When most people think of Everest, it is images of sweeping Himalayan landscapes, of rugged rocky passes, ice falls, and, looming above at 8,848 metres, the iconic snow-capped peak of the world’s highest mountain. But not all the beauty of the Everest Base Camp trekking route lies in its geographical features – life is tenacious even at these high altitudes, and the animals of the Himalaya can bring a smile to many a tired climbers’ face, as well as making wonderful subjects for photographs. Beautiful as they are, large predators such as the snow leopard and Himalayan wolf keep a welcome distance from humans, but there are plenty of other creatures to encounter. Here are some of the animals you might meet as you make your way up this world-famous route.


The most iconic animal of the Himalayan region has to be the yak.

These long-haired, wide-horned bovines have been kept by local cultures as beasts of burden (and for their milk and meat) for thousands of years, and these domesticated yaks often accompany Everest Base Camp trekking groups. The wild yak is considered extinct in Nepal, though it can still be found in Tibet – yaks are an important part of Himalayan life, and as one of the largest animals to live at high altitudes are always an impressive species to encounter. Their adaptations include larger lungs and hearts than bovines that live at lower altitudes, a greater capacity for transporting oxygen through the bloodstream, and almost no sweat glands – meaning they conserve much of their body heat.


The tahr, or Himalayan goat, can be seen along many Everest Base Camp trekking routes. Tahr can be identified by their small horns, pointed ears and the red circles on their cheeks. To tell the difference between the sexes, look for larger individuals with slightly more developed horns – these are the males. They are natural mountain climbers, having hooves with a flexible core and hard, sharp rim that let them grip rocks or dig into thin footholds as required. They eat grass and shrubs, and leaves from low trees, and spend the summers grazing in high areas, forming herds in the lowlands in winter.


There is something inspiring for those engaging in Everest Base Camp trekking about the birds that can be sighted along the way. Proud and tough, they evoke a sense of solidarity in anyone who has taken up the challenge of reaching Base Camp. At ground level, look out for the well-camouflaged Tibetan snowcock: curious and friendly, these birds are known to wander happily through human settlements. Up above, look for yellow-billed choughs, ravens, migrating bar-headed geese, and the magnificent birds of prey that wheel in the skies – including the lammergeyer and Himalayan griffon.

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