JMT versus EBC - how do they compare?

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. 

Physical challenge
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? 

Buying hiking shoes: pro tips!

One of your most important pieces of gear during a trek, through hike or just a wander on a mountain is your footwear. There are so many choices, options, prices and technical descriptions. Here's how I chose my shoes - Salomon gore text lightweight hiking boots, that carried me during the Everest Base Camp Trek, the John Muir Trail and the Overland Track. 

What kind of activity
Some people swear by trail runners, others want the toughest shoe out there. Important is the sort of activities this pair of shoes have to endure. For me it was simple: hiking in bushy areas with a lot of up and a lot of down. I wanted a shoe that was made for walking, with a lot of grip on different textures. 

What kind of shoe
Do you want boots, or more sneaker like shoes? Keep in mind different weather situations (snow, rain, mud) and the use of gaitors. Do you want the shoes to be super light weight, somewhere in between or heavy? I wanted to be able to protect some part of my ankles (hello knife sharp twigs!) and like the sense of security that a boot gives me. 

Technical features
What's important for you? I wanted a shoe that's water resistent. I've had to hike in a lot of wet (mud, snow, rivers) situations. My shoes are made out of gore tex material and keep dry for a long, long, long time. Yes, they failed after hours and hours ploughing through the snow, but hey... what do you expect? A simpel misstep in a river crossing or balancing on a muddy stick that doesn't go so well is all forgiven. 

The fit
It's better to buy your shoes too large than too small. You want to lose your toenails and walk on bloody blisters? If that's the case, ignore my advice. If you want to be able to rock your shoes without having to walk them in for months? Bring your hiking socks when you go shoe shopping. I'm normally a size euro 38, but my hiking boots are a size euro 40. Do they feel big? Nope. They feel comfy wearing one pair of normal hiking socks (Merino wool baby!), but still fit as a glove when I wear liners, normal hiking socks and my super fluffy winter socks. In my opinion it's not the length of the shoe that matters, but the fitting around the rest of your foot. Hence why I like my boots being higher than a sneaker -> more grip.   

The looks
Your shoes won't look fashionable. Just go with it. 

What's important for you when you go hiking shoe shopping? Are you looking around for boots, but still in doubt? Let me know!

What I always pack when I go hiking

Whether it's a weekend getaway or a full on thru hike, there are always a few things I pack. 

Pillow case
You can make a pillow from your down jacket, the clothes you want to wear the next day or even your backpack. But life is a lot easier when you bring a cotton pillow case. Stuff it all in and your new pillow will be as comfy as the one at home. No more gathering your pillow package in the middle of the night. 

Lightweight string
With 3 meters of lightweight string and an optional handful of pegs you can do your laundry and have them dry before the next day. Nothing beats the old fashioned drying rack, not even warm stones or weird looking branches. That piece of string will save you a lot of time and walking in wet socks. 


Good luck charm
Call me superstitious, but I always bring a good luck charm. Something given by someone you love. It doesn't have to be a good luck charm, it can be a mascotte or cute key chain. It makes your bag easier to spot and gives you a little reminder of home. 

Pen & paper
You don't have to be a poet to be in need of paper and pen. Drawing a map, making a to do list, writing your memoirs, playing tic tac toe. With some paper and a pen you're never bored. 

Oral rehydration solution
ORS has been a life saver a couple of times. You might get sick, have the worst hangover or are afraid of altitude sickness. ORS does wonders for your system. When things seem terrible and as prevention. 

What do you always pack when you go hiking no matter the duration and destination? Let me know!