Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth. I can’t help myself but to be precise: it actually depends how you measure. Measured from the core of the earth, Chimborazo in Ecuador is higher, and Mauna Kea in Hawaii easily wins with +10km measured from the bottom of the sea. It doesn’t matter, measured from sea level and according to most people, Mount Everest it is.
The first moment we saw Everest, it proved itself right. There it was. 8.848 meters tall. We were standing on a pass at 5.260 meters (our record!), still hours away from Everest Base Camp. Everest was the only mountain clearly higher than the clouds. Mount Everest is real. Standing there in the distance.
We couldn’t wait to get closer, to get to Everest Base Camp (EBC). We must admit, the base camp for true summit climbers is just behind the hill. You can’t see it and are not allowed to go there. Nevertheless, the closest you can get is still called EBC and let’s be honest, that sounds pretty cool!
In Tibet it is luckily much easier to get to EBC than in Nepal. In Tibet it’s a 2 to 3 days drive from Lhasa, in Nepal we’ve been told, you would need to hike for two weeks on a high altitude. Or more, if you don’t want to fly into the Himalaya and land on the most dangerous airport in the world. Going to EBC without not even a small hike for us was missing the Everest vibe. And so we hiked off road from Rongbuk Monastery in 1:20 hours to EBC. Pfew, at 5.100 meters this is a lot tougher than at our comfort zone at sea level!
The views are spectacular. We walked through a valley with Everest in front of us. Sometimes visible, sometimes covered by clouds. The weather changes quickly on this altitude and can be fierce. It’s hard to imagine how it must be up there in the so called ‘death zone’ above 8.000 meters. Why would someone risk their life to reach the summit? In a way it is pointless to go there and yet again it is fascinating. Those climbers do it to live and to fulfil their dream. Besides, it must be a magical place. On top of the world! Don’t worry, for us 5km is high enough and we will watch the summit on You Tube!
Yes, staying at 5km altitude is something you feel. If you don’t slow down you’re breathless in no time. If you don’t drink water, you have a headache in no time. A good night sleep you can forget as your body is not used to it (and it is extremely cold!). And if you have not acclimatized upfront you’re probably in serious trouble with altitude sickness. Given we have been above 3.600 meters the last two weeks and above 4.300 meters the last few days we felt quite ok. Strong enough to hike and strong enough to stand on a hill, in the cold wind to see a beautiful sunset. We were in the dark, while Everest was still in the sunlight as the sunset happens there two hours later. Same thing the next morning at sunrise.
We had something to celebrate. Here at Everest. We’ve travelled 20.000 km overland from home and Everest was the last thing we’ve planned up front. Simply as it is rather impossible to get a Russian visa, tour around Mongolia and get into Tibet without a plan. In other words, Everest was a milestone and we gratefully looked back at an amazing last two months with so many impressions and great memories. Lucky us!
To celebrate we drank a Lhasa beer, the so-called ‘beer from the roof of the world’, while looking at Everest. Sigh… very nice! But also, very stupid. At 5km altitude, beer is a guarantee for a headache the day after! Argh. That in combination with hardly any sleep we felt really weak. Well, the headache is over, and the memory will last :).
Everest, what a fantastic experience.
Now it’s time to put the brakes on and get some sand between our toes.