If I recall correctly, the last time I hiked for more than a few hours in a day, I was 13. I had signed up for a two day (one night), 15-mile hike along the Appalachian Trail through the sleep-away camp in New Jersey where I spent a handful of Summers. Fast forward 15 years, and I'm researching 3-week treks through the Himalaya. Needless to say, I'm asking a lot of questions.
Trekking companies in Nepal are a dime a dozen. Luckily, I learned about Karnali Excursions during the Adventure Expo I attended earlier this year. I'm going to step out on a limb and suggest if a trekking company from Nepal can represent itself at a table for a weekend in Washington, DC, they must be doing something right (from a money/success standpoint, not necessarily that there are qualifications to be a part of the event).
After reading the very informative Trekking in Nepal, and reviewing the treks on Karnali's web site, I began to correspond with them via e-mail. I obtained prices for treks in the two most popular regions of Nepal – the Annapurna Circuit ($1349) and Everest Base Camp ($1699). Both cover 25-26 total days, entailing 20 days of “moderate to strenuous” trekking with a guide and porter. The prices include transport to and from Kathmandu airport, accommodations, meals, and a tour of local sites when I first arrive.
The Annapurna Circuit is the most popular trek in Nepal, and as a result, would have more accouterments (and by that I'm talking filtered water at teahouses to save you some effort, not even porcelain toilets), be a little safer, and more populated with other trekkers. The Mt. Everest region is the second most popular area for trekking, and would be more rugged, difficult, and less populated. Both would get me up to about 15,000 feet in elevation. Given my desire to stick to a budget, and complete lack of trekking and high altitude experience, I intend to book a trek around the Annapurna Circuit. Still, the idea of seeing Mt. Everest in person (albeit it from very far away), sits idly in the back of my mind, taunting me.
*Snap out of it Dave*
So the Karnali guys have helped put many of my concerns about fitness (or lack thereof) and altitude sickness to relative rest. For example, when I asked about whether they carry a Gamow Bag, the response was only on higher altititude treks such as those in Tibet, however they would pack one at my request. I e-mailed one of their references, Mary, who had spent several years in Nepal with Habitat for Humanity. She had been a part of arranging dozens of treks through Karnali during her time there, and gave a resoundingly positive endorsement. I still intend to do a little checking around with other companies, just to see what is out there, however Karnali has so far, set the bar high.