Everest at Chomolongma Entrance
New Videos! - OK scroll down to the bottom of the pictures and there are a few new videos, one of windy Everest Base camp and a group of yaks, one driving the hazardous road from Tingri to EBC and the other docu-drama-esque me the morning it started snowing at base camp...
We are not sure how it happens but somehow, the eggs in Tibet have a strange flavor, perhaps they are cooked in Yak fat or something, but we left Tingri after a sort of Tibetan Breakfast Burrito thing and bitter instant coffee (it is supposed to help with altitude sickness according to the locals) feeling hungry but excited for the drive to Everest.
Immediately upon leaving Tingri, the road to the entrance of Chomolungma Natural Nature Reserve turns into a dusty, dirt and rock road that snakes up through the valley across shallow rivers - definitely four wheel drive territory. Incidentally, Chomolungma translates to something like “Mother Goddess of the Snows”. The drive takes about four hours starting gradually then creeping up some steep inclines alongside a river hundreds of feet below. Of course there are no seat belts in the Toyota, nor are there any guard rails, all of which for some reason uncharacteristically turned Jayang into an aggressive driver. We tried not to look down over the edge - no point in seeing your final resting place ahead of time. Once again, the views over the vista are awesome and the weather was pretty good as you can see from the first distant shot of Everest looming in the background.
The Road to Everest Base Camp
Yak on the way to Everest Base Camp
Out in the middle of nowhere, a Tibetan Yak herder started flagging us down and Tenzin and Jayang just ignored him. We said there was plenty of room and didn’t mind if he joined us in the SUV so Jayang slammed on the brakes and we picked him up. This man lives in the middle of the highest plateau around with nothing more than a grimy sheep’s wool jacket, a hat, 6 yaks and 100 sheep and is nomadic, moving from location to location based on the whims of his flock’s diet. Tenzin and he were conversing while we listened to the same CD that Jayang loves and sings to for the nine hundredth time. After a bit, the man hopped out and I asked what Tenzin was talking to him about and he just laughed and he said “he is drunk!” and this was at about 9:30am. I guess when you are a nomadic yak herder it is 5:00pm somewhere all the time.
Tibetans on Ponies
We stopped a bit further on at a nomad campsite where there were a few tents set up in the hope of getting some fresh curd (yogurt) that Tenzin said was really tasty. He told Cindy to bring an empty water bottle (we had bought a case in Lhasa) and one of the cute, dirty, snotty-nosed little sun-burnt kids asked for it and Cindy gave it to him assuming that he was going to fill it up with curd. He threw it in a pile of other recyclables presumably for the rebate. Tenzin asked where it was and Cindy explained - he just laughed. It ended up that they didn’t have any fresh curd anyways. They did however try to sell us some fossilized snail things and some jewelry. A bit further down the road, it was time to “take a rest” which is a euphemism for smoking and peeing (which as I said is much more pleasant on the plateau than in the miserable squat toilets at the guest houses).
We liked the mangy haircut on the yak in the picture - guess he is molting or whatever for the summer season. As we were sitting there, the two Tibetan pony men came riding through smiling and gave us a quick wave. Meanwhile, the views of Everest were getting closer and more amazing but weather was threatening to move in. We pushed on hoping to hike up to the actual base camp later that day.
Our itinerary had us staying at the Ronbuk Monastery about eight kilometers from the actual base camp but Tenzin had told us that the monastery is small, the accommodations not so great and the toilets grim as had the three Aussie gentlemen yesterday. He said it would be better to stay in tents closer to the base camp. Visions of Cindy shivering in the tent on the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu and in the pouring rain at Thanksing on the Goche-la trek raced through my head.
We pulled up and parked the SUV and realized that there is actually a small tent village, not camping tents but big, nomadic type tents with pot-bellied stoves, Tibetan carpeted seat/beds and friendly Tibetan hosts/hostesses. Tenzin scoped out a few of the tents, eventually selecting one almost all the way at the end of the road by the world’s highest office (probably based on the cuteness of the proprietor!) The tent was quite cozy, in fact it was down right hot in there from the sun as you can see from the fact that Cindy is in a tank-top only 4km from Everest. We had lunch which Tenzin, who has previously attended cooking school, prepared since the girl managing the tent was all of twenty years old and he felt he could cook better.
Mt. Everest from our camp
After lunch since the weather was still good, we figured we should hike up to Base Camp just in case the weather doesn’t hold for sunrise tomorrow.
A dirt road actually winds all the way up there, in fact the Chinese are building a road that goes all the way to the first camp at the base of the glacier (the one after base camp). I asked Tenzin about going there having read in an old Lonely Planet that you could hike there without too much difficulty. He said that used to be true but now they charged $200/per person - and you thought the Chinese were Communist! Capitalism rules in China (and they seem to be raking Tibet for every Yuan they can get). Tenzin of course didn’t want to walk on the road and preferred hopping over boulders and Yak shit on the way up (I have to agree - more interesting). The altitude here is over 17,000 feet and, even though neither of us was feeling the effects of the altitude in terms of headaches and nausea, we both felt a bit like the marmot or whatever he is slumped out on the rock in the moraine.
