoyable trek.

 

Take your physical prep seriously

Every year numerous folks who attempt the Everest Base Camp trek have to turn back before reaching base camp. Some turn back because of altitude sickness, others because the physical demands of the trek are just too much.

While altitude sickness (a big topic) is somewhat random in terms of who it afflicts (youth and fitness aren't guarantors against getting it), failing to make it to base camp because of a lack of fitness is totally within your control. We'd hate to see you put in all the time, money and effort to go to Nepal and then not make it to base camp because you simply didn't train enough.

EBC trekker on small bridge crossing a stream among snow and ice, Antonia and Dennis pic

The thin air near EBC makes everything more tiring, pic by Antonia and Dennis

So we cannot stress enough the importance of taking your EBC physical training seriously.

Start early

We advise that you start to train at least three months before your trek. If you can start earlier than that – brilliant! Ideally, you should actually start training six or more months before your trek.

Remember that the more effort you put in, the greater the chances that you reach Everest Base Camp. And, of course, the more likely you are to enjoy the whole trek as well!

EBC trek Nepal suspension bridge route prayer flags packhorse forest, Dennis and Antonia pic cropped

And boy is there a LOT to enjoy along the way, pic by Antonia and Dennis

How do I train for the Everest Base Camp trek?

The primary and most important way to train for an EBC trek is to go on hikes. Lots and lots of hikes. Hiking offers the perfect all-round exercise and preparation for a multiday trek. We discuss training hikes in detail in just a moment.

But given that most of us cannot manage multiple hikes a week, we suggest you implement a weekly training schedule in the lead up to your trek that includes the following:

  1. Strength training
  2. Aerobic workouts
  3. Cardiovascular workouts
  4. Training hikes
Group photo FA EBC

Always keep your goal in mind when training

1. Strength training

Strong, conditioned legs are an invaluable asset when trekking to Everest Base Camp! You're climbing (and then descending) nearly three vertical kilometres between your starting point and base camp! You also want a strong core to prevent any injuries.

Some of the most effective leg-conditioning exercises which you can do with just your body weight (i.e. you can do them anywhere!) are:

  • Lunges
  • Side lunges
  • Squats
  • Toe ups
  • Wall sitting*

* This is where you lean your back against a wall and slide down into a chair-like sitting position. You then hold the position for as long as you can. Feel the burn!!

Women doing outdoor squats exercise

Embrace the burn

Try to do exercises that engage the entire body, rather than using gym equipment that isolates individual muscles. The latter can lead to disproportionate muscle development (and is also not time efficient).

As a general rule of thumb, do three rounds of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise. Take a short break in between rounds to rest the muscles.

2. Aerobic workouts

Aerobic training is about getting your heart rate up. This is a really good aspect to include in your training for the EBC trek as it helps your body to function well on less oxygen.

Some highly effective aerobic exercises (which cost nothing) are:

  • Stair running
  • High-knee, on-the-spot running
  • Box jumps
  • Jumping jacks
  • Burpees
  • Jumping squats

Alternatively, you could do a regular Zumba, spinning, aerobics or similar class at your local gym. You know you're doing your aerobic training well if you get really, really sweaty and out of breath!

3. Cardiovascular workouts

woman cyclist cycling on road

Get that heart rate up in whatever way you fancy!

Cardiovascular training is exercise that trains the heart and lungs. Some of the most common (and popular) forms of cardio training are running, swimming, cycling and rowing.

We recommend doing some cardio training at least three times a week.

Your weekday cardio workouts should last for at least an hour, while your weekend workouts should last for multiple hours, especially the closer you get to your climb date. Remember, you're going to be hiking for hours each day on the EBC trek!

Of course, the ideal cardiovascular training for the EBC trek, as mentioned, is hiking! Hikes should form a core part of your cardio workouts. With this in mind, let's talk training hikes ...

4. Training hikes

Ideally, your training hikes should mirror the challenges of trekking to Everest Base Camp as much as possible. Think:

  • Long daily hikes
  • Steep inclines
  • Uneven footpaths and scree
  • Very cold conditions (even snow and ice)
  • High altitude
woman hiker on coastal trail

We assume you love hiking, so this sort of training is ideal in so many ways!

Of course, start off simply and increase the various aspects of difficulty listed above as your fitness grows. This is another reason why it's important to start training early: you have enough time to build up your hiking fitness.

By doing training hikes, you'll also become more familiar with the sort of kit that you find comfortable and works for you.

Hike regularly

Ideally, we recommend that you make hiking your regular cardio workout. So that would mean one or two short hikes during the week, and one or two longer ones on weekends.

A couple of overnight preparatory hikes will also get you used to sleeping in tents, if that's something that's new to you.

You might also like to read Trekking tips for beginners.

