Essay: Trekking Tibet to Everest Basecamp Riley Morton - Basecamp Fri, April 20, 2001 9:05AM
The roads in Tibet aren't exactly up to the same standards as those back home in the States. After two days of constant jeep travel over roads that most stateside vehicles would refuse to even approach, I found myself wishing that I'd had a few hundred more milkshakes before I'd left home; a little more padding in the behind region would have made the trip a touch smoother. In reality though, I wouldn't trade that jeep ride for anything; those potholed, washed out, dirt and gravel roads accessed some of the most amazing terrain that I've ever seen.
I was starting to get accustomed to amazing sights since arriving in Lhasa four days prior. Visiting the Potala Palace, former home of 14 Dalai Lamas, was a lifelong dream come true for me. And visiting Barkor Square and Johkang Monastery blew me away even more. Lhasa definitely feels Chinese in many ways, but the Barkor Square, with thousands of native Tibetans selling their wares and making their pilgrimages around the Monastery is distinctly old Tibet. I made three clockwise circles around the Monastery myself, in part because I was loving being in Lhasa, soaking in the weathered faces all around me, and in part for the good karma that it would hopefully bring me. I figured that I could use all the help I could get with the altitudes that I'd soon encounter.
When we arrived in our camp near Tingri after those two butt-pounding days of Jeep travel, I was more than anxious to get off of my rear and onto my two feet. The part I was looking forward to most was about to happen: The trek into Everest North Side Base Camp.
As usual, though, my brain was getting ahead of itself. At this altitude (14,000 feet), it is extremely important to move slow, especially when going up; a fact that Eric Simonson, and his International Mountain Guides knows well, after running countless climbs and treks into this part of the world. So we waited for another day in Tingri, acclimatizing by relaxing, chatting, and eating the best backcountry food this side of the Pacific.
Starting the trek right out of our camp on a bluebird Thursday was a treat. Our first day was relatively flat and easy, up a broad valley, surrounded on all sides by endless, brown, Tibetan peaks. Our Sherpa guide, Ang Shiring, led the way, setting a pace that kept us moving, slowly, just enough to let us lowlanders acclimatize to the altitude effectively. That night, we camped in a broad valley, with 20 Tibetan children watching our every move from a nearby ridge. I guess in a land without television, seeing Western folks setting up tents is good entertainment.
The dining tent that night featured a joke competition of sorts -– each of us trying to one-up each other with laughs. After spending more than a week together, our group had no reservations about telling jokes that would be questionable in mixed company. The food, as always, was amazing: chicken soup followed by salad, fried potatoes, and mo-mos, a Himalayan delight that resemble pot-stickers (except ours featured yak meat.)
We continued up the valley and entered the mountains on our second day of trekking. That night, we were treated to a light snowfall that accumulated to about an inch by the next morning. Seeing the ample hills around us completely covered with snow made for some of the most breathtaking scenery I've ever had the opportunity to see. Our third day was the longest, and by far the most challenging, trekking over two 16,000 foot passes. We were rewarded, of course, with truly epic views of what the Sherpas told us were the Himalayan foothills. Naturally, we were all more than psyched to get to the base of the "goddess mother of the earth:" Chomolungma.
After a night camping near the Rongbuk monastery, and a quick visit inside the next morning, we had the chance to hike the final few miles up to Base Camp itself. Naturally, the views that we earned from the glacial moraine at the base of the Rongbuk glacier were absolutely jawdropping. The sunset on the North Face of Mount Everest was more than beautiful -– and being at Basecamp, at 17,200 feet above sea level was pretty exciting as well.
Hanging out at Base Camp was a treat in and of itself. One of our trekking group described meeting all the climbers, Eric Simonson, Dave Hahn, Andy Politz, et all as "sort of like being introduced to the Celtics." Hearing the stories from high on the mountain over meals served by head cook, Pemba, delighted us newcomers.
After a day of rest the trek party left me, they hoping to get to Advanced Base Camp, at 21,500 feet. I, on the other hand, had done my trekking for the time being. Since arriving here at Base Camp, I've stayed put to edit video. One of the video pieces I've sent in from out here is about our trek in. Check it out.