Frequently I get the question what trek was harder: the Everest Base Camp trek or the John Muir Trail? Honestly, these two aren't up for comparison at all. The length, miles and facilities (or lack thereof) couldn't be more different.
When I finished the Everest Base Camp trek I felt amazing. I felt proud, strong and had a ton of inspiration. It felt like I did something that wasn't for everyone, something that makes you hardcore. After the John Muir Trail I felt exhausted, done with hiking and proud. Proud that I finished something that was super hard. Comparing the EBC to JMT was comparing a walk in the park with a walk in a beautiful... hell?
The people make the trek
I was in luck with the group I had during my EBC trek. We were crying from laughter even when things got hard, dirty and uncomfortable. At one point we were almost literally coughing our lungs out. No sleep and a fever? Haha! Massive headaches and feeling sick? Haha! It was such a great group and I've never experiences something like it. The JMT crew was nothing like it. The overall group dynamics weren't great. It made for a lot of boring tent staring nights, and trust me there are plenty of evenings to kill.
Walking up the route to Everest you come across tea houses, villages and many many people. Only the last two camps were without a "real" toilet. There's warmth through yak poo heaters, there are bottles of coke and pringles and every now and then you'll find a shower! I can be short about the facilities on the JMT. There are non. Only the stuff you bring. No surprise showers, no western pick me ups in the shape of a can, no guitar solo's at the stop of the night.
The Everest Base Camp trek takes about 9-12 days depending on your schedule. I took 10 and it was the perfect length. Just when I got sick of walking we stopped. During the JMT at day 10 I felt I had enough and I wasn't even half way! This luckily changed later on, but I've learned the hard way that I'm not a 3,5 week hike kinda girl.
Who doesn't crave a warm, nice meal after a hard day's work? In Nepal I had omelets, pancakes, curry, coffee and pizza. The food was surprisingly good, it's amazing what they can carry up that mountain. Of course, after 10 days I couldn't see another carb and the first thing I ordered when we arrived in the capital was a Greek salad. California served me a wide variety of 'just add water'-dishes. I must say, they were pretty awesome! I only struggled with the breakfast. I just couldn't do it anymore in the end.
The trek (EBC) itself wasn't hard at all. The mileage, the going up and going down - if you do a good training before, you good. After the first day of the JMT, a very mild slow day, I thought by myself "HOLY MOLY, HOW IS THIS A CHILLED OUT DAY?" Well, you get used to it. Trust me. Just give it a week. In the end, when the bag got lighter and the body got stronger things got easier. But not easy. The JMT is just a very hard physical trek. At least it was for me. What both treks have in common is the altitude. The Everest Base Camp trek brings you over 5364 meter, which is a lot for the body. The John Muir Trail, if you do the Mt. Whitney summit, brings you up to almost 4.500 meter. The rest of the trek is somewhere between 3-3.500 meters. For me enough to get headaches and feel sick. (I'm from below sea level, don't judge)
So bottomline, the two treks can't be compared at all. Yes, they are both gorgeous treks and both routes are must do's for the hike fanatics. If you are not sure what to do, start with the EBC. This will give you a good idea of how you react to the altitude and gives you a little teaser of roughing it.
What's your opinion on EBC versus JMT?