You don’t have to risk your life to experience Everest; or, at least, its Base Camp in Nepal, where Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay and their team began their historic ascent up to the summit. Inspired by these explorers and others, Jeff Bonaldi quit his New York banking job in 2017 to dedicate himself full-time to adventure travel. His company The Explorer’s Passage offers a range of guided treks around the world, varying in length and levels of difficulty. Among the most popular are the Inca Trail Tour to Machu Picchu, Peru; the W-trek in Patagonia, Chile; or the advanced-level trek to Mount Kilimanjaro base camp in Tanzania. Everest Base Camp (EBC) is another challenging trek: 5,364 metres up the world’s highest mountain. The eighteen-day trip takes in historical sites and breathtaking views of the Himalayas. To find out more, Speak Up contacted Bonaldi. We began by asking him what trekking meant to him.

Jeff Bonaldi (American accent): I was fascinated with the old explorers, Shackleton and Edmund Hillary, that have done these amazing things. I went on the first hike of my life right outside New York City, and it had a transformational effect on my life. I just remembered feeling very connected to nature, I really liked being with the community of people, it made me feel a sense of accomplishment.


While The Explorer’s Passage offers experiences suitable for everyone, the climb to Everest Base Camp is not for the faint-hearted. The trip begins in the Nepalese capital, and it is an adventure just to get to Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, where the hike begins.

Jeff Bonaldi: We arrive in Kathmandu, we stay in the Thamel district, which is a really lively area and not too far from the historical sites. One in particular is Boudhanath, which is a giant stupa. Because of the mountains you can’t drive to Lukla, the starting point of Everest Base Camp trek. It is an airoport that sits in a little valley on a cliff. You have to take a five-hour drive from Kathmandu and then it’s a fifteen-minute flight.


The trek follows a similar route that Hillary and Tenzing took in April 1953. It begins immediately on arrival and already the air is thin, as Bonaldi explains.

Jeff Bonaldi: The hike is eight days up, five days down. We do two acclimatisation days, that’s where you’re going up for a little bit and down to condition your heart and get used to those lower oxygen levels. We have guides, there are porters that carry a majority of our group’s items. Along the way you’re staying in tea houses in the various villages, and there’s various historical and cultural sites along the route. Unfortunately, there’s something called Everest Link: you can have wifi the whole time! We still encourage people to turn their phones off. The highest point of the trek is Everest Base Camp, which is situated at approximately 17,800 feet [5,425 metres] in elevation. The only people that are allowed to sleep at Base Camp are those who are climbing to the summit of Everest. If you’re doing the Everest Base Camp trek then you stop at Base Camp for a little bit, and then you start walking back down.

high altitude

Climbing to Everest’s summit is extremely dangerous, and Bonaldi says he will never attempt it. High altitudes affect even the fittest people in unexpected ways.

Jeff Bonaldi: We do prep calls with all of our guests to talk about preparation and training. If someone starts to feel a little sick during the trek then we tell them it’s critically important that they let our guides know immediately. We do bring oxygen on the trek but if someone’s really not well due to the altitude the best way to resolve it is to descend immediately. 


You can’t stop tourism, but you can do it sustainably. Jeff Bonaldi and Marissa Cho of The Explorer’s Passage envisage a way of working with the planet, offering unique tours that not only offset any carbon footprint made, but leave places better off than before. Bonaldi has worked in the past with British explorer Robert Swan (the first person to walk to both poles) and his 2041 Foundation. On tours by ship to Antarctica and the Arctic, The Explorer’s Passage pledged to clean up 1.25 times the CO2 emissions of the trip, and incorporated an onboard programme that promoted renewable energy projects around the world. Similarly, in Tanzania, Bonaldi teamed up with eighty-nine-year-old British zoologist and chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall, and her global educational programme Roots and Shoots. Goodall joined the tour group for tree plantings and discussions prior to their trek up to Mount Kilimanjaro base camp. Future plans for the company include social projects in Peru, coral reef and shark conservation in Costa Rica, and a project in Iceland working with “wounded warriors”, people who have gone through physical or mental trauma, using adventure as a means to recover and empower.

Mt. Everest: Reaching The Summit