Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mt Qomolangma (Everest)

As a Kiwi, visting Mt Qomolangma (Mt Everest) was pretty special, and up there with one of the highlights of my life. After an epic day of driving over 100 km on dirt roads through scenery that seemed to get better and better as we went on, that rattly Hiace finally got us there around 8.30 pm. We caught a glimpse of Mt Everest - the tip was partially obscured by cloud which was hard to get disappointed at because it was still such a magical sight with the sun setting and most of the mountain still in view (that Tibet is still on Beijing time despite being thousands of kilometres away makes it light until around 10 pm). 

We stayed in the tent camp with some of Penpa's friends and once we had everything unpacked and had changed into numerous layers of thermals, we tucked into the Tibetan staple - Yak Butter Tea to warm ourselves up. I didn't mind it, the others weren't as sold on it as I was. The owners of the tent were so good to us, constantly refilling our tea cups (both Yak Butter and the more standard varieties) and were keen to see photos of NZ and where we'd been so far. We were told that the mountain would be fully visible the next morning at sunrise so we planned a not-too-early 7 am start. 

That night I went out to the long drop and happened to look up at the sky. The cloud had disappeared, it was as still as, and the sky was lit up by stars like I never have seen before. Amazing.

It was hard to get up the next morning, I couldn't tell you what temperature it would have been, but most of our water bottles had ice in them. We got up and threw on our jackets, gloves, and hats and started the 2 hour walk up to the 'real' base camp. As we were promised, there the bastard was (can I call it that?), fully visible with the sun beginning to light it up. It was incredible. The altitude made the walk quite tough, and we made it up to base camp a bit short on breath. 

I had always thought it was pretty amazing what Sir Ed did all those years ago, but actually being there, feeling how thin and cold the air was and seeing how big it actually is (huge understatement, but it really is ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE!), hammered it home exactly what he'd achieved.

We walked back to the tents finding it pretty hard not to look over our shoulders, downed some breakfast and sat in the tent warming up. We said goodbye to our hosts and snuck just one more look before jumping in the Hiace for another 4 hours of dirt road back to Shigatse.  

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