EBC route trekkers snow rocks, Antonia and Dennis pic May 2022

A section of the Everest Base Camp trek route, pic by Antonia and Dennis

Hiking alternatives

Of course not everyone will be able to do manage regular hikes. Don't worry. The next best option is to walk stairs – lots and lots of stairs. Stair master machines also work well.

We recommend only using a treadmill as a last resort. Do, of course, ensure you have a good incline going if you use a treadmill. This is to get you used to all the uphill that you'll face on the mountain.

Remember that the EBC trek is not a race – it's a marathon. In your cardio training, try to do long stints that teach your body (and mind) to cope with sustained effort.

Hiking at altitude

One key factor mentioned above is doing high-altitude training hikes. If you're in a position to do some high-altitude hikes to help you train for the Everest Base Camp trek, that’s awesome!

Young man hiking in mountains

Try to do as many training hikes in the mountains as possible

Altitude affects different people differently (as discussed in the section on altitude sickness in How hard is Everest Base Camp?), and age and fitness are no indicators of how it will impact you. Spending some time hiking at altitude will acquaint you with the possible side effects and prepare you mentally for them.

That said, don't stress if such training hikes aren't possible. One of the attractions of trekking to Everest Base Camp is just how out of the ordinary the experience is! Just do what you can, and you should be totally fine.

Wear your daypack

During your training hikes, carry the daypack you intend to bring to Nepal to ensure it’s comfortable. Also carry the sorts of items you'll bring along, and three litres of liquid. This will help you get used to the extra weight.

EBC trekker view

You want a backpack that fits snugly, like it does on Felipe here

For ideas of suitable daypacks, please read Everest Base Camp packing list, which explains in detail what you need, and why. For a simple packing list – which could also serve nicely as a checklist – simply download the PDF below.

 

Wear your boots and socks

Also wear the socks and hiking boots you intend to wear on the trek. This is very important. You need to break in your boots properly. Your training hikes will help you to determine if there are any issues or niggles with them or your socks.

We recommend reading The best hiking boots for Kilimanjaro to learn all about the sorts of hiking shoes that work well on a high-altitude trek. (Kilimanjaro and the EBC trek have a lot in common, so the best hiking boots for Kili are also the best for the EBC trek.)

EBC trekker snow Nepal, Anotnia and Dennis pic

You may well walk through snow of the EBC trek, pic by Antonia and Dennis

Please only head to Nepal with hiking boots that you’ve worn on multiple hikes, for hours at a time. A pair of boots that’s comfortable for a one-hour hike might not be right for a six-hour hike. Again, the more you can mirror the conditions of the EBC trek during your training hikes, the more likely you are to have a comfortable trek. 

Wear your EBC clothes

We also recommend hiking in the clothes that you intend to bring along to Nepal for your trek. Your undergarments are especially important – from sports underwear to thermal inner layers. You want to wear these beforehand to check that there are no annoying seams, and that nothing rides up, chafes or itches.

Packing gear luggage EBC trek Nepal

Don't bring anything you haven't tried and tested to the EBC trek

Try out trekking poles

We also recommend trying out trekking poles during your training hikes. Many EBC trekkers use trekking or ski poles to help them with stability and also take a little strain off the legs at times. Even if you're a super-fit, sure-footed gazelle most of the time, you might find poles are really useful when you're at very high altitude.

That said, you don't want to bother bringing trekking poles all the way to Nepal if you're going to find them too annoying. So as with everything, we recommend trying them out beforehand to get a feel for them.

Ours. Dez with trekking poles on stairs in EBC trek Nepal

If you're happy and you know it, show off your poles!

Note that adjustable poles are ideal as you can ensure they're the right length for you. You can also adjust them should you want a longer and shorter pole when walking a narrow contour path, for instance. And you can collapse and attach them to your backpack whenever you don't want them.

Keep up the motivation

It can be hard to stay motivated and consistent with a tough training programme for many months. We recommend booking your spot for a climb, as this commitment can help to keep you focused on your goal.

We also recommend training alongside the people you're going to trek to base camp with. If they live in the same area, then meet up for your training sessions and hikes! Perfect.

If they live elsewhere, sync your workouts in other ways, or at least stay accountable to one another about your workouts. Just as trekking to Everest Base Camp is a team effort, make your training a team effort too!

Antonia and Dennis at EBC Nepal May 2022

Antonia and Dennis at Everest Base Camp in May 2022

And finally, visualise your goal. Struggling to get out of bed in the winter to go on a hike? Picture yourself standing at Everest Base Camp, the colourful and battered prayer flags whipping in the wind, the sense of history of the place sinking in, the high fives and the photos, the giddy exultation at what you've achieved ... visualise this, and keep going with your training!

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