At the entrance to the Qomolangma Nat'l Park there’s a gate covered with prayer flags from the ground up. Soon we reached a check point where they said that we couldn’t continue, because there was road work ahead. Our driver disregarded the rank-and-filed and drove right up to the front of the line of cars. There, on the side of the road was a big black tent. He went inside for about 10 minutes. This must have been headquarters of some kind, because when he returned, our translator, Jumbo, explained the situation: they wanted us to sign in their journal that we will not hold the Chinese government liable for death or injuries sustained while driving on the under-constructed road. Well, we made it that far; why turn back now. So we left our fingerprints for the Chinese government.
The road from here on was not paved, as promised, with frequent switchbacks. Once we got over a pass, we could see the snow covered mountain range, but the peaks were inside the clouds. When the clouds began to lift we started seeing the skyline formed by the range. A little while later, a peak appeared, rising ABOVE the clouds. That was IT! MT QOMOLANGMA!!! It was a Goliath among the Giants.
We arrived at a tent city in another half an hour. This was not the Base Camp yet. This was an alley of large black and white tents, which served as “hotels”. One had a sign “Welcome to the Hotel de California”. From here we had to continue by foot or by a horse cart for another couple of miles. We weren’t really in shape to do a two-mile hike up hill at 17,000 ft, so we hired the horses. Apparently, the horses weren’t in shape either… they took over 40 min to cover two miles… Not exactly horses’ fault, though. To begin with, the “drivers” couldn’t get the horses to go forward and straight at the same time. The only thing that worked was when he walked in front of the horse and pulled it by the reins. I should mention the reason for our frustration with the pace of things; we were in Tibet after all, and clocks just don’t run as fast here. But! The clouds had already begun to lift and we knew the clearing wouldn’t last long. Not to mention we were hoping not to drive on the abovementioned under-constructed road after dark.
The Base Camp this time of year looks like a large grass meadow. There’re no tents what so ever, and no garbage either (may be Chinese can be credited for this, after all, a $50 entrance fee should go towards something good). There’s an outhouse in one corner and some Chinese Border Patrol barracks in another. In the summer the region gets a lot of rain, so it’s the off season for climbers.
We could still only see the tip of the Everest. Actually, the way you knew that there was something behind the clouds is from the way they enveloped and swirled around something, kind of like a giant cotton candy. We walked around and climbed some hills, waiting for the wind and the sun to melt the clouds away and expose the contour of the mountain. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait a long time. Rapidly the cloud cover began shrinking from top and bottom, revealing the distinct outline – a very gradual eastern slope and a much steeper one on the west, with a change in grade in grade in the middle.
As we were driving away the sun was setting and the Himalayas were flooded with the blue-red evening light. Finally it was completely dark and our driver masterfully navigated the switchbacks on the dirt road. Hats off!
Category:Travel and Places
Keywords:base, camp, ebc, everest, tibet
© Alek & Tanya