Walking to the top of the world: The joy of tackling Everest with a 12-year-old in tow

As my 12-year-old son reaches the prayer flags that mark the location of Everest Base Camp, the clouds clear and a tiny, rose-pink finch takes wing.

We have walked for two weeks in this thin air, Zac, I and our guide, Nir, passing memorials to those who have died on their way to the roof of the world.

'You know what?' Zac says. 'I thought getting here would be an anti-climax, but it isn't an anti-climax at all.'

Theodora and her son Zac

Roof of the world: Theodora and her son Zac tackle Everest - at least the walk to its base camp

It's certainly a high point of our round-the-world tour. We can't see Everest from here. Although we're four times higher than Ben Nevis, we are too low and too close.

But we can see the jagged staircase of the Khumbu Icefall, the route almost all climbers have followed to the summit of Everest. And later, from the snowless 'black mountain' known as Kala Patthar, we watch the evening light turn the summit of Everest gold.

The Everest Base Camp trek might seem an odd choice with a child. Yet in the 19 days Zac and I spend in the mountains, he finds plenty of childish pleasures.

Zac cuddles baby yaks, skates on frozen glacier lakes, throws snowballs, spins vast, brightly coloured prayer wheels, scrambles up steep slopes and across frozen streams, and plays with Sherpa children.

At lower elevations, we stroll through forests of juniper and pine populated by peacocks and wild goats, past meadows where yaks graze in winter, and along avenues of prayer stones.

In an ancient Tibetan Buddhist monastery, we see the conical, furry skull of an Abominable Snowman. So what if Hillary proved it came from an antelope?


Golden peak: Everest has always proved a fascinating challenge for adventurers

And then we experience, of course, that first magical sight of Everest, a plume of snow streaming from its peak in the savage winds. I prepared Zac to expect a difficult walk, yet we find the trail easier than expected.

We have to ascend slowly to avoid altitude sickness, so some days we walk no more than two or three hours. We have chosen a more interesting but more challenging route than the standard trek, following the Dudh Koshi river up to Gokyo Ri, where we see the most beautiful sunrise of our lives, and crossing over the Cho La pass, a gap between two tall peaks that once formed part of the old Tibetan trade routes.

En route to the Cho La, we race to escape a threatened landslide.

Crossing the roaring, creaking glacier that is part of the pass is an experience I'll not forget. Yet, as the bird takes wing at Everest Base Camp, every second has been worth it.

Theodora Sutcliffe blogs at www.escapeartistes.com.

Travel Facts

Theodora and Zac arranged flights and a porter-guide through Nepal-based Trek Around Nepal (www.trekaroundnepal.com).

Families with younger children keen to try trekking would be better to book a custom-prepared tour or private guide - as children may need extra time to acclimatise, or a more relaxed schedule than is typical on a group tour.

Mountain Kingdoms (01453 844400, www.mountainkingdoms.com) offers a tailor-made 20-day trek to Everest Base Camp for families. Prices start at £2,405 including return flights to Kathmandu with onward flights to Lukla, guide, sherpas, full board accommodation in hotels and teahouses and bedding pack.