This year National Geographic asked 20 outdoor luminaries—from trail runners to CEOs to beloved authors—about the trails they dream about. Among their picks for the world’s best hikes, Everest Base Camp Trek is the one picked by Jim Whittaker, First American to climb Mt. Everest.
Hiker: Jim Whittaker, mountaineer
In His Words
I would recommend the trek to Everest Base Camp to anybody. The people are incredible, the scenery can’t be beat, and you get to take a look at Everest or Chomolungma, meaning the “Goddess Mother of the World.” It’s spectacular just to see the highest point on planet Earth. In 1963, it was a 185-mile trip. These days you can start by flying into to Lukla, a village at 9,000 feet with a slanted airstrip that makes for a hell of a takeoff and landing. In May, the rhododendrons are in bloom with orchids growing in them. There are guest houses on the way up. You can get a beer. There are waste baskets on the trail. They have done a nice job of cleaning it up. I made the trek to Everest Base Camp last year but had to turn back near the camp due to intestinal difficulties. I went ten years ago for the 40th anniversary of the climb with Gombu [Nawang Gombu Sherpa who summited with Whittaker in 1963] and our families. That is when my son Leif decided he wanted to climb it. Who knows, I might wander up there again. —Jim Whittaker