A Travellerspoint blog


An Almost Perfect Day at Everest

Catching our Breath at Everest Base Camp

all seasons in one day 9 °C

On Thursday, we headed out early from Sakya with the intention of reaching Rombuk in time to attempt the hike to Everest Base Camp, weather permitting, the same day. We experienced such good weather, however, that we enjoyed uninterrupted views of the mountain from our first sighting in the morning, so we had to keep stopping for group members to take photographs at this location or that location. Sightings of Everest – even from base camp – are far from guaranteed, so we couldn’t really blame them (and in fact we almost missed our best opportunity for a great photo by allowing ourselves to be rushed along by our tour ‘leader’).


Cloud did build around Everest as we drew closer, but we decided to go for it and hike to the Base Camp, rolling the die on whether we would be able to see the top of the mountain when we got there! I left our Monastery dorm room apparently prepared to go all the way to the summit, with no fewer than seven layers to keep me warm. Despite some sleet, however, it was surprisingly warm once we got going and our progress was slowed only by the constant need to stop so I could unwrap another layer! We also took our time to enjoy the Scottish-Highlands-type scenery, and for Lloyd to share a close encounter with a yak.

Lloyd and a Yak - you figure out which is which. And, on the right, me recalling the Highland Fling from lessons about three decades ago!

Alltitude also slowed our progress of course! At more than 5,000 metres, or 16,500 feet, it required a lot of effort to do anything more than place one foot in front of the other. On the minor inclines – Everest Base Camp is around 5,200 metres – a few steps upward literally takes your breath away. And this is just 5,000 metres! The actual summit is over 8,000 metres and we certainly came to understand that the relationship between elevation and effort was far from linear, and our respect for the mountaineers on Everest above us knows no bounds.

Having crested our own ‘summit’, we celebrated with a miniature bottle of champagne that Martin brought to China with him a few weeks ago (thanks, Martin – we toasted you at the top!). Then, with a storm approaching, it was time to make a dash back to Rombuk for the night. We didn’t quite avoid the storm, and we battled through heavy sleet as blanket-wrapped, umbrella-topped Japanese tourists crashed by in pony carts.


Back at Rombuk, my over-bundling came back to haunt me as my sweat had cooled my body to such an extent it took me hours to warm up. I sat in the communal mess tent, practically hugging the stove and narrowly avoiding overflow from massive kettles of water boiling away in the middle of the room. As I enjoyed my tea and biccies, hungry trekkers gobbled bowls of noodles and fried rice from the Monatery’s limited but welcome menu. When I was finally warm again, I buried myself beneath four blankets and struggled to find sleep amidst a room of snorers. Lloyd, meanwhile, had a painful night with oxygen-deprivation robbing him of any sleep at all (a common side-effect of high altitude), and he was relieved when at last morning arrived.


Overnight, the entire camp had been dusted with an inch or two or snow, which was an unexpected but welcome transformation. A few of us early risers were privileged to witness Everest at dawn before weather quickly whited out the entire vista. After a brief snowball fight with our 4*4 drivers, we started our descent to lower altitudes and our approach into Kathmandu which would take the next 24 hours or so


Posted by jacquiedro 21:16 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Inching Closer and Higher

Continuing to Everest

sunny 18 °C

While Gyantse was something of a detour from the most direct Lhasa to Kathmandu route, it was well worth it, living up to its reputation as one of the least Chinese-influenced towns in Tibet. We didn’t have the time to visit Lord-of-the-Rings-style Gyantse Dzong, but we did spend several hours at the 15th century Pelkhor Choede on Tuesday morning on our way out of town. This monastery offered a number of firsts: the opportunity to experience monks at study, for example, and the opportunity to photograph the inside of the monastery, for a fee of course.

Monks counting our hefty photo 'donation'

While we’re pleased to be able to share these pictures with you, we were both pleased that so few monasteries allow cameras and video beyond the front doors. Regardless of faith, it's quite a spiritual experience: burgundy-clad monks chanting and rocking back and forth as they read from cream-coloured parchment - and we prefer inhaling it all directly rather than through a camera.


Next stop, on Wednesday, was Shigatse, inadvertently (we think) referenced on our G.A.P. itinerary with a “t” where the “g” should be. We visited the Tashilhunpo Monastery which was founded by the first Dalai Lama in 1447, and is best known today as the seat of the Panchen Lama. Much of the Monastery was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, but happily the tombs of previous Panchen Lamas remain. Even better, for the yuan equivalent of about US$15, we were permitted to take pictures which we did so you would have an idea of the kind of structures we were referring to in Lhasa’s Potala Palace. See the lengths we go to you for you?

Panchen Lama tomb, very similar in size and scale to the Dalai Lama tombs in the Potala Palace.

You can't help but feel obtrusive in these important places of worship and pilgrimage

Actually, Lloyd almost ended up in a scrap with a German when we refused to take a picture (with the German’s camera) using our rather expensive ‘photo license’! The German walked off in a blaze of George Bush related insults, not realizing that Lloyd understands German. When Lloyd asked him to be respectful of the sacred surroundings, it set our swastika-tattooed ‘friend’ off even more, and he had to be restrained by his poor wife!


A brief stop in Sakya felt like an itinerary-filler to us, although to be fair our visit was quite restricted as the bulk of the 13th century Monastery is under major renovation. Sakya is notable for its survival of the Cultural Revolution and – while the few buildings we saw yielded little of interest – we did enjoy our walk around the Monastery walls which offered splendid views over the beautiful surrounding countryside.


In one of the corner towers of the wall, we happened upon a darkened room filled with retired and gruesome Spitting Image puppets (no doubt there is some Buddhist symbolism here, but the few monks who discovered our presence seemed a little nervous about it so we didn’t ask!).

Sakya was far too remote a town to ask any questions about this stuff

After the Monastery, we wandered around the town, which yielded another selection of yak limbs, entrails and even fur for sale. In case you’re wondering, and according to Lloyd, yak tastes like a chewy, gamey beef.

More Yak for sale! Lloyd assures me its quite tasty, but seeing it like this was enough to put me off!

Posted by jacquiedro 20:14 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

On to Everest Base Camp!

Will You Miss Us While We're Gone?

sunny 15 °C

We'll be out of internet-range for the next five days as we continue the journey to Everest Base Camp and then on to Kathmandu. Expect several updates early next week! As well, we've got a bunch of videos to upload from the last few days. We weren't able to do so today because, well......

In the meantime, our Mothers will be sad to learn that our life expectancies have just declined by about half a year after the three hours spent in the smokiest internet cafe in Tibet. Possibly the world. We're not talking SLOW, we're talking a sloth genetically modified with a snail and reconstituted in a jar of molasses.

Posted by lloydthyen 20:41 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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