Cindy in the Everest Guest House Tent
Pony Carts and Mt. Everest
After a bit, we came back to the road and both Tenzin and I thought we should take a short but kind of steep shortcut that cut out a good half kilometer of walking up the dusty road. Cindy was not so sure but acquiesced (probably unwisely). It was only 30-40 steps up which Tenzin bounded up, walking at first, then jogging the last part and sitting atop a rock smoking a cigarette while we labored up the hill, huffing and puffing. The rest of the way to base camp wasn’t too bad (but we avoided short cuts at Cindy’s behest) and made it up to base camp in another 20 minutes or so. There is a stone marker at base camp marking the 5,200 meter altitude of Qomolangma as the Chinese spell it - we have pictures but, since it doesn’t say Everest, we uploaded more scenic ones here. There isn’t really much to Base Camp, a few temporary buildings, a police vehicle, some camp sites, an outhouse, trash repositories and one more short hike up to a small hill covered in prayer flags.
We hiked up there and hunkered down a bit, hoping that the clouds would clear up. Actually, for the three hours we were there (optimistically, I kept insisting on staying until “that blue piece moves to the left and we can see the summit of Everest”) we had the place mostly to ourselves.
Everest and our camp
Our friend Karma who organized our Goeche-la trek in Sikkim had given us a couple of beautiful prayer scarves when we left him and we chose to tie one of these around the huge pile of prayer flags, scarves and other offerings in memory of our friend Pat. The wind was blowing quite hard and looking at the clouds, it would sometimes seem like it was going to blow them away. The faintest hint of blue would make me say “five more minutes!” as Cindy and Tenzin hid from the blowing wind beneath the prayer flag mound.
We did see a number of large herds of yaks while we waited and eventually were rewarded with fairly clear views of the massive mountain.
Marmit at Everest Base Camp
On the way back down, Tenzin and I stopped at a small monastery, a brief scramble up the rocks, before we headed back to our cozy tent. We talked with the girl who sort of ran things there and she is twenty and studying Tibetan Medicine but not in Tibet, rather in Nepal. She told us that when she goes back to school, she will have to walk five days and sneak across the border to Nepal and wasn’t really looking forward to it. She was really sweet and spoke reasonably good but broken English and you have to admire her drive.
As she was starting to stoke the pot-bellied stove again in preparation for dinner and the cold of the night, she took the giant kettle off of the stove and threw in a bunch of cow patties. A bit later, she did it again, this time throwing in some little pellets. We asked what they were and she smilingly said “Sheep shit!”. We had a very basic dinner and decided to go to bed so that we could wake up early and go back up to Base Camp for sunrise. The Tibetan boys were out partying, eating or flirting with the girls and we started to make our “beds” which were on the Tibetan carpet covered benches in the earlier picture. The proprietor girl started laughing at me since I was apparently doing it wrong and came over and made my bed out of a comforter, two light wool blankets and one very heavy one, carefully tucking in the edges and making it very comfy. Cindy should have had the girl redo hers too as I never got cold, even with the wind blowing all night.
Larry with Prayer Flag at Everest Base Camp
Hopefully, tomorrow we will have nice sunrise views of Chomolungma.
Tenzin at Everest Base Camp
Well we slept well enough but perhaps I shouldn’t have had that Lhasa Beer since the inevitable happened and I had to crawl out of my nice warm wool cocoon and walk outside. It must have been early as it was still pitch black out but it was drizzling a bit - not a good sign for our Everest sunrise visit. A bit later, Cindy got up and came back a few minutes later and informed me that it wasn’t raining outside, rather it was snowing. No shit. It was friggin snowing at Everest Base camp in late June. There didn’t seem to be much point to crawling out of a nice warm bed to not see Everest through the storm so we just hung out, eventually having breakfast and snapping the photos you see of the snow dropping down on us.
Tenzin had temporarily disappeared and Jayang was happily snoring so we just kind of hung out for a bit, occasionally walking out to plod around in the snow. A little Tibetan kid came by to join the party of some other locals warming themselves by the pot-bellied stove. He was very interested in my camera and I showed him some of the photos, then he insisted in running out into the snow and snapping the picture of me in the tent.
Cindy and Larry at Everest Base Camp
We had bought post cards to send to our nephews, Ryan, Chad, Jake and Nick because we thought that they would like getting a post card franked with the Everest stamp. Yesterday it was closed but was supposed to open this morning at 9:00. Tenzin asked the girl at our tent but she said that “he is lazy and won’t get out of bed since it is snowing.
” We asked if she could mail them for us if we gave her the money but she explained that, since she was Tibetan, he would know that the foreigners were already gone and would just peel off the stamps and throw the cards in the trash. The kid who was so enamored with my camera ended up hitching a ride with us back to the monastery on our way out, smiling the whole way, happy to have made some new friends. Now it is a long haul back to Tingri and then on to Zhangmu for the night before we head for Nepal.
Yak at Everest Base Camp