Everest North Base Camp
WOW, we are at Everest North Base Camp (EBC) at an altitude of 5200 m (17,160 feet) – how cool is that?! If you imagine the base camp cramped with expedition tents and buzzing with climbers and tourists, you are wrong. Since a group of Americans protested there in May for a free Tibet, the base camp has been cleared and visitors can now only stay at a tented camp 4 km away. All that remains at Everest Base Camp is a military checkpoint with very drunken soldiers whose job it is to prevent people from venturing beyond the base camp’s viewpoint (who knows why…)
After we arrived at the visitors’ tented camp and picked a spacious Tibetan tent, we started hiking, very slowly, to EBC not really knowing what to expect because Mt. Everest was pretty much covered in clouds. We got there an hour later and climbed a small hill for better views. All we could see, though, was a wall of clouds. At this point, we were getting slightly desperate – we wouldn’t be the first people to have stayed at EBC for days and not have seen a thing. Luckily, three hours later, all of us frozen to the bone, Mt. Everest finally started clearing up, and we could see the outline of the gigantic North Face. Eventually, by early evening, the cold had become so unbearable that we had to break ourselves away from the view and head back to our camp.
As we were staggering into camp, the sun was setting, turning the sky a bright orangish mauve – unreal! One Tibetan ran out of his tent watching in amazement and remarked how exceptional this was; this, of course, made us feel special. Excited, we headed for our tent ready to burn some yak dung and warm up. We passed the evening eating instant noodle soup and inhaling clouds of smoke from burning yak patties – but, at least, it was warm and cozy. By 10 o’clock we had all settled into our sleeping bags totally content with what we had seen.
At 3:30 AM, I couldn’t wait any longer. Nature called. So, climbing out of my sleeping bag while silently cussing and slipping into my half-frozen clothes, I felt my way out of the tent without waking everybody up. When I stepped out of the tent, I forgot how miserably cold I was. It was absolutely beautiful. I was looking at a completely clear sky with the stars and the moon lighting up Mt. Everest mysteriously. I spent a good 15 minutes walking around, all by myself, completely happy despite the cold. When I went back to bed, I woke Tony up and whispered, “you’ve got to see this.” He lay there for another 20 minutes contemplating but then grabbed his camera and went for it. Unable to find his tripod in the dark tent, he took this beautiful night shot by balancing his camera on a pile of rocks while I was falling asleep in my wonderfully warm sleeping bag.