"Because It's There," I've Been There. My Journey to Everest Base Camp
The most famous three words in mountaineering: "because it's there". George Mallory is famously quoted as having replied to the question, "Why do you want to climb Mount Everest?" I have a huge heart fulfilling sensation even though I am not able to climb it, but I was there at her feet. Now I can proudly say I have been there.
This was so special and very distinctive to me and my husband since we wanted to be at Everest Base Camp to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. I am not a mountaineer to climb but there was a strong passion in me to be there where all the famous mountaineers left their foot path, and others left their lives: the world's highest mountain, Mighty Mount Everest, towering up thousands of feet, a glittering pinnacle of snow. Everest displayed herself as dominant and enchanting; no other peaks lie near or threaten her supremacy. I have been enthralled by the adventure of being in the Himalayas and forgot about all other hardships of altitude sickness or the cold.
Being at her feet is a deeply personal mission for me; I was drawn by the mysteries of this mountain. It gives a reflective sense of belonging to something far greater than myself, reaching to the powerful empire destined to do the justice of the world. Everest Base Camp was promised to be difficult due to the altitude and the dramatic oxygen level drops upon reaching the altitude of 17,200 feet above sea level. The fear of embarking on something new, of crossing a threshold, can be paralyzing, even debilitating. But you know what? You should totally just go with it, and cross that threshold.
We started our journey from Lhasa to EBC with our tourist guide, Sonam, and driver, Peldon, who were both wonderful souls enriched with Tibetan culture. My entire journey through the Himalayas was spent with them for twelve days. The first piece of advice was that, so long as we eat regularly and stay hydrated, we will be fine throughout our journey. We stuck to their words, not wanting to get sick in middle of nowhere; there weren't any available medical facilities nearby. We were pretty much on our own.
As soon as we landed at Lhasa (11,990 feet above sea level) we started having altitude sickness. But we gave ourselves enough time to acclimate to the altitude and within days it got better. As we ascended to higher altitudes, however, our trip became much more arduous. Fatigue, cold, inadequate sleep, and diet were contributing factors in addition to oxygen deprivation. The symptoms of mountain sickness manifested as loss of appetite and paralyzing headaches. It was also recognized that the syndrome affected different people at different times and in different ways. But we overcame all of our obstacles thanks to overwhelming beauty of the Himalayan mountains.
Along the drive through the Himalayas, my emotions and attitudes were quite different. I felt like, among these mountains, I was immovably ensconced. I wanted to settle in here for the rest of my life even though I knew I had a home and family to return to, but my soul wanted something else. Is it Mountain worship I am feeling? Moutain worship is given to millions of people. The vertical, the ferocious, the icy - all these are now automatically venerated forms of landscape, which made me realize that urbanized Western culture is not what I want hungry for.
At an altitude of 5200 meters (17,200ft), Everest Base Camp is located in Qomolangma National Nature Reserve, Tingri County, Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The road to EBC from Lhasa covers a distance of 613 km and passes Gyantse, Shigatse, Lhatse and Tingri, and we have visited many amazing sites along the way.
The road conditions on the path from Shigatse to Tingri are very good. It covered about 240km; we drove through winding roads when climbing mountains, like Tsola Pass(4600m), Gyatsola Pass (5248m).
Here I am at the gateway to Mt.Everest Nature Reserve. When I got out of the van I couldn't step forward, I felt like I was walking in thin air and was having difficulty breathing. But the excitement and thinking of reaching closer to the foot of Mt. Everest defeated all other hardships. Those who travel to mountains as a mountaineer or hiker are half in love with themselves and half in love with mountains.
The road conditions from Tingri to EBC were slightly rough, G318 and turn to local road. It took almost 4 hours to reach EBC from Tingri across 120 km, due to winding roads on the way.
Before arriving at EBC, you will pass the famous Gawula Pass, which is the ideal place to have a panoramic view of Mount Everest and its high peak neighbours across the magnificent Himalayas. Gawula Pass is one of the most beautiful mountain passes in Tibet to see the beauties of five mountains above 8000 meters.
Mount Everest is located in the Himalayas, on the border of Nepal and Tibet, China. Its north slope belongs to China, and south side belongs to Nepal. Around Mount Everest, there are three peaks above 8,000 meters(26,000feet): Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu; and 14 peaks above 7,000 meters from the amazing vista of Mount Everest Natural Scenery area.
The view is incredible from Gawula Pass, not just because of the elevation, but also because it offers one of the most breathtaking sights of Everest you will ever see. While we were there, we hung customary Tibetan prayer flags for good luck throughout our journey.
