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Everest

Everest as seen from North side in Tibet
Everest North side as seen from the Everest Base Camp in Tibet

Mt Everest is 8848 meters high. Consequently, Everest have always been a very popular destination for mountaineers. The Tibetan Northern side of the mountain provides far better pleasing views than those on the Nepali side. Additionally, access is a lot easier as there is a road all the way up. Traditionally, climbers arrive to Tibet in spring to attempt climbing the mountain in May.

Even if you are not planning to climb Everest, there are plenty of things to do nearby. Everest Base Camp has become one of the most popular trekking destinations in Tibet, offering the chance to gaze on the magnificent North face of the world’s tallest peak.

Tibetan’s name for Everest’s is Qomolangma, and you will often see Tibetan name on various signs. Approximately 27,000 sq km of territory around Everest’s North face in Tibet are designated as the Qomolangma Nature Reserve.

The Base Camp is located at at a 5200 meters above sea level. The most satisfying way to get to Everest Base Camp is to make the popular three or four day trek from the Friendship Hwy at Tingri. The road to Everest Base Camp from Chay was upgraded in 2007 to an elevated gravel road. Plans to pave the road with asphalt were met with international opposition (most strongly from India) and were abandoned. The road from Tingri to EBC has not been improved, so expect a rough and dusty trip if travelling this way by 4WD.

The Everest access road begins around 10km west of the Shegar Baber checkpoint shortly after kilometre marker 5145. The 101 km drive takes around two to three hours to reach the Everest basecamp.

About 3km from the Friendship Hwy you get to the village of Chay, where your entry permit is checked. From Chay, it’s a winding drive up to Pang-la (5050m). The views here are stupendous on a clear day, and feature a huge sweep of the Himalaya range, including Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Xishabangma and Cho Oyu.

The road then descends past a couple of photogenic villages and runs down into the fertile Dzaka Valley and the village of Tashi Dzom (also known as Peruche), where you can get lunch or a bed for the night at several places.

The dirt road then runs up the wide valley, to the village of Pagsum, which also offers accommodation. The next main village is Quizong (Chodzom) and from here the road turns south towards Rong phu (or Rong-puk or also Rongbuk). The first views of Everest appear half an hour before you arrive at Rongphu.

Tent guesthouse

New to the Everest scene is this group of yak fur tents lining the side of the dirt road between Rongphu and Base Camp. Don’t come expecting an isolated camp of welcoming nomads Tibetans from Tashi Dzom and other nearby villages run the tents like small hotels. So no one tent gets too much business, each tent is only allowed a maximum of five or six tourists. Large groups are divided into different tents, and some groups have reported that they were not even allowed to eat together in the same tent.

Be careful with your belongings as the tents are open all the time and offer no security. It’s best to leave everything in your car if possible. This may seem obvious, but also be careful not to touch the stove pipe, which can get scalding hot when the stove is burning. Some tents can get smoky inside; there is little you can do about this apart from moving to a different tent. This is the furthest point vehicles can drive to and is an incredibly scenic place to stay. You’re hemmed in by high grey ridges to the east and west and as you look to the south, Everest’s north face dominates the skyline. This is prime real estate and it’s yours for a pittance.

Don’t expect any privacy at the camp, though: tents sleep six people. Blankets are provided but you’re better off with a sub-zero sleeping bag.

Rongpuk Monastery

Although there were probably some monastic settlement in the region for several hundred years previously, Rongpuk Monastery is the main Buddhist centre in the valley. It once coordinated the activities of around a dozen smaller religious institutions, all of which are now ruined. It was established in 8th Centuries by Guru Rinpoche ( founders of Nyingmapa sect. ) Rongpuk can at least lay claim to being the highest monastery in Tibet and thus the world.

Renovation work has been ongoing at the monastery since 1983, and some of the interior murals are superb. The monastery and it’s large chorten make a great photograph with Everest thrusting it’s head skyward in the background.