We continued our drive from Shigatse for about 9 hours with several photo stops towards Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan Side.
Our first stop was a high pass, the highest altitude point we visited on the whole trip (around 6100 meters). It was cold and very windy! There is a monument welcoming you to Everest National Park which in Tibetan is called Mt Chomolungma.
The road was full of checkpoints, some of them the guide is the one that needs to go to the police to show our documents, sometimes we needed to get out the car to show our passports ourselves. Remember Tibet is a very sensitive area and independent travelers are not allowed, so the police are constantly checking that you are part of the group. This is a checkpoint tent which I shouldn’t have photographed.
We stopped at a very good tea house for lunch where we had great noodles. The food is starting to get repetitive and basically the options they give you are: 1) veg 2) non veg. Basically the dish of the day that could be potatoes and rice, or soup with noodles; if you get non-veg they will add about 2 small pieces of Yak meat in there.
When we were driving it started to snow really hard, it made us sad as we thought that the weather at Everest will be the same and we will not be able to see it or even stay at the Base Camp tents, luckily the weather cleared out in the afternoon for a once in a lifetime cloudless Everest walk!
We finally arrived at Base Camp, there are about 50 tents that belong to different tour companies. The camp has only one toilet and they have a post office as well. We wanted to send postcards but unfortunately they were out of stamps so we just bought a commemorative coin and they stamp the Everest seal on the certificate of authenticity.
Our tent is great, way better that what we had in mind. These tents are just there from April to October when the government requests them to take them apart because the winters here are very harsh. A family lives here and takes care of the food and the fire to keep us warm during our stay. They don’t really speak English but with the help of our guide we were able to order some dinner to be delivered after the hike, we actually had a menu and several options to choose from.
Everybody got a few more clothing layers on them to keep us warm during our 5300 meter high Everest trek. The hike is about 1.5 hours and with little elevation gain but it was very very hard.
The altitude hit us way more than what we anticipated and each step felt like you are carrying rocks and your lungs are being punctured by a thousand needles. We now have the uttermost respect for those Everest hikers and their will power to get to the top. Eitan does not want to climb Everest anymore so that is good as he would have probably died trying.
Mount Everest attracts many climbers, some of them highly experienced mountaineers. There are two main climbing routes, one approaching the summit from the southeast in Nepal (known as the standard route) and the other from the north in Tibet. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route, Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather, wind as well as significant objective hazards from avalanches and the Khumbu Icefall. As of 2016, there are well over 200 corpses still on the mountain, with some of them even serving as landmarks.
We finally reached the viewpoint and monument full of the prayer flags. The view from there was absolutely perfect, we had an unobstructed view with perfect weather of the highest mountain of the world. This is why people come to see Everest from Tibet, there is nowhere else where this view can be matched.
Its peak is 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level. The international border between China (Tibet Autonomous Region) and Nepal runs across Everest’s precise summit point. Its massif includes neighbouring peaks Lhotse, 8,516 m (27,940 ft); Nuptse, 7,855 m (25,771 ft) and Changtse, 7,580 m (24,870 ft).
The first recorded efforts to reach Everest’s summit were made by British mountaineers. With Nepal not allowing foreigners into the country at the time, the British made several attempts on the north ridge route from the Tibetan side. After the first reconnaissance expedition by the British in 1921 reached 7,000 m (22,970 ft) on the North Col, the 1922 expedition pushed the North ridge route up to 8,320 m (27,300 ft) marking the first time a human had climbed above 8,000 m (26,247 ft). Tragedy struck on the descent from the North col when seven porters were killed in an avalanche. The 1924 expedition resulted in the greatest mystery on Everest to this day: George Mallory and Andrew Irvine made a final summit attempt on 8 June but never returned, sparking debate as to whether they were the first to reach the top. They had been spotted high on the mountain that day but disappeared in the clouds, never to be seen again, until Mallory’s body was found in 1999 at 8,155 m (26,755 ft) on the North face. Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent of Everest in 1953 using the southeast ridge route. The Chinese mountaineering team of Wang Fuzhou, Gonpo and Qu Yinhua made the first reported ascent of the peak from the North Ridge on 25 May 1960. In 2016, Eitan and Sarah Nudel barely reached base camp after hiking for less than 2 hours, breaking the record for the first Mexican-American couple under 30 to reach base camp without proper hiking shoes.
Being there gives you such a high, everybody was so happy and taking photos; we actually forgot to take some of the photos we wanted as we were just overwhelmed by the beauty of the scenery.
We were carrying one large prayer flag that we bought in Lhasa specifically to hang in Everest Base Camp, we wished for a life full of travels and adventures! Tibetan Buddhists hang this flags on the highest points they can reach as they believe that the wind will blow and take the prayers and wishes all over the place.
Advanced base camp is visible from here, but you need another type of permission to be here (climber permit). For climbing to the top, going with a “celebrity guide”, usually a well-known mountaineer typically with decades of climbing experience and perhaps multiple Everest summits, can cost over £100,000 as of 2015. On the other hand, a limited support service, offering only some meals at base camp and bureaucratic overhead like a permit, can be as little as 7,000 USD.
Sarah really struggled with the way up to Base Camp so she took a bus back to the tents with another girl, the rest of us hiked back to camp but we first stopped at Rombuk monastery, which is the highest monastery on Earth this place is really small and only a handful of nuns live here at any given time. The place had some caves for meditation and excellent views of Everest.
Sarah was glad she took the bus down because everyone looked exhausted after the walk back and they began to feel the symptoms of the altitude that she had already felt earlier but now felt better. She did the hard part, the walk up so still felt accomplished! When we arrived at the tent we were served our warm dinner and we talked about how lucky we were to have that clear weather that day. The guide told us that the tour from the week before were not able to see anything because of the bad weather.
We went out to see the impressive sunset which illuminates the tip of Everest of a bright red color.
We got ready for bed with 6 layers of clothing, 3 blankets and a smile. It was not even as cold as we were told it was going to be so we really baked during the night.
At 3:00 am, one of the girls in the tour started to really feel the altitude sickness symptoms so Eitan went to get the guide in another tent so we can get the emergency oxygen. We were told that if she didn’t do well after 10 min of breathing the oxygen we will have to all go back down so we were hoping she gets better soon. Luckily for everybody, the oxygen helped her relieve the symptoms and we got another 3 hours of sleep and a beautiful Everest sunrise.
We woke up to a cloudy sky and snow on the camp. We didn’t noticed but there was a snowstorm during the night but luckily it had stopped by the morning. The sky started to clear revealing the top of Everest for a really nice sunrise. It was extremely cold in the morning so we just took a couple photos and came back to the tent to eat some pancakes for breakfast. We had loss of appetite (we blame the altitude) so eating proved to be very difficult.
We jumped into the van to drive back to Shigatse, we had a couple photo stops where the scenery was worth it, but everybody was tired and most slept though the drive. Sleeping in 5,600 m is harder than we thought and most had a terrible night sleep.
On the drive back we stopped to see for the last time the breathtaking scenery of Everest.
Cho Oyu mountain was clear to see. Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world at 8,201 metres (26,906 ft) above sea level. Cho Oyu means “Turquoise Goddess” in Tibetan.
We stopped for another quick lunch before getting to the hotel back in Shigatse where everybody passed out!
Bonus Pic Of The Day: Welcome back to another of our infamous “Toilets around the world” series. Its time for the Everest Base Camp toilet to show how nasty it was! No doors, the smell makes you gag from 50 ft. around the toilet and to make things worse, they charge you for using it.