During this journey we had passed many Tibetan plateau lakes, rivers, snowy mountains and traditional Tibetan villages. We could see small agricultural villages scattered around the mountain valleys. Villages are often made of up only a dozen houses, surrounded by fields, that are several hours walk from the nearest roads. Some of the people in these villages have never seen a television, an airplane or a foreigner.
In the rural areas we could see the traditional flat roof houses. The Yak dung is widely spread along the wall which was mainly used for cooking and heating in Tibet. The Tibetan still follow traditional nomadic lifestyle.
We stopped at the village house for a washroom break and to have Yak Butter tea. The air was brutally thin and cold. We were extremely tired due to the long drive, so it wasn't a bad idea to taste the traditional Tibetan tea. The lady of the house served us a creamy bowl of yak butter tea, brewed along with a lot of salt.
My first sight of the Mt. Everest, there was a sudden clearing of the atmosphere above me, and I saw the whole summit ridge and final peak of Everest unveil. I felt like that the sight of this mountain controlled every fibre of my being by the glory of the view. I felt like you are my mountain and I was born to be here in front of you. I stood intently watching this dramatic appearance, the scene became enveloped in clouds.
Tibetan call Mount Everest as Chomolungma which means "Goddess of the Valley" or "Goddess Mother of the World". Mt.Everest is not just a mountain for me, it was a collaboration of physical form with my imagination which created a inner voice with emotional properties inside me. Mt.Everest is simply there, there it remains, changes it physical structure due geology and weather, but continues to exists beyond human perceptions of them, which made me romanticized being there in front of her.
To the east and west, but no where in it's vicinity, rise other greater mountains of rock and snow, each beautiful in itself, but in no other way compare with the famous peak in solemn grandeur. It is difficult to give you an idea of its stupendous height, its dazzling whiteness and overpowering size, for there is nothing else in the world to compare with it.
Very harsh climate conditions. The lowest temperature on the the peak is -30 c to -40c below zero, but the windchill can make it feel colder. And oxygen on the peak is low than sea level. Strong winds blow the snow into drifts making the mountain still more deadly.
Rongbuk Manastry is the highest monastery in the world and a great place to take in breathe taking sight of the Mount Everest. From Rongbuk monastery, it is 4km walk along dirt road to the base camp at 5200m. It was very cold and can feel the powerful wind.
We were there for sun set to witness that Everest was still shinning like a golden crown above the ridge. We were so lucky on regards to weather. The guide was telling us so many people wanted to see the sun set and Mother Nature wouldn't allow them in form of clouds. Somedays the Everest can be fully covered with clouds and not able to see the peak.
The room offered a stunning view of Mt. Everest. We were up early next day, it was still dark and the room was cold due to no heating. I can hear the howling sound of the Himalayan wind. Cuddle up in my blankets and with steaming cup of coffee in my hand and patiently waited with my heart pounding for the first rays of sunlight to fall on earth.
We stayed at Rongbuk Monastery with window view to the Mt.Everest. Soon enough the sun rays started reflecting on the Himalayan Glaciers and the guest house window seemed to transform into a window that opened to paradise. The world's highest mountain showing off its infinite beauty with untouchable power. The coffee in my hand seemed to have assumed an exotic flavour as I sipped. How lucky I was to witness the breath taking view of this magnificent beauty.
To preserve the environment around Mt. Everest, the previous EBC site has been abandoned and the new site is near Rongbuk Monastery. Because of the harsh conditions, there are no hotels around EBC, except Rongbuk Monastey Guesthouse. There are two choices at staying EBC, either in your own tent or Rongbuk monastery. Do not expect too much of the accomodation.
Rongbuk is the highest monastery in the world in the shadow of Mount Everest. It has quite a beautiful backdrop featuring the Mt.Everest. The Kora is lined with Mani stones and stupas.
Though poor quality, every guest can have hot noodles, rice or some instant food. The price is higher than Lhasa due to transportation fee. Though yak-dung stoves are available, it's very cold at night. Bring own sleeping bag if you are hygiene concious, because some beds and quilts haven't been washed for long time.
Public toilets are square pits, and quite terrible and you should bring toilet papers. Hot water available but no showers. There is little electricity at Rongbuk Monastery, so bring your own charger for camera and cell phone.
After been to base of the Mt.Everest my view of life has been changed. Greater height gives you greater vision. The view of this mighty mountain empowers me to achieve more in my life. My self of sense has been enhanced because of its extended capacity for sight. The adoration I have for the mountains made me realize I love myself half and the nature half.
As a final note I will leave you with a quote, "Things Are Done When Men And Mountains Meet" - William Blake.