Mount Everest. To many mountaineers and adventurers, this is the ultimate goal. The apex to assault, the peak to conquer, and the challenge that cannot be turned down. And why not? Mt. Everest is the tallest mountain in the world.
Mt. Everest looms 8,848 meters above sea level. Straddling the border between China, Tibet and Nepal, in an area called Mahalangur in the Himalayas, it is also known as Chomolungma in Tibetan, Zhumulangma Feng in Chinese, and Sagarmatha in Nepali. Although Mt. Everest had always been a prominent part of Tibet, China, and Nepal, no one ever thought that climbing to its peak was possible until the late 19th century. The Alpine Club’s Clinton Thomas Dent was the first to suggest that an assault of the Mount Everest apex can be successfully conducted.
Although the suggestion tickled the fancy of many adventurers, it took about four more decades—in 1921—until a significant development in the collective effort to successfully scale the mountain happened. Propelled by the discovery of a possible route to the top of the mountain, many explorers eagerly went on expeditions to reach the top of the mountain. For the next thirty years, no trek was successful in reaching the top of the mountain. In many cases, expeditions ended in deaths and injuries. Ironically, the failure rate only egged on many adventurers to try to achieve what seemed an impossible goal. Finally, in 1953, a pair of men actually got to the top. They are Edmund Hillary and his Nepali sherpa, Tenzing Norgay.
Since then, numerous other expeditions have successfully scaled this tallest of tallest mountains. All of them, though, have achieved the apex by two ways: the northern and the southeastern approaches. There are other routes by which the mountain can be scaled, but these two have proved to be the friendliest to people.
The northern ridge to Mt. Everest is on the mountain’s Tibet side, while the southeastern can be accessed from Nepal. Logistically and politically, the Nepal side is the easier and more practical way to climb to the mountain peak. This was the route used by the first people to successfully reach the summit of Mt Everest, although the northern ridge is the first to be discovered in the early 20th century.
These two main ridges are also intricately linked to two different base camps: the Nepalese Base Camp and the Tibetan Base Camp.
Any attempt to scale Mt. Everest is fraught with danger. The mountain is an extremely hostile environment, with dangers and pitfalls that most people can hardly anticipate. At any moment, an explorer can fall off the mountain’s many crags and cliffs, an avalanche can sweep entire teams of explorers, or storms can seriously deplete people’s strength or make them lose their way.
Aside from those things, Mt. Everest—by its location and sheer size—offers up a deadly concoction of complications. Its geographical location makes it unbearably cold, with most of it covered in cold, slippery snow, which can sometimes hide dangerous crags or cause blindness as the sun’s rays are reflected off of it. Apart from this, the atmosphere around the mountain is unlike anything else in the world. As a person goes higher up the mountain, air becomes thinner and holds less oxygen, and air pressure changes by uncomfortable degrees. So severe is the oxygen depletion and the temperature plunges in the mountain’s higher parts that they are collectively called the “death zone.”
Staying in a base camp en route to the mountain’s peak is the best chance of any adventurer to overcome those conditions. The base camps are essential points in any explorer’s attempt to scale Mt. Everest. Its utmost importance, after all, is to help acclimatize the mountain-climber to on the way up to and down from the mountain’s summit. This is where all essential final preparations for the culminating stage of the climb to Mt. Everest’s peak.
Of the two most popular base camps, the Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side is the one from which more successful assaults on the mountain peak had been launched. This is because this particular base camp is the gateway to the southeastern ridge route, which is considered to be less of a physical and technical challenge to mountain-climbers. Politically, the Nepalese Everest Base Camp is also easier to access to foreign expeditions as compared to secluded Tibet, which is under the strict control of the Chinese government.
The Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side is not much. Located on the Khumbu glacier halfway up the mountain, it consists mostly of a collection of crude, rudimentary tents. The Everest Base Camp in Nepal may refer to the Old Base Camp, the New Base Camp, and the Advanced Base Camp. When most people talk about the Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side, they are usually talking about the Old Base Camp, located at an altitude of 5,364 meters. Adventurers who get to this point are welcomed by a very spartan large rock bearing the words—what else—“Everest Base Camp 5,346 Meters,” people’s names and prayer flags. A trek about an hour more up the mountain’s southeastern ridge will take trekkers to what is known as the New Base Camp. Both camps are actually still functional, and both basically serve the same purpose. They were just tagged as Old and New because the glacier upon which they sit constantly moves and camp locations had to be adjusted to keep them near Mt. Everest’s base and in a safe position. There is also the Advanced Base Camp, located about another 1,000 meters up the mountain, which can be accessed only by passing through the Khumbu Icefall—one of the most dangerous parts of climbing to the top of Mt. Everest. The climb to this camp is only suitable for experienced climbers. It also requires specialized (and more expensive) permit.
Notwithstanding the confusion over the Old, New, and Advanced Base Camps, the Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side is a popular destination not only for serious explorers who want too reach the top of Mt. Everest but also for eager tourists who simply want to be part of the Mt. Everest experience without waging an assault on the peak.
Adventurers, tourists, and trekkers who want to get to the Everest Base Camp on the Nepal side usually do so by flying from the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu to Lukla, from where the trek to the base camp will commence. Terrain vehicle access to this camp is not usual. Instead, explorers and tourists usually get the help local guides known as sherpas to guide them up to the base camp and rely on sturdy yaks to bring baggage and supplies.
From Lukla, trekkers, sherpas and yaks usually make a stop at Namche Bazaar, where a village is nestled. Food, essential gears, and mountain climbing equipment are available here. Most climbers also take a rest here after about two day’s hike. Two days of hiking up the mountain to Diboche follows, taking the trekkers to an altitude of about 4,260 meters. Here, they rest again for acclimatization, before they make the next two-day hike to the Nepalese Everest Old Base Camp.
Getting to the Nepalese Everest Base Camp, which usually takes about 12 days, including acclimatization, is an accomplishment in itself. But that is only half of the fun in trekking through snow and thin air to get to the base camp. The other half involves once-in-a-lifetime experiences, as well as life-saving precautionary activities. Most sherpas and experienced mountain climbers will probably do most or all of the things listed below. Take your cue from them.
- By our guest author Joyce
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