Mount Everest, or Qomolongma, is the highest peak in the world. While that may be an accepted fact, without standing in Everest’s shadow, it is hard to comprehend. I have lived in the shadow of the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas, Aconcagua, climbed the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro, and stood atop Chimborazo, the point furthest from the center of the Earth, but was in awe when I saw Everest. Known for its height, Everest’s imposing size is more impressive.
That’s one big rock… The peak of many mountains reaches towards the sky as if they were a person reaching as high as they could. The higher up the mountain, the less there is of it. This is not so with Everest, as far as the eye can see, there is one massive mountain. The peak isn’t a solitary point, rather part of a large, sturdy, mountain. Below it are miles upon miles of sheer cliffs, covered in rock, snow and ice.
The summit: is it worth dying for?
At 16,700 meters, you can look down at most of the world. In fact, at that altitude, you are near the highest point on most continents. At Everest though, you are at base camp, halfway up the mountain, but really at the beginning, not the end. From halfway up, Everest stands as insurmountably tall, as though you are seeing it from sea level. Everest immediately captures your attention as it hogs the horizon. I imagine that some would-be climbers have gotten to base camp and realized, ‘this probably isn’t the best idea I’ve had.’ Hundreds of climbers have reached the summit; about 10% of them have died trying.
Near base camp on the Tibetan side is the world’s highest monastery, Rongbuk, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery with some of the heartiest monks in the world. While we were surprised by snow on our August visit, apparently it gets much worse for the monks, there are months when they are completely cut off from the outside world. On a tour though, you will not be cut off from humanity. The base camp is a well-visited and amply supplied permanent outpost. It even has a post office; the world’s highest post office, of course. If you are ever in Tibet, Everest base camp is worth visiting, to see with your own eyes why Mount Everest is the King of Mountains.
WHEN YOU GO:
- There are base camps in both Tibet and Nepal, the Tibetan side is more for tourists and the Nepalese side for climbers. While both promise a great view, the Tibetan side is generally considered to have the best view of the mountain. To visit on the Tibetan side you must have a guide, we traveled with China Yak and would recommend them.
- Bring warm clothes. Though it may be summer, at this altitude be prepared for anything. We were in t-shirts and shorts when we arrived to wake up to snow in the morning.
- Drink lots of water and eat. Due to the lower air molecule density at higher altitudes and dry air, you need to drink water. Additionally, you may not feel hungry, but your body needs fuel to operate, give it food and water, and altitude sickness should be minimal.