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Title image - BAI takes you to: Tibet

Seven Days in Tibet Expedition Dispatch

May 29, 2010 – Visit to North Side (Tibetan Side) Everest Base Camp

When we awoke today at 5:00 a.m., we saw a perfect moonlit sky and no clouds. We set off for base camp at 6:30 a.m., a drive of 110 km. over mostly good dirt road. There was a kind of race for the first checkpoint among several jeep drivers, and our driver won, with the result that, for virtually the entire trip over the dirt road, we were the head vehicle - a fortunate circumstance, as we did not have to contend with the dust thrown up by other vehicles.

We reached the top of a pass called the Pang La, and a spectacular vista appeared. We could see the peaks of Makalu, Lhotse, Everest and Cho Oyu all arrayed across the skyline. With no cloud, everything was a clear view. The camera was working overtime to take it all in. Just below the top of the pass, Shishipangma came into view. The visual was so stunning that it will remain in our minds for a long time.

On the way to base camp, Lobsang, our driver, decided to entertain us with a shortcut that saved a few kilometers of driving. The road was rough and difficult to see in spots, but Lobsang made it through. It was quite a ride.

The last four kilometers of the trip to base camp must be made on a local bus from the EBC "hotel" area below base camp. Tent hotels and merchant tents abound in this area. After the bus ride, a short walk up a hill and Mt. Everest stood above base camp in a perfect cloudless sky. Most of the face is visible (with the left side hidden in part by Changtse). The northeast ridge was clearly visible, and we could make out two of the three steps along this popular north side climbing route.

It appeared to be a good day to attempt the summit, as there was no plume visible from Everest at the time that we got there.

There appeared to be only three expeditions remaining in base camp. We stayed at the viewing point for 20 to 30 minutes, snapping many photographs and just taking in the scene. A small plume appeared from the top just before we left.

Views of Mount Everest from the Rongbuk Monastery

View of Rongbuk Monastery, Rongbuk Valley and

Mount Everest (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the way back up the valley, we stopped at the Rongbuk Monastery to get the classic shots of Mt. Everest with the Rongbuk stupa in the foreground. There was reconstruction going on there of parts of the monastery that had been previously destroyed in the Cultural Revolution.

Then, consistent with the adventure theme, we were treated to a very rough ride over a 70 km. secondary road from Everest Base Camp to Old Tingri. The ride made us both thankful for even the most potholed streets in Hamilton. After several hours of jostling, we arrived back on the paved road and stopped in Old Tingri for a good lunch.

The day was far from over. We drove a further 166 km. from Old Tingri to Zangmu (8 km. from the Tibet-Nepal border). Most of the journey was through spectacular and vast mountain desert country. The final 30 km from Nyalam to Zangmu ran along a very deep and scenic gorge. The road follows the gorge, hundreds of feet above the often unseen river below.

The road is now paved (2006) and in very good condition, except for a couple of spots where rock fall had damaged the road (a regular occurrence, according to Tashi). The scene gave us a lot of respect for the early travelers along this road, when it was unpaved and unprotected from rock fall above.

Zangmu was an interesting town, built on the side of the valley. Imagine a road switching back and forth down a steep valley wall, with buildings on both sides of the road for several kilometers, and you have Zangmu. The traffic in Zangmu was truly crazy. We witnessed one traffic jam that lasted several hours, and cost one poor dog his life as he was run over by a vehicle backing up. Dogs are not typically kept as pets in Tibet, and are left to roam the streets, getting food as and where they can.

Tomorrow, we are looking forward to returning to Kathmandu.

Andrew and Doug